Monthly Archives: April 2012

Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders and Avocado Wasabi Salad

I love spring and summer Saturdays. Aside from marking the end of the workweek and the first opportunity to wake up without the aid of the screeching alarm clock, there’s something pleasantly invigorating about my adopted routine.
It all starts with a steaming cup of coffee. I sip the dark brew as I work on my blog post for the week — yes you, dear readers, are my first Saturday priority. Then I change into my workout gear, lace up my running shoes, and head outside for a jog. I inhale the fresh air deep into my lungs, soak up the sunshine lightly filtering through the trees dotted along the sidewalks, and lovingly admire the beautiful old homes and neat yards of the great neighborhood in inner NE Portland that I call home. By the end of my 4 miles, I am invigorated, bursting with energy to take on the rest of my day.
After a refreshing shower, I make my menu for the week. Yes, all these recipes that I work on for you requires me to be thoughtful about what I am experimenting on each week so that I have something ready to go for a new video come the next weekend. Making a menu also drives the grocery list.
So my next stop is the farmer’s market. In the late spring and summer, there is no place that I like better. I love picking out fresh, seasonal produce, finding a beautiful bouquet for the dining room, and talking to the local farmers and vendors. To satisfy my grumbling, post-exercise tummy I also pick up a pair of tofu salad rolls with peanut dipping sauce and find a spot in the adjacent park to people watch while I eat.
Next is grocery shopping. I run to my usual haunts – Trader Joe’s is always my first stop – ticking off the items on my list. After unloading my bounty at home, the afternoon is now mine. What shall I do with it?
Now here I become less predictable. Sometimes it’s working in the yard, sometimes it’s catching a movie, or whatever else might catch my fancy. Yesterday, I had a lovely afternoon at my favorite Portland wine bar, Vie de Boheme, with good friends. We tasted a flight of red wine that included some special 2001 and 2006 Bordeaux — Encroyable! As fantastic as the wine was, the company was even better. There’s something magical about connecting not just with friends but with complete strangers — friends waiting to be made — in convivial conversation over common interests. Of course, if there’s a cute single guy to flirt with then it’s even better, and yesterday there was.
It’s funny because I think back to my life before — my fat life — and I usually spent my Saturdays running errands and lazing on the couch. I didn’t realize then how much of life I was missing, the world was slowly passing me buy and I just let it. There’s so much to do and see out there, you just have to get up and seize it.¬†
So do it – get up, get out there and do something today. Get some sunshine, talk to a stranger, try something new. I promise you won’t regret it.
Tip of the Week
Surround Yourself with Positivity
In your weight loss journey, don’t underestimate the power of support. Study after study shows that those people with a strong support network are the most likely to succeed with their weight loss goal. Your support network might be your family or closest friends or it could be new friends met through a support group, or even complete strangers in an online community. The point is, when the going gets tough — and it always does — those with a shoulder to lean on are usually the ones that fare the best.
My only caution to this is to make sure that the support network you surround yourself with is a positive one. I personally found that some friends, for reasons that I won’t try to guess, would sabotage my weight loss efforts by doing things like teasing me about all the time I spent at the gym or inviting me over for dinner and serving food that was clearly unhealthy. The best approach to this is to talk to these friends and let them know how that behavior makes you feel. And if the undermining behavior continues, then I would suggest limiting your time with those friends. Friends who don’t support your desire to improve your life, are not friends at all.
Recipes of the Week
Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders 
with Honey Wasabi Dipping Sauce

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins pounded to 1/4″ thickness and sliced into 4-5 strips each
  • 1/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Dipping sauce:
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp wasabi horseradish

Preheat the oven to 425. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

Prepare 2 bowls for dredging. Whisk together the coconut milk and egg white in the first dredging bowl and set aside. Mix together the panko bread crumbs, coconut and cilantro in the second dredging bowl and set aside. Take the chicken tenders and dip first in the liquid mixture then in the bread crumb mixture, shaking off excess, then laying in a single layer on the greased baking sheet. Bake for 4 minutes on each side or until golden and crispy and cooked through.

In a small pan, heat all of the dipping sauce ingredients over medium heat, whisking until the ingredients have combined and the wasabi horseradish has just about dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Makes approximately 2 tbsp of dipping sauce per person.

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings

Nutritional Information: Calories 207.5, Total Fat 4.4g, Cholesterol 12.5mg, Sodium 214.0mg, Total Carbs 27.2g, Dietary Fiber 0.9g, Protein 16.2g
Leaner Avocado Wasabi Salad

  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped small
  • 2 tbsp raw, slivered almonds
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, outer leaves removed and remainder roughly chopped
  • 1 oz. fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded
  • 1 small red bell pepper, sliced julienne style
  • 1/2 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 small avocado, diced
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp wasabi horseradish

Coat a skillet with nonstick olive oil cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the broccoli and saute until slightly brown and tender. Remove from heat and let cool in the refrigerator.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the almonds – no need to spray the pan as the almonds will give off their own oils. Cook until the almonds have browned slightly then remove from heat.

Mix together the dressing ingredients, creaming the avocado until the dressing has the consistency of a thick ranch dressing.

In a salad bowl add the lettuce, basil, carrot, pepper and garbanzo beans in that order. Top with the cooled broccoli and almonds. Serve topped with the dressing.

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings

Nutritional Information: Calories 183.9, Total Fat 11.0g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Sodium 221.0mg, Total Carbs 18.6mg, Dietary Fiber 6.7g, Protein 6.2g

Farfalle Turkey Bolognese

Spring has finally sprung in the Pacific Northwest and my inner gardener is screaming to be unleashed. Now that I have the interior of my new house painted and semi-unpacked (will those pesky boxes ever go away?) I am ready to start working on the yard. Visions of beautiful blooms are dancing in my head while my fingers are itching to feel the dirt beneath them.
And so I will make this entry brief this morning in order to head outside and get my green on. The bonus is that gardening is also a great physical activity, so instead of feeling guilty about missing my morning run, I will take pleasure in the lingering muscle strains that I will surely feel in my thighs, back and arms in the morning.
Tip of the Week
Bulk It Up
So many people who are trying to lose weight focus on foods they can’t have. From the outset of the diet, certain foods are off limit. I know I have certainly taken this approach many times.
My tip this week is to turn that upside down. Focus on the foods you can have and use them to offset those that aren’t so good for you.
For example, let’s take the incredible, edible egg. It’s high in fat and cholesterol and most diets will tell you to avoid them or only eat egg whites. However, eggs are also high in essential nutrients, protein and good fats. And let’s face it, they make a great weekend breakfast. So what’s a girl to do?
Try bulking up your breakfast scramble with some good for you, low calorie vegetables. Instead of eating 2-3 eggs on your breakfast plate, have just 1 egg (including the yolk!) and bulk it up with dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and spinach to make a full meal. You get the satisfaction of having your weekend breakfast while the vegetables add essential nutrients, vitamins and fiber to the dish without leaving you wanting more.
You can do this with many other traditionally off-limit foods, like pasta or beef. Simply lower the portion size of the higher calorie food and add in some calorie budget friendly fruits or vegetables. Give it a try!
Recipe of the Week
Farfalle Turkey Bolognese


  • 6 oz. dry farfalle pasta
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red chili pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 can diced, no salt added tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz. fresh basil, chopped
  • 1.5 oz. shredded peccorino romano cheese
Cook pasta according to pasta directions. Drain and rinse.

Heat a deep skillet over medium heat and coat with non-stick, olive oil cooking spray. Add the onion, ground turkey, carrot and garlic and cook until the turkey is cooked through and crumbled. Add the oregano and red chili pepper flakes. Stir in the red wine, tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.

Combine the cooked pasta with the sauce and mix well. Stir in the basil and cheese. Serve immediately.

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings

Nutritional Information: Calories 408.5, Total Fat 11.7g, Cholesterol 91.1mg, Sodium 457.9mg, Total Carbs 40.4g, Dietary Fiber 3.3g, Protein 32.0g
(Note that on the advice of my nutritionist I have halved the nutritional value of the wine in the recipe since it burns off the alcohol during the reduction process.)

Parmesan Herb-Crusted Shrimp, Oven Curry Fries, and Wasabi Coleslaw

This past weekend I made my regular bi-monthly trip south to sunny California as part of my effort to support my uncle in caring for my grandma, who is about to turn 92. He and my aunt also have her 87 year-old mother living with them, so needless to say they have a lot on their plate.

Spending time with these 2 elderly ladies, I am amazed at the differences in their physical abilities. My grandma, the older one, is spry and agile for her age. She goes for daily walks, she makes a point of using the stairs instead of the elevator, she goes on frequent social outings, and engages in just about every recreational activity offered by the senior community in which she lives.

Conversely, my aunt’s mother, the younger one, sits in front of the TV all day, only rising to use the bathroom, eat, or go take a nap. She makes no effort to get any physical activity and complains non-stop about her multitude of physical aches and pains. When she does get up from her chair, her gait has reduced to a painfully, slow shuffle and she frequently has to rely on her cane for balance. Of course all of this provides no end of consternation to my aunt and uncle.

On this trip, I made it my mission to get this woman out of her chair. On my first day there, a beautiful, sunny day in the Napa valley, I got her outside on the patio, just sitting in the sunshine. On my second and third day, I managed to get her outside for a walk. We went just 1 block down the street and back – not even around the block – but it exhausted her and, with her snail-like shuffle, took about 30 minutes to accomplish that small distance. Of course the funny part of that walk was my own grandma, who complained repeatedly about how slow we were going so I had to continually direct her to walk ahead of us then walk back so that she went at least twice the distance we did.

The lesson in all of this is that physical activity, even its smallest form, is so important to our well being as we age. Remember that foreign language you learned in school? How much do you remember? If you don’t practice what you have learned, you eventually forget it. The same is true of movement: if you don’t do it regularly, your body will lose its ability.

So don’t wait until your 50 or 70 or 90, get moving today and you will keep moving tomorrow. And that ties in nicely to my

Tip of the Week
Find Opportunities for Movement
While cardio-intense exercise is important for weight loss, simple every day activity is also important. I always look for opportunities to get more movement. A basic example of this is one you hear all the time: take the stairs instead of the elevator. But it’s more than that.

When you go shopping, don’t circle the lot looking for a parking space – park farther away so that you can walk a little more. If it rains a lot where you live, like it does here in Portland, make sure to keep an umbrella in your car. Instead of buying your produce from the grocery store, visit your farmer’s market where you can stroll the aisles and get great deals on fresh, local produce as well as many other items. Try walking or riding a bike to work, even if it’s just a portion of the distance. Instead of just letting the dog out into the back yard, take him for a walk. Hear a great song on the radio or TV when you’re at home? Get up and dance baby – no one’s watching!

Opportunities for movement abound around you, you just have to pay attention and seize the moment.

Recipes of the Week

Wasabi Coleslaw


  • 12 oz. broccoli slaw mix
  • 1/2 cup golden berry blend (a blend of raisins, dried cherries and dried cranberries)
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp wasabi horseradish
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
Combine the broccoli slaw mix and golden berry blend in a salad bowl. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients. Pour the dressing over the slaw mix and toss to coat well.

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings of about 1.25 cups each

Nutritional Information: Calories 146.8, Total Fat 1.6g, Cholesterol 5.0mg, Sodium 338.2mg, Total Carbs 28.0g, Dietary Fiber 3.6g, Protein 6.3g

Oven Curry Fries


  • 2 large russet potatoes, cut into fries
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
Preheat the oven to 450 and spray a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and curry powder. Toss with the potatoes, ensuring they are evenly coated. Spread the potatoes on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes total, turning them at the 10 minute mark to ensure they crisp on all side. Remove from oven and toss with the salt. Serve immediately.
Serving Size: Makes 4 servings
Nutritional Information: Calories 174.5, Total Fat 3.7g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Sodium 292.1mg, Total Carbs 32.8g, Dietary Fiber 4.2g, Protein 3.8g

Parmesan Herb-Crusted Shrimp


  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 lb. raw, tail-on, colossal shrimp
Preheat the oven to 450 and spray a baking sheet with nonstick, olive oil cooking spray. In a medium bowl, mix together the parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Toss with the shrimp, ensuring the shrimp are evenly coated. Spread the shrimp in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for about 4 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and have curled up.

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings of about 4 shrimp each

Nutritional Information: Calories 129.7, Total Fat 2.9g, Cholesterol 184.9mg, Sodium 246.5mg, Total Carbs 0.5g, Dietary Fiber 0.0g, Protein 25.7g

Stovetop Sausage and Porcini Mushroom Casserole

I am in California at this moment, in the beautiful Napa valley, and the thing that always strikes me the most when I visit here is the sunshine. It reminds me of how little I see that bright glowing orb in Portland, Oregon.
I love Portland for its proximity to both the mountains and the ocean, its urban hipness, liberal activism, fantastic foodie vibe, and great arts culture. But I must admit that the perpetual rain begins to wear on me this time of year. And this year that’s been alternating with snow – in March and April!
As I sit here soaking up some much needed vitamin D, I think “I could live here.” And I could. The Napa valley is beautiful, I have family here, there are plenty of hip restaurants to keep a foodie like me engaged, and San Francisco is near by when I need a good dose of hipness.
And then reality sets in. Real estate prices are still well above the Portland area despite the drop in the housing market. The electricity rate is more than double what I pay, and gas is at some of the highest levels in the nation here in California. The reality is, I don’t think I could afford to live here.
So I resign myself to regular visits to sunny California visits, and stay with my beloved, quaint and quirky Portland where it rains 9 months out of the year. Time to stock up on some vitamin D.
Tip of the Week
Avoiding the Last Supper Mentality
With Easter upon us, it seems fitting to talk about the Last Supper. I’m not talking about that biblical meal, but about this mentality that all of us struggling to lose weight seem to adopt at one time or another.
We resolve to lose weight and tell ourselves “I will start tomorrow!” With the best of intentions, we make an exercise plan and swear off those bad foods that tempt us. Then, the night before we inevitably go for one last blow out, justifying to ourselves “I’ll splurge tonight because tomorrow I will be good!”And then inevitably tomorrow comes and for one reason or another we don’t follow through on our resolution.
This is one of the big differences between having a healthy lifestyle mentality and dieting. When you live a healthy lifestyle, every bite you put in your mouth is an opportunity to be good or not. You don’t need to wait for the next day or week or month. Your moment is right now, the next 10 seconds of your life. What are you going to do with it?
If you choose to indulge, simply do so in moderation — 1 cookie instead of the whole box of cookies. There is no need to overindulge in a gigantic blow out meal. Be smart about it. And make sure you regularly reward your body with some physical activity.
Recipe of the Week
Stovetop Sausage and Porcini Mushroom Casserole
  • 2 cups homemade, salt-free chicken broth
  • 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/2 pound bulk mild Italian chicken sausage
  • 1 cup quick-cooking brown rice
  • 1 oz. shredded parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper
Add the mushrooms to the broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and cook for 20 minutes until the mushrooms are reconstituted.
Heat a skillet over medium heat, coat with nonstick cooking spray. Add the onion and cook until transparent. Add the sausage and cook, breaking apart with a fork, until browned and crumbly.
Remove the mushrooms from the broth, preserving the broth, and roughly chop the mushrooms. Add enough water to the broth to make a full 2 cups — the broth will have reduced in amount due to condensation and being absorbed by the mushrooms. Add the broth/water, mushrooms, and rice to the sausage and onion mixture. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the parmesan cheese and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Nutritional Information: Calories 303.3, Total Fat 5.7g, Cholesterol 48.8mg, Sodium 587.6mg, Total Carbs 43.7g, Dietary Fiber 1.7g, Protein 20.4g

Slow Cooker Curry Vegetable Stew

Changes come in big and small packages. Sometimes they knock us over in their intensity, and others glide past barely noticed. Sometimes we seek change out, and other times it’s dropped us on like an atomic bomb.
This past week has been one of dramatic change for me. Entered into willingly, yet a bit impulsively and sooner than I had anticipated. I’ve often stopped to wonder if this is really the right decision. Then that little voice in my head — yes, you know the one I’m talking about — tells me to knock it off, go with the flow, things will all work out. For what it’s worth, I think that’s the voice of my easy-going hippy parents permanently embedded in my brain.
My big news? I have moved. Only about 13 miles away, but still another state and for all intents and purposes another planet. Yes I have taken that plunge and moved from the quiet, backwards suburb of Vancouver, Washington to the hip urban mecca of Portland, Oregon. I did this because I wanted a more urban space with a stronger community feel, a walkable neighborhood, and a better arts culture. The flip-side to this, which is what has me second-guessing myself, is that my housing costs have increased by about $350 per month and I will now have the added cost of Oregon state income tax. Not easy on a single income, supporting a family.
My new place is an old house that is quirky and a bit funky, but I am slowly making it my own. This morning I finished painting the main rooms of the house, a bright pallet of pale yellow sunshine, eggplant purple, spanish olive green, and candy apple red inspired by some pretty new throw pillows I bought for the sofa. I find myself sinking into my favorite arm chair and thinking: “I am home.”
And I am. As scary as change can be, sometimes I have to let it wash over me, lapping at my toes and working it’s way up until I am swallowed in its gentle swell and lulled into acceptance. The financial aspect is still daunting and won’t be easy, but the payback is that I am in a place that I love, I am closer to my family, and I have a much better commute for work. And that’s enough for me. I am home.
Tip of the Week
Less is Not More
This week a coworker of mine, who is trying to lose some weight, was complaining that she had not lost any weight this past week despite adhering to her strict diet. Her solution? Cutting her calorie intake down to 600 calories a day.

What is wrong this? This is one of the absolute worst diet strategies you can take, yet I have seen so many people do this.

The reality is that your body requires a certain amount of calories every day just to function. That amount is going to vary depending on your age, weight, activity level and many other things. If you go under that level, your body’s self-defense mechanisms kick in and go into starvation mode, effectively shutting your metabolism down. This means that even though you’re eating very few calories, you will not lose weight. Your body will actually hoard every calorie it can get to survive.

So what’s the answer? Take stock of what you’re doing. Losing weight is as simple as calories in and calories out. Look first at your calories in — are you within the range you should be? Then look at your calories out — what are you doing to burn calores? Sometimes changing up your food or your exercise routine is enough to re-ignite your weight loss efforts. And sometimes, you just need to give it more time. If it’s only one week that the needle hasn’t moved, don’t sweat it. Simple things like hormones, water retention, and muscle growth can play tricks with your scale. Keep working at it and chances are your scale will catch up with you.

Whatever you do, don’t punish your body. Reward it, and it will reward you.

Recipe of the Week
Slow Cooker Curried Vegetable Stew
  • 1 small eggplant, cubed
  • 1 lb. red potatoes, cubed
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can diced, no salt added tomatoes
  • 4 cups homemade, salt-free vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 2 tbsp plain, nonfat Greek yogurt per serving (3/4 cup total)
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped cilantro per serving (6 tbsp total)

Combine the eggplant, potatoes, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, broth, curry powder, coriander, cumin seed, ginger root, salt and pepper in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Serve each bowl topped with Greek yogurt and freshly chopped cilantro.

Serving Size: About 1.5 cups per serving, Makes 6 servings

Nutritional Information: Calories 191.9, Total Fat 1.0g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Sodium 346.2mg, Total Carbs 36.9g, Dietary Fiber 6.8g, Protein 8.9g