Monthly Archives: June 2012

Buffalo Chicken Salad Pitas

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After successfully maintaining my weight for the past year – which is a very good thing! – I have decided to finally double down on my efforts and lose that last pesky 20 pounds. This isn’t an easy thing to do. These fatty foes seem to cling to me like hot fudge on a sundae, stubbornly melting down my thighs, arms and belly in dripping, gleaming rivulets.
So I changed up my routine this week, traded some songs out from my playlist, and attacked the gym with renewed determination. I pulled on my shoes, plugged in my headset, powered up the treadmill and took off running.
Now here is a little tip: don’t try to work out to showtunes. Yes, I am admittedly a big Broadway musical fan so I had loaded up a playlist with all sorts of fun showtunes. The problem is, they are so catchy and fun that I just can’t help singing along.
So here I am, jogging along on the treadmill, when Don’t Rain on my Parade comes on. I can’t help myself. I suddenly find myself belting out with Barbra
“Don’t tell me not to fly –
I’ve simply got to.
If someone takes a spill
It’s me and not you!”
This is a perfect motivational tune! Problem is that when I sing showtunes, I get very animated and this isn’t exactly a safe practice on a speeding treadmill. I stumbled slightly, caught myself, looked up.
Oh, did I mention that I wasn’t alone? Yes, I sort of forgot about that myself. I was in the gym afterall. At work.
Blushing just about every color of red you can imagine, I sheepishly stabilized myself and changed my playlist. I will have to save Barbra for the privacy of my car.
Recipe of the Week
Buffalo Chicken Salad PitasIngredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 stalks celery – one whole and 2 diced
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce
  • 2 oz. blue cheese crumbles
  • 1/2 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup light blue cheese dressing
  • 4 whole wheat pitas
  • 8 leaves lettuce
Directions:
Put the water in a pot, add the 1 whole stalk of celery, onion and chicken. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is tender.Remove the chicken from the water and discard the water, celery and onion. Using 2 forks, shred the chicken and put it in a mixing bowl. Combine with the diced celery, carrots, buffalo sauce, blue cheese, Greek yogurt, and blue cheese dressing. Scoop the salad into the pita pockets, top with a leaf of lettuce and serve immediately.

Serving Size: 2 pita pockets (2 pockets = 1 whole pita) filled with 1/2 cup salad each

Nutritional Information: Calories 371.5, Total Fat 7.3g, Cholesterol 76.0mg, Sodium 967.5mg, Total Carbs 36.1g, Dietary Fiber 4.2g, Protein 41.0g

 

Chili Mint Chicken Skewers and Saffron Rice with Roasted Vegetables

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This week I have decided to grow an idea planted by a friend of mine, and that is to take my enthusiasm for healthy cooking to the next level by offering classes. When I was last in Paris, I treated myself to a cooking class that was a half-day in length. We met at a typical French street market, decided upon our menu, shopped for ingredients, then retreated to our teacher’s home where we participated in creating a wonderful 3 course meal. Once the food was ready, we sat around the table enjoying our creation and, of course, sipping wine. It was fun and convivial, and something I would do again in a heartbeat.
That format would not entirely work here because we don’t exactly have the plentiful and quaint street markets that the Europeans do. However, I think the rest of it is entirely doable.
My idea is to have groups of 4-6 people at a time (my kitchen unfortunately is not big enough to accommodate more). I would plan the meal in advance with the group and have the ingredients on hand. Everyone would participate in prepping and cooking the food, then when it’s ready we would sit down and enjoy it together. Of course, I would dole out healthy lifestyle tips along the way.
What do you think? Is this something you would have an interest in? And if so, what is it worth to you? I can tell you that I paid about $120 for the class that I took in Paris, but that was Paris so I don’t expect to command anywhere near that much. I am thinking in the $25-50 range per person per class. Does that seem reasonable to you?
Now I am off to my next step, which is that I have signed up for small business mentoring through SCORE, a local non-profit small business counseling group. I need to sort out what sort of licensing requirements I will have to abide by, and if this is something I can even do out of my house at all since I’m not zoned commercial. So stay tuned for more, I just wanted to float this idea out there and see what you all think. Give me some feedback!
Recipe of the Week
Chili Mint Chicken Skewers
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp zinfandel vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 chipotle chili pepper in adobo sauce, minced
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins (12 tenderloins)
Directions
Whisk together the mint, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, chili pepper and water. Combine with the chicken in a resealable plastic bag or dish, making sure the chicken is well covered in the marinade. Let marinate at least 20-30 minutes. Arrange the chicken pieces on skewers — 3 tenderloins per skewer for a total of 4 skewers. On a propane barbecue, grill about 3 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Serve garnished with a little fresh chopped mint (optional).Serving Size: Makes 4 skewers of 3 tenderloins each
Nutritional Information: Calories 159.9, Total Fat 4.1g, Cholesterol 25.0mg, Sodium 425.3mg, Total Carbs 1.2g, Dietary Fiber 0.0g, Protein 28.2g
Saffron Rice with Roasted Vegetables
Ingredients
  • 2 medium baby zucchini, chopped
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp zinfandel wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 3/4 cup quick cooking brown rice
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads
Directions
The key to this recipe is to chop all of the vegetables into large chunks as they will cook down significantly in the roasting process.Preheat the oven to 425. Combine all of the chopped vegetables in a mixing bowl. Whisk together 1 tbsp of the olive oil with the zinfandel wine vinegar, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Toss with the vegetables, making sure everything is evenly coated. Arrange on a greased baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes in the cooking process to make sure that the vegetables roast evenly.Bring the water to a boil in a pot on the stove. Add the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil, rice and saffron. Stir and bring back to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes or however long your brand of rice specifies.Combine the cooked rice with the cooked vegetables, stirring to mix well. Serve immediately.

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings of about 1 cup each

Nutritional Information: Calories 179.3, Total Fat  5.6g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Sodium 107.6mg, Total Carbs 31.4g, Dietary Fiber 2.5g, Protein 4.0g

Ensalada Rusa

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The soundtrack to my life this week is “I Just Started Hating Some People Today” by Beck featuring Jack White. (Take a listen here: http://stereogum.com/1046781/beck-i-just-started-hating-some-people-today-feat-jack-white/mp3s/)
I am an optimist by nature so I am always amazed by the capacity of some people to be complete assholes. Maybe I shouldn’t be, apparently the world is filled with people with very large gaps in their backsides, but somehow I continually am.
The first asshole of the week award goes to my landlord. I moved into my new place in late March, so not quite 3 months ago. He didn’t insist on a lease and I didn’t push it because I have this interest in working abroad that I intend to pursue and I didn’t want to be tied down if the opportunity should present itself. I did, however, ask him if he was looking for a short-term renter and let him know in no uncertain terms that if he was that I was not a good match. He assured me he was looking for someone long term. So I moved in and I have spent a lot of my time and my own money painting the interior and improving the yard, which was a complete disaster when I moved in.
Can you guess what happened next? Yep, last weekend he calls me and tells me he’s coming by the place the next day to show the property because he’s decided to sell it. WTF?!?!
The next award goes to greedy insurance companies. The insurance company of the driver that hit my son (detailed in my blog last week) is trying to say the accident is his fault and demanding that he cough up the $2300 to repair her vehicle from the damage that was done when his helmeted head hit the hood of her car. Really???
Now I have consulted with my own insurance agent and he has advised me that this other insurance company’s claim will never hold up because (1) pedestrians always have the right of way and my son was clearly a pedestrian, (2) the responding police officer did not issue a citation to my son so there was no finding of fault, and (3) both the officer and the witnesses to the accident stated that these accidents are a frequent occurrence on this particular corner. Given that the driver lives in that area, the argument can be made that she should have been aware of that and exercising more caution.
But of course, insurance companies are only interested in making a profit which means attempting to take advantage of naive young people who don’t know any better. My son is 18 which means that they can’t hold me responsible for his actions, but he also doesn’t have a job so good luck to them getting blood from that turnip. But of course things like this bring out the mama bear in me and in the interest of protecting my cub, I am going to battle with the insurance company. However, it’s ridiculous that I have to. Why can’t they just do what is right instead of making me go through this hassle? Oh yeah, insurance companies are soulless money-sucking assholes, somehow I always forget that.
Ok, deep breath. It’s a good thing it’s sunny out because I am going to lace up my running shoes and go relieve some stress on the pavement. And then I get to come back and escape into my kitchen, working on my next delectable dish. Ommmmm……  Or should that be Yummmmmmm….
Recipe of the Week
Ensalada Rusa
Tips:
If you can’t find tarragon champagne vinegar, try a tarragon white wine vinegar. Or use a quality white wine vinegar and add a little extra chopped fresh tarragon.Ingredients:
  • 1 whole bulb of garlic (about 8-10 cloves total)
  • 3 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 pound red potatoes, cubed
  • 1 bulb fresh fennel, trimmed – cut the bult in half across the width then slice each half into thin slices like an onion
  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp tarragon champagne vinegar
  • 3/4 cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 4 oz. fresh arugula
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
  • 2 cans (5 oz. each) albacore tuna in water with no salt added, drained
Directions:
Preheat oven to 425.
Dressing:
Take the bulb of garlic and slice off the very top to expose the tops of most of the cloves. Put into a garlic roaster or some sort of small, covered baking dish. Drizzle 1 tsp of the olive oil over the top. Cover and roast for 20-25 minutes until the cloves are nice and gooey.Squeeze each clove of the roasted garlic into a food processor, making sure not to get any of the papery shell of the garlic in there. Add the remaining 2 tsp of the tarragon champagne vinegar and 2 tbsp of olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, chopped fresh tarragon, and greek yogurt. Pulse until the dressing is well combined.Salad:
Whisk together 1 tbsp of the olive oil and 1 tbsp of the tarragon champagne vinegar. Toss with the potatoes and fennel. Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet coated with a little olive oil cooking spray. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, tossing about every 10 minutes to ensure the potatoes roast evenly on all sides. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before assembling the salad.

In a large salad bowl, combine the arugula, peas, tuna, and roasted potatoes and fennel. Add the dressing and toss to ensure everything is well coated.

Serve immediately.

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings of about 2 cups each

Nutritional Information: Calories 361.0, Total Fat 13.3g, Cholesterol 31.3mg, Sodium 369.2mg, Total Carbs 34.7g, Dietary Fiber 5.5g, Protein 29.0g

Southwestern Shrimp and Couscous Salad

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Last Friday, while at work, my son was texting me throughout the morning with silly questions like “I want a cup of coffee, where are the coffee beans?” I was busy in meetings at work and was more than a little irritated with his inability to look in the canister next to the coffeemaker, for example. So is it any wonder that when he called me at 1:00 p.m., as I was setting up for a meeting that I was leading, that I impatiently answered my phone with “What do you want now?”

That was something I would quickly come to regret.
An unfamiliar female voice at the other end of the line hesitantly said “I’m calling from your son’s phone. There’s been an accident.” Things from there are a bit hazy.
My son engages in a sport called longboarding where he zooms down steep streets at very high speeds. He came barreling down the hill around a corner and collided with a car coming in the opposite direction. The good news is he was wearing good protective gear and, other than some bruises, after being examined the doctor was able to determine that he had no serious injuries. Additionally, the police did not find fault with him or issue a citation, and in fact said he was a real gentleman when dealing with the situation. Now we get to start the process of dealing with the driver’s insurance company and replacing my son’s protective gear.
So I guess the lesson I have learned is to be more patient with my children interrupting me at work because sometimes it might be about coffee beans, but sometimes it may be much much worse. And in the end, they are more important to me than any job I might have.
Tip of the Week
Pump Up The Music
It is amazing how a good song can re-energize me and keep me moving through my workout, or even make me want to be moving when I’m not in my workout mode. I have different playlists of different kinds of music — rock, pop, alternative, 80s, etc. — that I alternate through depending on my mood that day.
I cycle songs out on a monthly basis, looking for new tunes to inspire me.A great feature of iTunes is the Genius sidebar which, when I select a song in my library, will show me similar songs that I might like. I use this frequently to sample new songs and add to my library. Some of my favorite songs from very different genres that I’m listening to right now:
  • Up Up Up by Givers
  • Cool Yourself by Thao
  • Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves) by The Wombats
  • This Head I Hold by Electric Guest
  • Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson
  • Wild Ones by Flo Rida
  • Top of the World by The Cataracs
  • Unstoppable by Kat DeLuna & Lil Wayne
  • Bad Reputation by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
  • Lust for Life by Iggy Pop
  • You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC
  • Percussion Gun by White Rabbits
  • Easy by Deer Tick
Whatever genre of music you like, pick something with an upbeat tempo that will energize and inspire you to keep moving throughout your workout. Turn it up, let it fill your head, and keep moving!
Recipe of the Week
Southwestern Shrimp and Couscous Salad
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup dry whole wheat couscous, cooked in 1 cup water and cooled
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced into the light green part
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
  • 1 small avocado, diced
  • 1 can reduced sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 lb. cooked shrimp meat
Directions:
Combine the couscous, tomatoes, bell pepper, scallions, cilantro and black beans in a mixing bowl. Gently mix in the avocado.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, cumin, red chili pepper flakes, salt and garlic. Add the shrimp and toss until well coated. Pour the shrimp and dressing into the couscous mixture and mix well.

Serve on a bed of lettuce for presentation. Recipe serves four as an entree, or 8-10 as a side or starter.

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings of about 1.5 cups each

Nutritional Information: Calories 425.8, Total Fat 8.9g, Cholesterol 86.3mg, Sodium 657.1mg, Total Carbs 60.4g, Dietary Fiber 12.3g, Protein 26.6g

Balsamic Glazed Albacore Tuna Steaks and Roasted Lemon Asparagus

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My accomplishment this week was finally getting my vegetable garden in. As most of you know – and is obvious from the set change in my videos – I moved in late March. The backyard of my new abode is a bit of a jungle and I’ve been slowly working on taming it.
One of my first priorities was to plot out a space for my vegetable garden. I picked an area with great sun exposure, and made a deal with my sister to share the rent on a rototiller from Home Depot to till up both our yards. I borrowed her little vintage Toyota pickup truck and, after refreshing my ability to drive a stick shift, ventured off to pick it up.
Disclaimer: I have never used a rototiller before in my life. I’ve had the good fortune of living in places where there were beds already defined and have just never had the need to cut through sod. Until now.
I enlisted the help of my 18 year old son by bribing him with the promise of some much needed new jeans. He and I listened attentively as the man at Home Depot showed us how to use the rototiller and showed us the pin in the back behind the tines, explaining that you raise or lower it depending on how deep you want the tines.
As we drove home with our prize securely loaded in the bed of the truck, I looked at my son and mused that this shouldn’t take long at all – we would raise the pin all the way up to get the tines down deep into the ground, and the tiller was so wide it should take only 2 passes to get the length of the bed done. Easy cheesy!
So we unloaded the beast into the backyard, raised the pin up, primed the motor and started it up. The motor growled and roared to life. My son grasped the handle and gingerly pressed down on the drive bar. Suddenly the tiller raced forward, pulling him from his feet and sending him flying about 8 feet through the air before it came to a stop when he finally released the handle.
I laughed nervously, hysterical at the sight of my tall, thin son launching through the air but relieved that he didn’t land in the spinning tines and hurt himself. For the next attempt, we both grabbed the handle, pulling back and pushing down on the tines with all our strength. But it was to no avail as the beast again tried to run off with both of us hanging on.
I called my dad out of desperation and asked what we were doing wrong. He patiently explained that the pin in the back, that we had raised all the way up, needed to be all the way down to start with as it should dig into the earth and slow the tiller down. Then we needed to raise it up gradually, making multiple passes over the same area until the tines reached their maximum depth. The guy at Home Depot kind of left that part out.
So I followed my dad’s instructions, and of course it worked. Isn’t dad always right? An hour (and I don’t know how many passes) later the bed was tilled. My son and dad later dug 3 boxes into the freshly tilled bed and I have now filled them up with carrots, green beans, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, lettuce, and, for decoration, some random flowers.
Now I water and I wait for those delicious, fresh morsels of summer.
Tip of the Week
Put Some Muscle Into It
In my previous dieting life, where I would occasionally try another fad diet and randomly engage in a fitness routine, I always focused on cardio activity. After all, cardio is what gets your heart rate up and burns those dreadful calories. I tended to shy away from strength building activities because my time at the gym was limited, I didn’t think it was important to my weight loss routine, and I didn’t want the added weight of muscle bulk anyway. Does that sound familiar to anyone?
The truth is, strength building exercise is just as important to weight loss efforts as cardio is. Muscle actually helps you burn fat more efficiently. Additionally, while muscle may weigh the same as fat, it is leaner and more compact on the human body. A woman weighing 150 pounds with 19% body fat is going to look a lot thinner than a woman weighing the same weight with 35% body fat.
So add some weight to your exercise routine and make sure you are doing strength exercises 3 times a week.
Recipe of the Week
Roasted Lemon Asparagus
Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 lemon, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed
  • 1 oz. shredded parmesan cheese
Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss with the asparagus and lemon slices with the oil/juice mixture. Arrange in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and bake for 5 more minutes or until the cheese is golden and the asparagus is roasted through.Serving Size: Makes 3 servings

Nutritional Information: Calories 115.3, Total Fat 7.3g, Cholesterol 8.3mg, Sodium 89.8mg, Total Carbs 8.2g, Dietary Fiber 3.2g, Protein 6.8g
Balsamic Glazed Albacore Tuna Steaks
Ingredients:
  • 3 raw albacore tuna steaks – 4 oz. each
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup clear, salt-free vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
Directions:
Preheat oven to 400.Season each side of the tuna steaks with the salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the tuna steaks and sear for 1 minute on each side. Drizzle 3 tbsp of the balsamic vinegar over the tuna steaks (1 tbsp per steak). Add the red wine, increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil then let the wine reduce down by about half.

Add the rosemary, garlic and vegetable broth to the pan. Turn off the stove and move the skillet to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes or until the tuna is cooked through – be careful not to overcook.

Remove from the oven and transfer the tuna steaks to a platter, reserving the liquid in the pan. Heat the pan on medium heat on your stovetop, adding the remaining 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil and reduce down by about half, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Serve the tuna steak drizzled with the balsamic reduction from the pan and a sprinkling of the Italian parsley.

Serving Size: Makes 3 servings, 1 steak per person
Nutritional Information: Calories 245.3, Total Fat 11.7g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Sodium 384.4mg, Total Carbs 4.5g, Dietary Fiber 0.2g, Protein 25.2g