Sunday, November 30, 2008

baked oatmeal

I don't know if you all have heard about the CrockPot Lady, but her blog is pretty amazing.  She has been making something new in her crock pot every day this year and from what I have seen, it all looks super healthy, and tasty to boot. 

I was browsing through it tonight and came upon this recipe for baked oatmeal,  which I am going to try this week.  As if oatmeal could be any easier, she comes up with a very convenient way to prep it for the week.  And she says it tastes like cookies, so really, how could you go wrong?

Shall we try it together?  Let me know what you think if you do try it.  I know one kid who is going to love it.

12/14/08 update:  LOVE IT!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

exercise of thankfulness

What are you thankful for this year?

here's mine (in no particular order):
sesame street

Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Enjoy every moment of today.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

holiday mind games

I read a disturbing fact the other day.  On average, we consume an average of 619 extra calories per day between Thanksgiving and New Years.  Yep, that's about seven pounds when it's all said and done. Yowsas.

On a more positive note, I read an article this summer that helped give me a better outlook on how much we eat.  Whenever the author was in front of something she really liked, like brownies, she always (as I do because I am normal) wanted to eat as much as she could.  Then one day she realized it wasn't the last brownie she was ever going to eat (or cookie or chip or slice of pie or beer or...).  That thought made it much easier for her to eat one brownie rather than four (or eight, whatever).  Her thought made so much sense!  

I don't have a lot of willpower.  But from that perspective, it has been a lot easier to have a small portion of whatever it is that is being served.  Studies are starting to show that you can actually train yourself to have willpower by making small daily choices in the right direction.  No better time to put that into practice than this week.  We are about to enter into a world of temptation!

I really believe in moderation.  No, fudge isn't good for you.  But oh man, it sure is good.  And stuffing?  It's not a holiday without it.  So don't deny yourself the pleasure of good food, just remember it's probably not the last time you're going to eat it.  What other tricks can you try to limit the high calorie intake?
  • drink a lot of water.  At least one glass between other beverages, and one full glass before you start snacking.
  • don't be afraid to load up on raw vegetables at the appetizer table.  (but watch the dip)
  • take a walk during halftime (or during the game if you are as bored by it as I can be)
  • grab a seat as far from the snacks as possible
And if all else fails, just get in a good workout (speed shopping, anyone?) on Friday.  

Got any tips or tricks up your sleeve?  Share them!

Monday, November 24, 2008

delicious baked salmon

Warning:  If you have an aversion to mayonnaise, read no further.  I always use light mayo to cut the fat and calories, even though I know it's isn't totally pure in it's ingredients.  I rarely use mayo at all, but I used it for my salmon, so there you go.

Salmon is unbelievably good for you.  It does amazing things for your heart and is one of the best sources of omega-3's that you can get.  If you want to read just how good it is, I found a great article here.  Check it out.  Now, let's get down to business.

This is a super quick and easy way to get delicious salmon that I think even fish-haters would enjoy.  It is so so good.  I got the recipe several years ago from a couple of friends, who happened to be brothers, that were avid fishermen.  So I trusted them with my salmon.  They knew what they were doing!

Creamy Baked Salmon
serves 3
1 lb. fresh salmon (I used atlantic)
1 lemon, sliced in half
1 1/2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
salt + freshly ground pepper

Drizzle your pan with just a touch of olive oil.
Place the salmon skin side down in the pan, like this:

Squeeze half of your lemon all over the salmon and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
Sprinkle with salt (I like Kosher) and freshly ground pepper.
Spread mayo all over the top, like this:

(yes, I switched to a pie plate, sorry for the inconsistency)
Now just pop in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until it's light pink and flaky.
Squeeze on the rest of your lemon and voila!

Creamy salmon goodness.  By using light mayo, you're only adding about 15 calories per serving.  With butter, you'd be adding closer to 50-100.  And trust me, this is good.  (And if you're worried, it really tastes nothing like mayonnaise - my husband complimented the "sauce", so you don't even have to tell people what it is).  

Serve this up with some steamed asparagus and some oven fries and you've got a quick, healthy, delicious dinner.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

wholesome homemade chicken stock

I am a reformed vegetarian.  For ten years, I stayed away from the flesh.  But then, one fateful night my love interest enticed me with a chicken burrito.  I ended up marrying him, and have been eating meat ever since.  

Even though that was almost exactly five years ago, I still had a major fear of cooking a whole chicken.  A fear and a fascination. I was determined to cook a whole bird - bones, skin and all.  And this last weekend, I did it - faced that big, pink, bumpy bird right in its decapitated neck.  It kinda grossed me out, but once it was all said and done (and fully cooked), I was proud, satisfied and ready to eat.  I followed this recipe, and it truly was Real Simple.

I can't believe I haven't done this before.  It's so cheap and so delicious - and you can literally use the whole chicken.  The next day I made chicken stock with the leftover carcass (pardon the gross word).   You can do it, too!  Here's how it started:

And here's what you need:
Chicken Stock
1 leftover chicken carcass 
1 large onion
2 stalks celery 
1 large carrot (optional)
fresh parsley (I had a ton in my herb container, you can throw in whatever herbs you prefer)
salt + pepper

Stick the chicken, vegetables (roughly chopped) and parsley in a large stock pot.
Add just enough water to cover the ingredients.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmering and allow to simmer uncovered for 4-6 hours.
If there is any fat on top, skim it off.
Strain into a container and allow to cool completely before you cover and put in the freezer or refrigerator.  

It'll keep in the fridge for 3 days.  Otherwise, you can put them into individual bags and freeze for later use.  This is what it ended up looking like:

All that cooked down to four little cups of rich chicken goodness.  Perfect for soups, stews, sauces... 

So, if you haven't done it already, you really ought to try it.  A whole chicken for $5 and multiple meals?  Can't beat it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the pantry...

I used to go to the grocery store like five times per week.  I am not kidding.  Sometimes daily.  I am not an organized person by any stretch, but this is one area I needed to get my act together in.  I don't think it happened 'til after my little one was born and I couldn't just "run in" - I had to carry a carseat, which was carrying a baby and then that baby became a toddler... you get the idea.

So I started to think about the basics - the things that should always be in my pantry or freezer or fridge so that I could cook dinner without running out to the store.  Now it's like second nature and I only go to the store once a week, sometimes twice if I really need to.  And I don't make lists!  Well, sometimes I do, but they usually get forgotten in the car.  I am going to share with you my essentials, things that make a healthy meal come together fairly quickly.

beans (black, kidney and cannelini)
canned tomatoes (diced, stewed, sauce, paste, etc.)
rice (jasmine, brown, wild)
whole wheat multigrain bread
tortillas (whole wheat and flour)
low sodium chicken broth
oil (olive and canola)
frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts
frozen peas
frozen spinach
frozen fruit (mangoes + various berries)
lots of fruits and veggies

There are a million combos just from that little list.  Tacos, spaghetti, stir fry, fried rice, rice and beans, dirty rice (I love rice, okay?),  soup, smoothies, endless pasta dishes, and on and on... We have other stuff, too - crackers and sauces and everything you need to bake something tasty, but you get the idea.  

So what are your essentials?  The stuff your family can't get enough of?  What is always in your pantry?  Are you a grocery store junkie?  I want to know...

Monday, November 17, 2008

why i am not big on artificial sweeteners

Okay, first let me say that I love diet coke.  And I'll throw a packet of Splenda into something maybe once or twice a month.  But that's where it ends, people.  And the diet coke thing - that's only once a week, at most.  I used to use artificial sweetener daily.  Like multiple times a day.  But those days are in the past.  Let me tell you why.

We've all heard that most artificial sweeteners are bad for us.  And then they came up with Splenda.  And now they sell it in the baking aisle.  So why not?  Well, for one thing it isn't natural.  It is made using chlorine.  Last time I checked, that's not something you want to ingest.  Whole Foods won't even sell it, or anything that contains it (there are 3,500 products on the market with it as an ingredient) because it isn't natural and there have been no long-term studies done to see its effects.  

Secondly, studies are now showing that artificial sweeteners do not yield the same response that natural sugars do.  So when we're craving something sweet and we eat something sugar free, we aren't going to experience a satisfaction for that desire.  In other words, we're still gonna want the chocolate. Plus, there have been no connections between eating and drinking sugar free products and weight loss. 

In short, I won't use it when I bake.  And I am trying not to use it in my drinks.  And I definitely definitely will not let me child eat anything made with it.  And if I don't let him eat it, I probably shouldn't either.  

So, what can we use instead?  I am all about the real deal.  I like to keep things wholesome, even if that means a little sugar.  I try to use evaporated cane juice (organic sugar), but I'm not above a little C&H.  I also use honey, blue agave nectar (it has a lower glycemic index so it prevents a crash), unsweetened applesauce, or mashed banana to make things a bit more nutritious.  Don't be afraid of the real stuff!  Remember, "you can't get somethin' for nothin'" has been quoted by parents the world over for a reason - it's true.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

an award for me? wow, thanks!

Thank you thank you to my friend, The Ordinary Housewife.  She gave me this very special award, and it's my very first!

Now it's my job to pass it on.  I have recently discovered a blog that I think is really cute.  
They have really cute stuff and monthly giveaways.  Check it out!

As part of receiving the award,  I need to list six things I love.
 artsy projects.
my family.
a good magazine.
whenever my kid says something i didn't know he knew how to say.

Enjoy your Sunday - rest, relax, be with people you love.

Friday, November 14, 2008

the 80 calorie cookie

I am pretty excited about this one.  Mostly because I love chocolate chip cookies and I want to justify eating them.  On average, a chocolate chip cookie has about 125 calories.  Some have a lot more, some have a little less.  So maybe it's not an average.  I never liked math.

Anyway, this cookie recipe is easy and chances are your kids won't be able to tell the difference between this one and the butter-laden cookies they're used to.

Don't Feel Guilty Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I like semisweet)

Preheat your oven to 350.  Combine flours, baking soda, and salt.  
Combine sugars, butter and sour cream.  Beat on medium until well blended.  
Add vanilla and egg whites and beat for 1 minute.
Add flour mixture and beat until blended.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Drop by tablespoon onto baking sheets (which should be sprayed with Pam since you don't have tons of butter in these babies to keep them from sticking).
Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.  
Cool on pans for a few minutes before transferring them to a rack or plate, or wherever you cool your cookies.
Should make 48 cookies.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

one of our favorite things

Since he was tiny, my kid has loved books.  I don't know if it's the snuggling that accompanies it, the stories, the pictures, our voices... whatever it is, he can sit and listen to four or five books at a time.  We do it everyday before his nap and every evening before he goes to bed.  He is getting to an age where he likes to pick the books out, and has most of them memorized so that he can "read" them to us.  It's little moments like this that completely make my day.

One story in particular is requested almost daily.  It's to the point that he recites parts of it when we're driving because he thinks it's so funny.  And we love it, too.  It is a cute story with great illustrations. 

If you don't already have it, get it.  It is good for toddlers probably through age 5.  

So this is just a time out to remind you to grab some quality time with your kid(s).  They will cherish your undivided attention, and it will bring peace to your day.  Whether it's reading, coloring together, singing, playing a game - give them your all for a little snippet of their day - they'll thank you for it (eventually).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

healthy breakfast = scones?

Yep.  These little babies are good for you.  And they have less calories than the new mini scones they offer at Starbucks.  Seriously, I got one of those, thinking, "Well, it is petite".  Yeah, not so petite in the calorie department.  Anyway, here is a healthy and tasty alternative.  Have them for breakfast, have them for tea, have them whenever - they're good.

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten until kinda frothy
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup skim milk

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper (or just spray it with some Pam). 
  • Mix the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, and dried fruit. 
  • Make a well in the center. 
  • Add butter, milk and applesauce to your frothy egg (sorry, I know that sounds a little unpleasant).  
  • Pour into the well, and mix until you have a soft dough. 
  • Pat into two 1/2" thick circles and put them on your cookie sheet. Score 8 wedges into each circle. 
  • Bake 15 minutes until they rise a bit and turn golden. Split them into wedges and serve.  
And be proud of yourself when you eat them!  My kiddo loves these "cones" - I hope yours does, too!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

absolutely the best chili i've ever had.

Not only is this chili low in fat and calories, full of protein, and absolutely delicious, it's also super easy. So pull out the crock pot and get going. You aren't going to regret it.

Chicken Corn Chili
3-4 chicken breasts
24 oz. tub of fresh salsa
2 cloves minced garlic
scant tablespoon chili powder
2 heaping teaspoons cumin
2 cans black beans
2 cans kidney beans
10 oz. bag frozen corn

Put chicken (can still be frozen - even easier!), salsa, garlic and spices in the crock pot. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Remove chicken and shred. It pretty much falls apart at this point, and doesn't take much effort. Add remaining ingredients, give it a quick stir, and cook for another 2-3 hours on low. We like to add a dollop of non-fat plain yogurt or sour cream and sprinkle a little cheese on top. This has less than 200 calories per serving and about 2 grams of fat before you add your toppings.

I whipped up a batch of heart healthy cornbread to go with it. I am working on perfecting the recipe, so stay tuned for that addition soon. I even made enchiladas out of the leftovers, using whole wheat tortillas... You can use it for burritos, too.

This has become a staple at our house - let me know how you like it!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

10,000 steps

That is the recommended amount we're supposed to take each day. On average, that's about 5 miles. And it means that unless you are on your feet all day long, chances are you are going to have to get in at least 30 minutes of concentrated exercise.

Okay, so there is no scientific data behind it - some woman in Japan came up with the idea as a way to get people up on their feet and get moving. And it isn't a bad one, is it? I mean, the average person walks about 5,000 steps per day, which isn't terrible, but it's only half of what is considered ideal.

I bought a pedometer this week to get an idea of how many steps I am taking. Keep in mind I have a toddler who likes to walk and climb and move and climb and explore and climb. You get the idea. So I figured my steps were up there. Plus, I try to get a little extra movement in there - walking, ellipticalling (did I make that word up?), etc. On a good day, I got to 8,000. On a slow day, I got to 4K. I definitely had to put in the extra mile (literally) at the gym to hit the ten thousand mark.

How many steps do you think you take? What is your goal? Hourly, daily, weekly? What can you do to go a little further each day? Want some ideas?

  • go for a walk (okay, kinda obvious). did you know you burn 20% more calories pushing a stroller?

  • dance with your child. or for your child. mine thinks it's hilarious (as would most witnesses).

  • go shopping. grocery store, farmers market, the mall (most have great play areas), main street - whatever

  • park (much) further from your destination than you normally would. (do you really need to be right near the entrance?)

Now I want to hear your thoughts. What motivates you? What creative things do you do to get moving?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

i promised you chocolate...

Okay, so this might not be classified as "healthy" but it is most definitely healthier than any frosting you are going to find on the shelf. Have you ever read the labels on those little jars? Trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and a bunch of other indecipherable ingredients that don't make me feel very good about putting it in my mouth (though it is incredibly tasty)... So this is my go-to chocolate frosting that is super easy and I promise tastes better than anything in a little plastic tub.

The Best Chocolate Frosting
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
6-7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
6 tablespoons butter, softened (not quite to room temperature)
5 tablespoons non-fat evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sift sugar and cocoa together and set aside.
Cream butter with electric mixer.
Gradually beat in sugar mixture, alternating with evaporated milk.
Beat in vanilla and continue mixing until fluffy.

Mmmmm... chocolate. It doesn't get any better. See how I made it healthy by putting it on some fruit? But don't be fooled, I ate cake.