Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Recipe Wednesday - Greek Chicken Pitas

This is my adaption of the Greek Chicken Pita recipe in the Eating for Life cookbook. I've been eating these since I did my first Body for Life Challenge about 4 years ago!

Greek Chicken Pitas

1 small chicken breast (about 4 oz)
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup cool water
fresh ground black pepper
about 2" of an English cucumber
1 clove garlic, chopped
2-3T plain yogurt (fat free or low fat)
1 whole grain pita, cut in half
1/2 small tomato, chopped
1/4 red onion, sliced
1/4 cup spinach leaves

1. In a small plastic baggie, combine the chicken, lemon, water and pepper. Let marinate in the refrigerator for about 15-30 minutes.

2. In a blender or food processor, pulse the cucumber, garlic, and yogurt. I like to add a little extra lemon juice and black pepper here as well.

3. Cook the chicken either in a skillet or on a grill until no longer pink inside. Let cool for a little bit and then cut into bite-sized pieces.

4. Assemble the pita halves with the chicken on the bottom. Pour some of the cucumber sauce on top. Add the tomato, onion and spinach.

Eat both halves yourself, or share with a friend! I have found that I can stretch this amount of sauce to 4 pita halves if I don't make each one too saucy.

The entire recipe has approximately (with fat free yogurt):

362 calories
36g protein
1.8g fat
49.3g carbs
10.1g fiber

The fiber content will depend a lot on the kind of pitas you get.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Veggie Meal Plans, Part II

Ha, ha! I knew I wouldn't make it long before I had to buy them! Ooh, shiny new recipes!

I bought the Deluxe Easy Veggie Meal Plans this morning. ;) I am having a total information overload! There is so much to read, I wasn't sure where to begin. I finally decided on The Lazy Man's Guide to Vegetarian Eating. I actually do like to cook, but that doesn't mean I'm not looking for "Easy Button" every now and then. :) Craig Ballantyne goes through everything he ate and what he thought about it for about the last 2 months (he's been eating nearly vegan). It's kinda cool to see what he's been eating and it gave me a few ideas for variety.

Next I read through the "Quick Start Guide Call" transcript. (There's an audio file too, but with 2 kids I couldn't possibly hear the audio file. I got interrupted enough trying to read it!) Kardena Pauza talks about her background and why she has chosen the diet path that she did. It also talks about steps to take if you are trying to ease into the vegetarian lifestyle. I'll be honest, my goal is not to be fully vegetarian. I'm just trying to eat healthfully and am looking for more variety. But to be fair, I may go meatless for a week and see what I think!

Next I looked through the Easy Veggie Lifestyle Guide. In the first chapter, Kardena talks about how it is important to eat the right kinds of foods, and how just being vegetarian does not automatically make you healthy. She also touches on how a vegetarian diet could give you more energy, how it's environmentally-friendly, budget friendly, and how it can be just as convenient as any other weight loss meal plan.

The second chapter goes through the different types of vegetarian. (I would be "Semi-Vegetarian - Eats less meat than the average person.") Chapters 3 and 4 talk about how to make your vegetarian diet healthy and foods to avoid. Chapters 5, 6 and 7 deal with vegetarian proteins, carbohydrates and fats respectively, and how much you need (and good sources of each). The last chapter is about soaking your own beans, nuts and seeds to make them sprout. Kardena says this makes them easier to digest and absorb the nutrients. Quite a lot of information!

There's also 101 Delicious Vegan Recipes, a 90 day meal plan for men and another 90 day meal plan for women. I only printed the 101 Delicious Vegan Recipes and the 90 day plan for women for now (that one is 175 pages long!) and I saw lots of yummy looking recipes. I've only paged through, but I got a lot of ideas. (A few I want to make immediately: carrot ginger oatmeal cookies, garden patch gazpacho, and the breakfast quinoa.) I'm pretty set on variety for quite a while! Although I probably won't use the meal plans exactly as they are written. I'll jump around and just use the recipes for ideas.

There is a short smoothie guide, with a couple of yummy-looking smoothies. I don't make smoothies very often, but the strawberry one looked pretty good (it has dates in it!)

Lastly, there is a guide on defending the vegetarian lifestyle. Kardena offers tips on how to answer people who may criticize or ask questions. I just skimmed through this transcript. It's also an audio file if you have the time to listen to it, maybe at the gym or something. :)

So that's the Easy Veggie Meal Plans package in a nutshell. It gave me a lot to think about and a lot of good ideas for meals!

Monday, July 27, 2009

New Veggie Meal Plans

Today was the first day in as long as I can remember that I did not have any meat at all. Didn't necessarily plan it that way, just sort of happened. I originally planned meat for dinner, but at the last minute I decided to go with broccoli quinoa frittata (woo-hoo, how's that for being flexible!)

So the menu today was:

scoop of whey protein (pre and post workout)
pumpkin oatmeal (nectar of the gods)
1/2 oz almonds
business lunch - ordered spanakopita (spinach, onion, walnuts in phyllo dough)
broccoli quinoa frittata with small salad and pineapple
whey protein shake

Calories: no freaking clue (man, that felt good!)

Also today I got the email for Kardena Pauza/Craig Ballantyne's Easy Veggie Meal Plans (50% off until July 30th). I haven't purchased it yet because ever since we got home from vacation we've been trying to save more than we spend, but I'll probably cave very soon. :) I was on vacation when the freebie download thing happened so if anyone would like to share, just let me know. ;)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Maybe I should hang up my running shoes.

My race was yesterday, and I did really awful. It started bad and went downhill from there. I felt really good, didn't even feel that nervous, until the race actually started. Almost right away, I started to have this weird feeling that I can only explain as an anxiety attack. I wasn't even a quarter of a mile into the race and I couldn't catch my breath. I'm not that out of shape. I just kept running, even though I was actually wheezing by this point, because walking that close to the beginning would just have been ultimate failure. But by the time I got to about 3/4 of a mile, I started to feel better.

At the first mile marker, the guy called out "8:45", which is certainly the fastest mile I've ever run. The second mile went without incident, although I did walk in a couple places for 15-30 seconds. At the second mile marker, my time was "19:39" so I knew I had only about 10 minutes if I wanted to make my goal of finishing in under 30 minutes. I wasn't so sure I could do it.

The third mile was rough. I walked in a few places, but tried to keep them short. I knew I was in trouble when the guy pushing his kid in jogging stroller passed me. Then, when the time was at about 28:30, and the end was nearly in sight, I said to myself, "OK, let's just run as fast as you can until the finish." Not sprinting, mind you, just as fast as I could muster at that point.

This worked pretty well until I got to about 1/2 a block from the finish line. I could see the finish line. And I'm jogging along, and I started to gag. And I'm thinking, "I am NOT going to throw up, I am NOT going to throw up!" (Hey, hey Fred, another post to use the old vomiting tag.) And then...I threw up. Or rather, I would have thrown up, if anything had been in my stomach. Instead, I had to stop and dry heave just before the finish line. How embarrassing. I had to walk/jog the last 20 feet or so.

Official time: 31 minutes, 18 seconds.

The gal who won my age class came in 10 minutes before me.
I got the same time as the guy who got second the 63+ age class.
I finished 141st overall, out of about 182 runners.

A big thanks to my friend Coreen who told me "If you finished, then it doesn't really matter...;)"

Although puking at the finish line doesn't really make me feel like a winner.

I won't even mention the fact that my husband didn't even come out to watch the race, despite the fact that we live 4 blocks from the start/finish line. Oops, I mentioned it. Not that it bothered me, nope, not one bit.

Needless to say, I have a lot of work to do. I'm going to start a new TT workout this week, but not sure which one just yet. I'm ready to get back to lifting weights, and looking for a workout that is pretty straightforward. I might go back to the Original TT workouts and use 2K3, or 2K4, or maybe even 2K6. I think I've done up through 2K5, so 2K6 would be something new. But I digress.

If I want to improve my 5K time, I think I need to practice running 5K (duh, right). But I also want to run the intervals in the TT program so I will have to integrate the two types of training. Maybe for now, I will just commit to running 5K once or twice a month. I think I'm done running in races for now, and then next spring/summer, I will look forward to finishing another race with a much better time!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recipe Wedneday - Two Cheese Cauliflower Casserole

This is another recipe adapted from Dana Carpender's 500 More Low Carb Recipes. I used a left over chicken breast (make an extra one the night before), but if you had left over turkey, or even pork, you could use that.

Two Cheese Cauliflower Casserole

2 and 2/3 cup fresh or frozen cauliflower
1 egg
1/4 cup fat free or low fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup light sour cream
1 large chicken breast (5-6 oz), cooked and cubed
dash salt and pepper
1/2 cup reduced fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook cauliflower by steaming on the stove or in the microwave until tender. If you use the microwave, choose a dish large enough to accommodate everything and then just drain the leftover water (if any) and you can bake the casserole in the same dish.

3. Place cottage cheese in a food processor and puree. Add sour cream, egg, salt and pepper.

4. Add cottage cheese mixture to the cauliflower (in the baking dish). Add the cooked, cubed chicken to the dish.

5. Bake 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the shredded cheddar and bake for about 5 minutes more.

Makes 2 servings. Each serving has approximately:

307 calories
39g protein
11g fat
14g carbs
4g fiber

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Excessive Energy In The Vortex...

That's what one of the local weatherman actually gave as part of his forecast while we were on vacation. It just made me crack up laughing. :)

Our vacation was fantastic. A whole week with no computers, and no phones. We went swimming with the kids, and fishing, and did LOT of eating! LOL I did manage to fit in 3 workouts. Monday and Friday I ran about 3 miles (in preparation for the 5K race that I signed up to run at the end of the month), and on Wednesday I used a TT bodyweight workout.

And, I caught a big fish! Well, big is relative, I suppose, but it's one of the biggest I've ever caught. It was a 16" largemouth bass, which we'll be having for dinner later this week. :) Here's a picture:

And here's a picture of my son being very brave and sticking his finger into the fish's mouth:

It was a very fun and relaxing week. It's been tough getting my sleeping and eating schedule back on track, but with the race getting closer, I want to make sure I'm drinking more water, and sleeping and eating well.

Have a great night!

Friday, July 10, 2009

What Is Ideal? Part II - My Experiences

Recently I've been striving to change how I look at eating. In the past, it's been very controlled, neurotically counting calories and carefully measuring everything. Which works great for serious fat loss. And I lost a lot of weight doing that. Too much, in fact.

In March I weighed in at 127 lbs and 16% body fat (I'm nearly 5'8" tall). I was thrilled with how I looked! But it was not a healthy weight for me. Losing your period for 3 months does not equal a healthy weight. So I've gained some weight back - up to about 20% body fat - and now I'm struggling with how I look.

In the back of my mind, I know I'm not fat. But when I look in the mirror, my brain remembers what I looked like at 127 lbs and it sees someone who is overweight, which I know I am not. But my mind's eye has not yet made peace with the fact that 127 lbs is not a healthy weight for me.

I started coming up with a list of reasons to be happy where I am:

I can see muscle definition in my arms and legs.
My bodyfat is about 20% (still considered "fit/lean/athlete").
(Most of) my pants still fit.
I can still do more chin ups (and push ups) than my husband.
My resting heart rate is in the high 50's/low 60's (considered "athlete").
I would still wear a bikini in public.
My husband thinks I'm sexy.

That last reason alone should be enough. :) I think I need to work on focusing on the positives of where I am now, instead of negatively thinking about where I am, compared to where I have been in the past.

As for exercise, my husband and I recently took a 90 day break from Turbulence Training and completed a round of P90X. It was extreme, heavy lifting, and a lot of fun, but the 6-day-a-week schedule was pretty tiring by the end. Now during my "rest week" I am just running because I have decided to run another 5K race at the end of July. I'm going to start a TT bodyweight program next week. Even though I am a fan of heavy lifting, I also think it's good to give your body a different challenge every now and then.

On a side note, we took pictures pre and post P90X (had to get the high heels out for the after pics), and I just want to post my legs up close so you can see how well my rash is finally healing. I've had this rash now for 4 months (since mid-March)!

As far as diet, I'm just trying to eat healthy foods without counting too many calories. Not that I won't be planning anything. I still think failure to plan is a plan to fail, but my meal plans will be much less fixed. I want my eating to be more organic. Not organic as in "certified organic" (although that would probably be good as well), but more in the way of a natural flow and progression. As opposed to "clinically controlled" with all the weighing and measuring. Although I still weigh some things, like oatmeal. It's so easy to throw the bowl on the scale and pour in 40g of oatmeal. I've been eating less meat as well. No real reason, just seem to be eating less, particularly beef. It seems like everyone is eating less meat nowadays. Precision Nutrition even has a Plant-Based Diet Guide in the new V3, and I've heard that Craig Ballantyne of Turbulence Training is coming out with vegetarian meal plans very soon.

I'm just going to get out all my healthy cookbooks and create with abandon. OK, maybe not with complete abandon, but with moderate abandon. :)

OK, signing off here. We are unplugging the computer and taking ourselves "off the grid" for awhile, so no posts next week. Hope you all are enjoying your summer!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Recipe Wednesday - Apple Ginger Chicken

This is quick, easy and yummy! My 5-year-old son, who usually refuses to eat chicken unless it has a breading of some kind, ate an entire chicken breast all by himself!

Apple Ginger Chicken

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 5-6 oz each)
1 Tablespoon butter, melted
2 Tablespoons unsulphured molasses
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
salt and pepper, to taste

3/4 cup dry brown rice
12 oz chicken broth or water

3 small or 2 large apples, cored and sliced

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet or jelly roll pan with foil and spray with a little nonstick spray.

2. Melt the butter either in the microwave or on the stove. Place in a bowl and add the molasses, ginger, salt and pepper. Mix well and pour into a large resealable plastic bag.

3. Add the chicken breasts to the marinade and let sit in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes. I say "5-6 oz" for the chicken breasts because the ones that I buy are that big. Feel free to use whatever size you have on hand.

4. While the chicken is marinating, start the brown rice by placing the chicken broth or water and rice in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Bring up to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes.

5. When the chicken is done marinating, place on the baking sheet along with the cut up apples. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes.

6. Turn on the broiler (I used the low setting). Remove the apples from the baking sheet and place in the pan with the rice, adding a little more water if necessary. Turn the chicken over and broil for about 15 minutes or until no longer pink inside.

7. Divide the rice and apples between 3 plates. Add the chicken breast and serve.

Each serving (including chicken, rice and apple) has approximately:

472 calories
43.1g protein
5.5g fat
60g carbs (mostly from the brown rice and apple)
4.6g fiber

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Just A Quick WHOO-HOO!

Recently I've been toying with the idea of running another 5K race. The last one I ran was mostly for fun, since I had never run one before, and there were no prizes, except for the satisfaction of finishing it. My time in that race (in May) was 40 minutes and 59 seconds. Not great, I know, as far as 5K standards for real runners, but for me, that was really good. The race I've been thinking about running is a "real" race, with age groups and prizes and everything. So I've been practicing. The route for the race is posted online so I tried it out today (although I think I may have run it backwards) and I ran it in 31 minutes and 52 seconds! I was really excited about knocking more than 9 minutes off of my previous time, and also excited that I didn't puke on the finish line. :) The race isn't for another couple weeks so I'm hoping to reduce my time by a few more minutes. I'll let you know how it goes. WHOO-HOO!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Recipe Wednesday - Rutabaga Fries

Ever wonder to do with a rutabaga? You know, that lonely, purplish-white, slightly-bigger-than softball sized, waxy-coated vegetable shoved in a little box between the garlic, potatoes, and onions? (At least it is in my grocery store.) Well, wonder no more! If you have never tried rutabaga, this is a great way to do so. They are low in calories, and a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, folate and fiber. This is an adaptation from Dana Carpender's 500 Low Carb Recipes. The original was fried in butter, which I have tried, and it's good, but my version bakes them in the oven. It doesn't get them as crisp, but they are less greasy. The first time I made them, I did not have a steamer insert so I rigged my screen colander over a pan of boiling water (see photo).

This worked for a while, but right at the end the plastic part melted and warped a bit. Oops. Now I have a steamer insert!

Rutabaga Fries

1 rutabaga (about 1 - 1.5 lbs)
2 teaspoons canola or olive oil
1 teaspoon season salt or sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Peel off the waxy coating (I just use a vegetable peeler).

3. Cut the rutabaga into "french fry" shapes. I cut about 1/4-1/2 inch slices, and then cut the slices into strips. I use a more traditional french fry shape to fool the kids; you could cut into more of a thin wedge or steak cut fry, if desired.

4. Place in a steamer over boiling water until tender, but not mushy (12-15 minutes).

5. Remove from steamer and pat dry.

6. Place in a bowl with the oil. Swirl and flip to coat.

7. Lay on a foil-lined baking sheet sprayed with a little nonstick spray. Sprinkle with the season salt or sea salt.

8. Bake for about 45 minutes, turning every now and then to promote even cooking. The exact time will depend on how thick they are cut, and how done you want them.

Longer cooking will make the tips more crisp, but in order to make the whole fry crisp, you nearly have to burn them. I take them out when some of the tips are crisps, but they are mainly tender. They do shrink quite a bit in the oven compared with the pan fry method.

If you would like to try the pan fry method, simply prepare the rutabaga as above through step 5, then pan fry in about 2 Tablespoons of butter.

This makes 4 good sized servings. If you use the baked method, and assuming you have about a 1.5 lb rutabaga, each serving has approximately:

72 calories
1.7g protein
2.7g fat
11.7g carbs
3.6g fiber