3-Day Detox Cleanse – Day One is Done!

Okay, I’m a meat and potatoes kind of gal, always have been.  In the past few years, however, I’ve become more health conscious, cutting back on red meat, eating more lean fish, poultry and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into my daily diet.  As part of my nutritional research, I’ve collaborated with a registered dietitian to see which plan works best for my age and current health condition.detox cleanse

As I mentioned in a previous post, I decided to include a Detox Cleanse as part of my Spring Cleaning plan.  Detox cleanses come in all shapes and sizes; celebrities swear by them.  Most of those, however, do more harm than good.  They’re aimed at reducing weight rapidly, with the majority of it being water weight.  Along with the weight, your body also loses essential  nutrients.  In the short term, a daily fast or cleanse may not be harmful but without the vitamins and minerals your body needs to survive, these types of cleanses are not sustainable.

My research once again brought me back to the 3-Day Detox Cleanse.  This plan was developed by a family physician specializing in Functional Medicine, Dr. Mark Hyman.  It was introduced by renowned cardiac physician, Dr. Mehmet Oz.  The purpose is not primarily to lose weight, but eliminate toxins from your body, giving you more energy and clarity. 

There are side effects that go along with this detox cleanse but I haven’t experienced any as yet.  Each meal is the same, followed for 3 days.  Here’s the plan:

Detox Cleanse Breakfast SmoothieBreakfast

Morning Detox Tea:  Green Tea with 1 slice lemon and 1 tsp. Stevia

Breakfast Drink:

1 cup water

1 tbsp. flax seed

1 cup raspberries

1 banana

1/4 cup spinach

1 tbsp. almond butter

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice     Mix all ingredients in a blender or juicer

1/2 Multivitamin and Probiotic Supplement

Detox Cleanse Lunch SmoothieLunch Drink:

4 celery stalks

1 cucumber

1 cup kale leaves

½ green apple

½ lime, squeezed

1 tbsp. coconut oil

½ cup almond milk, unsweetened

1 cup pineapple       Mix all ingredients in a blender or juicer

 1/2 Multivitamin and Omega-3 Supplement

 Snack:  Repeat favorite drink

 Detox Cleanse Dinner SmoothieDinner Drink:

1/2 cup mango

1 cup blueberries

1-1/2 cup coconut water

1 cup kale leaves

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1/4 avocado

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tbsp. flax seeds       Mix all ingredients in a blender or juicer

 Detox Ultra Bath:  (at night)

Add 2-1/2 cups Epsom Salt and 10 drops Lavender Oil to a warm bath and S-O-A-K for 20 minutes.  (Sorry, photos off limits…nothing to see here folks!)

I’m not a huge fan of lavender so I opted for the Epsom salts and some bath oil I already had on hand.  It was heavenly, but having to clean the bathtub afterward spoiled the mood!

I’m familiar with what my personal nutritional needs are but recommend anyone attempting this or any other diet, consult with your physician first.  Some side effects can be fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, irritability or headache.  Don’t forget, some of these side effects are as a result of toxins leaving your system.  If you’re used to having caffeine, you may experience a headache due to withdrawal.  I normally have 2-3 cups of coffee in the mornings yet didn’t get a headache.  I wasn’t hungry either; couldn’t even have my SNACK smoothie, yet some people experience hunger.  It could just be that you’re not used to having liquid meals and prefer solids.Detox Cleanse Breakfast Smoothie blended

 I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Breakfast Drink; it wasn’t like the “Vitameatavegamin” Lucy Riccardo advertised but it’s not a fruity smoothie either.  Once my tastebuds got used to the flavor and texture, I enjoyed it.Detox Cleanse Lunch Smoothie blended

The Lunch Drink however was another story.  It was thick and not at all appealing to me.  This is where my husband called it quits.  He had about 4 mouthfuls but couldn’t finish the rest.   He was able to drink the Breakfast Smoothie but just could not get this one down.  Ha ha… I knew he wouldn’t last!  But now I’m lonely and have to finish the remainder of the plan by myself.

 Detox Cleanse Dinner Smoothie blendedThe Dinner Drink was okay, much better than the Lunch Drink but not as good as the Breakfast Drink.  Drinking several glasses of water throughout the day along with exercise helped curb my anxiety and appetite.  I’m going to bed feeling both full and sleepy.

 So Day 1 is finished.  Yea, I survived!  Only 2 more days to go.  I think I can, I think I can…

 When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.” ~ Author Unknown

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How Toxic are You?

“…tough choices become easier when we think about them in terms of doing the right thing, and although it may hurt initially, it invariably makes things better in the long run.” ~ Robert Vaux

 body cleanse

It’s not often you’ll find me speechless but that’s what happened this evening.  As part of my “Spring Cleaning” campaign, I made a commitment to complete a 3-day Detox Cleanse; what a perfect way to “spring clean” my body I thought.  Although not a fan of “quick-fixes,” I’ve done research on this particular plan and it’s the healthiest I’ve found.  I’ve wanted to do this program since last summer.

 The reason I’m speechless is that I actually convinced my husband to join me in this quest.  For the life of me, I can’t understand how I talked him into acquiescing.  Of course, he was adamant about proceeding at first; after all, he is NOT a fan of fruits and vegetables, no less those blended together in a drink.  He can handle a banana smoothie on occasion but only if I add some peanut butter or chocolate syrup.  Not this time!smoothies

 

Four drinks a day plus some supplements and a nice Detox Bath at night for three days – almost like being at a Spa!  I’m not sure how much I’ll enjoy drinking fruit & veggie beverages daily, forgoing solid food for 3 days.  One thing I know for sure; I’ll have to be the best cheerleader in town if I hope to encourage my hubby to tough it out with me.  Hopefully the nice, warm, relaxing bath at the end of the day will help entice him…key word being “hopefully.”

Oh and then there’s the exercise.  I showed him the TurboJam workout video I attempt to do daily.  He gave me one of those “are you kidding me” kinds of looks and said “good luck with that one.”  I’ll have to find another way to get him to do some cardio with me….hmmm,  60 minutes?  Maybe I can get him to do at least 30!

detox bathThis ought to be interesting.  I’m heading to the grocery store tomorrow for all the necessary ingredients.  I’ll also be tweeting and posting our progress on Facebook.  I’m thinking, if I tell my DH “others” are following us for the 3 days, maybe he’ll feel too proud to back down.  Oooh, I can’t wait!

 

My goal is not really to lose weight, although I’m sure I’ll lose a little water weight one way or another.  I really just want to get rid of excess garbage and toxins in my system so I’ll feel more motivated about continuing to eat healthy and exercise regularly.  Here’s hoping the results will be well worth the effort. 

“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right. Which one are you?”  ~ Henry Ford

Eager for Spring: Fresh Omelets and Salads

“Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

IMG_0355The past few days have been hectic but for no particular reason.  Ever have those kinds of days where you do LOTS of NOTHING and by the end of the day, you’re exhausted but feel you didn’t get anything worthwhile accomplished?  Made me long for the peace and serenity of Hawaii.

I can’t wait for Spring and am tired of making the same old meals every day.  Checking the fridge I found lots of fresh veggies just calling out to me. I usually don’t buy such a variety, since it’s only the two of us now and I’m the only one who really eats vegetables.  But I’m very happy I had them on hand.

These meals were healthy, tasty, satisfying and best of all, easy to make. 

 Egg White_Spinach_Mushroom Omelet

Egg White, Spinach and Mushroom Omelet

Ingredients:

·       3 egg whites

·       1 tbsp skim milk

·       ½ tsp Italian herbs (or your choice)

·       Freshly ground black pepper

·       1 cup chopped fresh spinach

·       ¼ cup sliced fresh mushrooms

·       1 tbsp reduced-fat cheese, shredded (I used Sargento Low Fat 4-Cheese Italian; can also substitute Parmesan if desired.)

Preparation:

1.    Whisk egg whites, milk and herbs together in a small bowl.

2.    Spray small skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium heat.

3.    Add mushrooms to pan and sauté 1-2 minutes.  Add spinach.

4.    As soon as spinach begins to wilt, pour egg white mixture over vegetables.

5.    When edges of mixture begin to set, lift sides and gently tilt skillet to allow remaining liquid to flow underneath.

6.    When egg white mixture is fully cooked, sprinkle shredded cheese on top.

7.    Fold omelet in half and serve immediately.

Avocado_Tuna Salad

 Avocado and Tuna Salad

Ingredients:

·       1 avocado

·       1 can ( 5oz.) tuna in water, drained

·       2 cups romaine lettuce

·       6 grape tomatoes, halved

·       1 cup sliced, peeled cucumber

·       2 hard-boiled egg whites, sliced

·       1 peeled carrot, grated or julienned

·       ½ lemon, squeezed, juice

·       2 tbsp. lite honey mustard dressing

Preparation:

1.    Slice avocado, remove pit and scoop contents into small bowl.  Add drained tuna and blend both together with fork.

2.    Add tomatoes, cucumber, hard-boiled egg whites and carrots over lettuce. 

3.    Mound avocado and tuna mixture on top.

4.    Sprinkle lemon juice and dressing over top as desired.

 Enough for 2 servings.

I hope you try one of these for your next meal.  They’re a nice change and make me eager for Spring!  Bon Appetit!

Some Food Fun on Valentine’s Day

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY to all! 

 Many couples celebrate this day by going out to eat at a fancy restaurant, however this year we decided to spend some quiet time at home, just the two of us.  Our daughter is away at college.  I sent her a nice “care package” last week filled with lots of goodies for the holiday to let her know we miss her. 010

 

Since we were staying home, I thought I’d have a little fun with food today.  Instead of making the same old thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I thought I’d play around in the kitchen.  Okay, so the food wasn’t really gourmet fare, but it was fun to make, healthy to eat and totally satisfying (especially the dessert!)

 Happy banana strawberry smoothie

A strawberry-banana smoothie was perfect for breakfast.  Even the food was smiling (before I wielded my paring knife!)  Made with non-fat yogurt and a drizzle of Agave, this frothy breakfast was delicious, filling and less than 300 calories (based on an average serving.)

 

By the time lunch came along, we weren’t that hungry.  I had some cantaloupe chunks and walnut halves while I made my husband a nice little turkey sandwich on toasted whole wheat bread with a mug of hot skim chocolate milk.    

 

???????????????????????????????For dinner, I decided to make a Shrimp and Broccoli dish which was delicious, easy to prepare and wholesome.  I served the shrimp over a bed of brown rice and a small green salad with lemon squeeze on the side to round out the meal.  Before marinating the shrimp for about 15 minutes in a mixture of soy, garlic and ginger, I put together another heart-shaped happy face for the holiday!

 

???????????????????????????????Being Valentine’s Day, I decided to splurge on dessert and make some of my husband’s favorite cookies, Mint Chocolate Chip, as I spelled out a loving message.  A couple of these delightful chocolate sensations with a nice warm cup of tea really hit the spot.  We plan to spend the remainder of the evening relaxing by the fire. 

 I hope everyone gave and received lots of love today.  And if you have pets, I hope you gave them lots of extra love today too!  Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers, you know…

From CameraPhone 008

“We love the things we love for what they are.” ~ Robert Frost

Gastronomic Coupling

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ~ Virginia Woolf

February is American Heart Month as well as the time we celebrate lovers on Valentine’s Day. So what’s more appropriate than talking about food pairs for health! Physicians, nutritionists and dietitians alike tout the benefit of eating certain foods in combination for maximum health benefit. I’ve personally found combining specific foods satisfying as well as nutritious.

Below are some of the food combinations called “Dynamic Duos”* … for a good reason!

green tea_lemonGreen Tea + Lemon = A Healthier Heart

Green tea has been linked to a reduced risk of heart attacks, thanks to catechins, the brew’s powerful antioxidants. But studies show only about 20 percent of these healthful compounds are available for our bodies to absorb. The good news: Recently, when scientists added lemon juice to green tea, the availability of health-enhancing catechins skyrocketed to a whopping 80 percent.

Stay-Well Strategy: After brewing yourself a cup of green tea, squeeze in the juice of one whole lemon (you can also use an orange, lime or grapefruit, all runners-up in the study). Don’t want to DIY? Look for bottled green teas that list “ascorbic acid” (also known as vitamin C) among their ingredients. Scientists say the vitamin C in citrus fruits can also improve catechin absorption.

broccoli tomatoBroccoli + Tomatoes = Cancer Control

Broccoli and tomatoes are both cancer-fighting all-stars, but research reveals eating them together may offer even more protection. In a recent study, scientists found consuming tomato and broccoli at the same time was more effective at slowing the growth of cancerous prostate tumors than eating either vegetable alone.

Stay-Well Strategy: The amount of produce used in the study translates to about one and a half cups of broccoli and two and a half cups of fresh tomato (or one cup of tomato sauce). To tap into their potent powers, order a pizza generously topped with broccoli or sprinkle some florets over your next plate of spaghetti.

Red Bell Peppers + Black Beans = Improved Immunity

Eating more meatless meals lately to do your heart (and the planet) a favor? You’ll absorb more immune-boosting plant iron by adding in some red bell peppers. That’s because the iron in picks like beans exists in a form called non-heme iron that’s harder for your body to absorb than the iron found in red meat (heme iron). But, adding a dose of vitamin C-rich produce like red peppers converts the iron into a type that’s easier for the body to use, explains registered dietitian Heidi McIndoo, author of the book, When to Eat What.

Stay-Well Strategy: In one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women absorbed nearly three times more iron from their meal by adding just 63 milligrams of vitamin C. This amount translates into about a half cup of chopped red bell peppers. To tap into their healing powers, toss these health-enhancing peppers into your next pot of chili.

eggs mangoEggs + Mango = A Firmer Facade

Want to improve the overall look and strength of your skin? Try consuming this power couple. Eggs are naturally rich in two special amino acids (building blocks of protein) that are essential for the formation of skin-plumping collagen. “And foods rich in vitamin C, like mango, work with these acids to boost collagen production. This helps build back lost stores in the body, which can significantly improve the appearance of skin,” explains Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian in New York City.

Stay-Well Strategy: To give a boost to your next breakfast, pair an omelet with a cup of fresh mango chunks, which supply nearly an entire day’s supply of vitamin C.

Green Tea + Black Pepper = A Whittled Waistline

Forget drastic diets: At your next meal, sip a cup of green tea and shake some black pepper over your entree. “A study recently found that the combo boosts the absorption of EGCG, a key antioxidant in tea tied to calorie burning, by a whopping 130 percent,” explains registered dietitian Cynthia Sass, author of the new book Cinch!: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches. Bonus: According to research published in Nutrition Journal, people who drank green tea with their meal reported feeling more full and were less likely to want a second helping than those who drank plain water. Experts say the compounds in green tea can affect the hormones that regulate hunger and fullness.

Stay-Well Strategy: Studies say as little as a half-teaspoon of black pepper can increase the absorption of tea’s beneficial compounds, so brew a cup of tea to sip, then take out your mill and get grinding!

kale radicchioRadicchio + Kale = A Stronger Skeleton

Cup for cup, kale is the king of calcium (it contains three times more than spinach). However, food scientists say you’ll soak up even more of this bone-building mineral by combining kale with some radicchio. Why? The crimson veggie is a rich source of inulin, a carbohydrate that naturally enhances calcium absorption in the intestines, according to a recent study in the journal Nutrition Research.

Stay-Well Strategy: To shore up your skeleton, toss these tasty greens together in a salad.

avacado romaineAvocado + Green Salad = Complexion Protection

You’ll absorb more skin-protecting plant compounds called carotenoids from your veggie salad by adding a little avocado. “Carotenoids reduce free radical damage to effectively protect the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays,” explains Glassman. In a recent study at Ohio State University, people who ate avocado in their salad of lettuce, spinach, and carrots absorbed up to 15 times more carotenoids than those who didn’t eat their salads with avocado. Studies show carotenoids require some fat to be optimally absorbed by the body, which means avocados, which contain solid stores of healthful monounsaturated fats, healthfully fit the bill.

Stay-Well Strategy: To nab this nutrition perk, slice a half of an avocado into your next green salad.

Yogurt + Bran Cereal = Better Digestion

This breakfast is a natural immunity booster. Full of good bacteria, yogurt acts as a probiotic. It encourages healthy bacteria to flourish in your digestive tract, keeping sickness-causing bugs at bay. But probiotics work even better when paired with the prebiotics found in wheat bran. Why? Prebiotics act as nourishment for probiotics, helping them better thrive in the gut so they can do their immunity-boosting magic, says registered dietitian Dave Grotto, author of the book, 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life.

Stay-Well Strategy: To get in on this good-gut action, first look for probiotic-rich yogurts that sport the label “live and active cultures.” Then, mix one cup of this yogurt with three quarters of a cup of wheat bran cereal.

Apricots + Almonds = A Tip-Top Ticker

This power pair helps prevents LDL “bad” cholesterol from oxidizing, a process that happens whenever LDL reacts with free radicals. “And oxidized LDL is harmful because it encourages dangerous plaque build-up in the arteries,” explains registered dietitian Elaine Magee, author of the book, Food Synergy. But, in a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, researchers found that the phytochemicals in almonds reduced LDL oxidation when paired with the antioxidant vitamins E and C, both of which are found abundantly in apricots.

Stay-Well Strategy: For a satisfying, heart-healthy snack, combine a quarter-cup each of dried apricots and raw almonds.

yogurt blueberriesYogurt + Blueberries = A Stronger Body

Spoon up this tasty snack after a sweaty workout. The reason: Research reveals blueberries possess brain-boosting benefits to keep you better focused during your fitness routine, while yogurt’s hefty stores of protein help repair the little tears in your muscles that naturally occur during exercise. As if that’s not enough, the carbs in both the yogurt and fruit naturally replenish your muscles with glycogen, a stored form of energy (dipping too low in glycogen can quickly trigger fatigue). Yogurt’s protein also stimulates a hormone that transports those energizing carbs into your muscles to give your next workout more get-up and go.

Stay-Well Strategy: If you’re doing intense exercise and need to be at the top of your game, be especially speedy about eating this recovery snack. Why? Your body’s most efficient at stashing away glycogen in the first 15 minutes after your workout, says Magee

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil + Tomatoes = Disease Defense

Tomatoes boast all four major carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene) plus three potent antioxidants (beta-carotene, vitamin E, and vitamin C) that may help fight cancer and heart disease. “You’ll absorb more of these protective chemicals if you eat them with olive oil,” says Magee. “It’s high in healthy monounsaturated fats and slows digestion so you can soak up more of them.”

Stay-Well Strategy: Mix a little olive oil in your next marinara. You’ll get a bigger phytochemical punch with cooked tomatoes (leave the skin on, since it’s loaded with them). Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed form, so it contains the most beneficial compounds, says Magee. Just store it away from heat and light to prevent it from going rancid.

oatmeal strawberriesOatmeal + Strawberries = A Healthier Heart

Oats contain two important phytochemicals called avenanthramides and phenolic acids. These compounds have been shown in research to work synergistically with vitamin C to reduce the harmful effects of “bad” LDL cholesterol and help prevent the plaque build-up that can lead to heart attacks, says Magee.

Stay-Well Strategy: Enjoy a half cup of sliced strawberries with your morning bowl of oatmeal.

Cinnamon + Whole Grain Toast = Increased Energy and Speedier Slimming

Sprinkling on this spice may help keep your blood sugar at a healthier level, which prevents dips in your energy and spikes in your hunger level, says Sass. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cinnamon was found to slow the rate of stomach emptying after meals and reduce the rise in blood sugar after meals to negate more noshing later.

Stay-Well Strategy: For a healthier version of that childhood staple, cinnamon toast, use whole grain bread, trans-free margarine and a study-backed teaspoon of cinnamon. Note: Experts say you’ll nab more protective compounds if your cinnamon is fresh: Whole sticks last up to a year, ground cinnamon for six months.

garlic onionsGarlic + Onions = Head to Toe Protection

These aromatic veggies both contain a number of organosulfur compounds; heart-healthy plant chemicals that help keep arteries flexible and free of plaque, says Magee. Some of these compounds have even been studied for their power to detoxify carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) in the body. Eating both at the same time means you’re “covering your bases” and boosting your chances of getting more of these healthful compounds, she says.

Stay-Well Strategy: Cooked together, they make a delicious base for soups and sauces or simply sauté veggies like broccoli in a mix of olive oil, garlic, and onions.

Enjoy your “coupling” … you’ll love the results!

*Material reprinted from ivillage.com by Sally Kuzemchak, M.S., R.D.

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On! – Turbo Cardio Day 3

PainWhen the world says, “Give up,”
Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.” ~ Author Unknown

The past two days of workouts have been quite challenging. Damn change-ups; I’m used to 4-8 repetitions at a time, not every other move. I’d like to set up an old laptop with a webcam to record my workouts. This way I can see my form (insert joke…now!). While I take the exercise and nutritional part of this program seriously, I won’t fool myself into believing I’ll look anything like Chalene Johnson after 90 days of Turbo Fire. I’m a strawberry blonde, after all, with a few more years under my belt!

Don’t worry, you’ll see my video soon. I took a photo prior to starting this intensive cardio plan but will not be posting it until after I complete the full 90 day workout. At that time, I’ll post the “before” and “after” photos. It seems that’s what most people do. Side by side, I can examine the results of my efforts, provided I’m still standing by then.

As far as meals go, I haven’t really changed them in the past few days except for dinner. The other day I made a large turkey for dinner, froze most of it for future meals (soups, warm salads, low-fat casseroles) and that’s what I made last night. I served the turkey over rice with a little gravy for my family with some stuffing and vegetables while I ate it plain with just vegetables.  Tonight it was flank steak. 

Fitness Pal (2)

The “Fitness Pal” gives you an idea of the type of entries I’ve been making daily.

What a huge change from the previous Sculpt and Tone video I used for weeks. They don’t even compare. I have to have a new mindset and new moves for this type of workout. Thankfully, I’m practicing now before I begin my official 90-day program on Monday. BABY STEPS….’cause I can’t keep up…yet.

In the meantime, here are some healthy snacks ideas to help satisfy and energize during the day. Choose to stick with snacks that are about 100 to 200 calories with 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates. Try these healthy options.

Salty Snacks
Kale Chips1. Cheesy kale chips Tear kale leaves into large pieces and arrange on a baking sheet. Spritz with olive oil and bake in a 350°F oven until crisp. While still
warm, sprinkle with a little grated Parmesan cheese.

2. Tamari-seasoned rice crackers A salt lover’s best choice for scooping up low-fat tuna salad or another healthy dip; punch them up with a squeeze of chili sauce. (Read the label to make sure you stick to one serving of crackers.)

3. Mediterranean artichoke hearts Drain canned artichoke hearts and sprinkle
with lemon zest, capers, chopped fresh basil, and olive oil.

Pumpkin Seeds4. Five-spice pumpkin seeds
 Toss salted pumpkin seeds with sesame oil and Chinese five-spice powder; bake at 350°F until crisp.

5. Buffalo popcorn
 Toss air-popped popcorn with olive oil, chili powder, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

6. Spicy wheat pretzels
 Whole wheat pretzels (which boast 4 grams of fiber
compared with 1 gram in the regular kind) become irresistible when slathered
with spicy mustard (only 5 calories per teaspoon). Add a couple of low-fat
cheese cubes to make this snack extra filling.

Crunchy Snacks
Chickpea Poppers7. Chickpea poppers Drain and rinse canned chickpeas, then dry them with a paper towel. Spritz with extra-virgin olive oil, season with dried oregano and garlic alt, and roast at 400°F until crisp.

8. Veggie chips with tangy yogurt Dunk root veggie chips (such as Terra chips) nto plain low-fat yogurt seasoned with hot sauce and orange zest.

9. Cheesy dip Dunk sugar snap peas into 1/4 cup fat-free ricotta cheese.

10. Easy salsa Chop up tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, beans, and onions in a
mini food processor, then scoop on melba toast.

11. Tangy pear boats Fill endive spears with chopped pears and season with a
dash of balsamic vinegar. Add 12 almonds for extra crunch and some heart-healthy
unsaturated fat.

12. Veggie yogurt dip Combine finely chopped broccoli, multicolored bell
peppers, and scallions with fat-free Greek yogurt and onion flakes. Use it as a
dip for baby carrots.

Sweet Snacks
Cottage Cheese Fruit13. Fruity cottage cheese Fold chopped ripe nectarines into low-fat cottage heese, and spoon onto a couple of gingersnaps. (Read the label to make sure you tick to a single serving of gingersnaps.)

14. Chocolaty pears Minimalist, yet amazingly delicious: Sprinkle cocoa nibs on canned pears.

15. Sweet yogurt dip Stir a little diet maple syrup or agave nectar into fat-free Greek yogurt, and dunk slices of apples or pears.

Fruit Kebabs16. Fruit kebabs. Spear the sweetest fruits—strawberries, mango, grapes, and pineapple – with bamboo skewers.

17. “Banana cream pie” Spread graham crackers with vanilla fat-free Greek  yogurt, then top with a handful of banana slices and a sprinkle of ground flaxseed. (Read the label to make sure you stick to one serving of graham crackers.)

18. Grapefruit brûlée Transform a simple grapefruit into something decadent: Halve it; drizzle each half with a little dark honey (use concentrated sweets sparingly), and broil until bubbly.

Creamy Snacks
Mashed sweet potatoes19. Easy mashed sweet potato Microwave a small sweet potato, split it open, and mash a little OJ and cinnamon into it. Eat it right out of the jacket.

20. White bean dip Mash canned white beans with olive oil and chopped fresh rosemary. Pile onto radicchio or lettuce leaves.

21. Creamy pita Spread baba ghanoush, crushed avocado, or hummus on a whole wheat pita or whole wheat English muffin.

Scrambled Eggs22. Soft-scrambled egg It’s the most sublimely simple protein-packed treat.

23. Spicy potatoes Baby red potatoes become blissfully soft when you microwave them for 3 to 5 minutes (leave the skin on for its nutrients). Sprinkle with pepper and dried seasonings. Add a pat of Greek yogurt for a healthy sour cream replacement.

24. Italian antipasto Raid the supermarket antipasto bar for some lusciously creamy slow-roasted red peppers. Pat the oil off with a paper towel, and eat with a mini bocconcini or two. Delizioso!

(Thank you Readers Digest and Thinkstock for the wonderful snack tips and photos!)

Burning the Midnight Oil (and a cookie too!)

Writers ClockThe semester ends December 15th.  I see my Professor for the final time on the 12th.  If I don’t complete the class, I can’t graduate.  Am I ready???

 Hell, yeah.  At this stage of the game, I feel I did my best.  Did I procrastinate?  Yes, well, sort of.  Did you ever get an idea for something you REALLY wanted to write about and once you began, decided you didn’t like the topic after all?  Hence the procrastination.

 I have books and magazines and copies and notes all over my desk.  Organized chaos!  I’ve been sitting at this desk for weeks amidst numerous interruptions. Marys Desk

 I needed a break…just a little one to clear my mind.  All I could see was the clock winding down…tick…tick…tick… What to do???  Bake some cookies, of course!

 cookiesBaking always inspires me!cookie tins

 I did something I normally don’t do, but in an effort to save time, I put two batches into the oven at once.  Halfway through I rotated them, top and bottom, so they would bake more evenly.  Big mistake.  The older pan on the bottom baked the cookies too fast.  So much for inspiration.

 When I removed the pans from the oven, I noticed a third of the cookies on the bottom tray were burned.  I don’t remember the last time I burned a cookie, it’s been THAT long.  And we know who always gets to eat the burned ones, don’t we??  It didn’t matter though because even the burned ones, albeit a little hard, tasted scrumptious.burnt cookie

 With that feat accomplished I was able to get back to the task at hand – finishing my assignments.  Dinner will take care of itself, meaning if my husband is really nice (and hungry), he’ll get take-out for us.  Steamed vegetables sound delightful!

 I’m getting sidetracked.  I have few more paragraphs to write, lots of editing and by midnight (nothing like pushing the envelope) I’m in the home stretch.  My fate will lie in my Professors’ hands.  Here we go!

 “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” ~ John Quincy Adams

Nothin’ Says Lovin’ Like Something From the Oven! (Pillsbury)

I’m excited it’s that time of year again when I liberate my holiday cookie cutters and utensils from their year-long refuge and prepare my kitchen for a virtual holiday bake-off.

 This year, I was asked to bring cookies to the Thanksgiving feast.  I enjoy making dozens of different cookies but I’ll have to narrow it down.  Everyone loves sugar cookies.  I have three favorite recipes; each with a different twist.  My personal favorite is the one made with cream cheese.  After scouring my holiday cookbooks and personal recipe files, I’ve decided to make decorative sugar cookie snowflakes, peanut blossoms (the kids’ favorites), chocolate raisin oatmeal cookies and linzer cookies (to start)!

 I’ll be careful what I have for dinner on Thanksgiving, sticking as best I can with the low-cholesterol meal plan I’m following, however I will allow myself a treat or two because after all, isn’t that what the holidays are for?  I couldn’t possibly spend an entire day enjoying my family without a little indulgence, namely dessert.  I only wish I could allow myself to bring some treats back home with me, but I can’t if I want to avoid the temptation. 

 After baking and decorating the cookies, I’ll be posting the recipes along with photos.  For now, it’s time to finish my holiday cleaning, do some decorating, complete writing assignments and get ready for the big day! 

“I figured if I was going to make the world a better place, I’d do it with cookies.” ~ Ana Pascal, Stranger than Fiction

On a Roll (hold the butter)!

Day Four (4) of my Low Cholesterol Meal Plan is going well.  The three areas of concern are cholesterol, sodium and carbohydrate, in that order.  Fortunately, I’m finding many foods which can be easily prepared, depending on specific criteria.  My biggest challenge is hiding the leftover Halloween candy which looks so pretty in its festive holiday bowl.  I try to reiterate, “A minute on the lips; a lifetime on the hips” each time a Snickers catches my eye.  Damn willpower!

I’ve discovered it’s more challenging to prepare a low cholesterol meal that is also low carbohydrate than one with merely lower fat and sodium.  Last night, I prepared Sea Scallops with Broccoli Rabe, Sautéed Mushrooms and Garlic.  The dish was served over brown rice. 

It was a quick meal to prepare and only required a few ingredients.  Recipe follows:

Sautéed Scallops with Broccoli Rabe and Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 1 8 oz. pkg. sliced fresh mushrooms (baby bella or button)
  • 2 tablespoons rice bran oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Hot cooked brown rice

Directions:

  1. Bring several quarts of water to boiling. Remove any tough or damaged outer leaves of broccoli rabe and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Peel thick, lower stems and tear into large pieces.
  2. Blanch broccoli rabe by pouring boiling water over it while it is in a colander.  Drain well and set aside.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper.  Sauté garlic about 30 seconds, being careful it doesn’t burn.  Add mushrooms and broccoli rabe to the pan and toss to coat with garlic/pepper mixture.   Heat thoroughly, about 3-4 minutes until vegetables are crisp-tender.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, if desired.
  3. In a separate pan, heat about a tablespoon of rice bran or extra virgin olive oil.  Meanwhile, season scallops with black pepper and a pinch of salt.  When oil is hot, add scallops and sear 2-3 minutes on each side, being careful not to overcook.  Watch carefully.  When nicely seared (browned) on each side, remove from pan and serve over mushroom/broccoli blend and hot cooked brown rice.

This was a tasty meal.  Although the directions I posted call for searing scallops in a separate skillet, last night I cooked them in the same one as the vegetables.  (See Photo)  I do not recommend this as they were a little overcooked and slightly dry and the vegetables were a little too tender for my liking.  Separate pans are the better way to go with this dish.  That being said, it was a very tasty, satisfying meal and I would definitely make it again.

Tonight I made sautéed chicken breasts, seasoned with lemon and garlic, served over a garden salad with homemade raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

The salad dressing recipe follows:

 Low Sodium, Low Cholesterol Salad Dressing (I adjusted basic recipe from Cooks.com)

  • 1/2 c. oil (I used rice bran but you can use olive, canola, etc.)
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar (I used raspberry wine vinegar)
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. sugar (or equivalent sugar substitute such as Truvia®)

Combine all ingredients and whisk well. Refrigerate in covered jar. Shake well before use. I added 1/8 tsp. dill and marjoram for added flavor.  Yield: 3/4 cup.

For dessert, I had a small bowl of cantaloupe chunks with fresh blueberries and several walnut pieces.  Delicious! 

Breakfast and lunch have been pretty much the same since I began this meal plan:  oat cereal or light English muffin with fruit and coffee or tea for breakfast; yogurt with fruit or salad with hard-boiled egg white or tuna for lunch.  Snacks are low cholesterol, low carb chips, fruit, nuts or the occasional piece of dark chocolate (am I bad!)

Remember to drink at least six glasses of water daily.  Buon Appetito!

 “Our bodies are our gardens – our wills are our gardeners.”  ~William Shakespeare

Low Cholesterol Cooking with Rice Bran Oil

My latest research into low cholesterol meal plans led me to a new type of cooking oil.  I first heard of rice bran oil from a Dr. Oz show earlier in the year.  He again mentioned its benefit at a health symposium I attended this past June.  After further study, I discovered rice bran oil is especially versatile.  My own personal decision to use it comes from my desire to reduce cholesterol.  After using it in the preparation of several meals, I enthusiastically endorse it.

 Everyone should realize our body needs a certain amount of dietary fat for optimum health.  However, the most beneficial ones are mono and polyunsaturated fats.  Most popular cooking oils or fats, including butter, are high in saturated and trans fats.  They are also higher in calories; an important consideration if you are seeking to lose weight.  Rice bran oil contains phylosterols which help reduce cholesterol absorption, is rich in gamma oryzanol, Omega-6 fatty acids, Vitamin E and antioxidants, all of which have been shown in clinical research to help lower cholesterol and benefit overall health.

 One of the reasons I consider rice bran oil a new favorite is its high smoke point; another is its slightly nutty (almond) flavor.  I enjoy using it when stir-frying which is now becoming one of my “go to” choices for cooking.  Stir-frying enables me to pack more punch into a one-dish dinner than broiling, baking or grilling. 

 The other night, I made chicken stir-fry using rice bran oil, with a pepper, onion, carrots and broccoli.  If I had mushrooms, I would have added those too!  I chose reduced sodium chicken broth and soy sauce.  Next time, I may try the reduced sodium Worcestershire sauce to see if it makes a noticeable difference in overall flavor.  As a note, in the reduced sodium varieties, the Worcestershire has only 135 mg of sodium per tablespoon compared to 575 mg in the soy sauce (Lea & Perrins vs. Kikkoman).

My husband said he enjoyed the dish, which is important.  The basic recipe is easy.  Feel free to pick and choose a veggie or two of your own to add.

 Ingredients:

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth 2 cups broccoli florets  
2 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce 1 green pepper (thinly sliced)  
2 tbsp. water 1/2 onion (thinly slice)  
1 tbsp. cornstarch 2 peeled carrots (thinly sliced, not shredded)  
2-3 tbsp. rice bran oil 1 pinch red pepper (dried crushed, optional)  
2 garlic cloves (chopped or diced)1/8 tsp. ground ginger or 1 TBSP grated fresh    
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breast halves(cut crosswise into 1/2 inch wide strips or chunks) Brown rice (hot cooked)  
   

 Directions:

  • If desired, season chicken with a salt substitute such as Nu-Salt® and pepper.
  • Whisk broth, soy sauce, water and cornstarch together until smooth.  Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat.  Add garlic and ginger and stir about 30 seconds. Add chicken and stir-fry until white, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add broccoli florets, pepper, onion, carrots and red pepper and continue stir-frying until vegetables are crisp-tender and chicken is just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.  Push chicken & veggies to sides of pan and add cornstarch mixture to center.  Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Blend with chicken & veggies until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Serve over rice.

Some people have also used rice bran oil in baking as a substitute for vegetable oil.  If I want to eliminate fat in baking, I generally do so with applesauce.  But it would be fun to experiment with the rice bran oil next time.  I’m trying to watch my carbohydrate intake as well, so sweets and other high carb foods may be off my list for a while (except on Thanksgiving…and then, only in moderation!)

I hope you consider trying rice bran oil in the future.  The cold-pressed varieties are best.  If you do, good luck and Bon Appetit!  I’m looking forward to creating lots of new recipes for my upcoming low cholesterol dietary adventure; my husband, not so much…he’ll miss his C’s…chocolate and cheese!

“Tout est question d’équilibre” ~ Mireille Guiliano