Sunday, February 11, 2018

Self-Love Sunday

Self-Love Sunday

Valentine’s Day.  A day for love.  Love is defined as, “an intense feeling of deep affection.”  Love comes in many forms:  partnership, friendship, hugs, kisses, food, and even solidarity.   Many times on Valentine’s Day we put the focus on others in our lives.  But I challenge you this Valentine’s Day to love yourself.  The saying goes, you can’t love someone else until you truly love yourself.   YOU are special, YOU deserve love, and YOU should practice self-love.  Here are a few suggestions to show yourself some love:

Self-Acceptance – Accepting yourself for who you are is one of THE most important steps to self-love.  In this world of social media there are posts/pictures all the time that can lead one to begin to compare themselves with others.  Social media tends to promote “perfect pictures” and that’s not always truth.  Stop comparing yourself and begin to accept yourself.  We each have beautiful qualities about ourselves, whether they be physical or emotional, that attract people to us.  We definitely don’t need to look like or act like anyone else but ourselves.  We are unique and different.  That’s what makes the world so beautiful.
Minimize What’s minimalism?  Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important – so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.  We often times begin to accumulate “stuff” and we often equate this “stuff” to love.  When in fact, sometimes this “stuff” is literally weighing us down.  It doesn’t mean you’re not able to own material possessions, but the problem today is the meaning we assign to our stuff.  We at times give too much meaning to our things.  A minimalist will search for happiness not through things, but rather through life itself.  This Wednesday is Valentine’s Day.  Rather than buy yourself something that will only last for a small moment in time, i.e chocolate, flowers, etc, treat yourself to an experience – something that you will be able to look back and remember – really living in the moment.  Which leads us to the next way to practice self-love:
Pamper Yourself – Respect your body for the amazing vessel that it is!  Take care of your body.  Simple self-care techniques:  exfoliate your skin, take a soothing bath, get a mani/pedi, indulge in a massage, prioritize your sleep routine – all of these are ways to show respect to your body by showing it the love it NEEDS and deserves! 
Nourish Your BodyI talk about this one all the time as a dietitian.  The old saying, “you are what you eat”.  There is some truth to this.  Our bodies naturally detoxify themselves (that amazing liver and kidney just doing their thing!  You can see me talk about it here in this video I did for the New Tropic).  But if we continuously put junk in, we will feel like garbage.  Replenish your body with real, whole food.  Food can provide the nutrients our bodies need and help sustain us by providing us with the nourishment that we need.  This is just one other way to show yourself some love – choosing healthy food  WILL help you to thrive!

Write yourself a note – We all have our days.  Some days are busier and more stressful than others and that can get the best of us sometimes.   Try writing yourself a positive note or have an inspirational quote you like written somewhere so that you can see it first thing in the morning or during the day (when you need to get over the mid-day slump).  We all can use a pep talk sometimes and having the reminders nearby is helpful (so the negative thoughts don’t take over). 
Be the ENERGY you WANT to attract – “Your friends should motivate and inspire you.  Your circle should be well rounded and supportive.  Keep it tight.  Quality over quantity, always.”  As we get older, the number of friends we have does tend to shrink – it’s the shift from having a large volume of friends to having those close to us that we can truly depend on.  Your vibe attracts your tribe – be the energy that you want to have surrounding you: uplifting, supportive people.
Be Grateful– Finding things to be grateful for on a daily basis can help change your inner dialogue.  This year I made the commitment to start my day and end my day with one thing that I am grateful for.  It truly helps me change my perspective on things that I used to think would be “earth shattering” or I would let ruin my day. 
We so many times tend to have negative internal conversations with ourselves.  Practicing gratitude can help change this internal chatter.  Are you grateful for a healthy body – that moves and allows you to be able to do exercise?  Are you grateful for your sense of smell – for those freshly baking cookies in the oven –currently the situation in my house.  Are you thankful for being able to learn from your mistakes?  Are you grateful for this present moment?  Gratitude is an attitude of practice.
Let It Go– This is definitely easier said than done.  But the truth is you never really are able to move forward unless you do leave the past in the past – “You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk.” ~Louise Smith  Each day is new and fresh and I do believe that’s helpful in committing to letting things go.  Again, easier said than done, but a step in the right direction if you truly want to move forward.
“Me” Time– Everybody needs ME time.  Taking time out of the day, even if it’s just 10 minutes is so important for us.  We often times give so much of ourselves – whether it’s at work with our patients or whether it’s at home with our family – the key is to give back to yourself so you have more to give to others.  If you run yourself into the ground, what good will you be to anyone else?  Don’t feel guilty or think you’re being selfish, think of it as giving back to yourself.  This giving back will help you recharge, reset, and reenergize!  Not only is this important for you but it’s important for those around you as well.
Disconnect To Connect– In this day and age, we are TOO connected – from our cell phones that receive emails from work to our smart watches that receive text messages (thanks Garmin, but no thanks).  Truly take time at the end of the day to disconnect from all of your devices.  Evidence shows that our devices are creating havoc when it comes to our sleep patterns – even MORE reason to disconnect.  Take time to reconnect with how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking and even what might be going on in your body – I use it as a wind down time before bed.  I reflect on the day and write down in my gratitude journal a few things that occurred during the day.  A calm mind helps for sound sleep.
Positive Affirmations– With time, positive affirmations can help transform our mind.  Truly focusing on the positive moments in our day will help in removing that negative chatter I mentioned before.  Start with something positive about yourself.  It can be something as simple as your hair looks good this morning or something from the previous day that you’re proud that you accomplished – possibly handling a stressful situation at work in a positive manner.  Stay consistent with your positive affirmations, over time it will help change your outlook and again remove the negative self-talk it’s so easy to get into the trap of.
Learn Forgiveness– with yourself!  No one is perfect and I’ve always said that practice is what makes perfect.  There are going to be some hits and misses – the true failure lies in not even trying!  So be a little easy going on yourself and be proud of yourself for even trying.  Today I tried making homemade chocolate candies – epic fail.  Instead of getting upset with myself I already told myself I WILL be trying again (I’m already reflecting on what went wrong - pretty sure it was the recipe or the lack of a thermometer).  And while candy making is not something to get uber upset about, remember this practicing forgiveness goes to the deeper stuff – not beating yourself up at the latest “mistake” you made but rather focusing on what you learned from that situation.  Each struggle or mistake helps you to learn new things.  This in turn helps us to be strong, amazing people – sure that have some imperfections but that make us each unique beings.
Practice Saying “No”– This one is important.  Learning to say no helps you to set boundaries for yourself and helps protect you (from those that WILL take advantage of you).  Believe me when I say it IS uncomfortable to say no but it IS important.  There’s no way for you to please everyone and sometimes you already have enough on your plate – saying yes will only add to that stress and create aggravation.  Remember the goal is to practice self-love – respect yourself by standing up for yourself – and practice saying no (so when the time comes you’ll be able to put yourself first and say no!)
Have FUN!  Do not get me wrong – there is definitely a time and place for being serious.  But on the flip side, make sure you leave some time for FUN!  When was the last time you danced?  You sang karaoke? Or went paddle boarding?  I’m reading the book, Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert and this is the essence of her novel – she wants you to embrace your curiosity, find what fuels your happiness, and face your fears – so you can uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us.  Be creative and find what stokes your spirit – giving back to yourself with some fun!
So this Valentine’s day, as you may be off showing all the special someone’s in your life how much you care for them, don’t forget about YOURSELF! 
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere.  You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” – The Budda

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Eat Smart. Add Color. Move More. Be Well.

Eat Smart.  Add Color.  Move More.  Be Well.

February is Heart Health Month.   Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.  Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. 

Your father, grandmother, and aunt may have heart disease, but even with a strong genetic predisposition you can cut your risks dramatically by pursuing a heart healthy lifestyle – and it’s easier than you think. 

Here are some of the most recent statistics because I am a little bit of a numbers geek, er, maybe I like to put things into perspective: 

610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.

Heart Disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.  More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2009 were in men.

Coronary Heart Disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually.

Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.  Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.
Sometimes the headlines can be confusing: Chocolate is bad for your heart.  No, it’s good.  Wine is unhealthy.  Wait, it’s healthy.  Eggs raise cholesterol or wait, maybe they don’t.  What’s the truth?

With all of these mixed messages about food in the media, food bloggers blogging about what’s healthy when it’s really not, yeah, the message can get/is confusing.  It’s not surprising that many people will just give up trying to figure out what they should eat.  If you’re confused, you’re not alone.  (and one of the reasons why I started this blog, to clear up the confusion).  Ask A Dietitian – I am your resident expert on all things food.

Forget the confusing headlines – the best way to eat heart healthy is to follow national guidelines from organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA).  These guidelines are established by experts who monitor research and are not focused on the latest fad or trend.  Below are your general guidelines put out by the AHA.  If this is nothing new to you and you want to skip to the end, that’s where I’ll clarify a few myths that have been circulating and highlight a few red foods that are heart healthy.
Control Your Portion SizeHow much you eat is just as important as what you eat.  Overloading your plate, taking seconds and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories, fat and cholesterol than you should.  Portions in restaurants are often more than anyone needs.  Keep track of the number of servings you eat – and use proper serving sizes – to help control your portions.  If you need to, measure your food until you get used to what a proper serving size looks like.  We are a nation of portion distortion and once you see what a portion really is you might be surprised.  Eating more of low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, and less of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, can shape up your diet as well as your heart and waistline.

Eat more fruit and vegetables.  My brother challenged himself to eat 100 different fruits and vegetables a couple of years ago.  When I heard he was doing this, I decided I’d try to do it for myself.  I was nowhere close to how many different ones that he had eaten, but I know that the challenge for me came to trying to include more fruits and vegetables that were not within my norm.  We are creatures of habit and we tend to start eating the same foods over and over.  My daily fruits and vegetables that I typically eat are strawberries, oranges, peaches or nectarines, spinach, tomato, carrots, and mixed greens.  Since this challenge some of my daily fruits have been pomegranate, raspberries, persimmon, grapefruit, bok choy, fennel, red onion and arugula.  When I teach the kids (and adults) and tell them the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables the number one thing I hear is, “I don’t like them”.  I call their bluff.  There are too many fruits and vegetables out there for them to tell me they don’t like them.  I challenge them to try new ones and focus on the ones that they do love.  They’re bound to find some that they like.  Fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  Not to mention that they are also low in calories and rich in dietary fiber.  Make sure you’re eating your fruits and vegetables and not just trying to get them in a pill form. 
Select Whole Grains – Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health.  Increase the amount of whole grains by making simple substitutions for refined grain products.  And just like with your fruits and vegetables try a new whole grain, such as quinoa, sorghum, farro, or buckwheat. 

Limit unhealthy fats and cholesterol – Limiting how much saturated and trans fat you eat is an important step to reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary heart disease.  A high blood cholesterol level can lead to a buildup of plaque in your arteries, called atherosclerosis, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. 
The best way to reduce saturated and trans fat in your diet is to limit the amount of solid fats – butter, margarine and shortening – you add to food when cooking and serving.  You can also reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet by trimming fat off your meat and choosing lean meats with less than 10% fat (and remember to watch your portion sizes when it comes to eating meat.  We tend to eat too much).  Trans fats are added in to products to help extend their shelf life.  Check the food labels and look for the phrase “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list.  The labels may say they’re “trans-fat free”, however, they may still have trace amounts – hopefully soon and very soon they will eventually be removed. 
When you do use fats, choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil.  Polyunsaturated fats, found in nuts and seeds, are also good choices for a heart-healthy diet.  When used in place of saturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help lower your total blood cholesterol.  Moderation IS essential.  All types of fat are high in calories.

Reduce the Sodium In Your Food – Eating a lot of sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.  Reducing sodium is an important part of a heart-healthy diet.  Healthy adults should have no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day (about a teaspoon).  People age 51 or older, African-Americans, and people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should have no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day. 

Reducing the amount of salt you add to food at the table while you cook is a good first step, however, much of the salt you eat comes from canned or processed foods, such as soups, salad dressings, and frozen dinners.  Eating fresh foods and making your own soups and stews can reduce the amount of salt you eat.  If you like the convenience of canned soups and prepared meals, look for ones with reduced sodium.  Another way to reduce the amount of salt you eat is to choose your condiments carefully.  Many condiments are available in reduced-sodium versions, and salt substitutes can add flavor to your food with less sodium. 

It’s often tough to change your eating habits.  Whether you have years of unhealthy eating or simply want to fine-tune your diet, these tips will help get you started.  While it’s important to focus on our diets, there are also things that we can do to help reduce our risk of heart disease.

Get Active – It’s easy to get discouraged about exercise.  It’s hard to fit into a busy lifestyle.  No excuses – like eating right, getting the exercise your heart needs is easier than it looks. 

If you’re not overweight, all you need to do to maintain a heart healthy lifestyle is 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five or more times a week.  And you don’t have to do it all at once –15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening are fine.  The research shows being physically inactive is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease.

And exercise is the gift that keeps on giving.  Regular, moderate exercise helps:  control blood pressure, prevent diabetes, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and can even put you in a good mood.

If you need to lose weight, it’s going to take a little more effort.  The recommendation is low to moderate intensity activities for 60 minutes per day.  To lose weight you have to decrease your calories in and increase your calories out.  If you just reduce your caloric intake your body slows its metabolism to compensate.  The key is making sure to include exercise, daily.  Don’t skip it!

Don’t Smoke! – Smoking is the single most dangerous thing you can do to your heart.  Alone, cigarette smoking increases your risk of heart disease and also worsens other factors that contribute to heart disease, such as blood pressure and decreasing the levels of HDL, your good cholesterol.  If you smoke a pack a day, you have more than twice the risk of a heart attack than someone who doesn’t smoke. 

Every cigarette you cut back matters.  While the goal is always complete cessation, even eliminating one cigarette a day can make a difference.  A big plus:  It doesn’t take long for your body – and your heart in particular – to reap the health benefits of quitting.  Your heart rate and blood pressure will drop, your circulation and lung function improve, and just one year after quitting, your excess risk of coronary heart disease is just half that of a smoker’s.
Other Risk Factors – While these might not be on your radar they are very prevalent, commonly missed, and potentially dangerous for your heart.  They’re often called “silent epidemics”:  anger, anxiety, depression, and social isolation.  If you or someone you love is depressed or harboring a lot of anger, encourage them to seek help.  There are many methods to help you deal with these risk factors.

Family Tree – There are some risk factors that you can’t control, and family history is one of them.  If a close relative had a heart attack or died of heart disease then the health of your heart may be at greater risk.  Families share a predisposition to heart disease both because they have shared genes and a shared lifestyle.  While you get half of your genes from mom and half from dad you probably also get your eating and exercise habits from them too.  If you have a family history of heart disease, it’s important that you have yourself checked out. 

A Few Myths to Clear Up

Eggs.  When the new Dietary Guidelines were released a few years back it removed the limit on cholesterol.  Enter the confusion with eggs.  Understand this – dietary cholesterol alone does not raise blood cholesterol.  Again, I repeat dietary cholesterol alone does not raise blood cholesterol.  Let that  sink in.  Enter the good old “incredible, edible egg”.  Remember how your parents used to say that you weren’t the one they were concerned about, but rather it was who you were hanging around with?  Well, that’s the case for the egg.   A great source of lean protein and low in saturated fat, the egg is often 9 times out of 10 accompanied by butter, bacon, and cheese.  And that’s the problem.  There’s a synergistic effect by combining them all together.  While the egg is lean, the others are not.  Combining them all together is the problem and it’s attributed more to the saturated fat than it is the cholesterol (because dietary cholesterol alone doesn’t raise blood cholesterol).   So for all those years the poor egg was blamed for being the bad guy when it was really who he was hanging out with (maybe your parents were right?)

The question always then comes to, “How many eggs can I eat in a day?”  The short answer, I can’t tell you.  I’m not trying to be evasive, but it really does depend on your genetics and also your day’s intake – was it high in saturated fat?  Maybe you get none.  I’d be honest in telling you that eggs are lean and lower in saturated fat and I’d recommend for those to be your source of protein than would I recommend bacon, butter, and cheese, but the truth is it really is all about balance.  Check your overall intake for the day.  The AHA recommends aiming for a dietary pattern that achieves 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat.  For those that are bad at math, a person that eats 2,000 calories a day (and calories vary by person) should have no more than 120 calories from saturated fat, ~13 grams of saturated fat.    So there you go.  I’m not one to always recommend tracking  your food intake, but I think sometimes it’s a big eye opener for people to see where their food is coming from and the actual breakdown.  It’s easy for me to know the balance most times, but for someone that’s not a dietitian, log a few meals, see how they stack up – that quarter of your plate coming from lean protein also helps you keep within the recommended limits if logging your food isn’t your thing.  Balance.  Variety.  Moderation.  Cliché, but true.

Coconut Oil - Its sweet smell of the tropics and its recent claims to cure what ails you, it’s everywhere.  Just take a look on social media and you’ll see it in shampoo, skin creams, smoothies, and coffee.

The buzz started recently due a science advisory from the American Heart Association that recommended against ingesting coconut oil.  Take a read if you haven’t already.

I’m not sure when/where coconut oil took the turn for people considering it to be healthy (I do know and will tell you in a minute), but what I do know is that no one food is the magic cure all.  People often try to latch onto the next thing that will make all the weight disappear or “speed up their metabolism” (don’t you think we would’ve bottled that up by now if we knew what it was?) 

There was a study done that showed a type of fat in coconut oil can increase metabolism and boost weight loss.  That ingredient is called medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs.  This study reported that MCTs are processed by the body differently than other dietary fats.  The often overlooked part of this study is that the oil used in the study was a special 100% medium-chain coconut oil – translate, no one uses this coconut oil in the mainstream.  In order to get that quantity of MCT oil you’d have to use 10 tablespoons of coconut oil in a day.  No one should take in that much, nor should they – why?  Back to the saturated fat issue.  One tablespoon of coconut oil adds up to more than 11 grams of saturated fats, which is nearly the daily limit of 13 grams.

Remember what I said about eggs.  A healthy diet is a balancing act that requires people to include a variety of foods – i.e. unsaturated fats found in fish and non-tropical vegetable oils – but also practicing moderation.   Face reality and don’t always believe the hype, i.e. wishful thinking, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.  Sorry coconut oil.  But stay tuned to more studies isolating MCT oil.

Red Foods for Heart Health

Red Onions – have been shown to lower total blood cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol (that’s the healthy kind).  Additionally it helps discourage clot formation and also encourage them to dissolve.

Tip:  Pickle your onions to help decrease the bitterness.  You will get more nutritional bang by eating them raw. 
Beets – are packed with antioxidants to help reduce inflammation.  They also contain nitrates that help widen blood vessels and increase blood flow.   Beets additionally help prevent the “lousy” LDL cholesterol from turning into plaque that eventually leads to clogging our arteries.

Tip:  Roasting beets has been my go-to to help me include them in dishes, i.e. salad, dips, etc.  They do have an earthy undertone, so I know they’re not for everyone, but definitely aim to include a different form of the beets to see if you do like them a different way. 
Tomatoesare full of antioxidants like Vitamin A and C, as well as the antioxidant lycopene.  All of these antioxidants are used to repair damage to the inside of our bodies.  Tomatoes have also been shown to lower cholesterol. 

Tip:  Cooking tomatoes makes the antioxidants more readily available when compared to eating them raw.  Just be careful of added sugar in some tomato sauce and look for one without (there are more and more brands using NO added sugar, you just have to read the label!)
Berries – are one of the fruits with the highest antioxidant content (when compared to other fruits).  Berries have been shown to stop inflammation to reduce the risk of heart disease.  Berries are one of the fruits that contain the most fiber-per-calorie, which in turn allows the fiber to help lower our cholesterol while also helping us to feel full.  1 cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber – that’s a bunch of fiber!  (disclaimer – start by increasing fiber slowly in to your diet, otherwise you will feel GI discomfort, aka gas and bloating).

Tip:  Add to different dishes to help boost the fiber content of your oatmeal, your salad, and/or a salsa for topping your fish.  P.S. It’s strawberry season here in Florida and they are currently as sweet as can be!
There are other red foods that also support heart health – peppers, pomegranates, salmon, and lentils – a little bit of irony that most foods that support heart health are red, I think not!  Here’s to heart health and including a few more red foods at meals!

So there you have it.  A round-up and a little debunking of some myths of how to make your heart healthy this February.  You can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease – or slow its progress – by taking prevention to heart.  Making small, gradual changes can make a BIG difference in your health.   

Sunday, January 14, 2018

That's A Keeper 8

I did a presentation yesterday for a running group in Broward.  They’re training for a half marathon in March and they’re starting to get to those long distances.  I can’t tell you how many people have the exercise portion down but haven’t yet mastered the food part of the equation.  There was a meal prep company there (don’t ask me the name, I honestly don’t remember) sampling food with all different food options to meet their individual needs.  I actually think it paired well with my topic.  So many times I forget that people don’t have the time to prepare healthy meals but yet want to eat healthy.  If this is something that helps steer people in the right direction and help ease the meal prepping, I’m all for it.  Just stay away from the “keto diet” options these companies are starting to put together – yes, I know there’s a demand for them (because people are eating this way) but we were talking to a running group.  Please, please don’t go keto and try to run a marathon.    

Blue Apron Meal #1 - Halloumi with Couscous & Roasted Vegetables

I was gifted by Santa this Christmas a gift coupon for Blue Apron.  This is a meal delivery system that brings the groceries to you with the recipes.  The meal takes ~30 minutes to prepare.  I have tried Hello Fresh in this past year and I will tell you that they do make cooking fun, easy, and enjoyable – you get to select the meals you want for the week.  They are a test in following directions (at times – maybe it’s just me who’s challenged?)  I’m the type of person who likes to find recipes online, go to the store and see new products, etc. so I wouldn’t say that this is something I need, but I do believe that this is the wave of the future – having groceries delivered to your front door or Amazon Locker?  I again am ALL for making meal prep made easy.  If you want a great summary of these meal delivery systems, checkout this post out by Sweet Phi – 6 home meal delivery systems.  Hereis my comparison.

Blue Apron Meal #2 - Stir-fry with Carrots, Bok Choy, and a "Fried" Egg

If you do have time to play around in the kitchen and cook, I have your latest round-up of keeper recipes.  Because the truth is no one has time to waste with #kitchenfail recipes.

Breakfast: Beet Berry Sauce

We had our first “cool/cold” front in Miami a couple of weeks back.  Another one just came through last night and that’s when I want to eat oatmeal.  Don’t get me wrong I eat oatmeal throughout the year, but I think it tastes better when it’s cold out.  Enter this recipe to add in to my oats, adding the flavor without all the added sugar most times oatmeal can come with.  It truthfully is just beets and berries, with some cinnamon and vanilla.  It’s just that simple.  I make some of this up for the week and add it in to my overnight oats (1/2 cup oats, ½ cup milk, 1 tbsp nut butter, 1 tbsp chia or hemp seeds).  I heat it up the next morning and I’m good to go!

I sent this recipe to a friend recently and they told me they didn’t like mushrooms.  First, let’s take a second to understand how someone doesn’t like mushrooms.  I mean who doesn’t like mushrooms??  I’m just kidding.  I know there are certain foods that might be a texture thing.  But here’s where this recipe is so amazing, it’s really two recipes in one!  The mushrooms by themselves are amazingly good.   The pesto “cream” is basically a dip for your crudité, just saying.  But if you do like mushrooms and do put all the components together, the pesto “cream” in the balsamic mushrooms and top it with homemade bread crumbs – can you say out of this world good?? 

Main Dish: Tortilla Soup
Still riding on the cool weather here in Miami (or just the cold AC inside the buildings) I have been rotating through a few soup recipes.  While I do not eat turkey or chicken, I have made this tortilla soup without and just added a few more beans.  This is so simple and so delicious, you’re going to want to add this in to your rotation.  And if you do eat chicken?  Roast a whole chicken for the week, and/or buy a rotisserie chicken at the store to help you with time.  For the added crunch, I used these crackers I mentioned in my Taste Test Tuesday last week, and they were phenomenal.

No picture of the soup, but trust me, it's good!

One of the number questions I get asked is, “What energy bar do you recommend?”  That’s always a tough question for me to answer because the truth of the matter is it depends on what you're looking for.  All food is energy, so are you looking for something pre-workout, post-workout, meal replacement because you’re on the go?  You see, it’s difficult to answer.  For me, I tend to simply grab a fruit and a handful of nuts.  Call me cheap, but it’s the easiest portable snack for me to have around.  But if I am in to making something to have for the week (and quite possibly share) this is my latest “Energy Bite” find.  Simply using the dates as a natural sweetener, I used this this week as a thing to have after my meal as my something sweet.  It does taste a little like fudge and because it has that hint of sweetness, it fit the bill for what I was looking for.  And if you don’t have a food processor, you’ll definitely want one for this recipe. 
“A 3-ingredient sauce that’s a game changer.” That’s the description given by the food blogger and I would agree.  Something so simple yet so tasty and good.  It almost looks like a vodka sauce because of the color, but it’s the cashews providing all the creaminess needed without actual cream.    I roasted a mix of vegetables to add in to this pasta dish as well as some  textured vegetable protein (TVP) to add in more protein and make it a balanced meal.   Easy meal to add in to the rotation.

Dessert: Dark Chocolate Fudge Pomegranate Tart
For Thanksgiving we have our traditional recipes that we make:  pumpkin pie (or a pumpkin something), apple pie (crumb, tart), or sweet potato pie.  Those are ones that we always have as our go to.  But for Christmas?  We don’t have a traditional dessert that we always make.  But we do now!!  This tart is super easy to make and is taken to the next level by the pomegranate syrup.  It makes a lot of extra syrup, but don’t be afraid to add more than what’s shown in my picture.  Believe me, I did once we started eating. 

So there you have it.   My latest round-up of recipes that have made it to “keeper” status.  I’ve found the more and more that I trial recipes the pickier I become.  I think that’s a good thing – for all my readers out there, you’re only getting the best of the best!  If you try some of these recipes, let me know.  I hope they make it to “keeper” status for you too!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 Best Nine

Instagram automatically collates your most liked snaps of the past year.  Mine are featured above.  It's interesting to look back at the year and reflect.  It's that time of the year, as the year is winding down, people make resolutions for the new year.  I wouldn't say this was the best year (chapter) of my life and I wouldn't say it was the worst year either.  There were lots of extreme highs and extreme lows.  I always look to this quote -

"You gotta look for the good in the bad, the happy in your sad, the gain in your pain, and what makes you grateful not hateful."  

Here's my year in review and instead of resolutions, my intentions for the new year:

26.freaking2 - you read that right.  I completed my first full marathon.  And if anyone wants to tell you it's easy, it's not, hence the freaking.  I wrote a whole blog that you can read about my journey.  The race was in January and what a way to start the year - am I right?!  Never in a million years did I think I would run 26.2 miles.  Half marathons are easy and full marathons are not meant for the human body. It was on my bucket list of things to accomplish and I only did so with my friend Marcela's help.  The marathon forever changed me.
Runner's High the WHOLE race!
After the marathon I decided to take a period of rest.  Little did I know how much injuries would plague me throughout the year and how I'd be forced to rest - from a cracked rib, to a broken toe, and now currently dealing with a heel issue.  I think back and wonder if the marathon forever changed my ability to run.  I've been through injuries - broken foot 5 years ago - so I know this is my body's way of telling me to slow down.  Slow down I will and look for alternative exercises I can do.  I tried my first pilates class last week and I know I'll be doing lots of yoga.  As I said extremes highs and lows this year.  Finding peace with being where I am currently.

Job Transition - In April I had decided it was finally time to start looking for a new job.  While I am forever grateful for my time at the DRI - I learned SO much, earned my CDE - I found myself not loving what I was doing day in and day out and that was effecting me personally.  I also wrote that in many a blog if you care to peruse.  I applied to one job and one job only.  It fit the description of what I wanted to do to a tee.  Too good to be true?  I think timing plays a big role in the job search and I do believe that all the stars were aligned with this one.  I was offered the position with Baptist and started in early July (after taking a well deserved week off).  I'm still learning the ropes in my position, but I can tell you this - I am working on a lot of different projects where I'm gaining  experience and learning a lot!  Not a day goes by that I'm bored.  Not to mention, I'm working with great people and in an organization that values that their employees are happy.  Excited for all that's to come in this next year.
Bread - during my week off in-between jobs I had time.  I had started trying to bake homemade bread as a way to de-stress some (from the old job), but I truthfully didn't have the time to focus and not rush the time the dough needed to rise.  May sound silly, but sometimes I wouldn't let the dough rise enough and was too set on the time it said it needed versus letting the dough do what it needed to do and sometimes that meant two hours instead of just one hour.  More recently I started a sourdough starter - another item on my bucket list.  Challenging myself one recipe at a time in the quest to make all things homemade.  Sure I could use yeast from the store, but what an accomplishment to have started my own and take bread from literal start to finish.  I think my bread journey is just beginning and am excited to make this the year that I buy as little bread as possible.  Lucky for me bread freezes.
Sourdough Starter aka Flor

It Was The Best of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times - While I won't go into too much detail (as it is quite personal), suffice it to say that when others are stressed you are stressed.  There were moments that literally required me to just stop and breathe because I almost couldn't catch my breath.  Yes, it was that bad.  I don't know if these trials and tribulations are preparing me for what could come at some point in time, but what I do know is that you must really truly live in the moment.  Yes, I know we hear this all the time.  But how many times are we truly present?  Taking one day at a time?  Listening to what others have to say? You have to truly appreciate the times you have as you may not know when you'll have those moments again.  Not trying to put a damper on the blog here, but this is my year in review.  There were times that were horrible and that I never want to relive.  Honest truth.  All that I know is that we only have today.  If you have a loved one you haven't spoken to in a long time, reach out (same for a friend).  If there is something that you've been meaning to do, go for it.  There is light at the end of the tunnel, and there's always a rainbow after the rain, you just have to look for it.

Cookbook Addiction - at least it's a healthy one, right?  To say I've gone a little overboard with the cooking is an understatement.  I didn't start off at being good at this so called cooking thing.  But I'd say in the last couple of years I've stepped my game up.  Practice makes perfect.  I like to eat tasty food, what can I say?  My food tastes really good - no shame here - but in the last year or so I've started taking better pictures of my food - all my "2017BestNine" pictures are of food - no shock there.  I think we often times eat with our eyes.  So while my dad's birthday cake made the "2017BestNine" I think I've had a few others that actually have been better.  Stay tuned for my intentions in 2018.  Food is definitely a part!
Food Art
2017 Intentions
A few years back I wrote 5 things a day that I was grateful for.  I kept all the entries in my "Gratitude Jar".  In the last two years I haven't officially written anything down but do take time to reflect.  It's my intent to go back to writing/journaling things down that I am grateful for.  I am going to write one thing in the morning and one thing in the evening.  At the end of the year I will be able to read through all the things and really reflect on the year.  I think actually taking the time to write things down can help me put things in perspective - especially when I've maybe had a rough day, I can look back at the end of the day and always find the good in the bad.

It's a little bit of irony, but ever since I've gotten my new job I haven't been meditating daily.  I'm not as stressed, which the meditation helped me take a moment to breathe, so maybe I think most days I don't need it?  That's not what meditation is meant to be, but I know that I used it as my time before I even walked into the building to center myself.  I also used it as one-minute increments throughout the day simply to catch my breath.  It's my intention in 2018 to go back and stay consistent with my meditation.  There are many studies that show the benefits of meditation and while it's not easy - my mind is always distracted - it is a literal bicep curl for the brain that I know will get stronger the more I do it.  I have used an app in the past, but I am going to try out a few different methods this time around.  I'll keep you posted on how it's going throughout the year.

Yoga - In my YTT a few years back I struggled with having a consistent practice with yoga.  I had a long commute and in my mind I wasn't able to have that hour/hour and a half practice because I had no time (or so I thought).  I knew there was more to yoga than just the asanas (poses) but I was frustrated and mad that I wasn't able to do the poses because of a lack of time - that freaking commute was literally draining my life!!  After YTT I learned that yoga simply meant showing up and taking time to be on the mat with whatever time I had, being present.   Yoga includes not only the physical poses, but also pranayama and meditation.  I know that I need to have a balance of all three.  The best practices for long-term health are those that create a balance between strength and surrender, challenge and comfort, effort and ease.  It's a great reminder that sometimes the most simple things can be the most powerful.  This January I'll be starting Yoga With Adriene.  On and off I've utilized on-line yoga to help with my practice.  Yoga with Adriene every January starts a challenge if you will for 30 days to help with consistency.  In the last year she also included mantras along with the daily practice.  I'm excited to see what she has in store for this January.  It will be a great start to getting back to what I've always struggled with, consistency.

Food Art - I've looked back over my pictures in the last year or two and seen how far my pictures have come.  I've been shooting all my food pictures with my Samsung Android (no I do not have an iPhone).  I think that my pictures look really great for just being shot with a phone camera.  But I finally have a real camera.  It's my intent to not only step up my food art but also my picture taking skills.  I've always loved photography.  I think this is a perfect mix of combining two things that I love, food and photography.  I intend to start using that camera more and maybe even buying a few food props.

Education - While I was at UM I always thought I'd pursue a masters (they would help with tuition reimbursement).  The only problem?  Time.  I worked really long hours and never was able to wrap my brain around how I would fit classes, let alone h.w. into the mix.  Hence that never happened.  But with my current job?  I have the time and flexibility.  The other day I started to look at programs online.  I found a few that sound like something I like to further my education in.  I have to be with Baptist for at least a year before I'm able to apply, but it's definitely something I'm starting to consider and be more open to - I have the time, why not further my education?

As 2017 comes to an end and 2018 begins, it's a great time to reflect.  I look back on the past so that my view going forward can be that much clearer.  Be present.  Breathe it all in.  Enjoy the ride.