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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gotta Exercise To Lose Weight And Keep It Off

I've been a bit disturbed recently by different weight loss claims that you can join this group or take this pill and without "yucky exercise", you can lose a dress size by Christmas.  I hope none of my readers fall for these claims because if these things really worked so well, we wouldn't have so many obese people around.

If you read my posts on the Weight Watchers diet plan, you will see they promote a healthy approach to eating plus encourage exercise.  This is the type of program you should look for if you seriously need to loose weight.

Since I added more cardio workouts I have lost a couple of extra pounds.  I have found something fun to do so that I don't mind sweating.  So the key to a healthy life is eating a balanced diet, cutting calories and EXERCISE.  Even if those diet plans work and you lose a few pounds, you still won't be fit and the weight will likely come back.  So stop looking for miracle cures.

I'd like to share a new pork tenderloin recipe I made last night.  The family all gave it two thumbs up and it met my criteria for quick and easy.  I actually left the cooking up to my 16 year old son, the one who couldn't find the soft drinks I bought for the band Halloween party last Friday.  He searched all over the house but went to the party without the drinks.  They were hiding in the refrigerator the whole time, chillin'.  But he did well with the meat, getting it in the oven and basting it right on time.  It takes about 5 minutes to make the sauce and get the meat ready to cook.  Then you can leave the cooking up to anyone who can operate a cell phone, surf the net or lift a spoon.

Pork Tenderloin with Apricot, Garlic and Thyme Sauce
2 1lb. pork tenderloins
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 an 18 oz. jar of apricot preserves
1 tsp. dried thyme or 1/4 cup fresh, chopped
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. honey
1/4 cup sherry
Preheat oven to 350.  Salt and pepper the tenderloins.  Place in a large baking dish sprayed with baking spray.  Mix remaining ingredients in a 2 cup glass measuring cup.  Pour about 1/4 of the sauce over the meat. Roast meat for 30 to 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160.  Baste with additional sauce every 15 minutes or so.  This pairs well with mashed potatoes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What A Surprise!

It's not often that I serve a vegetable like cauliflower and my husband enthusiastically goes back for seconds.  I am always looking for new ways to prepare vegetables, particularly ones like brussel sprouts and cauliflower.  Last night I tried a new recipe and my daughter and husband really liked it.  My son ate it but said it was OK.  I thought it needed to be cooked longer.  Anyway, give it a try if you are in the mood to experiment.

Spicy Honey-Roasted Cauliflower
2 heads of cauliflower, trimmed and washed
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs or 2 tsp. herbs such as oregano, basil, garlic
Preheat oven to 350.  Combine all ingredients except cauliflower in a small bowl and set aside.  Using a long knife, pierce the stem of the cauliflower.  Place in a deep baking dish, stem down.  Add about 1/4 inch  hot water to the dish, cover with foil and place in oven.  Bake about 10 minutes.  Remove cauliflower and raise oven temperature to 400.  Drain water and put cauliflower back in oven for 5 minutes to dry the heads.  Remove once more and coat with mustard/honey mixture.  Place in oven and cook 15 to 20 minutes more or until cauliflower is browned.

I think next time I make this, I will just microwave the cauliflower instead of steaming it in the oven.  I will just start with the oven at 400 and follow the rest of the recipe as is.  I also halved all the ingredients as I knew we could not eat 2 whole heads.

I also made the following fish dish which is very simple and well liked at my house.

Spicy Catfish With Lemon Cream
4 to 6 catfish fillets
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 cups Japanese (Planko) breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp red pepper
4 egg whites
Sprinkle fish with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper.  Combine breadcrumbs, remaining salt, garlic powder, and red pepper in a shallow dish.  Whisk eggs in another shallow dish until frothy.  Dip fish in egg whites, then the crumb mixture.  Place on a dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 375 for 25 to 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily.
Lemon Cream
8 oz. reduced fat sour cream
1 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and keep chilled until dinner.  Serve over catfish.

This is a light version of fried catfish without the greasy taste.  I didn't have any eggs last night so I dipped the catfish in olive oil first, then the crumbs.  This is quick to prepare and you can serve it with some steam in the bag vegetables for a stress free dinner.

If any brave souls try the cauliflower, please let me know, I'll be curious.  If you lack anything to do this Saturday and would like to support the Humane Society, come out for Bark in the Park.  You can bring your dog out at noon to register for a dog relay or the fun walk at 1 p.m.  The entry fee is only $10 and your dog will have a good time.  There will be a drawing for a gift pack as well as bobbing for weenies.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Big Announcement

I do have a big announcement today:  I am participating in Wanna Dance?, a fundraiser for the Women's Discovery Center.  Couples from around town, different walks of life, are paired together to perform a dance (Latin, swing or waltz) for votes (money).  Each couple will dance on two different occasions and it has been alot of fun for most.  I am very excited.  I have always loved to dance and often wished I could compete in ballroom dancing.  However, I never seemed to live anywhere that was possible so in a way, this is a dream come true. 

I think I have two key things going for me.  I am in pretty good shape which I will need to pull off the Latin dance my partner and I will be doing.  The exercise I get has made a difference in that I haven't been sore or tired after our practice sessions.  I will say that I will be even more fit after all the practice we will be doing.  The other very important thing is that I have a great partner!  He is excited, competitive and eager to win, plus a good dancer.  So, if you live in Jonesboro, come out November 9th and cheer us on!

I wanted to respond to a comment made by a reader, Catherine, on my posts about better eating for teens.  I'm glad if I can help or inspire you and your daughter, that is what this blog is all about.  As I have said many times, my family doesn't always eat right or get enough exercise but we do most of the time.  Also read my posts on better lunches since your daughter now doesn't wish to eat school lunches after watching Jamie Oliver's show.  Make sure your family eats some fruit and vegetables every day - that is so important.  Try to instill in your family that eating is an adventure so they will be open to new foods.  Also equally important is the point of today's post - exercise.  You all know I love to eat and cook, but if I didn't exercise, I wouldn't be able to keep the weight in a normal range.  Plus I couldn't have fun doing the things I love, like dancing and riding my horse. 

Get out there and enjoy the wonderful fall weather.  Bark in the Park is this weekend at noon, pavilion 6 in Craighead Forrest.  A fundraiser for the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society, it features a dog relay and fun walk.  Your dog needs some fun and exercise too, so come on out.   

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tired Of Cooking

Yes!  I do get tired of cooking.  I get tired of planning meals, doing the shopping and cooking.  I do sympathize with those of you who don't like to cook.  But my solution is to make my easiest recipes instead of calling pizza delivery.  Most of the recipes I post are very simple and easy to make.  After all, I'm trying to encourage healthier eating by preparing your own food.  So today I'm sharing an easy chicken dish that I'm surprised I haven't shared before (I checked the list twice.)  I am also recommending a brand of frozen pizza when it's just too much trouble to cook. 

Cranberry Chicken
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
1 16 oz. can jellied cranberry sauce
1 cup French dressing
Place chicken breasts in a glass cooking dish.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.  Cover and let marinate for about 8 hours.  Bake, covered with foil, for 1 hour 15 minutes at 350.  Since this takes about 10 minutes to do, mix it up before work and it's ready to go into the oven at night.  Also, you can half this recipe and it works great, just use the whole package of soup mix.  You can find 8 oz. cans of cranberry sauce too. 

Now tell me this dish isn't so easy anyone could make it and that it's much better than a Big Mac.  Serve the chicken and sauce over rice and add a steamed vegetable and dinner's on the table.

Amy's Mushroom and Olive frozen pizza not only passes the Eat This, Not That test but also the picky eaters' taste test.  This is truly one of the best pizzas I've eaten, frozen or not, and I'm very picky about the pizza I eat.  I think most pizza chains' pizza isn't fit to eat.  Amy's isn't greasy or overloaded with cheese, and the crust is crisp and delicious.  They can be found in the organic section of our local Kroger. 

I'm hoping to have a big announcement to make soon so check back next week. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Top Ten Things To Do To Stay Healthy

These are a few things I believe in doing as often as possible for good health - every day if you can.

1.  Smile and laugh with your friends and family.  Having a good social life and a positive outlook on life will actually help you be healthier!

2.  Exercise!  You knew this one would be on the list, didn't you?  Try to squeeze in exercise where ever you can - use the stairs, park further away from the store entrance, walk on your lunch break.  Just do it!

3.  Eat your fruits and veggies.  Come on, have you eaten a fruit or vegetable today?  It's so easy to eat an apple, banana or even a handful of carrot sticks at lunch.

4.  Get enough sleep.  Americans tend to be chronically tired from not getting enough sleep.  It does have an effect on your health plus you won't be as productive at work.

5.  Drink plenty of fluids such as water or tea.  Skip the soda but stay well hydrated.  You will have more energy, fewer headaches, better looking skin and less trouble with constipation.

6.  Take good care of your teeth.  Studies have shown a link between heart disease and tooth decay or gum disease.  Bad teeth can also contribute to an overall weakened immune system.

7.  Enjoy your pets.  Studies show that people have lower blood pressure when interacting with animals.  That means time spent with your pet can reduce your level of stress, a win/win situation for everyone.

8.  Stimulate your mind with new challenges.  You don't have to go back to school, just do the sudoku puzzle in the paper, listen to different music or read something you ordinarily wouldn't.  Your brain needs exercise too in order to perform well.

9.  Keep track of your weight, cholesterol and blood pressure.  Of course, you won't check all of these every day but you should know what your statistics are so you will be aware of any changes that needs to be addressed.

10.  Stretch.  I believe it is just as important to stretch your body every day as it is to exercise.  Stretching keeps your body from getting stiff and your joints from locking up as you get older.  Use a yoga tape or take a class to learn how to stretch properly.    

I hope you will think about these ideas and I really hope you are already doing most, if not all, of them. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dance of the Naked Chicken and Possum Bread

Just so you know, we don't always take our food so seriously around here.  In fact, sometimes we play with our food, especially when certain people (my sister) are present.  I'm pretty sure it was her idea to dress up the chicken.  Barry smoked it 'as is' in the Big Green Egg.   

And just so you know, the food doesn't always turn out wonderful.  There are many unworthy foods produced in my kitchen.  Witness the possum bread.
 I call this possum bread because that's who ate it.  Them or the coons or coyotes.  Perhaps you can see that it looks dense, almost gooey, not light and airy as pumpkin bread should look.  And I can tell you it didn't taste any better than it looks.  That's what happens when you screw up the recipe.  Actually I seem to have a problem with sweet breads because the last time I made banana bread, it turned into possum bread.  I haven't made it since.

Cooking for your family isn't about turning out professional looking dishes.  It is about love and the desire to do something good for the ones you care for.  Cooking can and should be fun and yes, even relaxing.  If you stop viewing cooking as a chore and try to see that it as an adventure, you will get more enjoyment out of doing it. 

I also believe cooking is about pleasing the cook first.  If the cook likes what he or she prepared,  chances are the family will too.  In other words, don't worry about picky eaters or pleasing everyone.  If someone complains, hand him the apron.

A lovely weekend is ahead.  I'll leave you with a simple side dish I made this week that is too delicious.  The unusual combination of asparagus and butternut squash works well together plus it's loaded with nutrition.

Asparagus and Butternut Squash
1 medium butternut squash
1 bunch fresh asparagus
3 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Cut the squash in half length wise, scoop out the seeds and place in a glass baking dish.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave in 2 minute intervals till the squash is just barely fork tender.  Cooking time varies with the size of the squash.  Let cool while you wash and trim the tough ends from the asparagus.  Cut stalks into thirds.  Steam asparagus in microwave till crisp tender, drain.  Peel squash and cut into bite sized pieces.  Melt butter in skillet, add squash and asparagus.  Toss till heated through.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and Parmesan cheese.   

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wanting To Have My Cake AND Eat It Too.

I've learned something interesting lately:  I can't eat anything extra without gaining weight.  I've been trying to lose just 5 pounds so my jeans will be more comfortable.  Plus, I have acknowledged that I have indulged in too many chocolate milkshakes and other goodies over the summer when I wasn't exercising near enough.

I bought a nice set of scales at Target which somehow also calculate your percentage of body fat.  I weigh myself every morning before eating to track my weight.  I have cut back on unnecessary snacks, desserts and alcohol, plus made my portion sizes smaller.  I have gotten back into a better exercise routine.  And it has helped.

Last Friday, my weight was actually 124, 6 pounds lighter!  I was happy but cautious.  Sure enough, by Monday morning my weight was 126.  I'd gained two pounds over the weekend and I really didn't indulge that much.  I certainly hadn't gained two pounds of muscle either.  I guess my downfall was the tiny powdered sugar donut followed by the brat I ate at a band competition because I was bored ( I was supposed to be working in the kitchen making food for the concession stand but we didn't get started for nearly 2 hours.)  Then my sister made a wonderful but fattening chicken dish for Sunday dinner and I had a fuzzy navel too.

But it's not like I had a large brownie with ice cream and hot fudge sauce, a pancake extravaganza at IHOP or guzzled a few beers at a football game.  I do feel discouraged and yes, a bit deprived.  I'd really like my weight to hover around 125 and STILL HAVE MY CAKE AND EAT IT TOO!  Don't we all?

The point is, and you knew there'd be a point,  you really do have to eat right and exercise most of the time to maintain good health and a normal weight.  It won't just happen and there is no magic pill at this time that will make it happen.  It requires discipline, self control, and the desire to be in charge of your own health.  So back to watching what I eat.

Things are not all bad however.  I did find a tasty new version of chili that received especially high ratings from my husband, pleased the kids AND, it's super fast to make.  What could be better on a fall evening?

Paula Deen's Spicy Vegetarian Chili
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. chipolte chili pepper*
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
1 16 oz. can black beans
1 16 oz. can white beans
1 16 oz. can kidney beans
1 15 oz. can whole kernel corn
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Open cans of beans and corn, drain and rinse.  Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add onions and saute till tender and starting to brown.  Add garlic and saute 2 minutes more.  Add seasonings and saute 2 more minutes.  Add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until heated through. 
*Having an aversion to things chipolte, I used a pinch of cayenne pepper instead. 

I also omitted any extra salt even though I used reduced sodium beans.  Make sure to use veggie broth if you are wanting it to be strictly vegetarian.  If you are too rushed to chop onions, make sure you keep chopped onions in the freezer or buy them in the produce department.  Really, my husband or my children could make this recipe, no problem.  Saute the onion while you open cans and it goes together in about 15 minutes.   

Give this chili a try and let me know how you like it.  You won't miss the meat, my family didn't complain a bit.