Who Do You Think You Are?!

Living in Good Taste

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Who has time to workout or cook? Seriously. There are so many other things we need to be doing right now. I am not in good enough shape to hit the gym. Did you see her? She must workout all the time and never eat. Work has become my real ball and chain. The kids are driving me crazy and I need this right now! That guy has to be using some serious supplements. I would, but I don’t have the time. Any of these sound familiar? I have been there and done that, so no judging here.

Rewind to this morning. You looked in the mirror, as you get ready for your long day ahead. You try to find something to wear that you feel good in. Suddenly you find yourself surrounded by piles of scattered clothes you recently folded and put away. In a heat of desperation you…

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Recipe Review: Harvest Roast Chicken with Grapes, Olives, and Rosemary

Chicy n grapes

In a mad dash for something yummy and quick after a long day, I reached for my Smitten Kitchen cookbook. In her book, Deb Perelman indicates that her desire is to fill the book with uncomplicated ingredients and recipes you were glad to take the time to make. I was looking for one of the quickest throw together recipes the book had to offer and this was it. Initially the name of this dish made me scratch my head. Then I began to think about chicken salad and how well grapes taste in it. The wheels began turning and I decided to give it a chance.

What I love, love, love about her cookbook goes beyond the humbly provocative images of her creations, and reaches to the text. Everything from the way she talks about each recipe to the guidance through cooking them, creates this personal connection showcasing her love for food and even more so the people she serves. This chicken recipe seems like a pretty interesting experiment, but my taste-buds were so not ready for what they encountered.

The sizzle of the chicken and bursting of the grapes, oozing into a nice sauce was just a start. This dish was absolutely the best chicken dish I have ever had or prepared. I make a lot of chicken and it happens to be a meat I cook very well with. This recipe rocked my chicken-loving socks off. The grapes soaked up all the love from the shallots and chicken juices, while giving flavor to the chicken. Then the sauce? Deb encourages cooks to observe how long it takes for others to slurp up the sauce by the spoonful. There is certainly a reason for that. It is killer.

This dish is the kind of dish you expect an amazing dessert after. Only because it demands a good follow up. The dish stands up and declares war on the idea that an upscale dish that serves a family with hugs and rainbows must take hours to reduce and simmer. The flavor is so wonderful you will be excited to see what you will cook next! It is also nice and easy for the inexperienced to gain confidence. The busy family on a budget can also enjoy this meal easily and feel as if they were at a fancy restaurant.

Recipe (According to the book):
Ingredients:
3 lbs chicken parts (thighs, breast, legs, etc.)
Table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup seedless grapes
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

How to make it:
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees with a rack in the middle. Pat dry the chicken and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet (use cast-iron skillet if you’ve got one) over medium-high heat until it simmers. Working in two batches, brown the chicken, skin side down first and turning them over once, about5 minutes per batch. I like to take a lot of care in this step, not moving the chicken until the skin releases itself and has a nice bronze on it.

Return the pieces to the pan, skin side up, and surround the pieces with grapes, olives, and shallots. Roast the chicken in the oven until it has just cooked and the juices run clear, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken, grapes, and shallots to a platter, then add wine and chicken broth to the pan juices in skillet. Bring liquid to a boil, scraping up any brown bits, until it is reduced by half, for 2 to 3 minutes. Strain sauce, if desired, then pour it over the chicken. Garnish with rosemary and see how long it takes guests to offer to slurp the sauce with a spoon.

Modifications/ Notes:
One note of importance, after you pull the pan from the oven and while making sauce over the stove top, be sure to use a glove. It sounds obvious but the pan is still hot! I have made the mistake, even after reminding myself. It is just habit to grab that handle when making a sauce stove top.

There are some possible modifications you may want to consider. If you want to reduce fat content you can remove skins after cooking in oven, skim some fat off the top of the reduced sauce, or drain some fat before making the sauce. The skin acts like a sealer for the juices and flavor being melded. I also kept the sauce separate and added a little on top of everyone’s chicken after it was plated. You can control the amount you want better this way. For sodium concerns, use low-sodium broth or organic broth and sea salt in place of table salt. You need less of the sea salt for the same flavor. Also I bought a whole chicken and cut it up, as it was cheaper. Use local or organic as you can.

Side dishes could include salads, whole grain crusty bread with olive oil, roasted vegetables, or mashed potatoes. Her recipes are amazing and I encourage you to buy her book and play in your kitchen! You can also visit her blog ( http://smittenkitchen.com/about/ ) for more recipes. Happy Eating!

Recipe Rating: 5 Stars

Is Plyo for You?

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Remember when you used to play hopscotch, leap frog, or basketball? A fitness trend is bringing those memories back in an adult version. Recently there has been a lot of hype about plyometric workouts in the fitness realm. For those of you who have not been exposed to it, plyometrics is a jumping, dynamic movement performed as powerfully as possible. It has gained popularity and buzz for good reason. Plyometrics have a lot to offer for strength training and can bring about cardiovascular improvements as well. These movements rely on your ability to cover a certain distance at high intensities over a short period of time. It can really be great for increasing speed and strengthening those muscles. Jumping has shown to increase energy overall and mobility when done right.

So it sounds great right? Before you jump into plyo there are a few things you may want to consider. One consideration is the strength of your ankles, knees, abs, shoulders, and even wrists. When performing high intensity exercises, you must have your support systems in good shape. Otherwise you risk injury. Secondly, is balance. This is actually two-fold. Balance in the sense of equally strong/trained opposing muscle groups. Imbalance here could result in injury. The other type of balance is how well you can stabilize yourself in a position where your base of support is compromised. You will not perform most plyo exercises slowly, so it is important to know that you can handle sudden changes in balance without falling or injury to tissue. Your range of motion also matters here. In order to move through the full range of motion, you should have the flexibility to do so. When you do not take form seriously, you can get seriously injured. Do you have the right shoes? The shoe needs to support your ankle, so running shoes are not a good option. A court shoe or cross trainers may be good options. Shoe specialists can help you find a perfect shoe for you.

Never be afraid to be in a stage of progression. Life long fitness is better than a get-fit-quick scheme that leaves you unmotivated and injured. If you feel you are not ready for it, start with stabilization exercise and basic posture exercises. Incorporate yoga to ensure you have a good range of motion. Lastly, add cardio in for endurance and overall health. For those who feel they are ready to start, Begin with smaller movements and build up to more dynamic ones. It is helpful to use isometric exercises in between plyometric exercises to help avoid injury and increase stability.

If you are not sure what programs are best for you, talk with a trainer and work together on a plan. Most importantly keep it fun, safe, and challenging.

Performance v. Health

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As children we grow up with athletes projected as the ideal picture of health. We grudgingly eat our vegetables to grow up and be strong like the athlete we admire so. What we are not told, is how unhealthy some of the rigorous training can be. An athlete is trained to handle these rigorous activities and lifestyle habits, via progression over years. However rigorous training on that scale poses many safety concerns for the average American looking to get fit and healthy. In America we look for fast results, as fast results are demanded of us. We assume those who drop weight fast are on the right track to health. While discipline is certainly a worthwhile characteristic to strive toward, when it becomes a controlling force bleeding into other aspects of life (relationships, jobs, etc.) it can be negative. Health is about balance and well-being. When you push your body to do too much too soon, you can end up with injury, illness, and sometimes even death. Don’t freak out because of the “D” word. I have reassurance for you ahead.

Health to me, is defined as the state of overall physical condition and well-being, and is influenced by many factors. Factors influencing health and wellness can include psychological, physiological, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental, occupational, and more. Health has become the target many Americans aim for as preventable diseases have grown in prevalence and been uncovered. So much information is available out there and at the tip of our hands. Too much information. It is easy to get overwhelmed and confused by the excess. It can be frustrating and hard to achieve the results you want. When extreme products/programs/services are offered we jump at the chance to make up for lost time. We are willing to make extreme sacrifices on our bodies for the sake of “health.” All the while we are damaging our bodies, esteem, and future capacity.

When a product or program throws around fancy terms like “performance,” “metabolic,” “fitness,” (the list goes on…and on) we get a moment of excitement. I could become like the athlete I admired as a child in just 20 minutes a day. Maybe I can look just like the model who graced the cover of my favorite teen magazine; I could be the next cover model on Vogue or Shape with the purchase of this product..and become wealthy and find perfection. Suddenly everything looks sunny and even your dog is perfectly dressed and children pristine. It is important to be realistic when setting goals. We all know that many of the people gracing the cover of products are photo-shopped and still secretly hold the image as realistic, even expected. Stop it! Where have I heard that before? 😉

Any change worth the emotional, financial, time efforts we throw at it should be effective and a step towards something better. Our expectations need to be readjusted. Be willing to take the path less traveled. It only seems daunting because we choose to see it that way. What about enjoying the ride? Remember as a child how you dreamed of being grown up and in a profession you loved. Now there are days, where at least I wish I could be 5 again at Grandma’s. Sometimes there is fulfillment and adventure in the journey to a healthier you. You discover you have more guts than you thought you did. You can do that pretzel yoga move. It is not impossible for you. Yes, YOU! It may take time to work out bugs and navigate barriers, but it is worth it. In the end you will build confidence, reduce stress, have more energy, and find new things you enjoy and can enjoy for life. These are benefits you cannot accomplish by racing to get to the finished product. You will either get burnt out, injured, or bored. Don’t rush through even a workout. Take time and think about your form and progress. Calm your mind from all the racing it has done. You can maybe work through one problem as you are working out, but remember this should be a time to relieve stress.

Some workouts push you to your true max and provide for great strength gains. Those workouts are not healthy to do every day. You have to build a foundation of health and grow from there. A strong sturdy building has an excellent foundation. True health should not mean injury after injury. Anything we do poses risks for injury, but there are things you can do to mitigate them. When you have a good foundation of strength you can then move on to more complicated moves. The progression continues as you challenge your body in new ways. When your muscles are not all being trained equally, your risk for injury or worse goes up drastically.

It may not be flashy, but slow and steady wins the race. Why did our grandparents share the tale of the tortoise and the hare? There is a reason flashes are impressive and die quickly. Be a growing fire that burns for good. Enjoy the journey to getting healthy and don’t be afraid of taking baby steps or reasonable leaps. Speak with a professional and see what is right for you. Bring a friend along and take the road together and spread the word: It’s okay if I am not Alex Morgan or Michael Phelps. I am me. No one else can do what I am here to do, and I can be fit and healthy one day at a time.

Let’s Get Real!

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As we all know, the Fourth of July is a time of food and freedom. Many magazines and blogs have the “Do’s and Don”ts” of celebrating. The lists include replacing menu items with conversations. Many Americans can do both at the same time, as our busy schedules have demanded crazy multi-tasking skills. When you exclude favorites in favor of conversation to save calories you feel deprived. The entire time you are talking you can only think of the things you “can’t” have. Everyone is at a different stage of change and since there is no way to know, general guidelines can be helpful. Recommendations for truly tasty replacements can be nice as well. Instead of eliminating something, let’s look at how to make it healthier. Holidays are meant to celebrate. You do not have to gorge yourself in order to do so. Make the bites you have worth while and lighten it up so that you feel well enough to mingle and sit pool-side. Here are a few of my suggestions.

Tasteful hamburgers. You can select a few options here. If you already enjoy lighter protein fare, stick with that. If you have not gotten there yet or simply prefer beef, here are a few options:
1. Go light on the sauce. Use half of what you normally use on the bun.
2. Use a leaner meat or combine beef with ground turkey. If you go this route be sure to use extra beefy seasonings like marjoram and black pepper.
3. Load up on the veggies to help you feel satisfied. It gives crisp crunch to your beefwich with nutrients to satisfy your body’s needs.
4. Use whole wheat buns/bread or at least a regular wheat version. The fiber content will be higher and you’ll be less likely to crash a half hour later.
5. If all you need is a taste, try going for slider options using various seasonings in your meat. Let the flavor of the patty be the star. Load up on lighter sides so your plate doesn’t look lonely and sad.

Simply amazing sides. When the quality goes up you can savor the bite and limit your portion. Your body says “I have had something amazing and I feel just right.” What sides can bring such satisfaction at a cookout? Here are some ideas:
1. Southwestern Corn (Recipe Below)
2. Garlic Mac n’ Cheese (Recipe Below)
3. Roasted Veggies go nicely with lemon garlic seasoning and can be done quickly.
4. Fresh Cucumber Tomato Salad( http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/tomato-onion-and-cucumber-salad-recipe.html )
5. Watermelon-feta skewers ( http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/aarti-sequeira/watermelon-feta-and-mint-skewers-with-sumac-recipe.html )
6. A small portion of your favorite baked fiber-ful beans.

Must-Have-Dessert. Indulge smartly. If you splurged on other parts of the meal, now might be the time to go light. Angel Food cake with berries and whipped cream tend to be a smarter option. If you were smart (bias opinion here) and saved some indulging for dessert, you may now enjoy that slice of heaven you have been eyeing. Here are a few tips to enjoying that slice:

1. Refuse to eat it until the kids are not hanging on you. You cannot enjoy the bites if you are distracted. You then will feel the need for a slice or two more. When eating enjoy it.
2. Take a bite as you listen to someone else. If you are talking with the creator of the dessert, he/she may enjoy watching you approve of his/her creation. You may even get a recipe for it.If they do all the talking, you can do all of the eating.
3. If you find a moment does not come for you to sit and savor, simply have a little bit now to be polite and take the rest home to savor in your jammies.
4. Use Low-fat Frozen yogurt instead of ice cream if you want a lighter option. Frozen yogurt has come a long way.

Other general tips?
1. Drink water in between baked beans and mac n cheese (or whatever dish you are enjoying). It will help you better gauge fullness.
2. Eat smaller portions so that you can get a taste of everything you wanted to try. You eat what you like and don’t feel like you lost out.
3. Get people talking during eating time so that you can balance bites with conversation.
4. Don’t over think it. Mostly be smart and make your choices. Armed with these tips and your common-sense you should do just fine. 🙂

Here are the recipes:

Southwestern Corn:
Ingredients:
3-4 ears of Sweet Corn -1 Red Bell Pepper (diced) -1 Green Bell Pepper (diced) – 1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika -1/4Tsp Red Pepper Flakes -Pinch of Cayenne (or Chipotle) -1 Tsp Butter (for flavor) -1 1/2 Tbs Olive/Canola Oil -1/4 cup Yellow Onion (diced) -1/4 cup Red Onion (diced) -3 Tbs Reduced-Fat Sour Cream (optional) -1-2 Cloves Garlic (minced) -Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste.

Directions:

1. Clean and shuck the Sweet Corn if not done already for you. Place the Sweet Corn on its side and cut along the cob getting as much of the kernel as possible.
2. Heat the Oil and Butter in the pan over medium heat. Add Yellow Onions and Garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the Bell Peppers and Red Onion and cook for about 2 minutes. The time depends on how soft you want your peppers. I like mine crisp so less time is good for me. They will continue to cook after this so just under desired tenderness. Season them with Salt and Black Pepper to taste and stir occasionally.
3. Add in the Sweet Corn and toss everything until all the veggies are evenly distributed. Once even, toss in Paprika, Cayenne, and Red Pepper flakes. Stir until evenly coated.
4. TASTE a small bite. If it tastes too bland to you, add more Cayenne or Red Pepper flakes. If too hot, add Reduced-Fat Sour Cream. If you think it is perfect, but want to add Sour Cream, add a pinch more Cayenne or Red Pepper flakes, so it does not get lost in the creaminess.
5. Serve!

Options:
– Add reduced-fat shredded Monterrey-Jack Cheese.
–Grill Corn on Cob and Bell Peppers first.
–Add a squeeze of 1 Lime as Garnish.

Garlic Macaroni and Cheese:
– ½ package Sargento Shredded 4-State Cheddar Cheese plus ¼ cup for topping -3 Cloves of Garlic (minced) -splash of Reduced-Fat Milk -1 tbs Butter/substitute (cold and diced) -1 tbs Olive oil – 1 box Penne or Rigationi Pasta (Dreamfields is a nice option for Low-Carb/Diabetic option) / 1 lb. freshly made pasta -Pinch of Paprika -Salt and Pepper to taste.

Directions:

1. Preheat Oven to 375 Degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a pot of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Cook Pasta according to directions at 3/4 of indicated cook time. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat Olive Oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add Pasta and stir in Cheese, Milk, Paprika, Salt and Pepper to taste, Stir until cheese starts to get a little melty. Then add the Garlic and stir again until everything is evenly distributed.
3. Turn off heat. Sprinkle reserved ¼ cup Cheese on top. Evenly distribute Butter over the top of the Pasta mixture and cover with foil. Bake for 30 Minutes.
4. Turn oven to broil and bake until crisp topping (about 2-4 minutes).
5. Let cool 5 minutes and serve.

Options:
-Make this Spicy with ½ Pepper Jack Cheese or Add ¼ tsp Red Pepper Flakes during Step 2.
– Use this as a means to Highlight (hide?) veggies. Great add-ins could include Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots, Asparagus, Squash, etc. You can steam the cleaned veggies over pasta water, while cooking pasta. Leave them a little crisp, so they don’t become soggy in the oven.

Graduated Success

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Hello Everyone! It seems like forever since I have written. You will be hearing from me much more now that I have GRADUATED! I am so excited to announce that all my work can now be put to great use…YOU! Many who graduated before me talked about how overwhelming it can be immediately post-grad. My head nodded in acknowledgement, but little did I know how tough it would really be. As a proactive person it can be disheartening to hear “So do you have a job lined up yet?” Being a mother of two, working a part-time job, and being a full-time student there was not a lot of time for me to court potential employers or seek employment for postgrad. So immediately I applied for 50+ jobs online. It has been over a month and no word. As a go-getter sitting still is not my strength. My decision is now to focus on what I can do to gain experience in the meantime. There are still people who need my help even if it is not a company employing me. So down this foggy path of trust I go, pursuing my own business. It is exciting and scary.

Thinking about the path of this new change and challenge before me, it reminds me a lot of how people feel starting a new wellness program. Whether you are trying to eat better, get fit, attain a fitness goal, failure is a possibility. No one wants to fail. It is a reason many do not take the leap. We come up with barriers and put ourselves in boxes with excuses we falsely see as truth. It is time for us to wake up and see the facts. Yes we may fail. No failure is too big that we cannot learn and grow better from. Failure could be the key to our success. It tells you your limitations and focuses your attention on what you can actually do now.

When we can look at a big picture and are flexible to changes in that vision, failure seems much less stressful. Make a plan with graduated steps towards that vision. Refine your goals to 3 priorities and then break it down into more and more tangible steps. Look often at your progress and goals. Do you need to revise the plan? Revisions may be due to an evolved vision or complete change. It is okay to change and grow. If something doesn’t work out, use it as information and not an attack on your potential. Flexibility allows you to use failures and success as supporting steps towards ultimate success.

The toughest aspect for me is the patience. Understanding that things take time. For some reason I can extend more grace to others than to myself. We need to be fair and kind to ourselves. Getting down or frustrated doesn’t really make us more productive. Identifying complications, flaws, and strengths along with a positive attitude does. Be passionate about what you do and do the best you can. At the end of the day you can at least walk away knowing where you stand when you test your limits. If you never test and try to grow, you never can achieve your potential.

Salmon Strawberry Almond Salad with a Mango Poppy Seed Dressing.

Living in Good Taste

My husband and I went on our first vacation this past week, which is why it has been quiet around here. We took our children for a magical time to Disney World in Florida. In an attempt to save money on the trip, we stayed at a villa with full amenities. This way I could cook most meals. I was craving some seafood since we were surrounded by a tropical backdrop. Additionally i began to understand that a day at Disney made for one tired Momma. What could I cook that would satisfy, be quick to make, taste great, and hit the spot. This is what I came up with.

Salmon Strawberry Almond Salad with a Mango Poppy Seed Dressing.

Ingredients:
-1 lemon -1 lb Wild-Caught Salmon fillet (If it smells fishy, do not buy) -Salt and Pepper
-1 cup chopped strawberries (or sliced if you prefer) -1/4 cup slivered…

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