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Happy Mother’s (Birth)Day!

May 11, 2014

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This photo is from my wedding day, my mom spritzing me with Chanel #5 – her mother’s favorite perfume, and one that both my mother and I wear.  My mom is the most positive person I know. She can have a hideous day, a dreadful month, or a year that would absolutely break a lesser woman, then take a deep breath and suggest we all go out for ice cream sundaes. I don’t know how she does it. My Mother’s Day/Birthday wish for her is to know how much the whole world appreciates her sincere zeal for life. (My birthday wish for myself is that she never loses that positivity!)

Happy Mother’s Day/Belated Birthday to the most wonderful woman I know! Love you mom!

 

Rant: A Special Kind Of Hell – Reservations

April 16, 2014

My husband and I are taking my parents and my best man/best brother to New York to thank them for their generosity of time, word, and dollar in regards to our wedding last October. When my husband and I go to NYC, we go to eat, and we want to share some of our favorite places and try some highly lauded new spots on this trip. This morning, I began making reservations at the one month out mark. It was hell.

Carbone opened their reservations line at 9am today for the date we wanted. I started calling at 8:58 – answering machine. 8:59 – answering machine. 9:00 – busy. 9:01- busy. 9:02- busy. I kept dialing that phone like a monkey on crack until 9:12, when I finally got through and was immediately put on hold for another 5 minutes. And at 9:17 I was told, in a very specific tone, that the only reservation they had left was for 5:30pm.

I understand that Carbone is popular. Very popular. But I can’t help thinking that it didn’t really matter that I did everything right to get this reservation and was still shut out. As I was dialing to get through and then on hold I just kept imaging all of the shiny, smooth-haired personal assistants sipping lattes and entering a special code to get early access, while my split ends and I had to run a meeting while pretending to make a doctor’s appointment with the phone stuck to my head.

This is why I hate popular places. I really, really do. Give me tried and true, or old school, or a dive, or the unknown (the really unknown, not the known unknown) any day. Those are the places that try the hardest, have the nicest staff, and don’t give you heartburn before you even get to the door.

Note: I also called the lesser known Lupa today, got a warm greeting and a legitimate dining time of 7pm. I’m really looking forward to it.

Review: Fitbit Force

February 28, 2014
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view of fitbit force app screen

It’s time for my yearly fitness product/app/whatever review. I got a Fitbit Force (thanks mom!) for my birthday, and I’ve been using it since then to track my activity during Weight Loss Month Or More (turns out it needs to be More.)

The Fitbit Force is basically an advanced pedometer that you wear like a bracelet on your wrist. It tracks steps, flights climbed, active minutes, total miles traveled, calories (burned, eaten, and left to eat for the day), pounds to lose, sleep patterns, and water consumed. With the Force you can press a button on the side of the display to see your progress, or use their iPhone app or online dashboard.

The pros:
-Really easy to set up and check stats on. I downloaded the Fitbit app for my phone so I rarely use the computer syncing chip, but the online dashboard is just as good if not better.
-Comfortable. The Fitbit is just a thick bracelet, which isn’t even noticeable if you are wearing long sleeves. Water resistant, choose blue or black in color, wear on your non-dominant hand.
-Super long battery life. Needs to be charged less than once a week.
-Cost. As I mentioned, I was lucky enough to be gifted the Force, but at $129 it’s not particularly cheap. However, I would say there are much pricier investments you can make in your health, and this one is definitely worth it. If you wear it every day for two months, that’s just $2 a day.
-It makes you hyper aware of how active – or inactive – you are, and it encourages you to be more active. More on this below.

The cons:
-Does not recognize all activities as “steps” or “active minutes.” For example, I take a strenuous heated yoga class that shows up as nothing on my Fitbit, yet I know I am being active. Walking in place also seems to be hit or miss – it catches maybe 80% of your effort. But, you can add an activity and it will estimate your calorie burn.
-The food finder used to estimate your calories burned is not as intuitive as that on the Lose It! App. (Or, I’ve just been using Lose It! for so long that it’s too hard for me to switch over.) However, a pro is that you can link Lose It! (and several other apps) to your fitbit easily, and all of their information just syncs together.
-The sleep function isn’t particularly useful, to me at least. I guess this isn’t really a con, just an observation. I’m pretty aware of when I’ve had a bad night’s sleep, so having it tell me that I was restless 18 times isn’t really information that I need or want.

The Fitbit has definitely opened my eyes to my basic, non-gym activity level. The default goal settings are 10 thousand steps, 15 flights, and 30 active minutes- and I really thought that since my job is fairly active,  I would blow those away before even working out. Nope. Most days, it is a real challenge to hit 10K steps, and I really have to hit the gym to get there and above. In my normal, non gym activity – full day at work, doing a few errands, walking to my car – I typically top out at 6.5K, on a good day.

What I’ve found is that this makes me park farther away from Target, or take several trips instead of one, or walk in place in front of the tv to hit an extra thousand steps. I’ve become a real step-fiend. I’ve also become fidgety. If I find myself standing for long periods of time (something that happens at my job), I’ll start walking back and forth to get in some steps. I walk when I’m checking my email. I walk when I’m cooking dinner. I walk when I’m blow-drying my hair. (This is probably getting pretty annoying to everyone around me.)

I’ve also found, unfortunately, that on the off day that I do hit my goals before I head to the gym, I’m kind of like, nah I’m all set, I hit my goals. This is either an unexpected deterrent, or a function of laziness brought on by extreme cold this winter. The bottom line is that, overall, the Fitbit Force is a great tool to get a real sense of your basic activity level, and to encourage you to move more in every day life, in addition to whatever workout regimen you already have.

Food: Healthy Broccoli Cheese Soup

February 26, 2014

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This soup has about 250 calories per 1 cup serving (before the cheese topping), is filling and healthy. It is slightly adapted from a Moosewood recipe. It would be best served with some sourdough bread if that is in your calorie budget/food plan.

2 tbsp butter
1½ cup onion, chopped
1 waxy yellow potato, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1 bell pepper, diced
4 cups broccoli, chopped plus 1 cup florets rough chopped and steamed
2½ cups veggie stock or water
2 cups 1% milk
½ cup fromage blanc
pinch nutmeg, pinch cayenne
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
salt and pepper to season
Optional toppings:  grated cheddar, scallions, fromage blanc, etc.

Melt butter in large pot,  sauté onion and bay leaf with salt over medium heat until onion is clear. Add bell pepper, broccoli, potato, and stock. Bring to a simmer, cover, and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until broccoli is well cooked. Discard the bay leaf and purée the soup in batches, adding cheese into the blender at the end. Stir in fromage blanc and spices, bring almost to a boil, top with optional florets (plus cheese or other toppings), and serve.

Food: Heart Healthy Steel Cut Oats (Happy Valentine’s Day!)

February 14, 2014

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In perhaps my lamest Valentine’s Day post ever, I give you Alton Brown’s recipe for Steel Cut Oats (with minor modifications). He says it serves 4 at 142 calories each, but I’d say it serves 2, so that would mean this is about 300 calories (before toppings). This took a good 45 minutes to make, but it’s worth it on a weekend. And my Valentine said it was the best oatmeal he’s ever had, so that’s a pretty good endorsement.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup whole milk (you could definitely substitute 1% or skim milk here)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon low-fat buttermilk

Optional toppings:
brown sugar, cinnamon, berries, greek yogurt, peanut butter, jelly, etc.

In a large pot, melt the butter and add the oats. Stir for 2 minutes to toast. Add the boiling water and reduce heat to a simmer. Keep at a low simmer for 25 minutes, without stirring.

Combine the milk and the buttermilk with the oatmeal . Stir gently to combine and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until it reaches a consistency you like. Spoon into a serving bowl and top as you like.

Food: Macaroni NOT Cheese from Engine 2

February 12, 2014

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Several of my coworkers are taking the “Engine 2 Challenge,” which involves following a plant-based, basically vegan diet for a month. I’ve been trying several of the recipes (when someone at work makes them) and so far I’ve had a great vegan chili and an equally great vegan sloppy joe (both were heavy on lentils). Someone suggested I try the Macaroni NOT Cheese, since regular mac is a favorite of mine. Below is the recipe from the Engine 2 Site, with my notations.

1 onion, chopped
1 cup cashews
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast (THIS IS IN THE BAKING AISLE AND COSTS $6)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
16 ounces whole grain elbow pasta, cooked

Instructions:

Sauté onion on medium heat in non-stick skillet with a little water or low sodium vegetable broth for 5 minutes, until translucent.

In a food processor, combine the onions, cashews, lemon juice, water, and salt. Gradually blend in roasted red peppers, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and onion powder.

Thoroughly toss the sauce with the pasta.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown on top.
(THROW DIRECTLY IN THE TRASH. THE END.)

Welcome to Weight Loss Month, AND Turkey Chili

February 6, 2014

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I’m pulling out all the stops for this year’s Annual Weight Loss Month Or So. (See all my gluten free entries for the theme of last year’s Annual Weight Loss Month Or So.) This year I’m using my new FitBit Force (thanks mom!) in conjunction with the Lose It! App I’ve been using for the past year minus the last few months.  I’m going gluten-reduced, and focusing on increasing any possible daily activity (hence the fitbit) and eating lots of greens and low fat protein. Oh, and as much hot yoga as I can get to, because I love it. (Insert shameless plug for CorePower Yoga here.) This chili has approximately 200 calories per 1 cup serving (not including toppings), is easy to make, and filling. Plus, beans are good for you.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
1  yellow onion, chopped
1 red or green pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin or latin spice blend (available in most grocery stores, try Whole Foods)
1 pound ground turkey (leanest you can find)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
1  chipotle chile in adobo sauce (seeded and chopped)
juice from 2 limes
Salt and black pepper
1 can black beans and 1 can kidney beans (or whatever combination of beans you like), drained

Optionally toppings:
Avocado, chopped (or guacamole)
Scallions, chopped
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Non fat greek yogurt or sour cream

Put the onion, pepper, and carrots in a large pot with the oil, cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft. Add the spice mix or cumin and stir until incorporated. Add the turkey, raise the heat and cook until meat is no longer pink. Add tomatoes, lime juice, water, chipotle, and salt. Cover and simmer at least 30 minutes. Add beans and cook, partially covered, at least 10 minutes longer.This can be eaten immediately but is best when left on low heat for a few hours. Season to taste before serving with more salt, pepper, or lime juice.

 
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