Archive for July, 2010

Meatless Meals (I Wish) My Mother Made

Today’s tastiness comes from the cookbook Moosewood Restaurant New Classics.  The Moosewood cookbooks are full of tasty and interesting recipes, though not all are user-friendly in their preparation.

Moroccan Roasted Vegetables

The colorful roasted vegetables in this recipe are softer and saucier than tyipcal roasted vegetables, but the high heat and rapid cooking still infuse the vegetables with a roasted flavor and an intoxicating aroma.

Serve over a grain, such as couscous, topped with toasted almonds, raisins, chopped hard-cooked eggs, or grated feta cheese for a balanced, ready-to-eat meal.

Serves: 4

ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices*
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick semi-circles*
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch-thick semi-circles*
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick semi-circles*
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced into 1/4-inch strips*
  • 2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped*
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (15.5-ounce can, drained)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons tumeric
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons salt

*If you like measuring, aim for 1-1/2 to 3 cups of each vegetable — about 11 to 12 cups total.

directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400º.
  2. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together the onions, zucchini, eggplant, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes, chick peas, garlic, oil, lemon juice, and seasonings.
  3. Spread the vegetables onto an unoiled 11×17-inch baking tray.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and stir well; then bake for another 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.  Serve warm.

weight loss supplements

I was in a computer training recently that was really more geared to computer users that don’t know much about using computers (“Do you know what the right mouse button does?”).  While waiting for directions on how to do basic functions, the internet kept me entertained.

He had us on the msn.com page, and there was a slide show of diets that work, so I clicked and skimmed through it.

Some of the items featured were things that I would agree are Good – books on different ways of eating well.  I’d need to read them really to know if they were any good, but based on the short synopses, they look healthy.

There were also several supplements listed.  They were considered healthy because they didn’t increase metabolism and/or heart rate like some of the old-school weight-loss supplements did.

One of them blocked the absorption of a significant percentage of fat.  Another messed with hunger hormones.

I have a couple of issues with these.

First, I’m not a fan of changing my body’s hormones unless they’re really not working right and there’s no other way to regulate them.  I also don’t want to change what my body is able to gain from food that I eat.  We need fat.  Fat is not inherently bad.

But perhaps more importantly (especially to those who don’t put as much value on the above as I), we tend to compensate for changes that we make.

I was reading What The Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell, and somewhere in the midst of that fascinating book, he was talking about taxis.  I don’t recall the city.  Anti-lock brakes were installed on half of the taxis, and the assumption was that the taxis with the anti-lock brakes would be safer than those without.  But that turned out not to be true.  The cabbies with the anti-lock brakes drove more recklessly, essentially cancelling out the safety factor of the brakes.

I think weight loss supplements like these are likely to do the same thing.

Also, much of the time when we overeat, it’s not because we’re hungry — we’re just eating.  A pill that stops your stomach from telling your brain that it’s hungry isn’t going to stop this type of overeating.

What it boils down to is making new habits.  If you want to lose weight, make new habits, generally one at a time.  To get started, most folks don’t need to have a lot of nutritional information — they simply need to eat less.  You won’t find that on a weight-loss slide show.

can you avoid the drama?

Today was my first day back at work.  (I am a part-time self-employed personal trainer and a part-time elementary music teacher at an inner-city school.)  At my school, there is a ton of drama for a wide variety of reasons that do not involve children.  Add in students and their families, and it’s off-the-charts nuts.

For the past several years, I have been working full-time at this school, served on the School Improvement Team and the PTA equivalent.  I’ve worked on the schedule, state-mandated testing and other high-stakes tasks.  Plus, I’ve made work friends.

In other words, I have been one with the drama.

I have made a resolution not to be part of it this year, as much as possible.  Working there only part-time will help a lot.  But avoiding general venting sessions and “did you hear?” conversations will be a big part as well.  This will also mean that I will be less “in the know” about general happenings on campus … and that will take a little bit of adjusting to.  (OK, a lot of adjusting.)  But it’s worth it.

I anticipate that reducing exposure to work drama will substantially increase my general level of happiness and job satisfaction.  At what expense?  Office gossip.  That is a good deal.

Is there drama in your life?  Are there steps you can take to avoid some of it?  Do you think you’d be happier without it?

the down side of “clean your plate”

I don’t know many people who were not, as children, forced (or bribed) by a parent to eat when they didn’t want food, whether it was eating a meal when not hungry or finishing a meal when already sated.

With few exceptions, if you’re not hungry, don’t eat.  (An exception: I eat breakfast on race days despite not being hungry, knowing that the consequence of not eating is one I’d like to avoid.)

But suppose you’re sitting at a table eating a meal.  You’re eating slowly and mindfully enough to realize when you are sated.  There is still food left.  Can you leave it there?

Yes.

“But there are people starving in ____.”  Yes, there are.  And there are a myriad of ways that you can help those people have enough food.  But overeating what is in front of you does not, in any way, help the people who are undernourished.  I have never heard the misfortune of the Third World be used as a reason to engage in any other behavior aside from donating money.  (There are more people worldwide who don’t have access to clean drinking water than are starving, but I’ve yet to hear that as a reason to drink more water or not waste the water we do have.)

“But I don’t want to waste it.”  Well … you might need to, depending on the circumstance, or you can box it up and stick it in the fridge and finish it later.  That said, almost everyone wastes food on a regular basis.  (A quick Google search showed consistency in saying that we throw away, on average, 20-25% of what we bring home from the grocery store.)  If you are among those who throw away food from your fridge, take care of not wasting that instead.

Also, along the lines of waste… An example: I was helping a friend clean up from a party, where there had been bowls of M&Ms on the tables.  When he commented that he wasn’t sure what to do with them (since the party was over) and I suggested he throw them away, he said he didn’t want to waste food.  “It only counts as wasting food if it’s really food to start with.”  M&Ms aren’t really food.  They sure are tasty, but they’re not food.  Toss ’em.

“I want to get my money’s worth.”  Gorging yourself does not get you better value for what you’ve purchased than eating sensibly.  If you are at home, put the rest in the fridge and eat it later.  (The eating it later part is an important step in not wasting money on food … and in not wasting food.)  If you are in a restaurant and were unable (or unwilling) or order a small amount of food, get the leftovers to go.  If you can’t get it to go, leave it there.  The money is already spent.  Eating more than your body wants is not an act of frugality.

It is easy to let guilt influence your eating decisions.  Resist the temptation!  Eat what you need in the quantity that you need.  Your body will thank you.

are you afraid of racing?

My first 5K (about 8 years ago), I was still overweight, I was slow, and I was definitely not feeling like a runner.  My gym was sponsoring a benefit 5K for someone’s child who has some awful health problem — I don’t remember what it was — and I decided it would be the right thing to do to join in.

I had three goals:

  1. I will jog the whole race — I will not walk
  2. I will not come in last
  3. I will not die

I accomplished all three 🙂

I finished somewhere between 35 and 40 minutes — again, I don’t remember exactly — and was super-proud of myself for doing it and for meeting my goals.

While I don’t do 5Ks-a-plenty, I have gotten out and done one or two each year since then.  I have completely changed my goals since then.

1.  It is possible to race faster by walking portions of the race.  I’m not sure how true that is for a 5K — I’ve only read it in terms of races like half marathons and marathons — but I’m guessing that if you did it right, sprinkling in a bit of walking could help your time.  I have also come to accept (for now) that I am a flat trainer — that is, I train on flat ground.  So if I do a race that has hills, I’m going to walk them.  No use in spending all my energy just getting up the dumb hill when I could save it for moving faster on the next flat.  (Yes, I know that training for hills would help this…)

2.  I think 40 minutes is my slowest 5K time ever.  And I did not come in last.  I have seen people cross 5K starting lines with times well over one hour.  If you have trained at all or are in anything remotely beyond completely out of shape, you’re not likely to come in last.

3.  If a triathlon isn’t going to kill me, a little 5K isn’t going to kill me, and if my heart or a passing car decide it’s my time to go, well, my goal-setting isn’t going to help it much!

If you’re interested in running races but don’t know where to start, the Couch to 5K program is a good one.  Over the course of 9 weeks, it gradually takes you from walking to jogging, from a short time/distance to 5K.  It involves walking/running three days per week.

If you live in a metropolitan area, there are 5Ks waiting for you.  If you don’t, I’m not sure what the availability is.  I know that here in Phoenix, you could just about run a 5K every weekend year-round if you wanted to (fewer in the summer, but still not none).  I like active.com for event-finding.

So what are you waiting for?  Get out there and do it!  And if you need a little external motivation, register for one, then train for it.

other people’s handiwork

Some really well-written, informational posts here today.  Click through!  (As always, all links will open in a new window.)

It’s Complicated from Miss Melanoma: The Official Site for the Fun Side of Cancer: My summary will not do this post justice, but I’ll summarize it anyway.  Go read it despite my writing about it.  After years of working on self-acceptance, she had somewhat of an epiphany about her body and its usefulness.

What Happens To Your Body Within an Hour Of Drinking A Coke from NutritionResearchCenter.org: A fairly short and fairly easy to understand explanation of the biomechanics behind your body coping with soda.

Re-Consider the Rules of Thumb You Use in Everyday Life from The Happiness Project: The author identified a list of beliefs that were integral to her daily life, then realized how they created tension, and worked (is working) to change some of them so her life flows more easily.

Chocolate Lover?  Ban words like indulge and treat from Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: a nice explanation in the psychology of why considering foods “treats” hinders progress towards eating mindfully and healthfully.

Mindlessly Eating from Sustainable Life Blog: some tips on how to avoid mindless eating.

4 Running Setbacks and How to Handle Them from active.com: a short summary of which pains are OK to work through and which ones aren’t.

Meatless Meals (I Wish) My Mother Made

Instead of posting a recipe today, I am going to post some suggestions for healthy snacks.  This is by no means an exhaustive list.  Please feel free to add your favorites in the comments, or to ask questions.  Some of these are very pack-able, some not so much.  I like to have a bit of carbs, protein, and fat in each snack.

Fruit or veggies and dip

Carrots, celery, broccoli, bell pepper slices, snap peas, apple slices, pear slices, banana all work well with a variety of dips.  Instead of whipping out the ranch, opt for hummus, guacamole, or peanut butter (or another nut butter).  Just watch your portions on the dip, and you’ll be OK.  (Peanut butter and banana also makes a tasty sandwich 🙂 )

Dried fruit and nuts

My personal favorite combination is almonds and craisins (dried cranberries), and I was not a huge fan of cranberries when I discovered this.  This is a great, very packable snack, but you definitely want to weigh or measure your portions.  Nuts are very dense foods, and dried fruits have a lot of sugar, so eating this by the handful won’t lead to happy consequences.  Choosing craisins over dried pineapple, for example, will get you a lot more bang for you munch, because cranberries are better for you than pineapple.  Also remember that just because something is healthy doesn’t mean you can consume it without limits.

Frozen banana smoothie

Since mentioning this a while ago, I’ve learned that this is actually a recipe for dairy-free ice cream.  Who knew?  Take a frozen banana, any other frozen fruit of your choice (where the majority of the flavor is going to come from), a splash or so of water, and blend in a blender or Magic Bullet.  I like to mix in a tablespoon of ground flaxseed for omega-3s and some chopped nuts (walnuts and pecans have been my favorites).  Again, measuring the nuts is important.

Yogurt

If you’re looking for healthy, tread carefully with yogurt.  Most commercially-available yogurts have all sorts of garbage added to them.  Your best bet is plain, or maybe vanilla, and add in your own stuff for flavor.  Add fruit and chopped nuts in whatever combinations and proportions suit you.

For the most part, your pre-packaged bars aren’t great.  Compare nutrition labels to candy bars, and you’ll see that many of them aren’t all that different.  I’m also generally not a fan of meal-replacement type bars unless you’re going to be on the go all day and don’t have other things to pack or won’t have a lot of time to eat.  I don’t think they’re bad, necessarily, but they have two issues: 1- they’re full of ingredients that I can’t pronounce; 2- too many people treat them like an appetizer or eat them in addition to full meals.  If you’re eating 150-300 calories several times a day, a protein bar will fit one of those “meal” times.  Otherwise, skip them.  (I was eating one a day as a snack, and I was partial to Zone chocolate mint; it was tasty and had decent texture.)

What I’ve done: I have taken almonds/craisins to work every day for the past couple of years.  You’d think I’d be sick of them by now.  I have a small food scale, and over the weekend, I’ll measure out five little containers full, so as the week progresses, I just need to grab one and toss it in my lunch bag.  I also pack fruit every day (usually a banana and an apple), and I keep a jar of peanut butter in my desk.  (I used to pack the peanut butter, but measuring it out into little containers was more of a pain than I was willing to deal with.)

Things to add?

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