Friday, November 12, 2010

Pomegranates in Smoothies . . . or not

I have a few bags of pomegranates and decided to throw some seeds into my green smoothie the other day.  The taste?  Just wonderful.  The texture?  A big gritty.

This takes me back to one lunch break in high school when I was wandering around Mariposa Produce with my friend, Cindy.  We'd often go there for lunch and I'd pick out some fruit.  She loved to get yogurt covered things -- like almonds and such.  At the time, it sounded very healthy.  (Those yogurt malt balls were quite heavenly).

Anyway, I picked up a few pomegranates to buy and a man working there leaned over and said, "Those are purely decorative fruits."  I'm sure I looked at him like he didn't know what the heck he was talking about.  I'd been eating pomegranates since I was very young . The only person I'd ever seen use them as a decoration was my aunt whose parents had pomegranate trees and she had more pomegranates than she could possibly eat.  So she'd put those jewel-like seeds around the perimeter of whatever dish she brought to Thanksgiving and it looked beautiful.  (She also brought me a few bags of pomegranates -- I absolutely loved it!).

The man continued, "Really.  You shouldn't eat them.  The seeds are NOT digestible."  (Obviously, this was before pomegranates became the new blueberry, soon to be pushed to the side by the acai' berry).   I bought the pomegranates anyway and went back to the school to feast upon them.  Yet, I've thought back to his words many times over the years.  Are the seeds not digestible?  The juicy part obviously is, but those tough, tough seeds?

I used to eat the whole seed every time I'd eat a pomegranate.  Sometimes I'd spit out the seeds, but most of the time I'd just eat the whole thing.  Then one Thanksgiving break I was home from college and was making my way through one of those pomegranate bags my aunt had brought.  Somehow I managed to eat 8 pomegranates in one day.  A day or two later, I thought I would die.  Those white seeds had clogged my system and were painful to pass.  When they did come out, they were pretty much solid white seeds all pressed tightly together like they had no choice, but to exit my body.  I guess my body digested them, but it didn't use them -- just let them go through.

Since then, I only eat a few seeds with each pomegranate -- maybe 10% or so and haven't had a problem.  I've wondered if I were able to chew them up properly or more completely if they would indeed digest and be useful to my body.

Well, (I know -- did you really want THIS much information?), after drinking those green smoothies with the pulverized, yet still gritty, pomegranate seeds, I was able to put this to the test . There's no amount of chewing on the planet that would get them broken up so small.  But a few days later, stomach pains and total stoppage.  I didn't look to examine the excrement as I had before, but I can tell you that it felt just as awful as it had that time while home from college.  Maybe not to the same extreme because this was just 1 pomegranate thrown into the smoothie and that was 8 before.  But it was indeed solid seeds compacted together and my body didn't do much with them before letting go.

Will I continue to eat the seeds every once in awhile?  Yes.  Will I throw them into a smoothie?  Probably not.  If I juiced it first, I might.  But who wants to go to the trouble of that.  I'd rather just sit at the table with a good book and savor my favorite food as I have so many times each fall.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Found my first Raw Food Journal

I don't know if you have to have a Yuku account to access this or not, but I just found my very first raw food journal from 5 years ago on the Firm Ya-Ya's forum at Yuku.  I haven't read through it all, but the first page or so were really fascinating for me to read, especially since I just started another raw pledge amidst my 8 week challenge for the last 3 weeks (which began on Monday, the day after Halloween -- just like 5 years ago).  Unlike Halloween 5 years ago, however, I didn't eat any candy and make myself sick this last weekend.  I can take or leave candy pretty easily now.

Anyway, here's the link for the journal   Food Journal

Monday, October 25, 2010

Forming Healthy Habits

I've been doing this 8 week challenge for 4 weeks now and I've been observing how my habits are forming.  Some form without knowing it, some with much effort, some with continued prodding.

Each week we get a "free day," which originally I wasn't fond of.  In my black/white thinking, I imagine that if a goal is worth keeping, it should be kept continually, not with a day off.  So at first, I wasn't planning to use the free day unless there was some big occasion or extenuating circumstance (like my surgery last week).  But at the end of the first week, I thought maybe a free day wasn't so bad of an idea.

As the weeks have passed, I've seen that the free day is the most telling of all in observing my new habits.  If I'm able to stick to a goal without thinking about it or even wanting to stray from it on my free day, then the healthy habit has been formed.  If I'm hoping to escape that goal or forget about the goal all together, then that goal is still not a habit -- just something I'm working toward.  (And if I'm wishing I had another free day the day after a free day, then I'm in big trouble, which is how it was after the 3rd free day).

Here's how I'm doing with the developing these 10 healthy habits: 

Exercise 45 minutes -- I love to exercise, but have found myself entering slumps of apathy since we moved here a little over a year ago.  I usually work out an hour each morning, but I've found that if I miss a morning due to disturbed sleep or a busier morning, I'd never make it up like I used to.  I'd also be satisfied (not truly, but motivationally) with 3 or 4 days of exercise if the week was crazy.  So I knew this goal would help me get back to the mindset of 6 workouts a week.

I'm there.  Even with my surgery, I did a great Cathe interval workout the morning of my surgery, had my rest day the next day and have either done yoga or some light treadmill walking (or a combination) for my 45 minutes since.  It's back in my brain and even on my free day yesterday, I was eager to get my 45 minutes.  I'm sure once my body has healed and bends better, I'll be back to an hour.

7 Hours of Sleep  -- This goal was actually one of my biggest concerns because I tend to get more like 6 hours of sleep a night.  But my body is falling into this pattern better.  I'm not staying up as late and I'm taking naps when I need them in the afternoon.  Feels great.

Drink 64 oz. water  -- I knew this wouldn't be a problem.  I always drink tons of water.  I'm sure I get that much before noon every day.

No Sugar -- This is about the only reason I look to a free day.  I do like baking.  I alter my recipes to use unrefined sugars and whole grains, but I know that my brain wants to eat just as many healthier cookies and brownies as I would with refined.  I also have a weakness for the variety of Clif bars.  I can eat 3 or 4 Z bars quite easily.  So I've cut back on having those in the home.  Same with the good soy ice creams . (Soy Creamy from Trader Joe's is as good as the best brands and is 1/2 the price).  I know if I have those in the home, I"ll want to eat them.

The habits that have been helping are not buying the Clif stuff or Soy Creamy and are to tell myself that if I do bake on my free day, I can not have any the next day.  That was always the struggle before.  I'd bake quite a bit, then would eat it for the next few days.  That ends up being about 1/2 of my life.  This way, I'm eating it that one day and none else.  Somehow it isn't a struggle.  Nice to see.

No Soda, Junk Food, Fast Food -- I've worked on this so much the past several years that it's not hard for me to stay away from these processed foods.  Yay for that!.

2 Fruit, 2 Veggies -- I could eat a dozen fruits effortlessly every day.  Not so with vegetables.  As much as I love my veggies, I have to tell myself to make them and eat them.  Yesterday was my free day and I realized at the end of the day that I hadn't eaten even ONE vegetable.  When I don't think about it, it doesn't naturally happen.  This I need to work on more and more until it's as natural as the fruit habit.  I've been eating fruits throughout the day since I was a little girl, so I have some catching up to do.  But I have time. And I will say that I do just fine on days that I eat out.  When I look at a menu, I always go for the veggie sandwiches or entree's.  It's at home where I need to prepare the food that I don't do as well. 

Stop eating at 8:00 p.m. -- This was actually my trickiest goal.  I had to set the buzzer many times to remind myself and once had some orange juice without even realizing it after 8:00 (thankfully, I realized afterward that it was my free day and I was safe from losing that point).  But after these 4 weeks, I'm finding that it's not so hard.  I'm aware of the clock and am doing fine.  Last night on my free day, I didn't want to eat anything after 8:00.  I was done.  Made me happy to see how well I'd adjusted to that goal.

Write in journal (or blog) -- As much as I love to talk and write, I have had to remind myself to do this one.  We've been out of town a few weekends and our computer was all trojan-d up for a few days, so I haven't always blogged, but I have written in a notebook or even on spare papers I could find so that I was keeping this goal.  I used to keep official journals in high school, college and early marriage.  That habit has died.  So I'm hoping this will bring it back a bit.  Another 4 weeks will tell.

Read Scriptures or other Uplifting reading -- I'm doing so much better with this one than I was before.  I used to wait till the end of the day to do this and would end up missing it or cheating myself on the time spent.  Now I do it early in the day and relish it.  So wonderful.

Act of Service/Kindness -- This goal seems to be more in the noticing of the act than in the doing because I'm always doing something as a mom or a friend.  And the noticing benefits more than I realized.  It's causing me to pause, realize what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, and to enjoy the process.  It's that living in the moment.  Being present.  Quite nice.

Guess that's it.  The two goals that I don't seem to have as habits yet are the vegetable eating and the not having sugar at all.  I do want to eat more vegetables every single day, but I may allow that sugar goal to include a day every week or two as long as it is confined to that day and the sugar isn't processed and unrefined (headaches and fatigue galore!)  I'll update again at the end of the 8 weeks.  TTFN!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Grilla Bites

I went to a newish  organic restaurant today for lunch with my friends.  It's called Grilla Bites  and is just wonderful.  There aren't many locations, but here's the website if you happen to have one in your area and didn't know if you should try it or not. 

They have many vegetarian and vegan option.  I had the veggie sandwich without cheese.  There were many other things I was eying on the menu.  Can't wait to go back!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wheat Recipes -- Corn Bread

I don't have a picture of this recipe to share (yet!)  So this corn pic will have to do until I make corn bread again.   I tweaked my wheat corn bread recipe from my sister-in-law's No Crumble Corn Bread recipe.  (Mine doesn't crumble either, btw).  I simply changed the white flour to wheat, the butter to oil, cow's milk to soy milk, and the refined sugar to unrefined.  It's pretty heavenly, especially with some chili.  I love it the next morning too, toasted at the top with a little vegan butter.  I mostly eat it plain fresh out of the oven.

Whole Wheat Corn Bread 
1/2 c. oil
3/4 c. unrefined sugar or 1/2 c. honey (you could probably get away with 1/2 c. or even 1/4 c. sugar )
2 eggs
1 c. yellow corn meal
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. plain soy milk

Mix and bake in greased 8x8 pan for 40 minutes at 375 degrees.

I realized as I typed this that I never make this bread as is.  I always double it.  Here are the doubled proportions if you don't want to have to double them in your head:

Whole Wheat Corn Bread 
1 c. oil
1 1/2 c. unrefined sugar or 3/4 c. honey
4 eggs
2 c. yellow corn meal
3 c. whole wheat flour
4 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
3 c. plain soy milk

Mix and bake in greased oblong pan for 45+ minutes at 375 degrees.

Wheat Recipes -- Fabulous Fall Bread -- Pumpkin, Zucchini, Banana, or Apple Bread

Here are some wonderful sweet bread recipes that I love to make in the fall. This is taken from a Williams- Sonoma Pumpkin Bread recipe, only I've changed the butter to oil, sugar to unrefined sugar and substitute other ingredients for the pumpkin for a variety of breads (all super yummy). I think the magic in this bread is the corn meal/wheat flour mix. It makes for a heavy, gritty, yet sweet bread. And it has less than 1/2 the oil of most sweet bread recipes. My kids love it.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread
2 1/2 c. wheat flour
1/2 c. corn meal
2 t. baking soda
1 t. ginger
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
2/3 c. oil
2 c. unrefined sugar (you could probably try 1 c. honey and omit the water)
2 c. mashed or canned pumpkin
4 eggs
2/3 c. water
1 c. raisins or currants (optional)
1/2 c. walnuts (optional)

Mix wet ingredients first -- add dry ingredients. Stir in raisins &/or walnuts. Pour into 4 mini-loaf pans or 2 full loaf pans. Bake full loaves at 350 degrees for 1 hour (mini-loaves for about 45 minutes).

You can also make these into muffins -- bake for more like 15-20 minutes.

You can even scoop them onto a baking sheet for cookies -- bake for 8-10 minutes.

Other Options --

Apple Pumpkin Bread -- Add 2-3 chopped apples to pumpkin recipe for a wonderful fall bread.

Zucchini Bread -- Substitute grated zucchini for pumpkin.

Banana Bread -- Substitute smashed bananas for pumpkin. I usually don't use walnuts for the other breads because my kids don't like them, but I always sprinkle a handful of nuts on top of each mini-loaf of banana bread so I can have the nuts and my kids can have the under part without. It looks pretty that way too. 

Pumpkin-Zucchini Bread -- I've even combined the squashes to make a Pumpkin-Zucchini Bread (using 1 c. pumpkin, 1 c. zucchini) - - Super Delicious!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

You win some, you lose some (In search of the perfect pumpkin smoothie)

Today as I drove past Jamba Juice, I really wanted to stop and get a Pumpkin Smash smoothie.  I've found that if I ask for frozen peaches in place of the frozen yogurt, it becomes non-dairy/no refined sugar and is still really yummy.  But it gets expensive to go there all the time.  Plus I need to figure out how to make my own.

I saw a recipe online for the Pumpkin Smash by a guy who says he watched what they put in, went home, tried guessing at the measurements and got it right  But I didn't have frozen peaches and wondered if I could make a creamy version with frozen bananas.  Wrong!

First of all, I didn't have fresh pumpkin innerds, which would have probably tasted better.  Canned pumpkin is good for baked goods, but probably not as fresh and tasty (or nutrient-dense) in something fresh.  So I put 1/2 a big can (what I had left from making pumpkin/zucchini wheat bread a few weeks ago) + 3 frozen bananas, a cup of almond milk and a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice in the Vitamix.  Not very good at all.  I added another banana and it still wasn't great. It needed more nutmeg, cloves and more sweetening (and more of a frozen taste).  It needed the frozen peaches! 

So I put the mixture in the freezer to be on hold until I get some peaches.  It will probably be next week because we'll be out of town this weekend.  I'll keep trying though.  I know that the Jamba Juice spy used soy milk, and soy milk is creamier than almond milk (at least when I make hot cocoa in my Cocoamotion), but I like using almond milk when I can.  Don't know if it did me any favors though tonight. 

And of course, once I perfect it, I'll sneak in some greens.  Stay tuned because I definitely want to find the ultimate way to make these.

Here's a guy who made a pumpkin pie smoothie.  He used dates to sweeten it up.  Good idea (I ran out of dates yesterday though -- need to get more at Costco next time).  Looks like he had the same general idea that I did -- frozen bananas and almond milk.  He did use fresh pumpkin though.  Good for him!

Frozen Grapes

Perhaps you already know about this treasure of a treat, but I'll share just in case you didn't (or you've forgotten somehow).  Freeze your grapes!  I've frozen a few varieties and think freezing  the green ones (Thompson Seedless -- does anyone call them that anymore?) is the best.

Makes sure you wash them and remove them from the stem first.  You can freeze them on the stem, but they don't break off as easily once frozen.  So it's just easier to do it before.  Also, if they're a little too tart, let them sit out a bit so they ripen up before you freeze them.  They'll taste better.

I like freezing some before I go to bed (but forgot last night -- how could I?) because they are sooooooooo refreshing to my throat first thing in the morning and give me a little boost to my workout.  I have some freezing right now.  Can't wait till they're ready!

Monday, September 27, 2010

1st Day of 8 Weeks to a Better You

 I decided to write about my first day on this blog so if anyone's interested in joining the challenge, they can see how I'm doing it.  Even if you just want to do it on your own without officially joining, it's a pretty well balanced plan and can help you reach your health and fitness goals.

Here's how I did today on the 10 different goals:

Exercise 45 minutes -- No problem.  I've been trying some new (to me) workouts by Dove Rose.  She has 4 hour long workouts called Dove's Bodies, consisting of a variety of light weight/high rep work, cardio, yoga, and body weight strength work.  I absolutely love them  Today I did workout 4 for the first time and loved all the leg work on the step.  Stuff I'd never done before (and you know I've done a TON of workouts).  I'm sure I'll write a whole post about Dove's Bodies once I've done all of them.  (3 down, 1 to go!)

7 Hours of Sleep -- Only got 6 1/2 last night, but I was able to take a nap (two actually -- had a detox headache this afternoon) and made up for it plenty.

Drink 64 oz. water -- Sooooo not a problem.  I found that my Kleen water bottle holds 24 oz and I drank one full bottle when I woke up before I even began my workout, 1 1/2 during my workout and the third 1/2 after my workout.   I've had more water here and there throughout the day, but the 64 oz. was met quite early in the day.

No Sugar -- They define this as added sugar, not sugar contained in whole foods.  They also said you can include white flour.  I'm including all flours.  (Or should I say I'm EXCLUDING all flours).  Wheat flour seems to trigger my appetite just as much as white flour and sugar and it causes me to be bloated.  I don't get the same way with cracked wheat or sprouted, so I'll keep those. I'm actually okay with wheat pasta too, so I'll keep that.   I did fine with this goal today.  Was happy to be away from the stuff!  I had a little this weekend amidst my daughter's birthday party.  Dastardly little gummi bears!

No Soda, Junk Food, Fast Food  -- Not a problem.  Soda isn't a problem for me.  Not counting the gummi bear mishap this weekend, I've been working on getting away from health food store versions of junk food these past few weeks anyway (Kettle Chips and the like, Clif bars in all their varieties, soy ice cream, Paul Newman cookies, etc.)  Fast Food hasn't been a temptation in years, unless you count pizza, which I should.  For some reason it occasionally beckons me, but when I remember what dairy does to me, I'm okay.  I have been making my own veggie pizza lately, but that has wheat in the crust, so I'll just have pasta and veggies or hey, why not a big salad (oh how I've gotten away from making salads) if others are having pizza. 

2 Fruit, 2 Veggies (at the very least!) -- Like the water, I have fruit from the start each day, those 2 fruits will be checked off mighty early throughout this challenge, that's for sure.  I had my veggies in green smoothies in the morning, at night, and in soup at dinner time.

Stop eating at 8:00 p.m. -- This was tricky.  I used to hardly eat much after about 6:00 p.m.  These past several months, I've been eating all the way up until I go to bed around 11:00.  So I'll have to be careful about this so I don't slip.  I actually set the buzzer on my stove tonight 15 minutes before 8:00 for 10 minutes so I'd get a last chance to eat something if I wanted to (finished off a green smoothie).

Write in journal (or blog) -- Someone asked today if blogging counted as journaling and it does.  So this is it!

Read Scriptures or other uplifting material for 15 minutes -- I read the words of Isaiah this afternoon and an uplifting article from the Ensign magazine this morning.  Always nice.

Act of Service/Kindness -- I went Visiting Teaching this morning with a friend.  We visited another friend and helped her with a challenge she's going through right now as a mother.  I think we all learned from it.  We're all learning as we go with our teenagers.  A wonderful time of life to have teens, yet also a crucial one as we guide them along. 

I think I'm going to go do some yoga before I go to bed.  I just want to make sure I get to bed early enough tonight that I don't have to take a nap if there's no time for it (or if I don't feel the need for it).


8 Weeks to a Better You!

Yes, I've joined another/started another challenge.  I tend to thrive on them, at least at the beginning.  This one I'm pretty sure I'll hold to because there are many involved and I personally know some of them.  It's pretty exciting.  When I started, there were less than 20 signed up.  Now there are over 90!

Here's the link if you want to check it out.  It's a 10 goal - 10 point system and you pay $15 to join.  You can win back money if you get the most points at the end of the 8 weeks or win a bit back through a drawing just as a participant.  I really didn't join for the money.  In fact, that almost turned me away.  But I looked at is as a $15 joining fee and was fine with that.  Many online challenges cost hundreds of dollars for the support (and I've never joined those).  So this one looked doable.  It's not raw food focused, but could be if I made it that way.  It's leaning toward Eat to Live guidelines -- needs more fruits and veggies, but I can do that on my own too.  I wonder if I'll struggle to get the 7 hours of sleep if I am eating high raw consistently, but I'm sure I can tweak that and make it work.  I've also lately gotten into the habit of snacking pretty late, so the curfew on eating will take some practice at first . I'll be fine though.  I'm mostly doing it because we're moving 2 days before this challenge ends.  Last time we moved, I didn't fare well keeping up with my workouts or my healthy eating.  This time I will!

I think I'll journal my daily progress on my reneeonrawfood blog.  It's kind of my more personal ins and outs with eating.  If you want access to that blog, send me a request.

Here are the guidelines straight off of their 8weekstoabetteryou blog. It's not too late to join if you'd like to be a part of it.  It will take you right up to the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  The more the merrier!

Here's the copy/paste, pictures and all:

As a participant, you will have the opportunity to earn points every day by following a list of requirements.  At the end of every week, you will total your points then record them to the "8 Weeks to a Better You Points Bracket".  All the participants will receive access to this online spreadsheet, and we trust will be truthful when recording their points.  On you honor people!

Here's how you earn points...

Physically Better Yourself

1. Exercise at least 45 minutes a day!

2. Get AT LEAST 7 hours of sleep a night (if you are short a little just squeeze a nap in to make up for it).

3. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day

4. No Sugar-there are different ways to do this.  We prefer eliminating sugars and white flours (which turn into sugars) to get the most bang for your buck.  But if you would like to just do without sugars than you can make that call. 

5. No Soda or Junk Food Yes that means no Diet Coke ladies or fast food! Ya we know that will not be an easy point to earn...but you will love yourself and how you feel if you do it.

6. Eat at least 2 servings of fruit and 2 servings of vegetables

7. No eating after 8 p.m.

Emotionally/Spiritually Better Yourself

8. Write in your journal EVERY DAY.

9. Complete at least 15 minutes of uplifting reading or scripture study.

10. Complete an act of service or random act of kindness.  Whether it be a small one or a big one, do something kind for someone else that is out of your normal routine.

You receive 1 point per item per day, so that's 10 points a day you can earn.  There will also be 1 bonus challenge every week worth extra points.  It could be anything from cleaning out your fridge to donating your time or money to a charity or worthy cause.

Now we know this is not easy so to help out you get a FREE DAY where you get the full 10 points whether or not you complete all the requirements!  You can choose which day of each week is your free day each week, but you cannot choose different days for different points.  The only exception to this rule is exercise.  Your free day from exercise can be different if you choose.  For example - you may choose Saturday as your free day but choose to workout that day and take Sunday off from exercise. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fruit Leather Recipes

I feel kind of silly making a fruit leather recipe post because it's pretty simple, but if you haven't made them before, you may want to learn how.

Basically, you whip up some fruit in the blender, spread it out to dry, then tear it apart and eat!  I did skip a few steps in the drying, but I'll spell those out below.

I'm not making fruit leather will work on those round white dehydrators.  I've never had one, but all my friends who have tried with wax paper, haven't been successful.  I have an Excalibur 9 tray dehydrator with Teflex sheets (which are big slippery sheets of something that goes on top of each tray whenever you want to dehydrate something that could slip through the little holes in the trays which are like clear plastic mesh).  Now they call the Teflex sheets Paraflex.  They look just the same.  The only things I use the Teflex sheets for are crackers (because they start out liquid-y and need to be spread out) and fruit leather.  Maybe I'll discover another need later on.

I just made several sheets of fruit leather a week ago.  I tried the following combinations:

Mango (just sliced and blended alone)

Mango & Banana (1/2 and 1/2 blended)

Peach (blended alone)

Peach and Plum (2/3 and 1/3)

Plum and Frozen Strawberries (1/2 and 1/2)

Plum, Frozen Strawberries, and Frozen Triple Berry Blend (1/4, 1/4, 1/2)

Out of all of them, I'd say the Peach is my very favorite, followed by Peach/Plum.  I really love dried mangoes (just mine, not the ones from the store), but they're really chewy and hard to eat unless you just let them melt in your mouth.  So I thought the mango leather would be fabulous.  I was really disappointed when it came warm out of the dehydrator.  BUT, a few days later when I tried it again, it was pretty tasty.  Perhaps the flavor just had to sit for a bit.  I don't know.

They were all good.  The only one I need to identify and throw out is one of the last triple berry blend.  Two of those turned out fine.  They're really tart, but good.  One of the sheets must have had overripe fermenting plums because it tasted like alcohol and wasn't so good.  I did throw in some super ripe plums, but tested many of them as I went.  I must have either missed the ripest or maybe it fermented more in the drying process.  I know whenever I'd put kiwi in my fruit leather, it ferments and ruins the taste of the leather.

So here are the steps more formally written:

Fruit Leather

Puree fruit of your choice in the blender

Pour fruit puree onto Teflex or Paraflex sheet (on top of dehydrator tray).  Spread with spatula if it doesn't look even.  (I was surprised that I barely needed the spatula).

Put tray in the dehydrator.

Makes as many as you can at once to make good use of your energy.

Set temperature to just under 110 degrees -- I usually shoot for 106-108.  

Let dehydrate all day or overnight. 

Check fruit leather to see if it's dry on top.  If it is, flip the Teflex sheet over onto the dehydrator tray and start peeling the Teflex sheet off.  If the leather is sticking too much or is too moist underneath, let dry longer.  If it's dry enough, take the Teflex sheet completely off and set the moist side up with the dry side down on the tray.

Put tray back in dehydrator and let dry for a few more hours.

Once completely dry, take out the fruit leather, tear into smaller rectangles and roll up.  

Put rolled leather in zip loc bags or start eating right away! 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Giving up the extras in our lives

Now I realize that it's not very minimalistic of me to post twice in one day, but I just have to share this other blog for minimizing the craziness and clutter in our lives.  It's called :mnmlist and it simply has one post on the whole page each time you log on.  At first I was thinking, "Where are all the other posts?" and kind of felt like I was in that Mike TV scene on Willy Wonka because it was all white and empty.  But now I get it. 

One post that I love is on giving up the extras in our lives.  Everyone has their limits to be sure, but how reasonable are our limits of how much we think we need to keep in our lives?  I'm pondering this right now because we're going to move again in the next month or so (maybe even in a few weeks -- life's a little up in the air right now) and I don't want to pack or lift a single box that is not necessary to our lives. That's quite a lofty goal, but I'm up for the task.

Here's the article  'I Could Never Give Up'

I just re-read it.  He even runs barefoot?  Wow!  

The author states on his blog that we can feel free to copy his posts, so I'm going to share his recommendations for having less.  I need to print this out as I pack and weed through our stuff.  Apparently weeding through once and my few trips to the thrift store aren't enough.  But I already knew that.

mnmlist : less

Stop buying unnecessary things.
Toss half your stuff, learn contentedness.
Reduce half again.
List 4 essential things in your life,
stop doing non-essential things.
Do these essentials first each day, clear distractions
focus on each moment.
Let go of attachment to doing, having more.
Fall in love with less.

Minimalists Unite!

I attended a workshop on organization at the Holistic LDS Conference in Salt Lake City (well, actually South Jordan), Utah in June.  It was the last class I'd signed up for and I kept looking at my schedule during the previous workshops, wondering if I should switch last minute and take another class on eating or herbs.  I knew about organization, even though I'm not always up on it

The class description was this: 

Simple Freedom 

All the STUFF that is constantly moving in and out of our lives can either create contentment or contention. Learn how to simplify the clutter in your physical space and your mind so you have room to create the life you truly desire.  (Presenter -- Lara Gallagher)

I decided to just go and see what I thought.  Simplifying and reducing is one of my mantras, so I wanted to see her take on it.  I'm glad I did.  Lara calls herself a minimalist.  She said that the goal is to live as if she is in poverty, but not to live in poverty.  So she lives with as little as possible to keep her life simple and free.  I like that as she gets rid of things, she also strives to get rid of the storage containers they come in.  I've been doing that a bit too -- why do I need so many containers or shelves if I manage to get rid of what goes on or in them?

Lara has recently decided to minimize her computer time and stop blogging, but she has plenty of articles that she's already written that I plan to read through and learn from.  I particularly like this one about Simple Meals.   My approach to simple meals these past few years has been just to forget about having meal time all together.  I rarely make dinner for our family.  If we do, it's just baked potatoes or cut up fruit or something.  But Lara's ideas seem to teach her children more variety and gives them more nutrients (as well as more time at the table together).  She defines their eating ways as Flexi-Vegan, which is vegan most of the time.  I've never heard of that term before, but that pretty much typifies me and most of my family too.  (Still have a few die-hard milk drinkers).

Lara's main page for her blog is here -- The Lazy Organizer


P.S. (I found a picture to post that says "Minimalist" and it was really quite cute, but in the effort to minimize, I decided to just do without a picture this time.  Ta da!)  

Saturday, August 7, 2010

If the world changed, would you stop having excuses?

I don't know why I think about food so much, but today I was thinking about how difficult it can be at times to eat healthy in a processed food world.   Restaurants rarely have what I would want to order.  Half the time, I think, "Why didn't I just stay home?  I'd rather eat what I make."  The bulk of what's in the store isn't good for my body and my friends and relatives eat so differently than I do.

So I started thinking, "If the world changed and EVERYONE was eating like I aim to eat, would I still struggle at times with my eating or would I finally be soaring without a hitch?  If I went to a wedding reception and all the food choices were healthy ones, would I be in heaven or would I be missing what's usually there?  If all my friends read Dr. Furhman's books and ate just like he recommends, would I think 'This is great!' or would I be wishing they had some homemade cookies on their counter just once in awhile?  If I went to the store and they didn't sell Andes mints before Christmas, would I wish I could eat them one more time or would I be fine without them?"

I didn't really know the answers until I wrote this out.  I didn't know if I was just making excuses for when it got tough eating out in the real world.  Quite truthfully, now that I've thought it through, I think I'd really love a healthy eating world.  I'd love to go to a dinner party and have the tables covered with vegetable dishes (no cheese added!) and trays of fruits galore.  I'd love to know that every time I ordered rice or bread, it was brown rice or completely whole grain bread without milk or refined sugars.  I'd love to trust that each bite I ate was actually creating health and not sickness. 

I used to long for certain sugary foods and wish they didn't cause my body so many problems.  But my taste buds and desires are changing, so I don't think I'd fret if certain once beloved foods fell off the face of the earth and never returned.  The few unhealthy foods that still call to me do more so out of habit than because my body actually wants them.  I don't even like them anymore once I eat them (for example, ice cream!)  I just have conditioned myself to think that every so often, I'll just succumb to this or that and that's really quite silly.  I'm not a creature of habit.  I'm a creation designed to make choices.  I get to decide what I want to do and what I'll eat.  The past doesn't need to determine the present.  Nope, not at all.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Favorite Movie Theatre Food

I've discovered a great snack to munch on in the movie theatre that is easy to buy (or make) and satisfying to eat.  It's dehydrated fruit.  I've always loved dried fruit, but never thought to take it to the movies.  I love to dehydrate my own, but it never seems to last long.   I've been buying the dried apples from Trader Joe's this past year (no sulphites and just a few dollars) and they're super yummy.  They're called "New Zealand Sweet Apple Rings" if you need specifics.  They're super chewy so they seem to last well for movie watching.

Granted, you're not really supposed to bring in your own food to the movie theatre, but unless they put something on their menu that I can eat or drink, I'll be bringing in at least my water bottle filled up and probably a little something else too.

Some other dried favorites are home dehydrated peaches, apricots, pears, or mangoes.  I also love fruit leather, homemade or not.  I have an abundance of ripening fruit so it's time to make fruit leather again.  I'll experiment a bit and will post some recipes.  They're basically smoothies flattened out.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Too much fruit? Guess so.

As much as I love fruit, I've never limited myself.  I was just boasting to some friends as I picked plums from their tree that I can eat as much fruit as I want and I don't have digestive problems.  Even plums?  Yes, even plums.  Cherries, blackberries, apricots, pomegranates, apples.  Whatever I pick fresh off a tree, I'm likely to eat and eat until their gone without a problem.  Well, not this week. 

I ate those tender plums by the bowl a few days ago and paid dearly in my poor stomach for the following few days . Okay, maybe "paid dearly" is an exaggeration.  It really wasn't that bad.  But it was uncomfortable and made me remember to practice variety and moderation in my eating. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Using a straw

I've made a new discovery about drinking green smoothies.  Using a straw makes them taste even better!  I'm not sure why, but of course I have my theories. 

First I think it may just be a mental connection.  I have memories of going with my dad in his lumber truck when I was little.  He'd always stop for a hamburger and would let me get a milkshake.  Even the way he talked about getting milkshake made it sound like it was the greatest privilege ever.  He loved them with fresh strawberries or peaches.  If I ever got strawberry, it was probably because I liked pink.  Nonetheless, I always thought it was fun to try to get that thick shake up a straw.  Very fun.

Now I take my kids to Jamba Juice and once again, we get to drink them with straws.  Makes it seem like more of a treat for some reason.

Yesterday I took a green smoothie with me to a friend's swimming pool.  I usually pour my smoothies into one of my stainless steel water bottles when I'm away from home. Often the smoothie comes down fast on my face and I end up with smoothie on my nose.  But it never bothers me.  I can find a napkin (and came to grips with being a clutz AGES ago).  But I couldn't find any of my stainless water bottles yesterday and resorted to using my daughter's Jamba Juice cup (not their disposable ones, but one she bought that has a hole in the middle of the lid for a straw).  I could see that it wouldn't work to just try to drink it out of that hole, so I somehow found a straw and took it with me.

My green smoothies usually taste better than ever away from home than in my own kitchen, but this time it was even better than better!  My second theory besides the good memories and the celebratory feel is that the straw allows the smoothie to hit the middle roof of your mouth only whereas a regular drink (or even using a spoon if it's really thick) puts it all over your mouth.  Maybe the taste bud sensor in that top center notices more sweet and not any greens to make it even tastier.  I don't know.  I just know that I experimented with it at the pool and took a sip with the straw, then opened up the lid, drank a little sans straw and the straw sip definitely won out.

Try it out.  You may just be loving it too!

P.S.  Here are the links to my favorite green smoothies and a few other posts about greens if you haven't seen them before:

Berry Green Smoothies
Citrus Green Smoothies
Faux Plum Green Smoothies
Dark Leafy Greens
Nutrient Density (Greens are the sure winners!)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Disease Analogy -- Flies in the Trash

I recently attended a Holistic Conference in Utah and was struck by an analogy for disease.  The workshop presenter, Stephen Horne, was telling us that the reason disease takes hold in our bodies isn't because the germ was nearby, but because our bodies were in a weakened state that invited the germ in.

The analogy is that if there is no rotting food in the trash can, the flies won't attract.  They'll stay where they are and not wander over to the trash can.  If there is rotting food in the trash, the flies will find the smelly stuff, come hover and feed upon the trash.  Did the flies create the rotten food?  No.  Did the flies make the food go bad?  No.  The food was already rotten and attracted the flies, giving them them a place to nest and multiply.

Likewise, taught Stephen Horne, our bodies are like that trash can.  If our bodies are strong, healthy and uninviting to that bacteria or virus, the germs won't be able to come in and make themselves at home.  Our bodies will resist disease.  If we do get sick, did the germ make us sick?  No.  We were in a weakened state, whether by lack of sleep, too much mental stress, overworking physically, or poor nutrition.

Many may find this hard to believe, but I know when I've really taken care of my body (whole foods only, enough sleep, balance in my life), I've gone a whole year without getting sick.  My kids can pass a flu or cold from one to the other with me being their home care nurse and I wouldn't catch it.   If I ate poorly, it wouldn't take me long at all to end up in bed like they were.

I've heard people say, "Oh, she was run down" or "His immune system just got low" or in fitness circles, "She over-trained" to explain why someone got sick.   It's true.  When we don't care for our bodies properly, we can create an environment for illness.  When I went to a Raw Food Conference a few years ago, I met people who had been eating only whole or raw foods for many, many years and hadn't been sick at all.  One man hadn't been sick in over 25 years.  25 years!  Others had overcome asthma, allergies, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and arthritis.  These aren't even the diseases we attribute to germs.  Pretty amazing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

You know you're eating better when . . .

. . . you go on vacation and you prefer (and eat!) healthy foods the whole time.  I recently returned from a trip across two states through snowy mountain passes and onto a college campus full of cafeterias, ice cream shops and vending machines.  I mostly wanted to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.  I brought along some homemade wheat bread and ate bits from that bread bag almost every day.  I missed my green smoothies, but I drank a lot of water.  When I went out to eat, I scoured the menu for salads or soups and ohhhhh, they were wonderful.  The best was from a chain called Zupas -- it was a berry salad on romaine lettuce (I had them add in spinach) with fresh raspberries, blackberries and strawberries.  They also had some toasted cinnamon almonds on top.  It came with a poppy seed dressing, but I asked for it on the side and didn't end up using it.  The berries provided plenty of moisture.  Oh,was it good!

Do you ever stop and admire how your eating has improved?   I used to just set goals and see how I fell short, but now I look back and say things like "Well, I could have done better at that BBQ, but I'm eating so much healthier than I used to" and will look back to years past.

Vacations used to be the downfall of any diet changes I was making.  Now I do just fine.  My biggest trap is probably Christmas, BUT I don't usually fall into the trap now until Christmas eve or Christmas day where before I ate absolutely horribly from about Thanksgiving till Valentines Day or Easter.  (I could never get a grip on it right after New Year's despite all the magazine articles that told me I should be).

I find that if I measure my overall progress bit by bit, I'm much happier with myself and my results. Off to make progress on this fine summer day.  TTFN!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sugar Addiction

I can hardly believe I let a whole month go by without writing.  Well, maybe I can.  I've been on two out of state trips plus a few not quite as far away.  I'm home to stay for the next several weeks though, so I'm ready to write again!  Thanks for patiently sticking with me!

I've been contemplating sugar addiction today -- I always do when I feel it creeping up in my life.  Some people say they were born with a "sweet tooth" -- others just say they love sugar.  What I say is once some sugar goes in my mouth, I want to eat more, more, MORE!  It's definitely an addiction and I feel like a loser with not a lick of self-control. 

When I talk about sugar addiction, quite often a friend will tell me that fruit has a lot of sugar too (like I should be avoiding it as well).   But I'm not talking about whole foods that contain natural sugar.  Whole foods aren't addicting for me.  They make me feel alive!  My body signals work just swimmingly and let me know when I've had enough.  That's not the case when I'm eating sugar recipes whether my own or the store's.  As soon as I get a few bites of  sugar-laden goods in my body, I'm a mess.  I don't even enjoy what I'm eating because I'm too busy thinking about putting another cookie in my mouth or filling up the ice cream bowl with a few more scoops.  I walk through the house afterward unable to be productive because I just want to live in the kitchen near the goods! That's quite the opposite of living in the moment.  It's like sugar masks itself as a pleasure giver, but is actually robbing me of the pleasure of enjoying each moment and having control in my life.

I wrote a post awhile back about shopping for less refined sugars.  It's useful information if you want to add some unrefined sugar to recipes and don't think you can just jump completely away from the way you've been eating.  Be sure, however, to note at the very end when I advise keeping even these sugars to a minimum.  I rarely bake anymore, but I did last weekend and now I'm revisiting my inner conversation about sugar addictions.  Even with unrefined baked goods, my body's triggers aren't quite in tact.  I still want to eat more than I need and I stop wanting the whole foods that my body desperately needs.

The best way for me to avoid sugar is to not make or buy the beasty treats in the first place.  I love plenty of whole foods that there truly isn't enough time in the day, money in my bank, or room in my stomach for all of them every day anyway.  Why not just turn to those foods instead of going back to old habits? Old habits and addictions can keep us from reaching our goals which is just plain silly.  Take control and no longer be a victim of what you once started.  I get closer and closer to realizing that dream all the time.  One of these days, I won't even be able to remember the last time I ate sugar.  And I'll have a HUGE smile on my face.  Guaranteed!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Kentucky Fried Chicken Memories

I still have a hard time saying "KFC."  When I was growing up, everyone just said the whole thing, Kentucky Fried Chicken.  I grew up loving that chicken.  We didn't have one in our town, but when we went on trips, I loved getting that big bucket of chicken.  And I loved eating the batter on the skin.  I had no desire to try the extra crispy (too dry) or BBQ (ick!) when they came out, I just wanted the original recipe.

Fast forward 20 or so years and I don't eat the chicken anymore nor do I miss it.  BUT I found a very similar taste to the Colonel's secret recipe in the Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper Kettle Chips.  I try not to buy Kettle Chips very often because it's easy to convince myself that the the 5 oz bag is just 1 serving size instead of 5!  But every once in awhile when I desire something fast-food-ish (especially when traveling), I go for these Kettle Chips.  I think back to those Kentucky Fried summer picnics and smile just a bit.  Try it and see if you see the connection.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Raw Recipe -- Berry Bars

Berry Bars are super easy to make and very tart and tasty.  They have a little more of a chewy texture than crackers, which is fun too.

Berry Bars

2 c. sprouted wheat
1/2 c. soaked dates
1 1/2 c. frozen or fresh berries 

I use the triple berry blend frozen most of the time -- raspberries, blackberries and blueberries.  Strawberries are good too. 

Blend up the wheat and dates in the food processor.  Stir berries in afterward.  Form small patties small cookie size (2-3 inches round, although they are rarely perfectly round) onto the dehydrator tray.  No Teflex sheet necessary.  

What's fun about these is that the frozen berries makes the mix cold and the raspberries makes the wheat pink.  I feel like I'm making hamburger patties for my mom long ago when I used to cook dinner growing up where my hands get cold and I get to work with this strange-feeling stuff.  Kind of nostalgic in a strange way.  :)  These are thicker than the crackers, but don't seem to take longer to dehydrate since you don't have the bottom covered with a Teflex sheet.  They probably dry in about 12 hours total.  Just check them from time to time to see.

As with the last two recipes, I'll post a picture in the morning when they are all done. 

Raw Recipe -- Fruitful Crackers

When I first ate raw, I was in search for something to replace my love for graham crackers.  There may be a recipe out there now that comes close, but at the time, raw recipes weren't plentiful (especially on the internet) and I decided to try a variation on my veggie crackers to see if I could make them sweet.  This is what I came up with:

Fruitful Crackers

1/2 cup soaked flax seed
2 apples
1 T. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
2 c. sprouted wheat
optional 1-2 T. water just to help it blend well

Blend up everything in the food processor.  Once it's blended well, stir in:

2 apples cut and sliced thin (maybe the size of a quarter)

optional -- add in 3 or 4 peaches sliced thin or berries (frozen or fresh)

It's super delicious with the peaches -- you may want to up the pumpkin pie spice for the peach variation.

Spread on a dehydrator tray covered with a Teflex sheet.  Dehydrate at 110 degrees overnight or for about 10-12 hours until the top of the cracker is dry enough that you can flip the giant square of a cracker over and peel off the back of the Teflex sheet.  Let it continue to dry for another 6 - 8  hours.   The drying time varies, so just watch it for dryness.

Once the crackers are completely dry, break into cracker-sized pieces (tasting as much as you want as you go) and keep in an air-tight container or zip-loc bag. 

I'll add to the post in the morning when they come out of the dehydrator.  I can't wait!

Raw Recipe -- Savory Veggie Crackers

When I make my veggie crackers, it's like making vegetable soup. I start with a base and vary them every time according to what's in my refrigerator.  They're really quite wonderful all alone or with a veggie dip or salsa.

Savory Veggie Crackers

3/4 c. soaked flax seeds
1 long carrot
5 celery stalks (or a few cucumbers)
1/4 cup onion
1/4 cup parsley or basil
1 t. sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
3 c. sprouted wheat berries

(Sometimes I add in 1/2 cup of other greens like kale.  I've also added bell peppers and garlic.  Just remember that whatever strong flavors you use, they will taste even stronger once dehydrated.  The bell peppers came out pretty pepper-y, so go easy on them).

Blend all together in the food processor.  I add the wheat last because it's hard for the veggies to reach the blades if the wheat is further down in the bowl.  If it's not seeming to blend well, you can add 1/8 cup or so of water.  This makes it easier to spread too (and it will eventually just dehydrate out later on).

 Spread on a dehydrator tray covered with a Teflex sheet.  Dehydrate at 110 degrees overnight or for about 10-12 hours until the top of the cracker is dry enough that you can flip the giant square of a cracker over and peel off the back of the Teflex sheet.  Let it continue to dry for another 6 hours or so.   The drying time varies.  I just kind of watch it and see.

Once the crackers are completely dry, break into cracker-sized pieces (don't even try to make them perfectly even) and keep in an air-tight container or zip-loc bag. 

Mine are still drying (I just flipped them over) so I'll take pictures to add to the post in the morning.

The only sure-fire allergy relief

I've written a few posts on allergy relief -- bee pollen, salt-water rinses with the neti-pot, herbs that help block those histamines, but I've got to tell you that if your allergies are KILLING you, that may not be enough.  (And I hope you know that "killing" doesn't actually mean killing, it just means that you FEEL like you're about to die -- you know that awful, miserable feeling.  Just had to state that for someone who might take me literally).

For the past few weeks, the pollen count has climbed to the levels of dusting our cars with that beautiful soft yellow.  The sunshine was no longer pleasant and nights were impossible to sleep through -- filled with misery and a determination to do whatever it took to stop the symptoms.  I tried everything that I'd done before, hoping that one or two or all 12 would work.  But none of them were enough.  Deep down in my brain, I knew I had to get back to eating all raw.  I was doing it last month as soon as my allergy symptoms hit and they went away.  But could it be that easy?  I knew it could.  I just didn't want to give up those rice chips or that homemade bread.

I hit a point last Sunday night where I was at the depths of my allergy suffering capacity and I knew that there wasn't a single morsel of food on this planet that was worth eating for the way I felt at that moment.  Nothing!  I could live without that homemade bread.  I could go without ever tasting another rice chip again.  Nothing was worth that suffering.  So the next morning, instead of cleansing for a few hours, feeling a bit better and thinking "Oh yeah, I can go back to eating that again," I remembered.  And I kept eating raw.

That night was completely different than all the nights the week before.  My eyes weren't begging to be clawed out.  My nose wasn't itching, burning or pulsating.  I wasn't sneezing so loudly that my husband wondered what kind of woman he'd married.  (When I sneeze, I s- nEEEEEZE!)  I slept in complete comfort and peace.  I have all week long.

If your allergies are killing you and you haven't tried eating all raw foods, give it a try.  Write me and ask for help if you need it.  Look online at all the recipes and ideas to get started.  Spring is a perfect time to start because there are so many yummy fruits and veggies available.  Don't worry about eating too many raw nuts either.  Just eat some when you want some and you'll be fine.  I've never gained weight eating nuts on a raw diet.  Most of the time I lose when I eat a lot.  I think it helps clean out my system.  (How's that for a scientifically validated statement?  :))

Here are some Raw Food websites if you want to check them out.  I started out learning from Alissa Cohen. She has a great book called Living on Life Food and a dvd set demonstrating many of her recipes, which is a lot of fun to watch.  Here's a quick sample.

Here are some other Raw Food websites if you want to check them out   The Best of Raw Food Raw Food Life , Living Foods , and for great recipes Gone Raw .

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Time to Regroup, a Time to Change

 My grandpa used to say as we'd drive through a forest, "I wish I had a nickel for every leaf on each of those trees."  We'd all smile and would think of all the money he'd have if that wish came true.  I've thought of many nickel wishes over the years.  My nickel wish for today would be for every time I've had to regroup and start anew with my goals.  I do it all the time. Sometimes I wish I didn't do it so often.

Life isn't about always staying on the trail though.   It's about getting back on as soon as you wander off a bit.  I do this constantly, at least every week or two.  I set some goals, stick with them for awhile, feel like I'm doing just great, something gets me off course, then I detemine if I want to continue heading away from my goal or if I want to regroup and come back.  For some reason, it always takes some regrouping effort.  I can't just jump back on or hit auto-pilot to bring myself back on course.  I have to plan and commit to make it happen.  Eventually I catch on, but it never seems to amaze me at how easy it is to get off track again.

I wonder sometimes how I'll be doing 10, 20, or 30 years from now with these same goals.   Will I still go for awhile, then veer off when I'm not paying attention or something distracts me?  Or will I finally hit cruise control and just continue on with my goals and enjoy the ride?  I actually enjoy the journey even when I do have to really work at it.  That probably makes it more worthwhile.  My grandpa made his nickel wish about 30 years ago.  I wonder what my goals were then.  I was 15 years old.  I was probably concerned with how I looked, what friends I got to see and if the boy I thought was cute thought I was cute too.  I did set goals for myself though and that's what's gotten me to this point in life.  So I'll continue regrouping and won't feel like it's a lack of progress that brings me to that point.  Perhaps I should give it some lofty new name like navigating instead of regrouping.  That sounds more like I'm in command and am just making sure I'm headed where I truly want to go.  I'm a navigator.  I like that.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Berndadette Giorgi gives Pilates with a Twist

I saw on Facebook this morning that it's Bernadette Giorgi's birthday today.  I honor of her birthday, I did one of her workouts this morning, then just decided to post about it -- Happy Birthday Bernadette!

I have a few of her exercise dvds -- both Attitude Pilates/Ballet Fusions and Pilates Circle Challenge.  While I don't love the standing ballet portions of her Attitude dvds, (and it's not because of her, I just haven't clicked with any ballet workouts), I really enjoy the portions that have Pilates mat work with the 2-5 lb. weighted ball (which she calls a Power Ball).  She's since released a Pilates Power Ball workout, which I don't have yet, but I'm sure I'll get later on.

I use the Power Ball workout pre-mixes from the Attitude dvds as added core work to other workouts or as a stand alone workout on a busy day.   The Pilates Circle Challenge has three 20+ minute pre-mixes that target different areas of the lower body.  I did the whole workout this morning.  It's 46 minutes of relaxing music, but tough core conditioning (plus inner and outer thigh work).

Here are all of Berdadette's dvds at Collage Video.  As you will see, all have 5 star ratings in the reviews.  She really delivers thorough instruction and challenging exercises in a pleasant way.  It's kind of hard to gush about workouts like hers because how do you describe how wonderful it feels to work hard from the inside out, yet feel like it's soothing throughout?  It's something that has to be experienced.  Part of me was thinking this morning "I could do this before?" because it was so tough at times, yet the moves felt great for my body.

Bernadette comes with an extensive dance background (studying at the Academy of Dance and Joffrey Ballet in NYC), but suffered knee injuries and studied Pilates in depth, adding in weights to become in her own words, "stronger, leaner, and more centered."  She teaches at her studio and shares her client's favorite (and most effective) classes to us in her dvds.  Bernadette is also a black belt in Soo Bahk Do karate, which three of my children studied a few years ago (Korean Martial Arts).  She was planning to lead a kickboxing video a year ago, but it got postponed.  I hope she still does it.  I'd love to learn kickboxing from her.   

Here's a clip from Pilates Circle Challenge.  The Pilates Circles don't cost much if you don't already have one. They cost about $20 at the store or you could probably find one at a garage sale or on a fitness swap like I did for less than half that.  Some people cut out the top of a round laundry basket and use that.  It may not give quite the same resistance, but if it's handy and free, you might want to try it.  You can find all of her workouts and the fitness equipment needed at her website too,

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Setting Goals With Real Intent

Last Sunday night, I was contemplating my goals of healthy eating and how I just wasn't quite reaching them.  I was close, but not close enough.  I came across a scripture I've read before at church with this phrase:

          "except he shall do it with real intent, it profiteth him nothing"

This passage jumped out at me and made me think.  Was I setting my goals with real intent?  Was I really planning to succeed?  Was I planning to carry it through to the end?  Or was I just dabbling in it a bit?  I was definitely dabbling.

So I vowed to myself to remember these 3 words the next day -- "with real intent."  When I woke up the next morning and started thinking I needed to eat bread and all the other foods that cause me problems, I'd just remember that I was pursuing my goals with real intent.  And I did.  I did this on Monday and Tuesday, all the way through the week back to today -- Sunday.  One whole week of sticking with my healthy eating goals with real intent!  It's so nice to be in control again! 

I'm so excited with my success because I've been trying to stick with my eating goals for about a year now -- making my behavior match what I know inside is the best way for me to eat.  I was eating well quite consistently up until about a year ago.  When we listed our house for sale and life got a little crazier from the house showings to packing to moving, unpacking, and getting settled in a new surrounding, I just never got my control back.  I missed that.  I had it in spurts and I had it most of each day, but it was never enough.  Living my life with real intent all day long is such a great way to live.  It profiteth me big time!

I'm going to remember living with real intent as I work in other areas of my life, too.  When I get an idea or plan, I'm going to take it to the end, not just dabble and eventually watch it escape my grasp.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Is Exercise greater than or less than Healthy Eating? (equal? not equal?)

As I drove out of the crowded school parking lot this morning, I pondered how at this new school in our new area, I see many moms dressed in workout clothes when they drop off their kids. Fitness seems to be a big part of their lives. That's fantastic to see! Where I used to live, some of the moms worked out, but it wasn't as common as it is here.  And most of the friends I've made talk about their runs, bike rides, spinning, kickboxing, and zumba classes. Some even do fitness videos like I do, which is always fun.

What's interesting though is that with all this focus on workouts, I don't see a push for healthy eating amongst the people I've met. Instead, the standard American diet with sugarful foods abound.  In fact, since I've been here in August, I've only met one woman who continually researches healthy eating and has adopted it into her life, home, and family. I find that interesting. How can one supersede the other? How can exercise be more important that what we put into our bodies? I know in my previous dieting years, I thought of exercise as a means not only to health and weight loss, but to offset any bad eating habits I might have. I didn't see that they were both essential parts of ultimate health.

I know when I finally discovered the joy of exercise, it became something that gave such instant results of energy and elation, that I had an instant reward from my workouts. Maybe the rewards aren't as seemingly instant with healthy eating. It does take awhile for our taste buds to change and become fine tuned to love real whole foods after a lifetime of eating fake food. And it does take a few days or more of detox to realize that the headaches, fatigue and low stress tolerance are not cues to eat more junk, but will actually be a thing of the past if we let go of the processed foods. (Yes, sad as it may be, sugar and flour are processed foods). There are also huge advertising campaigns for unhealthy, tempting foods.   Fitness clubs, equipment, and exercise videos all remind us of the need to get into shape.  The voices for healthy eating are quite small in comparison.   We also just influence ourselves with the way we've grown up thinking -- that the way we eat is just fine -- that increased disease and degeneration is just natural as we age and that changing the way we eat wouldn't make that big of a difference.  

On the flip side, those of my friends who are more conscious of eating healthy don't all find time for an exercise regime. They tend to get their exercise more in occasional recreational activities, such as hikes, bike rides with their kids, and doing outdoor projects or chores.

I don't think that exercise is greater than or less than healthy eating (well, if I had to choose between the two, I'd say "less than" because the quality of fuel we put in our bodies is crucial to how it runs), but truly, they are both vital to good health and should be seen as equal.

This holds true with how we teach our children too. I remember reading once (I think in the FIRM for Life book by Anna and Cynthia Benson, creators of the original FIRM workouts) that they were astonished at parents who took their children to gymnastics (teaching them the value of exercise), yet stopped at the vending machine on the way out to give them a bag of chips and a candy bar. There's definitely some irony there. With the push to get our children to move more, we also need to teach them to eat more nutrient dense whole foods. I'm continually working on this myself. In fact, my husband and I have been talking about having a "vegetable of the week" in our home, teaching our kids about all the vegetables they don't normally eat so they will try them different ways and learn about how they grow, what they provide nutritionally, etc.  As one who grew up with my vegetables being corn, potatoes and carrots, I know the rest were big mysteries and a bit scary for me to try. My kids have eaten a few more than that, but not nearly enough. I'll let you know how that goes once we get started with it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cathe's Shock Training System

I promised a loooong time ago that I'd let you know what I thought of Cathe's Shock Training System workout series.  It's her most complete and thorough weight training system, consisting of 3 mesocycles -- one focusing on muscle endurance with lighter weights and more reps, the second on hypertrophy (muscle building and definition), and the 3rd on building strength with heavy weights and lower reps.  Here's how Cathe describes STS:

What is STS?

STS stands for Shock Training System and is based on four of the most important training principles in strength training: periodization, muscle confusion, one rep max and progressive overload. STS has been designed using the latest research and is a 3 month strength training program featuring a different exercise routine every time you work out.
Workouts like STS are very commonly guided by personal trainers and athletic coaches for their clients and athletes, but due to the overall magnitude time and expense of filming 40 workouts, it is quite considerable to understand why nobody has a made a similar program for the home exerciser until now.
STS brings a unique, quality health club workout into the privacy of your own home by maximizing the use of periodization, progressive overload, muscle confusion and one rep max testing.

Science of STS

STS stands for Shock Training System and is based on three of the most important training principles in strength training: periodization, muscle confusion and progressive overload.


Periodization is a way of planning, organizing and varying your training program over time to bring about optimal gains in your physical performance. Numerous research studies have been done that clearly show that exercisers who follow a periodization–based workout get superior results when compared to exercisers who don't follow a plan of this type.
STS has been designed to be a 3½ month linear periodization program featuring three workout cycles called mesocycles, each lasting four weeks. Each mesocycle will have a different purpose, with the first cycle focusing on muscle endurance, the second on hypertrophy and the third on strength.
You will do a different workout every week for a total of 12 weeks along with an active recovery week between mesocycles to help your body rejuvenate and prepare for the next cycle. Since this is a linear periodization program, each mesocycle is designed so that the intensity (weight lifted) increases from the previous cycle and the volume (sets and reps) decreases.

Muscle Confusion

Muscle confusion is the principle of constantly changing your workout routines to keep your body's muscles always guessing and challenged in different ways. Muscles should never be allowed to adapt to an exercise to the point where the exercise is no longer effective and not resulting in hypertrophy or the goal you desire. Instead, a well designed exercise program that utilizes muscle confusion varies the workout routine's exercises, sets, reps and intensity to keep your muscles growing. This also helps to avoid plateaus and boredom.
The advantage of STS is to maximize muscle confusion by not only giving you a different workout every week, but also by varying the intensity and volume of the workout over the entire program by utilizing periodization. Muscle confusion is one of the most important rules of strength training and no other workout program on the market today utilizes this principle to the same degree as STS.

One Rep Max (1RM)

Your one rep max (1RM) is the maximum amount of weight you can lift one time for any exercise. In the STS program we will demonstrate a method to easily and safely estimate your 1RM for every exercise in the program. Once you know your 1RM for each exercise, you can quickly and easily determine the correct weight to use for each exercise in every mesocycle and week of the STS series. Knowing the correct weight to use for every exercise is extremely important and will help you obtain the results you're striving for, both safely and quickly.

Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is the gradual increase of intensity placed upon your body during a workout over a period of time. This means that in order for your muscles to grow, you need to continually challenge your body by increasing the intensity of your workout in very small steps. In STS you will start the first week of Mesocycle 1 using weights that are only about 60% of your one rep max (1RM). Then every week, except week #3, you will slowly and gradually increase your weights by about 5% so that by the time you finish the program you will be using heavy weights that are up to 90% of your 1RM.

I've done Mesocycle 1 one time through and while I really liked the Leg workouts, the upper body workouts weren't my favorite.  I truly love muscle endurance workouts.  Her earlier two total body endurance workouts, Power Hour and Muscle Endurance are the ones I've probably used most (just love them!)  But these upper body endurance workouts had so much equipment and moved so quickly, that I just felt a bit scattered and rushed throughout.  I've decided that for future STS rotations, I'd just use the Meso 1 Leg workouts and will use upper weight work from either Power Hour, Muscle Endurance or her stability ball workouts, Super Sets and Push/Pull.  I will say though that my ability to do push-ups (on the toes, no less!) improved tremendously with Meso 1.  Cathe does a ton of them and I grew to not only be able to do them, but learned to love them as well.  Before I could only do a few without collapsing.  During Meso 1, I was able to do sets of 10 or 12.

Mesocycle 2, on the other hand,  is just wonderful, just perfect, in fact.  I've done it two times through (it's a 4 week program) and I smile throughout.  The workouts are so well designed.  Simple concepts, multiple sets, long one minute rest breaks between the sets.  I just love the pace and the expertise Cathe brings to this mesocycle.  Each of the 4 weeks is different.  Each weekn Cathe introduces a new method of weight lifting such as tri-sets, double wave loading, pyramids or back off sets.   I almost always work to failure with these sets and really see improvements with my strength and my body with this series.  Cathe explains each method and how it works as you go.  I truly felt like I had a personal trainer right by to guide me with my progress.  Here's a sample of the 2nd week of Meso 2.  I love chest work the best!

I can't review the 3rd Mesocycle because I sold it to my friend before I even looked at it.  (I know, bad). 
From all I read about it, I was afraid that the weight load would be too heavy for my post-surgery restrictions.  She uses a squat rack and a weighted vest to be able to maximize the weight load in these STS workouts.  I do have a few of Cathe's other heavy weight workouts (Slow & Heavy and 4 Day Split) and figured I could substitute them for the 3rd mesocycle each time.  (I'm actually doing that with 4 Day Split
right now).  I did keep a few of the Plyo Leg workouts from this mesocycle and will incorporate them with my
rotation. She gives the option of either heavy weight Squat Rack leg workouts (I sold those) or the Plyo Leg workouts which use plyometrics to work the legs instead of really heavy weight.   My friend is doing the whole Meso 3 program right now.  She keeps telling me how much she loves it (and she struggles sticking with rotations lately).  STS has kept her on track for 10 weeks now.  She may just talk me into trying Meso 3 after all.  There are always ways to modify and adjust to meet my needs. 

One thing I love about STS that I don't see in her other workouts are  graphics that show up before each exercise to tell you how long you'll be doing it (how many reps) and how long the breaks are, the percentage of your 1 Rep Max at which you should be lifting, what equipment you'll need, etc.  I also love that the warm-ups give you a choice between following Cathe and the crew in some aerobics-type moves or in using some cardio equipment of your own.  I like running on the treadmill or jumping on the rebounder to get my heart rate up most mornings instead of doing the floor aerobics.

Here is some more STS video footage of all the mesocycles if you want to see more.  

Also, Cathe has a Success Story page solely for STS users.  Check it out.

And lastly, Cathe has started selling her workouts as digital downloads. I'm so new with my iPod that I haven't tried this yet, but I'm sure I will soon (and I'll be right back here telling you about it). TTFN!

Click here to visit Cathe dot Com.