Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Build A Better Me....Training on the Go!

In my quest to Build a Better Me I've started training with a co-worker (remember it's always easier to do these things with a friend) 2 mornings a week. One of the things I like best about our sessions is the body weight training. Why? because it doesn't allow for any excuses...once you learn a body weight routine you can do it anywhere, anytime.

Below is an article about the benefits of body weight training and a sample routine that you can follow graciously provided by fitness trainer, Tyler Webb. 

"Tyler Webb graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University where he got a degree in Health and Fitness studies.  He's currently the General Manager/Exercise Physiologist at Life Start Fitness in Phoenix Arizona.  Tyler's philosophy on fitness is: "it's not about working out harder; but rather working out smarter"  You can follow Tyler on twitter for more fitness tips"

The New Year has come and gone; along with most of our resolutions. One-month into the year and thousands of fitness related resolutions have gone by the way side. We can ask ourselves why, how or what went wrong. Unfortunately, the answer always comes to the same conclusion, ME.

Currently, Americans are fighting a never ending battle of too many daily appointments and not enough hours in the day. Most families have obligations taking them from 6 AM to 8 PM with little time for themselves, their family or their friends. Many have problems finding time to cook a healthy meal at home; which can lead to over spending, a higher risk of heart disease and a bigger waist size. What many individuals fail to realize is that the answer to their health and fitness woes is right under their nose, Themselves!

Body Weight training has become increasingly popular with our ever revolving work schedules, kids, activities, etc. Body weight training allows for a demanding and efficient workout in a short amount of time, while utilizing minimal to no equipment and allowing for a workout anywhere at any given time.

The benefits from body weight training emphasize all aspects of health and fitness. Individuals will see strength and cardiovascular endurance increase, while weight and pants sizes decrease. All of this is possible in as little as 30 minutes a day.

Still wondering where to start? Give this great body weight workout a try.

Body Weight Workout, by Tyler Webb

Start with 5 minute dynamic warm up (including a combination of lunges, squats, toe touches, & side lunges)
Follow with 2 rounds of the exercises below (each round 4-8 minutes)
Rest 1-3 minutes between rounds

10 Burpees
20 Squats
15 Push-Ups
20 Step Ups (10 each leg)
20 Hip Raises
20 Mountain Climbers
20 Lunges
10 Push-Ups
15 Squats
1-3 minute rest
10 minute cool down (stretching, light jogging, bike, etc.)

Total Time: 25-37minutes

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

All of the Lemon Pie with Whole Wheat Olive Oil Crust

I hate to see good things come to an end but I guess sometimes it has to happen. This is our final week cooking with Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Oil and I’ll admit I’m sad. I’ve had a blast this month experimenting with their products and following all of my VP friends adventures. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed it too. But wait…there’s still one more recipe and a chance for you to win a bottle of every day fresh olive oil and a bag of whole wheat pastry flour.  (see below for contest details)

When deciding what to make for this post I have to admit I was slightly swayed by the fact that it's citrus season here in Arizona and my lemon tree is full of fruit. So I thought I would take my favorite lemon pie recipe and tweak it a bit to include the whole wheat pastry flour and olive oil....making it just that more healthy. 

All of the Lemon Pie with Whole Wheat Olive Oil Crust 
2 large lemons
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 whole wheat olive oil crust (see below)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbs limoncello
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

The day before you plan to make the tart, wash the lemons well, then slice them as thinly as possible, using a sharp knife. Remove the seeds from the lemon slices and place the slices in a medium nonreactive bowl. Add the sugar and toss to coat the lemon slices. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

The following day, preheat the oven to 325 and position a rack in the center.

On a floured board, roll the tart dough to an 11 inch circle 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 10 inch tart pan with fluted sides and a removable bottom by rolling the dough around the pin like a carpet and then unrolling it onto the pan. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, then trim it so it is flush with the top of the pan. Chill the tart shell while you make the filling.

Remove the bowl of lemon slices from the refrigerator and place the entire mixture in a blender. Add the lemon juice and blend the ingredients on high speed until the lemon rinds are finely chopped. Transfer the contents of the blender to a medium nonreactive bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, limoncello, heavy cream, vanilla and salt. Add the egg mixture to the lemon mixture, whisking well to combine thoroughly.

Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator and place it on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Pour the filling into the shell and bake the tart for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan so the tart cooks evenly. Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until the filling is set but still pale and the crust is lightly golden. Allow the tart to cool completely on a rack before carefully removing the sides of the pan.

Before serving, dust the surface of the tart lightly with confectioners' sugar, if desired. Serve the tart at room temperature or chilled. Wrapped in plastic it will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

Whole Wheat Olive Oil Crust
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
freshly grated zest of 1 small lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup milk

Combine the flour, salt, sugar, lemon zest and baking powder in a  medium mixing bowl. Add the oil, milk and almond extract mix with the fork until it is absorbed, then knead lightly until the dough comes together into a ball.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle a little flour on the ball of dough and on the rolling pin, and roll the dough out into a circle large enough to fit your tart pan.

Transfer the dough carefully into the prepared pan and line it neatly. Place the pan in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

Contest Details
All you have to do is visit  CORon Facebook and retrieve this week's Virtual Potluck code word. Then come back here and leave a comment using that word. Contest ends midnight EST on 1/29/2012

You can get additional entries by visiting our host blog for this event and look for the list of participating bloggers; leaving comments on their pages will also get you an entry.

Follow me on facebook  and leave a comment here for another entry.

Be sure to visit the California Olive Ranch online store and use the coupon code BLOGFRIENDS for a 10% discount!

Congratulations to last week's winner: Christopher Sorel.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Warm Spinach & Steak Salad; BaBM

I’m a weeknight meal planner.  With working all day I don’t have the time or energy to try to figure out meals when I get home each night.  So instead I plan them all out on the weekend and know exactly what I’m having each night.   

That being said I can also be a little lazy and sometimes I just don’t feel like planning in advance.  Those days are usually not fun.  They usually start out early with a call to my husband….”hey, what do you want for dinner tonight”  “I don’t know, what do you want?”  “I don’t know what are you in the mood for” “I don’t know, you?” and round and round we go until finally one of us is just like let’s think about it later.  

And then later comes and the scenario is pretty much the same.  As you may guess these days often don’t end well…we usually just eat something we really don’t want just for the sake of eating.   But there are a few instances were these days turn out awesome with one or the other of us coming up with a meal that just blows us away. 

Last week was one of those dinners…we waited until the very last minute and then my husband had a brain storm.  “Let’s do warm spinach salads with steak.”  Now, why didn’t I think of that?  We stopped at the store (another reason I like to have my meals planned) went home and put together this amazing dinner. 

Moral of the story: planning is good and sometimes not planning is even better.

Warm Spinach Salad with NY Strip
1 package baby spinach
1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
1 package of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
Feta cheese, crumbled
Dried cranberries
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook bell peppers and mushrooms until desired consistency is reached.  Put aside.  Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet.  Grill steak until medium rare.

Remove steak and veggies from pan.  Mix pan juices together and add your red wine vinegar.  Cook several minutes.  Add salt and black pepper to taste.

To plate:  Place spinach in bowls, add veggies. Slice steak very thin.  drizzle with warm dressing and serve.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Kettle Cuisine Soup Review

January is national soup month.  I’m a huge soup eater.  I usually eat a bowl every day for lunch. Mostly it’s homemade soup I make in bulk and freeze in individual servings.  But every once in a while; when time is of the essence I will purchase a store bought soup.  Never anything in a can…just not my thing…but usually the semi fresh soup available at most grocery stores. 

I was recently contacted by someone at Kettle Cuisine, a company that’s been around for 25 years, to review some of their soups.  After reading on their website  how the soups are all prepared with natural fresh ingredient; how their stocks are made from scratch and how all of the vegetables and meats are  prepared by hand; I was intrigued.
Frozen in single serve bowls these soups are perfect for my lunches.  They come in 10 different flavors ranging from Angus Beef Steak Chili with Beans to New England Clam Chowder to Organic Mushroom and Potato.  So far I’ve sampled the Chicken Soup with rice Noodles and the Tomato Soup with Garden Vegetables and have loved them both.  Loaded with fresh veggies these 10oz single serving soups are very filling. 

Although, I will continue to make my own soup Kettle Cuisine soups are a great alternative.  They are available in the freezer section of most Whole Food Stores and I would highly recommend trying them.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Quinoa Primavera

It's week three of the Bob's Red Mill and California Olive Ranch Healthy & Tasty Cooking Challenge. This week the Virtual Potluck Group was asked to create a main dish using BRM Quinoa and COR Arbosana Olive Oil.

For those that don't know Quinoa is gluten free, loaded with fiber and highly nutritious. It's also a complete source of protein making it an excellent option for vegetarians.

One of my favorite vegetarian meals is Pasta Primavera.  So I thought it would be interesting to try it with the Quinoa.  I sauteed a variety of diced vegetables in the peppery Arbosana oil and mixed them with the Quinoa.  The result was very tasty...maybe even better than the pasta version.

***Don't forget you can win this week's featured grain and olive oil.  All you have to do is visit  COR on Facebook and retrieve this week's Virtual Potluck code word.  Then come back here and leave a comment using that word. Contest ends midnight EST on 1/22/2012***

You can get additional entries by visiting our host blog for this event and look for the list of participating bloggers; leaving comments on their pages will get you an entry.

Be sure to visit the California Olive Ranch online store and use the coupon code BLOGFRIENDS for a 10% discount!

Congratulations to last week's winner: Rachel Blom

Quinoa Primavera
6 tablespoons Arbosana olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
8 ounces asparagus, stalks sliced 1/2-inch thick on a bias, tips reserved separately
1 cup frozen peas, thawedsea salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup Quinoa
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until barely golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the carrots, reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.

Add the sliced asparagus and cook for 2 minutes, then add the asparagus tips, and peas; season well with salt and pepper. Cook stirring, until all the vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat.

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the Quinoa and cover. Cook for 12 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff. Cover and let stand 15 minutes.
When ready mix with the veggies and chopped herbs.  Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Friday, January 13, 2012

What is Healthy? Build a Better Me

It’s that time of year, when everyone jumps on the “healthy” bandwagon. But does anyone really know what it means to be healthy?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “health” is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. So being “healthy” is about taking responsibility for yourself and making wise choices for your body that will not only affect you today but also in the future. Eating right, getting physically fit, and being emotionally stable, are all part of being healthy.

What do I do to be “healthy”

1. I eat "real" foods and lots of them. I focus on fresh, often local fruits and veggies. I even grow my own when I can.

2. I practice moderation; in all aspects of life…I don’t make anything off  limits…rather I limit the amount of everything.

3. I do my best to avoid the intake of chemicals; which means little to no processed foods. I may eat dessert daily but it’s always something I’ve made from scratch. So I know exactly what’s in every bite. 

4. I try to be good to my body. I wear sunscreen all the time; and I don’t smoke.

5. I exercise daily; because I want to; because it makes me feel good, helps me relieve stress and gives me tons of energy

6. I try to surround myself with positive people and try to give off positive vibes myself.

7. I am happy with who and where I am in my life.  I have made conscious decisions that I am proud of and have learned to not focus so much on the past.

So there you have it.  To me being “healthy” is much more than diet and exercise.  It's something we can all attain…no excuses allowed.  The goal is to first figure out what "healthy" means to you and then go with it full force. Don't let anything or anybody stand in the way. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mediterranean Whole Grain Salad

It's week two of cooking with ingredients from Bob's Red Mill and California Ranch Olive Oil. Our challenge was to come up with a side dish that pairs BRM Grande Whole Grains with COR Miller's Blend Oil.

A little goes a long way with Miller's Blend Oil; which is a good thing.  Just a drizzle added to the cooked grains in the recipe below really made them pop.  The Grande Whole Grains is a unique mixture of red white wheat, long grain brown rice, whole oats, whole rye, whole barley, white buckwheat, and sesame seeds. An interesting combination indeed.

After taste testing each item I decided they would blend nicely with some chopped veggies to make a healthy Mediterranean side salad served cold. Since both the grains and the oil are "good for you ingredients" this recipe is perfect addition to my "Build a Better Me" campaign.

Don't forget each week a lucky reader has a chance to win that week's ingredients...see below for details.  Last week's winner was Shannon from the blog Tri To Cook
Mediterranean Whole Grain Salad

1 cup Grande Whole Grains
2 1/2 cups water
black olives (chopped)
feta cheese (chopped)
artichoke hearts (chopped)
roasted peppers (chopped)
Olive oil

Place grains and water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer and cover. Cook for 1 hour or until all liquid is absorbed.

Mix with chopped ingredients and drizzle with olive oil.

To enter the contest:

Visit either Bob’s Red Mill or California Olive Ranch’s Facebook pages and retrieve this week’s Virtual Potluck code word. Then come back here and leave a comment using the code word. Thats it.

Be sure to visit the California Olive Ranch online store and use the coupon code BLOGFRIENDS for a 10% discount!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Build A Better Me

“It’s a shame for a (wo)man to grow old without even seeing the strength and beauty of which her body is capable.” Socrates

About a year or so ago I decided I no longer wanted to be that woman. I wanted to see and feel what my body was really cable of. I knew my eating habits were far from perfect and that I had probably done some damage to my body in the past. Since then I've made some changes and have seen some awesome results. But we can all stand to do a little more for ourselves. So this year I am committing to “Build A Better Me”

This challenge is the brain child of my Virtual Potluck group. As food bloggers it’s hard to keep check on ourselves; what we eat and do to our bodies. So we've decided to work together as a group in our efforts to each “Build A Better Me” This is not going to be a scheduled event occurring every week or month. But rather we are going to each do something for ourselves and post about it when we feel the time is right.

I want to share with you what has worked for me so far and what hasn’t. (keep in mind I'm not an expert)  What keeps me up at night and what keeps me motivated. Don’t worry you will still see all the yummy posts your used to on this blog but in between you will see a lot more “healthy living” posts. 

I hope you will join us in our journey to “Building a Better Me” and I hope that maybe we might inspire you to take part in your own journey.

VP Bloggers participating in BaBM:

Heather from Farm Girl Gourmet
Rachel from Not Rachel Ray
Shelby from Diabetic Foodie
Matt from Thyme in our Kitchen
Milisa from Miss in the Kitchen
Marnely from Cooking with Books
Donna from Cookistry
Vanessa from Groovy Foody
Susan from 30AEats

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy Healthy New Year with Bob's Red Mill & California Olive Ranch

The Virtual Potluck group is teaming up with Bob's Red Mill (BRM) and California Olive Ranch (COR) during the month of January to demonstrate how easy it is to incorporate olive oil and whole grains into your meals making every course a healthier one.

Both BRM & COR seem to be great companies passionate about their products and where they originate from.  You can read more about them here and here.

Our first challenge is to create an appetizer featuring BRM Hard White Whole Wheat Flour and COR Arbequina extra virgin olive oil.   I love bruschetta type appetizers....fresh grilled bread topped with varying flavors...you can't go wrong.    So I adapted my standard bread recipe to incorporate the BRM Whole Wheat Flour and came up with a delicious tasting "good for me" bread.  I topped it with pesto that I made using the fresh fruity flavored Arbequina oil, some oven roasted tomatoes and fresh Buffalo mozzarella.  The result was amazing.

Want to win the grain and oil of the week?   Visit  COR on Facebook and retrieve this week's Virtual Potluck code word.  Then come back here or to any of the other VP pages and leave a comment using that word. Contest ends midnight EST on 1/8/2012

For an extra entry you can follow VP on twitter and tweet about this contest using the #virtualpotluck hashtag and leave a comment here letting me know.

You can get additional entries by visiting our host blog for this event and look for the list of participating bloggers; leaving comments on their pages will get you an entry.

Whole Wheat Caprese Bruschetta 

Whole Wheat Bread
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
5 T COR Arbequina olive oil
6 1/2 cups BRM Hard White Whole Wheat Flour
Cornmeal for the pizza peel

And then, you know the drill. Mix with a spoon in a food-safe bucket, let it rise at room temperature for 2 to 5 hours. Shape and let raise for about 1 hour
Preheat oven to 350 along with your baking stone if using, and pour 1-2C water into a metal pan at the bottom of the oven. Bake 40 mins.

1 1/2 cups COR Arbequina olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
6 cups fresh basil leaves

Mix everything in a food processor until desired consistency.

Oven Roasted Tomato
12 Plum tomatoes cut length wise
1/2 cup COR Arbequina olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200°F.

In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with 1/2 cup of COR and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with sugar. Place cut side down on a small baking sheet and bake for about 2 hours, or until the tomatoes are softened.

Putting it all together:
Grill slices of bread drizzle with some COR oil.  Top with oven roasted tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and drizzle with pesto.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Virtual New Year's Party

Happy New Year!  I'm expecting it to be another delicious one. To help ring in 2012 I've joined in on the Virtual New Year's Party being hosted by Lora and Sanjeeta kk   Bloggers from all over will be recapping their most popular posts of 2011.

logo thanks to Heather from Farmgirl Gourmet

So pull up a chair, grab yourself a drink and enjoy a look back through some of this year's yumminess on the Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine. And be sure to check in on all of the other bloggers that are linked at the end of this post.

Pasta with Peas & Artichokes

Wok Seared Duck Salad

Strawberry Tiramisu

Pasta with Green Olive Almond Pesto

Tuscan Bean Soup with Broccoli Rabe

Ricotta Pear Cake