Sunday, September 30, 2012

Early Fall

What a beautiful run it was this morning! The fog was still hanging low at 9. We chose to run through the trails of The North Carolina Arboretum and Bent Creek Experimental Forest. The run included 9.5 miles of single track trail and gravel paved forest roads. More than half of the run was along water, Bent Creek itself and Lake Powhatan which is in the above photo. By the time we were done the fog was gone, the skies were blue, our bellies were hungry, and our bodies were tired. I must say it was the most perfect last day of September ever!

In honor of the coming Fall season I decided to spend the afternoon knitting on a sweater and making butternut squash soup. The sweater is almost complete. One sleeve is lacking 4 inches. I'd love to complete it tonight. I might have to bail. I might just have to go to bed. That run has me tuckered out and the warm soup has me feeling satisfied for the night.

Butternut squash is one of the more common hard winter squashes. I've chosen it today because it is so easy to find. This soup can be made completely vegan, vegetarian, or with chicken. I chose the vegan version but will tell how to make each.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 large butternut squash
1 large sweet yellow onion
1/2 heart of celery
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp powdered ginger
1 can coconut milk (for the vegan version)
1 cup milk (for the vegetarian version)
4 quarts chicken stock (for the meat eaters)
1 pound diced cooked chicken breast (also for the meat eaters)

Peel and dice the squash. I cut it into rounds and then cut off the edges of the rounds before dicing up. It seems easier for me to peel it that way. Clean and chop the celery. You don't need to cut the celery too small.. Slicing at about every 1/4-1/8 inch along the stock is fine. I used the leaves too. As long as they look good they are fine to eat. Peel and coarsely chop the onion.

All the cut veggies go into a very large pot and are covered with water. Unless you are planning to do the chicken version and then you are adding the chicken stock instead of water. The salt and spices are also added at this point. Then it is a nice long slow simmer until the veggies are soft through. This is where the knitting comes in handy. Knit a few rows and then stir the pot.

Once everything was cooked through my pot looked like this. If you are making the chicken version here is where you add the diced chicken breast.

It can be served up as is or blended with coconut milk or milk to make a creamed soup. Here is what the chunky soup looks like.

I added a can of coconut milk and blended it with a hand blender. This task could also be completed using a food processor and processing in small batches. Once blended I served it garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Are you going to cook that?

As Fall approaches the produce markets and sections of our grocery stores have beautiful bins of hard colorful squash. Some are well known friends that many of us are familiar enough with to cook up and enjoy. Others are foreign and may appear to be more for Halloween decorations than for consumption. Today's squash falls into the later category. What is its name? I'm not sure. I know I could look it up and find all the details of its history and growing. Somehow it doesn't seem important to me at the moment. 

The simplest way to cook winter squash is to cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and place it in a shallow pan cut side down in 3/4 of an inch of water and bake at 350 until soft. This is what I did. I used the knife my grandfather made to cut it in half. A good sharp knife with a wide blade is best. 

After scooping out the insides it will likely look similar to this.

This is what my squash looked like once it was baked.

At this point you can do a variety of things. It can be eaten as is with salt and butter. It can be added to other dishes. It can be mashed with cinnamon and nutmeg. Tonight I mashed it with butter and salt. A simple side to any meal. 

Tomorrow I run. I've planned a 10 mile run on one of my favorite forest roads. The leaves are starting to turn here in Western North Carolina. The mornings are filled with foggy mist and a cool chill. I hope to capture a picture or two along the way. I know I'll be working up an appetite while I run. I'm sure there will be a marvelous meal prepared mid-day. The plan is to explore another use for sweet potatoes at breakfast. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Veggies it's what's for breakfast!

One of the most common responses I get when I'm starting with a client is, "You want me to eat vegetables for breakfast?" We are so ingrained in our views on vegetables the concept of eating them first thing in the morning can seem odd to say the least.

There are a few vegetables I would classify as "classic breakfast" foods. Potatoes are high on that list. Unfortunately potatoes are not on my recommended foods list. I'm focused on vegetables that are rich in nutrients and fiber. Potatoes meet neither of these requirements. What is a good substitute for those home fries in the morning? A vegetable hash. 

I make this using a variety of vegetables. It really depends on what is fresh and in the fridge when I go to make it. I've used chopped brussel sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, hard winter squash, sweet potatoes, green beans, and even cabbage. This morning I had carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, and cauliflower on hand. 

Vegetable Hash

2 cups of mixed chopped veggies (this is per serving)
1/4 cup chopped onion (again per serving)
garlic to taste
1-3 tsp olive oil
water for steam saute

Heat oil in pan and add onion. Lightly saute until onions are soft. Add chopped veggies and stir through. Allow veggies to sear a bit then cover. Check frequently. I often add a few TBS of water and cover to steam saute the vegetables. This cooks them through faster and prevents burning. 

This is a side dish for breakfast. You will need to add protein. Today I had 2 eggs and 2 pieces of chicken sausage with my veggies. I sometimes will crack my eggs raw over top of the almost cooked hash and then cover them. The steam cooks the eggs and softens the vegetables. I've also made this with turkey bacon or chicken sausage added to the vegetable mix. I find quite a lot of freedom of choice with this. Keep experimenting to find the perfect combinations for your taste buds.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chicken Salad For Breakfast?

It takes time to eat right. Time is one thing that most people feel they don't have enough of. If you can prepare something for breakfast the night before you are more likely to eat in the morning. Since breakfast is so important I'll be focusing on make ahead breakfast ideas for the next few days.

This morning I made what I call "breakfast chicken salad". I would normally make it the night before so it is ready first thing in the morning. Last night I cooked the chicken. I also spent the evening knitting socks. Socks are my favorite knit. These socks were fun. They kept me entertained while my chicken was roasting. They kept me further entertained while I was waiting for the chicken to cool before putting it into the fridge. Sadly, I do not have a fun picture of those socks to share with you. They were mailed off today. I mailed them away without documentation. I promise to not deprive everyone of such wonders in the future. 

What is the difference in a breakfast chicken salad and a regular chicken salad? The amount of veggies, fruit, mayo, and flavorings. I want my clients eating veggies at breakfast. That is why this salad is packed with  fiber rich celery and apple. This recipe makes one serving. Yes. ONE. Double it if you like. Triple it if you want. Quadruple it if necessary. Just be sure you are understanding you need all this food at one sitting. Balancing the blood sugar requires you to eat food. It requires you to eat food in the appropriate portions and combinations. I'm so happy that eating is a required part of healthy living!

Breakfast Chicken Salad

4 oz cooked chicken, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 apple, cored and diced
1/2 oz walnut pieces
2 TBS craisins
1 tsp mayo

Simply mix all the ingredients and chill overnight. You may want to mix the mayo in at the last moment before eating. I'm not a big mayo fan so I don't mind the salad being dry. Others are not as happy and would rather have the rich mayo taste. Adding it just before eating will give you more satisfaction if you are in the later category. 


Substitute or add 1/2 tsp honey or real maple syrup (if you do this omit the craisins because you will have too much sugar in your meal with both).
Add 1/2 tsp cinnamon and/or a dash of nutmeg
Lightly salt before eating
Use 1 TBS Greek Yogurt instead of the mayo
Make it vegetarian and use tempeh or a soy analog meat instead of chicken

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that sentence in my life. I'm sure for each and every time I've skipped at least 3 mornings' breakfast. I used to pride myself on not eating until noon. Times change. Personal lessons are learned. Education expands the mind. Breakfast is never skipped now. Now I'm preaching "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day". The best part of this is I believe it now.

When you wake your body needs food. You need protein and veggies to give your cells the building blocks to fuel a productive day. Protein at breakfast anchors your blood sugar through the day. Eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast is like eating a bowl of sugar. Even "whole grain sugar free" cereals turn straight to sugar in the body and let you down quickly in your morning routine. This is a pretty quick up/down roller coaster ride for your system. A body with balanced blood sugar is a "fat burning machine". I want my body to be a "fat burning muscle building machine". No, I'm not interested in building huge body builder muscles. That takes work, dedication, and massive amounts of food. I'm interested in a lean, fit, healthy body that is ready to play.

This morning I made myself a big breakfast. I had 3 eggs, 2 cups of kale, and one medium sweet potato. I peeled and diced the sweet potato before roasting it under the broiler in 2 tsp of olive oil. The greens and eggs I poached together. It is a quick and easy way to have fresh greens and protein at breakfast.

Poached Greens and Eggs

In a shallow pan or fry pan bring 3/4 of an inch of water to a near boil and add 2 cups (more or less) to the pan.

Then crack the eggs onto the greens. This is before you cook the greens.

The yokes float on the top and the whites go down into the greens a bit. That is fine. You then cover and steam with the water close to boiling (sometimes mine boils over when I'm not super careful) until the whites are cooked through and the yokes are just starting to set. This takes about 5-7 minutes.

Remove the greens and eggs with a slotted spoon. They can be a bit drippy. I'm not a fan of drippy. I'll wait extra to get the water out of the greens. As you can see from the top picture the greens are set into the eggs as they cook. I'll add salt and pepper before eating. You could add garlic before steaming if you like. You could also thinly slice onion and toss some in with the greens.

This is one of my favorite go to foods in the morning. I've covered 2 servings of greens and one sweet potato. I have anchored my blood sugar with the protein in the egg whites. My body will be super happy and energized!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


When my children learned this word I thought my days were numbered. Now as a trainer I love it. Why? One of my greatest goal setting questions! Why are you doing this? Smaller jeans? Larger muscles? Easier hiking? Faster run time? Lessened pain or to become pain free? Fight cancer? Fight heart disease? Reverse diabetes? Avoid a family history of these diseases? Combat autoimmune disease?

I've been thinking about my "why" today. I can't avoid it. Every turn I take I see it mirrored in the people around me. I have many answers to the "why" question. I want to fit into my clothes better. I want running to be an easier activity. I want to be stronger. I want more balance. I want to age gracefully. I want to hike the Appalachian Trail when I'm 67 (I think by then I'll have time to do it). I want to avoid some family history, high blood pressure and cancer are top on that list.

Please think about your "why". Think about what your driving force is. Think about the many facets to this force. Simply stating that you want to be healthier is good. Going to the deepest level of that is great. Healthier is what? Why do you want to be healthier? Has your doctor said you are borderline diabetic? Do you have high blood pressure? Are you hoping to avoid these issues because someone in your family has them?  I have clients who want to play with their grandchildren. This why has many layers. It also has a deep emotional tie. When your goal has an emotional tie it becomes easier to stay on track. The steps to reach it seem shorter and less labor intensive.

Food is a simple controllable step on the road to a healthier you. It is rare that people are forced to eat bad food. I have seen some cases and they make me very sad. The majority of people are in control of the foods they put into their bodies. Choosing foods that are nutritious and taste good is a skill that can be learned! This is my best news for you today. You can make a change. You can choose to nourish your body in a way that provides optimal performance. Best of all, you don't have to sacrifice flavor, color, texture, or quantity to do it!

Today's food is Lentils. Lentils are easy to cook. They require no soaking and are fairly quick to prepare.

2 cups green lentils, washed
1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup diced peppers (mine were mildly spicy if I had used a sweet bell pepper I would have used one whole one)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground sage

Add all ingredients to a pot and cover with water. Slowly boil keeping the lentils covered in water for 45 minutes or until the lentils are soft.

Lunch yesterday was lentils with seamed veggies and a simple green lettuce salad. It was quite filling and kept me going for 3 hours. Perfect timing for my afternoon shake.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Challenge!

I'm a certified coach with TLS Weight Loss System. I believe in this eating plan. I have seen it work for many different people. I've seen it work for me. There is a national challenge going on right now. Many people in the US and Canada are changing their lives and have the opportunity to earn big money doing it.

I've chosen to support my clients by complying to the plan 100% for the next 3 months. In addition I'm choosing to blog daily. My goal is to have a new recipe or food tip out each day. I know it can be stressful to come up with new food ideas. Some of these will be super simple. Some will be more intensive. Some will be based on meat and others just veggies. I hope everyone finds inspiration in and through my journey.

Today's recipe is sauteed greens with pumpkin seeds. Greens are important in the diet. Green leafy vegetables are packed with nutrients and full of fiber. Fiber helps the body to feel full and cleans out the system. If you are not feeling full with your meals adding an extra serving of leafy greens can fill the stomach enough to ease you through.

One more note...My recipes are often unconventional. I measure with my hands (average-small woman's hands) sometimes. I throw in what is available and change it up from week to week. Don't let that be a drawback. Let that help you feel empowered in the kitchen! Creativity is important with your food!

Sauteed Greens with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 pound mixed baby greens (my box contained spinach, shredded carrots, and a variety of kale)
1 TBS olive oil
2 handfuls of roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish (and nutrition!)

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Slowly add the greens. Fill the pan and turn as the greens start to wilt. Each time you have turned once add more greens. Turn the raw greens to the bottom and the cooked greens to the top. Repeat this process until you have the whole pound in the pan. Toss the pumpkin seeds on top and serve.

Baby greens cook quickly. They are done as soon as they are slightly wilted. You can eat them raw as a salad if you choose so don't be concerned about cooking them through.

What else is on this plate?? Big serving of green salad and 4 oz of chicken breast. Yummy!