Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Party in My Mouth

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post to tell you about the salad I just had for lunch. Picture crisp Romain lettuce tossed with caramelized onions, sweet dried cherries, spicy pecans and creamy goat cheese, dressed lightly with some sort of a fruity vinaigrette. It was a party in my mouth and I'm sad to report that there are no leftovers.

If you live in Steamboat you need to swing by Freshies immediately for the "Meadows" salad. For those of you who unfortunately do not live here, you really should whip up this little number at home. You won't be disappointed.

Check out the post below about Seal Team boot camp training, especially if you live in the Richmond, VA or Northern VA/DC areas. There's no time like the present to sign up for serious ass-kicking. You'll be glad you did!

Seal Team

As most of you already know, I was a personal trainer for several years before trading in my sneakers and spandex for my oh so glamorous day job as mom, maid and short-order cook. However, it wasn't until I moved to Denver, where the weather is more often fantastic than not, that I started teaching fitness boot camps. I am now a HUGE proponent of boot camp style exercise. There's something magical about how intense, outdoor group fitness classes can transform you, both mentally and physically.

First of all, there's just no substitute for good old fashion fresh air combined with a friendly ass-kicking. Combine that with an opportunity to meet new people and be pushed beyond your limits and you have the recipe for success. It's also relatively cost-effective. A private personal training session can cost upwards of $70/hour and most boot camps charge around $10-$15 per class. You get the same instruction, experience and motivation for a fraction of the price. And, since every workout is different you are constantly challenging new muscles which is the key to seeing results. Finally, of course, there is the accountability factor. Most of us, by nature, are more likely to keep a commitment if we have made a verbal and/or financial commitment to do so.

Once upon a time my sister-in-law was not much for exercising. Sure, she was always active, you know, working in the garden and chasing children but she would typically not run unless she was being chased. And then she discovered Seal Team training which is essentially an outdoor boot camp that is run by ex-Navy Seals. Can you say, hard core?

Anyway, she absolutely LOVES this training program and has been doing it for a few years and, two years ago, she started running marathons. That's right people, MARA-FREAKING-THONS. The same girl who used to shake her head in confusion when I would say I loved running now chooses to run. I know that she attributes much of her lifestyle change to her experiences with Seal Team. (Alycia, please add your two-cents in the comments about your experiences with this particular program. You've always had nothing but the best things to say about it.)

The reason I'm telling you this is that she recently informed me that Seal Team has just started offering classes in the Northern Virginia area. I know many of you reside in the NoVa/DC area and I thought you might be interested in checking out this program. Spring is here and there really is no better time to get outdoors and get your heart pumping.

For more information, please visit:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Plastic Shoes & Vegan Brownies

Grab your plastic shoes ... I have another vegan recipe to share, courtesy of our very own Mel.

Let me preface this recipe by saying that these are not "low-cal" so they should be enjoyed in moderation, especially if you have a weight-loss goal. However, the fat comes from heart-healthy, unsaturated sources like walnuts and avocados and the dates and agave nectar supply the all-natural sugar, making them a superior, health-conscious choice to traditional brownies.

This recipe is also gluten-free and contains no dairy so they are a good treat for those with wheat or dairy allergies as well as anyone looking to eliminate refined sugar, flour and saturated dairy-fat from their diet. Or for those with mean doctors who tell them to stop eating processed foods entirely. See Glennon you CAN have your brownie and eat it too! And they don't require any cooking either.

Raw Vegan Brownies

1 c walnuts
1 c dates
1/4 c cocoa powder

2 ripe avocados
1/4 c agave nectar
1/4 c cocoa powder
2 T coconut oil
1 T vanilla extract
dash salt
dash cinnamon

Combine brownie ingredients in a food processor (or Vitamix or blender) and blend until completely combined (mixture will be dry and slightly chunky); press into a pan.

Combine icing ingredients in a food processor (or Vitamix or blender) and blend until completely smooth. Spread icing over brownies and pop in the freezer to set for at least one hour before serving.

I added a few drops of peppermint oil to the icing to create decadent mint chocolate brownies. Seriously good people.

Taste Notes:
I did not have coconut oil on hand so I omitted it from the recipe altogether. The icing tasted fine without it but I think it did not "set up" quite as firm as Mel's batch that included the oil. However, it was not a hugely noticeable difference and I store mine in the freezer anyway.

Taste Team:
Mel's three boys went nuts for these brownies. They absolutely loved them, as did the rest of us with the exception of Eric who refused to try them on the grounds that I was "bastardizing" the brownie.

For those of you familiar with Lara Bars, the brownies have a similar consistency. And, as long as we are on the topic of Lara Bars, they are the only packaged "energy" bar that I generally recommend because they contain raw, all-natural ingredients and are minimally processed. (Sorry SLM, they all contain nuts).

Monday, March 29, 2010

Perfect Pasta

Phew. I was busy last week. In addition to spending time with good friends, I spent the week learning to make my own pasta. And by "make" I do not mean boiling water and waiting 5-7 minutes for store-bought, dried pasta to cook. I mean actually making the dough and using my new Kitchen Aid pasta attachment (happy early birthday to me!) to make whole wheat linguine and butternut squash ravioli.

Last year for my birthday my parents got me this gorgeous, shiny stand-mixer that, I must admit, makes my heart beat a little faster when I see it:

It's like a shiny new car, without the new-car smell of course.

And this year, much to Eric's relief, I purchased myself the pasta attachments for my birthday since my pasta-making-fool of a friend, Sam, was coming to visit. I wanted to take advantage of her know-how so I wouldn't actually have to read the directions on how to operate the various attachments. Directions can be so ... tedious.

The whole process is actually pretty simple and you can make the dough ahead of time and freeze it so you have some on hand whenever you want fresh pasta. Or when your friend comes over with her three boys looking for an activity as well as something to feed her family for dinner. You can also make batches of fresh pasta and freeze them in little bundles which will cook in about the same amount of time as dried pasta. The twins devoured the homemade linguine and I felt a strange satisfaction seeing them eat something I made from scratch.

I think the ravioli is particularly fun because you can experiment with the fillings and enlist help from your children. Well, not my children ... but you know, older ones who understand raw dough is not for eating or shoving in a sibling's ear.

We roasted butternut squash with some olive oil, salt and pepper and then pureed it with some fresh sage for a ridiculously delicious filling. However, you could literally fill the ravioli with anything. I think that concocting your own filling really is half the fun and, as an added bonus, the puree can double as baby food.

I realize the process of making pasta from scratch may seem daunting for some of you but I wanted to share the dough recipe I used for those of you who may be feeling ambitious. I actually found the whole experience very relaxing and think it will be a fun activity to do with the twins when they are a little bit older.

Basic Wheat Pasta Dough

In the bowl of stand-mixer, combine:

2/3 Cup whole wheat flour
1 1/3 Cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Stir ingredients with paddle attachment for 30-60 seconds, until slightly combined. Switch to dough hook and mix for approximately 2-3 minutes on medium speed until dough forms a ball. You can add water 1-2 teaspoons at a time if necessary to form ball.

You can use dough immediately or allow to chill in refrigerator up to 24-48 hours prior to use or freeze for future use. We used the same dough for the linguine as well as the ravioli.

Has anyone else dabbled in making their own pasta? If so, please share your tips, tricks and recipes with us since I am clearly a novice in this department.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Yes, We Have No Bananas Today

Meet my partner in crime, former training buddy and dear friend, Sam:

She is here, in Steamboat, with her boyfriend visiting us for the entire week. Yeah for me. Not so yeah for you. I will not be posting the rest of the week because I will be devoting my time to being the hostess with the mostess and catching up with sweet Sam.

A couple of updates before I go:

LWL informed me that she completed her half-marathon. Yeah LWL! Well done!

SouthLakesMom told me that Pollan's "Food Rules" is on sale for just $5 on

And, finally, if you haven't tried the almond red pepper hummus that Jeannie shared with us last week, please do so. We made it yesterday and it was a big hit.

Have a great week!

Friday, March 19, 2010

No Excuses Workouts

OK, I admit that I usually don't think much of the workout segments featured on morning television; however, this segment featured on the Today Show this week has some excellent full-body moves that really engage the core. The moves don't require any equipment (you can use paper plates for the "slides") and only take about 15 minutes. And, come on, we can ALL find 15 minutes to do a few exercises at home or while traveling. No excuses friends.

This video segment is another great workout series you can do at home with just a pair of light dumbbells. As you get stronger you can increase the amount of weight you are using. Each move is a "compound" movement, meaning that you are working multiple muscle groups with each exercise. Compound movements are great because they elevate your heart rate and work several muscle groups at a time, increasing your calorie and fat-burn.

These workouts are great for those of you trapped at home with little ones or too busy to get to the gym between full-time jobs, family and busy social calendars. Find 15 or 20 minutes in your day and fire up one of these videos for some full-body strength training. You'll be glad you did.

Also, let's take a moment to give LifeWithLove a big shout-out. She is running a half-marathon this weekend and could use our support. You go girl!

Let's get to work friends, summer is fast approaching!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Irish Yoga

I would love to give you all some pearls of wisdom today or share a fantastic recipe with you or inspire you to achieve athletic greatness, but that isn't going to happen. Not today.

That isn't going to happen because I spent yesterday working on my Irish Yoga poses in lieu of writing a blog post ...

(I actually used to be a yoga instructor so I can vouch for the validity of these exercises.)

So, if you must know the whole truth, we are not all tofu and flax seed and green drinks around here ... at least not on St. Patrick's Day ...

(Do you see how Ethan is making a move on my beer?!? Make no mistake friends, Irish blood runs deep.)

GUINNESS for strength!

I'll be back tomorrow with more FAL tips, tricks and treats. Have a great day!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Size Matters

Have you read any of Michael Pollan's books? Or seen him on Oprah ? If you haven't seen, heard or read him yet, he is a best-selling author who recently published an eater's manual, called "Food Rules," in addition to his other hits like "In Defense of Food" and "Omnivores Dilemma." I love his new book because, well, it's little and who has time for a BIG, heavy book these days with all those words?

"Food Rules" is a pamphlet of sorts that spells out what you should, and should not, eat. I love the simplicity and common sense of some of his rules, like avoiding foods with ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce and steering clear of breakfasts cereals that change the color of the milk. So simple and so true.

Rule 52 suggests that we should buy smaller plates and glasses. This is actually one that we have been following for a while, admittedly though because our big dinner plates don't fit in our dishwasher very well. So we have been using the smaller salad plates for the last two years and I think it helps with portion control. I still have the sense of having a full plate, which I really like, but the portions are smaller by default.

Pollan's research found that simply switching from a twelve-inch plate to a ten-inch dinner plate caused a 22% reduction in food consumption. That adds up to big calorie savings, especially over time. It's actually a pretty simple change to make, even if you are not dishwasher-challenged like we are, and one that shouldn't result in too much push-back from your significant other or children.
If it's true that you eat with your eyes first, then enjoying the sight of a dinner plate heaped high with delicious, healthy foods is a good start to a satisfying meal. Personally, I would rather feast my eyes on a FULL plate of delectable food than a sparse sprinkling of fare on a bigger plate.

Regardless of your stance on plate size, keep in mind my favorite of Pollan's rules: it's not food if it arrives through your car window.

'Nuf said.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Creamy Tofu Pudding

Tofu is low in fat, high in protein and rich in minerals, like iron, and is loaded with antioxidants. It's neutral flavor lends itself well to a variety of dishes, both sweet and savory. If you haven't experimented much with tofu it's worth a try.

This is as close to an “instant” pudding as you can get without the box and is great for those interested in avoiding dairy-based dishes. It’s also a great way to sneak tofu into your kids’ diets without them knowing. The twins seem averse to meat these days so this little "treat" is an excellent way for me to get some extra protein and iron into their diets.


One 10.5 ounce package firm tofu, chilled and cubed (I used the "silken" tofu)
¼ cup honey, rice syrup* or agave nectar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Optional: chopped fresh or dried fruit


Combine ingredients in food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Top with fruit, if desired.

I mean, really, how easy is that?

Note: I actually thought it was too sweet and will use a little less of the liquid sweetener (honey, agave, rice syrup, etc.) next time. You could also experiment with blending fresh fruit or unsweetened cocoa powder into the mixture for variety.

* Rice syrup is a natural liquid sweetener made from brown rice and is mild in flavor so it's perfect when you don't want the distinct taste of honey. It can be found at most natural food stores.

Monday, March 15, 2010

No Right Way

I was perusing Geneen Roth's book last night, "When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair," and chapter 21 struck a chord with me. While Roth does serve up most of her life lessons in the form of food related issues, I particularly like this chapter because she touches on so much more.

She reminds us that there is no singular, right way to approach a diet, or anything else in life for that matter. What works for one person may not work for another and, most importantly, what worked for you previously may not work for you now. It is important to honor each road you've traveled, the efforts you've made and your successes as well as your failures, and then to LET EACH OF THEM GO when they no longer serve you well or help you grow.

Please note that she does NOT tell us to dwell on past experiences and berate ourselves when we feel we could have done better. Yet that's what most of us do isn't it?

Roth tells us to stay current with our life choices and to ask ourselves the following five questions, about the food we eat, the company we keep and the work we do, on a regular basis:

1. Does it lead you toward a fuller life or does it confine you?

2. Does it bring you closer to your heart or farther away?

3. Does it open you or close you?

4. Does it allow you to trust yourself more or does it make you frightened of yourself?

5. Does it enlarge your life or does it make your life smaller?

Are your answers to these questions consistently on the side of feeling closed, scared and constricted? It’s important to recognize this because you can't change something until you realize something is wrong in the first place. And then remember that paths are meant to take us from one place to another; they are not meant to be traveled forever. So when something, or even someone, no longer serves your life in a positive manner it may be time to consider letting it, or them, go.

Did anyone else read this yet? What were your reactions or thoughts?

I try to avoid giving hard and fast advice here about how to lose weight, get in shape or improve your health because I fully recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach does not, and has never, been effective. My hope is that the recipes, essays, discussions and support from one another will help encourage you to keep choosing paths that bring you harmony, happiness and health.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Weekend Recipe

Our dear friend Jeannie has a hummus recipe to share with us today. Evidently she has been finding loads of delicious recipes in "Eat, Drink & Be Vegan" by Dreena Burton and this is one of those little gems.

And, friends, please don't FREAK OUT when you see the word 'vegan.' It's just a word. It doesn't have to be scary. It doesn’t mean you have to start wearing plastic shoes and carrying a canvas purse. And you don't actually have to be a vegan or even a vegetarian to enjoy a vegan recipe. As I've mentioned before, we do not eat a strictly vegan, or even purely vegetarian, diet here at the Entlich household. However, we do eat a predominately plant-based diet with plenty of vegetarian and vegan meals making a star performance at the dinner table.

And we really like hummus around here. It could have something to do with my overwhelming desire to move to a Mediterranean climate or my love of fancy kitchen appliances like food processors. Regardless, we eat more than our fair share of hummus and I can't wait to try this one!

Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Hummus

1/2 cups raw almonds
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups cooked (or canned) chickpeas
1/2 cup roasted red peppers (from jar), excess liquid drained and patted dry
1 medium clove garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2-4 Tbsp. water, to thin as needed

In a food processor, add 1/2 cup almonds and pulse until very fine.

Add vinegar, oil, chickpeas, roasted red peppers, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper.

Puree until smooth, gradually adding water as desired to thin dip; scraping down sides of bowl several times.

Once smooth, add parsley and puree briefly to lightly incorporate ingredients.

Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

Drizzle with additional oil to finish, if desired.

Optional for garnish: 1/4 - 1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley and/or 1-2 tbsp chopped almonds

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mad Scientist

I'm like a mad scientist in the kitchen. Often I don't really know what I'm doing and even more often I don't seem to have the necessary ingredients for a particular recipe. But I do not let little things like that stand in my way or slow me down. It's just not how I roll.

After yesterday's post I was inspired to make a batch of Super Berry Bran Muffins. I started pulling down ingredients from the pantry, located my measuring cups that the twins had absconded with and dusted off my mixing bowls ... only to discover that I had no berries and was almost out of applesauce, two of the key ingredients.

So I did what I usually do in the kitchen, and in life for that matter, I decided to fake it until I could figure out a better solution. Instead of berries I substituted golden and regular raisins and, since I only had 1/4 cup of applesauce, I improvised by smashing a ripe banana in lieu of the last 1/2 cup.

The result? Banana Raisin Bran Muffins. Can you say, yum?

You can't really mess up these muffins so don't be afraid to tinker with the recipe based on the ingredients you have on hand. In the past I have substituted oat bran, wheat germ and even oatmeal when I was out of wheat bran. It doesn't seem to matter and the muffins always taste great.

So don't be a slave to the recipe. View my recipes like Eric views my grocery lists: as a mere guideline.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Super Berry Bran Muffins

Happy Hump Day friends.

Today I offer you the Super Simon's Super Berry Bran Muffin recipe. Say that ten times fast.

These muffins are dairy, oil and egg-free so they are an excellent breakfast option or healthy snack for anyone with dairy allergies, high cholesterol or who is watching their fat intake. They are also extremely high in fiber (note the many types of wheat and bran used) so they are great for those times when you are feeling a little bound up, if you know what I mean.

I make a big batch and freeze them so they stay fresh; that way I have a quick breakfast option on days when I'm too frazzled to figure out what to eat. The twins love them as an afternoon snack and I'm pretty sure the Simon boys actually think they are cupcakes. Please don't tell them otherwise or you will have to incur the wrath of an angry 5-foot-nothing Melanie. She may be little folks, but she packs a mean punch. Consider yourself warned.

The muffins acquired their snazzy name from the Simon boys who were each allowed to pick their favorite fruit to include in the muffin batter. Jackson and Harrison were responsible for the antioxidant-rich blueberries and strawberries and Harper thought a little orange zest would perk up the overall flavor.

The result is a super tasty, super healthy muffin, courtesy of the Super Simon boys. Thanks Super Simons!

Super Berry Bran Muffins

2 cups wheat bran
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ cup applesauce
1 cup wheat germ
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat bran (regular oats works fine here too)
1 cup sucanat**
2 cups plant milk
1 cup blueberries
½ cup strawberries diced
1 Tablespoon orange or lemon zest

Preheat oven to 400

Combine 1 cup wheat bran with 1 cup boiling water, stirring until water is absorbed. Add 1/2 cup applesauce.

In a separate bowl, combine sucanat with 1/4 cup applesauce.

Add 1 cup dry wheat bran, wheat germ, baking soda, oat bran (or oats) and whole wheat flour to above 2 mixtures. Add plant milk. Fold in berries and zest.

Spoon into prepared muffin pans, sprayed or lined with paper cups.

Bake 15-18 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Experiment with raisins, dates or your favorite dried fruit.


** Sucanat is an all-natural sugar substitute.

Sucanat and refined white sugar start as the same product, sugar cane, which is high in many vitamins and minerals. The refining process removes all measurable traces of those vitamins and minerals from white sugar, leaving us with a nutritionally devoid product whose sole purpose is to be sweet.

Sucanat, on the other hand, is not refined. Sugar cane juice is dried until it crystallizes so sucanat retains the vitamins and minerals of the original sugar cane, and is in a far more natural form than refined sugar.

Sucanat looks and smells a bit like brown sugar. However, to the taste it's a great substitute for refined white sugar. It is sweeter than refined white sugar, though, so cut the amount down by about one-third in your recipes. For example, if a recipe calls for a cup of sugar, only use two-thirds cup of sucanat.

You can find Sucanat in some regular grocery stores but you may have to visit Whole Foods or your local health food store to find it.

Also, we’ve been pronouncing it “suck-ah-nut” since we discovered it. This is, in fact, not the correct pronunciation (but a lot of fun to say). We’ve been informed that it is actually pronounced “sook-a-nat.” Good to know I think in case you have to ask someone where it is located.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sangree's Hut

As you all know by now, I survived my first foray into the wilderness. Here I am starting out on the hike. Please note the sled attached to the back of my pack (more on that later).

The trail head starts at about 10,000 feet and climbs roughly 1,500 feet in 3.5 miles so, while not a long hike per se, it was definitely steep. For those of you not familiar with exercising at altitude you might think that a 3.5 mile hike sounds like a warm-up but the lack of oxygen at that elevation combined with the 30lb back pack makes any exertion seem much more strenuous. Of course, the rewards for such an endeavor are views along the way like this one:

About two hours later we catch a glimpse of our “hut” which, as you can see, is a substantial log cabin. It is located at 11,600 feet somewhere in the Rocky Mountains between Copper Mountain and Leadville.

The hut has a large main room with a sitting area, dining area and kitchen, and a wood-burning stove to keep you toasty warm and to melt snow for drinking water. That’s right; there is no running water so you have to “make” your own water which I can honestly say is one thing that I have never made in the FAL test kitchen. Now that I am an expert water-maker I can share this little secret with you: clean snow = clean water and dirty snow = dirty water.

While I've always considered myself adventurous and outdoorsy, I've never really camped. I generally prefer to be active during the day and then reward my efforts with a hot shower, nice meal and warm bed. This trip was a little bit different. Lack of shower and sleeping bag accommodations aside, the real issue for me was this:

That is the outhouse which was a cold, snowy 50-yard walk from the hut. It was particularly miserable in the dark, at night, with nothing but your headlamp to guide your way. So my plan of drinking enough wine to endure sleeping on a thinly padded bench in a sleeping bag backfired. Because really, who wants to get up in the middle of the night, don a headlamp and walk 50 yards in the snow to sit on an ice cold toilet?!? Not this girl.

However, when you wake up to views like this it's easy to forget the outhouse issue:

See how happy I look? It is day two and the lack of oxygen is finally getting to me.

The next photo is from the deck looking off to the right side of the hut. Do you see the trail down the center of this photograph? That's the trail leading to and from the hut. It takes you away from the hut for about a mile or two before it starts to wrap back around to the valley. That’s the way most people ski or snow shoe to and from the hut.

And this photo is taken from the center of the deck looking down towards the valley. Do you see the little make-shift trail just to the left that someone created while sledding? That essentially takes you straight down the mountain, into the gully and eventually meets up with the trail-head in the valley. That’s the exit strategy I chose.

Do you remember that little plastic sled in the first picture? Well, I secured my back pack to the sled and then jumped on the pack-sled and sledded down the mountain head-first. I believe this practice is called “skeleton” and, as you might imagine, it was not without its share of wipe-outs and mishaps. In hind sight, it was perhaps not the safest choice but it sure was a lot of fun. Besides, thanks to the twins’ hospital stay earlier this year we already met our insurance deductible.

I'm hoping someone snapped a picture of me bombing down the mountain head-first because typically activites that are THAT much fun are also illegal.

Thanks for joining me on this photographic tour of my first, and possibly last, hut trip. After two days of eating trail-mix and more than my share of peanut butter and energy bars I am looking forward to making some healthy meals that I can share with all of you.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Meet G'Ma

Hello everyone. This is G'Ma Sally. I was lucky enough to "acquire" Sally when I married her son, Eric. Smart move on my part. Not only does Sally share yummy recipes with me, like the one for her homemade granola below, but she also reminds me that anything is possible with a little hard work and determination. Sally completed her first triathlon at the tender age of 63 and still bangs out century rides with her bike group in Florida. She shows no signs of slowing down and I like it that way.

As we age our metabolisms do slow down, starting at about age 30, but it doesn't have to be the kiss of death. Regular exercise, especially weight training which builds lean muscle mass and elevates our resting metabolic rate, combined with a healthy diet absolutely can thwart the weight gain many assume is inevitable with aging. Grandma Sally exercises at least 5 or 6 days a week and is in better shape than she was in her 30’s, proving that it’s never too late to start an exercise program and see results. Go G'Ma!


Oatmeal and oat bran are significant sources of dietary fiber, containing a mixture of half soluble and half insoluble fibers. One component of the soluble fiber found in oats is beta-glucans which has proven effective in lowering blood cholesterol.

G'Ma's Granola

3 c. regular oats (not “quick” oats)
1 c. chopped walnuts
½ cup sliced almonds
½ c. raw wheat germ
2 TBS agave nectar
1/8 c. water
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 t. vanilla
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. nutmeg
¼ t. salt
Raisins or dried cranberries, optional

Preheat oven to 270

Combine oats, walnuts, almonds, wheat germ, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a BIG bowl.
Combine agave and water in a measuring cup; microwave about 7 seconds (to combine mixture). Remove from heat and stir.
Stir in oil and vanilla.
Pour over oat mixture and mix thoroughly.
Spread in 9 x 13 or larger rimmed pan.
Bake for 80 minutes total time, stirring at 30/30/20 minutes.
Once cooled, add raisins or cranberries if desired.
Store in an airtight container.

Sprinkle over a big bowl of fresh fruit with some soy yogurt (make sure it is “plain” yogurt as the vanilla and flavored yogurts contain a LOT of added sugar). Also try to make sure the nuts you use are raw or plain rather than salted, as the added sodium is not necessary or good for you.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hut Trip

I am leaving for my first hut trip in a few minutes.

What is a hut trip you ask? Well, from what I understand it is the winter equivalent of car camping, with less driving and a lot more snow. You pack all your gear and food -- everything you need for 2 nights in this case -- in a big ole pack and hike up to the top of a mountain where your hut awaits you. After that I'm not really sure what happens.

I do know that there's no cell phone service, Internet access or other signs of civilization once I arrive. It's like forced relaxation. I have also been assured that there are NO CRYING BABIES at, or anywhere near, the hut.

I will say that again. No. Crying. Babies.


Sure, I have to hike up a mountain with a 30lb pack on my back and be willing to wear the same clothes for 48 hours without showering, but that all seems like a very small price to pay for 2 GLORIOUS, PEACEFUL, QUIET days all to myself.

The twins will celebrate their 14-month old "birthday" on Saturday and I will celebrate my first time away from both the husband and the children in as much time.

Again ... Hallelujah!

I will be back on the blog bright and early Monday morning. Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Super Food: Chickpeas

Let's keep it light today. I'm sure I ruffled enough feathers with yesterday's soda post so today I offer you a ridiculously easy recipe and some great reasons to eat chickpeas.

Garbanzo beans, or chickpeas, are a very good source of folic acid, fiber and manganese. They are also a good source of protein and include minerals such as iron, copper, zinc and magnesium.

If they aren't already a part of your diet you should consider adding them. You can toss some on a salad for a super fast and easy way to bump up the nutritional power of your lunch or dinner. Or make a batch of Harper's Hummus and dip your favorite raw vegetables in it. You can also use it as a spread for sandwiches and wraps.

And, for the world's easiest, no-cook appetizer I present to you:

Chickpea and Red Pepper Salsa
Recipe and photo by Real Simple magazine

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and roughly chopped
4 scallions, sliced
1 cup arugula, chopped
2 jarred roasted red peppers, chopped (about ¼ cup)
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Use homemade whole wheat pita chips (slice and broil, bake or toast whole wheat pita pockets) or organic blue corn tortilla chips (I like Garden of Eatin' brand) for dipping.

I like to take the leftover dip, if there is any, and toss it on a bed of greens the next day for a fast and easy lunch.

Glennon: I feel like this recipe has your name written all over it. There's no cooking or appliances involved, other than a can-opener, so I feel confident this will get the GSA (Glennon Stamp of Approval). Don't make a liar out of me girl.

Bon appetite!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So Long Soda

Meet my dad. Until his recent trip to Steamboat to visit us and spend time with his favorite grand-twins (they are, of course, his only grand-twins which makes securing the top spot easy) he was easily drinking 8+ sodas a day. That’s right, MORE than EIGHT sodas EVERY day. Typically he would start his day with the breakfast of champions, a cup of coffee and not much else, and then go on to drink soda throughout the day, often skipping meals in the process. A glass of water rarely passed his lips. The most alarming thing of all though was that he would pop a couple of Tylenol PM’s to counteract the caffeine in his late-night Coke Zero. I wish I were joking.

Enter his loving daughter, yours truly.

My parents spent about 10 days out here in January visiting us, during which time I worked my tail off as the Food Police. I tried my best to show my parents alternatives to some of the convenience food they normally consume. I cooked healthy vegetarian meals and encouraged them to start exercising. And I nagged the pants off my dad about his soda habit. Since I don’t buy soda or keep any in the house it was a bit of a baptism by fire for my dad. He did end up purchasing some on his own but, thanks to the askance glances he received every time he opened one, he drank very few.

Please don't get upset or defensive with me, but there are a number of issues with drinking soft drinks, some of which include the following:

1. Drinking soft drinks replaces healthier nutrients. Very seldom is someone who’s drinking a Coke or Diet Coke simultaneously craving an apple or a salad. Drinking soft drinks is typically accompanied by snacking on fatty or salty foods.

2. Drinking soft drinks, even “sugar free” soft drinks that contain aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame, sucralose, increase blood sugar and weight gain. These artificial ingredients act like sugar in terms of the manipulation of blood glucose so they really don't promote weight loss. Sucralose is closely related to sugar in terms of the chemical compound, with the exception that chlorine has been added to keep it from influencing blood glucose levels. Chlorine is not healthful and can disrupt the healthy flora in the intestines, thus limiting our ability to absorb nutrients.

3. Caffeine increases calcium loss from bones, elevates heart rate, influences mood and is addictive. Caffeine is the primary cause for the headaches that most people experience when they quit drinking soft drinks.

4. Aspartame is a neurotoxin and has been shown repeatedly to be a cancer promoter. The body does not know how to process and eliminate artificial ingredients properly so they are often stored in fatty tissues in the brain and reproductive organs and can cause problems at the cellular level that result in a wide variety of maladies.

Water should be our first choice of beverage. Water cleanses, purifies, aids in digestion, helps support our metabolism and aids in detoxification. The average person should drink at least 64 ounces of plain, filtered water every day. Nothing else is a substitute for our body’s need for water. But don't worry, the more water you drink the more you will enjoy the taste of plain water and the more your body will actually crave it. Trust me.

I am happy to report that, since his visit, my dad is drinking one or maybe two diet sodas per day now. That is a HUGE improvement from the 8 or 9 he was previously consuming. And, it seems that this change is leading to other healthier changes as well. My parents have both started exercising on their own and working with a trainer once a week. They are making healthier snack and meal choices as well. Remember, progress … not perfection.

If I can teach this old dog new tricks I'm betting each of you can make a step in the direction of better health too. Of course, my parents have two compelling reasons sitting in their laps:

Way to go Dad (and Mom too)!

What are your reasons for wanting to improve your health? Write them down, share them with us here and/or post photos of loved ones in prominent places to remind you why you are choosing health over soda and junk food. Because it is a choice ... and I vote for us all choosing better health!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Week in Review

Last week's five-for-five challenge was a success but there were a few times when I thought I would crumble under the pressure of these two little saboteurs:

They alternated night-waking to test my need for coffee and desire to muster enough energy to exercise. There were a few mornings when I was unable to make it to the gym so I turned my living room into an exercise room during their nap time. I do have some miscellaneous exercise equipment but I also did my fair share of push-ups, tricep dips on a chair, running stairs and core work which anyone can do. You have to be resourceful and, of course, resist the urge to pay bills, do chores or nap yourself, but it can be done.

I also did Tracy Anderson's post-pregnancy DVD a few times and let me tell you, it's HARD. My abs were definitely sore the next day and the video targets your entire core and low-back as well as your hips, all which take a beating during pregnancy. I would highly recommend it for all you new moms.

For anyone else looking for a workout they can do at home, check out Tracy's web site for some of her other exercise DVDs. I'm betting you can't go wrong with any of her workouts. After all she is the woman behind the bodies of such A-list celebrities as Gwenyth Paltrow, Courtney Cox and Madona to name a few. I'm just saying. If you have a favorite exercise DVD or at-home workout please comment after the post and let us know what you like and why it works for you.

I really don't want to admit this but starting my day with the nutrient and antioxidant rich green smoothie gave me more energy than my usual cup of coffee. Has anyone else tried it yet and noticed the same thing?

But the most interesting thing I observed last week is that even when you KNOW you will feel better after making positive, healthy choices (exercising daily, reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption, and eating well) it is still hard sometimes to make yourself do it.

I find it helpful to really focus on how good my body will feel after I exercise or eat a healthy, balanced meal. Sometimes, but not always, that is enough to help me make the right choice.

How do you motivate to "do the right thing" when that is the very last thing you actually want to do?