Sunday, June 29, 2014

I am back to blogging....

It's funny, I recently turned 51, and while I don't feel "OLD" by any stretch of the imagination, I am very aware of the limited time I have remaining in my earthly life. I have definitely felt a shift in myself, knowing that I can't accomplish everything I would have liked to and need to adjust my expectations. I will not be able to start a new career, though knowing what I know now, I wish I could have been a nurse, a doula, a midwife, a therapist, and wished I would have finished my schooling with my registered dietitian licensing to just have been able to boost my credibility (though I feel I still can provide much expertise in this area with my B.S. in dietetics and 25 plus years as fitness professional). And I know some of you are saying you can still do these things if you want, but I also know I have other things in my future that are higher on my priority list, like my husband, children, future grandchildren and traveling the world. I don't want to have "to do" anything because I have to, i.e. have a job where I work for someone with set hours and the like. We are looking toward retirement, where we dictate how much we work, no longer having to work because we have to, because my husband and I actually planned our retirement starting in our twenties. We will talk about finances in a future blog, because I definitely have thoughts and advice in this area, but today we talk about food.

In a recent blood test, my cholesterol was higher than it should be, and I was shocked due to my healthy eating program and how diligent I am with it. It does make sense in a way, as there is some family history with high cholesterol from my dad's side. He had his first stroke in his early 60s and this was only the start of his health issues. This in a man who exercised most of his life, and certainly all of my childhood and thru his 80s, going to the YMCA every day of the week playing handball and doing his cardio/strength training. Not to mention the Mediterranean diet that we followed as devout Italians, with vegetables and fruit grown in our own backyard and limited processed food. So, in an effort to help myself naturally, and the fact that there is little I can change in my already excellent diet, I have taken to adding oats to my diet. I HATE oatmeal fyi. And I would not hate it if I could eat it with all kinds of yummy add ons like nuts and dried fruit, but one must keep calories in mind and realize that a half cup of old fashioned oats, one measly tablespoon of walnuts, and an addition of some fresh or dried fruit, maxs out my 350 calorie breakfast allotment (there are many more meals to be eaten throughout the day where my calories need to go), and I am always hungry before lunch time when I eat oatmeal. Not so with my other breakfast choices of cereal, soy milk, and fruit, or my toast, nut butter, and all fruit jelly. I have tried more recipes than I care to share over the last few months, but finally, I think I found the muffin that may do the trick for me. I need a few grab and go breakfast options, in addition to my latest balls of health that I keep frozen, so these muffins should fit the bill.

All the credit goes to Monique at http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/ for her recipe that I tweaked a bit. I love that it has very little added sugar and you can choose to omit the added chocolate chips and add dried fruit instead. I always add them, but use mini chips as they disperse better throughout recipes. I also use whole wheat pastry flour in all my baking and NEVER EVER white flour.

Low-fat Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

Blended my oats in my go-to Vitamix. Could not live without it. A blender or food processor will work.
I've got everything I need in within my reach....

Ready to eat or freeze. As you can see I have portioned out the rest of my pumpkin in 1 cup increments to freeze for my next batch.

I would like to see if we can work on commenting right on this blog. Things like "if you like recipe", "what tweaks you made", "what you didn't like", "what you need help with", etc. You will need to register to comment. It will allow me to know you are reading and trying, in turn this will help me want to blog more. I also plan to share my healthy eating philosophy, which includes a large percentage of complex carbohydrates. "Complex carbohydrates are those carbohydrates that are made of three or more sugar molecules linked together. These carbohydrates are found vegetables, nuts, fruits, seeds and grains. They differ from simple carbohydrates, like sugar, that are made of only one or two linked sugar molecules. Complex carbohydrates take longer for your body to break down than simple ones, which helps to maintain a steady blood sugar level."

Glad to be back. Gina









Friday, September 28, 2012

Panzanella AKA Bread Salad

Panzanella is a salad of bread and tomatoes. You can add a lot of variations to this to personalize it. I was watching Ina Garten on Food Network this afternoon and when I saw her make a grilled version of this salad, I paused the show and headed to the store to get the necessary ingredients. 

Slice up red and yellow bell peppers, as well as a red onion. Brush with olive oil and grill. (You can totally do this outdoors OR indoors!) While these were grilling, I cut up a tomato into small cubes. Ina's recipe called for a hothouse cucumber and capers, as well. I don't love cucumber so I skipped this, and I  was too impatient to look for the capers. Geez! She also added some chopped basil to this mixture - my grocery store was out of this. 

Flip the vegetables to grill both sides. Once done, add the onions to the tomato/cucumber mixture, and place the bell pepper on a cutting board to cut into smaller pieces. Then add to the salad. After that, slice a baguette on the diagonal and lightly oil - grill up. Once grilled to perfection, add to the salad.

You will top all of this with a homemade vinaigrette. Mix, and serve warm. Yum! 





I think the salad would look 10x better with the specks of green from the basil. But let them assure you that even with some modifications, this salad was delicious!


Mary


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Balls O' Health

Do you buy "sport's bars"?? If so, you might be surprised to see the ridiculous number of ingredients and those that you cannot possible pronounce. I for one cannot in good conscience buy another one. My goal this year is to stay away from all processed food items and what I have learned is that I can make my own, which end up tasting better, and have to certainly be better for us.
The other day I made the mistake with a quick purchase at Costco and look at the rating these two got on my iphone app. Never again!!

You can rate your food too by scanning the bar code, download the "Fooducate" app on your smartphone. You will be surprised as I was at "grade" some of my "go to" purchases got. Needless to say, I won't be buying them any longer.

I follow many food blogs, all that propose healthy eating, and this recipe taken from one, with a few tweaks of my own, has become a favorite for Derek and I, along with the boys and girls polo teams. (Alaina refuses to try it.) My hope is to share some of our favorites and that they become yours too.

Ingredients

•1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
• 2 Tbsp hulled hemp seeds
• 2 Tbsp flaxseed, cracked
• ¼ cup unsweetened dried cranberries
• ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
• Pinch sea salt
• 1 cup all-natural peanut or nut butter, sugar and salt free
• 2 Tbsp brown-rice syrup or honey





Combine oats, hemp seeds, salt, nut butter and syrup or honey.
In food processor, combine cranberries and whole flaxseeds. Run for a bit to chop cranberries and more importantly, crack the flaxseed. I only have whole flax or ground and I want the crunch from the seed, but without breaking it, we cannot utilize it's nutrients.

Combine all ingredients and mix. I use my hands, much easier to incorporate all.


I use a small ice cream scoop to form uniform balls. I throw in ziplock in freezer and pull them as we need. They make great healthful snack, pre or post meal option.





Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tortilla Breakfast Cups

I have seen tortilla breakfast cups featured on different cooking shows and in magazines over the past few months. A couple weeks ago I had a little extra time and thought it was the perfect opportunity to experiment with these little babies. What I really love about them is that you can get really creative with these. I think they would be really fun at a brunch - you could have a whole bunch of fillings prepared and let everyone 'design' their own cups.

Let's get to the making....

My pictures of this process are not very detailed. However, this is very simple to execute. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is heating, grab some tortillas and heat them in the microwave. Warm tortillas are less likely to crack. (We actually whipped up some homemade flour tortillas for this!) Definitely opt for whole wheat hear to get the added benefit of fiber with the more filling whole wheat carbs. Grab a muffin pan and spray with cooking spray. Gently place each tortilla into a muffin cup, and press it ion to form to the cup. 

Now it's time for the fillings. There are two schools of thought here. The first is that you get a bowl, and crack an egg into it. Then scramble the egg - mix your toppings into the scrambled egg and then pour the mix into the formed tortilla. The other school of thought, which is what we did here, is to just fill up the tortilla with your toppings and then crack an egg on top. Top with cheese as desired. Oh and I always season with salt and pepper!

Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the egg is fully cooked.


 Here's a shot from the inside. This wasn't really a planned making of breakfast cups so I used what I had on hand - pinto beans, cut up (nitrate-free!) turkey slices, and diced onion.

A few topping ideas are bacon, ham or sausage, spinach, tomatoes, bell pepper, corn, mushrooms, etc! Get creative and have fun with this! This is a very customizable recipe, and a fun change from the ordinary.

Mary

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Oven-Baked Falafels

I stumbled across a falafel recipe on the internet last week and was quite intrigued. I've seen fried falafels at restaurants, and while they sounded very good, I wasn't interested in wasting all of my daily calories on one fried meal! That's why I was pleasantly happy to have found this recipe. I made a few adjustments as I was only cooking for one and didn't have everything on hand. Also, I added my baked falafels to a salad rather than a pita. Both options sound delicious!

(I'll give the directions with the original proportions, which is great if you're cooking for your family. If it's just for one, go ahead and halve everything)

Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. For the falafels, combine 2 cans of rinsed and drained chickpeas with 3 tablespoons of flour in a food processor. Add 1 teaspoon of chili powder, 2 teaspoons of cumin, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 2 teaspoons coriander, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a dash of black pepper. Feel free to adjust the seasonings here to those that you have on hand and your taste preferences!


You can mix this in batches if you need to. The original recipe called for 3 tablespoons of parsley, but I didn't have any, so I added one of my favorite herbs - cilantro! If you don't have a food processor, mash this all together with a fork or potato masher.

Make small balls from the mixture - 2 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Really, you can make them whatever size you want, though! Just make sure they are all the same size, no matter how big or small, because that will ensure that they cook evenly. Place some foil on a baking sheet and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place your falafels on the baking sheet and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

 Fresh out of the oven..... the outsides were crisp and the insides were soft. Very nice texture!

From here, add your falafels to whatever meal you want. I made a salad where I added some avocado and dressed with a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and some salt and pepper.

For the original recipe, they made falafel pitas. They were dressed with a mixture of tahini (sesame paste) and lemon juice. Falafels, lettuce, tomatoes and feta were placed in a whole wheat pita and topped with the dressing.

Either way, it's yummy and a much healthier version that the fried ones!

Mary

Monday, June 25, 2012

Low Cal Key Lime Tartlets

Inspired by a recipe in Fitness magazine,  I made some key lime tartlets a couple weeks ago. The best part is that not only are they delicious, but they're only 70 calories each!

You can buy phyllo dough shells that are already made, but my store didn't have those so I just got a pack of phyllo dough. Carefully unwrap the gently thawed phyllo dough. Lay down one sheet as smooth as you can, spray with cooking spray and top with another sheet. Repeat this until you have 6 sheets of the phyllo dough.



Cut the stack into thirds. Once that is done, cut each third into thirds. This will leave you with 9 parts. (Sorry no picture of that part!)


Take a muffin pay and spray with cooking spray. Take one of the nine pieces and gently lay in the muffin cup. Repeat with the others. Smoosh (yes, that's a technical cooking term) the phyllo dough down so you form the tartlet shape.

Place in a preheated oven at 350 degrees, for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
 Take out of the oven and gently move to a rack for cooling. They came easily out of the muffin cup with the help of a spoon.
 Alright, for the filling. If you love hard work, grab a bunch of little key limes and individually juice them until you have 1/2 cup of lime juice. I actually found the below pictured bottle of Key Lime Juice and opted to go that route instead. Also, I can't find key limes in my neck of the woods right now! Mix with fat free sweetened condensed milk. Usually I don't opt for fat free because they use a lot of chemicals to maintain the right consistency in products, but I was happy to see that was not the case here. Anyways, I found it was much easier to use my kitchen aid to mix the two because it really helped to combine them nicely into a smooth mixture.
 You have to let the key lime/sweetened condensed milk mixture set in the fridge until thickened - with a pudding like consistency. This will take about an hour.  [You're going to need to seriously implement some self control and will power here to not eat the whole mixture out of the bowl with your fingers...or a spoon. It is that good!] When this is ready, place 1 tablespoon into each tartlet shell.
 Mmmm.... looks divine! The recipe should make 24 total.
 I topped each of mine with a small dollop of homemade whipped cream. Delicious!
70 calories each makes for a very light and creamy summertime dessert.

Enjoy!
Mary

Monday, May 7, 2012

Homemade Latte

I love a good (decaf) latte, but I    a) don't want to spend the money necessary to buy them at a coffee place on a regular basis..... b)  want to know exactly what I'm consuming..... c) don't generally have time to go to a coffee shop!

I recently read about a way to make a homemade latte without having a frother attachment, and was so excited! I had an awesome little frother that my mom had gotten me from IKEA, but unfortunately it broke. :( But now there is a solution!

Begin by brewing your favorite coffee - full 'caf', decaf, hazelnut, what ever your cup of tea coffee is! While your coffee is brewing, heat up some milk in the microwave.... I heated for 1 minute, until warmed through. And a latte is generally 1/2-2/3 milk, which means you're using half or less of coffee. But honestly, at moderation4life, we're all about tailoring things to your needs and tastebuds so if you want more or less coffee, do what you want!

Once your milk is warm, either place it in a blender, or grab your handheld egg beater.


 I only used one of my beater attachments, and basically whip/blend until frothy! Can't be easier.

Grab a cup of joe, and sweeten to your liking.

Add your frothy milk to the coffee. You will need to get a spoon to get the froth into the cup, because the froth tends to sit at the back of the cup when you're pouring. Once again, add as much or as little froth and milk as you like.

And guess what, now you get to enjoy!


Make this on your next lazy morning, or as you're headed out the door to your busy day!
Mary