Archive for September, 2014

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Using Jars for Food Storage

September 30, 2014

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Mason jars have been the darlings of Pinterest lately. They show charming photos of them being used for drinking vessels, vases and housing salads that don’t get soggy, when the ingredients are layered in the correct order. ( We’ll talk about that another time!)

Yes, we too are guilty of the mason jar obsession. While we aren’t using them for rustic chic decor, we have fallen for the practical aspects they were originally created for.

We try to avoid plastic containers wherever possible, due to the harmful chemicals in plastics that leach into our food, especially liquids. Glass mason jars are the perfect vehicle for storing soups and sauces safely. Today’s kitchen tip centers around using them for freezing.

To freeze liquids in a mason jar:

  • Run the jars and lids through the dishwasher and drying cycle to sterilize them.
  • Place the ingredients into the jar leaving at least an 1″ or so at the top to accommodate expansion as the liquid freezes.  Place the lids on the jars loosely, and allow the soup or sauce to fully cool. Once cooled, tighten the lids and place them in the freezer.

Glass jars can also be safely microwaved, for those times when you don’t have access to a stove. Make sure to remove the metal lids before doing so.

photo: glasshouse images

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Challenging Math and Science

September 29, 2014

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a doctor, or a nutritionist. I am not good in science and I absolutely suck at math. Therefore, please take this post with a grain of salt, or better yet, skip the extra salt completely and just keep reading.

Conventional wisdom states that 3500 calories make a pound. A pound is a pound, whether it is fat, muscle, butter or carrots. It is presumed, that if you reduce your calorie intake by 3500 calories over a period of time, you will lose 1 pound. If you over-consume by that much, you will gain. Makes sense,right? Well, not so fast…

What you eat, and how you burn it off is as important as the elimination of those 3500 calories. Case in point:

I am admittedly obsessive about food and fitness, hence the premise of this blog. I keep a food and activity journal, and try to be as accurate as possible. Based on my current size, if I only consume 1,110 calories per day, I will lost 1 pound per week. Before you all go crazy and think I starve myself, when I enter activity, it adds those calories burned back to my daily food quota. Because I am so active, I am able to eat more than that and still be on target to lose a pound per week.
I take hardcore cycling classes four times per week, I weight train, do weight circuits and toss in a Pilates class when I can for good measure. I also walk 1-1/2 hours per day on average, as transportation. In most people’s eyes, that should be a free pass for the all-you-can-eat fish fry, with extra dessert, right? WRONG!

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According to my Lose It app, I have saved 5369 calories over the last 4 weeks, over and above the 3500 per week deficit built in. That would mean I lost 5.5 pounds. According to the scale in my bathroom, I have gained almost that much. Say WHAT?

The big differential for me these last few weeks is not the amount of food I am eating, but the type of food I am eating.  Based on my personal experience, here are the cold, hard realities of healthy eating and exercise, according to me:

Just because it came from Whole Foods, or is organic, low fat, gluten free or whatever else the package says, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Sorry, but real healthy food does not come in a package, and therefore does not state it’s virtures.

I do not have a gluten allergy or celiac disease, and gluten does not make me sick. Foods that contain it however (with the exception of french fries, that would be all the really delicous ones!) make me fat. And by fat, I mean bloated, and thick around the middle. Maybe it’s not the case for you, but for me, if I want a flat belly, I need to lay off the white stuff, most of the time. And while we’re at it, the whole grain goodness of whole wheat isn’t any better on my middle.

For many, many years, I avidly avoided sugar. Not even a bite of a cookie, or a lick of ice-cream. Now, if I have a little sweet something, it makes me want more. Like a junkie, that bite becomes the whole thing. And then I have a stomach ache. My body is trying to tell me something. Why don’t I listen to it? Do you listen to yours? You really should.

Protein is the building block of muscle or something like that. (See disclosure above.) I am clearly not eating enough of it lately. I don’t like meat, so getting to the fish market has to be a priority, otherwise I just eat fruit and vegetables, and later become ravenous and down half a bag of  trail mix or something else masquerading as “healthy” in a  package in my pantry. It’s important to fuel properly during the day to avoid the ravenous binge, especially post workout.

My exercise routine is intense, followed by long stretches of sitting on my butt in front of a computer or drawing table all day. I get out of my chair sometimes and can barely move I’m so stiff. Studies show that even a couple of  hours a day of physical activity cannot offset being sedentary for the rest of the day. I need to get up and move around every few hours, to rev my metabolism and stretch my sore limbs. Perhaps a stroll to the nearest fish market would solve multiple issues?

While we are on the subject of walking, I regret to inform you that walking does not burn very many calories. For those of you that think walking for 30 minutes per day a few times a week is exercising, you are wrong. It is better than not moving at all, but it doesn’t do much for increasing your heart rate or decreasing your fat rate. Lose It says that I burned 69 calories during a 30 minute walk, or the equivalent of  1-1/2 tablespoons of trail mix. And that’s not the kind with M&M’s in it. Bummer, right?

This is the calorie equivalent of a 30 minute brisk walk.

This is the calorie equivalent of a 30 minute brisk walk.

The media touts salt as an enemy. It’s not the salt that we sprinkle on our home cooked meals that is the problem. It’s the huge amounts lurking in those bags and tetra packs, and glass jars (no plastic please! ) that is the issue. That organic, gluten free, low fat, high fiber soup my be a BPA free sodium bomb. Making soup is so easy and tastes so much better. It’s time to get off my duff and make a few different kinds to put in the freezer in individual containers so that I can have homemade convenience foods at the ready. While salt doesn’t cause fat gain, that jump in the scale after consuming large quantities of it is due to good old bloat. Drinking a lot of water can help to eliminate the retained water in a day or two.

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The bottom line is that whole foods; the kind that are produced by nature, not factories, are the best for us. There is no debate there. Eating the freshest, highest quality foods, without added chemicals, additives and flavorings will produce the best results in terms of health, fuel and weight management.

Moving throughout the day is important for your health, but adding bouts of high intensity activity ( intervals for example,) will yield you better results.

It’s true what they say: You can’t out train a bad diet, and abs really are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.

Expansion Plans

September 25, 2014

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The American obesity epidemic continues to take it’s toll, despite warnings to the contrary. What is really alarming, is news that although our collective body mass is not expanding, our waistlines are.

The New York Times reports that the average overall waist circumference in 2012 was 38.7″, up from 37.5 in 1999.

Abdominal obesity, defined by a waist circumference of more than 40″ for men, and 34.6″ for woman, is a key indicator of metabolic syndrome, which puts us at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Getting on the scale is a good indicator of weight, but monitoring your waistline could be a better indicator of good health.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: Pumpkin Spice Bread

September 24, 2014

 

IMG_3101Once the weather begins to change and the days begin to shorten, the craving for cinnamon, spice and everything nice seems to come about as well.  Step away from the empty calorie bomb that is the pumpkin spice latte, and try this healthier alternative, adapted from Fit Sugar.

It has real pureed pumpkin in it, and uses whole wheat flour and oatmeal instead of the white stuff. Unsweetened applesauce and oil replace the stick of butter traditionally found in this type of thing. While not really an UN- recipe, feel free to make it one, by adding nuts, raisins, or a dollop of whipped cream on the side. ( OK, that last one took us to whole other place, but it would sure taste good!)

 

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Pumpkin Spice Bread:

In a mixer, beat 4 eggs, a 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree, 2/3 cup neutral oil ( grape seed, canola, sunflower etc.) 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce, and 2/3 cup of water. Mix until it is a creamy consistency.

In a separate bowl, mix 2 1/3 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup rolled oats, 1 2/3 cups sugar *( I prefer a mix of white and brown sugars for a richer flavor), 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1 1/2 teaspoons all spice. Feel free to adjust the spices to suit your palette. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix thoroughly.

Pour the batter into 2 loaf pans sprayed with cooking spray, and sprinkle the tops with a little of the rolled oats. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 – 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and dry. Allow to cool, and enjoy!

photos: indigojonesnyc instagram

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Skimming Fat

September 23, 2014

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We like our soups and sauces to be free of the excess fat that makes them greasy. It’s easy to skim the fat off, if you have the patience.

The best way to defat soups and sauces are to leave them in the refrigerator over night, so that they become very cold. The fat will naturally separate, and float to the top. Carefully take a spoon and remove the congealed fat from the top and discard it.

For those times when we can’t wait for the soup to cool, try placing an ice cube on a slotted spoon and dragging it along the top of the pot. The fat will stick to the ice cube, and can be rinsed away easily. This method is less thorough than allowing the food to chill, but it is effective.

photo: glasshouse images

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A Different Kind of Medicine

September 22, 2014

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A friend who struggled with a long term illness taught me a valuable lesson in dealing those who are going through difficult times. We have the tendency to tell the person who is ill, or in mourning to “Let us know if you need anything.” While well intentioned, this places the burden on the person we most want to help, by forcing them to reach out to us and ask. Her alternative suggestion mirrored that very successful Nike campaign: JUST DO IT!

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Today, I am following her advice, and preparing a package for a friend who has recently undergone surgery.

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Nothing is better when you are under the weather than homemade chicken soup, which soothes the body and the soul.  I’m delivering it packaged in individual servings, which can be tossed in the freezer for another day, or microwaved in the container while in the hospital. Glass jars make a pretty presentation and are a healthier way to package food than plastic.

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Next time you want to help someone who is ill, stifle the urge to ask what you can do for them, and just do it!

 

photos: indigojonesnyc instagram

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The Half Tuck

September 17, 2014

We’ve been talking about style a lot lately; the artful way we wear our clothes that give us an edge. We love a look that is uncomplicated and casual,yet somehow pulled together. Great style is that little something that makes the “cool girls” look cool in nothing more than jeans and a tee shirt.  Today, my friends, that extra something is the “half tuck.”

Tucking just a little bit of your shirt into your pants not only gives an air of “I just threw this on” chic, but showing just a couple of inches of  waistband lets the world know there is a body under there. That little connection makes a billowing shirt seem less overpowering, and a little sexier at the same time.

Check it out for yourself. Fabulous belt, optional.

A denim shirt and sweats with great style

A denim shirt and sweats with great style

Chic volume control

Chic volume control

Half tuck your tees, please!

Half tuck your tees, please!

Show off your belt

Show off your belt

Break it up!

Break it up!

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: How to Chill Wine Quickly

September 16, 2014

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Sometimes we want a glass of nice, cold chardonnay, and we want it NOW. Chilling wine quickly isn’t as difficult as it sounds.
Place the wine bottle into a metal bucket, fill it with ice and cold water, and toss in a big handful of salt. The salt will lower the freezing point of the water, making it colder, faster. After about 6 minutes, your wine should be sufficiently chilled and ready to drink.

Salud!

photo: Glasshouse Images

Unrecipe of the Week: Arugula and Stone Fruit Salad

September 15, 2014

Battling lunchtime boredom is a real issue with me. I want to eat something that is fresh, healthy, low in calories and low in refined carbs. It needs to be easily transportable, and cant’t take too much prep time in the morning. That often leaves me tied to my desk with a lackluster salad, or a bowl of Greek yogurt. Until now.

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See how it went so beautifully with the pile of books on my desk?

This salad combination awakened all of my senses: It’s rich autumnal colors made it beautiful to behold. The flavors are a unique combination of sweet, salty, and slightly bitter. The textures range from crisp to soft and succulently juicy. It was ready in minutes and fit perfectly into a compact mason jar, dressing and all! In a word, perfection.

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Arugula and Stone Fruit Salad:

In the bottom of a mason jar, drizzle a little bit of olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. The balsamic vinegar that has been aged 10 years or more has an almost syrup-like consistency, and tends to be much sweeter than regular balsamic. If you don’t have it, no worries, just use the regular kind, and adjust the quantity accordingly. ( You will want a bit more.) Next add a few big handfuls of baby arugula, and pack it in tightly. Core and chop the stone fruit of your choice ( I have been using nectarines and plums) and put it on top of the arugula. Lastly, add some diced ricotta salata cheese and seal the jar. You can substitute feta, goat or even mozzarella cheese if you prefer. For a little more crunch, add a sprinkling of chopped nuts.

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When you are ready to eat the salad, shake the jar to mix the dressing in, pour it into a bowl and enjoy!

photos: indigojonesnyc instagram

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A Moment of Silence

September 11, 2014

Join us today as we observe a moment of silence in remembrance of the terrible tragedy that occurred on this day in 2001.

twin towers, world trade center, nyc

 

“The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic, and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom.” – Rudolph Giuliani

photo: Glasshouse Images


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