Movement is Key!

We started talking about movement last post.  I’d like to continue on that subject because, as mentioned, we have become way too sedentary for our health.  Even an hour or two of daily exercise can’t make up for the 8-10+ hours of static sitting that has become way too commonplace for most people!

With movement comes the stimulation of the musculature and various cellular processes throughout the body that keep all our systems functioning at a higher level.  We get more fuel to all of our cells, our pancreas does a better job of balancing out blood sugar levels, our brain gets fed the glucose it needs to function properly, our digestive system continues to work and our muscles get the blood they need to both flush out waste products plus bring new oxygen and nutrients to function properly.  And, as we talked last time, to assist with keeping full length in the muscles that tend to stay short after prolonged sitting.

The above is to just name a few of the many actions our body does when we keep moving as opposed to too much sitting.  Did you know that even getting up and moving your own body weight around for a few minutes will start your system moving again?  This is why it is ideal to walk around at breaks, work part of the time at a standing desk, use the steps rather than taking the elevator whenever you can and much more.  You get the picture.

Start getting creative as to how you can move around more even if you do have to be at your desk all day.  What about standing and doing squats while you are on a conference call?  This will get those glutes and quads working to increase metabolism and burn a few extra calories.  Need to read that paper?  Walk around your desk while you are reading it or do little lunges from side to side.  Perhaps do a little Tai Chi movement or two while you are reading something on your computer.  Don’t know Tai Chi?  Here is a video with some basic moves for you from  Jake Mace  Note side benefit:  This might just calm you down a bit at the same time!

Drink more water!   You will get the double benefit of rehydrating your system, which is most likely dehydrated, and it will make you get up and go to the bathroom more.  🙂  For more information on hydration, here is an article I wrote a while back about drinking water.

Of course none of this is meant to take the place of regular vigorous exercise but to help counter the negative effects of sitting too much.

Another benefit is every time you get up and sit back down, you are likely to sit in your chair more upright and out of that slumped position that seems to come so naturally when sitting for long periods of time.  You thought I forgot about the posture piece, didn’t you?  Nope.  Next time we will look at what often happens to the head and neck from sitting too long.

Meanwhile I hope this inspires you to move more and more throughout the day!

To your health,

Julie

 

Cooking as Meditation

How many of you cook on a regular basis anymore?  Do you find it easier to grab a meal on the run?  How do you feel after eating this way?  Are you satisfied?  Do you feel good?

As a society we have lost the desire and art of cooking.  Somehow our world has become one where fast food and fast eating is the norm.  There is a misconception that it is cheaper to eat fast food than preparing a meal at home and that it is equally healthy.  Both of these are inaccurate.

For me cooking is relaxing; a sort of meditation if you will.  At the end of a busy day I get home and look forward to spending time in the kitchen slicing vegetables, creating delicious sauces, grilling or baking.  It provides a great sense of accomplishment and keeps me in the moment while I am preparing.  Plus I know exactly everything that goes into what I am eating.  In fact most (if not all) of the ingredients don’t have labels.  They come exactly as they are grown.  The result is delicious, satisfying food both in my body and for my soul.  The additional reward is sitting down with family or friends to relax and enjoy this meal.  The conversation that goes along with relaxing at home rather than being rushed to eat out is an even greater reward.

Think about it.  It is great way to enjoy family time.   Pull out all the ingredients and give everyone a part in creating the dinner.  Talk about your day together.  Chopping, stirring, and creating.   Talking will come more naturally when you are moving than sitting on the couch staring at each other.  Make it a time for even exchange of conversation between all of you.  Laugh, be silly and be creative.  After the meal is made sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor together.

The need for this type of eating and connecting is that much more important in our fast paced life than ever.  In America our population as a whole is 65% obese or overweight and much of this comes from what we eat, how it is made, where we eat it and how unconscious we are when we eat it.

The recognition of this has gone beyond the health conscious population in our country.  Even our doctors know very little about nutrition and how to prepare healthy meals, yet these are some of the people we rely upon to give us advice.  This is changing as is indicated by The Tulane University of Medicine, one of 16 medical schools with a licensed chef as one of their instructors.  In an effort to educate future doctors, medical schools are adopting a designated program to teach not only nutrition but how to cook.

Here are a couple of great excerpts from an article on Tulane University of Medicine:

Dr. Timothy Harlan, known in the food media world as Dr. Gourmet, is also executive director at the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane. Harlan says the program isn’t just about helping students understand nutrition. The focus is on practical talk about food. Harlan wants Tulane-educated doctors to be able to teach their patients everyday skills in how to cook, what to cook and why…

“We know from the literature that when people go home and start cooking from real ingredients for themselves that their health improves,” Harlan says.

Isn’t it time to start cooking yourself?  The meals don’t need to be complicated or take hours.  These are more misconceptions.  I have prepared a delicious meal in no time at all and the process of preparing it has calmed me, brought me more into the moment and prepared my body to get out of the fast pace of the day to one that can relax and fully enjoy the delicious meal.

If you are interested in a few easy meals, simply look through my ‘Recipe of the Month’ section of my blog.

To your health,

Julie

Miraculous Magnesium

swiss chard 1.11.16

As I was harvesting some Swiss chard from my winter garden this morning, it reminded me of how often overlooked and yet valuable the mineral magnesium is.  I realize this isn’t something we think about on a regular basis yet it is not only an essential mineral in our diet but we often tend to be deficient in it.

Magnesium is such a major player in our health.  It is the single most important mineral for maintaining proper electrical balance and is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.

It is estimated that 60%-80% of Americans aren’t getting enough magnesium in their diet due to lack of vegetables, poor food choices and farming practices.  Supplementation is definitely something to consider and yet the first step really should come from our diet.  Amongst the best sources of magnesium are leafy green vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes.  Here are some of the top foods:

  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Cashews
  • Summer squash like zucchini or crookneck
  • Avocados
  • Black beans

As for the benefits of magnesium, there are plenty:

  • Creates and maintains bone health
    • 50%-60% of magnesium is stored in the bone and consequently plays a significant role in bone metabolism
    • Adequate magnesium in your diet improves bone mineral density
  • Enables energy production as it is a vital component in the production of ATP, a high energy molecule found in every cell
    • Low levels of magnesium can be one of the factors in low energy or fatigue
  • Maintains a healthy nervous system by working with calcium in forming an electrical current
    • Low levels can result in anxiety, irritability, agitation, insomnia and confusion
  • It is a vital nutrient in the prevention of chronic inflammation as it modulates cellular events involved in inflammation
    • Studies indicate that low levels of chronic inflammation are the cause of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and more
  • Enhances control of blood sugars
    • Magnesium is a co-factor in over 100 enzymes involved in controlling blood sugar and glucose metabolism

Magnesium is becoming more and more recognized as a vital macro nutrient that we just don’t get enough of.  Even medical researchers are recommending increasing the RDA to almost double current amounts.

To start you in the direction of adding magnesium to your diet, here is an easy and delicious salad that will give you lots of magnesium.  Quantities are not listed as they will vary based on the number of people enjoying this delicious salad.

Dressing:

  • 3 parts Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 part Champagne Vinegar or high quality, aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp or more Fish Sauce*
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Place above ingredients in a jar with fitted lid.  Shake thoroughly.

Salad:

  • Swiss chard, ribs removed
  • Kale, ribs removed
  • Parsley leaves
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • Avocado, sliced
  • Red bell pepper, cut to desired shape
  • Zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • Dried apricots cut into long strips

Clean and tear into bite size pieces the first 4 greens and place in salad bowl.  Drizzle salad dressing on, mix and set aside for at least 30 minutes.  Note:  Since these leafy greens are a bit tougher than regular lettuce, this will allow them time to soften and get sweeter.

After 30 minutes add the balance of the ingredients and toss salad.  Serve and enjoy!

*Fish sauce is found in most markets in the Asian section and provides the dressing with umami, a savory taste.  You don’t need to use a lot.  It will have no ‘fish’ taste and yet will give the dressing a more rounded, pleasant taste.  Try it, you‘ll love it!

This is just one way to add some wonderful healthy food sources of magnesium into your daily routine.  Be creative and see how you can start adding more to make 2016 be even a healthier year!

In health,

Julie

 

 

 

Spinach & Emmenthal (or Swiss) Frittata

With the coming of a new year, often we set new goals.  One that I would like to inspire you to set is eating a healthy breakfast.  Research shows that when we start our day with protein, rather than carbohydrates, it helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and aids in stopping the cravings. 

Typically a breakfast of cereal or toast means that you are getting fairly simple carbohydrates which break down quickly into sugar.  This sugar will affect insulin production and consequently you will start on the highs and lows of blood sugar.  In turn, this will cause you to want something sweet within a few hours of eating; hence the morning ‘donut’ break.  This of course starts you on a cycle that can last the entire day!

To avoid this, eat protein in the morning.  Protein not only will stabilize those blood sugar levels but will actually aid in increasing your metabolism.  A higher metabolism means you burn more calories!  How can you go wrong?

The recipe I am giving you is a fantastic way to get that protein and fill you up; satiating yourself for hours. Not only that but it is so FAST and EASY that you have no excuse!  Once you try this, play around with a variety of combinations of vegetables (I’ll give you a few at the end of the recipe that I like).

Ingredients:

1 TBSP               Butter

2 Cups               Fresh Spinach, washed and chopped or sliced

¼ -1/2 Cup      Emmenthal or Swiss Cheese, grated

2                          Eggs

1-2 TBSP           Milk, ½ & ½ or water

Celtic Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions:

Turn on broiler.  In a small sauté pan that can be put in the oven, melt butter over medium high heat.  Meanwhile scramble eggs with milk, celtic salt and pepper.  Mix the cheese into the eggs.  Set aside.  Place spinach in the pan with the melted butter, stir and cover until the spinach wilts.  This will only take a minute or so.  Once the spinach is wilted, add the egg mixture and immediately place under the broiler.  Broil until the eggs are just starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes depending on your broiler.  Remove and eat!

Serves 1

As I mentioned earlier, there are many variations on this.  Here are a couple of my other favorites.  Instead of the spinach, try these:

Sauté minced shallot and shiitake mushrooms.  This will take a few extra minutes to cook but worth the time!

Sauté minced garlic and swiss chard.  You can add some fresh rosemary if you have it.  This is as fast as the spinach!

Use whatever cheese you have in the house for a variety.  I especially like fresh grated parmesan.

Couscous Salad with Orange-Infused Chicken

My long time friend Jeff Berman is a fantastic cook.  Actually he and his wife Jan were the ones that inspired me to start exploring more gourmet cooking in the 80’s.  Jeff’s dishes are always delicious, easy to make and nutritious.  This dish is no exception.  I made it for a picnic on Saturday and it was a big hit!

In addition to Jeff being a creative cook, he is a creative guy when it comes to the home and gifts.  He just launched a web-based store dedicated to interesting and affordable gifts for the home and travel.  You might want to check out his store here!

Great for a picnic!

Ingredients

2 ½ C              Fresh Orange Juice[1], divided

2-4                  Garlic Cloves, crushed

1                      Shallot, finely chopped

1 tsp              Dried thyme[2]

1-1 ½ #          Chicken Breasts, boneless and skinless, about 2 whole

½ C                 Chicken Broth

1 ½ C              Couscous

2                      Green Onions, finely chopped

¼ – ½ C          Dried Cranberries

1                      Red Bell Pepper, finely chopped

3 TBSP           Rice Wine Vinegar

3 TBSP           Olive Oil, good quality

S & P              To taste

Preparation

In a large sauce pan bring 1 ½ cups orange juice, garlic, shallot and thyme to a boil.  Add the chicken and simmer covered for 10-12 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken breasts.  Reserve the liquid.

In a separate sauce pan, bring 1 cup orange juice and the chicken broth to a boil.  Remove from heat and add couscous.  Cover and let stand 5 minutes.  In a large bowl, fluff couscous with a fork and then add the green onion, cranberries and red bell pepper.  Mix well. 

Cut cooked chicken into bite sized pieces and add to the couscous mixture.

Meanwhile take the reserved liquid (from the chicken) and boil until reduced to half.  Remove from heat and add the vinegar and olive oil.  Toss into the chicken/couscous mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve at room temperature.

Serves 4-6

Note:  The couscous portion can be made a day ahead.  The chicken is best if made the day you are serving.


[1] Jeff says fresh juice makes the dish much better than when using pasteurized.  If you are lucky enough to get it fresh it is worth the extra cost.  You could also try squeezing your own but that might take a lot longer.

[2] I used fresh as I have it growing in my garden.  I used about 1+ TBSP.

April Recipe – Swiss Chard Sauté with Toasted Walnuts and Feta Cheese

I made this recipe as a one dish vegetarian meal.  It could also be great as 4 side dishes without the tofu.

Serves 2 Main Course, 4 Side Dish

Ingredients:

2+       TBSP Butter or Olive Oil or a combination, divided

4          Garlic Cloves, minced

1          Small Red Onion, chopped

1          Red Bell Pepper, chopped

1 tsp  Celtic Salt

25+     Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half or quarters depending on their size

1/3 C   White Wine

½ C     Currants

½ + C Walnuts, chopped and toasted

2          Swiss Chard batches, ribs removed and cut into 2” pieces

This is my favorite!

3 oz    Feta or Goat Cheese

1 pgk Firm Tofu, chopped into 1” squares

Salt & Pepper to taste

Preparation:

In a large sauté pan, heat 1 TBSP butter (or olive oil).  Add garlic, onion, bell pepper and salt.  Sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes adding white wine as liquid starts to evaporate.  Add in cherry tomatoes and currants cover and continue to cook over medium/low heat for an additional 5-8 minutes.  Add chard and cover until chard is wilted, approximately 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile in separate sauté pan, heat 1 TBSP butter (or olive oil) over medium/high heat and sear tofu. 

Combine chard mixture and tofu together.  Place on plates and top with cheese and walnuts.  Serve immediately.

February Recipe – Julies’ Easy Chicken Soup

When having dinner with a friend last night, I was inspired to pull out the old Crockpot and make something healthy and easy.  I decided that a dish somewhere between a one-course meal and a soup would be the answer.   Of course, you might want to add a salad to get some greens in.

The great thing about this dish is that it also works fantastically for breakfast.  Now I realize most people don’t even think of soup for breakfast but, as I have found out in my Asian travels, soup is often not only a daily breakfast but an incredibly satisfying one.  So double the recipe or save some for a cold morning!

The other fun thing about this recipe is it uses a chili that can be found in most grocery stores.  It is little but packs a great punch!  It is called chile de arbol or also known as a Thai chile.  Here is a picture:

Ingredients:

2         Chicken thighs, bone in with skin

1          Chicken split breast, bone in with skin

1 T      Olive Oil

Pinch Celtic Salt & Pepper

1          Onion, chopped

3          Garlic Cloves, minced

½         Red Bell Pepper, chopped

1          Orange Bell Pepper, chopped

2-3      Chile de Arbol

2          Carrots, cut into ½” pieces

1          28 oz Can Diced, Fire Roasted Tomatoes[1]

12       Medium to Large Shiitake Mushrooms, stems cut, quartered ( more if desired)

1 T      Fresh Ginger, finely grated

1 C      Vegetable or Chicken Broth

1 T      Celtic Salt

            Pepper to taste

1 C      Dry White Wine, optional

Preparation:

Place olive oil in medium size sauté pan over medium/high heat.  Sprinkle all chicken with salt and pepper.  Place in pan, skin side down.  Cook until chicken is slightly browned.  Turn and do the same.  Remove.  Take out all but 1 ½ T oil from pan.  Add onions, garlic, bell peppers, and chili’s.  Sauté until onion starts to become translucent, approximately 3 minutes.

Meanwhile place carrots, tomatoes with juice, mushrooms, ginger, broth, salt and pepper in Crockpot.  Place chicken on top followed by sautéed vegetables.  Cook for 7 hours.  About hour 6 or just before serving, remove the skin and bones from the chicken.  Shred the chicken and return to the pot.  Adjust seasonings and add wine around hour 6.

Serves 4-6


[1] I prefer Muir Glen brand.

January Recipe – Veggie Bean Chili with Espresso

My friend Jeff Berman is an amazing cook.  So, when I started to think about who I could consult on vegetarian, easy, healthy meals, his name came to mind first.  He generously offered me his recipe for chili.  I just made it this weekend and love the complexities of tastes.  I do have one comment… it may have been the chili powder I used, but it was HOT!  So, depending on your personal tastes, you might want to decrease the amount you put in. 

Ingredients:

½ C     Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3          Onions, chopped

1          Large Red Bell Pepper, diced

¼ C     Instant Espresso Coffee

¼ C     Ground Cumin

¼ C     Chili Powder

¼ C     Dried Oregano

2          Large Cans of Diced Tomatoes[1]

½ C     Honey

6          Large Garlic Cloves, minced

5          Cans of Beans – a mix is nice – kidney, black, red

½ C     Water

1½ C   Dry Red Wine

¼ tsp Ground Cinnamon (optional)

1          Chipotle Chili in Adobo Sauce, minced

            Celtic Salt & Pepper to taste

Toppings (optional):

Sour Cream

Grated Cheddar Cheese

Preparation:

Heat oil in a large pot over medium/high heat.   Add the onions and red bell pepper and sauté 5-8 minutes, until they are softened.  Add the coffee, chili, cumin, oregano and garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and honey.  Bring to a boil, reduce to medium/low heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the beans, water, wine, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and chipotle.  Bring to boil, reduce to medium heat and simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes; stirring as needed.  Adjust seasonings as desired.

This is best if made the day before to enhance the flavors.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream or some grated cheddar cheese.

Makes a big batch so great for a crowd or to freeze for additional meals.


[1] Muir Glen brand is organic and enamel coats their cans so the tomatoes does not give off BPA from the plastic!