Category Archives: Food

A Few of My Favorite Things: Speedy Weeknight Meals Edition

Remember on Sunday, when I said taper madness hadn’t set it? Well, I take it back: the madness has arrived. I ran a measly four miles with pick-ups today, and the whole time, my leg hurt, my foot hurt, my throat was scratchy…and nothing was actually wrong, outside of my brain. Oh, taper, why must you do this to me?

So to distract myself, let’s talk about food. Because why not.

I truly believe that the key to success when it comes to healthy eating is having a plan. And part of that plan, for me, involves an arsenal of speedy meals that I don’t really have to think too much about. “Speedy” is the key word there — by the time I get home, work out, and shower, it’s late, I’m starving, and the last thing I want to do is spend 45 minutes cooking.

Here are some of my go-to, 20-minutes-or-less meals. Sorry I don’t have pictures. I planned this post on that four-mile run, and having all these pictures would have required a little more forethought.

Fish Tacos with Fruit Salsa

 No, stupid. But it’s delicious.

I usually use tilapia, but any white fish would work. Here’s what you do: Thaw your fish (unless you’re lucky enough to live where there’s decent fresh seafood). Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Put the fish in a Pyrex (Pyrex can go in the dishwasher…yay, fewer dishes!) and sprinkle it generously with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne. Don’t measure; that’s a waste of time. Bake for 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, make your salsa: Dice a mango, pear, or peach. Stir in 1/2 a chopped red pepper, a bit of red onion, some cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.

Shred the fish. Put it in a tortilla with the salsa. Devour.

Chicken with Arugula Polenta

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Cook them in a skillet.

Meanwhile, boil 3.5 cups of chicken broth. When it boils, stir in 1 1/3 cups polenta. Cook until it’s thick. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup greek yogurt and a few handfuls of arugula.


(I have no idea what this creepy picture means. I googled “arugula” and this came up.)

Chicken Strips and Cheesy Rice

When J was a kid, his favorite meal was chicken nuggets and mac ‘n cheese. Because I’m the best wife ever, I healthified that meal so he can recapture his childhood now and then.

Cut chicken breasts into strips. Coat with a mix of whole-wheat panko, parmesean cheese, rosemary, and thyme. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes. Flip, then bake for another 10 or until done.

Meanwhile, cook brown rice according to the package directions. Stir in a handful of shredded cheese (a small handful — you want it flavored, not coated) and a Laughing Cow wedge.

We usually eat peas or green beans and/or a salad with this one.

Turkey Mini-Meatloaves

Mix a pound of ground turkey with a handful or two of oats, an egg, some Mrs. Dash, and a squirt of ketchup. Squish into muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the side dish you want. I’m a fan of microwaveable sweet potatoes and veggies. That way, it can all cook while I shower. Win.

Lemon-Pepper Cod

The easiest of all: Preheat your oven to 400 while you thaw some cod. Put the thawed cod in a sprayed Pyrex. Squeeze a lemon on top and sprinkle on a bunch of pepper. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Serve with the same sides as above.

 

Those are a few of my favorites. Although that might all change, since I’m going to make some major dietary changes post-marathon (more on that next week). But whatever…they’ll still work for you (unless you’re vegetarian. Didn’t really take that into account, did I?)

What are some of your favorite weeknight meals? Feel free to post a link!

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How to Shop Healthy When You Have to Shop Wal-Mart

A couple of weeks ago, I watched Forks Over Knives on Hulu while I ran on the treadmill. I know this movie sparked a lot of controversy when it first came out, but I mostly just thought it was interesting. I do think its overall argument — that Americans need to eat more plants and less crap — is a good one.

At one point , one of the women featured in the film talked about never shopping at Wal-Mart. I thought, “Isn’t that special.”

I’m sure it would be nice to shop at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or Sprouts every week. But for some of us — especially those of us in rural America where Wal-Mart is THE grocery store (and the clothing store, and the hardware, and the craft store…) — not shopping there is pretty much not an option. Here in Fort Morgan, we have a also Safeway and a small local grocery, but neither has better selection than Wal-Mart, and who has time to go to three different stores on a single grocery trip? And some rural folks don’t have even those options. My sister-in-law, for example, drives 45 minutes each way just to get to Wal-Mart.

The good news is that healthy grocery shopping at Wal-Mart is completely possible…and Wal-Mart is getting better and better at carrying healthy foods. So if you’re a Wal-Mart shopper, from choice or necessity, here are some simple tips to help you fill that cart with healthy stuff.

Plan ahead

Shopping at Wal-Mart is stressful. It’s always crowded, and since they cram those aisles together as closely as possible, you’re always either in somebody’s way or waiting for someone to get out of your way. Or both. This means that stopping to casually browse the shelves or even read a label is nearly impossible. Thus, your shopping success hinges on having a detailed list.

Plan your healthy meals for the week, make a list of everything you’ll need to cook them, and refuse to deviate from that list.

(image source)

If while you’re shopping,  you see a new product that you’d like to try, but you can’t read the label without causing 47 people to line up behind you, don’t just toss that product in your cart and hope it’s healthy. Make a mental note (or take a fast picture) and Google it when you get home. Healthy? Put it on the list for next week.

Assume everyone is judging the contents of your cart. 

I’ll admit it: I’m a cart-judger. Should I judge? No, judging is rude. But I do it, and I know I’m not the only one.

Use jerks like me to your advantage. It’s a lot easier to bypass the Doritos if you think everyone who looks in your cart is thinking about what poor eating habits you have. And it’s a lot easier to not eat Doritos if they never make it into your cart and your cupboard.

Shop the perimeter. 

This is a pretty basic healthy-shopping tip, but it’s still a good one. Most of the junk is in the middle of the store. Most of the real food will spoil if it’s thrown in a box on a shelf, so it’s in the refrigerated sections along the side of the store. Stick to that area and deviate only for those nonperishable essentials ON YOUR LIST, like oatmeal, coffee, and canned pumpkin. (Oh, maybe those are just my essentials.)

Pride yourself on being smarter than the marketers. 

(source)

Those highly-paid Wal-Mart marketing experts are smart. They know that people like me are telling you to shop the perimeter. So they’re sneaking crap into the perimeter, too. Bananas here? Oh, let’s put some NIlla wafers here, too. Apples? How about some caramel dip?

But you’re no fool, you. You know they’re trying to get you spend your hard-earned money on crap. And you don’t buy crap. Strut past those displays like a boss, and go get you some Nilla-free bananas.

Avoid the checkout line temptations. 

Just when you’re patting yourself on the back for not putting anything unhealthy in your cart, you find yourself stuck in a line of 25 people with the world’s slowest cashier. And next to you, for the 30 minutes you’re in line, is a whole shelf of this:

photo (12)

Stay strong! Indulge your other guilty pleasures instead:

photo (11)
Or pass the time by cart-judging other people. I won’t tell.

Where do you grocery shop?

What are your best healthy shopping tips?

Tasty, Healthy Cornbread

Hi friends!

I don’t know about you, but whenever it gets even kind of chilly, I start craving soup. This past nasty, scary, rainy weekend was no exception, so Sunday afternoon, I put this soup in the crockpot. When J found out that’s what I was doing, he requested cornbread on the side. Since I’m a cornbread addict, too, I was happy to oblige.

For years, I always just used the cornbread recipe on the back of the cornmeal box, but a couple of years ago, I decided to try to make it healthier. Eventually, I came up with this recipe, which tastes just like the original but is sugar- and oil-free.

Super Delicious Cornbread  (I came up with this name all by myself.)

1 heaping cup whole wheat pastry flour (you can use normal whole wheat flour, too, but use a scant cup instead of heaping)

3/4 cup cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup applesauce

Mix all those things. Dump in a sprayed 9 x 9 pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Eat like a boss.

cornbread

I put a can of green chilies in this batch. That’s why it has weird green spots. It’s not moldy. Also, I am bad at food photo-taking. Probably because I just want to eat it.

What’s your favorite chilly-day food?

Sneaky Squash

One of the best parts of living in rural America is the ability to have a decent-sized garden…or to get free goodness from your friends’ and neighbors’ decent-sized gardens. And if you, your neighbors, or your coworkers have a squash plant, chances are that your kitchen counter (or work break room) will soon look like this:

 

If you’ve got an overabundance of summer squash, I have good news for you: Summer squash is ridiculously good for you. Here are some squash stats:

  • Per cup, summer squash has 36 calories, less than one gram of fat, and 2.5 grams of fiber (source)
  • Summer squash is also a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and folate (source)
  • Summer squash has no cholesterol! A diet low in cholesterol is a diet high in heart health
  • It’s high in beta-carotene and other antioxidants that help fight cancer (source and source)
  • That same beta-carotene that’s good for your heart is good for your eyes, too!

So summer squash is good for you. It’s budget friendly (even if you don’t have a generous neighbor, summer squash is really cheap right now). And it’s easy to eat! My favorite way to eat it is simply to saute it in a little bit of olive oil and a lot of pepper, but like zucchini, it’s also really easy to sneak into recipes. Much to my hubby’s dismay, I’ve recently sneaked (snuck is not a word. Did you know that?) it into pasta sauce and turkey meatloaf. He didn’t even know it was there, but still reaped all the health benefits. Muah ha ha. (That’s my evil healthy laugh).

Here’s the “recipe” for the turkey loaves (of course there’s no picture. Did you think I was a decent blogger or something?):

1 lb lean ground turkey
1 medium summer squash, grated
Small handful (1/4 cup-ish) oatmeal
Several shakes Mrs. Dash

Mush it all together. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, then divide the turkey mixture into the muffin tin. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Eat with a lot of ketchup.

Do you like summer squash or zucchini? Favorite way to eat it?

Larabar Lovin’

Remember the other day, when I was super excited because I bought Larabars, and I’d never seen them here before? Katie over at Healthy and Happy Hour (great blog; check it out) read that post. Know where Katie works? That’s right: at the company that makes Larabars. She forwarded my info to her colleague, and they totally hooked me up! I came home yesterday and found this on my doorstep:

picture 009Blurry picture, but…best mail day ever. I thought about doing a giveaway because that’s what the good bloggers do, but then I realized that a giveaway would mean sharing my Larabars. Maybe some other time.

They also included a request form for my local grocer. You’d better believe that the Wal-Mart manager is getting that sucker ASAP.

Why I’m so Larabar-obsessed? Let’s look at the carrot cake flavor, because that’s the one that I’m currently shoving down my gullet. (I didn’t know there was a carrot cake flavor until yesterday. Spoiler alert: It’s delicious). Here are its ingredients: Dates, almonds, walnuts, raisins, pineapple, unsweetened coconut, carrots, cinnamon, extra virgin coconut oil. Anything on that list you don’t recognize? Nope, I didn’t think so.

For comparison, here are the ingredient lists of a few other popular granola bars:

Nature Valley Trail Mix Fruit & Nut Bars: whole grain oats, high maltose corn syrup, raisins, almonds, roasted peanuts, sugar, rice flour, chicory root extract, fructose, cranberries, canola oil, maltodextrin, vegetable glycerin, soy lecithin, salt, barley malt extract, baking soda, natural flavor, mixed tocopherols (source)

Quaker Chewy Granola Bars (Chocolate Chip): granola (whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, crisp rice [rice flour, sugar, salt, malted barley extract], whole grain rolled wheat, soybean oil, dried coconut, whole wheat flour, sodium bicarbonate, soy lecithin, caramel color, nonfat dry milk), semisweet chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate liquor,  cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla extract), corn syrup, brown rice crisp (whole grain brown rice,  sugar, malted barley flour, salt), invert sugar, sugar, corn syrup solids, glycerin, soybean oil. Contains 2% or less of sorbitol, calcium carbonate, salt, water, soy lecithin, molasses, natural and artificial flavor, BHT (preservative), citric acid (source)

Fiber One 90 Calorie Chewy Bars (Chocolate): chicory root extract, rice flour, whole grain oats, sugar, corn syrup, semi-sweet chocolate chips (sugar, chocolate liquor processed with alkali, milkfat, soy lecithin, natural flavor), honey, puffed wheat, glycerin, palm kernel oil, cocoa processed with alkali, canola oil, maltodextrin, soy lecithin, salt, natural flavor, malt extract, fructose, cellulose gum, milk, baking soda, caramel color, mixed tocopherols added to retain freshness (source)

And just for fairness, since I used two other chocolate examples, here are the ingredients from Larabar’s Chocolate Chip Brownie flavor: dates, Fair-Trade Certified chocolate chips (unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla), almonds, walnuts, cocoa powder, sea salt.

Which list of ingredients would you rather put in your body? I choose the pronounceable ones that don’t take up half a page and that I actually have in my own pantry.

Since they’re made of all-natural, real ingredients, the nutrition profile of Larabars looks pretty dang good, too. Back to the carrot cake flavor:

Calories: 190 Fat: 8 g (2 g saturated, 0 g trans) Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 15 mg Potassium: 140 mg Carbs: 32 g (great addition to my plan to eat more carbs) Fiber: 4 g Protein: 3g

I don’t think anyone can complain about those stats!

Other Sweet Facts About Larabar: 

  • It’s a Colorado company. The founder came up with the idea for Larabars on a hike.
  • The wrappers are recyclable!
    Terracycle
    (image from http://www.larabar.com/programs/terracycle)
  • They are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, non-GMO, vegan, and kosher. Basically, unless you have a nut allergy, you can eat these.
  • Just in case you haven’t figured this out…THEY’RE FLIPPIN’ DELICIOUS. And filling. Definitely a staple while I’m marathon training and constantly ravenous.

And that is the end of my Larabar online lovefest. And of my carrot cake Larabar.

lara(It never stood a chance).

Do you like Larabars? If not, we probably can’t be friends anymore.

Local folks: If Wal-Mart keeps stocking them, would you buy Larabars? Please say yes. To me and to the Wal-Mart people.

What’s your favorite non-Lara bar?

Katie and her colleague at Larabar sent me these out of the goodness of their hearts. They didn’t ask me to do a blog post, but I wanted to share the Larabar love. 

Coconut-Lime Slaw and Save the Chard

Today’s Run: 7.5 recovery miles

After my run, I met up with my pal Sarah, who is house-sitting here in town, for some walk-and-talk time. Our plan was to walk and then have breakfast at the cafe by where she’s staying, but the place was closed. What the heck. So we just extended our walk so we could hit a different coffee shop. Walking + coffee = happy. We had a little discrepancy, though…my Garmin said we walked 3.9 miles, and her iPhone said 4.57. Hmmm, satellites, confused much?

Fun fact about Sarah: Sarah has been teaching in the same district for the entire time that I’ve been here, but it’s just been recently that we’ve started hanging out and I’ve learned that she’s a really cool person. Way to miss the cool friend boat for six years, Cassie.

Anywhoo, when I got home, I attacked the massive weed patch that was my garden. The good news is that it actually looks like a garden now. The bad news is that my Swiss chard looks like this:

chard 001

What is happening? Can it be brought back to health? Help me, Internet friends. Save the chard!

That was a little dramatic. Here’s a recipe for you to make up for the melodrama.

Coconut Lime Broccoli Slaw

1 package broccoli slaw

1/4 c. coconut milk (the kind in a can by the soy sauce, not the drink)

1/2 can water chestnuts

1 T. safflower oil or other neutral oil

Zest and juice of 1/2 lime

1 T. rice vinegar

1 t. honey

Mix everything that’s not slaw or chestnuts, then dump it all together and mix it up.

chard 002

Easy and tasty. If you’re still looking for a side dish for that 4th of July BBQ, this is a good one!

Can you save my chard?

What are your 4th of July plans? I’m running a 5k in the morning, which should be interesting since I’ve done speedwork a whopping two times since Boston, then doing political stuff that I don’t really like to do for the rest of the day.

I have most of a can of coconut milk left over. What should I do with it?