New Chili And A New Hat!

Happy March! So, I haven’t been back at my gym yet- since the start of the pandemic. I am still working out at home. Of course, no judgment to anyone who is fully back at their gym or their Spin/Pilates class. I think you should do what makes you comfortable. My return to the gym will take a bit more time since I don’t have the utmost confidence in the sanitary conditions there.  Let’s just say that before the pandemic- their hygiene practice or lack thereof – was sketchy.

In an effort to change or shake up my exercise routine, I’ve incorporated Resistance Bands into my workout. Resistance Bands can be an alternative to dumbbells and if you are short on space, they are a welcome addition to any strength training routine. There are many brands of Resistance Bands currently on the market. I bought a basic set of resistance bands from Black Mountain Products which includes five rubber bands of varying resistance (4 lbs. to 75 lbs.), two handles, an ankle strap and a door anchor.  The bands are stackable so you can use any single band or multiple (1-5) bands at once. I looked online for full bodyweight exercises and also exercises targeted to the lower body (doing squats while incorporating the bands). I have found this to be a nice addition to my workout routine.

Speaking of change… I’ve changed my traditional beef chili recipe to make in the slow cooker and to accommodate my husband’s recent disagreement with beans and his desire to eat less red meat. So, I swapped ground beef for turkey meat, added chicken sausage, omitted beans and instead of cooking the chili on the stove top, I used the slow cooker. See below for my turkey chili with chicken sausage recipe. Feel free to add beans and/or more vegetables to the recipe. It seems like a lot of steps but it is really very easy and tastes delicious. You can also start preparing the night before -by cooking the sausage, cutting up the pepper(s), onion and garlic.

Slow Cooker Turkey and Chicken Sausage Chili

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons chili powder (alternatively, use 2 tablespoons paprika and 1 tablespoon smoked paprika or 3 tablespoons paprika)

1 tablespoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 pound ground turkey

4 links chicken sausage (I grilled the sausage but you can cook the sausage almost all the way in a saucepan with olive oil before adding to the slow cooker)

Kosher salt

1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes

[optional* 2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, strained and rinsed]

2 +3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth (if adding beans, plus more for thinning the chili if needed) -use 2 to 2+1/4 cups, if not adding beans)

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 medium onion chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped [*optional- can add more chopped peppers]

  1. Heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Then add the tomato paste, chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring until the oil is dark red and the mixture is dry- approximately 2 minutes. Add the ground turkey and 1 teaspoon salt and cook- stirring and breaking the meat into smaller pieces, until the mixture is combined. The turkey does not need to be cooked all the way through at this time. Do not clean the skillet yet.
  2.  Transfer the mixture to the insert of a slow cooker (at least 6-quart size). Add the sausage to the mixture and stir.
  3. Then, to the skillet- add the tomatoes, chicken broth, oregano and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat- while whisking.  Cook for approximately 2 minutes. Then add the tomato mixture, onions, pepper(s), garlic and beans (if you are adding) to the slow cooker. Stir the mixture well. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  4. If necessary, add more chicken broth to thin the chili if it seems too thick. Season with salt, if desired.

After my workout, while I was stretching on the floor, I thought about a recent conversation I had with an old friend who I had not spoken to in a while. During our talk, my friend kept contradicting everything I said. Every point I made – she refuted – with statements based  on nothing- just ideas that she “heard” from people. Conversely, the arguments I made were supported by legitimate news articles. We went back and forth in a friendly manner but the conversation left me thinking if someone else would have been argumentative or elitist- which is not my style. I couldn’t end the conversation with the statement my son always says, “Agree to disagree” because she had no facts to back up her statements and I did.  So, after a while, I changed the subject. Unfortunately, the interaction with my friend left me annoyed for most of the day. How do you deal with disagreeable conversations?

And then, just like that, I opened the mail and found this surprise gift from my aunt and uncle.

Sometimes all you need is a cute new hat to change your attitude. 

Stay safe and healthy!

New Chili And A New Hat!

Happy March! So, I haven’t been back at my gym yet- since the start of the pandemic. I am still working out at home. Of course, no judgment to anyone who is fully back at their gym or their Spin/Pilates class. I think you should do what makes you comfortable. My return to the gym will take a bit more time since I don’t have the utmost confidence in the sanitary conditions there.  Let’s just say that before the pandemic- their hygiene practice or lack thereof – was sketchy.

In an effort to change or shake up my exercise routine, I’ve incorporated Resistance Bands into my workout. Resistance Bands can be an alternative to dumbbells and if you are short on space, they are a welcome addition to any strength training routine. There are many brands of Resistance Bands currently on the market. I bought a basic set of resistance bands from Black Mountain Products which includes five rubber bands of varying resistance (4 lbs. to 75 lbs.), two handles, an ankle strap and a door anchor.  The bands are stackable so you can use any single band or multiple (1-5) bands at once. I looked online for full bodyweight exercises and also exercises targeted to the lower body (doing squats while incorporating the bands). I have found this to be a nice addition to my workout routine.

Speaking of change… I’ve changed my traditional beef chili recipe to make in the slow cooker and to accommodate my husband’s recent disagreement with beans and his desire to eat less red meat. So, I swapped ground beef for turkey meat, added chicken sausage, omitted beans and instead of cooking the chili on the stove top, I used the slow cooker. See below for my turkey chili with chicken sausage recipe. Feel free to add beans and/or more vegetables to the recipe and/or omit the meat. It seems like a lot of steps but it is really very easy and tastes delicious. You can also start preparing the night before -by cooking the sausage, cutting up the pepper(s), onion and garlic.

Slow Cooker Turkey and Chicken Sausage Chili

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons chili powder (alternatively, use 2 tablespoons paprika and 1 tablespoon smoked paprika or 3 tablespoons paprika)

1 tablespoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 pound ground turkey

4 links chicken sausage (I grilled the sausage but you can cook the sausage almost all the way in a saucepan with olive oil before adding to the slow cooker)

Kosher salt

1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes

[optional* 2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, strained and rinsed]

2 +3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth (if adding beans, plus more for thinning the chili if needed) -use 2 to 2+1/4 cups, if not adding beans)

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 medium onion chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped [*optional- can add more chopped peppers]

  1. Heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Then add the tomato paste, chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring until the oil is dark red and the mixture is dry- approximately 2 minutes. Add the ground turkey and 1 teaspoon salt and cook- stirring and breaking the meat into smaller pieces, until the mixture is combined. The turkey does not need to be cooked all the way through at this time. Do not clean the skillet yet.
  2.  Transfer the mixture to the insert of a slow cooker (at least 6-quart size). Add the sausage to the mixture and stir.
  3. Then, to the skillet- add the tomatoes, chicken broth, oregano and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat- while whisking.  Cook for approximately 2 minutes. Then add the tomato mixture, onions, pepper(s), garlic and beans (if you are adding) to the slow cooker. Stir the mixture well. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  4. If necessary, add more chicken broth to thin the chili if it seems too thick. Season with salt, if desired.

After my workout, while I was stretching on the floor, I thought about a recent conversation I had with an old friend who I had not spoken to in a while. During our talk, my friend kept contradicting everything I said. Every point I made – she refuted – with statements based  on nothing- just ideas that she “heard” from people. Conversely, the arguments I made were supported by legitimate news articles. We went back and forth in a friendly manner but the conversation left me thinking if someone else would have been argumentative or elitist- which is not my style. I couldn’t end the conversation with the statement my son always says, “Agree to disagree” because she had no facts to back up her statements and I did.  So, after a while, I changed the subject. Unfortunately, the interaction with my friend left me annoyed for most of the day. How do you deal with disagreeable conversations?

And then, just like that, I opened the mail and found this surprise gift from my aunt and uncle.

Sometimes all you need is a cute new hat to change your attitude. 

Stay safe and healthy!

Take A Deep Breath….

How do you relax? I mean, how do you relax your mind and clear it from all negative, wasteful thoughts? I was on a long car drive recently, for the first time in a while and I realized that it’s during these solo drives that I truly take the time to reflect on things…. my current situation; what’s going on with my family; what is troubling me, etc. I took a deep breath and thought about the factors that were causing me stress out and the steps I could take to alleviate my worries. I tried to strategically break down my troubles into the things I can control and those I cannot.  After putting my anxieties into two lists, I felt empowered in a way, as if I was able to take control of my fears and start on a path of managing my stress.

Once I arrived home, I continued my goal of alleviating stress by looking for ways to meditate- something I have thought about in the past but never really did. I found a mediation app on my phone, Breethe- it’s free. There are 3, 5 and 7-minute meditation breaks. I sat on my couch, lit a candle, and played the 3-minute meditation video.  When I closed my eyes, my mind went to my happy place -and I focused on relaxing, joyful thoughts. The calm voice on the audio was surprisingly effective. I then tried the 5-minute and 7- minute meditation videos. Does everyone have a happy place or has cynicism made you believe that your happy place no longer exists?  

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Meditation is good medicine.” Even spending just a few minutes meditating can reduce stress and restore your sense of inner peace. Meditation can give you a sense of balance and feeling of calm that can benefit your emotional well-being and your overall health. As an added bonus- you can practice meditation anywhere- walking, waiting at the dentist’s office- or in any stressful situation.

Meditating and a walk through the snowy streets near my house made me realize that it’s not healthy to dwell on the past or on events that didn’t work out as I hoped or expected.  “Take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” Frank Sinatra

“In a quiet place, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and go inward. Place your attention on your heart, in the center of your chest. Sit quietly and easily let your attention remain there.” Deepak Chopra, author, public speaker and prominent alternative-medicine advocate

So, after all that self-reflection and relaxation, I decided to orchestrate a Super Saturday at my house- a day where me, my husband and son can just chillax, watch a movie and make a bunch of yummy, fun foods that we haven’t had in a long time. We made a list and came up with Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls, Bacon-Wrapped Scallops and Guacamole. All of the dishes came out delish and are healthy (the chicken eggrolls are fairly healthy). Here are two of the recipes- enjoy!  

Bacon-Wrapped Broiled Scallops (**Vegan Bacon can be substituted)

24 large sea scallops (approximately 1+3/4 lbs.)

12 slices of bacon

Pepper

Toothpicks

Preheat broiler if necessary, for your oven. Cut each slice of bacon in half.  Wrap each bacon slice half around a scallop and secure with a toothpick. Place scallops in broiling pan, in a single layer, side by side, approximately 3 inches from the heat. Broil 8 to 10 minutes, turn halfway through. Sprinkle the scallops lightly with pepper and remove toothpicks before eating (or eat carefully!).

Easy Guacamole (Cilantro omitted, as per my husband’s aversion to Cilantro)

3 avocados, halved, seeded and peeled

1 lime, juiced

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne

½ medium onion, diced

1 small tomato, seeded and diced

1 garlic clove, minced

In a large bowl, place the scooped avocado pulp and toss with the lime juice. Then add the salt, cumin, cayenne and mash together. Then, fold in the onions, tomato and garlic. Let the guacamole sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.

Whether you have a Super Saturday, a Sunday Funday or simply want to do something that is outside of your ordinary routine; enjoy what you are doing, live in the moment, and don’t let your worries ruin it. As Will Rogers said, “Worrying is like paying a debt that may never come due.”

Remember, above all else, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.” Unknown (although attributed to many authors).

Carpe Diem or Seize The Day!

Carpe diem means roughly to make the most out of each moment or enjoy life while you can. Be positive, try to find the silver lining in these otherwise trying times. Focus on the things you can do instead of what you are unable to do. Perhaps now is the time to pivot to a new career path or take up that hobby you’ve been thinking about for years. Or maybe, you can turn your hobby into your new career. I know there are countless articles, blog posts and even books which discuss the lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic.  So, I won’t rehash those propositions but my version of carpe diem took the shape of a very different Thanksgiving.

This year my holiday table included only my husband and children (not kids- 20 somethings, actually) when in the past, our Thanksgiving table stretched up to 27 people – even when we lived in a cozy apartment. I learned from my mother that a holiday table is never full. Meaning, there is always room for one more… or three more. My husband and I always made it a point to extend an invitation to our friends who were celebrating a holiday alone or maybe with just one or two other people.

This year at Thanksgiving, instead of dwelling on what was missing- I focused on what I can bring to the table- literally. I seized the opportunity to try out new recipes and tinker with some old ones. What would it matter if my family didn’t like the “new” sweet potatoes with ginger that I concocted, the “fancy” cranberry sauce or the “sweet” brussels sprouts with bacon and maple syrup? Of course, I had the old standbys at the table but it was the perfect time to experiment with the classic holiday dishes that my family always counted on. As it turns out, the new additions were a hit and I will make these dishes throughout the year. Hummus was one of the recipes that I made for the first time for everyone to enjoy before the big meal.  See the recipe below:

Basic Hummus

Ingredients:

1 (15 ounce can of chickpeas or 1+1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (keep skin on)- Drain and Rinse chickpeas

¼ cup tahini (must stir it well)

¼ cup lemon juice (I large lemon if using fresh lemon juice)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small garlic clove, minced (can use ½ teaspoon jarred minced garlic)

½ teaspoon ground cumin

2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

Salt to taste

Dash of ground paprika for garnish (optional)

I made this Hummus in my blender but you can use a food processor instead. Whichever you use, it is very important to blend for 1 minute in between each addition -after the tahini and lemon juice.

First add the tahini and lemon juice, blend for 1 minute; then add the olive oil, blend for 1 minute; add the minced garlic, blend for 1 minute; add the cumin, blend for 1 minute. Scrape the sides and bottom then blend for another 30 seconds or until well blended. Add half of the chickpeas to the blender/food processor and blend for 1 minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and then add remaining chickpeas and process until thick and smooth- approximately 1 to 2 minutes. If the Hummus seems too thick or still has bits of chickpeas- with the blender/processor turned on- slowly add 2 to 3 tablespoons of cold water until you reach the desired consistency (I usually use 2 tablespoons in my batch). Add salt to taste.

Since Hummus is made with chickpeas, it is rich in protein and fiber and can help to curb hunger. It is even possible that eating Hummus (chickpeas) can help to lower cholesterol. The results of a study of two test groups conducted by Jane Pittaway, a lecturer in Health and Biomedical Science at the University of Tasmania’s School of Human Life Sciences, revealed that the study group which consumed a diet of chickpeas, ate less fat and exhibited a small reduction in cholesterol, as compared with the test group that did not eat chickpeas.

I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist and I’ve never held myself out as such. However, I educate myself on any topic which I write about in my blog posts. I mention this  because a few years ago, in one of my blog posts, I wrote about the benefits of eating beans. Well, one reader let loose a barrage of nasty responses to my post by spouting all the “evil” qualities of beans and how beans are “poison.”  With that said, if you don’t like chickpeas or Hummus, feel free not to make this recipe but please don’t disparage those who enjoy chickpeas.

Maybe you’ll decide to make this recipe today or maybe this post will entice you to try chickpeas for the first time. Whatever you do- don’t forget to make the most of your day- carpe diem!  

It’s OK To Be Sorry

I don’t know about you but I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time with my family. Don’t get me wrong- I love them and we all get along very well. We even forgo our car when it seems more beneficial to walk rather than drive to our destination. Recently, on the weekends, instead of driving to the bagel store for breakfast, my husband and I walk or bike there. It’s about seven miles roundtrip and we get the added benefit of enjoying the fresh air and we work off what we ate during the walk home. However, last week, we ate the scrumptious and healthy banana bread I baked and then hiked afterwards.

This is a very dense bread. It is flourless and eggless- you can add nuts, such as walnuts and eliminate the chocolate chips if you want a healthier bread. You’ll need a blender or hand mixer since it will be difficult to incorporate the ingredients by hand.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

4-5 medium, ripe bananas

1 cup peanut butter or almond butter (or another nut butter- creamy or crunchy) OR    

          ½ cup peanut butter and ½ cup applesauce

2 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup chocolate chips (dark, semi-sweet sweet, milk chocolate)

*Save a few thin banana slices and chocolate chips for garnish- if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a loaf pan (preferably 9×5 inch pan) with non-stick cooking spray and then line the pan with parchment paper. Add the bananas, peanut butter (or peanut butter + applesauce) and oats to a blender or mix in a bowl with a hand mixer- just until the oats are ground and the batter looks smooth. If the batter seems too thick to blend- add ¼ cup water to the batter to help it blend. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Before baking- garnish with the banana slices and chocolate chips. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Make sure the bread cools completely before taking it out of the pan. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator.

For those of you who are working out at home, I’ve found that orangetheoryathome.com has some excellent, challenging workouts. All you need is a space to exercise and water bottles or weights for resistance. Whether I follow their 30-minute or 45-minute workouts, I honestly feel as if I’ve had an invigorating, full-body workout.

During this unprecedented time when we are home so often, I feel like there’s a shortage of alone time. Less time to think about the thoughts whirling around in my head, about how we ended up in this pandemic and less time to ponder as to where we are headed. I was alone in the car the other day and the song, “Sorry” by Buckcherry came on the radio. It’s an old song with lyrics that tell a tale of someone who did something wrong to someone he loves and begs for forgiveness. The singer realizes all the wonderful attributes about the person he wronged.

I’m sorry I’m bad, I’m sorry you’re blue
I’m sorry about all things I said to you
And I know, I can’t take it back.
I love how you kiss, I love all your sounds
And baby, the way you make my world go round
And I just wanted to say, I’m sorry

Have you ever thought that you did something wrong to someone and did not apologize or maybe you never realized that your actions hurt that person. Maybe you said something to a friend or a loved one in anger- something that can never be “unheard.”  Or perhaps you’ve thought about how someone did something abhorrent to you and never apologized- maybe this person doesn’t even know how their actions made you feel. Why is it that we can live our lives and not comprehend the devastating effect our action or inaction can have on another person? Whether you stood by complacent and watched your schoolmate being bullied in grade school or perhaps you borrowed money from a friend that you never returned. Maybe now is the time to set the record straight. Or perhaps, it is you who must forgive yourself for something from your past. At Thanksgiving time and in light of the upcoming holiday season, I’m pivoting to reflect on what I am thankful for- my family and friends and that we are all healthy during this global pandemic. What are you thankful for?

                                   

The Road Not Taken….

Have you ever wondered about the road not taken? You know- the path that you could have chosen but did not. Maybe the college you could have attended but went to another university instead- perhaps you would not have met your college sweetheart, had a family together and lived happily ever after… Or what if the road was decided for you- was it fate or kismet, or by circumstance that you jumped onto the subway train as the doors closed behind you and you met the love of your life? I am reminded of the famous poem by Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,              

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

In our lives we face many decisions, not only the mundane choices but some decisions are monumental, or life-changing. Yet sometimes we have to leave our decision up to fate. In his poem, Robert Frost uses the two roads as a symbol of a life decision. Should he choose the path of more resistance, the less popular road? Or the well-traveled road? Frost knew he had to pick one road but he regretted not being able to take both paths. It seems as if one path was as good as the other, and while he thought he could go back to the other road one day, “Oh, I kept the first for another day!”- Frost knew that he cannot go back to start over, “I doubted if I should ever come back.”

During these times of reflection, I think about this poem and the choices I’ve made, the paths I have traveled. I have no regrets in my family life, but professionally….in retrospect, I may have traveled a different road. Have you ever thought of your road less traveled? If you do, maybe take comfort in the notion that things happen for a reason…or maybe they don’t.

Speaking of comfort- one of my favorite comfort foods is Butternut Squash Soup. It is warm and soothing this time of year and I have listed my original recipe along with healthy substitutes.

                                 Butternut Squash Soup

2 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, chopped

2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ½” dice

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into chunks {can substitute 1 medium peeled, cored, sliced apple but soup will be a bit thinner consistency}

4 cups chicken stock

Pinch of fresh or dried nutmeg, ginger or cumin

½ cup of heavy cream {can substitute ½ cup of half and half creamer or low-fat milk or soy milk}

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

  1. Melt butter in a deep pot, add onion and sauté until soft, about 5 min.
  2. Add squash and potato and sauté for 5 min
  3. Add chicken stock and nutmeg/ginger/cumin and simmer uncovered until squash and potato are soft, about 20 min.
  4. Puree soup in a blender or with an immersion blender, then add heavy cream and blend the cream into the soup. Garnish if desired.

Reflecting on the things I miss during these difficult times, it goes without saying that I miss seeing my family and friends on a regular basis, hugging my father, and having a party in my house just so I can experiment with new hors d’oeuvre recipes. But I also miss wearing perfume! With outdoor dining, the picnics in the park and the dinners on the beach, wearing perfume has a been a casualty of these times. So, the other night, after I got into bed and under the covers, my husband asked if I was wearing perfume. I replied, “Yes, I miss my perfume- I just want to smell like Gardenias again- like I used to.” He smiled, gave me a hug and said, “I like it – it’s beautiful- it reminds me of the times when we used to dress up to go out on a Saturday night.” Perfume and pajamas- why not?

Living In The Moment

You hear it all the time, that this generation and loads of people across all generations really, are obsessed with documenting every event, every moment and even every meal with a photograph or a snippet of what is going on. I’m talking about pre-pandemic behavior, but the sentiment continues to ring true as we see on Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms. But why are we so obsessed with showing the world what we are doing? Why can’t we just live in the moment and enjoy what we are doing rather than be preoccupied with documenting what we are doing. Just a thought- what did we do before camera phones – when no one knew what we were doing until we were done doing it? Were we happier then- when we weren’t so consumed with getting the best lighting or the best angle for our selfie to showcase the delicious meal we are eating?

While we can’t turn back time and pretend camera phones don’t exist, we can try to be more present in what we are doing. Give our full attention to the people we are with and stop worrying about getting the perfect snapshot to show whoever- exactly what is occurring -at that moment. The pandemic has made me realize more than ever that tomorrow is not guaranteed, that we need to appreciate every encounter with the people we care about and that we should focus on the right now. With that in mind, at times I’ve been throwing my hands up and eating like every meal was my last. Not a good mindset for a healthy body or mind. As a scrumptious treat or an addition to a holiday dinner, here is my popover recipe:

Popovers

2 eggs- make sure they are at room temperature

1 cup flour

1 cup milk- I use whole milk for richer flavor -make sure it’s at room temperature

1 Tbsp melted butter

¼ teaspoon salt

*additional melted butter to grease the pan

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Generously grease popover pan or muffin pan (the popovers won’t rise as high in muffin tin but will still taste great) with melted butter. Preheat the popover pan for 2 minutes exactly. In medium bowl, beat eggs lightly. Blend in remaining ingredients, just until smooth. Fill the cups about half full. Once the pan goes into the oven- DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake 10 minutes longer or until golden brown. Serve immediately. Makes 6 popovers.

To work off the popovers and for a fun, outdoor activity, we went apple picking. I haven’t been apple picking since my kids were little but we figured it would be a welcome change from our usual outdoor activities. I’ve made apple crisp, protein-packed apple muffins, apple butter, healthy baked apples, apple cinnamon bacon bites, skillet apples with cinnamon and crispy apple slices, two different ways – and neither came out crispy but still tasted yummy!

Healthy-ish Apple Muffins

½ cup sugar (or healthy sugar substitute)

2 eggs

½ cup applesauce

½ cup oil

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 scoop protein powder (I use Jay Robb chocolate flavor)

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 cups peeled, cored and diced apples (about 3 apples)

Makes 18 muffins.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with liners. Using a mixer, cream together sugar, applesauce, eggs, oil, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, protein powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix until combined. Mix in the diced apples. Fill the papers liners ¾ full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Whether you are working out at a gym, a home gym or using the outdoors as your personal gym, I hope everyone feels satisfied with the activity they getting. I’m still working out at home, not because I think the gym is unsafe, that is just my personal preference for now. I’ve been using my own workouts combined with some online work out sites and I sometimes do my squats with a gallon water jug- just to mix things up.

When I’m with my family or a friend, I have been making more of an effort to be present and not worry about getting the perfect picture- even for this blog- and to appreciate the joy of living in the moment. I hope you will too.

                                                         

Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?

If anyone would have asked themselves five years ago, “Where do I see myself?” They would have never envisioned the state of the world as it is today. No one would have predicted that we would quarantine in our homes for months while we battled and continue to battle a global pandemic. Some of us worked remotely and will continue to do so indefinitely. Some of us homeschooled our kids while working full-time jobs- and continue to do so. Some of us lost loved ones, their job or their home. I’m sure this horrific virus has touched everyone in some way. Despite the dedication and tireless efforts of the doctors, nurses and healthcare workers, over 200,000 people in the United States have died from Covid-19. My very good friend lost her father to Covid-19 and my aunt battled for her life after contracting the coronavirus, thankfully she eventually recovered.

My heartfelt thank you to all the essential workers: doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, grocery store employees, delivery drivers, warehouse workers and all of the frontline workers who continue to keep the world safe and operating during this unprecedented healthcare crisis.

 So- I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus since my last blog post five years ago. Since that time, my mother passed away, my daughter started dental school 3,000 miles from home, my son graduated college remotely and my husband and I celebrated our 30- year anniversary.  Since this blog is about healthy tips for the mind and body, I intend to continue where I left off- sharing information, recipes and insights for a healthy mind and body.

Being quarantined for over two months with my husband and son in a small condominium gave me perspective as to what is important in my life. Spending time with my family and friends is what I missed most during the quarantine. I missed hugging my 82- year old father and I missed seeing my daughter. I realized just how few material things my family needs to survive and even to be happy. Getting my nails polished could wait, getting my hair cut could wait, shopping inside clothing stores could wait. However, wearing a beret to hide my dark roots while on a Zoom work call, made me realize that some things could not wait any longer!

As did most of the world, during quarantine my family played board games, watched television, cooked, baked and laughed a lot. We also drank way too much alcohol, giving each night its own special Happy Hour; Margarita Monday, Tequila Tuesday, Wine-down Wednesday, Thirsty Thursday and Friday we took a break just to prove to ourselves that we could. We ate comfort foods and drank to allay our fears as to what was happening in the world and to ease the tension of the unknown. Thankfully, at least six of the seven days each week, we exercised at home using weights we already had or water bottles from the refrigerator. We took long walks around the neighborhood and met neighbors we never knew existed.

Was there anything that you did during the time you spent at home that you tried for the first time or started to do again because you had more time on your hands? I baked bread from scratch for the first time ever.

I used up store credits and bought a panini maker and a popover pan which I constantly use. I’ve been wanting a popover pan for years and I use it to make the most delicious, airy popovers. Okay, so maybe this purchase was not conducive to a healthy body- but it sure was good for my mind! Just thinking about these scrumptious popovers clears my head. I’ve been making healthy paninis with whole wheat bread, grilled chicken, pesto, roasted tomato and only a sprinkle of shredded cheese to bind the sandwich. Since I found myself making pesto sauce on a regular basis, I bought a basil plant (basil is the key ingredient in pesto sauce) to ensure that I’d have fresh basil at my disposal. I’ve made delicious pesto pizza using store- bought whole wheat dough, my homemade pesto sauce and low-fat mozzarella cheese. For a healthy body, the pesto is also delicious on whole wheat pasta and grilled chicken.

Easy Pesto Recipe   

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (can substitute half the basil leaves with fresh baby spinach)

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese

½ cup olive oil (try to use extra virgin)

1/3 cup pine nuts (can substitute chopped walnuts)

3 garlic gloves minced (approximately 3 teaspoons)

¼ teaspoon salt (more if desired)

1/8 teaspoon black pepper (more if desired)

Put the basil and pine nuts in a food processor or blender and pulse several times. Add the garlic and cheese and pulse several more times. Scrape down the sides of the food processor or blender with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream. If using a blender, stop the blender several times to incorporate the olive oil in small batches. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor or blender. Stir in salt and pepper and then add more if desired. Recipe yields approximately 1 cup of pesto sauce. Store pesto in refrigerator and use within one week or freeze pesto in ice cube trays or an airtight container for up to 6 months.

One of my other quarantine purchases came about one very late night when my husband and I were talking about things we’d like to learn, now that we have the time. Since we both always wanted to learn to play piano and our 30th anniversary trip was cancelled due to the coronavirus, we could not pass up the great online deal for an electronic keyboard.  We pressed “Buy now” and became the proud owners of an 88-key electronic piano keyboard. My husband and I actually thought that we could teach ourselves to play the piano. After thumbing through the “Piano for Dummies” book and watching a few beginner piano videos, we are now shopping around for a piano teacher. 

While the weather is still somewhat sunny and warm, we’ve been getting outside every weekend; going on hikes (old and new), apple picking, pumpkin picking, visiting wineries (sitting outside, socially distanced) and walking on the beach. I will share some of the places I’ve visited in my upcoming blog posts.

Thank you for reading my post and remember- during these crazy, unpredictable times – be kind.

                                   ###

Take Advantage Of Your Surroundings

So- it’s been too long since my last post and I owe you an explanation. No excuses. I love to write and whether I am insanely busy or not, I have to make time for what is important to me. I switched jobs- the non-profit world did not pan out as expected. A disappointment but it was time to move on. I’m back practicing law — it is a terrific opportunity and I feel refreshed and ready to take on a big job with a great deal of responsibility. I worked in this field for eight years and then left to pursue a non-legal career.

Sometimes, you don’t know the value of what you have until it’s gone. That’s very cliche – I know. Yet sometimes it really rings true. With that said, I started to think about what other things I have taken for granted in my life- or simply failed to realize the beauty in something right in front of my face.

Like the fantastic hike that Jay and I have been doing regularly which I wrote about in the Spring- the trail in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. Except we have been more than walking the trail- I’d say we’ve been going on trail runs – running about 85% of the trail each time. On one of our weekend trail runs, before all the snow started!! – I met a runner who said that the Caumsett Park hike in Lloyd Neck, New York can be challenging as well. She highly recommended it for a change of scenery.

IMG_2504

The following weekend, we hiked the Caumsett Park trail and although it was mainly flat terrain, there was one long, steep hill towards the end of the hike. We hiked about 4 miles in total- running about 2 flat miles on pavement and packed dirt. The run was peppered with things we have not seen on our usual trail run.

 

 

 

 

IMG_2442

Along the way we ran past the beach, penned horses and magnificent trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2501

Although different from our usual hike/run, it was a good, solid workout that I highly recommend……

 

 

 

 

Off to lunch!

IMG_2488

At our favorite Mexican lunch spot, Jay and I reminisced about how we used to take the kids all the time to Caumsett Park, first in their strollers and then with their bikes. We remembered all the fun we had picnicking in the park with friends and their kids. It’s unbelievable that we have not been back to this beautiful park in more than ten years.

It feels like I’m always so busy doing so many things at once – all the time – that I forget to look around and see where I am and what I am doing. Does anyone else feel this way?  Instead of always looking for the next best thing – what about going back to the things we loved years ago?

Eating the guacamole at lunch made me think about the avocado plant I grew with my father when I was a kid. Why haven’t I ever done that? Right then and there I decided that I’m going to buy an avocado and grow my own plant! The next day, I bought a ripe avocado at the farmer’s market.  I called my dad and got the instructions on how to turn my avocado pit into an avocado plant.

FullSizeRender

I’ll take progress photos and include the benefits of avocados and my bruschetta recipe in my next post.

Adios, amigos! Ciao!

 

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Triathlon……

Okay, so it wasn’t really funny. It was not funny at all.  A week before the New York City triathlon, my son had an accident- not life threatening, thank heavens, but devastating. He broke his leg in two places and was in sheer agony.  His surgery was scheduled for the day before the race. I didn’t defer the race right away because I thought he would have surgery and everything would be fine.  I figured he would leave the hospital and I would see him at home, after the race.  However, in the days preceding his surgery, when I saw the kind of pain he was in, I just knew that I would not be in the proper frame of mind to compete in the race.

This triathlon was supposed to be fun, a challenge, a goal. While I had done several sprint triathlons, I had never competed in an Olympic triathlon. I was all ready- I had bought a new racing bike and a wet suit. I biked early in the mornings and swam laps in the bay. Yet none of those things would matter to me knowing that my son was suffering.

There would be other races. In fact, several weeks later, when my son was firmly in rehab and working on walking again, I competed in a sprint triathlon.  It was exciting and fun and definitely challenging as the water was as choppy as an ocean swim. Yet, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of a let down since I had done these distances before- 15 years before.

get-attachment.aspx-4

After the race, I immediately thought that I would do an Olympic distance triathlon in a few weeks, before the season ended. However, when I really thought about how much I had taken on in my life in the past few months, I reassessed my priorities. My new job has been taking up an enormous amount of time- and rightfully so. Let’s just say that 10 hour work days are the norm. With the start of the new job, I had packed a house, moved to a condo,  and my son had the accident. To top it off, for many reasons, we are still living in boxes without any furniture. All the while I am still trying to keep up with the blog, workout, volunteer and be a member of the Social Committee at my new residence.

So I made the decision to not train for the Olympic triathlon. I packed my wetsuit away where it will remain for a few months. My race season is over for now. As I contemplated my decision, I realized that everything had become too much. I had taken on more responsibilities than I could conceivably handle in a short amount of time.

Why do we do these things to ourselves? Why do we overcommit ourselves to things that we know are over our heads? Why is it that sometimes when the words, “No problem, I can do it” come flying out of our mouths, do we wish we could retract them? Is it the innate competitiveness in us? Is it FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)? Must we keep doing- day in and day out- keep pushing- always? I can’t be the only one who does this.

I think I know why I sometimes take on too many responsibilities or commitments at one time. It’s because I am always striving to be the best person that I can be- and for me that means taking on a full plate of work, activities and commitments. I foolishly believe that I can handle anything- keep piling it on- if it is important- I can do it. “Yes, I can help out at the soup kitchen”- even though I am involved in many other volunteer commitments; “Yes, I will get up and run with you at 6am”- even though I will be out super late the previous night; “Yes, I will volunteer for the Social Committee”- even though I have zero free time.

As I get older, I am re-evaluating exactly what projects I have time for and yes- I have learned to say “No.” It is difficult for me because I always want to help or lend a hand when I can and I sometimes do not realize until after I have said “Yes” that I really should have said,”No.”

However, I’m still learning and as I wrote in one of my previous blogs, “You can teach an old dog new tricks.”