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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Pecans and Goat Cheese

I love serving fresh fruit and vegetable salads during the spring and summer months.  This salad is not only delicious, but it is truly a colorful work of art.  I love the bright beautiful rainbow of colors in the fresh bright green spinach, red strawberries, and bright blueberries.  This salad serves 8 at approximately 150 calories per serving, not including the vinaigrette dressing.  The dressing has about 88 calories per Tablespoon.

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Pecans and Goat Cheese

3 cups strawberries, washed, drained, and sliced in half
2 cups blueberries, washed and drained
16 oz. Baby Spinach, washed
1/2 cup pecans
3/4 cup Goat cheese crumbles

Rinse blueberries.

Wash and cut strawberries.

In a large bowl combine the strawberries, blueberries, spinach, pecans and Goat cheese.  Stir to combine.  Toss with Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing with Honey

1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup Olive oil
1 Garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
1 Tablespoon honey

Place dressing ingredients in a screw top jar or cruet and shake to combine.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve salad and toss with Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing to taste.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Trials and Tribulations

The last couple of years were very emotionally painful and the reason why I have not been active in this blog.   I slipped up and gained some weight during the past year. One reason it is so important for me to continue posting updates is that it is cathartic and forces me to remain accountable.  I am relieved I only had a few pounds to lose and that the challenge was not insurmountable.  I developed a couple of bad habits due to stress which led to the recent changes on the scale.  I am very happy I have since lost the weight and have learned something valuable from the experience.

I had a few "clarifying moments" when it became crystal clear and I knew what I had to do. Mom knew how much posting in this blog meant to me and was my most ardent supporter.  She would have wanted me to face this challenge head on until I was satisfied I had reached my goal.  I am grateful for the support of family and the encouragement from my trainer that yes, these results were attainable.  I was surprised to discover that one bad habit in particular had been the cause of my recent weight gain.   Recognizing this and making some needed changes, I achieved the results I had been hoping for fairly quickly.  Lesson learned.  Sometimes we don't even realize the negative consequences associated with our bad habits until we begin changing them. And for me, this knowledge was empowering.  I am not going down this road again.

"You leave old habits behind by starting out with the thought, I release the need for this in my life." ~  Dr. Wayne W. Dyer 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Factors to consider when hiring a personal trainer

I love working with a trainer because it helps with motivation and provides the direction and guidance I need to reach my fitness goals.  I must admit that proper form does not come naturally for me and I often do not even realize when I am doing an exercise incorrectly.  This is why it is so important to have someone who can provide immediate feedback on proper form and technique.  I am very fortunate that I have found someone whom I enjoy working with and I look forward to our training sessions each week.

In hiring a personal trainer it is important to think about your personal goals and the reasons you are looking to make changes to your fitness routine.  You should be able to speak openly and honestly about yourself and your personal aspirations.  You should always speak to your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen and in advance of hiring a trainer.  If you have physical limitations or prior injuries, this information would need to be communicated to your personal trainer so that a program specific to your needs and limitations is developed. A trainer would want to know your goals and what you would like to get from your program and how committed you are to achieving it.  This knowledge helps a personal trainer put together a suitable program that helps you reach your goals of being healthier and stronger.

Trainers should have and be able to verify their credentials and show an appropriate certification for their area of expertise.  Trainers may specialize in a specific area including for example nutrition, sports conditioning or weight management.  Some widely recognized programs include the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the American Counsel on Exercise (ACE), and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).  In addition, some trainers also may hold a four year college degree in a Fitness related field. As this is a field which is constantly evolving, trainers should stay current with the latest trends and research.  It is also important to check that the trainer is keeping the certification he or she has current.

Another important consideration is cost.  Rates are usually charged by the half-hour or hour.  The rates in larger cities and urban areas tend to be higher than in smaller towns, therefore it is important to do some research.  The number of sessions an individual needs can vary depending on fitness level and budget.  Group training sessions allow for the trainer to have up to 4 or 5 clients in a class at the same time and can help in reducing the cost.  This may be beneficial to the participants if it helps with motivation and in holding the other members of the group accountable during class. Discounts may be offered when multiple sessions are purchased in advance resulting in a lower cost per session.  You should check that the trainer has availability when it is convenient in your schedule.

It is important to choose a trainer that suits your personality and that you are motivated to work with. Give some thought to what training style is most suitable for you.  Would you prefer someone who is more laid back and encouraging or a trainer that is assertive and drills you to work harder and stronger.  Keep in mind that what is important is finding a trainer that encourages and inspires you.  Communication is key and you should feel comfortable asking questions if you are not certain about the proper form for an exercise.   
I am grateful to my trainer, Terry, whom I have been working with for some time.  It is with her ongoing encouragement and support I have been able to reach many of my fitness goals and maintain a healthy weight.  She has become a close friend and confidant and the inspiration for this post (Photography credit: Terry).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Memories of Mom

I have a wonderful Mother. She has always been a tremendous inspiration to me. Beautiful inside and out.  I have been blessed to have her as a part of my life.   There is not a day that goes by that she is not in my thoughts.  She continues to live on in my memories and I know that she will always be by my side.

My mother was a tremendous role model and she taught me and my sister to be considerate and to care about other people and things.  She taught us to have empathy and reach out and help other people who were hurting or suffering. It gave her joy to make people happy and give them gifts to let them know that she was thinking about them.  She would always put the needs of others above her own.   My heart is breaking and I miss her terribly.

I remember when the movie, Grease, came out in 1978. I was really excited to see it and Mom and I went to the Beacon Theater on Main Street in Port Washington, NY. I really liked all the music, and I thought John Travolta was really cute. But Mom was a little upset at the ending, she didn't like how "Sandy" changed for Danny. She told me to never change who I was to please a boy. That I should always be confident enough in myself, sound advice to an impressionable 13 year old girl, love you Mom!

I remember how when I wanted to host a gathering before the Gambol (my senior year prom) during my senior year of Schreiber High School that Mom offered to let me host a party at our home. This is what lasting memories are made of. Thank you Mom, you are the best, for always thinking of your daughters first and supporting them in any way that you could.

I was driving in the car with my daughter the other day and the song "Everything She Wants" - George Michael circa 1984 came on the radio. I remembered a conversation I had with Mom during my teenage years after she had heard this song. She hoped that what I would value most in life are the things that a person could never place a dollar value on and which have true meaning, love, friendship, and family. Possessing more material things won't bring us happiness, and if anything, may even drive a wedge between us and the people that we love.  And Mom, you were so right as you always were, truer words could never have been spoken.  Thank you for always setting me straight and reminding me to contemplate the consequences of my actions.  "All the things we sign and the things we buy.  Ain't gonna keep us together, girl it's just a matter of time."

I was the baby in the family. She helped bring this shy little girl out of her shell.  It was Mom who gave me the confidence to believe in myself and know that anything is possible with a little hard work and determination.  Her support never wavered.  She consoled me after one too many broken hearts and offered a shoulder to cry on whenever I was feeling blue.  I have caught myself in the last month picking up the phone to call Mom, as she is always the first person I would call whenever I had good news to share.

The world is not the same without you, Mom. Forever in my heart and in my soul.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hazelnut Muesli Snack Bars

I came up with a recipe for a healthy snack bar which includes hazelnut meal flour and muesli cereal.  It is a moist and chewy bar which I enjoy as a afternoon snack or as a quick healthy breakfast. This recipe yields 24 bars at approximately 214 calories each.

Hazelnut Muesli Snack Bars

3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup peeled and chopped apples
3 cups Muesli of choice - I used Muesli Fusion Athlete Fuel
1/2 cup chopped peanuts or choice of nuts
1 cup Hazelnut Meal Flour
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup natural applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray 13 X 9 pan with nonstick spray.  Peel and chop apples.

Add honey, peanut butter, butter and apples to a saucepan and heat over very low heat until softened.  Remove from heat.

Add to large bowl or in saucepan combine with muesli, peanuts, hazelnut meal flour, coconut, raisins, applesauce, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Stir until mixed through.

Spread in the 13 X 9 pan and place in oven.  Heat for approximately 10 minutes.  Remove from oven.

Cut into 24 bars.  I prefer to eat these bars chilled and store them in the refrigerator.

This is a very healthy and nutritious snack, enjoy!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Our visit to the American Girl Store (Columbus)

My daughter is an avid American Girl Doll collector.  For each of the past 5 years, she usually wanted an American Girl doll either for a Birthday or Christmas gift, and following our visit, she now has a total of 5 dolls.  She was excited when she heard about the new store opening in Columbus, Ohio.  We decided that as an early birthday gift I would make the 5 hour drive from Buffalo, NY to visit the store.  She had not previously been to any of the other American Girl Doll stores.

We stayed overnight at the Hampton Inn Columbus-Easton Area location.  This hotel offered an American Girl package for guests planning a visit to the American Girl store.  The staff did a wonderful job.  Our stay included an American Girl doll sized travel bed that my daughter could take home, an American Girl movie which we watched in the evening in our hotel room, and a selection of American Girl books that my daughter could "borrow" during our stay.  Pictured below is my daughter's American Girl doll look-a-like enjoying the complimentary breakfast.

The hotel is literally a hop, skip and jump away from the Easton Town Center in Columbus and with the help of my GPS, was very easy to find.  When we first arrived at the store, we waited in line to make an "appointment" at the Doll Hair Salon which I would recommend doing promptly because the "salon" gets very busy.  Our time slot was 2 hours after we scheduled the appointment.  My daughter selected the Birthday "updo" which included a tiara.

She worked hard to earn some extra spending money, which believe me, disappears fairly quickly with the purchase of just a few items from this store!  My daughter was thrilled with how pretty her doll's hair looked when the "stylist" was finished. 

It was a wonderful way to enjoy the last weekend of the summer and to spend some quality time with my daughter before the start of school.

Mid afternoon she was in the mood for a snack.  We wandered next door to Le Chocoholique in the Easton Town Center.  I was craving some Café Latte as  I was exhausted after the long drive.  My daughter tried a piece of the "Decadent" chocolate cake and told me it was the most delicious cake she had ever tasted. 

I did my best not to be tempted by the selection of exquisite chocolates and delectable treats.  The Caffe Latte hit the spot and was just the pick-me-up I was craving. Something I often struggle with is how to encourage my children to develop healthy eating habits without being so restrictive that they feel deprived.  Finding the middle ground can mean the difference between a child who develops into a "sugar addict" or one who has mastered the skill of moderation.  It is most definitely a matter for debate.  This being a once a year celebration for her birthday, she had been looking forward to enjoying some treats.

For dinner, we had reservations at the American Girl Bistro (Restaurant).  The restaurant was smaller than I had anticipated, and if you are planning a visit to the American Girl store, reservations are a must.  Our dinner began with the choice of an appetizer.    I selected the Artichoke Spinach Dip with pita triangles.  It was tasty but I mentioned to my daughter that it tasted like a bit of an indulgence.  She suggested that I should try to make a "healthier" spinach dip recipe for my blog, what a wonderful idea!

The table included a seat for my daughter's American Girl Doll.  She used some of the coffee creamer to pour milk into her doll's cup and then worried that the waitress might get a little upset!

I was relieved that I had the option of ordering something other than hamburgers or fries as an entrée from the menu.  I tried the grilled chicken salad as my main course. 

My favorite part of the meal was when the waitresses sang "Happy Birthday" to my daughter and brought out the birthday cake.

The "Birthday" package also included a take home goody bag of "treats" for her American Girl doll.

This was a wonderful trip with my daughter that I will not soon forget. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Whole Wheat Bagels

I love bagels, more specifically, everything bagels!  However, I have to carefully watch my carbohydrate intake and the bakery shop bagels are usually too large.  I decided to try making mini whole wheat bagels.  This recipe uses a mixture of whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour for the dough.  I made 12 smaller sized bagels and a mixture of onion flakes, ground sea salt and dehydrated roasted garlic, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds for the "everything" topping.  They were surprisingly easy to make.  Each bagel has approximately 195 calories if sugar is used.

Whole Wheat Bagels

1 1/4 cups plus 4 Tablespoons water (heated to 120 to 130 degrees F per yeast instructions)
1 Tablespoon Bread Machine Yeast
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 Tablespoons preferred sweetener (or sugar)
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Everything Topping

2 Tablespoons Poppy seeds
2 Tablespoons Sesame seeds
2 Tablespoons dried onion flakes
Coarse salt (optional)
Dehydrated roasted garlic (optional)

Mix hot water with the Bread machine yeast.  Combine water mixture, flour, sugar, salt, vegetable oil and yeast in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer.  I actually mixed the dough by hand, although it would be easier to use the dough hook and combine the ingredients using a stand mixer.  Increase the water by tablespoon as necessary to achieve the right balance of liquid to dry ingredients.  Mix using the stand mixer for approximately 8 or 9 minutes.  Stretch the dough with your fingers.  If the dough tears easily, it needs more kneading.  Fully developed dough should be able to stretch to a thin layer without ripping.

I spent a few minutes kneading the dough on a lightly floured surface because I did not use a dough hook to combine the ingredients.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and a warm towel.  Let rise for 2 hours.

Set the dough down on a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal size pieces for mini sized bagels.  Roll into long strands and join the ends to form a bagel shape.

Combine the poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried onion flakes, sea salt, and dehydrated roasted garlic for toppings, or as desired.  I found a container of roasted garlic and sea salt with an adjustable grinder in the spice aisle of my local supermarket which worked well.  Stir to combine.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Boil the bagels 3 at one time until each one rises to the surface.  Boil approximately 1 minute per side.  Remove the bagels from the pan using a slotted spoon.

Dip the bagels in the toppings as desired and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Add toppings to each bagel as desired.

Arrange on a baking sheet.  Place in the oven and bake in a preheated oven for approximately 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.