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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Whole Grain Blueberry Corn Muffins

I came up with a recipe for blueberry corn muffins using whole wheat flour and oat bran.  To get the most benefits from cornmeal, make sure the one you choose is whole.  Degermed cornmeal loses important nutrients once it is milled.  Cornmeal is a great source of niacin, thiamin, and folate and vitamins B6, E and K.  There are approximately 200 calories per muffin.

Whole Grain Blueberry Corn Muffins

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup natural applesauce
1/2 cup preferred sweetener (or sugar)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat bran hot cereal
2 cups cornmeal
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 and 3/4 cups lowfat milk
2 cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place cupcake liners inside the muffin tin.

In a large bowl mix together the vegetable oil, applesauce, preferred sweetener (or sugar) and salt until fluffy.  Stir in the honey and eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl and mixing after each addition.

Mix together the dry ingredients including the whole wheat flour, cornmeal, and baking powder in a separate bowl.

Add the dry ingredients and the oil mixture in batches alternating with the milk.  Mix until the batter is smooth.

Gently fold in the blueberries.

Scoop the batter into the muffin tins until about 2/3 full.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the tops of the muffins are golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before removing the muffins from the pan.  Recipe yields about 18 muffins at 200 calories each.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Zumba Queen

Did you ever find a workout routine you love that best embodies your own workout philosophy? I know corny, but that is exactly how I feel when I am doing zumba.  Whenever I miss a class it completely throws off my day and I am totally bummed! I think for me it is the fast pace and that I love to be challenged.  I have to be constantly moving to benefit the most from an exhilirating aerobic workout.  The class is truly a mixture of all different fitness levels and people adjust the workout to meet their own needs. 

The only thing I do wish is that I could pick up the routines a little faster.  This week the instructor started teaching us a few new songs.  It takes about 3 weeks before I am totally comfortable I have memorized all the new steps.  As I look around the class I see how some people just instantly catch on.   However once I have learned the songs I am totally loving it and have no trouble keeping up! I have thought about getting Zumba certified after tax season ends in April. I just wish there was a magic wand I could wave around to help improve my coordination and ability to learn the routines faster.

I am excited for my class this afternoon because my gym is offering a zumba class for kids that I am bringing my 12 year old daughter to. A future zumba queen in the making perhaps?

And how about you, what types of workouts do you enjoy? Are there exercise classes that you love and which keep you highly motivated to stay active?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pineapple Fruit Salad

I love a healthy fruit salad.  I served this with stir fried steak and peppers.  It consists of fresh fruit mixed with greek yogurt and toasted coconut in a fresh pineapple.  For the canned mandarin oranges I tried Libby's Skinny Fruits which had no added sugar (105 total calories in a 15 oz. can and 6 grams of sugar for a 1/2 cup serving).  An average pineapple contains about 3 cups fresh pineapple if substituting canned pineapple chunks.  This recipe yields 6 servings at approximately 176 calories.

Pineapple Fruit Salad

1 fresh pineapple (or 3 cups drained pineapple chunks may be used)
1 (15 oz) can of mandarin oranges drained (Tip- Look for varieties with no added sugar)
1 and 1/2 cups fresh sliced strawberries
1 and 1/2 cups red grapes
1 and 1/4 cups plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup coconut milk (or to desired consistency)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup toasted coconut

Stand the pineapple upright and cut a third off of one side leaving leaves attached. 

Remove strips of pineapple from the center leaving a 1/2 inch border on the sides. 

Discard the core.  Cut strips into bite size pieces.

Slice the fresh strawberries into bite size pieces.

Add the drained mandarin oranges, red grapes, and fresh strawberries to the fresh pineapple.

Combine greek yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup (or less) coconut milk to reach desired consistency.  Combine with the mixed fruit.

Spoon the fruit mixture into the pineapple shell. Sprinkle with the fresh toasted coconut.

Yields 6 servings at approximately 176 calories each.

Stir Fry Steak and Peppers

I prepared a stir fry with sirloin strips and peppers for dinner on Thursday night.  I marinated strips of sirloin steak which I served with brown rice and a pineapple fruit salad.  The recipe serves 4 and has approximately 550 calories per serving.  I don't prepare steak very often, but we do enjoy it as a special treat.  It helps to keep it healthy by trimming the excess fat and serving it with plenty of fresh vegetables.  Enjoy!

Stir Fry Steak and Peppers

1 pound sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup soy sauce (I used a low sodium variety)
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon Sherry
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon clove garlic
1 large onion, sliced into thin strips
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
2 cups mushrooms
1 TBS. olive oil to stir fry beef
1 tsp. olive oil to stir fry vegetables
Cooked brown rice

Cut the sirloin steak into thin strips and trim the excess fat.

In a seperate bowl mix together soy sauce, honey, sherry, ginger, red pepper flakes, and the clove garlic.  Pour over beef stirring to combine and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While steak is marinating slice the mushrooms, onions, and peppers into thin strips.

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil to medium in a skillet. Add beef slices and stir fry until just cooked through.

While beef is cooking, heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a skillet to stir fry the peppers and onions.  I heated them seperately until they are just crisp.  I wanted to make sure not to overcook the vegetables so that they retain their nutrients.

Add vegetable mixture to beef mixture and stir fry for 1-2 minutes to allow the seasonings and flavors to blend.

Serve immediately with cooked brown rice.  I served this dish with a pineapple fruit salad which I will share in a later blog entry.  There are approximately 550 calories for the steak, vegetables, and brown rice. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Carrot Bran Muffins

I came up with a recipe for carrot bran muffins after having a little fun in the kitchen.  I added some fat free sour cream to keep the muffins moist.  Natural applesauce to reduce the amount of vegetable oil I used in the recipe.  I am pleased with the result.  There are approximately 135 calories per muffin.

Carrot Bran Muffins

1 cup boiling water
1 cup coarse bran
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup preferred sweetener (or sugar)
1/4 cup natural applesauce
1 cup fat free sour cream
4 oz. jar baby carrots
1 cup finely shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins

In a small saucepan, mix bran and boiling water.  Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

 Meanwhile combine honey, oil, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl.

Mix whole wheat flour, baking soda, preferred sweetener (or sugar) and cinnamon in a separate bowl to combine.

Add egg mixture to the flour mixture.  Then add applesauce and the fat free sour cream.

Then stir in the bran mixture, shredded carrots, jar of baby carrots, raisins and walnuts.  Add cupcake liners to a muffin tin and pour in the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Yields approximately 18 muffins at 135 calories each.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Small Dietary Changes That Really Add Up

Sometimes it's just the little things you do that can really add up.  I'm thinking of the types of changes that may not seem like they would make a big difference.  I know I could never give up my coffee habit.  One change I have made is that I no longer add 2 teaspoons of sugar to every cup of coffee the way I once did.  I don't know about you but I am a big time coffee drinker.  I would estimate I drink at least 3-4 cups a day.  And let me do the math.  Two teaspoons of sugar 4 times a day amounts to a total of 8 teaspoons.  There are 15 calories in 1 teaspoon of sugar.  That means during a typical day that would add up to  an additional 120 calories a day for 4 cups of coffee.  Now I no longer add sugar to my coffee, but I admit I haven't given up the half and half.

Another change I have made is that I have become much more conscientious about serving sizes.  Yes, I admit it, I measure out how much cereal I put in my bowl before I eat it.  It might seem a little silly, but serving sizes can be deceptive.  As an example I am looking at the nutrition label of the Old Fashioned oatmeal I eat in the morning.  I eat 3/4 cup oatmeal daily and this adds up to a total of 225 calories.  However if I didn't measure it and made 1 cup of oatmeal instead, this would add up to a total of 300 calories for 1 bowl.  This would mean an additional 525 calories in a week.  It is easy to see how quickly all those additional calories could add up.

Here are some examples of a few simple healthy diet swaps that add up big.
  • Try mixing in fresh fruit to greek or plain yogurt instead of buying pre-sweetened yogurt.
  • Beware of juices with too much added sugar.  Drink water or seltzer instead.
  • Pack fresh fruit in your lunches for snacks instead of sugary and unhealthy junk foods.
  • Watch the mayo and try using mustard on your sandwiches.
  • Carefully check your cereal labels and steer clear of items containing too much added sugar.
  • Try eating a healthier baked potato instead of french fries.  You can add a variety of healthy toppings for a great treat.
  • Be careful of the salad dressing you choose.  For example 2 TBS. light blue cheese dressing saves a whopping 80 calories over 2 TBS. regular blue cheese.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Traditional Black Beans and Rice

I served this side dish along with the chicken fajitas I prepared.  It is a little spicy and has a bit of a kick.  I shared the fajitas recipe in my previous blog entry.  This recipe appeared on the back of a can of Bush's black beans. I prepared brown rice in my rice cooker to serve with the black beans.  I have been using brown basmati rice as I love the flavor and it is a great source of dietary fiber (16% of the daily requirement in one serving).  There are approximately 107 calories in one serving of the black beans and rice dish.

Traditional Black Beans and Rice

1 Tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drain and reserve juice (I used the low sodium variety)
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon garlic salt
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (I used Tabasco sauce)
2 cups cooked rice
Lime wedge or sliced mango (optional)

Finely chop the green pepper.  To facilitate this process, I used my Kitchen Aid mini chopper to finely grind the pepper.

In a skillet heat the olive oil.  Add the chopped peppers and onions and cook until tender. 

Dice fresh tomatoes to add to the onion and pepper mixture.

Stir in tomatoes, beans, thyme and garlic salt, cook 3 minutes.  Add vinegar, hot pepper sauce,  and reserved juice, continue to cook for 5 minutes. 

Serve over warmed rice.  Add a lime wedge or sliced mango if desired.  This recipe yields 6 servings at approximately 107 calories.

Chicken Fajitas

My family loves chicken fajitas.  With all the colorful vegetables and peppers they are a very healthy dinner. The marinated chicken has a wonderful flavor.  For our meal, I set out whole wheat tortillas, fat free cheddar cheese, salsa, and fat free sour cream.  I served the fajitas with traditional black beans and brown rice.  I will post the beans/rice recipe in a seperate blog entry.  One chicken fajita has about 350 calories and one serving of the black beans and brown rice is approximately 107 calories.

Chicken Fajitas

4 boneless chicken breasts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 teaspoon chili powder
dash pepper
1/2 red onion
1 yellow onion
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
whole wheat tortillas

To make the chicken marinade for the fajitas combine the fresh lime juice with the olive oil.  I used a hand juicer which worked great.

Add in the red pepper flakes, ground cumin, garlic cloves, chili powder and dash pepper and stir mixture to combine.

Slice chicken breasts into thin long strips.  

Pour marinade mixture over chicken and stir to cover the chicken pieces.

Place chicken in the refrigerator to marinade for at least an hour or up to 3 hours.  Next you may begin slicing the peppers and onions into thin strips shortly before you are ready to start cooking the chicken.

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a skillet.  Add the onions and peppers and stir until they are softened and then place in a bowl and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the tortillas in foil and heat in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Add chicken and cook until meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear. 

Then add the peppers and onions to the chicken and heat together in the skillet for 1-2 minutes.  I sprinkled some Emeril's southwest seasoning on the warm chicken/pepper mixture.  If you have some lying around the house it adds a nice flavor to this dish.

Divide the chicken and peppers among the whole wheat tortillas.  Serve with fat free sour cream, salsa, lettuce, tomato and whatever other toppings your family enjoys.  Yield is 4-6 servings at approximately 350 calories/serving for 1 fajita with a whole wheat tortilla, some fat free cheddar cheese (1/8 cup) and 2 tablespoons each of fat free sour cream and salsa.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mediterranean Pasta

I made this pasta salad with whole grain rotelle pasta, cherry tomatoes, and fresh spinach.  It tasted great with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.  I found this recipe on the back of a can of Bush's Dark Red Kidney beans.  It is is served in a light dressing of olive oil and clove garlic.  As pictured one serving of this pasta salad has approximately 250 calories.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

8 ounces whole wheat pasta
1/4 cup water reserved from cooking the pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
One 6 oz. bag fresh pre-washed spinach
One 16 oz. can Dark or Light Red kidney beans, washed and drained
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to box directions reserving 1/4 cup water.

Heat olive oil in saute pan and add onion and garlic.

When onion is translucent, add red pepper flakes, fresh spinach, kidney beans, and reserved pasta water.

Simmer over medium heat until spinach is tender.  Cut cherry tomatoes into half slices.

I purchased this handy spice grinder at the supermarket.  It worked great to grind the fresh parsley. 

Next add the cooked pasta, chopped tomatoes, and fresh parsley to the spinach and kidney bean mixture in the saute pan and stir to combine.  Season as needed with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with some freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve warm.  Yields 6 servings at about 250 calories.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Planning a Healthy Valentines Day

Valentines Day can mean trouble for those of us trying to stick to a healthy routine.  I know it is just one day, but one thing I have learned over the years is that this attitude often gets me into trouble!  Oh it's just Valentines Day, why not enjoy a chocolate or two?  But before I know it I might as well have devoured the entire box.  So on this holiday I hope to not receive any chocolates or flowers.  I know, not very romantic. 

I would love nothing more than a quiet romantic dinner with my sweetheart the day before Valentines Day.  This way we avoid the crowds and can enjoy a peaceful evening without the stress of dealing with an overcrowded restaurant.  I even have one or 2 places in mind. But the important part is that we are spending it together. 

Here are some suggestions of heart healthy ways to celebrate your Valentines Day.

  • Plan an active day out sledding, hiking, or visiting an indoor rock climbing wall.
  • Prepare a healthy, romantic dinner by candlelight at home
  • Dining out is also an option as there are plenty of healthy choices
  • Heat things up salsa dancing with your sweetheart
  • Show your love by encouraging your partner to give up an unhealthy habit
  • Try sharing a bowl of sweet, healthy fruit with your valentine
  • Take a jog or walk outside (weather permitting) followed by a date to the movies
  • Write a romantic poem or card for the one you love expressing how you feel
  • Share the love and volunteer at a local charity in your community with your significant other

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Homemade Pizza

My husband was traveling out of town on business last week and I thought wouldn't be fun to relax and have a pizza for dinner?  I enjoy pizza, but I prefer to stick with a healthier thin whole wheat crust.  The pizza sauce recipe I tried did not require the ingredients to be heated on the stove.  I was skeptical about how it would turn out, but it tasted great.  I found the sauce recipe on the allrecipes website.  As pictured one slice of this pizza has approximately 235 calories.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 package active dry yeast
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup hot water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon honey

In a large mixing bowl combine whole wheat flour, yeast and salt.

Blend in water, oil and honey.  Stir vigorously until all ingredients are  mixed well.  Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise to desired size.  While the dough is rising, you can begin preparing the pizza sauce as it needs to sit for a half hour for the flavors to blend.

Place dough in greased jelly roll pan or 12-14 inch pizza pan.  I sprayed the pan surface with  non stick cooking spray.

Pizza Sauce Recipe

6 oz. can tomato paste
6 oz. warm water
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon dried basil 
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
salt to taste

In a small bowl combine the tomato past, parmesan cheese, garlic, honey, onion powder, marjoram, basil, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt breaking up any clumps of parmesan cheese.

Sauce should sit for 30 minutes to let the flavors blend.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Once sauce is ready, spread over the pizza dough.

I sprinkled some freshly grated parmesan on the pizza sauce.  For toppings, I chopped some fresh onions and red, yellow, and orange peppers.  I also added sliced black olives. 

 I used about 1 and 1/2 cups of part skim mozzarella to make the pizza.

Place in a preheated oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes until crust is golden brown and toppings are done.  Yields approximately 8 servings at 235 calories.  Enjoy!