Sweater Weather…almost

Now that I’m a SoFlo resident, Winter just isn’t the same. It’s not about fires and flannel and snow. But, it’s finally cooling down here! To the point where I’ve been wearing multiple layers and (joy of all joys) scarves to work.

scarf.jpg

I’ve also been getting into those winter flavors and warmer beverages. Last night I picked up my favorite tea…Constant Comment, and I made some Cranberry Chia Seed Jam.

Cranberries have so many great health benefits! You can read a great article on them HERE. The jam is also sugar and preservative free and filled with fiber.

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Cranberry Chia Jam

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Stevia to taste
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds

Directions

Place all ingredients except chia seeds into a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once cranberries start to “pop” open, reduce heat and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly.

Transfer to a glass storage container. Mix in chia seeds. Allow to cool completely, and then refrigerate overnight.

The chia seeds will soak up the excess liquid making a delicious jam!

I eat it on my microwave flaxseed muffin :-) oftentimes on my way to work!

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Jalapeno Citrus Salmon

I really love to roast salmon to take in my lunch, but putting lemon pepper on it gets a little old sometimes. So, I try to experiment with new seasoning combinations. This week I had a lot of mandarin oranges and had just bought jalapeno pepper spice…and my recipe was born!

salmon

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 mandarin oranges (depending on their size/the size of your salmon filet)
  • jalapeno spice or fresh jalapeno ground into a paste (to your heat tolerance… I like it spicy!)
  • garlic powder or minced garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • parsley to top

Juice 2-3 of the oranges into a small bowl, add jalapeno, garlic, salt and pepper until the taste is to your liking and then rub into fish on both sides. Top with sliced mandarin oranges and sprinkle parsley on top (just for looks!).

Roast in a 450 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes or until cooked through.

Enjoy over mixed greens as a salad or with some freshly steamed veggies as an entree. :-)

Jalea-style (Peruvian) Spaghetti Squash Shrimp

The other night someone let me try a version of Jalea Mixta, a Peruvian seafood dish that is basically fried seafood with an amazingly flavorful sauce on top. So, I decided to try it out at home and make my own healthier version using fresh seafood and making it into a “pasta”dish.

IT.WAS.EPIC.

Hands down one of the best things I’ve made in a long while.

Jalea Spag Sq Shrimp

And I promise no camera filter or editing was even used on that picture! :-D

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of frozen extra large/jumbo shrimp
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • Juice of 2-3 limes (depending on how juicy they are
  • 1 cup (or one large handful) of small tomatoes (I love sunsweets from Costco)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • cayenne pepper (to desired heat level)
  • crushed pepper flakes (to desired heat level)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 jalapenos or fresno chile peppers (Jalas if you like it a little spicier and if you want to go completely traditional just use a red bell pepper)
  • 1 small red onion sliced thinly (traditionally sprinkled over top, but I omitted because…honestly… I didn’t have one!)

Step 1: Roast the Squash Cut the stem end of the squash off, turn it on the cut end so that you have a steady base. Cut the squash lengthwise and then scoop out the seed portion. Place cut-side down in a baking dish with about 1 inch of water in the pan. Cook at 350* for approximately 30-45 minutes or just until you can easily pierce through the densest portion of the squash. Remove from oven and flip over onto skin side to allow to cool a bit. Once it’s cooled a bit, hold with a towel and use a fork to scrape out the squash into a bowl.

Step 2: Cook the Shrimp Boil a pot of fresh water and follow cooking instructions on your shrimp.

Step 3: Make the Sauce While the water is boiling for your shrimp… Seed the jalapenos and cut into 1 inch pieces or rounds. Add the cilantro, tomatoes, garlic, salt, cayenne, and chili flakes to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. With food processor on low setting, drizzle olive oil through top until desired consistency is reached (should have the consistency of a salsa). Taste, adding more salt, cayenne or chili pepper flakes as desired. Pour into bowl and add the jalapenos.

Step 4: Put it all together! Build your plate with squash, a few spoonfuls of sauce, some shrimp, and a sprinkle of the onions (if using).

Step 5: Sobremesa Share with a friend over good conversation and maybe a glass of sangria. :-)

What’s your favorite Latin American inspired dish? 

P.S. If you try this recipe…please report back on how you liked it or what innovations you used!

7 Simple (and Healthy) Salad “Dressings”

I’m a weirdo… I LOVE vegetables! And that includes salads…

Salad

MMMMMmmmmmm!

But, when you put a ton of dressing on the salad you miss out on the deliciousness of the veggies AND you’re usually adding extra calories, preservatives and fat to your otherwise healthy meal. I’d rather not sacrifice the amount of calories I can eat in a day for salad dressing, so I turn to my go-to salad “dressing” options. Here they are (in no particular order).

1.) Salsa

With less than 10 calories per tablespoon, salsa is great on southwestern style or tacos salads. I choose picante style usually since it’s more like a sauce and I can drizzle it over my greens.

2.) Tajin

This one can be a little bit harder to find, but it’s a chile, lime, salt spice mix that is so tasty on salads. I usually use it on  grilled chicken salads that include lots of cucumber and carrots.

3.) Citrus

A squeeze of orange, lemon, lime, or even grapefruit on your salad right before you chow down is delicious! If you want something a little less sour… squeeze the citrus into a small bowl and whisk in some melted honey or liquid/powdered stevia until it’s at the sweetness level you desire.

4.) Hot sauce

Okay, this one may seem a bit odd, but it goes hand in hand with my love of all things Mexican and hot. Sprinkle some salsa picante (not Frank’s Red Hot or Tabasco) on your greens and see how you like it. I LOVE this on a salad topped with an over-easy egg or two!

5.) Over-easy Eggs

Since I mentioned them above… over-easy or over-medium eggs are a great way to have some sauciness on your salad. Just cook the egg, allow to cool for a second or two so you don’t wilt your salad and then place directly on top of your greens. When you’re ready to chow down, cut open the egg and let the yolk be your dressing!

6.) Reduced or Aged Balsamic Vinegar

So, this one is a bit more complex if you want to make it yourself, but balsamic vinegar on its own makes a great salad dress. I find that the regular, un-aged or non-reduced stuff is too thin for me. So, I take my balsamic and reduce it in a small pot over med-low heat until it simmers and thickens up a little bit. You can also buy aged balsamic that is a bit thicker and tends to have a more robust flavor.

7. Aminos!

Aminos are an amazing soy sauce substitute, so they’re also great sprayed on Asian-inspired salads like a Mandarin orange, grilled chicken salad or a bok choy, mushroom, bean sprout salad. Just a few sprays or a light drizzle is all you need!

What are your favorite salad toppers? 

To sit, or not to sit…

I’m going to continue on with the topic of sedentary time (aka sitting all day).  There’s a lot of information out there (some of which I provided in the last post…so check that one out if you haven’t) about how sitting is bad for your health. The American College of Sports Medicine (of which I’m a practicing member) highlighted an observational study done by Dr. Joesph Henson that links increased sedentary time with increased levels of fat around the heart, liver and viscera (other organs).

But, it has also been well established (here’s one source) that prolonged standing (standing for more than 30 minutes) can also have negative health effects such as ankle swelling, lower back pain, leg cramps, and overall fatigue.

I know, I know… it’s all so confusing!

First, they tell us that standing is the new smoking… leading to premature death and a whole slew of health problems. Then others say, but wait standing has it’s problems too!

What’s a girl to do?

Here’s where one of my favorite cliches comes into play…

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Should we sit over 70% of our days… no! Should be stand the entire day… probably not! But somewhere in between should be our goal! Life is about balance. And from what I can glean from the research, I’d say that taking a short break once every 30 minutes or so is a good way to stay balanced.

How do you stay active at work? 

Stand & Stay Healthy: My DIY Standing Desk

Yesterday NPR released THIS ARTICLE about how sitting at desks (aka sedentary lives) are “killing us,” and how moving can stop the death march.

While I think it’s a little overly dramatic, research has proven that the average American lifestyle includes about 15 hours work of sedentary time (including sleeping). On the bright side, research has also found that taking small breaks from sitting (no matter how long the break) is associated with lower waist circumference (how round you are), triglycerides (how much fat is in your blood stream) and and blood glucose (how much sugar is in your blood stream) levels.

However, as the NPR article points out…no one is really shouting from the mountain tops how long breaks should be or what the best practices are for getting in more active time.

The not-so-popular truth is we as individuals need to start taking responsibility for our health and realizing that it took a long time to build our bad habits… so it may take awhile and some serious effort to break them.

Weight loss and health doesn’t come from 1 hour at the gym after a 1 hour commute (where we sit), a desk job (where we sit), and another 1 hour commute home (while we, yes, sit). It takes some creativity! Some ingenuity! And, gasp… some forethought!

So, not that it’s any sort of a best practice, but here is how I keep active.

1.) I built myself a standing desk. I literally googled DIY Standing Desk… It cost $22 :-)

Standing Desk

It’s not an fancy-schmancy automatic one, so it takes a little effort to set it up. But, I usually set it up after lunch and stand for the rest of my afternoon.

2.) I park my car about 10 minutes away from the door to my office… on purpose.

3.) I drink a lot of water. It’s a win-win situation… I’m properly hydrated AND the bathroom is about a 2 minute walk out of my office.

4.) I schedule my exercise, I make it social, and I do things that I enjoy! My calendar lis filled with appointments for after work run clubs, biking meet ups, and occasional lunch breaks where I leave the office to go swim some laps. I enjoy meeting up with people to play volleyball, go hiking, or go explore a new part of town. I decided a long time ago that if I didn’t choose activities that I enjoyed doing, I’d never do them. 

5.) I hang out with other active people. Now, I realize you can’t just easily change your friend group and you definitely can’t change your family. But, research also suggests that the old phrase, birds of a feather flock together, is very true. Want to be more active? Find people who want that for themselves too!

6.) I stand whenever possible. Out with friends at a bar?… No stool for me thanks. Riding the subway or bus? You can have this seat Ms. Parks. Bout to board a plane? I’m the last person on and I circle the terminal during layovers.

7.) I protect my sleep! How does that help being active you ask? Well, if you’re not getting adequate or restful sleep, you’re not going to want to be active the next day! I spray my sheets with relaxing lavender linen spray and/or I diffuse some relaxing scents in my bedroom before bed.

I LOVE SLEEP! 

Linen Spray

What do you do to stay active?

#TBT? No no no…#TTO…Endless Uses

I have a growing love for essential oils and this little image from Swanson Vitamins came into my inbox today… thought I’d share the wonders of Tea Tree Oil (TTO).

Tea Tree Oil

Personally, I use it as a skin cleanser. It has anti-bacterial properties so placing a small amount on blemishes a few minutes prior to washing you face helps kill the surface bacteria. Some people hate the smell though, but you can add some Sweet Orange essential oil to the tea tree for use on your face… not only does it enhance the smell, it also helps with pore cleansing as well (win-win!).

What’s your fave #essentialoil?