My Awesome Lunch: Easy Chick Pea, Cucumber & Tomato Salad

I had an awesome lunch today. And it took me all of 15 minutes to make it last night.

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Easy Chick Pea, Cucumber & Tomato Salad

  • 2 cups grape tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 English cucumber (quartered and chopped)
  • 1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1/2 a medium red onion (minced)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced or grated)
  • Juice of half a lemon (or a whole lemon depending on how juicy it is)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Mix, mix, mix and enjoy. You can eat it solo, on a bed of lettuce, in Romaine lettuce cups, or as a side dish! It’s light, fresh and delicious!

FAQs…

If you haven’t noticed we live in the age of information. It’s EVERYWHERE and EVERYONE has an opinion on what’s what with health and fitness. I think there’s a lot of noise out there and a lot of misinformation (or just plain BS) about healthy. It’s hard to wade through all of the information to find helpful tips on what’s right for YOU! Here are a few questions I get asked on a regular basis, so I thought I’d share that info with all of you as well!

Q: What’s the best kind of exercise to do for weight loss? 

A: In my professional opinion, interval training (specifically high intensity interval training if you’re capable of that level of activity) is the best form of exercise to participate in when attempting to lose weight. Why? It’s proven to increase fat metabolism at a resting rate and also improves cardiovascular endurance at a faster rate than sustained cardio exercise. It can also be done quickly (with only a minimum of 20 minutes) and with very little need of equipment.

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Q: What should I eat? 

A: I think this is the most loaded question I get asked. The answer can be both simple and complex.

First, you have to consider what you currently eat (type, amount, times). Do you eat a lot of processed foods, drink soda (pop) and/or juices, eat only one meal a day? Those are key areas to hone in on first. Try to cut out the CRAP (chemicals, refined grains, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives). Cut out sodas and juices. And, focus on eating evenly throughout the day. If you’re already doing those things…

Consider your health goal…do you want to eat healthier to feel healthier, do you want to lose weight, do you want to gain muscle mass, do you want to lose body fat? The answer to this question can determine what types of foods to focus on (after cutting the CRAP).

Get real about your current capabilities… can you cook, do you have to cook for other and are they willing to change their diet, would you consider joining a meal delivery service, are you incredibly crunched for time, etc. If you can barely use a knife, maybe it’s time to sign-up for the fresh delivery service or perhaps a cooking class!

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Finally, and I’d say most importantly you need to stop making excuses. If you want to eat healthier then do it. It’s as simple as googling a recipe, trying it, and continuing to do that day after day until you feel comfortable with your new eating/cooking habits.

Q: I’m always tired…what’s wrong with me? 

A: This is also one of those loaded questions, but I’d say 9 times out of 10 people who suffer from chronic fatigue are suffering from poor digestive health…namely inflammation. When your digestive system has to struggle to extract the nutrients it needs from the food you’re eating, it’s using a lot of energy that should be going to your brain and muscles to allow you to live life to its fullest. So, if you’re getting enough sleep and still feel like the walking dead all day. It’s time to take a look at your diet!

Q:  Where do you get your supplements and health foods/products and essential oils? 

A: I primarily get my protein, vitamins, and health foods/products such as shredded coconut, flaxseed, buckwheat flour, apple cider vinegar, Dr. Woods black soap, stevia, spices, teas, and a whole host of other items from Swanson Vitamins. I get my essential oils from DoTerra.

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What are some other health and fitness questions you have about making healthy changes?

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.

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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!

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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!😀

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?