Monday, November 17, 2014

Healthy Thanksgiving: Delicious Alternatives for Traditional Recipes


Credit
I call this the 'Season of Eating' as I am sure many others do. Where engorging yourself is the mode du jour. From the onset of Halloween and throughout the month of November, it is nothing but cakes, cookies, candies and wine in my home thanks the close concentration of birthdays within that month. (Yes, it seems several generations liked to take advantage of snuggling in the cold to procreate during the winter month of February.)

In an attempt to stave off a few extra pounds from piling on, I've compiled a little list of healthy alternatives to the traditional calorie-laden meals such as turkey smothered in oily gravy, marshmallow laden candied yams, artery popping buttered beans, corns and pumpkin pies:



 
 
 
Stuffing: Who doesn't love an herbed, buttery stuffing made with soft chewy bread cubes?  Stuffing has always been my favorite Thanksgiving side dish. But the calories! Yikes. I can no longer.
 
Try a healthier and gluten free alternative - Quinoa Sage Stuffing. I am a fan of quinoa, which is a gluten free grain considered by some to be the world's healthiest food. This nontraditional stuffing is made without the processed junk is the perfect healthy twist on a traditional Thanksgiving stuffing.
 




Turkey:  I love any recipe that replaces the traditional turkey roast with something simpler to prepare. In the past I have prepared turkey roulades which I absolutely loved as they are beautiful when presented at the table and is a flavorful twist on tradition.

This recipe- Jerk Turkey Cutlets with Cranberry-Habanero Salsa adds an unusual Island flair and quite frankly makes me think of my husband and warm Caribbean breezes. This recipes clocks in at a mere 316 calories.


 



Rice:  We always have rice at the dinner table, either a rice mix with kidney beans or what we call 'Durie Djon Djon.' It's essentially rice that has been soaked along with mushrooms. I love this recipe which calls for another root vegetable- the butternut squash. I love to incorporate this squash into my dishes all year round, especially as an addition to my soups. I'm not certain of the calories content of this dish, but you can certainly choose to use low fat cheese if you prefer. Butternut Squash Risotto with Bacon, Maple and Sage.


 




Pumpkin Pie: Autumn is synonymous with pumpkin. This year it seems manufacturers have gone overboard to infuse pumpkin into every food item possible and then some. I have seen Pumpkin Milano Cookies, Pumpkin Oreos, Pumpkin flavored rice cakes, Pumpkin Chips, donuts, crackers, candles, coffee... etc. etc. It truly is Pumpkin Everything! This 60 calorie Crust-less Pumpkin Pie recipe takes away the caloric sting quite a bit.

I hope you give these recipes a chance, and if you do let me know in the comments below.








Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My Weightloss Transformation & Becoming a Beachbody Coach

 
Ever since I gave birth to my little ones, I've been on a roller coaster of highs and lows with my weight. I have had practically every size in my closet ranging from a 2-14. I go through these periodic phases of activity then non-activity, eating well then over-indulging in junk. It pretty much depends on what havoc is being wrecked on my life and whatever stressors are setting me off. Most of the time this would lead to a major chocolate binging session, closely followed by a salt craving.

I remember days sitting in my little cozy kitchen with some form of chocolate in a bowl on my left, and a random brand of salty chips on my right. (I've since learned that these cravings were not only PMS induced but signifies a magnesium deficiency.)

My low point hit when I started to tip over 175lbs. My fat clothes were beginning to get tight and the excess weight was impacting my self esteem and my relationships. I began to hide from my husband and wear only dark colored clothing. I refused to go to the pool with my children and climbing stairs left me feeling so winded, it was if I had run a marathon! I realized after a visit with my doctor, it was time to take charge of my health, especially at my and with the history of diabetes running in my family.

One day while surfing the net, I stumbled on a promotion for a 21 day Facebook fitness challenge group. After exchanging emails with the promoter, who I later learned was a coach, I became excited about the thought of joining a support group with women who were also attempting to lose weight. I had no idea such a thing existed as I was always ambivalent towards Facebook. I eventually joined by purchasing a fitness program called the 21 Day Fix, which also included Shakeology, a nutrient dense shake that would serve as a meal replacement.

I didn't care for the price and I really had to mull the purchase over, but I really wanted to change the course my health was headed towards and become more fit. So I bit the bullet after determining this was not only important to me, but was essential for preserving the health of my family as well. The women were so incredibly supportive in the group that it touched me to the core. I lost 10 pounds and after the 21 day challenge was over, I sought to continue and searched for another group.  I missed the community atmosphere of the group and the accountability aspect. I soon found another group and started Focus T25, a 60 day fitness program. It was then the idea for coaching began to take root.

Why did I consider coaching? I wanted to be healthy and fit for the rest of my days, no more yo-yoing, roller coasting or resorting to fat clothes.  My daughter was becoming a budding track star and I wanted to be able to run with her and encourage her. I did not want to succumb to the fate of some of my family members and become diabetic. I knew coaching would help keep me accountable.

I've been a lawyer for 20 years and my passion for it had dwindled. There were days when I came home and wanted to cry. I wanted to have passion for my life and to do something I actually enjoyed. I had grown to love the Beachbody fitness community and loved seeing how happy and fulfilled some of the coaches were. They were living a life by their design while helping others reach their fitness goals. I knew the wonder and awe I felt every time I hit a milestone, or a non scale victory and in my mind it no longer became about losing weight, but rather about challenging myself to achieve goals I never imagined I would try to achieve. It was empowering. I want every one who has ever felt depressed about their weight to share in those joyous feelings. I want to help others achieve their weight loss goals. That is in large part why I became a coach.

And to date.... I've lost 30 pounds and have never felt better! I continue to work towards my fitness goals and have had experiences with quite a few different programs.

 
If you have some weight to lose and would like to experience wonderful community spirit in any of my fitness support groups email me or DM me through Facebook here.






Friday, October 31, 2014

My Fall Scenes of Late...


 
 
Are you ready to batten down the hatches? It's getting quite crispy in these here parts. I can go on and on about how I love the beautiful orange hued leaves, the comfort foods, or share my excitement for the upcoming holiday season... but I'm sure you've heard all of that before!

I'm just happy my favorite boots have made a comeback. And mums. We can't forget the mums. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE IN MY TOWN. Who doesn't love a colorful mum? You can spread that shizzzz everywhere as far as I'm concerned.
   

We stopped by a local farm to pick up some vegetables last weekend. I picked up so many tomatoes. Me thinks Roasted Tomato Soup will be on the menu this week.
 
 
 
Peppers and apples galore...
 
 
 
 
 
 Meet Frieda the pumpkin... She needs some plucking.
 
 
The Christmas lights are up in Zuccotti Park! Not lit though. I'm happy they aren't jumping the gun and fast forwarding the Christmas season like some major discount stores. Yes, I'm looking at you Walmart and Home Depot!


We cannot leave out the beautiful skyline views. They look a little Christmasey at dusk don't they?


Halloween always harkens the beginning of celebrations in my home. My son's birthday, my birthday, my mother's... then Thanksgiving followed by a slew of other birthdays. It seems my family didn't know how to propagate during any other season?

 
Family time though. That is what it is all about. Look at my little guy's face. If he weren't so mischievous I swear I would eat him up in a gaggle of kisses.
 
 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Shiritaki Noodle and Veggie Stir Fry






Shiritaki Noodles with Veggies and Tofu. Photo by Vivianne
Three months ago I decided to give up all meats and eat solely vegetarian meals. I have been wanting to kick the meat habit for some time now but was always concerned I wouldn't be able to give up the protein from chicken because I have not eaten red meat or pork in almost two decades. My diet consisted primarily of fish, chicken and veggies.

I thought the transition would have been more difficult, but it was quite easy. I think I was more enamored with the idea of experimenting with new recipes and foods, which I absolutely love to do! Prior to making this choice, I've never had tofu, soy products or even shiritaki noodles in my life. I'm totally converted now!
 
This recipe is currently my favorite- Shiritaki Noodles with a Veggie Stir-fry. I have no idea why this non-noodle was not in my life before? Low calories, low carbs and has protein? Duh!!! Perfect for someone on a weight loss journey as I have been this past year.

Not only is it super simple to make, it cooks up in less than 10 minutes. All I did was add a package of shiritaki noodles into a pan of sautéed tofu, grated carrots, onions, peppers, and baby kale leaves with a touch of Thai curry sauce. OMG. This dish nearly converted my husband. Go ahead, lick that screen... I know you want to.

 
Ingredients:

1 package Nasoya Pasta Zero  Shirataki Fettuccine noodles 
1/2 red and yellow peppers, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 tsp. chopped garlic
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper, or more to taste 
1/2 block of Firm Tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces
Dash each salt and black pepper
2 handful bunches of Baby Kale Leaves 
1/2 cup of grated carrots
3/4 cup 1-inch scallion pieces
A drizzle of Thai curry sauce
Optional: 1/2 cup bean sprouts

Directions:
 
  1. Strain and rinse shirataki noodles. Pat dry. Cut noodles in half with shears. Set aside.
  2. Drizzle a large skillet with coconut or EVOO and bring to medium-high heat on the stove.
  3. Sauté Tofu until browned. Add peppers, onions, and garlic until translucent. Add seasonings. Add carrots and noodles and sauté for another minute until they absorb the flavors. Drizzle in Thai Curry Sauce to taste. If sauce is too thick use a little vegetable broth the thin.
  4. Add baby kale leaves and heat until they wilt.  Serve and enjoy! MAKES 2 SERVINGS

Nasoya Pasta Zero Fettuccine noodles are a traditional Japanese shirataki noodles. They only have 15 calories and 4g of carbs per serving.) You can play with this recipe any which way you can.
The noodles are highly adaptable to a variety of flavors.









My Thoughts on Allegiant by Veronica Roth




My anticipation for the release of this book was immense after thoroughly loving the first two of the Divergent series. I was afraid my hopes and expectations were too high, which would result in ultimate disappointment. In my heart, I allowed room for some disappointment, but had no idea that it would end up being monumental.

I did not enjoy this book as much as I hoped I would. It took some adjustment switching back and forth between Tris and Tobias points of view. I'm not opposed to the idea of different POV's but like other readers, I had to refer to the chapter headings several times to remind myself whose point of view I was reading.

Major Spoilerery Ahead!!! Be warned!


I couldn't get a sense of the characters I had grown to love in the prior books. Christina was a shadow of herself. Peter was a shadow of himself. What was the point of Uriah? It was all so bland. I would have loved to see more narrative for these characters. For example, there could have been more development of the Christina/Tris forgiveness struggle. There could have been some more development with Uriah. A sibling re-union for Tori would have been great and the author could have killed her off after that. The alleged death of Tori's brother defined her so much, one would think development in that area would have been a great platform for some emotional scenes rather than the glossing we were given.

Why did Four have to get so freaking annoying and weak in this book? I LOVED HIM in all of the others. I get he was abused and had a great deal of emotional processing to get through, but he seemed too far away from the strong character we had grown to love. Here, he was so easily manipulated. I found his fear of the size of the US idiotic. His resentment of Tris was annoying. I'm not sure how to feel about this considering it's not unexpected to experience a great deal of self-doubt as a result of another's abuse. I'll have to mull it some more.

The storyline, to me, was aimless. The characters walked around in a fog for most of the book. There was much walking around the compound, some walking around the fringe. It seemed lame when there were important battles to be had. The rebellion scenes appeared lame and rushed. The government genetics issue was so darn convoluted it became confusing. The faction vs. factionless could have had real teeth but that barely made an impression because we were ensconced in the government genetic debacle. So much more could have been done with the fringe storyline in my opinion but that also fell flat.

The ending felt completely like a shocking manipulation of my emotions. You sort of expect most dystopians to end on a hopeful note, it may not be happy, but at least hopeful. You don't expect to lose a major character for whom you have such a total investment in. I found it to be disheartening. I can accept an unhappy ending when lead characters experience horrific loss and/or horrific physical pain through their journeys, but to have a character such as Tris die so abruptly? It left me empty, disillusioned and completely unsatisfied. (Her last words to David were extraordinary though, and sums up the point the author was trying to make. BUT I WISH YOU HADN'T KILLED HER!)

Tris' death tainted the series for me, and made the body count unjustifiably too high. I disliked that ending intensely. We've already suffered the loss of Tris' parents, Will, Edward, Marlene etc. Those deaths were already awful and heartbreaking, but Tris' death made the body count waaaaayyyy too high and just cruel. Yes, their society changed and people changed as a result. But her killer lived and went about his life as if nothing happened. Where is the justice? Peter, Caleb, and Marcus, even the government sanctioning these experiments, were the true villains in this story, but they continued to go on with little to no redemption of their characters. How could we then accept the death of someone who became a martyr under those circumstances? What does that say about me though? Should I expect an eye for an eye to make it ok? Is it the lack of justice that makes me hate her death as much as I do? These questions require more mulling over as well.

I wanted to throw my kindle at a wall when Tris died! I grieved her death and felt it to my core. I also grieved for Tobias, so I guess in that sense the author was successful in eliciting sympathy. But for two characters, who the author described as practically being ying and yang, whetstone to blade, to be torn apart in this way was awful. I hated the unexpected twist and kept hoping something magical would occur to bring Tris back to life. How is Tobias to go on without her? Seems too cruel for him to have lost her in light of all he suffered, and you know he will continue to be broken in some way. I for one will always love an emotional ending, yet this felt out of place. My emotions felt toyed with and I can't get down with that. (hide spoiler)]


I swayed back and forth between liking and not liking this book, hence the 3 stars. I continue to believe Veronica Roth is a very talented writer and I have great respect for the fact that she wrote these books at such a young age. I look forward to whatever she will produce next. My complaints are not with her writing, considering how much I loved the first 2 books in this series. My issues are with the plot lines and some technical aspects with the POV in Allegiant. AND that damn ending!l





Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I Crawled, Jumped, Dashed and Conquered


How much do YOU want it?

I did something totally unexpected this past weekend which took me completely out of my comfort zone. I faced my fears, jumped over the cliff headfirst- eyes closed-, whispered a few words of prayer and hoped for the best.

What could I have possibly done, you ask. Are you asking? Because I'm going to tell you anyway...

I RAN THE WARRIOR DASH 5K MUD RUN!


Warrior Roast

Yes, I did!

The Warrior Dash is the world's largest obstacle race held in various cities all across the world. The races are coordinated by Red Frog Events and they have helped raise millions of dollars for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

Participants run a 3-4 mile rugged battleground course riddled with 12 extreme obstacles. The obstacles increased in level of difficulty as you progressed, ranging from a simple climbing of a 7 ft. wooden barrier, to crawling under barbed wire, muddy trenches, jumping into mud pits, crossing lakes, running up and down hills, maneuvering wet balance beams to jumping over fire pits. Obstacles vary from location to location but what you can expect to find in all however, is MUD. Lots and lots of sticky, wet gunky mud. Don't you love it already?

Mud, mud, and more mud!

After conquering the Battleground, the Dash Warriors celebrate with huge turkey legs, beer, and live music at a post-race party. Expect to see much fist bumping, chest pounding and muscle flexing as those who actually completed the race celebrated with cavemen enthusiasm. I did not hesitate to engage in some flexing myself!


Flexing is mandatory
I was a very apprehensive about doing the Dash. I kept doubting my ability to handle those obstacles and the run. Although, I've been training with my Zombie app to run a 5k, this was on a whole n'other level! I kept thinking I needed to be fully ripped, sporting a six pack to manage the obstacles. Do you want to know the last time I climbed anything? Probably monkey bars in grade school. Let's not even discuss my fear of heights- I can barely handle a ladder. I was terrified and nearly backed out of the event when I arrived at the site and saw the Goliath!

The Goliath

I don't know what I drank that morning, but I squared my shoulders and tackled each and every obstacle there with as much gusto and enthusiasm as I could scrape up. I nearly lost my sneakers more than once in nasty mud, nearly drowned in the lake, and got a nasty scrape on my knee from rocks, but I HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE.

What this experience taught me was that if we live our lives in fear, you will miss out on far too much unexpected beauty that it has to offer. It was beautiful and inspiring to watch as strangers cheered each other on and lent each other a hand. All shapes and sizes tackled these obstacles. People were there to have fun and to challenge themselves with what can only be described as a unique experience.

I had an incredible time bonding with my brother and my daughter, both of whom also participated. I'm really proud of them and I'm happy I didn't let my debilitating fear of heights get in the way. Next year I hope we do this again- but this time I'm tackling the ultimate obstacle course- The Spartan Race! Why? Because I CAN and I WILL.










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