Healthy Hydration Hints

It can be hard to get in your recommended amount of H20, especially if you are not a water lover. I started drinking more water after the birth of my daughter out of necessity, a.k.a. breastfeeding. Even then, I rarely gave a thought to the quantity I was drinking. When I started running is when I really started guzzling. Now on an average day I drink anywhere from 60 to 80 oz. of water. On intense cardio or run days that number is even more. It is not easy to get that much water in, so here are some of my tips for getting started with healthy hydration!

1.) Water Bottles

I NEVER leave home without a water bottle, period. Even if it is a quick run to the store. I always have it with me. Before I run in, take a sip. Driving, take a sip. Whenever I am idle I am constantly trying to hydrate. I recommend investing in a good quality, leak-proof bottle, preferably bpa free glass. That way you can throw it in your bag if your hands are full and avoid a mess. Trust me on this, I peak from experience! I have a 20 oz. Zulu glass bottle that I absolutely adore! It has a silicone sleeve and an easy open, leak-proof lid. This is important as well, if you want it to be easier to drink more water, the water has to be easily accessible.

The key is to set yourself up for hydration success. On days that I know I will be away from home for longer periods I always bring a back-up bottle (or two) with me. If you know you will be heading out early the next morning, fill your bottles up the night before and store them in the fridge, that way you can grab and go!

2.) Flavor it Up

Don’t like the plain, boring taste of water? Add a little flavor! If sliced lemon just isn’t your thing, add slices of your favorite fruit to flavor it up. I find it best to let the fruit soak in overnight so that the flavors really seep in to the water. There are all kinds of bottles on the market now for adding a fruit infusion to your water. Another option is to slice up your favorite fruits and add to a pitcher of water, then strain when pouring. This can also motivate you to drink more as it will only stay fresh for a couple of days in your fridge, so drink up!

3.) Add a Little Sparkle

Sparkling spring water, or seltzer water is a great way to mix it up without any calories or artificial sweeteners. It can be an acquired taste if you are used to sugary sodas, but try it a few times and you can grow to love it as much as I have. The downside of these carbonated beverages is that they can sometimes make you feel bloated, so be sure to enjoy in moderation and mix it up throughout the day with other H20 beverages. The plus side is that they come in a wide variety of flavors, so you can continuously  mix it up, and they bonus as a low-calorie cocktail mixer!

4.) Tea Time

Brew a large pot of your favorite tea, let it cool, and keep in a pitcher in your fridge for another healthy hydration method. In the summer I love making a large pot of green iced tea and mixing with 1/2 of a cucumber, sliced,  and a few mint leaves to make a refreshing treat.

I have to say that getting started on my fitness journey has really helped me stay on track with my water intake. There are some days that I have less intake than others. The point is to listen to your body and do what feels right for you. Start sipping more throughout the day, and soon it will become a habit. Happy hydration!

Wifey’s Corned Beef & Cabbage

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day I wanted to share with you my corned beef and cabbage recipe. I have never even tried corned beef until this year after finding myself to be a Fancy Flexitarian. I can now say that I do not in fact like corned beef, but I love, love, love the boiled vegetables. Corned beef is something that my husband loves, so in tradition I have been making this every year for at least the past 4 years. If you are not in fact a flexiatrian like myself, feel free to omit the corned beef and use one cup of apple juice in place of the juice from the meat for the boiled vegetables. (Weird I know, but good. Trust me!) Then you have your vegetarian boiled dinner.

Corned Beef & Cabbage

You Will Need

  • Slow Cooker
  • Baster
  • Roasting Pan
  • Large Stock Pot, About 5 qts.

Ingredients

  • 2 – 2.5 lb. Corned Beef
  • 1 cup Apple Juice
  • 1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar, Divided
  • 1/2 cup Yellow Mustard, Divided
  • 1 Yellow Onion, Chopped
  • 1 lb. Carrots, Cut to 1 in. pieces
  • 2 lb. Yukon Gold Potatoes, Cut to 1 in. pieces
  • 1/2 Head Cabbage, quartered
  • 5 cups Water

For the Corned Beef

1.) Place corned beef in slow cooker, fattier side down. Pour the apple juice over the top. Spread 1/4 cup of the yellow mustard over the top of the beef. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the brown sugar over the top. Cover and cook on low for about 6 – 6.5 hours.

2.) Transfer the beef to your roasting pan. Pour 1/4 Cup liquid from the slow cooker over the top. Coat with remaining yellow mustard, then spread the brown sugar over the top. This will make it get nice and caramelized.

3.) Place in 300 degree oven for 15 – 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let it rest in warm oven while the vegetables finish cooking.

For the Boiled Vegetables – Begin After Meat is Removed from the Slow Cooker

1.) Add 1/4 cup of liquid from the slow cooker to your stock pot. I like to use a baster for this because it helps separate the fatty bits from the liquid. Over medium heat add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes.

2.) Remove remaining liquid from the slow cooker with your baster (if using). You can transfer directly to a measuring cup for exact measurement, or to a small bowl. You will want to reserve about 1 cup.

3.) Add the liquid stock to your stock pot, along with the carrots and potatoes. Add 5 cups of water, bring to a boil.

4.) Add cabbage and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook about 35 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.

Sprinkle with Sea Salt to Taste & Enjoy!

This will make about 6 servings, depending on the size of the corned beef. It will make around 8 servings for the vegetables.

Confessions of a Carb Crazy Chick

Last weekend I took “treat yourself” to the extreme and went crazy with my junk food intake. From a donut to ice cream cake, along with pizza, grinders (subs or hoagies for you non-New Englanders) and lo mein, I myself was feeling like junk by the end of the weekend. By Tuesday I had “healthed” my meals back up, only to indulge in two slices of (gasp!) white Italian bread. I started to question if I was heading down a slippery slope of bad eating set off by my weekend of poor choices. Should I go on a carb cleanse?

I do not believe in cutting whole food groups out of my diet, I just love them all too dearly. So cutting carbs completely out of my diet was out of the question. My thought was that I would limit my carb intake for a period of 30 days. And by carb intake I meant eliminating all processed white flour and processed products like bread, crackers, pretzels, etc. Well the 30 days didn’t last long, I ate a peanut butter cracker on the first day. I have a problem. Or do I?

I began to look at what I usually eat on a normal day. None of the “bad” carbs that I was punishing myself for even show up anywhere in my pantry, nevermind in my normal diet. I buy only whole grain breads and whole grains. Unless you have dietary restrictions, it seems to me these things are perfectly healthy.

Lightbulbs went on and everything clicked into place. I can’t beat myself up for one celebratory weekend of over indulging. I push myself every day to get my workouts in and eat well the other 80% of the time. I snack on celery and carrot sticks for gosh sakes. I definitely think that evens out one weekend of donuts and ice cream cake. I realized that this is not what my journey is about. I am not going to go out all the time and binge eat junk food, but I am also not going to feel bad for the times that I do. I can’t dwell on the unhealthy choices I have made in the past, I can just try to make the best choices that I can in the present. All for a healthier future. Carbs included.

Cod with Roasted Peppers, Onions & Tomatoes

I noted in a previous recipe, Coconut Cod with Pina Colada Kale & Farro, that I am sick of drowning my fish in unhealthy butter and breadcrumbs. Here is another variation that I came up with. It is a bit more hearty, and great on a chilly night. You can even serve it with pasta, over rice, or with your grain of choice. If you are watching your carbs it is even great by itself, and even better: it becomes a one-dish recipe!

Cod with Roasted Peppers, Onions & Tomatoes

Cod with Roasted Peppers, Onions & Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 Medium Yellow Onions, Quartered & Sliced
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 tsp. Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. Basil
  • 1/4 tsp. Thyme
  • 1 Can of Fire Roasted Tomatoes (14.5 oz.) or use your own Tasty Tomatoes
  • 1/2 Jar Roasted Red Peppers (12 oz.)
  • 1 lb. Cod or Other White Fish

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meantime, in an oven safe skillet, (medium or large), heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute about five minutes.

2.) Chop the Roasted Peppers into smaller pieces if desired. Add to skillet and stir. Add the spices, pour the undrained can (or jar) of tomatoes over the top. Stir and cook 3-5 minutes until everything is heated through.

3.) Place cod on top of the roasted veggies. Spoon some of the mixture over the top of the fish and place in the oven. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until fish is cooked through and flaky.

Enjoy!

Fresh Tip Friday: Tasty Tomatoes Year Round

A fitting alternative title for today’s post could also be The Lazy Wife’s Guide to Tasty Tomatoes Year Round. My husband and I grow an extensive garden every year and always grow more tomatoes than we can keep up with. Once upon a time I bought all of the equipment I would need to can and preserve our abundant harvest to enjoy year round as delicious jams and sauces. It seemed like a good idea at the checkout counter. I may have used the jar holder once as a strainer… When the time came it just seemed like too much of a commitment to the kitchen. When the days are long and the weather is sultry who the heck wants to be slaving over a hot stove? Not this girl, I would rather be at the beach!

Our next thought was to freeze. We own a chest freezer, so we like to grow as many freezable fruits and veggies as possible. How the heck can you freeze tomatoes though? We decided to try homemade sauce. It was a quite failed attempt of a sour acidic mess and after that I had given up. Eat all of the tomatoes or give them away was my new mantra. Which brings me to Lazy Wife Tip #1: What’s the perfect, easy way to preserve tomatoes year round? Let your husband do it!

In collaboration with my husband (his doing and my writing) we have put together an easy way to preserve and freeze tomatoes to enjoy year round. The best part is that unlike canned tomatoes, you know exactly what is going into the jar. You don’t have to worry about the scary chemical linings, and they have the same texture which is perfect for your soups, sauces, chilis, whatever you use canned tomatoes for! It works great because not all of our tomatoes ripen at the same time, so you can store them in batches as needed. Also, just to note: my husband heard that you could freeze tomatoes from a man in the check-out line at a store, as he was buying a fake owl to deter the pesky groundhog from eating all of our plants. Also a failed attempt.

Fresh Tomatoes Before

Fresh Tomatoes – Before

What You Will Need

  • Mason Jars (Hubby used 16 oz. Wide Mouth Jars)
  • Jar Lids
  • Fresh Ripe Tomatoes
  • Sauce Pan
  • Water
  • Ice + Water
  • 1 Container of Tomato Juice – Low Sodium if Desired

1.) First you will want to wash and dry your jars and lids… I do hope that my husband did this step.

2.) In your saucepan, bring to boil enough water to cover over the tomatoes. Prepare a bowl with ice water.

3.) Add tomatoes to boiling water and boil for about 1 minute or until the tomato skins start to split.

4.) Drop tomatoes into the ice water and remove when cool.

5.) Slide the skins off the tomatoes. The husband says they will come right off.

6.) Halve or quarter the tomatoes, depending on their size, in order to fit in the jar.

7.) Pour your tomato juice (preferably with no additives) over the tomatoes in the jar until covered, making sure that all of the air pockets are filled in.

8.) Cover the jar with a lid and freeze.

Tasty Tomatoes After

Tasty Tomatoes – After

I admit, I was very skeptical about the freezing of the tomatoes. After the frozen carrots that resembled frozen severed fingers and tasted like soap, I wasn’t too sure about freezing anything anymore. Then I tried them and I was delighted! They were just like the processed canned tomatoes that I had grown so accustomed to, but fresh, and I had the satisfaction of knowing where they had come from. And who had prepared them! I do promise to try this out during the summer to make sure it is as easy as it sounds. Until then I will reap the benefits of my lazy summer.

Shake It Off, Shake It Up & Shake It All Around: Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

Shake It Off

Take a tip from Taylor Swift and “shake it off”. In fact download or create a playlist of your favorite happy jams. Have an impromptu dance party in the living room. Don’t worry about the neighbors, they can’t see you through all the snow. Bonus: dancing is a great mini cardio session! Play it in the car. Listen in the shower. Whenever and wherever makes you happy, there is nothing like some feel good tunes to perk up your mood.

Shake It Up

Get out of your rut and try something new. Go somewhere local that you have never been before. Museums and art galleries are great indoor activities to stay warm and inspire. Look for public greenhouses or indoor botanical gardens in your area. The combo of the plants and flowers, warm humidity, and sunshine peaking through the glass panes is enough to make you feel like you are in a tropical oasis and forget that it is Antarctica outside. Try that new fitness class that you have been meaning to. Hot yoga anyone? As they say, variety is the spice of life, so spice up your winter!

Shake It All Around

Don’t stop moving! It is so difficult in the winter to be motivated to get up and moving. Days are short, it seems like it is just so dark out, and it is freezing. Or even less than freezing, which has been the typical weather pattern here lately. The excuses abound, but you need to acclimate to the changes around you. There is three feet of snow outside and I estimate that the sidewalks will not be visible until April. Since I would rather not be run over and/or freeze to death I have taken a hiatus from running and mixed up my workout routine. Some mornings are more difficult than others to get motivated, and I definitely value sleep over morning workouts. If I don’t get it in during the morning I always make sure to fit it in when I can. Even if it is 9 pm. It doesn’t matter when I work out, but I always feel better after I do. If you are not a night-time workout person then I feel bad for you. Give yourself a nice incentive to get up and moving… Maybe a new pair of sandals for the summer!

These are just a few tips that have been keeping me sane during this long, seemingly never-ending winter. All we can do until spring time is hang on, make the best of it and just keep shaking!

What remedies do you use to beat the winter blues?

Oatmeal Banana Bread

Oatmeal Banana Bread

Oatmeal Banana Bread

I grew up on banana bread. It is one of those things that was always there and I always remember from my childhood. Mom would buy a ton of bananas, just like I do now. Probably also for the same reasons, that they are healthy, cheap and delicious! When no one ate all of them in time there would always be homemade banana bread. I even recall some occasions when my mom would scold us not to touch the bananas because she was waiting for them to overripen just for the purpose of making that yummy treat. So shockingly in my adult life there have been a few times where I haven’t demolished my entire banana supply in a week and naturally I wanted to create a healthier alternative to my mom’s classic recipe. After a couple of trials, this is the recipe that worked best. Feel free to add walnuts if you like a nut bread. After seeing the current going rate for those gems at all of the grocery stores I decided to omit them. It is best served warm, and though it is a bit healthier, go ahead and add that slab of butter. I won’t judge.

Ingredients

  • 3 Over Ripe Bananas
  • 2 tbsp. Coconut Oil
  • 2 tbsp. Maple Syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Cups Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats
  • 2 Eggs

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-sized mixing bowl mash the three bananas until most of the lumps are gone.

2.) Melt the coconut oil if necessary and add to the bananas. Stir in vanilla, and maple syrup. Add oats and eggs. Stir until everything is combined.

3.) Lightly grease a loaf pan and pour mixture in. Bake about 40 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Enjoy!

Tale of a Fancy Flexitarian

I never gave much thought to placing myself or my eating habits into a category. To me it was simple, I don’t eat beef or pork. Pretty easy, right? My family, even if they didn’t completely understand, went along with my decision to cut it out of my diet some fifteen odd years ago. Mom was old school. If I didn’t like what was for dinner I was on my own or left to make a meal out of side dishes. I think everyone mostly thought it was a fad thing and that I would grow out of it eventually.

My college years came and I dabbled in complete vegetarianism after watching a particularly graphic video about factory farming. That lasted about two months. I was completely starving. Well maybe that is an exaggeration, but I felt so hungry. All. Of. The. Time! I could not stop eating. There was no amount of soy, vegetables and carbs on the face of the Earth that could replace my body’s need for animal protein. I am in no way condemning vegetarians or vegans, all I am saying is that it just did not work for me and my body. Personally if I liked beef I would eat it if it was local grass-fed meat and not from a factory farm.

So fish and poultry was brought back into my diet. Still not complicated, but for some reason it can be hard for others to grasp. Maybe because I didn’t fall into a specific category, it wasn’t cut and dry. Do you eat meat or not? I didn’t even fall into one of those offshoot “tarian” categories either. I just didn’t meet all of the criteria. Yes, I only eat fish and poultry, but that didn’t make me a pescetarian (fish-eater) or even a pesce pollotarian (mouthful). I have tried reptile (alligator), buffalo and some fine soppressata from the fancy cheese plate at my recent romantic birthday dinner. I eat vegetables and soups that contain and/or have touched meat that I don’t technically eat. Did that make me a hypocrite?

It began to gnaw at me one day. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. What was I? After a few internet searches I came across the term “flexitarian”. Evidently this term has been around for nearly as long as I have been an unidentifitarian and could have saved me a lot of explaining and aggravation over the years if I had known its existence. It is used to describe someone who has a mostly vegetarian diet with meat thrown in there now and again. Suddenly I was free! I had a home, a category, a “tarian”. One word to explain it all! Well not really, I did try it on my parents and still needed to explain what it was. I can eat beef broth and gravy even though I won’t eat the stew meat or a steak. I can try new things if I want to without feeling guilty. I can throw this category out there and confuse people even more! I can proudly say, I’m so fancy, but you already know, I’m a flexitarian.

Coconut Cod with Pina Colada Kale & Farro

So I may be suffering from a bit of seasonal affective disorder, or just cabin fever, but I can’t stop dreaming about summer and summer flavors. I cannot seem to get enough coconut lately! (See my recipe for Coconut Protein Cookies here!) I absolutely love fish, and cod is a nice light protein. I was sick of my usual method of preparing it, which is basically drowning it in butter and breadcrumbs. Not only is that not very healthy, but you also lose the delicate flavor of the fish. I wanted to make something simple that would not only remind me of summer, but would pair well with the kale and complement the fish. I served this for dinner with a side of farro, which my husband loves and is also toddler approved, but you could serve it with your favorite grains. Also who doesn’t love anything pina colada?! Enjoy!

Coconut Cod with Pina Colada Kale & Farro

Coconut Cod with Pina Colada Kale & Farro

Coconut Cod

  • 1 lb. of Cod or other White Fish
  • 1/8 tsp. Coriander
  • 1/8 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. Chili Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp. Coconut Oil, Melted
  • 1 tbsp. Shredded Coconut

1.) Place cod in a baking dish. Melt coconut oil if necessary and drizzle over the fish.

2.) In a small bowl combine all of the spices, then sprinkle over the top of the fish. Next sprinkle the shredded coconut over the top, then place in a 350 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until fish is opaque and cooked through.

While the fish is baking prepare the kale.


Pina Colada Kale

  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, Chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 Bag of Kale, About 5 oz., Stems removed
  • 1 tbsp. Coconut Oil
  • 1 tbsp. Shredded Coconut
  • 1 Cup Frozen or Fresh Pineapple Chunks

1.) In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the coconut oil, then add the onion. Saute about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and saute for 1 more minute.

2.) Stir in the pineapple and shredded coconut. (If pineapple is frozen, cook until thawed and warmed through before adding kale). Next add the kale and stir, cover and let cook about five minutes when leaves turn a bright green.

3.) Remove from heat to avoid overcooking the kale. Serve with the fish and farro, or your favorite grains!

Makes 4 Servings

Yin Yang Yoga

My Adventure In Yin Yoga Class

After a long week and some intense exercising I was in deep need of attending a yoga class. Sometimes, especially in winter, I crave yoga class. That feeling of the relaxing, yet challenging movements and poses that help you both stretch and de-stress, combined with a balmy zen atmosphere are something you can only get from attending a yoga class. Trust me, I have tried to recreate this atmosphere in my living room with the wood stove and a salt lamp, but it’s just not the same. A studio near me was offering a Yin Yoga Stretch class, which also happened to be scheduled after the toddler’s bedtime. I was in!

I had never really heard of Yin yoga and didn’t have a chance to look into it before attending the class. The class description said that, “the relaxed nature of the postures are held for longer periods of time in order to get into the body’s connective tissues.” Plus the title contained two necessary words to me at the time, “yoga” and “stretch”. Basically I went in not exactly sure what to expect, but the idea that I had in my head was that it would be similar to my more familiar vinyasa practice with stretches being held a little longer. Much to my surprise, that was not the case at all.

After arriving in class the teacher had us place various accessories around the perimeter of our mats. There were blocks, small bolsters, a large bolster, straps and a blanket which we spread across the top of our mats. After a short welcome, she told us which stretch to get into, set a timer and off we went. On the mat, as I was relaxing into the stretch, my mind began to race. What the heck is going on? How come the teacher wasn’t talking? What are we doing anyway, and how long are we going to hold these stretches for, aren’t we going to DO anything?! Ding – next stretch. I began counting, ticking off the seconds in my head before the next ding… 5 minutes. 5 minutes for each stretch. I could not believe it. All I could think was, this is all we are going to do for an entire hour?

I muscled through the remainder of class, trying to quiet my mind and go with the “flow” so to speak. At the end of class after a nice long savasana we came to a seat on our mats and the teacher explained a little about Yin yoga and a lightbulb went off for me. The Yang yoga is basically the vinyasa and flow types of yoga. As a society especially, we are always on the go, moving onto the next task at hand. The Yin yoga is meant to be the opposite of that, just like the symbol itself implies. It is meant to make us stop, be at peace if only for an hour. To quiet our minds or let them run. It is the opposite of what we normally do and meant to help balance us. The reason that the poses are held for so long is because it really does help you to release further into your muscles than just a light stretch. It is comparable to a deep tissue massage. It became evident to me when I stood up to leave class because I had that jello rubbery, giddy feeling that I only usually get after having a nice massage. I was so relaxed and completely stretched out, which was my original intent.

After the class I did feel more balanced. I don’t get out to class that often, with having the toddler and all the day-to-day stuff going on. I have been back since and my second class was definitely much more enjoyable knowing what to expect. I was able to relax, de-stress and just stretch out. I would definitely recommend this type of class to anyone experiencing DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. I will definitely be going more in the future, but for the meantime I am just trying to keep it balanced at home.