Free Eggs!

I was alerted by the MoneySavingMom blog today about the Good Egg Project.

It’s really neat!  For every pledge to live a healthier lifestyle (isn’t that what this blog is about?) and give back to the community (which is part of developing a healthy community), a group of egg farmers will donate an egg to feed America.  In addition, if you sign the pledge you get a coupon for buy one dozen eggs, get another dozen free! Warning to Mac users: I have been having serious problems with printing from coupons.com. I would suggest printing on a different computer if you don’t want to deal with a hassle.

So share the love, sign the pledge and get a healthy, cheap source of protein!

I Pledge to Eat good. Do good every day.

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Scientists discover how to ‘switch off’ pain of migraines – Telegraph

I promise, more fun posts coming up soon, including highlights from a trip to NYC.  But, in the mean time…

I’ve always said that if scientists could figure out the cause of migraines, then better treatments can be developed.  Apparently, they’ve isolated the gene that they believe mainly causes migraines and are working on developing treatment!

I can’t say that the explanation of how this gene works makes a lot of sense with my knowledge of migraine triggers, but it is still an interesting development.

Scientists discover how to ‘switch off’ pain of migraines – Telegraph.

National Take-Back Initiative

If you have any expired medication around your house, I strongly encourage you to not just throw it in the trash can, or down the toilet.  I’m not saying keep them… getting rid of clutter is good!  Instead, drop them off at a collection site this Saturday, September 25th, as part of the National Take-Back Initiative.

Medications, when improperly disposed, can enter our water supply.  We already have enough issues with our environment and staying healthy without having extra chemicals in the water causing trouble (like young girls reaching puberty much earlier).

Check out the DEA website to find collection sites who will properly dispose of your medications from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday.

It’s like a banana, but better!

Today was a lazy, snacky day at home.  For dinner I decided I didn’t need much… just something a bit sweet, yet savory at the same time.

I knew exactly what to make.

Oh hi beautiful fruit!

Before my first trip to Puerto Rico, I always thought that plantains and bananas were essentially the same things.  I had certainly never tried one before.  Now, I know better and they are one of my favorite foods.  A staple in Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean, you can get your plantains several different ways, depending on the ripeness of the plantain:  mofongo, tostones, and amarillos.

I’ll go into the other types of plantains and how to cook them as I learn, but tonight I knew I wanted amarillos.  Amarillos are yellow, very ripe, sweet plantains lightly fried in a frying pan.  These are so fast and easy to make and make a great snack or side dish!

Ingredients:

  • Plantains
  • Oil
  1. Pick a very ripe yellow plantain.  You may notice that the one I have above looks black and kind of bad on the outside.  While this is a bad thing for regular bananas, it is GREAT for amarillos!
  2. While you heat up your skillet with a thin layer of oil, peel and slice up your plantain.  It is typically difficult to peel a plantain, so use your knife to cut a slit the length of the plantain and peel from there.
  3. Place your plantains on your skillet and lightly fry them on both sides until they start to brown slightly and are a bit translucent.
  4. Take them off the skillet and soak up some of the oil with a paper towel

These are typically served as a side dish in Puerto Rico, but I love to have them for dessert as well.  Cooking time total?  Around 8 minutes, including prep.  For those of you interested in calories the only thing I could find (here) says that fried plantains have about 116 calories per one cup, with 3g of fat.

Doesn’t get much better than that!  I know that plantains aren’t local, but I’m not quite ready to give them up for that reason. I’m so happy that I can get these without going all the way to the islands.  I see more homemade Puerto Rican meals in my future…

Mr. Sun

I had the pleasure of attending a football game yesterday.  It was a gorgeous day.  85 degrees.  Not a cloud in the sky.  And at 1:30 pm, I was joined by 65,000 other screaming fans.

It was evident walking around that many of the fans either had not thought to put on sunscreen or had not reapplied as I saw many raw pink/red faces at the game’s end.  I asked several of my friends around me if they had put on sunscreen and almost all of them said, no and refused an offer of sunscreen to put on.

I’ll be the first to admit I love the sun.  Love. It.  I feel best when I’m outside of a sunshiney day and I truly believe the sun makes me happier and gives me energy.  I know there are several biological reasons for this, but I won’t go into them now other than to say sun=good in my book.

BUT, I’m the first person to admit that I’m crazy freaked out about skin cancer not only for myself, but for those I love (especially with our diminishing ozone layer… scary!).  I also admit that that I have had a few burns before from bad planning and in one case, expired sunscreen.  So I will say it now and say it again.  I will make a t-shirt that says it.  I will shout it out loud.  I will remind my friends… It only takes one burn to give you skin cancer. One.  Uno.  The idea that you have to burn to tan and when you are tan you are therefore pretty/healthy is preposterous.  Don’t get me started on tanning beds (and if you are my friend and you go to tanning beds for a non-medical reason, don’t tell me or I will march down and drag your butt out of there).

I’m not sure what has caused this misinformation or lack of caring about our skin to think that you will seriously be ok if you stand in the blazing hot sun for 4 hours without a hat or any other form of sun protection.  Girls, I understand you want to tan, and guys… is it just a macho thing that you refuse to put a cream on your face?

I don’t mean to lecture, but honestly, no matter how much I say it, I feel like no one takes it seriously.  They should. You should.  Why? (Some facts from skincancer.org)

  • The most common form of cancer in the United States is skin cancer.
  • Think having darker skin means you can’t get skin cancer?  Think again.  You not only can get skin cancer, but you are less likely to detect it early, significantly decreasing your chances for survival.
  • Almost 90% of non-melanoma cancers are caused by exposure to the sun.
  • Most melanoma cancers are caused by UV radiation.
  • The most common form of cancer for young adults is Melanoma.

So, part of my healthy living heavily involves sunscreen when I’m going to be outside.  Cloudy or sunny weather (although I do tend to skip it in the rain).  This is not some random cancer that you can’t prevent… most cases are due to our sun exposure and we can protect ourselves.  I hope that if you don’t wear sunscreen now, that you will strongly consider it.

If you still aren’t going to wear sunscreen (or in addition to sunscreen) try these tips to keep yourself protected:

  • Wear protective clothing:  long sleeves, hats, and sunglasses.
  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid the hottest parts of the day
  • Drink green tea (Source)
  • Eat foods rich in lycopene (Source, yay tomatoes!)
  • Eat food rich in cartenoids (Source, Source, yay leafy green veggies, carrots, and sweet potatoes!)

If you want to learn more about skin cancer and how to protect yourself, please check out skincancer.org.

Just Desserts…

I never expected my week to be filled with yummy desserts, but thankfully it has.  I’m addicted to sugar, and while I know that is a bad thing in general, I’ve had such great random desserts this week that I really don’t mind.

I’m traveling this week for work in the lovely city of Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh has exceeded my expectations so far… I’m having a far different view of the town than the steel city history tells us about and my previous trip to the city on a band trip 10 years ago (seriously… how am I this old?).

And in this town, I have discovered some wonderful sugar rushes… all completely by accident.

First surprise sugar delight… gourmet cupcakes at Dozen.

Image from Dozen Cupcakes Website

I had been craving sugar (see above:  I’m an addict) after a long day of meetings.  I did a quick web search, but everything seemed far away.  My fellow travelers and I decided to head out to explore anyway.  My friend had noted that there was a bakery nearby and they might have cupcakes.  It turns out it was a bakery that I had found online and wanted to go to, but they had listed a completely different address that was too far away.  I was excited to buy my officemate his first cupcake ever (he just came here from China) and I hope he enjoyed it.

Overall review:  I had the key lime pie cupcake.  The cupcake was dry, but the icing was fantastic.  Original flavors and vegan cupcakes are available there, so I think it was a good find in a city I am not familiar with and still way better than what I can find in my hometown.

Second surprise sugar delight… burnt almond tort at Prantl’s Bakery.

While munching on our sandwiches from the Pittsburgh landmark, Primanti’s, a woman was walking around the square wearing top chef gear and passing out flyers.  Flyers for free dessert, promoting the new Top Chef:  Just Desserts.  To say I flew out of my chair might be an understatement.  I thought that maybe the contestants had made the desserts and this was one of their challenges… and as a huge Top Chef fan, I have always wanted to be one of the challenge tasters.  Sadly, it was just a promotional thing for the premiere tonight.  It was a great dessert though and it was fun to try two famous Pittsburgh treats in one day (Primanti’s and the almond tart).

Overall Review:  If the almond tarts are any indication of the other desserts at the bakery, then I would definitely seek this place out again.  Tons of almonds, just the right amount of a cream and a free sugar rush make for a great combination.  Bonus, you can order these online and have them shipped!

Third Sugar Surprise… frozen yogurt at Sweetlix.

I find tangy, tart frozen yogurt with fruit toppings to be the ultimate refresher.  It almost beats out gelato… almost. While I can get this kind of frozen yogurt at home, I really needed something refreshing, I stumbled across the shop, and Sweetlix did the job.

Overall:  Exactly what frozen yogurt should taste like, with lots of toppings to choose from.  I wasn’t adventurous this time, but they seemed to have flavored yogurt as well.  It is hard to lose with good fat free yogurt with live cultures.

Sadly, my camera has been bumming out on me as well, so these picture are not my own.  But, I still wanted to share the sugar love with you all and encourage you to seek out some great desserts the next time you head to Pittsburgh. I’m hoping there are more good sugar surprises to come, but given that the conference ends tomorrow, I sadly doubt it.

Keep Squatin!

A reenactment:

Begin Scene:

Me (Standing in mirror, looking at my behind perplexed):  Ack!  When did my butt get so flat?  Is it just these jeans?  (Changes jeans)  Nope, it’s me.

Husband (Looking over at me):  Yes it is flatter than it used to be, but that happens. It’s ok.

Me (Turning around and looking again):  Not ok…  I need to start doing squats and lunges again!

End Scene

I guess I'll flaunt it until I get my round one back! (Image from Justblogged)

One of my goals for this month is to get back into the 200 Squat challenge.  You all might be wondering, why squats?  There are so many different exercises out there, why focus on just one?  Ok, part of it has to do with my distress at my flat bottom, but that isn’t the main reason.

My love/hate relationship with squats goes way back.  I have sort of mentioned before my joint issues, which began to be a “problem” when I was 12.  That was the first time I subluxed by kneecap (subluxation is kind of like dislocation, except for your joint doesn’t stay apart).  It was also my first of many experiences with physical therapy.

My first physical therapist made me do squats, but I was 12 and didn’t keep it up any of my exercises.  I also didn’t realize that first injury was the first of many.  All my physical therapists since then have stressed how important it is for me to keep my quads as strong as possible at ALL times, or risk having my knees slide around.  I went to physical therapy one time for my shoulder and my therapist happened to check all my joints and instantly started me on PT for both of my knees as well as my shoulder.  One physical therapist told me, with the state of my knees, that I should be doing squats in the shower, while brushing my teeth, while in the line at the store… you get the picture.

So I’ve always known the importance of having strong quads, glutes, and hamstrings for me, yet I’ve never kept it up as I should.  *hangs head in shame*

But obviously, I’ve been trying to take a lot more simple, positive steps to help my body and the very first thing I thought of were squats.  They are hard work, but they are also an exercise that doesn’t give me migraines and helps keep all my joints in place.  Plus, they are free and don’t take a lot of time!  Then I got a stress fracture in my foot and stopped once again.

Well… I’m ready to jump in again and jump I did.

Click on the picture for a good description of a "Good Form" squat

The 200 squat challenge starts with an initial test seeing how many good form squats you can complete without rest.  Despite having done the program before, in my initial test last week I only completed 39 squats. While I was disappointed with that number, it automatically puts me into week 3 of the program!

It’s nice not to have to start from scratch, but my muscles definitely felt like they were starting from scratch!  I did my initial test on Thursday and I was feeling it through Sunday night.  Getting up from sitting was the most difficult… I looked like an old lady.

I’m excited to increase my number to 200, but you will have to forgive me if I walk funny for a few weeks or grunt when getting up from chairs.

The Whole Weight Thing

I feel like when people hear the word health, they immediately either think of some extreme diseases or losing weight.  This blog is all about the full circle of exploring being more healthy and includes so many things other than weight.

But weight is still a part of it.

Being a healthy weight is so important for so many reasons.  I’ve already talked about body image and how weight plays a role and of course, being physically fit is so important.  For me, being at a healthy weight will also play a role in the coming years as we would like to start a family.  The dangers of being overweight and pregnant are just scary and I want to do everything possible to ensure if and when we have a baby it will be as healthy as possible.  Plus, I already have issues with my joints and extra weight puts wear and tear on them that I really don’t need.

But the whole perception of what a healthy weight is has just gotten out of hand.  Sure, there are indexes that seem scientific, like Body Mass Index, or imaging that actually measures how much % of fat you have around your body.  I really don’t like those and here’s why.

People are always shocked when I tell them how much I weigh.  I guess with my height, I wear it wellish? Regardless, I currently weight 188 lbs.

According to the BMI (I used this one at the National Heart and Lung Association Website), my percentage of fat is: 24.1.

24 is right on the edge between normal and obese for women and frankly is probably about right.  That’s about where I feel.

Similar machine to the one that scanned me

However, about a year back I participated in a study at my school where they included a free analysis of our body fat, including one of those fancy images of my legs that they use to calculate body fat percentage (DEXA scan).  The results shocked me.  According to that image, my body was made up of 40% fat.   I was shocked, because I knew I had let myself go a little bit and gained some weight after a pretty depressing period in my life, but 40%?  Well into the obese range, coming up on the morbidly obese range according to their analysis.  And I didn’t look bad or weigh what I do now.  I actually only weighed 175 at the time.

However, none of these reflect or guided me to a healthy body weight.  According to the BMI charts, I am in a normal healthy weight range.  But according to that same index, I would also be a healthy weight if I weighed 145, which is laughable.  I would be a skeleton.  Yes, I know, BMI is a general index with lots of limitations, but it is remarkable how many people and doctors rely on that number to determine their healthy weight.   For me, a healthy weight is not being able to see my hip bones or rib cage on one end and then not having my thighs rub together on the other, and then also about a general feeling.  It is about finding a healthy balance between the amount of fat, muscle, and other things in your body as well.  When you are at a weight where you feel your healthiest, you just know.

The imaging chart was a little more discouraging.  I don’t think it really had anything to do with weight, but rather pointed out that my physical well being outside of weight really needs to be a factor.  I can’t focus on just losing weight or cardio health.  It is critical to lose fat AND build muscle.  Duh, right?  But sometimes it takes being shown an image of your fat that is crushing your internal organs to wake up.

For me a healthy weight falls about at 165-170 while being “toned” all over and that is where I am trying to get to slowly, while improving all other aspects of my health as well.  How about you?  No need for numbers, if you aren’t comfortable, but can you tell what your healthy body weight is?

Stuffed Tomato Yumminess

It is no secret that I love summer and summer produce.  I have been going to the farmer’s market regularly and hoarding their fresh tomatoes and basil like a crazed girl trying to get enough to stay satisfied through the long cold winter.  It won’t work, but it is certainly worth a try.

The other day, I was inspired by these gorgeous, huge, ripe tomatoes I found.  I decided to experiment with stuffed tomatoes and I was very happy with the results.

Stuffed Tomato Yumminess

Ingredients:

  • 3 huge, firm tomatoes
  • 1 cup of uncooked brown rice
  • 1 cup of diced mushrooms
  • 2 sliced hot peppers
  • 1 tablespoon of jelly
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons of greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
  • Half a cup of sharp cheddar cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Steps:

  1. Begin brown rice on stovetop or rice cooker.  Add whatever amount of water needed for your cooking method.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up your mushrooms and hot peppers, if you haven’t already.  Add them to the brown rice for the last five minutes of cooking.
  3. While the rice mixture cooks, cut a lid into each of your tomatoes and scoop out the innards.  I used an Oxo scoop to take mine out after failing with the knife.  Make sure to save the innards for a marinara or salsa so they don’t go to waste.
  4. When the rice mixture is done, mix in the greek yogurt, jelly, salt, cumin, pepper, and half of your cheese.  For the jelly, it just adds a touch of sweetness to match the spiciness of the hot peppers.  We had a great tomato basil jelly that we used, but I think apple or even grape would give the correct taste and texture.
  5. Stuff the tomatoes with the rice mixture.  Sprinkle some breadcrumbs on the top of each of your tomatoes, then cover with cheese.  Eat any leftovers that don’t fit into a tomato 🙂
  6. Place tomatoes in a dutch oven and drizzle with olive oil.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Again, this is one of those recipes that screams for customization!  The rice stuffing could be made with practically anything, including other grains like quinoa.  The portions can be adjusted down for one person or increased for a family.  I was also originally going to try this with tofu, but ran out.  This definitely a recipe I’ll be making again soon to perfect it.

Tomato Basil Israeli Couscous Salad

Sorry for the lack of a food post last week… if you couldn’t tell, life was crazy, and I didn’t spend much time making food, much less chronicling it!

But with the rush over and the beginning of the school year, it was time for our annual church pork roast picnic.  I decided to make a cold salad from ingredients from the farmer’s market and Israeli Couscous (which is a small, wheat-based pasta).

The great thing about this dish is that it is easily adaptable.  You can make enough for just one person, or for twenty.  You can add or subtract ingredients to your taste.  I’ve just listed the general ingredients, but not the quantities because it is SO adaptable.  Just throw in what you want, to your taste.  It’s fast, healthy, and full of yumminess.

Tomato Basil Israeli Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

  • Israeli Couscous (I prefer the texture and size of Israel Couscous, but I’m sure you could substitute other grains or pastas very easily)
  • Fresh Tomatoes
  • Fresh Sweet Peppers
  • Fresh Basil
  • Parmesan cheese (All I had on hand, I usually use feta)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly Ground Pepper

Prepare the couscous as you would any other pasta.  Meanwhile chop up the tomatoes, sweet peppers, and basil and set aside.  When the pasta is done, drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking and let fully cool.  Then, mix in the tomatoes, sweet peppers, basil, and cheese.  Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste and refrigerate overnight to really let the flavors mix in well.

I now this seems like a really vague recipe, but I feel the best recipes are adaptable to what is in your fridge, your personal tastes, and your dietary restrictions.  The key to making this taste great isn’t how much you add of each ingredient, but how fresh are each of the ingredients (especially the freshly ground pepper… it makes a world of difference!).  There were leftovers from the church picnic, and I’m so glad to have some for lunches later this week!

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