Tea Time

Tea as Medicine

Tea is not just for parties with fancy sandwiches and scones. Not only can food be used as medicine, but so can a variety of teas. Over the last 10 years or so, I have gotten in the habit of finding foods and teas to help with my aches, pains, and ailments first, in place of meds. As you know, I am no expert, so here is a comprehensive article on the benefits and medicinal qualities of all different varieties of teas: http://www.skrewtips.com/tea-as-medicine.html.

There was no “meal prep” per se this week, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t plan my meals. I’m having turkey wraps using Trader Joe’s Spinach & Kale Greek Yogurt Dip as the spread. And a cup of a veggie based soup.

Wrap ingredients: Ole whole wheat wrap, green leaf lettuce, applewood smoked turkey breast, and a slice of light jarlsberg cheese. Can easily be assembled at my desk. The tortilla should be heated up in the microwave for a few seconds first.

I also prepped slow cooked “baked apples”. I had a few Gala apples aging in my refrigerator, so I decided to slice them up and put them in the slow cooker for a little light dessert for the week. I sliced them, left the skin on, and threw them in the crock pot with a couple of tablespoons of light brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and just a tiny bit of butter. I cooked them on high for the first hour, and on low for the second hour. I took them out while they still had a little bite to them.

Any comments, critiques, and questions are always welcome.

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Make it a great week, my friends. Remember to give yourselves some love this week.

Thanksgiving Appetizers Transformed

What I Did with My Left Over Crudites

Thanksgiving Appetizer Crudites Platter

Thanksgiving is always celebrated in the home of Cousin’s Ilene and Elliot. They make the most amazing smoked turkey, and never disappoint with their healthy and thoughtful side dishes and desserts, some of which are long standing family traditions. This year Ilene asked me to make the appetizer. I used our Grandma Kate’s antique platter to put together a fun, colorful, and healthy start to the meal. It was all really so simple. I used whole bell peppers as dip bowls. In the red pepper is hummus. In the yellow pepper is Trader Joe’s Spinach & Kale Yogurt Dip, and in the orange pepper is onion dip mixed with fat free plain Greek yogurt. On the side I had Trader Joe’s 3 Seed Beet Crackers and their Bite Size Everything Crackers. Make note: The spinach kale dip on the beet crackers is a GREAT bite.

There were only 9 guests, and although they loved the tray, and made a dent, I had a ton of vegetables left over. This is how I solved that today – most of the celery and carrots got diced and went into a vegetable soup with a diced yellow onion, a can of diced tomatoes with fire roasted peppers, and a 5 oz bag of baby kale. I seasoned the soup simply with salt, pepper, and a couple of cubes of frozen minced garlic. The broth is Trader Joe’s low sodium chicken stock. You can make this a vegan soup by using vegetable stock instead. The broccoli and cauliflower had already been blanched for the appetizer tray (I don’t like raw cruciferous vegetables). I preheated my oven to 400 degrees. I tossed the veggies with a little olive oil and Montreal Steak Seasoning. I roasted them for 20 minutes, tossed them, then roasted them for another 10 minutes. Both the soup and these roasted veggies will be part of my desk lunches this week. I also pan roasted chicken breast for my lunch prep. I made them very simply, as well. I seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder. I preheated my oven to 450 degrees, and roasted it for 20 minutes. I took the temp with my quick read thermometer to make sure it was 165 degrees, then removed it from the oven to rest. Desk lunches prepped!

Mirepoix Soup with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Baby Kale
Easy Roasted Veggie Prep

The mini bell peppers were a little more challenging. I ended up pickling them! I had never done that before, but always wanted to. Here is the simple recipe I found online: https://www.simplywhisked.com/quick-pickled-sweet-peppers/. This will preserve them and we can use as need as sandwich accompaniments. I also had left over carrot sticks even with using most of them in the soup, and jicama, so I made veggie snack bags out of those. As for the tomatoes and cucumbers, they went into our salads this weekend. The olives will keep, and the grapes have been snacked on already. And that’s that! All veggies transformed to reuse, and no waste!

Easy Pickled Peppers
Veggie Snack Bags

Thank you for stopping by! As always, your comments, critiques, and questions are welcome.

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Enjoy the holiday season!

Speed Meal Prepping

It’s All In The Planning

My Sunday’s are lovely, but usually pretty much all the same. I lap swim at 8 when the pool opens, and of course stay to socialize a bit, then go home to shower and meet my husband at our favorite deli, where everyone knows us, for breakfast. I then do my grocery shopping, and come home to meal prep and write this blog. I love this routine, but sometimes things come up and interrupt the routine. An old friend was in town and it was important that I go meet her for coffee this morning.

I planned ahead. Yesterday, I made all of my meal prep decisions, and did a portion of my grocery shopping. Early this morning, I had a light breakfast of cottage cheese & blueberries so I wouldn’t starve, then ran to Trader Joe’s to finish my grocery shopping for the week. I then met my friend, had a great visit, then met my husband at that deli for brunch. About an hour and a half after arriving home, all of my meal prep is finished, and the blog is being written. I will make it to the pool late this afternoon, enjoy my time there, then come home to wind down the weekend, and get ready for the coming week.

This week is still going to be hot in So Cal, so for lunch I decided on my favorite gazpacho recipe, which I have published before here (0 pts). It’s so good, it bears repeating. Any vegetable based soup, hot or cold is a great way to power down lots of veggies at once, plus it is cleansing and hydrating. To go with the gazpacho, I went with one of the seasonal Trader Joe’s frozen specialties, Riced Cauliflower & Butternut Squash Risotto (70 cal/ 2 pts for a 1 cup serving) and a TJ’s favorite, their Sweet Italian Style Italian Sausages (110 cal/ 3 pts for 1 link). Both can be made using the handy microwave.

My gazpacho. I know you see the olive oil there with the ingredients, but there are only 2 tablespoons in the entire recipe, so I’m calling it a 0 point dish.

When you peruse gazpacho recipes on the interwebs you see many that include bread in the ingredients. Years ago, I discovered this bread free recipe in Cooking Light magazine, then found it online. Here is the link to the original recipe: https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/gazpacho-lemon-garlic-shrimp. On this go round, I just roughly chopped up all of the fresh vegetables (I did not bother with the measurements as listed in the recipe), and blended them in 2 batches, while dividing up the oil, vinegar, garlic, and seasoning, as well. Also, I squeeze the juice of the entire lemon into the recipe. That and the sherry vinegar really balance the acidity of the dish.

To go with my gazpacho are an easy meal put together at Trader Joe’s, Riced Cauliflower & Butternut Squash (cooked in the microwave) with Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage, which are precooked

Breakfast this week is veggie egg white fritatta squares (0 pts) on Everything Bagel Thins (3pts). I put defrosted, drained frozen chopped spinach in my square Pyrex pan with chopped red onions, and cut up roasted red bell pepper from the jar. I added in a little ground flaxseed and chia seeds for their health benefits, and seasoned with salt and pepper. I poured in 1/1/2 cups of liquid egg whites (equals about 8 eggs), then baked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Every oven is different. Check to make sure the eggs are set before you remove them from the oven. I allowed them to cool, cut into squares, and stored in the refrigerator. So fast and easy.

Egg white veggie fritatta squares

It was fun changing it up today! Meal prep for the week is complete and stored in the refrigerator. I’m off to the pool now!

Thank you for taking time to read my blog today. I hope there is something here that inspires you. Your comments, critiques, questions, and recipe suggestions are always welcome.

Make it a great week, and take care of YOU!

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Thrive With Your Tribe

+ A Tried & True Fall Favorite Recipe

If you are lucky like me you have life long loving, supportive friends in addition to a loving, supportive family. Throughout the last 10 years or so, since I began swimming, then becoming a member of Weight Watchers, I have become a part of 2 separate tribes. There is my swim tribe, and my WW tribe. These are friendships that have been developed over time, with people I might not have otherwise met, if not for stepping out and starting to swim or joining WW. These friendships started out based on the things we have most in common, but now we are like little pseudo families. Both are incredibly dear to me, and been there for me through thick and thin. Don’t be afraid in life to open yourself up to new experiences. Wonderful things can happen. You will get to know yourself better, become stronger inside and out, and you will meet wonderful people that you will cherish, possibly for the rest of your life, who are your tribe.

Even though it is currently 80 degrees here in Santa Monica, CA, I am finally giving a nod to fall recipes. I love fall foods. I love all of the different squashes you start to see in the market, and all of the beautiful root vegetables. Here is a comprehensive list of fall vegetables from http://www.kitchn.com, and how to cook them: https://www.thekitchn.com/12-fall-vegetables-you-should-know-how-to-cook-211234 I also have a lot of great squash recipes on my SQUASH board on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/marshaleeg/squash/. Check it out.

Today I made my favorite Turkey Chili and Spaghetti Squash. Who doesn’t love chili over spaghetti? I am using spaghetti squash as a swap out for pasta, and my meal will be just as tasty and decadent, as if I were eating real spaghetti. Believe it. It will be low in calories (and WW points). I’ll be able to eat a full bowl of it, and not feel stuffed. Let’s start with the spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti Squash straight from the grocery store. They come in a range of sizes.
This one is medium sized.
The easiest prep I have found is to cut the squash down the middle with your sharp chefs knife. I also cut off the core end so that it will stand up for me when I am ready to pull the meat out of it. I removed the seeds before cooking, but you don’t have to. For me it is easier. To cook, place the squash face down in a microwave safe dish, filled with about an inch of water. The cook time in the microwave can be 10 – 15 minutes depending on your microwave oven. I set mine for 10 minutes, but had to put it in for 5 more.
When the squash is ready, you should be able to pull the strands out with a fork. Pull the meat of the squash out all the way to the edge of the shell. See how that really resembles spaghetti?
My yield on my medium sized spaghetti squash was almost 2 quarts

My turkey chili recipe is over 10 years old. I found it in a Cooking Light magazine, pre interweb. I read several turkey chili recipes on line this morning in preparation for today, but none of them sounded as good as I know this one is. And here it is (with my notes):

Monterey Turkey Chili

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 green bell pepper, chopped (I used red because I like it better)

1 large onion, chopped, 3 celery ribs, chopped, and 2 large carrots peeled, and chopped small (I used Trader Joe’s MirePoix mix instead)

2 lbs ground turkey ( I bought 93% lean; 7% fat; but you can use the type with 1% fat if you like. Trader Joe’s only had 20 oz packages of turkey today. That wasn’t quite enough, but I didn’t want 40 ounces either, so I bought an 8 oz package of turkey bacon to add volume, and the added bonus of that smoky flavor).

2 cloves of garlic (I used 2 cubes of Dorot frozen minced garlic)

2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon each of dried oregano, and cumin, then a pinch of cayenne pepper, which is optional (I used it).

8 oz can of chopped green chilies

15.5 oz can of white beans, drained, and rinsed

28 oz can of diced tomatoes

The original recipe calls for salt & pepper to taste, but I don’t add any. I like the flavors as is. They also have chopped cilantro as optional, but I opted out of it today.

My ingredients today

Directions:

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or stock pot until hot over high heat. Add the bell pepper, and mirepoix mix, and lower the heat. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 15 minutes (I added the turkey bacon during this first step so that it would caramelize a little and also season the vegetables).

Add the turkey and garlic, brown for about 10-15 minutes. For a chunkier chili, do not break it up with the spoon too much. Drain off the excess fat (no I didn’t).

Add the chili powder oregano, cumin, and cayenne pepper (optional), and saute for another minute.

Add the green chilies, beans, and tomatoes (including the juice).

Stir in the cilantro if desired. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.

The original recipe also calls for optional fixings: grated cheddar cheese, chopped red onion, and sour cream. I will top mine with chopped scallions and a little light sour cream (plain non fat Greek yogurt will work perfectly as well).

The finished product. Love seeing the loads of veggies there.
The plated meal (without my fixings of chopped scallions and sour cream)

October is Breast Cancer awareness month. If you haven’t done so already, please schedule your yearly mammogram. Ask your doctor or radiologist about digital mammograms. They may cost a smidgen more, but they are more accurate. Mammograms save lives.

Thank you for stopping by today. Your comments, questions, and critiques are always welcome, as are your chili recipes!

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Make it a great week! Take care of YOU!

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On Topic – Dealing with Stress

If you attended your WW workshop this week, you discussed stress, and strategies for how to cope with it. My job situation has been a source of extreme stress for me for about a year now, and is not letting up. I have to say that this blog has been a therapeutic project for me. It keeps me accountable and focused on my journey and goal to not only continue to maintain my 50 lb weight loss, but to exceed it, and to continue to become physically stronger, and as fit as I can be. And hopefully, it allows me to inspire you to reach your weight, fitness, and overall health goals.

If you are new to the blog, please take a few minutes and scroll through the archives. There are many tips and inspirational stories to help you through life situations that may arise during your journey. Don’t allow yourself to be derailed. Remember why you started your journey in the first place.

It helps when you start to feel so stressed that you are on your way to a panic attack to avert your attention. First, breathe. Take a series of 5 second breaths in through your nose, and slowly exhale through your mouth. Feel your throat and jaw unclenching, and your stomach relaxing. Feel your body against the surface you are sitting on. Feel the cushions, feel your feet on the floor. Slowly you will feel centered again. This has been working for me while sleeping as well. When I wake up in the middle of the night, instead of following my head to all those dark places, I do this breathing exercise, and fall back asleep.

These are a couple of strategies that have worked for me lately. Other strategies are to get outside and go for a walk. Or go somewhere that makes you happy and meditate or read. Exercise. Go to a yoga or zumba class, or an aqua aerobics class. Be with people. If you are dealing with something really serious, seek out a professional to help you through.

Meal prep this week was a little more ambitious than usual. I was in the mood for fresh ideas. Again, I was inspired by recipes I found on the interwebs. Honestly, these days, why not?

Breakfast was found on FB. It’s Breakfast Stuffed Peppers from Recipe Rebels. Here is the link to the original recipe: https://www.thereciperebel.com/breakfast-stuffed-peppers-oven-or-slow-cooker/

Breakfast Stuffed Peppers Baby Boomer Mermaid Style
No matter what ingredients you use here, these are going to be gorgeous, tasty, and healthy

I wanted to keep this dish as low in calories and fat as possible, but to taste delicious, be nutritious, and full of protein. I used egg whites, defrosted, drained, and dried frozen spinach, chopped fresh scallions, and chopped fresh dill as my main ingredients. I seasoned with salt, pepper, and Trader Joe’s Umami Seasoning Blend, then added flax seed meal and chia seeds for their health benefits.

Lunch is salmon cakes! I’ve been wanting to make these for some time. I finally found a recipe that didn’t call for bread crumbs. Here is the link to the recipe I used (I actually followed this one, as I had never made these before): https://www.eatthis.com/salmon-cake-recipe/. I gave this a taste when done, and they are delicious! I would not change a thing in this recipe.

Healthy Salmon Cakes with Tzatziki on the side
Made with simple, clean ingredients.

I will pair this with Trader Joe’s Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup to complete my lunch.

My morning snack this week will be a 2 point fruit flavored yogurt and a banana. My mid afternoon snack will be my favorite – a gala apple and a light string cheese. I also always keep shelf stable snacks in my handbag, as sometimes I get caught away from the office longer than expected, so need something handy. I want to mention that my game plan of smaller main meals, mixed with healthy snacks between meals has worked for me. The scale is going the direction I want it to go, and I never feel too full. I have come to hate that stuffed feeling. Smaller meals and snacks throughout the day keep me satiated, and feeling on my game. And goodness knows, I need to be on my game at work these days.

While doing my #sundaymealpreps, I often have the Food Network on in the background. Today The Kitchen had a segment on healthy smoothies with surprise ingredients. I wanted to share those with you, because they looked good to me:

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sunny-anderson/oatmeal-cookie-smoothie-5462885

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/katie-lee/red-velvet-smoothie-5462883

https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/geoffrey-zakarian/zucchini-bread-smoothie-5462881

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I want to wish you all a wonderful and successful week. Take care of yourselves, my friends!

The Pictures Tell the Story

How I am maintaining my weight and taking care of myself during a very hectic time. High holidays, family time, crazy work days, pool time – making it work, and feeling blessed to be able to do it all.

Rosh Hashonah Dessert Fruit Bowl
featuring seasonal fruits and a special honey yogurt dip
The fixings for my fruit bowl and dip. Note the surprise ingredient for the honey yogurt dip: Chinese Five Spice Powder. A friend who bakes told me about this ingredient years ago. It adds that little something that causes guests to go “That is so good! What is that I’m tasting?”
One of the traditions of Rosh Hashonah is bringing new and unusual fruits and vegetables to the table, something no one has tried before. The kiwi berries and these delicious Moon Drops grapes were my contribution. My nephew also brought kiwi berries, but no one had seen these delicious new grapes. My niece took a look at them and said, “they look like fingers”, and kind of made a face. I put one on her plate, she ate it, and smiled from ear to ear. I found them in Trader Joe’s. If you haven’t picked them up, I hope you do before they go away.
Showing off my sister Cynthia’s beautiful home baked, hand crafted challahs. They are gorgeous and incredibly delicious. After apples and honey, round loaves of challah are the most recognizable food symbol of Rosh Hashanah.  The loaves are shaped into spirals or rounds symbolizing the continuity of Creation. The loaf on top is a raisin challah, and the one on the bottom is the apple challah, which she only makes for this holiday.

Last week I kept my meal preps super simple. I was short on time, but stayed on track with the easy sandwich below. Breakfast was non fat greek yogurt with berries at home with my chai tea and almond milk. I added satisfying mid morning snack which was a hard boiled egg and a banana. I had an apple with me too.

Turkey Breast sandwiches! But I rolled them into Ole Whole Wheat Tortillas instead of bread. I cleaned, dried, and stored the green leaf lettuce in a plastic bag to help dress the sandwich. The sauerkraut was my “side salad”.
I never did use the soup. I was traveling all week between my office and showroom, so it was very convenient having these sandwich fixings in my lunch bag with the frozen disc to keep everything fresh and cold.
https://olemex.com/products/whole-wheat-wrap/

It has been a busy weekend. Lots of pool time, and quality time with a good friend, so I didn’t have much time for prep today. Again, keeping it simple. Here is what I did –

Lentil and white bean salad. I took canned lentils and white beans and mixed them with Trader Joe’s Mirepoix Mix, which is pre cut carrots, onions, and celery. I have that over Trader Joe’s Power Greens and dres it with my simple WW red wine vinaigrette (1/3 c. each good olive oil, red wine vinegar, & water; 1/2 tsp each s & p; I added a little dried oregano and a cube of frozen minced garlic)
To go with my lentil salad I made chicken breast seasoned with a variety of middle Eastern spices. I’ll have a little hummus on the side.
For breakfast I will repeat the beet and yogurt idea I found on http://www.eatingwell.com.
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/270975/sweet-beet-raspberry-yogurt/

And that is IT for today! Thank you for letting me share my journey with you. Feel free to send me your comments, critiques, and meal prep ideas.

Have a great week, and take care of YOU!

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Douse the Flames of your Aches and Pains

Like many of you, I have a good amount of inflammation in my body. I have been dealing with these various aches and pains caused by inflammation and natural deterioration for years. One of the best remedies for me was my 50 lb weight loss. For the last several years I have been eating cleaner, staying hydrated, and working on getting enough sleep, all of which are crucial to reducing inflammation in our bodies.

The other crucial component for curbing pain from inflammation is diet. In a nutshell, the foods to stay away from are sugar, processed fast foods, trans fats, refined carbs, and processed meats. It’s difficult with the fast pace of our lives today to completely stay away from these foods, but we certainly can keep this list in the backs of our minds, and eat them more moderately, or find viable healthier substitutes for them. That has been my goal. Following is a link to a comprehensive list of foods that are anti-inflammatory: https://www.eatthis.com/anti-inflammatory-foods/

In addition, here is the link to my Anti-Inflammatory Diet Pinterest board for you to peruse: https://www.pinterest.com/marshaleeg/anti-inflammatory-diet/

I take other preventative measures regarding my discomfort caused by inflammation and deterioration. I use arnica gel on my lower back every morning. It is a homeopathic product that is applied to the skin for pain and swelling. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-721/arnica. At night I apply magnesium oil to the same area, which relaxes my muscles. https://www.healthline.com/health/magnesium-oil-benefits.

Every morning I do a combination of the stretches That were prescribed to me by my physical therapist a couple of years ago and yoga stretches that are good for the lower back (see that link in last week’s blog, “Full Throttle – Meal Prep”.) I also use a product called Inflamma-Less, which helps me a lot: https://irwinnaturals.com/products/inflamma-less. Many people swear by Turmeric supplements as well, but they aggravate my stomach, so they don’t work for me.

Meal prep this week consists of Asian flavors. Everything is low cal, low fat, veggie forward, and includes a good amount of protein. I made a fun salad with dark leafy greens and broccoli slaw topped with a mixture of fresh radishes, sugar snap peas, edamame, and shrimp. I’ll dress that with Trader Joe’s Spicy Peanut Salad Dressing.

This week’s lunch salad, Asian style

I also prepared Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Fried Rice mixture, and their Chicken Cilantro Mini Won Tons to go with my salad. I followed the directions on both, but I added Trader Joe’s Coconut Aminos to the cauliflower fried rice at the end for a little soy/ umami flavor. It came out delicious.

Also for lunch – Cauliflower fried rice with chicken cilantro mini won tons
The dark color on the cauliflower fried rice is from the coconut aminos I added to it.

Breakfast will be cottage cheese and blueberries with ground flax seeds and chia seeds mixed in. My mid morning snack will be a hard boiled egg and a small banana. My mid afternoon snack will be light string cheese and an apple. I also want to mention that I carry snacks with me in my handbag, just in case. I have been carrying a WW Turkey Stick (1 point/ 60 cal), a WW Sweet & Salty Nut Bar (2 points/ 80 calories) and a small bag of Emerald Almonds and Walnuts (3 points/ 100 calories). These have come in very handy. Sometimes you just don’t know how your day is going to end up.

Handy Healthy low cal/ point Snacks to keep in the car or in your bag

Thank you for joining the conversation! I appreciate your comments, critiques, and questions.

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Make it a great week! Take care of YOU!