Monday, January 31, 2011

Lentil Salsa Soup: A Twist On A Fav Recipe

You may recall my recipe for easy, cheap, quick and tasty black bean soup. I hope you tried it. If not, check it out, it is definitely a crowd pleaser and a great source of fiber and protein.

Well now I have a new but similar soup recipe to tantalize your taste buds and satisfy your nutritional needs.

I present to you: Lentil Salsa Soup.

I can't take the credit for this recipe. I got it from my co-worker but made it my own way.

What you will need:
  • 1 jar of salsa. I used chipotle garlic from TJ's. Use whatever kind you want, but I would steer away from mango or something of that nature.
  • 1 (or more) cups of carrots, chopped however you want.
  • 2 (or more) cups of spinach. I used bagged organic baby spinach from TJ's.
  • 1 onion, chopped.
  • Optional: 1 cup of celery, chopped or any veggies you'd like such as red pepper.
  • 1 and 1/4 cup of dried lentils, rinsed. Or 1 package of fresh lentils from TJ's. (This is what I used because it is much quicker.)
  • 6 cups of water
  • EVOO
  • S&P
To make:
  1. If you haven't chopped your veggies, do so now.
  2. Heat a little oil (don't use too much!) in a stock pot about a tbs should work.
  3. When the oil is hot add the onion, carrot and celery or pepper, if using. Saute until onions are translucent.
  4. Add lentils, salsa, water to the pot and simmer. If you are using dried lentils, simmer for 50-60 minutes until lentils are tender. If using fresh, just bring the soup to boil.
  5. Once the lentils are tender or heated through, add the spinach and allow to cook into the soup for a few minutes.
  6. Taste. Add S&P as needed. I found my salsa added a lot of flavor and much of either wasn't needed.
  7. Enjoy (but be sure to keep away from wandering noses!) ;)

This is a great soup because it has tons of fiber and protein. It's also cheap and makes several servings. You can adjust it as you want, adding different types of salsa and/or veggies.

Dietary Guidelines 2010

Hot of the press!

Sit back off the edge of your seat!


They are finally here!

The new dietary guidelines have been released and I know you are all so excited and curious you just can't stand it.

I will be reading the 112 page document in addition to the 453 page "Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010" soon and will have to get back to you regarding my thoughts and opinions and what the take away message will be for the average Joe or Josephine.

So far it sounds like they have made some earth shattering recommendations such as eat a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables and don't eat oversized portions.

But, rest assured, I will be reading away and will get back to you.

In the meantime, if you you'd like to read the document for yourself it can be found at the USDA website. PS remember that the USDA not only provides nutrition recommendations for the US population but also serves to support various industries such as the beef peoples. So take it with a grain of salt (pun intended) and read with a critical eye.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Notes on Vacation

I am in Memphis for the weekend. Since Sir Cakewalk is here for a conference, mostly I am operating independently on this trip.

Here are some random notes about the trip, vacationing in general, exercising, food, etc:
  • In an effort to eat healthfully and cheaply, I brought food with me. I brought packets of oatmeal, dried cranberries, peanut butter crackers, fruit bars, apples, and wasabi peas. This means I have breakfast every day and hearty snacks. Although I forgot to also bring bowls and eating implements. So, yesterday I got hot water from the cafe in the hotel (there was no coffee maker or microwave in the room), put the oatmeal in a glass and ate it with a coffee cup lid. I know, this is a bit silly. But I saved a bunch of money and calories. Today Sir Cakewalk snagged me a spoon and some hot water so I was a bit classier.
  • Even though I was sore, I got up yesterday and ran 4 miles on the treadmill. This made my legs feel much better and set a good tone for the day. After showering I also got out and walked around the city a bit. One of my favorite things to do on vacation is walk around. Of course, this isn't always easy or safe, so please try to be smart about it.
  • I enjoy trying new things and eating locally when I travel. When we first arrived we went out for drinks with friends and I got a local beer brewed a mile down the street from where I sat. It was delicious! I also researched the area to find out what the local specialties are (not too hard to figure out here in Memphis), and where the best places to eat are. I do NOT like eating at chains while away and I do NOT like eating a restaurants that cater to tourists. This has allowed me to try some of the most delicious foods I never would've tried (chicken foot soup in Mexico, for example.) Yesterday I found a restaurant nearby and ventured over for lunch. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary, but it was tasty. I'm hoping to eat somewhere really good and auténtico tomorrow night for our last official meal. I may even splurge for a taxi for this one since I don't like to have my choices confined to walking distance.
  • Do not be afraid to eat by yourself. At the aforementioned lunch yesterday I went to a busy lunch spot and sat by myself at the bar. I had my phone to keep me company should I feel lonely, but it wasn't needed. The bartender was friendly and told me about his band. I also got to chat with an older gentleman seated next to me, who even gave me a glass of wine from the bottle he purchased. You never know who you will meet or what you will learn when you step out a little and talk to folks.
  • I tried poutine. I had heard about it from my Canadian co-worker. I know, I know, I'm in Memphis not Montreal. So why was I eating this? Well, we had just arrived at the hotel and we were starving. I had no desire to eat at the hotel, so we asked the concierge what was good in the area. She tossed out a few ideas, but we decided to strike out on our own to see what we'd see. The first place we saw was a cute Canadian restaurant. I've never eaten at a Canadian restaurant, so we thought we'd give it a try. It did not disappoint! My meal was not healthy (poutine is fries with cheese and gravy). But it filled me up and allowed me to try something new. Plus, I made up for it later by eating a light snack instead of a full dinner and going for a swim.
  • I am impressed by the number of greenways, parks and walking areas in the US. I live close to a greenway trail and have miles of them in the vicinity. But we aren't the only ones with them. It's pretty easy to find them on the internets, and they provide a way to get out and exercise while seeing some sights. The one here in Memphis follows the Mississippi River and the downtown area. I think the most impressive one I've seen was in Colorado. I'm not sure where it started or ended, but it went at least from Breckenridge to Vail...that's over 30 miles and over mountains!!! That's incredible. Check them out when you travel...go for a walk or run or rent a bike.
  • Today I'm having tea at the french restaurant at the hotel. I'm also going for a free historical tour of the hotel in just a few minutes. This isn't a travel blog (but I can recommend a good one if you'd like), but I just wanted to re-iterate my recommendation to see what's going on around you when you travel. See what's free or unique. Don't just follow the other tourists. Try something new, whether it a food or an adventure of some sort.

Need help being healthy while on the road? Shoot me your questions!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Are Coupons Worth The Trouble?

I love some coupons.

But not all coupons are created equally. AND, in some instances using coupons can cost you more money and push you towards making unwise nutritional choices.

I'm not going to go on a huge financial tangent here, but I am of the camp that something is not a deal or a financially wise purchase if it isn't something you need or would normally use, no matter how much it is least as it pertains to food.

For some reason I get the Sunday paper. And from time to time I'll sift through the coupon sections. But I'm always disappointed in what I find. Only on a rare occasion will I find something that I actually use or something that is a good deal on a product I could use. It also disappoints me that most of the products are processed/convenience items. I mean, I realize that no one is going to make coupons for a head of cabbage, but how many different types of pudding does one family really need?

When I hear about people who saved a ton of money using coupons I often wonder if it really saved them money in the long run.
Did they spend beyond their means just to get a deal?
Did they buy products they don't really like or won't really use just to have them on the pantry shelves?
Could they have bought the same products at a different store cheaper?
Did they use up their entire food budget on convenience items and forgo fresh produce?

I'm not saying to avoid using coupons. I'm just advising careful consideration before getting caught up in a super double frenzy.

I know I've said some of this before, but it always bears repeating.
For what it's worth, here is how I save money on a regular basis:
  • I look for coupons in places other than the paper. I go to the websites of companies with items I really like and use often. Usually they have coupons you can download or you can request them. They are often much better than what you find in the paper.
  • I use my store's discount card. But I am careful to see if the BOGO or discount is worth it. Sometimes the store brand is still a better deal. I also don't buy splurge items just because they are hugely discounted. For me, Doritos are never a good deal. But if one bread is cheaper than another, I'll go with that one.
  • Pay attention to the unit price of items. Larger containers are not always a better deal.
  • I buy certain products at different stores. For instance, bell peppers of all colors are always $1.29 at Trader Joe's. They also have cheaper bananas, wine and a few other items that I regularly need. So I make a stop at TJ in addition to my regular store. Sometimes I also stop at Whole Foods to buy items in bulk such as spices, oats, flour, nuts, and dried fruit. It is significantly cheaper to buy these items in bulk at WF than in packages at the traditional stores.
  • I buy items from local vendors like the farmer's market. During the winter this can be difficult. But during the summer and fall some items can be much cheaper bought locally than at the store.
How do you save money at the store? Do you use coupons or a store card?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

If You're Moving, You're Improving

I don't know who said that, or where I even heard it. But I think it is definitely true and it's one of my favorite sayings. "If you're moving, you're improving."

We all have excuses and fears when it comes to starting a new exercise program, or starting to exercise period.

I certainly have them.

Yes, I can run several miles comfortably. Now. But that didn't happen overnight. And it still hurts sometimes. And I'm still pretty slow by most runners standards.

But I know that every time I get out there I am taking charge of my health and improving my life, even if it's at a snail's pace.

Sometimes I get self-conscious when I'm out running on a main road. I start thinking about the people driving by, probably making fun of me and my funny running style and jiggly bits that bounce as I trod along.

But then I try to remind myself that those people are driving by, not running by. More than likely, they will go home, plop in front of the tv and eat more than they should.

More than likely, they will not make it out the door to exercise.

I'm not trying to make fun of such people, just pointing out that those who exercise regularly are in the minority. They have overcome their fears and excuses that others could not.

And I know it's cheesy, but it all starts with one step at a time.

I am the first to agree that running hurts. And it will take awhile to build up to running a mile, let alone 3 or 13.1, or whatever your bucket list goal may be if you aren't already running. But it WILL HAPPEN. You just have to block out that voice in your head telling you it's cold and late and that you're hungry, etc, and do it.

And keep doing it.

And it will get easier.

I say all of this because last night a friend surprised me. Some friends and I had dinner and were then chillin and chattin by a fire. It was getting late and I was getting tired. But I knew I needed to run. Finding the motivation to do so was getting harder and harder. But then, a friend mentioned in passing that he wouldn't mind running a local race in the near future, but that he would need to work back into running. I quickly asked him if he wanted to run with me right then and he actually said "ok, let's do it."

I often invite people to run with me. I have numerous times tried to get people out the door when they insinuate that they need to work out. "Let's go!" I tell them. "Let's not just talk about it. Let's go do it. We can take it easy or go at whatever pace we want. Let's just get out there." Or I offer to hit the gym with someone or keep someone company while they workout.

No one has ever taken me up on it before.

And did we run 5 miles? No. Was it fast? No. We probably ran/walked about a mile together before he headed back in. But I was still very impressed.

I don't care how fast you are, or how far you go, if you get out the door, especially when it is cold and late and you are out of shape, I applaud you.

Now I just hope he can muster up that motivation again and again and again. He may only be able to do a mile for awhile. No rhyme intended. But it will get better. As long as he keeps moving, he'll be improving.

You may think I don't understand or can't relate. I assure you this is not the case. Working out has never started easy for me. I just keep doing it...crazy, right?! ;)

Here is a pic of me struggling through my first half marathon,
which I completed,
It took me 5 months to build up to this point.

But even if you don't believe me, believe Ben, who I hope doesn't mind my talking about him on here. If you are out of shape and want to be motivated, check out "My 120 Pound Journey" on youtube. It, and Ben himself, continue to inspire me.

Now get out there and do something good for yourself.