Tuesday, March 30, 2010

If you finish your veggies....

The rule in our house was no dessert unless you ate all your vegetables. This zucchini recipe is one that will not go unfinished. Not only does it taste great, it's light, too

Matchstick Zucchini

2-3 medium zucchini
1 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
1/3 c. shredded Parmesan cheese

Cut zucchini into 2 inch matchstick pieces.
Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add zucchini and garlic. Cook until zucchini is crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes.
Season with salt. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Serve immediately.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Kickin' Butt

Here are a few more lower body exercises to tone those glutes.

Balance Lunges
Place a step or chair 2-3 feet behind you. Place toes or top of foot on step. Bend front knee and lower body into a lunge position. Make sure your forward knee does not come in front of your toes (same rule as for a regular lunge). Raise up to starting position and repeat for a total of 25 reps. Switch legs and repeat. (These are killers.)

Side Lunges
Stand with feet hip distance apart. Step out to the side and bend knee. (Your body will naturally lean slightly forward.) Return to starting position. Do 12 reps. Repeat on other leg.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

It Still Fits!

Well, sort of. Every now and then I pull out my wedding dress to see if I can still get into it. The fact that it has an A-line skirt helps. The last time I wore it (t0 hand out treats on Halloween several years ago), it was a little snug in the ribcage. But I can still get it zipped. Who says you need to breathe?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wish I Wanted to be a Yogi

I have joined more Yoga classes than there are stars in the sky (well...that might be a slight hyperbole). The longest I've lasted is six weeks, only because I went with a friend. I want to like Yoga. I know it's good for your strength, flexibility, peace of mind, etc., but the truth of it is, I find it totally boring. Everyone is so quiet when I want to socialize. Also, my flexibility stinks. Everyone sits cross legged for what seems like hours and I'm dying trying to hold the position for five minutes. Last fall, my friend invited me to go to (yet another) yoga class--beginning yoga. I said yes, only because I rarely get to see her, and I thought this would be a great time to "catch up". WRONG! Everything was "hush, hush". (There is only so much I can say with facial expressions.) Then there is the problem of what to wear. I don't look good in form fitting clothes. Every week I agonized over my outfit. And the whole "aura" thing with the room I found rather strange. You couldn't wear your shoes in or bring your purse with you. Those things had to stay someplace else. Actually, of all the Yoga classes I have taken, this one was probably my favorite. I actually attended most of the classes. I thought I was getting pretty good at it until at the end of the session, the instructor gently told me I needed to repeat beginning yoga. Bummer! I think I'll stick with Zumba.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Let Downs

I have always wanted to be able to do a pull-up/chin-up. (My daughter had the chin-up record in the 6th and 8th grades--she did 29.) I have tried but to no avail. I grab the bar and hang. Try as I might with all my strength, I don't budge. But now I have a new strategy.
I learned in exercise physiology that you can handle more weight eccentrically than you can concentrically. For example, when doing a bicep curl, you can lower more weight than you can lift. So why not do the same thing with chin-ups? I have been using a stool to help pull myself up, and then I lower myself with my own strength. And it's working! It is getting easier to lower myself and I can actually raise myself up just a touch when I'm hanging. I realize this is going to take a long time, but hey, Rome wasn't built in a day.Pull-ups

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Grocery Shopping Surprise

I was looking over the coupons I received from the grocery store--you know, the ones that come out of the cash register when you check out--and I found this awesome recipe for Pineapple Bran Muffins. I had to try them ASAP. They are wonderful and pretty healthy. You must try them.

Pineapple Bran Muffins

1 can (8 oz.) Crushed Pineapple
1 cup all-bran cereal
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
2 T. molasses
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

Drain pineapple well, reserve 1/4 cup juice.
Combine reserved juice, cereal and milk in large bowl. Let stand a few minutes to soften cereal. Stir in pineapple, raisins, egg, oil and molasses.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add to pineapple mixture. Stir just to combine.
Spoon batter into 6 muffin cups, sprayed with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees, 18-23 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I Don't Feel like It Today

How does one stay motivated to workout? We all have days where we just don't feel like exercising. I find if I put my workout clothes on right away when I get up, I'm too lazy to change out of them without using them. (I workout at home, so at least I don't have to make the decision to get into the car and drive to the gym.) Another easy motivator is to sign up for a race. There are so many out there. In my hometown, my favorite is the Seaway Chronicle Run. It's always held the last weekend of June and there are many options to choose from: a fun walk, a 5k and a 15k race. I always sign up for the 15 k race (9.3 miles) as the route takes you along Lake Michigan. It's not an impossible length, but it's enough that I have to add some miles to my normal workout. My goal is to finish, not to win. (I suppose I could win if everyone else fell down and couldn't get back up.) Running a race is so much fun. You get out with other runners and feel the comradery. People stand along the route and cheer the participants on. Best of all, there is a sense of accomplishment when you've finished, not to mention the snacks waiting just beyond the finish line. If you've never entered a race, I would encourage you to do it. You'll become addicted.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Winter Grilling

Winters in Michigan can be long. With three feet of snow piled on our deck, it's impossible to reach the grill. A couple of years ago, I brought grilling inside with the purchase of an All Clad grill pan. Now, we can grill anytime we like. Last night we had one of my favorite low fat pork chop recipes. I can't remember where I got this--it was in a magazine--but it's easy and great.

America's Favorite Pork Chops
4 top loin pork chops (trim all visible fat)
3/4 c. Italian dressing (I use fat free)
1 t. Worcestershire sauce

Place all ingredients in a Ziploc bag. Place in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes (or as long as overnight). Remove chops from bag and discard marinade. Grill over a medium-hot grill, turning once, until just done.
Approximate Nutritional Information: Calories: 210 Protein: 25g Fat: 11g Sat. Fat: 3g Sodium: 140mg

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cheaper than plastic surgery

Recently, one of my cardiac rehab patients let out an audible groan as he was getting off the scale. He mumbled under his breath as he walked away, "I hope it's all muscle." I had to chuckle to myself. Yes, muscle does weigh more than fat. Unfortunately, we start losing muscle every year after age 30, unless we do something about it. Men especially get those spindly legs as they age. Also, there was the story about the aging former Miss Argentina who died from plastic surgery to get firmer buttocks. She could have done a few squats for free and survived. Here are a few lower body exercises that you can do at home to firm up and gain some muscle.
1. Squats
Stand with feet hip distance apart.
With weights held at side or resting on shoulders, squat down as if you are going to sit in a chair. Be careful to make sure your knees do not go forward of your toes. Do 15 reps. Repeat x 2.

2. Standing Leg Press
Place foot on a 8-14 inch step.

Step up. Do 12 reps. Repeat on other leg. Do 2 sets on each leg. As this gets easier, you may want to add weights.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I wish I was Italian

I came upon a new pasta recipe that elicits yummy sounds from my husband. Not only is it tasty, it's healthy, too. I made a few changes to it and the result is as follows:

Ravioli with Tomatoes, White Beans, and Spinach

1 9 ounce package fresh whole wheat four cheese ravioli or tortellini
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 15 ounce can navy or cannellini beans
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon red pepper
6 cups chopped fresh spinach
1/4 reserved pasta water
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.
2. Heat olive oil in large saute pan. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add beans, tomatoes, basil, oregano, and pepper. Bring to a boil; stir in spinach. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until spinach is wilted.

Stir in pasta and 1/4 water; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Yield: 4 servings.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Firsts of Spring

When my children were little, we used to make a poster of "Spring's Firsts" and see who could be the first to spot certain things, i.e. a robin, flower bud, leaves on the trees, etc. Since then, I've added a few more "Spring's Firsts" to my list. I experienced one yesterday--running outside for the first time this year. I know a lot of people run outside throughout the winter, which is amazing to me, since I live in West Michigan. Even more amazing is this guy who runs in shorts all year long. (A few months ago as I was heading to work, with the seat heater on and the heat on high, this same guy was hunched over on the side of the road. I thought he was having a heart attack. I stopped to see if he needed help. As it turns out, he was just cooling down--not a good way to do that). Anyway, since I am a fair weather runner, I always look forward to when the snow melts off the streets and the temperature warms to above 32 degrees. Yesterday was such a day. The sky was blue, the wind was out of the south at 8 miles per hour, and it was 39 degrees. I warmed up on the spinning bike for 15 minutes, stretched and then headed out. I love running on Forest Park Road. It is just what you imagine it to look like--rolling hills lined with trees, and views of Mona Lake. The lake is still iced over, but the ducks are there and soon the boats will be too. It's so easy to get lost in your thoughts with the great views. I ended up running a little over five miles. It felt great to be outside in the sunshine, breathing in the fresh air. Spring is finally here.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Counteracting the Inevitable

As we age, why do we gain weight more easily? I used to work out twice a week for 45 minutes and was able to eat what I wanted and maintained my weight. Then I noticed I had to work out four days a week to do the same. I currently workout six days a week for 60+ minutes, I watch what I eat (sort of), and I'm up ten pounds from when I got married (1982). What gives?
I have done some soul searching and I think I've figured it out. As I've gotten older, I find myself combining trips to other levels in the house. Instead of running something downstairs, I wait until I have two things to go down. Why waste energy? I no l
onger have children at home, so I never go upstairs to their bedrooms. I have less laundry, less cooking, less cleaning, less everything. We don't even have a dog to walk anymore (RIP Molly). Unless I make a conscious effort, I behave like a sloth.
EUREKA!! I found the answer to the problem--a pedometer. I've been strapping one on the past few weeks and voila--I want to take more steps.

Instead of conserving, I find myself looking for ways to "take the long cut" (as my son used to say). The goal: 10,000 steps a day. It works!!! You can pick one up at any store where they sell sporting goods, including Target, Walmart, K-Mart, etc.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cooking for One

My husband is out of town this week. I always find it hard to motivate myself to cook when it's just me. I have a few "go to" recipes when he's gone. Tonight, it's salmon. This is one of those recipes that is easily changed to accommodate however many you're serving.

Oven Fried Salmon

Serves 6

6 salmon fillets (skin removed)
1/2 cup (I use less) canola oil
2 T lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup herb-seasoned stuffing mix
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Place salmon in ziploc bag with oil, juice, and garlic. Marinate for 30 minutes, turning once. Remove salmon, reserving marinade.

Combine stuffing, cheese, and parsley. Roll salmon in stuffing mixture. Place coated salmon on baking sheet sprayed with Pam. Drizzle 3 T of marinade over fish. Bake about 15 minutes at 500 degrees, or until fish flakes easily.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Zany for Zumba

One of the keys to sticking with an exercise program is doing something that you enjoy. If I were told I had to swim for my workouts, I would drop out before I started because I don't like to swim. You have to get into a cold pool and put your face in the water. On the other hand, I enjoy running, which other people can't stand.
Another key to maintaining an exercise program is avoiding boredom. If you do the same thing over and over, you will get tired of it and quit. I like to do something different everyday. During the winter, I participate in a Zumba class one evening a week, just to add a little something extra to my routine.
If you have never taken a Zumba class, check out the video below. Keep in mind, the class I'm in is mostly middle-aged women. We don't wear shrunken T-shirts, although one of my classmates wears what appears to be a scarf with gold coins attached to it around her hips. She loves any movement that involves hip action, as she jingles when she jiggles. There are times when I can't see the instructor, so I watch my classmates to see what we are supposed to be doing. BIG MISTAKE! Everyone is doing something different. When I first started taking this class, in my mind, I danced just like our instructor. The next day, I decided to practice in front of the mirror in the privacy of my bathroom. What a way to burst my bubble! I looked like Elaine, on Seinfeld, with the little kicks and the thumbs. In actuality, I'm having fun with friends, I'm burning calories, and I'm making my heart a little healthier at the same time. What more could I want?!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fifty Something and Blogging

A few months ago, a friend was talking about following someone's blog and I thought to myself, "Why would you want to do that?" I really didn't even know what a blog was. It sounded like someone's journal and why would I waste time reading their random thoughts? Now, after some encouragement from my youngest daughter, here I am. I will soon be turning 53 years old (can it truly be?) and am having trouble reconciling that number with how I feel. In my mind, I'm still in my twenty's. I feel great! However, I am noticing some subtle differences in my body. For instance, I can no longer take off and run six miles without warming up and stretching first. My running times are increasing for the same distance, even though I feel like I'm really pushing it. If I do a really long run, I have to cross train the next day. Five to ten years ago, this wasn't the case. But it's okay. I'm healthy and I will continue to work out to give myself the best chance of maintaining that health. And I am going to blog about it. Who woulda thunk?