Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Avocados Rock

My good friend, Sue, just bought a house in California and she has an avocado tree in her yard. Life doesn't get much better than that. While she's picking avocados in her back yard, I'm dodging falling acorns in mine. I get to buy avocados at the grocery store that were probably picked last year and have been gassed to get them to ripen. Such is life in Michigan.

Actually, I like the avocados from the grocery store, since I really don't have anything to compare them to. They are incredibly nutritious. The have "good" fats that help reduce cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of heart disease. They contain 60% more potassium than bananas and are a great source of Vitamin K, folate, and fiber. They are high in calories (227 calories in an average size avocado), so you don't want to go overboard with them.

I stumbled onto this great recipe using avocados. I hope you enjoy it.

Broiled Salmon with Avocado and Lime

2 6 oz. salmon fillets
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 lime

1 firm, ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Whisk olive oil and juice from 1/2 lime together. Marinate salmon in mixture for 30 minutes.

Combine avocado, 4 tablespoons olive oil, chives, and 1 tablespoon lime juice in small bowl. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Broil or grill salmon until just opaque in center, turning once. Transfer to plates. Spoon avocado sauce over and serve.

2 servings

Monday, March 28, 2011

What Comes First--Cardio or Strength Training?

My patients often ask me if it matters whether they do aerobic or strength training first in their workout. The answer is yes, it matters, depending on what your goal is.

If you want to lose weight, you should do strength training first, cardiovascular training second. "Why?," you ask.

When you lift weights, you can deplete your glycogen stores. (Glycogen is the storage form of glucose, or sugar, that is stored in the muscle and liver. It is used for high-intensity and short-duration exercise. Liver glycogen gets low after about 20 minutes.) With your glycogen stores depleted, you'll burn more fat during your aerobic workout.

Caveat: You'll need to spend a few minutes warming up and stretching before lifting. Also, if you expend a lot of energy during strength training, you may be too tired to finish your aerobic workout.

If you do your cardio workout first, your muscles will have a good warm-up before weightlifting. You'll save time by combining your warm-up for lifting with your aerobic workout. The down side is that you may be too fatigued to lift with proper form and increase your risk of injury.

It's important to replenish your depleted glycogen stored within 45 minutes after your workout to keep your metabolism elevated. Also, remember to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. It is an essential key to fat metabolism.
If you haven't been strength training, hopefully this will motivate you to start.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Twenty Nine Years

Twenty nine years ago today, my husband and I walked down the aisle as a newly married couple. It seems like yesterday and yet it seems like we've been married forever. It was a day much like today--sunny and cold. (Next time, we're getting married in the summer. The pictures will be so much better.) We were going to get married in May, but as we tried to coordinate the church, photographer, reception, etc., the date kept getting pushed forward. So, March 27th it was.

As we planned our honeymoon, I thought it would be great to go skiing. I had gone to Aspen with the Ann Arbor Ski Club the year before and had had a blast. I thought about how romantic it would be sitting in front of the fireplace. So we booked a flight, a hotel, bought my hubby some skis (he told the guy at the ski store that he wanted the extra long ones so he could go fast) and we were all set.

A few weeks before the wedding, we thought we should give the new skis a trial run, so we went to Mount Brighton. ("Mount" in the name is a big stretch.) I was slaloming down the hill and turned around to see how my stud fiance was doing, and there he was coming down the hill backwards. I could see him killing himself right then and there, and I wouldn't even get the insurance money. No more skiing until after the wedding.

When we booked our flight, we wanted to save money, so we decided we would fly out of Chicago (a 3 hour drive from where we were getting married). We were on the 8:00 a.m. flight, so we stayed at the Hyatt right across from the terminal. We left our reception around 10:00, checked into our hotel around 2:00 a.m. and had a 6:00 a.m. wake-up call. We were young--no problem. We ended up getting up late, didn't have time to go park in the cheaper long-term parking, and to make a long story short, missed our plane. We should have recognized this as an omen.

After a long day of travel, we finally made it to Aspen. Everyone walking around had great skiers' tans from the obviously great sunny weather. We couldn't wait to hit the slopes--actually we were exhausted and fell into bed. The next morning we got up, looked out the window and could see nothing. It was snowing sideways. We had ski passes that were only good for four days, so we decided to give it a try. As we were getting our ski clothes on, my husband was struggling with his ensemble. We had gotten him boots and skis but had forgotten about clothes. There he was in jeans, a gray sweater, and an old brown down vest.

He said I looked like Ski World, he looked like Farmer's Almanac.

And if you're on a budget, Aspen isn't the place to shop. (It was recently named the most expensive city to live in in the U.S.) We ended up getting him some navy pants and a navy hat to go with the brown vest--definitely not a fashion statement.

The first day of skiing was rough. At one point, my Mr. fell and put a hole in his boot with his ski pole. He banged his head so hard everything looked green. The highlight of skiing was getting back to the hotel and sliding into the hot tub. By the third day, the sun came out. We had a wonderful time skiing Snowmass until the final run, when we skied down to the buses back to Aspen, and Mike fell in the slush and mud right in front of a busload of people. His ego was definitely bruised.

We had one more day of skiing, but when we woke up, I just didn't feel good. We thought we would go down to the hot tub and see if I felt better a little later. Big mistake. I was in the hot tub for about 2 minutes when I felt my stomach start to churn. We made a beeline for the room where I made it just in time to lose my breakfast. I was sick all day. Miguel ended up playing Pac Man all day in the lobby while I slept. His only injury from Aspen was a blister on his thumb from the joystick on the video game.

The next day I felt a little better. We drove back to Denver for our flight the next day.

Everything went smoothly although it was a bit rough on the landing in Chicago. The high winds we had in Aspen had made it to the Midwest. Our plan was to drive to my parent's house, spend the night, pack up our wedding gifts and head back to Ann Arbor the next day. It was fine until we got about 90 miles from home. We ended up in a blizzard. The visibility was so poor we couldn't see from reflector to reflector on the highway. We went about 20 miles an hour. We finally made it to my parents street where we got stuck in the snow. Thankfully, my dad and brother helped and we got the car out without any problem.

Here we are 29 years later. I've learned a lot since 1982. On our next honeymoon, we're going to a resort with a beach.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Welcome Spring

There's nothing like springtime in West Michigan. On the second full day of spring, we had a winter storm warning posted by the National Weather Service. It turned out to be a non-event. We had some freezing rain, but the roads were fine. However, on Wednesday morning, when I backed out of the garage and into the turn around, I found a huge branch blocking the driveway. Since I was running a little late for work, this was not good. I pulled out my cell phone to call my husband (who was sitting in the kitchen eating breakfast) to come out and move it for me. I then remembered that the cable was out, which means our phones were also out. I tried his cell phone, but that was turned off. I could have rung the doorbell, but I decided I'd just move it myself. As I got out of the car, all the deer in the yard, which I hadn't noticed, scattered. The limb wasn't as heavy as it looked, and I had it cleared in less than a minute.

(So much for my New Year's resolution of being on time, and I was doing pretty well.) I was finally on my way. (The pictures were taken after work, otherwise I probably would have been fired.)

Thankfully, we weren't very busy at work. The weather people had everyone scared and they stayed home. Either that or they were having a party somewhere and I wasn't invited.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Amazing Benefits of Blueberries

I love blueberries! I've been having a love affair with blueberries since I was a child, except for one particular day in the early sixties when I went picking with my mom and brothers. I couldn't resist eating them. They kept going into my mouth instead of my pail. I spent the rest of the day in the bathroom with intestinal distress. But even that couldn't dampen my affection for the little buggers. Even now, when blueberries are in season, my husband and I eat about ten pounds of blueberries every week.

Several years ago, new studies came out about all the health benefits of blueberries. They are the miracle berry and all you need is about a cup a day. They can do amazing things, such as:

Fight Aging (and who doesn't need that)
Improve Memory and Learning (I can tell it's winter and I haven't been eating as many)
Lower Cholesterol
Improve Vision
Prevent Macular Degeneration
Improve Brain Function
Prevent and Fight Cancer
Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
Aid In Weight Loss
Act as a Sleep Aid
Fight Osteoporosis

I always freeze some blueberries. I just pour them into Ziplock bags straight from the box and put them in the freezer. I rinse them just before I use them. They are great in baked goods. Here's one of my favorite recipes that is low cal and low fat.

Blueberry Crisp

3 cups frozen or fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup flour

Combine blueberries and lemon juice in a pie plate. (I usually sprinkle a little Splenda over the blueberries because my husband complains it's a little tart.) Combine butter, sugar and flour until mixture is crumbly.

Sprinkle mixture over blueberries. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Resistance Training: Heavy vs. Light Weight

People often ask me if it's better to lift heavy weight for fewer reps or lighter weight for more reps. The answer depends on your goal. The rule of thumb is this: if you want to develop strength and larger muscles (hypertrophy), use heavier weight, fewer reps. If your goal is endurance and toning, use lighter weight, more reps.

For strength and hypertrophy, use a weight you can only lift for 4-10 repetitions.
For toning and endurance, use a weight that you can lift 12-20 repetitions.
In either case, the last few reps should be to the point of fatigue.

For myself, I use lighter weight with more reps. As a result, I actually lift more weight than if I were using heavier weight. For example:

Bicep Curls: 20 lbs. x 10 reps = 200 lbs. lifted
15 lbs. x 20 reps = 300 lbs. lifted

As far as sets go, 1-2 will do it for toning and endurance and you'll want to lift 3 times a week.
If you want hypertrophy, you'll need to do 3 or more sets, 3 times a week.
It's a lot of work, but the rewards are great. You'll love having toned arms and legs, especially with summer coming.

Of course, you can always skip that lower body workout and just buy yourself a Booty Pop. For only $10, you can look like a million.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not Your Ordinary Oatmeal

Oatmeal for breakfast has been my M.O. for years. I add a little soy protein powder and soy milk, along with fruit and walnuts. Then I have a complete meal--carbohydrate, protein, and heart-healthy fat. I've used Quaker Oats for all my life but recently decided to try something different. I first bought some Irish oatmeal, but it has a flavor that I really don't care for (no offense to my Irish mother-in-law). I then purchased steel cut oats and I love them.

The only downside is cooking time. They need to cook for an hour. On days that I workout for an hour, I put them in an oven safe bowl and bake the oatmeal in the oven. When I finish my workout, the oatmeal is ready.

You can also cook it in a slow cooker overnight. (It's a little more clean up but a convenient option.) It's really worth the extra effort to make the steel cut oats. It's so good.
Warning: Don't forget to add 6 parts water to one part oatmeal, otherwise the oatmeal comes out really thick and not quite done.

Baked Oatmeal

1/4 cup steel cut oats
1 1/2 c. water

Place in oven safe bowl. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Top with chopped apples, blueberries, and/or walnuts.
Makes 1 serving.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Ride

Every year, Mercy Health Partners puts on an indoor stationary bike race to increase awareness of cardiovascular fitness through exercise and healthy lifestyle choices. Teams of eight cyclists ride bikes on mounted trainers for 25-minute intervals and compete for team trophies and individual medals. There are trophies for various categories from the most spirited team, best theme or costumes, oldest team and, of course, most miles ridden. This year fifty eight teams competed. Our team's theme was Construction Workers (for the heart).

There are some professional teams that ride, also. They are separated from the novice teams.

We have done this since 2005 and have raised over $250,000 for the HEART Center. The money goes toward educational equipment, health fairs, exercise equipment and for patients who need cardiac rehab but have limited financial resources. The Ride takes place at the local mall and is a lot of fun.

I have ridden in The Ride with other staff members from the HEART Center for 6 of the past 7 years. This year, however, I had a specific goal to reach. One of my patients has been egging me on for the last year about how he wanted to race me. He wanted me to bring my A-game because he was bringing his. I had to beat him this year, unless I wanted to listen to his grief for the next 12 months. Thankfully, he rode before me so I knew the mileage I had to have. I beat him by .3 miles.

The sad thing about this is that he is 12 years older than me and has had coronary artery bypass surgery. I should be able to beat him by a lot, but I had to go for all I was worth today. Our bikes weren't the same, so it wasn't totally equal, but still. This has shown me I need to work a little harder in my workouts. No more lolligagging around. Just wait until next year, Luke.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Every month, our dietician at work puts four new healthy recipes on the bulletin board for our patients to take home and try. This month, she outdid herself with this recipe for peanut butter cookies. These are great! Note: I don't have a nonstick baking sheet so I used a Silpat baking sheet liner.

Low Carbohydrate Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup chopped peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 F
In a medium bowl, combine peanut butter, sugar, egg, and baking soda until well combined. Stir in peanuts.

Place dough by teaspoonfuls on a nonstick baking sheet.

Press down with a fork (dipped in water to prevent sticking) to form ridges.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Makes 30 cookies.

Nutrition Facts:
Serving Size: 1 cookie
Carbohydrate: 8 grams
Calories: 75
Protein: 2 grams
Fat: 5 grams
Sodium: 60 mg.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday

I grew up in a neighborhood where most of the families were Catholic. We were Protestant. I remember listening to the kids at the bus stop talking about what they were giving up for Lent that particular year and I remember thinking, "I'm glad I'm not Catholic."

In recent years, I've begun to sacrifice something for the 40 days leading up to Easter. It's not because it's going to earn me Brownie points for when I get to heaven, but because it makes me more mindful everyday of Christ's sacrifice for me. Also, it seems easier to not cave in because of the reason I'm doing this.

I've been giving it some thought and I've finally decided on what I'm going to give up this year. Actually, this first one, I've given up for the past several years. I'm a little embarrassed to tell you what it is, but here goes. I'm giving up playing Sudoku on the Internet. Yes, I spend hours every year playing Sudoku. It's supposed to help keep your mind sharp, isn't it? (After my debacle Sunday morning, we know that isn't true.) So, I just played my last game for the next 40 days.

Also, this year I'm giving up (another embarrassing habit) eating chocolate chips out of the bag. I tend to go in streaks. I may not have any for a few weeks, and then I go crazy. So, I may bake with them, but I will not eat any that are "raw".
Since studies say it takes 21-30 days to break a habit, hopefully I will be free of these two addictions by Easter. But more importantly, it will make me more mindful of Jesus.

Sidenote: My husband grew up Catholic but hasn't really given up anything for Lent since I've known him, although he says he does. He tells me he's giving up what he's given up every year since the third grade--watching Batman on TV. (Even in third grade, he didn't really, truly give it up. He sat behind a chair in the living room and listened to it.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A.M. Panic

I awoke this morning in the middle of a dream, looked at the clock, and saw it was 6:20 a.m. I panicked. I was supposed to be at work at 6:45. That gave me ten minutes before I had to leave. Impossible! (My sonic care toothbrush alone takes two minutes.) How did this happen?

I should have stopped to think for a minute. I would have realized my mistake. But no, I immediately ran to the kitchen to call my boss and inform him of the situation. I hurriedly grabbed my cell phone, went to my contacts, and dialed his number. After five rings (this was strange), he answered groggily. I explained that I had overslept and would be in ASAP. I was met with silence.....then he said, "It's Sunday."

I'm not feeling so fab today.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

New Pork Tenderloin Recipe

I tried a new recipe for pork tenderloin this week. It was so good, my husband made yummy sounds. This recipe has only 11 grams of fat, so not bad.

Cran-Orange Pork Medallions

1 pork tenderloin cut into 1/2 inch slices
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. ground coriander
pepper to taste
2 T. olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 c. orange marmalade
1/4 c. orange juice
1/4 c. dried cranberries
2 T. balsamic vinegar

Combine salt, garlic powder, coriander and pepper (optional). Sprinkle over both sides of pork.
In a large skillet, saute pork in oil for 3 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Remove and keep warm.
In same skillet, saute onion in pan juices for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in marmalade, orange juice, cranberries and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; return pork to skillet. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until sauce is thickened.

4 servings

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Zumba Mania

A year ago, I blogged about my Zumba class. I mentioned the lady who wears the hip scarf so that she jingles when she shakes. Well, now we have two hip scarf ladies. I was next to the new lady last night. At one particularly vigorous moment, one of the coins flew off her scarf and hit me in the leg. Who would think that Zumba could be dangerous?

The veteran hip scarf lady has a new addition this year. She has pink highlights in her grey/blond hair. I must be a dinosaur, because I can't imagine what would possess a woman in her late 50's/early 60's to do such a thing. Maybe as I get closer to 60, I'll understand. If I do, I'll have to rename my blog, "Feeling Saucy at Sixty".

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pothole Paranoia

Winters in West Michigan can be a challenge. We tend to get a lot of snow due to the effects of Lake Michigan. This can be a blessing if one enjoys outdoor winter sports, but shoveling or blowing snow off the driveway gets tiring. Also, we can have temperatures above freezing during the day, and near zero at night. The thawing and refreezing makes the roads around town a nightmare to drive on.

One of the roads on my route to work is full of potholes. Last year, it made the list of "Worst Roads in the State of Michigan". I feel like I'm driving in a war zone. I still can't believe I haven't had a closed head injury due to all the jarring I've incurred. I never drive through a small puddle, because it could be a sink hole in disguise.

As the winter wears on, I learn where the worst potholes are and know to avoid them, but news ones are always appearing. It never fails, at some point during the winter, I hit one full on. And since I'm usually running late, the speed at which I hit them is not slow. I always have to have the alignment on my car adjusted every spring, but thankfully, I've never blown a tire. Who knows, maybe all this is preparing me for a new career. When I retire from cardiac rehab, I could get a job as a NASCAR driver... or a pizza delivery person.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Derby Pie Makeover

A friend gave me a recipe for Derby Pie a few years ago and it has become my "go to" dessert when I need something quick. I usually have a pie crust in the freezer (I haven't made one from scratch since home economics in 9th grade), and the other ingredients are always in my pantry.
If you look at the ingredients, Derby Pie isn't that bad for you, especially if you leave out the crust. (A typical 9" frozen pie crust has 650 calories and a whopping 42 grams of fat.) I don't really like pie crust all that much, so I decided to try baking it without it. With a little modification, it turned out great. I don't even miss it. Give it a try.

Derby Pie

6 T. butter, softened
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 c. flour
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. coconut

Spray 9" pie tin with cooking spray. Cream butter, sugars, and vanilla. Add eggs and beat well. Stir in flour, add chocolate chips, pecans, and coconut. Pour into pie tin. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream (low fat, of course).
If you want to use a pie crust, increase baking time to 40 minutes.