21 December 2007

Healthy Holiday Tips!

With the holidays in full swing, we might find ourselves struggling to keep our hands out of the cookie jar, pie plates, and cake stands. Or we might just be too busy to bother to eat well! Hey, I'm guilty of this as much as anyone! I think it's great to treat yourself to some 'naughty' foods and enjoy all kinds of tasty treats-- sweet and savory-- this time of year, but it can quickly out of hand—leading to guilt induced new year's resolutions that don't stick. When you find yourself at holiday parties, dinners, and other events, there are a few easy tips you can employ to help stay healthy during the times of temptation.
- Eat very small portions, or just take one or two bites, if you are interested in trying several different items. Take the time to savor those small bits, and you will feel just as satisfied.
- Resist the urge to eat until you're about to burst. This will only make you feel bloated, fatigued, and make your body work harder than necessary to process it all.
- Even on days where you know a big meal is imminent, plan to eat a regular breakfast, lunch, and snack, so that you don't over-do it come dinner time.
- If possible, encourage your hosts to include healthy offerings such as fresh fruits and vegetables, or, even better, bring a healthy dish to contribute to the feast!
- Keep to your normal routine as much as you can-- take time to workout several times a week, eat healthy home-cooked meals, and be sure to take time for yourself to rest.

These tips were also posted on the Ladies Who Launch blog.
(Ladies Who Launch is an excellent international women's networking group that I am a part of. They have groups in cities across the country.)

19 December 2007

austin whole foods put a ban on plastic bags

Serving as a test-market for their other stores worldwide, Austin area Whole Foods stores are no longer offering plastic bags at check out. Encouraging customers to purchase a reusable canvas bag or inexpensive and cute bags made of recycled plastic bottles. I'm really excited about this, and already have a few of these bags, and have of course, been taking my canvas totes with me when I go shopping for a long while now. Most Whole Foods and Central Market stores now have bins where you can recycle your plastic bags, produce bags, and plastic film, so don't throw them out!

The city of Austin is also working to, in 2008, have all major retailers in the city voluntarily reduce or eliminate the use of plastic bags, following the lead of green-friendly cities like San Francisco.

I think it's great that Whole Foods and Austin are taking these steps that will hopefully influence policies throughout the state and the country! Even if your local stores aren't involved in these progressive policies, you can easily do your part by bringing your own reusable bags when you shop or bringing in old plastic or paper bags to be reused when you go shopping! Take it a step further by encouraging your local retailers to be more eco-friendly, to use less unnecessary packaging, and to care for the environment and their communities!

Read the whole story in the Austin American-Statesman online.

18 December 2007

my favorite lunch.

This has become one of my favorite little meals. Ridiculously simple, but so tasty and satisfying, it's kind of perfect food-- two superfood powerhouses, steamed broccoli and a baked sweet potato, topped off with a little sheep's milk feta, salt, pepper, and sometimes some cayenne pepper or hot sauce for a nice kick.

I'm not quite sure how or why I first put this meal together. It was sometime earlier this year and I wanted something easy and simple. I had the forethought to put a sweet potato in the oven an hour ahead of when I thought I'd be hungry, and figured out the broccoli part later. Not wanting to opt for butter or olive oil to top my sweet potato with, I looked to the fridge, where I almost always have a little sheep's milk feta, and while it kind of seemed an unlikely combination, I threw it on top anyway. Wow! All the flavors come together really nicely. This meal is great-- so little effort, really healthy, and pretty low in fat.

Try it out, let me know what you think!

03 December 2007

recipe: smoky veggie chili (with meat add-in option)

Once the weather gets cooler, I love to make this chili. It's hearty, quick, and warming, and the chipotle and roasted tomatoes give it a nice smoky flavor. I usually invite people over because this recipe makes quite a bit! Or else just freeze some leftovers for later. I like to serve this alongside some short-grain brown rice or fresh cornbread. If you'd like, ground meat can easily be added. I included a recipe suggestion for preparing ground turkey.

Recipe: Smoky Veggie Chili
Serves 10-12
2 medium yellow onions, chopped (= 3 heaping cups)
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (= 1 1/2 cups)
4 stalks of celery, peeled and chopped (= 1 1/2 cups)
1 large bell pepper, any color, diced (= 1 cup)
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 T extra virgin olive oil
4 T chili powder
1 T ground cumin
2 t ground coriander
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo, minced
2 t adobo sauce from canned chipotle
2 15 oz. cans of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 15 oz. cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 28 oz. can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes (like Muir Glen brand)
1 28 oz. can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 t sea salt, plus more to taste
3 T molasses or honey or preferred sweetener, to taste (optional)
1/4 c chopped cilantro (optional)

Note: You could substitute whatever canned beans you have handy for this. Pinto, navy, cannelini, and chickpeas would all work well with this dish. Adjust the amount of chipotle to your preferred spiciness level.

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and bell pepper, stirring to combine. Sweat together for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic. Sweat for another minute.

2. Add the chili powder, cumin, coriander, chipotle, and adobo. Stir to evenly combine for an additional 1-2 minutes. If your pot is getting a bit dry, add a few tablespoons of water as necessary.

3. Stir in the beans, crushed and diced tomatoes, and salt. Once the chili begins to bubble, reduce heat to medium-low. Taste to adjust seasonings. Add the molasses and cilantro. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Remove from heat and serve topped with chopped cilantro, shredded cheese, and/or sour cream.

Ground Turkey Add-In
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 lb lean ground turkey, or other ground meat
2 T chili powder
1 T ground cumin
2 t ground coriander
1 T sea salt, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the turkey until nearly cooked through, then add all of the spices. Stir to incorporate. Add the meat to the chili pot at the beginning of the 10 minute simmer.

02 December 2007

Texas seeking to adopt CFLs as State Light Bulb

A few days ago five mayors from major Texas cities met to discuss pushing replacing traditional light bulbs with the more energy efficient, and overall more cost effective compact fluorescent bulbs.

With the exception of Austin, Texas isn't especially well known for being environmentally proactive, but considering the amount of land it covers and the number of citizens it harbors, I'm glad to see it making a simple step in the right direction.

Switching your incandescent bulbs to CFLs is a great way to conserve energy and save money in the long-term on your electricity bills. The average bulb lasts about 6 years and expend up to 75% less energy than a regular bulb. I recently switched all of the lamps in the house to CFLS and have found they seem a bit brighter than their incandescent equivalents. I also really like them because of their funky, swirly look, which turns it into a neat design piece!

Here's the Austin American-Statesman's article.

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