Friday, September 30, 2011

Sweet (Potato) September

I ventured over to Costco the other day and stumbled across a huge box of sweet potatoes for $6.49! I scooped up the whole box because there's nothing I like more than sweet potatoes and pumpkin to welcome the Fall. Well, maybe a steaming Chai Tea Latte on a cool, crisp day...but I digress. 

I had no idea what I was going to do with all these sweet potatoes but was having fun dreaming of all the tasty possibilties. A couple days later, my mother-in-law showed up with all sorts of yummy goodness from the Farmer's Market. I mumbled to my hubby, "I sure hope she didn't bring any sweet potatoes..." But, too late. Out came the GIGANTIC sweet potatoes she had found for us. So now I have to come up with even more clever recipes to use up these bad boys. 

So far we've experimented with sweet potato pancakes. UH-mazing. Tasty, healthy and different than your usual, run-of-the mill hot cakes. I can't wait for the little guy to be big enough to try these! I actually made these because I heard on the radio it was National Pancake Day. That's reason enough for me! :)

Next, we tried plain old microwaved sweet potatoes just using the "Baked Potato" setting. I usually don't prefer to microwave veggies, but let's face it -- I'm busy, and hungry usually wins out. To mine and hub's surprise, they actually came out quite nicely. Easy-peasy for a weeknight dinner. Top with whatever you like (just salt, pepper and dab of butter or olive oil for me!) and enjoy in less than 5 minutes. 

Next on the list for this weekend is this healthy, low glycemic Spicy Crock Pot Sweet Potato recipe. Again, ingredient list is pretty short and it has some KICK which I like. I can't wait to come up home to the yummy aromas of this one!

I may even try my hand at some sweet potato bread. I make a mean pumpkin bread so I can imagine this one would be equally as good, just maybe not as sweet. Pair it with a nice cup of coffee on a fall morning...heaven! (ETA: this was super delicious. For the last few years, I've used use a pumpkin bread base from my favorite redheaded chef, Bobby Flay, and this blog has a great pictorial!)

Lastly, I've been itching to try making pureed sweet potatoes for the little guy since those Gerber jars are kinda pricey. With 10 lbs of sweet potatoes for $6.49 I can make a year's supply of baby food (well, you know what I mean)! I plan on peeling, cubing, then steaming the potatoes before pureeing in my trusty food processor. I thought about buying a Baby Bullet, but for 60 bucks I think it's just a fancy-schmancy marketing ploy. I'll stick to my old-skool way, thank you!

But sweet potatoes are not only super tasty, they're also super healthy! Topping the charts in nutrient density, they're one of the best super-foods for your buck.

What are your fave sweet potato recipes? Anything I'm missing that I should try??

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Week of Food Journaling: Helpful Hints

UGH. Just the word "food journaling" makes me shudder. (Okay, so it's two words). If you're like me, you need some motivation to make you write down what you eat. I've always slacked in this department, only doing it when mandated by one of my nutrition classes in college. I can think of a myriad of reasons why food journaling is not for me: I'm too busy. I'm in my car all day (I really am!).  I"ll forget. I just plain don't wanna.

But experts agree that people who have had the most success at losing and keeping off weight were consistent with their food journals. It's a little something we like to call accountability.

I don't know if I can commit to doing this regularly but I figured I would give it the ol' college try for a good 7 days. That's one week out of my life, whatev. Like I've mentioned before, these last 10 pounds of baby weight are all the motivation I need.

SHOCKER ALERT! I eat A LOT. Here's an excerpt from a day in my food journal, er, BlackBerry: 

AM: Coffee with splenda, granola bar (driving, no time, starving
AM: water 32 oz,  grande sbux latte with s-free hazelnut (coffee with partner)
Lunch: Chinese food (spring roll, veggies, Kung Pao chicken, chicken salad), diet pepsi (lunch w/ customer, starving, working)
PM: 4 small cookies from bakery :( (driving home, hungry, tired, bored)
PM: small apple :) (hungry)
Dinner: left-over turkey loin, small quesadilla on corn tortilla w/ 3 small slices monterey jack, diet sierra mist (hungry, dinner by myself)
PM: greek yogurt w/ blueberries (slightly hungry, craving sweets, working on computer)

Wowza. I can use some improvement. Most of the other days weren't much better.

What I learned from my little experiment was that being accountable to that dreaded notebook (or Blackberry, in my case) did help me make better decisions as time went on because I had to face my food at the end of each day. Instead of opting for a handful of tortilla chips and my mother-in-law's homemade salsa (delish!) I would apple. The mere thought of having to document every.single.morsel was enough to make me steer clear of random bites of food here and there. Apparently not the cookies on this day, however.

Whenever I've read articles about food journaling, I've turned up my nose. Yeah, yeah. Write down what you eat...blah blah. Even Carrie Underwood has been showing off the results of her commitment to food journaling (have you SEEN her lately?!) But here are some tips I discovered during my week of food journaling that I hope will make it easier for you to try (and stick with!) if you haven't already.

Food Journal Helpful Hints

1. Make it easy! I recorded my meals on my Blackberry because it's attached to me 24/7. Even lying in bed at 2 am when I can't sleep. Choose a place you will remember to write it down. Your work computer? A notebook in your purse? A website like SparkPeople? Or for you very brave souls, you could even make a Facebook note and post it for all your friends to read. (Um, no thanks!) I read somewhere recently that with all the newfangled smartphones out there, some people have had success with taking a photo on their phone of everything they eat and drink, then review it at the end of the week. I just may have to try that, would make for an interesting post! ;)

2. Make it fun! Every day I would make 8 checks as I drank my glasses of water, and a check-mark if I took my vitamin. It became a game to get all those check-marks, and I got satisfaction from completing them. You can get creative and give yourself stars or stickers for each day completed, and maybe a small, non-food reward after a week of journaling torture? :) 

3. Write down your emotional state and hunger level. Do this every time you put something in your mouth. This will help you pinpoint emotional triggers that cause you to eat when you're not really hungry. For me, it's the drive home or the afternoon lull before dinner. I'm home from a long work day and find myself mindlessly snacking because I'm starving and distracted with the little guy. Am the only one who does that? I found that I nibble here and there which can add up to a few hundred calories every day. Definitely sabotaging my last 10 pound efforts.

4. Read it. Go back after a few days and review your eat/drinking habits. Where can you make small changes? Are you consuming a lot of empty calories from soft drinks and juices? That's an easy fix that can save you hundreds of calories a day! Do you have a midmorning Starbucks habit? Save the money and have a cup of joe from the office coffee pot. Put the money you would have spent into something you really want. A new bag? A pair of skinnys? Ooooh, those wedge booties that are so cute for Fall?! 

5. Plan for success. As my hub likes to point out to me all the time, remember the "Seven P's." Ever heard that? "Seven P's" = Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. Find one or two areas that you can improve and create a strategy for preventing fall-backs. For instance, if your trouble area is the mid-afternoon munchies, plan on bringing healthy snacks with you that you can munch while driving home. Or have veggies and fruit slices pre-sliced so they are easier to reach for after a long day. Spending an hour over the weekend to pre-wash and pre-chop all of your veggies for the week will help ensure that you actually cook and eat them on a busy weeknight.

Hopefully with these strategies you will have success with your own food journaling and it will bring  closer to your goals. If you have never tried, I guarantee you will be surprised by the results! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Modern Mom Must-Haves: Save Time, Money, & Sanity!

I stumbled upon this graphic on a noteworthy blog the other day. These Chicks are just oozing with energy and coolness. I wish they weren't located in Canada so I could check out one of their bootcamps! Hey FitChicks! If you're reading this, your pals in the US of A want some bootcamp!

I thought this little pic was so appropriate for how I feel on most days that I had to share it.

Does this look like you too, Modern Mama's?

Since I'm somewhat of a newbie to this whole mom thing (okay, I'm a total newbie) I was hoping you professional Modern Mama's would have some suggestions on how to balance it all. What are your secrets and tips on finding time to take care of yourself and everyone else around you? 

After thinking about this, I came up with a list of some of my fave must-have modern mom items that I can't live without these days.

1.  My Keurig! 


If you don't have one, get one. It saves so much time in the morning! Just pop in a pod and in 30 seconds you have a steaming cup of joe that is PERFECT every time. This is especially helpful because my hub doesn't drink coffee every-single-day like I do. You can even order pods through various delivery services and have them delivered right to your door so you never run out. Talk about a time-saver. I actually have quite a funny story about that. We had a rough road at the beginning with my little guy, so when my son was about 3 months old after a long night of no sleep, I was desperate for a cup of coffee from my trusty Keurig. We were out of pods, of course. Well, the great thing about the Keurig is that it comes with this little device that allows you to make coffee with regular ground coffee instead of using the pre-filled pods if you choose. I had never used it and thought this would be the perfect opportunity...except that we didn't have ground coffee in the house either! I literally removed everything from the pantry in my desperate search for coffee. I even went into the garage and dug through the camping box, hoping to find some leftover, forgotten package of instant coffee. No luck. I was seriously like an addict trying to get a fix. Crazy. Anyway, the point is this -- in my house, mama doesn't run out of coffee!

2.  ExerciseTV onDemand. I persuaded my hub to sign up with Comcast when we moved into our new house based strictly on the fact that they offer ExerciseTV onDemand. If you're busy with work, school, kids, whatev, and don't have time to trek to and from a gym to slave away on the miserable treadmill, then this shiz is for you. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. Put the little guy down for a nap and catch a quick workout on my schedule.  Most of the workouts are less than 30 minutes so you can get in, get it done, and carry on with your day. You can stack a couple if you want a longer workout too, like adding some resistance training. The listings change monthly so it's always fresh, but you have the option of purchasing workout DVDs if you find one you must have. Did I mention how much I love this? (ETA: Unfortunately, in late 2011 ExerciseTV announced it will be shutting down its TV channel and website, read the full story here. Major bummer). 

3. AmazonMom. Great baby/kid stuff at great prices with free delivery. What more can you ask for? When you sign up you get 3 months free of AmazonPrime (a $79 value) that gives you FREE 2-day shipping. And every time you purchase a baby item in a given month, it extends your Prime shipping for another month. Woot! One of the nice things about AmazonMom is you can opt to have items like diapers autoshipped to you at set increments (like once a week/month, etc) saving you precious time and gas money. I've noticed that I purchase a lot more frequently off Amazon lately (even for non-baby items) because their prices are usually competitive and you can't beat the free 2-day shipping.  

4. Bumble & Bumble Hair Powder. Love. This stuff is uh-mazing. With a full-time job, commute and 6 month-old, I can't keep up with dying my hair regularly. Nor do I like to fork over the wad of cash every 6-8 weeks (why are salons so dang expensive?) I also don't wash my hair daily because it gets really dry if I do, so I use this to touch up in between washes/dyes and whisk away that day-old look. It has excellent coverage for root touch-ups, see ya grays! It comes in 4 different colors to match your hair color, unlike regular dry shampoos that always come out making my hair look more gray. Try it, you will be a fan. 

What are your must-have, money/time savers for the Modern Mom?? 
Share the secrets ladies!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Spice Up Your Workout with Soccer Drills

Somehow I got suckered into agreed to help coach my bosses' daughter's soccer team. No pressure. I just have to take a group of fourteen chatty 7th and 8th grade girls and mold them into fierce soccer players. No biggie, right? Don't scoff, we've won our first 2 games. All thanks to the coaching, I'm sure of it. 

I know, I know...winning isn't everything. Bah. I can tell you one thing, there's nothing more empowering to a group of impressionable young women than the sweet feeling of victory. What are we teaching our youth when tell them that winning isn't everything? We're teaching them to be lazy and to settle for less than their best. If you're not first, you're last, right Ricky Bobby?? :) Ok, rant over. 

To celebrate the beginning of soccer season, (my fave time of the year - leaves are changing, our Indian Summer is coming to an end, the excitement and nervousness of pulling out the old muddy cleats) I came up with some soccer drills you can incorporate into your regular fitness routine to shed inches and pounds faster than Brandi Chastain can rip her jersey off. (That's a soccer reference for all you non-futbol followers). 

Stacy's Soccer Workout

Do these moves 1-2 times a week on non-consecutive days. 

Equipment needed: Stopwatch, soccer ball

Start with 30 seconds of each move at high intensity (as hard as you can go) then gradually add 15 second increments as you get stronger, working up to 90 seconds. Recover for 30-60 seconds between moves. Repeat the sequence. 

1. High Knees - Hold hands out in front of you waist-high and lift knees as fast as you can, bringing knees to palms. Keep hands at waist-level, don't let them drift downward.

2. Squat Jumps - Holding a soccer ball above your head, jump up then lower into a squat, still holding ball above your head. Maintain good form, completing jumps as quickly as possible. Be sure your knees don't extend over toes on the landing, this will protect those knee joints! 
Variation: bring the ball down to waist-height in front of you during the squat, or side-ways in front to work obliques.

3. Fast Feet: Standing with feet slightly wider than hip width apart, run in place as fast you can, swinging both arms together forward and back. Turn direction every 10 seconds without stopping your feet. 

4. Ball Hops: Place ball on floor, positioning yourself to one side. With feet together, hop side to side OVER the ball, being extra careful not to land ON the ball. (I've done this, not fun!) Hop as quickly as possible. Variation: hop forward and back on the repeat.

5. Burpees: Everybody's favorite! Begin in standing position, hop down into push-up position by extending legs behind you as you lower. Hop legs forward and jump up as high as you can, reaching arms straight up. This completes one rep. Variation: On the repeat, try a Mountain Climber. Begin in lowered burpee position (hands on floor, legs extended behind you) and bring legs in toward hands one at a time quickly, then extend behind you quickly, like you're climbing a mountain).

This is a fast but effective way to torch calories while improving athletic skills like quickness off the ball and overall stamina. Do these as recommended and you will blast inches too!