Archive for February, 2015

Challenge: Day 6

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Today was pretty good, but I was craving carbs, as you can easily see below. It was the sweet potato I had with salmon and vegetables for dinner tonight that put me over, but it was well worth it.

Totals for the day:

* 1 cup vegetables
* 1/2 cup fruit
* 1 cup protein
* 3 1/4 cups carbs
* 2 T healthy cheese (“light”)
* 3 tablespoons healthy oil
* 3 tablespoons nuts

I had about 1 1/2 cups of a ginger miso broth, but I’m not sure where to include this. It was only about 45 calories, so not a big deal in terms of calories.

After dinner, I do like to have a bit of sweet, and I had a few apples that were just a little past eating prime, but perfect for cooking. On this rainy evening, this warm comforting dessert was just right.

Apples Sauteed with Honey and Pure Maple Syrup, served with Non-Fat Greek Yogurt

Apples with Honey & Pure Maple Syrup

2 large green apples, such as Pippins
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Peel, core, and slice apples into about 1/4-inch thick pieces.

Heat honey and maple syrup over medium high in a heavy bottomed non-stick pan. Watch carefully as it could scorch easily.

When the honey and syrup are bubbling, add the apples and stir to coat. Sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook about 15 to 20 minutes until the apples soften. Uncover, increase heat to medium high and cook to thicken the pan juices to make a nice, caramely sauce.

Serve warm, garnished with plain non-fat Greek yogurt for a warm and satisfying, yet healthy, dessert.

Makes 2 servings – this will be a lovely and heart-healthy Valentines’ Day dessert for your sweetheart.

I think next time I make this I will add some lemon zest, and maybe a little lemon juice along with the apples.

Fresh Tomato & Fennel Sauce

Monday, February 9th, 2015

I am planning to use this with chicken to make a cacciatore-like dish.

Fresh Tomato & Fennel Sauce

1 medium bulb of fresh fennel
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, slightly crushed
8 to 10 fresh Roma tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
1/8 teaspoon red chile flakes
4 to 6 small mushrooms, or stems from about 18 mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste

You'll end up with about 4 cups of tomatoes.

In a large, good quality non-stick saute pan, cook the fennel over medium-high heat. Allow to brown slightly, and cook until a bit softened. Add the tomatoes, herbs, and chile flakes. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the tomatoes begin to cook down a bit. Give a good stir.

Add the tomatoes, herbs, chile flakes, and cover. Cook on medium-low.

The Roma tomatoes produced more liquid that I anticipated, so I was looking for something to thicken the sauce a bit without having to cook it down too much. I had cleaned some some mushrooms for another use, and thought I’d try pureeing the stems. That way my roasted mushrooms could be just caps (more attractive) and I wouldn’t waste the stems.

Hmm ... that's a lot of liquid.

Clean and trim the mushrooms (or stems). Place in a blender or food processor and pulse to chop them a bit. Ladle about 1/2 to one cup of the the cooked sauce into the bowl of the blender and process mixture until smooth. Add to the sauce, stir, and cook a few more minutes.

The finished sauce. Perhaps not the prettiest, but it will be wonderful with grilled chicken.

This makes a total of about 2 cups of sauce.

For my Challenge, I will count this as a vegetable.


Challenge: Day 5

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Challenge: Day 5 started out well with oatmeal, green tea, and loads of errands to keep me busy. Out and about, I really wanted myself to a latte, which has become a very rare treat for me since I gifted my fully automatic espresso maker. The dilemma, in terms of this Challenge … how do I categorize a latte? I decided to consider it a serving of protein. It’s milk-based, after all, right? That seemed reasonable.

Breakfast, lunch, and a snacks were all strictly within my pre-designated portions. I had a great lunch, using the last of the leftover balsamic chicken and steamed vegetables.

Dinner, however, was a different story. I went to a foodie dinner party, so there were lots of delicious options that perhaps didn’t quite fit the spirit of my Challenge. However, how this Challenge helped me last night was that I was very mindful of my “cheats.” I paid special attention to the fact that they were treats, and I fully enjoyed responsible portions.


We are having a lovely and much needed rain storm today in Northern California, so I am taking advantage of this time to do a little cooking and prep for the week. I’ve got vegetables washed and ready to cook. I made a Fresh Tomato Fennel Sauce that I’ll use later in the week with some chicken for a Chicken Cacciatore-like dish. I will count this sauce as a vegetable.

Fresh Fennel and Roma Tomatoes ... recipe to be posted soon

I’ve also got a lovely piece of salmon ready that I’ll cook for dinner tonight, and a small piece of beef that I’m going to marinate with something (balsamic? coffee? mustard? rosemary?) and cook tomorrow night.

Now it’s time for a gym workout. I’ll post the Fresh Tomato and Fennel Sauce recipe later.

Challenge: Day 4

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

Friday started with a nice 30-minute workout on the trainer.

For lunch, I reheated the mushrooms and greens I cooked Thursday night with some of the leftover balsamic chicken. It was perfect! I ate more at lunch and that was helpful – I wasn’t so hungry by the time I got home. Dinner was easy – I finished the leftover fish and veggies from Thursday. I had two cheats – red wine and one homemade cookie. What can I say … long week!

I was hungry again a few hours after dinner, so I grabbed a couple of whole grain crackers with a touch of a peanut butter flax seed spread. That hit the spot with a nice big cup of herbal tea.

I wasn’t as diligent about keeping track of my totals yesterday, but I think it was about:
* 4 1/4 cups vegetables
* 1 cup fruit
* 3 cups protein
* 1 7/8 cups carbs
* 1/8 cup healthy cheese (“light”)
* 2 teaspoons healthy oil
* 1 tablespoon nuts
* 2 teaspoons nut/seed butter

I don’t want to get obsessive about counting servings, calories, etc., but this is a good exercise in re-learning good portion control. I’m going to go over in some categories and come in under in others. As long as it’s in moderation, I’m OK with that.

This Challenge is also making me more aware of my food choices and making me think about what I’m eating. It will be interesting to see if I can keep track for 3 weeks with my schedule.

It’s also got me thinking back to a nutrition class I took at UC Davis. I’m wondering if this “diet” really gives all the nutrition needed. Clearly, I do not have all of the information, so in no way am I “dissing” the 21-Day Fix. I’m just taking one idea of it that intrigues me and playing with that. I’m lucky in that I tend to have healthy food preferences (whole grains vs. processed, love veggies and fruits, prefer lean protein to heavy, fatty meat, and so on), but I think if someone made less healthy choices (white rice, white bread, ground beef, and so on) for their carbohydrates and proteins, then this might not be such a healthy way to go. I don’t know … just my opinion and now I’m starting to ramble, so that must mean it’s time to get to the gym and get going on a productive day.

It is deceptively beautiful looking out the front window this morning. The sun is shining on the front of the house, but the clouds in the back are dark and promising some much, much needed rain. Alas, it will be a trip to the gym and not a ride this morning.

Challenge: Day 3

Friday, February 6th, 2015

I started my day with 30-minutes on the cycling trainer. My schedule today at work was packed and I had errands to run after work, so no gym visit tonight. By the time I got home, I was super hungry, even after a nice sample of some Naked juice at Costco. It was a mango-carrot blend and it was goooood.

Today was about snacking, really. I had frequent small snacks, just due to my schedule. My totals for the day:

* 2 1/4 cups vegetables
* 2 cups fruit
* 2 1/2 cups protein
* 1 1/4 cup carbs
* almost 1/4 cup healthy cheese and fats
* 1 tablespoons dressing (honey)
* 3 tablespoons nuts

I am just right on some categories, a little low on others, and over only on nuts. That’s OK as far as I am concerned, because it’s all going to pretty much balance out in the end. Once I feel like I have no flexibility to have a little +/- room, then it’s over. I’ll be eating just to meet the rules and not for enjoyment. I like food. I like good, healthy food. If I feel too restricted, it takes that pleasure away and then I feel deprived. That does not work for me.

For dinner tonight, I had some beautiful wild cod with fresh fennel, tomatoes, herbs de Provence, and toasted whole wheat bread cubes.

Wild Cod with Tomatoes and Fresh Fennel

5 ounces (by weight) of fresh wild cod, cubed (about 1 cup of cubes)
1/2 cup of diced fresh fennel (about 1/4 of a medium sized bulb)
1/2 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
pinch or two of herbs de Provence
1 teaspoon avocado or olive oil
slice of whole wheat bread, cubed (about 3/4 cup of bread cubes)
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare all of your ingredients. Heat a good non-stick pan to medium-high and add diced fennel. Saute a few minutes just to get a little color on it. Add the fish cubes and cook the fish a bit on all sides. You don’t really have to cube the fish, you could leave it whole. I just cubed it to see how much it would take to make it a cup, because that’s how things are measured on this Challenge.

Cook the fennel and cod a few minutes until the fennel softens a bit and the fish begins to cook through.

Add the tomatoes and herbs, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook on low for about 20 minutes.

The fish will be very flaky. The fennel and tomatoes will have softened and produced a nice broth.

While the fish is cooking, prepare your bread cubes. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan until it just starts to shimmer. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat with the oil. They’re probably not going to coat very evenly because there’s not much oil, but that’s fine. You’ll want them to be very light oiled and toasted.

To assemble, first place the toasted bread cubes in the bottom of your bowl.

Ladle the fish and vegetables over the bread cubes, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Admittedly not the most attractive meal I have made, but it was quite good!

Planning ahead is going to be critical for me to be successful in this Challenge, so I also started cooking tomorrow’s lunch tonight. I’ll have these cooked with hearty greens with some of the leftover chicken from last night.

Fresh crimini mushrooms to be cooked with chard, spinach, and kale greens for tomorrow's lunch.

Another busy day is ahead for tomorrow, so now it’s time for some nice warm peppermint tea with honey to help me sleep.

Challenge: Day 2

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Today’s Challenge was, shall we say, a bit more challenging?

I was hungry today. I was super hungry when I got home from work. My hope was to get to the gym in time for the spin class, but thanks to commute traffic and leaving work late, I missed the class by about 10 minutes. Instead, I tried 4 different aerobic machines at the gym tonight, did one easy set on the lateral pull down, and some stretching.

Today’s Menu

Breakfast (8am): 1 package TJ’s Steel Cut Oats & Quinoa
Snack (10:30am) : 1 cup carrots
Lunch (about noon): 1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup frozen cherries, 2 tablespoons chopped pecans, 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
Snack (about 3pm): 1/2 cup chicken salad (made with non-fat Greek yogurt) & 1 cup cherry tomatoes (counting as fruit today)
Post-work out while cooking snack (about 8pm): 1 Baby Bel light cheese
Dinner (about 8:30pm): 1 cup skinless chicken breast (marinated in a white balsamic vinaigrette) and a drizzle of balsamic glaze, 2 cups steamed veggies (asparagus & green beans)
Daily cheat (with dinner): 1 glass red wine

So I figure this is about
* 3 cups vegetables
* 1 1/2 cups fruit
* 2 1/2 cups protein
* 1 cup carbs
* 1/8 cup healthy cheese (“light”)
* 2 tablespoons dressing
* 2 tablespoons nuts

I’m now enjoying a cup of mint tea with just a touch of honey after dinner. This satisfies my post-dinner sweet tooth.

I now feel completely satisfied food-wise – even after a 90-minute workout. I admit it was a light workout, I didn’t push too much, but I worked out.

Steamed Asparagus & Green Beans (2 cups)

Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast Marinated in a White Balsamic Vinaigrette

Early this morning I marinated 2 large chicken breasts in about 2 tablespoons of a prepared White Balsamic Vinaigrette. I cut each breast onto 2-3 smaller pieces (for quicker cooking). These two cooked breasts worked out to be about 3 cups of chicken chunks. This is perfect, because leftovers will be critical in my being able to keep up with food prep for this Challenge. I don’t like processed foods, so I’ll want to cook pretty much everything from scratch. That will be one of my CyclingFoodie twists on this Challenge.

To prepare the chicken – I simply cooked the pieces of chicken breast in the marinade in a non-stick pan for about 25 minutes. First on high heat, brown both side of the chicken. Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook about 20 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and tender. If you find there is a lot of liquid in the pan, you can reduce it a bit to make a little sauce. If you want to get fancy, you could deglaze the pan with a splash or two of white wine and make a very light sauce by reducing that. That would be a nice touch … maybe I’ll try that next time. I added a touch of balsamic glaze while I was reducing the residual liquid in the pan. That added a nice depth of flavor.

You can eat light and healthy, and still have lots of great flavor. I am lucky – I never really liked rich, heavy, creamy sauces. However, I do like flavorful and well-seasoned food.

While the chicken was cooking, I cleaned, trimmed, and lightly steamed my vegetables.

To serve, place the hot vegetables in a nice bowl, top with 1 cup of the chopped chicken, and drizzle with a bit of balsamic glaze. Season with a bit of salt and pepper, if desired.


Welcome to My 21-Day Challenge

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

My 21 Day Challenge

I was flipping around on TV channels the other night and I came across an infomercial on the “21 Day Fix“. It said you could lose 21 pounds in 21 days. Now, I don’t have 21 pounds to lose, but I was intrigued. This plan looked like a pretty healthy balance of basic food groups. The deal is, the eating plan has portioning containers so you can measure out your foods in the designated containers. Hmm … seems healthy and easy … might be worth a try.

So, I did a little online research. I came across a website (Unlock Weight Loss) that had a review of the system. I found some basic details about the program. According to this website, based on your current weight, you determine how many servings of each food group you can have daily. There are also disks included in the program that have a variety of 30-minute workouts.

Important to note – the containers measure by fluid ounces, not by weight.

The food groups include (serving size):

  • Vegetables (8 ounces)
  • Fruits (8 ounces)
  • Proteins (6 ounces)
  • Carbohydrates (5.3 ounces)
  • Healthy fats & cheeses (2.7 ounces)
  • Seeds & dressings (2 ounces)
  • Oils, nut butters, seed butters (teaspoons)

Based on my weight, the plan for me is to have this number of servings of each item in one day:

  • 3 Vegetables
  • 2 Fruits
  • 4 Proteins (translates to 3 cups)
  • 2 Carbohydrates (translates to about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 Healthy fats & cheeses
  • 1 Seeds & dressings
  • 2 Oils, nut butters, seed butters

So, I thought I’d give it a try, but with my own cyclingfoodie twist.

Day 1:  02/03/2015

1 package organic instant oatmeal (1 carb)

1 cup non-fat Greek yogurt, plain (1 protein)
1/4 cup frozen organic blueberries (1/4 fruit)
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts (1 nuts)
1 teaspoon real maple syrup (1/6 dressing)

Afternoon Snack
1/2 cup Chicken Salad made with non-fat Greek Yogurt (1/2 protein)

1 piece Mahi Mahi tuna (about 6 ounces) (1 protein)
1 cup Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes (1 vegetable*)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, slightly crushed (1/4 seeds)
1 1/2 cups fresh vegetables (Asparagus, Green Beans, Crimini Mushrooms) (1 1/2 vegetable)
1 cup fresh pineapple chunks (1 fruit)

* Although, technically, tomatoes are a fruit!

My “cheat” for the day was one glass of red wine with dinner.

The fish was super easy to prepare. Simply season the fish with a little of your favorite lemon pepper seasoning. Heat a non-stick pan to medium-high heat. Add the fish and brown lightly on one side, then turn and lightly brown the other side. Let the fish cook a minute or so.  While the fish is cooking, cut your cherry tomatoes in half and add to the pan. Sprinkle with the crushed fennel seeds. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook about 10 minutes, until the fish is tender and flaky.

Mahi Mahi Tuna with Fresh Cherry Tomatoes & Fennel Seeds

The tomatoes will cook down a bit and soften. Place the fish in a serving bowl and ladle the tomatoes and their juices over top of the fish.

Mahi Mahi Tuna with Fresh Cherry Tomatoes & Fennel Seeds, cooked & ready to serve.

This would be great with some fresh thyme, or other fresh herbs, but (gasp!) I was out of fresh herbs. Enjoy with a side of your favorite veggies …

Fresh Asparagus, Green Beans, & Crimini Mushrooms

So my total in terms of servings for the day:

  • 2 1/2 Vegetables
  •  1 1/4 Fruits
  • 2 1/2 Proteins
  • 1 Carbohydrates
  • 0 Healthy fats & cheeses
  • about 1/2 serving Seeds & dressings
  • 2 T Oils, nut butters, seed butters

As you can see, I didn’t eat everything I was “allowed.” It was a low activity day for me, so this felt just about right.

So it looks like if I follow this plan, I should lose about about 5 pounds in 3 weeks. That’s just from calorie deficit, not factoring in exercise.I’m having to take it easy for a few days (doctor’s orders), but will be back to exercising in a few days. I’m sure on days I am exercising that I’ll have no problem eating the full servings! But for today, I was quite satisfied.

I won’t bore you with a complete diary of every day’s intake, but I’ll post a few recipes and follow-up now and then.

Davis Ride … Follow-Up

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

So, my friend and I loaded up a truck with our bikes and gear and drove all the way to Davis. It was a bit breezy in Sacramento when we left, but … by the time we got to Davis the wind was really blowing.

I unloaded by bike, changed shoes, started gearing up to take on this wind … my friend, on the other hand, didn’t even want to take her bike out of the truck. So, we packed everything back up and headed back to Sacramento for a ride on the American River Trail.


We got about 40 miles in on the ART.