Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

Challenge: Day 17

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Today was a different kind of challenge because I was cooking for family and wanted to make a meal they’d all like, but would also fit within my Challenge. Well, for the most part fit the Challenge.

The menu:

Stuffed Mushrooms
Chicken Provencal
Shrimp with Spinach and Mushrooms
Stir-Steamed Vegetables
Pasta with just a drizzle of olive oil
Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

The stuffed mushrooms weren’t really on the Challenge, because they were made with full fat cheese, but I figure they didn’t have that much filling, so two small ones would be sort of OK. Next time I make them I will try a reduced fat cream cheese and I think add some sun dried tomatoes for color.

Stuffed Mushrooms

They’re easy to make. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Clean 12 large crimini mushrooms. Simply pop the stems out of the caps and trim and discard the cut end. Chop the stems finely, then saute in a little olive oil with some fresh garlic. Cook until the excess liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool. Blend about 4 ounces of cream cheese (preferably light), about 2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, about 1/4 teaspoon each paprika, black pepper, and onion powder. When the mushroom and garlic mixture has cooled, mix this in to the cheese mixture. Make a little well in the mushroom cap, scooping out the soft, fleshy center. Just barely scrape – you want to maintain the integrity of the mushroom cap. Evenly divide the cheese mixture into the mushroom caps and gently press down to fill the cap and even out the top. Bake about 20 minutes, remove from oven, and top with just a touch more Parmesan cheese. Increase heat to broil, then return the mushrooms to the oven for a few minutes just to brown the tops a bit. Be careful – these can quickly go from perfect to burnt!

Chicken Provencal

For the Chicken Provencal, marinate a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a little white wine, olive oil, and herbs de Provence. Marinate at least a few hours or best if overnight. You will want to slice each breast into two or three thinner pieces before marinating. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, heat a heavy bottomed skillet on high and pour in no more than 1 tablespoon of avocado oil. When the pan is hot, remove the chicken from the marinade and add one piece at a time to the skillet. Reserve the marinade. Brown the chicken a little on each side. Cook a few minutes on medium-high heat, then add about 1 cup of white wine and cook until it’s reduced by about half, then top with chopped fresh tomatoes – I like to use heirloom cherry tomatoes because they’re delicious and easy to work with. Use about 1 cup of the cut tomatoes per breast of chicken. Then add the marinade to the pan, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the chicken is tender and fully cooked (about 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick you’ve cut your chicken). Season to taste with salt and pepper. We enjoyed this with a little pasta, but it would be equally good with rice, or just on its own.

Shrimp with Heirloom Red Spinach and Crimini Mushrooms

The Shrimp with Spinach and Mushrooms could hardly be any easier. Saute sliced mushrooms until they just begin to soften, then add fresh spinach. Cover and allow to steam until the spinach begins to wilt. Clean and devein the shrimp, saute in a non-stick pan, turning each shrimp just once. Add the cooked spinach and mushrooms to the pan, give a gentle stir to combine well. Cover and allow to cook on low for a few minutes, careful to not overcook the shrimp (they’ll get tough). Season to taste with salt and pepper. I have a feeling that bacon would add great flavor to this, but … not so great for the Challenge!

Stir-Steamed Veggies - asparagus, broccolette, carrots, green beans

The Stir-Steamed Vegetables … see here for the method.

The cookies … clearly are not on the Challenge, but it’s Sunday Dinner with Family, so …

Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a recipe I have been working on and it’s showing great promise.

I got a quick ride in this morning, and was hoping that I had had time for more, but then it got super windy in the afternoon, so I was thankful that I was not out in that.

Hope you had a great weekend!

Challenge Days 13, 14, 15

Friday, February 20th, 2015

So, I’m still following the guidelines pretty closely, but I haven’t been tracking everything – just too busy!

Here’s a summary:

  • Lots of veggies
  • Not enough fruit
  • Just about right on protein
  • Too much work
  • Still going over a little on the carbs and nuts, but they’re healthy carb & nut choices and the “overage” is moderate, so … I’m OK with that for now.

Dinner tonight will be Mahi Mahi poached in green tea, served with steamed greens and mushrooms. I’ll try to get some photos posted.

Gotta’ run. Have a great night!

Challenge: Day 12 Dinner

Monday, February 16th, 2015

As promised, here is the recipe from last night’s dinner.

Spicy Teriyaki Chicken with Vegetables

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon (or more) garlic chile paste
1 cup fresh pineapple, diced
4 cups mixed fresh vegetables

Rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts. Slice each breast in half, so that you have 4 thin pieces. In a glass dish large enough to hold the chicken, combine the teriyaki sauce and garlic chile paste. Add the chicken and toss to evenly coat. Cover and marinate at least a few hours, but overnight is better.

To cook the chicken, you could cook it in the oven, grill it, or simply cook it in a skillet. I used a non-stick skillet.

On medium-high heat, sear the chicken on both sides. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes, turning the chicken if necessary. Reduce heat to low, pour the marinade over the chicken, then add the diced pineapple. Stir gently to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook about 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is thoroughly cooked (internal temperature 165-degrees Fahrenheit).

While the chicken is cooking, prepare your vegetables. I used asparagus, broccolette, carrots, crimini mushrooms, and green beans. Clean, trim, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Drain well, but make sure they’re a little moist still. Heat a large non-stick wok. Add your vegetables one at a time, starting with whichever vegetable will take the longest to cook (I started with the carrots).

To “stir-steam” you can use just a tiny bit of oil if needed, but don’t use much more than a quick spritz of a cooking spray, otherwise you’re stir-frying.

"Stir-Steamed" Asparagus, Broccolette, Carrots, Crimini Mushrooms, and Green Beans

Stir or “toss” the vegetables frequently to avoid burning them, then cover for a few minutes to allow to steam. I like my vegetables very crisp, with just a hint of tender, so I covered very briefly.

While the vegetables are steaming, remove the chicken from the heat and set aside, covered to keep warm. Increase the heat on the remaining pineapple and sauce; allow it to reduce to thicken.

Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Portion your vegetables into a serving bowl, top with your portion of chicken, spoon about 1/4 cup of pineapple over top. Serve piping hot! This would be great with a garnish of cashews, but I had already eaten my nut allotment for the day.

Dinner is served!

This made enough for 1 big dinner (1 cup chicken, 2 cups veggies) and 2 smaller lunches (1 cup chicken, 1 cup veggies).

Yesterday on my challenge, I figured that my dinner could be as much as 1 cup protein, 3 cups vegetables, 2 cups fruit. I could still eat more cheese or healthy fats, if I wanted. I did have a little extra carbs (about 2 cups total), but I did ride about 56 miles, so that made sense.

Totals for the day:

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

So, I’m still not getting the portions quite right, and I just realized the nuts should be teaspoons, not tablespoons, but … oh, well. There are also things that I have no idea how to categorize, such as the cup of miso broth I had after my ride yesterday. I just have to remind myself … this is my version and I’m just doing this for fun and to get back on track because I feel like I’ve gotten a bit off track food-wise in the past few months.

That said, I’ve got a busy day ahead of me and it’s time to get out on a ride because it is just too gorgeous outside to not ride!

Challenge: Days 9 & 10

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Day  9 –  I didn’t really track things so well. I was just too busy. That said, I stuck to the Challenge pretty well. I made a beautiful Heirloom Red Spinach Salad and added the leftover beef, a few mushrooms, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was a perfect lunch.

Day 10 – I have been counting tomatoes as vegetables, but really should be counting them as fruit, so I’m switching over starting today.

Tonight for dinner I sauteed a little bit of thinly sliced fresh fennel in a non-stick pan. Then I lightly seared a piece of beautiful wild-caught cod filet. I put the fennel back in the pan, then the fish, and then topped it with about a cup of the Tomato Fennel Sauce  I made earlier in the week. Cover, reduce to low, and gently simmer until it’s thoroughly warmed through and the fish is nice and flaky. It was really good! Light, healthy, and delicious. I served it with 1/2 cup whole grain rice blend. So, that’s protein, carbs, veggies and fruit!

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

Something close to that. I’m not quite getting this right according to the 21-Day Fix, but … I’m not really following that. I’m just using that a a loose guideline.

Today was a spectacular weather day. I wish I could have been out on my bike riding. I’m conflicted. I really want beautiful weather so I can ride, but we really desperately need rain.

Challenge: Day 8

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

I’ll have to do this later today, but here’s Day 8 Dinner …

Remember that piece of beef I was marinating? Here it is!

Coffee-Marinated Steak with Heirloom Red Spinach and Crimini Mushrooms

I marinated a small piece of beef in a little coffee, balsamic vinegar, and Herbs de Provence. It had very nice flavor.

The Red Heirloom Spinach was interesting. I’m trying it in a salad today for lunch, with a little of the leftover beef, some fresh mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and a light espresso-balsamic vinaigrette.

Totals for the day:

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

Must run! Work, work, work!

Challenge: Day 7

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Today was going along fine until about noon, then I suddenly felt funky sick. I had a little ginger candy and that worked like a miracle and I feel OK now. I’m thinking maybe I had too much coffee and not enough food this morning. I started drinking lots of water and nibbled on my food as tolerated.

I made a light, healthy dinner tonight with the leftover salmon from last night.

Spicy Teriyaki Salmon with Steamed Veggies

Totals for the day:

* 3 cups vegetables
* 1 cup fruit
* 2 3/4 cups protein
* 1 1/2 cups carbs
* 2 T healthy cheese (“light”)
* 1 1/2 T dressing (Teriyaki sauce & Sriracha)
* 2 tablespoons nuts

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 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.