Got Your Grill On? Make This Chicken!

Wowee wow. We made this Cooking Light recipe tonight and it was FABU. I made up the marinade in the a.m. and let the thighs sit in it all day - probably about 9 hours. I didn't make the salad - my peeps don't like cukes. Instead, I just oiled, salted & peppered some fresh asparagus and we threw it on the grill, too. Charcoal grilling, like we do, is the best for this, but you'll like it grilled any which way, I'm sure - even on your indoor cast-iron grill pan if you've got to do that!

Mighty mighty muffins

Coffee flour makes these dark, but not coffee-like at all!

Coffee flour makes these dark, but not coffee-like at all!

Some people live for the weekend, I'm beginning to live for Wednesday. It's the only day of the week that my daughter doesn't have a soccer-related activity after school/in the evening and she gets out early from school. I have to hang all afternoon to be around if she's chilling with friends and because she meets her Mandarin tutor late afternoon, so I can catch up on stuff around the house, and most importantly, I have some time to tinker in the kitchen. You KNOW I love me some tinker-time.

I've been talking on my Facebook page (you can follow me here and get all my public posts) about how I want to do more experimenting with gluten-free baking. I used to be a mad, mad baker when I was eating gluten. I was in pain, but man, do I love baked goods. Breads, cookies, cakes, pies . . . . really, I haven't met a baked good I don't like. It's so hard to find stuff that's worth the calories that's GF, frankly. But more and more people are getting hip to this and so there are better flour alternatives by the week, more recipes to make and riff off of, etc. 

I'm also on a not-wasting-food kick. I had some very ripe bananas on the counter and some walnut pieces that have been around for a while - didn't want them to go rancid. Banana-bread something-or-other was clearly what needed to happen. Couple that with my recent coffee flour acquisition, and some extra-fine almond flour from Bob's Red Mill (NOT almond meal, that's coarser, this is actually a flour-like texture!) and . . . well, I wanted to bake today.

I riffed off this recipe. The fun thing about muffins and quick breads is that you can fool around with ingredients a little, and not worry about your goods not rising, or falling. 

Changes I made (is it possible for me to make a recipe as written? probably not.):

  • I subbed 1/4 c. coffee flour for the coconut flour - they're both pretty dense and dry
  • Because I didn't have tapioca flour, I subbed 1/2 c. King Arthur GF Baking Mix - which has a blend of flours and also some xanthan gum and leaveners.
  • I left out the cream of tartar altogether
  • I subbed avocado oil for the coconut oil
  • I subbed raisins for chopped dates

These bake up dark brown - they look chocolatey, but they sure don't taste it - they are tender and banana-y, with some nice texture and crunch from the add-ins. Interestingly, coffee flour does not have a coffee-like flavor at all - it has a pleasant sweet, nutty taste. Perfect in this muffin recipe. You could make these without the add-ins, for sure. You could change 'em up depending on your preferences. Chocolate chips would NOT be a bad option. Just putting that out there. I'm trying to cut added sugars right now to help get rid of what I think's an arthritis flare, but I am not opposed to a lil' added sugar in life.

These are GF & DF - great with a slab of butter on 'em, or try this date paste. It's dreamy stuff to spread on bread or apple slices, dollop on your oatmeal, whatevah - and you can also use it as a sweetener sub in other baking that you do, too!

FYI - muffins and quick breads freeze like a DREAM. So let these cool thoroughly, throw 'em in a freezer bag and voila! Fresh muffins on demand. WHAT could be better than that?

Stuck Inside Today? Whip Up Some Healthy . . . .

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I don't know about the weather where you are, but in Boston, it's disgusting. Rainy/sleety/snowy and cold. And so NOT spring-like. Comfort-food season lingers here, and yet, true spring weather is just around the corner . . . as is the time where we'll go from heating to air conditioning in the span of a week. That is to say, keep your eyes on the more scantily-clad prize and focus your comfort food cooking on lightweight, healthful favorites like this pureed broccoli soup from Eating Well magazine.

I make this as-written, except that I omit heavy cream (you could add coconut milk or soaked raw cashews for creaminess if you wanted to keep this vegan/dairy-free), add a ton of garlic and I like to use my own homemade chicken broth, if possible. More nutrition, more anti-viral effects, richer, more delicious taste. Today, I had on hand a package of organic shiitake mushrooms which I threw in too. Mushrooms will add a rich, earthy undertone to this. Sorta meaty. And shiitakes have a zillion health benefits too. Win-win.

Make this, eat it all week. Even if you use boxed/canned broth? Still TOTALLY worth your time. So much veggie goodness in one bowl. Super low-cal. Will increase your feelings of fullness if you have a cup of this before/along with a meal. And won't bulk you up for when the sun FINALLY COMES OUT.

Riff Off This

I wanted something healthful, and I've been trying to clean out the cupboards lately. I found this delicious looking recipe in a Buzzfeed email re make-ahead lunches, and decided to riff off of it - figured that it'd be great leftover for lunches the next couple of days. 

kale rice salad.jpg

I used a bunch of lacinato kale (removed the thick stem and sliced it thinly), about 1 c. of shredded carrots I had leftover, used about 1/4 c. of raisins and 1/4 c. of dried cranberries (pantry cleanout!), about 1/2 c. of salted pecans (chopped 'em roughly). I used pre-made curry powder and used that and salt on thinly sliced chicken breasts - did those up in the frying pan. Super quick. I made a quick dressing of the juice of a lemon, some raw honey, a little bit of good EVOO - massaged that into the kale. Instead of "Minute Rice," I cooked up some sprouted brown rice (it cooks in the same time as white rice, but is more nutrient-dense). Mix it all up. Adjust your seasonings. Eat it up!

Point is, this is a forgiving salad. You could make this up and eat it every day for lunch, and it'll be better leftover, for sure! Or do what I did, feed it to a select few (my kid'll never eat it) and enjoy the leftovers as a reward for your efforts.

Salad for days . . . .

You going to the grocery store today? You might want to grab the ingredients for this salad - Thai Carrot Salad With Curried Cashews. You can mix up the dressing and salad separately and the salad will keep for several days in the fridge. You can dress as you go - bring some to work, pull it out for dinner or lunch, you name it. Whip up an easy protein (fish, chicken, beef, tofu - if it's plain enough it'll ALL GO) and voila! A yummy meal. 

A couple notes - I used lacinato kale, AKA dinosaur kale, it's more tender. I also used pre-shredded carrots, and used 1/2 carrots and 1/2 Trader Joe's broccoli slaw, for variety. My red onion was nasty inside, so I chopped up a bunch of scallions and threw those in, and I used an ENTIRE bunch of cilantro - chopped that up and tossed that in. The more veg variation, the bettah!

In addition, for even EASIER prep, I used Trader Joe's Thai Lime & Chili cashews instead of making my own curried cashews. Point is, you can tweak this to your tastes and what you have on hand. What more can you ask for in a recipe?

Enjoy.

Thai Carrot Salad With Curried Cashews: Image from Minimalist Baker.com 

Thai Carrot Salad With Curried Cashews: Image from Minimalist Baker.com 

Making this for . . . like . . . the hundredth time in a few weeks!

How gorgeous are these bowls? My fam digs rice noodles or you could use  any kind of veggie noodle: zoodles or carrot or sweet potato noodles. How amazing would spiralized beets look here?? Colorful, full of veg & delicious!

How gorgeous are these bowls? My fam digs rice noodles or you could use  any kind of veggie noodle: zoodles or carrot or sweet potato noodles. How amazing would spiralized beets look here?? Colorful, full of veg & delicious!

Banh mi meatballs. And if you're lazy, you can make them as burgers. My family LOVES THIS RECIPE and Facebook followers who've made it are raving too. You might want to give it a try! Lil' tip to make it easier - pick yourself up a bag of shredded carrots. The shavings look marvelous but it's a lot more work. The shredded add gorgeous color and they're easy AF. You're welcome! 

Bringing back food blogging?!

So those of you who follow my Facebook page know that I often post re food. And lately, I've gotten SO MANY requests to start food blogging again. It's flattering! I love that I'm inspiring people to try new things. It's such an honor and it's definitely part of what I want to be doing. 

But. I stopped food blogging for a few reasons. 

  1. It was isolating. I was alone in my kitchen (hey? here I am again?!) creating content and although I knew there were lots of peeps reading it, I didn't get to interact like I like to. I'm a social animal.
  2. It's a lot of work. Keeping track of all the modifications to recipes, typing them up, writing witty copy to go along w/the content, trying to take a decent photo . . . All while your family is waiting, for, well, frickin' meals, is tough. And it sucks some of the joy out of it all, to be honest.
  3. I wasn't creating radical change in anyone's life. What can I say? I wanted to really help people, women in particular, change their lives for the better. Sure, the recipes were helping people eat better and have more variety in their diets, but . . . .

So, I formally ramped up the coaching biz side of things and that's been EXACTLY what I was looking for. Flexibility to mom hard while doing something that's rewarding for me, and which helps women feel better about themselves. I get to problem-solve. I get to motivate. I get to nag people!

Here's my compromise. I'll start posting the food stuff here - mostly a log of things I've been trying and loving with a few notes on tweaks I may have made - so if you're not on Facebook, or are trying to be on it less, you'll get notified of new posts. The stuff will also all be here on the blog, so you can scroll through and find things more easily, hopefully. 'Cause food posts won't be interspersed with cute baby pics of my daughter (or my dog) or political rants or updates on my latest workout exploits.

Lemme know what you think! Comment! Ask questions! I can never get enough interaction. 

Reimagining the 100-Calorie Pack

One of the very fun things about being a former food blogger and current fitness and lifestyle coach is that I get offered the opportunity to meld my two loves, food & fitness, all the time. Recently, I was contacted and offered an advance copy of The Perfect Portion Cookbook, by Anson Williams (yes, you recognize that name, “Potsie” from Happy Days!?), Bob Warden and Mona Dolgov. It arrived the other day, and now that I’ve had time to look it over, I wanted to let you know about it.

This lovely paperback has great illustrations and you can actually OPEN IT to lie flat on your counter (user-friendly cookbooks are always appreciated by this cook). The book has 150 family-friendly, comfort-food-y recipes like French toast, lemon bars, chili and lasagna, but they’ve swapped in better-for-you ingredients that bulk up the portions, increase things like fiber so they’re more filling and don’t sacrifice taste or flavor.

So what’s the 100-calorie thing about? You know I think calorie counting can be vital to weight loss and maintenance success, right? Apparently, Anson Williams does too and was inspired to write this cookbook after seeing all those “100-calorie packs” at the supermarket. So often, those are filled with nutrient-free foods that don’t even taste good – the fats are removed, sugars are added and there’s really nothing satisfying or nutritionally redeeming about them. Williams set out to write a cookbook where all the real-food recipes are divisible by 100-calorie portions – genius. So you can eat what you love in 100-, 200-, 300- or 400-calorie portions – each recipe spells it out for you.

The recipes look terrific, and many of them contain interesting tips – some things even this kitchen pro hadn’t thought of: For instance, when making chicken salad, their recipe uses all breast meat, to save on fat and calories. But to give the salad the mouth feel of more traditional deli chicken salad, they suggest you chop half of the breast meat and pull the other half, thus recreating the texture of meat from a whole chicken. Love this idea!

There are recipes for entertaining (sweet & sour meatballs, pork potsticksers, gauc-stuffed cherry tomatoes, anyone?) that’d be so great if you’re counting your calories but hosting or attending a party – I always tell clients to bring something to the party that they know they can eat . . . these apps are not “weird diet food” and will appeal to everyone – and you can gauge how much to enjoy, based on your calorie budget for the day. A win-win! Same goes for the desserts. These are mainstream, crowd-pleasing favs: Lemon bars, chocolate chip cookies, brownie bites, cheesecake minis . . . Good to have on hand if you need a “little something,” or to wheel out for guests and/or your family while sticking to your goals.

Criticisms of the book? They’re few. I’d like to have full nutritional information for each recipe (you know, protein, fiber, fat) instead of just the 100-calorie portion information. And some of the 100-calorie portions are far-fetched. Honestly? Who will eat a mere 1/3 grilled cheese sandwich or 1/2 chicken thigh?

Notwithstanding that tiny critique, the photos are great, the recipes are solid, and this would make a super addition to your cookbook shelf. Give it a go and see if you can cook up some goodies your ENTIRE FAMILY can eat for a change! The book will be published on February 23rd, and you can pre-order it on Amazon if you're ready.

Check these guys out on Facebook, and on Twitter and Instagram (@100calportions) too! More information on The Perfect Portion site.

 

*NB I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review, but the opinions I express in this review are entirely my own. 

Protein In a Nutshell (or is it a meatball?)

Those of you who've worked with me know I'm a freak about protein. It's a total game changer for the 40+ woman. Most women who come to me aren't eating a lot of protein and are confused by protein requirements. I've helped countless clients up their protein intake (whether it be vegetarian or animal sourced) and it's assisted them in their nutrition, weight loss and physique goals. You'd be surprised what a little tweak in what you eat can do for your body and your mind.

To help you understand protein better, I'm linking to a great article on Girls Gone Strong that talks about protein and suggested protein intake for women, and which includes some good ideas for meals and snacks. Even if you don't want to lift like a beast at the gym, you STILL NEED ADEQUATE PROTEIN.

Have a great weekend, gang!

xo

Sarah

Sarah's No BS Guide to Handling Halloween

Halloween is Saturday. Are you ready? What’s “ready” mean to you? I have seen a barrage of email from all the fitpros in my network on Halloween readiness. And so much of it infuriates me. I mean, one suggested that you start associating all “bad” food with negative thoughts, essentially to self-hypnotize yourself so you’ll stop eating “naughty” foods. Every time I see this dichotomy of foods set up, I want to scream. Please repeat after me. There are no bad foods. And let’s stop using words like “naughty” for foods that are delicious and satisfying. It’s OK to gain pleasure from food. You just need to figure out how to do that and have it jibe with your health and wellness goals. I do this ALL THE TIME with clients. And you know what? It works. Self-deprivation and shame = binging and gain.

Then there’s the Halloween candies you should “never” eat – they contain artificial colors and flavors and OMG, they can kill you. Like candy corn because of the dye, Dots because they’re chewy and will lead to tooth decay and/or Necco wafers because a roll has more sugar than you should be consuming in a day. People? Are you listening? A steady diet of these I do not encourage. But an evening spent enjoying a few of these treats? Especially if followed by a thorough brush-a-brush of the teeth before bed? OK by this trainer. I can’t think of a “never” food. There are “sometimes” foods and “more often” foods. No nevers.

What about the ubiquitous “how long does it take to burn off a fun-sized Snickers?” chart . . . with all your tiny favorites neatly charted out next to various forms of physical exertion. These reduce your fitness to the old “calories in, calories out” approach, which is, folks, just way too simplistic. It’s far more complicated than this – your metabolic rate, your body composition, your weight, the intensity of your exercise . . . all a factor in your calorie burn. What’s more, the quality of food you’re eating matters. So yeah, a Snickers isn’t as good a choice as an apple, but um, far be it from me to try to sell you on an apple if you’ve got a Snickers calling your name. Let’s be real.

It’s the truth. Halloween can put panic into the heart of any person trying to better their health. A giant bowl of candy sitting in your front hall? Who has the “willpower” to walk by that and head for the baby carrots? It’s not realistic.

I’m far from urging moderation. Moderation doesn’t work for a lot of people, including me. You need a plan. One that’s customized for you and your particular situation. Are you trying to lose weight and don’t want to undo your calorie deficit from the week leading up to the holiday? OK, you need to act and react differently than the woman who’s at her ideal weight. Are you a person who can just eat a couple treats and quit? Party on – choose your own treats, find a quiet moment, and savor them. Are you the opposite and once you open one delightfully crinkly wrapper you’re halfway down the rabbit hole . . . looking up in an hour to find you’ve eaten the equivalent of a couple (maybe more?) full-sized candy bars? (This is me.) Then you need to figure out whether you’re going to have anything at all outa that pumpkin-shaped bowl on Saturday night.

Here is what is NOT GOING TO WORK. Telling yourself, “I’m gonna be good.” “Sugar is poison.” “I’m going to have zero treats and be happy with my tossed green salad with vinegar and baked chicken breast.” Yeah, right. My best suggestion? If you’re at any risk of FOMO (fear of missing out), figure out an alternative by Thursday. What’re you going to do for yourself on Halloween so that you have something fun and delicious to look forward to? Maybe that’s Butterfingers. Maybe that’s fruit parfaits with some sort of whipped topping. Maybe that’s an uber-satisfying dinner that’ll fill you up with yummy goodness so you’re not white-knuckling it as you toss out candy for the next few hours. Maybe it’s leaving the house and shutting out the light. Whatever it is, chart it out. Write it down if you need to. Gather your supplies. Shore up your bunker. ‘Cause leaving it to chance? That’s for amateurs. And it never, ever works. You are awesome, but you are human.

I will remind you that there is nothing magic about Halloween candy. Candy is available 24/7, 365.  It always has the same number of calories, the same sugar content, often the same crap ingredients. Those don’t magically disappear if you’re sneaking treats from the bowl and eating them in the bathroom. And Halloween is not your only chance to procure the goods.

I urge you to think ahead to how you want to feel on Sunday and Monday. How would you like to look back at the weekend? Maybe you LOVE Halloween and you’re having a party. You decide to indulge and have a super time, that is awesome. Enjoy. It. All! Maybe you are trying to lose the last 10 lbs. and you really want to avoid the awful Monday morning dread that comes after eating stuff that’s incompatible with your goals – then girl, you need to figure out some alternatives. Stat. Maybe you want to be in the middle somewhere, enjoy a few treats, but not go nuts. Again. Make a plan for that. How much is OK? How will you signal to yourself it’s time to stop? Distraction and gum are powerful.

Me? I use a one-two-three punch of a delicious and healthful dinner I’ll look forward to, a special dessert (but that’s not candy – likely fruit with coconut whipped topping – something I rarely have), mint gum and distraction. I am that crazy woman who designs and orders her holiday cards at Halloween (there are often discounts to reward this lunacy). I love to hand out candy and see the kids’ costumes, but I really don’t care about Halloween. So I participate, but I also keep myself out of the candy bowl with a project. Because otherwise? BUTTERFINGERS.

But wait, there’s more. I have a TREAT for you. Want to know how I kill cravings? Halloween and every day of the year? My Craving Crusher Cocoa. I learned about this from my good buddies over at Metabolic Effect, and I’ve used it for years now: One to two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder (like Hershey’s baking cocoa, Cocoavia or raw cacao powder), stevia to taste and hot water. Mix it all up. Drink it all down. Watch your cravings disappear like magic. Cocoa is a woman’s BFF. Cocoa powder is jam-packed with phytonutrients and chemicals that make us G-O-O-D. One of the most well-known is phenyethlamine which helps the body release endorphins while boosting the neurotransmitter dopamine.  Endorphins and dopamine gives one a sense of well-being – a little uptick in mood.  Cocoa also contains serotonin and tyramine, which make us calm and help reduce anxiety. So mix one of these up for yourself if you like – and feel free to add add cinnamon, cardamom, any spices and/or extracts you like (peppermint or almond extract are favorites of mine) to jazz it up. Sometimes I also make “ProCoa” – stir in a scoop of protein powder and my hunger and cravings are kicked to the curb, stat. You might want to try this on Saturday night. A little warning though – cocoa can be stimulating for some, so be aware of how close to bedtime you have this treat.

Here’s my parting thought. It’s one night. If things don’t go your way, move forward in a healthy way the very next chance you get. Sunday morning, get up, reset, restart. Don’t try to atone with hours at the gym, a juice cleanse, or any other such nonsense. Leave the guilt behind. Enjoy some vegetables. Drink water, drink teas. It’s not shameful to be human and to be tempted. It happens to the best of us. EVEN THE FITPROS. You will mess yourself up ten times worse if you dwell on it all, let it make you feel humiliated and awful. In fact, you will likely send yourself further down the rabbit hole. Better to admit you messed up and just move forward. Life’s too short to feel shitty. Let’s maximize the good.

Big hugs! Happy Halloween!

Sarah

Tea & Conversation

Photo by antpkr/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by antpkr/iStock / Getty Images

A big Sunday shout out to all my new subscribers! I'm so glad you're here. I've spent the week collecting thoughts and highlighting articles for you all . . . pour yourself a hot cuppa and read on to see what's up this week.

Around the 'Net

Theme for this week? Let's get our heads on straight. You might've made some resolutions about 10 days ago . . . how're they working out for you, so far?

Perfectionism: When Beautiful Isn’t Beautiful Enough — Rob Sulaver, Schwarzenegger.com

Your Brain Is A Jerk: 5 Cognitive Biases That Are Sabotaging Your Fat Loss Goals — Mike Howard, Burn the Fat Blog

5 Common Mistakes That Cause New Habits to Fail (and What to Do About Them) — James Clear

Recipes I've Tried & Loved

Coleslaw with cumin-lime vinaigrette - a great side for any Mexican-inspired meal.

Roasted cod with potatoes, fennel & tomatoes - I've made this twice, once with the tomatoes, once without. You decide whether you like them . . . the acidity does add a nice bite!

Paleo Meatballs, Asian Style - I made these with ground turkey (combo dark & light meat for more richness) to lighten them up, but they would be great as written using pork.

New Ideas

I haven't made resolutions for the new year (gasp!), but I'm working on intentions, a list of things I want to try, etc. One was "eating mindfully." You've heard the advice before, I'm sure. If you banish distractions while you eat, you will find your meal to be more satisfying over all. This can up your satisfaction quotient and help you lose weight (if you're looking to do that). I'll confess, I've pooh-poohed this for a while. My habit has always been to read emails, check FB, surf the web at lunchtime. This week, I decided to eat all my lunches without distractions . . . and you know what? I think there's something to the expert advice. SMH. I mention this for two reasons: 1) so you understand that even trainers and coaches are human and even WE have biases and blinders (shocker!) and 2) so you might try it yourself. Even if you do it for a day or two. I took 10-15 minutes out, tops. 

I hope you all have a wonderful week . . . be sure to use the comments or the contact form to LMK what you like here, what you'd like to see, and how I can help YOU to THRIVE.

xo,

Sarah

Precision Nutrition » The Paleo problem: Examining the pros and cons of the Paleo Diet.

A terrific account of what Paleo does right and what it gets wrong . . . and ultimately a great explanation for why I eat "Paleo-ish" but don't adhere stringently to any "plan" or set of "rules" with regard to what foods to eat.

While I encourage all my clients to move towards whole foods, away from packaged foods and artificial ingredients, there is a huge variety of foods within the "whole foods" category and I appreciate that what works for you is what's most important. Enjoy!

7 Habits of Highly Effecient Shoppers: Your Quick Guide to Food Acquisition and Preparation

My top 7 tips for more efficient food shopping and preparation!