Getting Back on Track- Three Step Plan for Success

Christmas is coming, and so is the New Year. I already posted once about New Year’s resolutions, so you may wonder why am I on about it again? Two reasons- I have been putting weight back on this fall (apparently my body is under the impression that I am a bear getting ready for hibernation), and I have a love/hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions. I love the idea of them, but not how they are carried out.

So, today I am giving a mini course on how to make a successful New Year’s resolution, and in the next post I will use myself as the guinea pig and put my own goals into place. In later posts I will report back on my progress as I go, and later on I have a challenge for myself and for you, as well.

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Beans, Beans, They’re Good for Your Heart….

The more you eat them, the more you fart,
The more you fart, the better you feel,
So eat beans for every meal!

Yep, every kid knows this rhyme and it never fails to produce hoots of laughter. But you might be surprised to know just how true the rhyme really is. Beans really are super for your heart and the rest of your body too. As well as protein, B vitamins, iron, and folic acid, they are also a great source of healthy fibre, which cuts down levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol in your blood and stabilizes your blood sugar levels. They help to protect you from heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.

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Fastest, Easiest Way to Cook a Squash

I love the root veggies in fall and winter, and one of my favourite quick dishes is steamed squash with a bit of margarine or olive oil and pepper. Imagine my joy when I discovered the tastiest way to steam squash is also the easiest- use the squash itself to seal in the steam and cook in minutes!

Step One: Cut the squash in half (this might be the hardest part of the whole process actually). Remove the seeds.

Step Two: Add some water to a shallow pan and place the squash in the pan, cut side down. You don’t need a lot of water, but make sure there is enough that it won’t all boil away in the oven (maybe 1/2 inch?). Also, make sure that there is water under the squash as well as around it. (It helps to put the water in the pan before the squash). You have now created a sealed little squash “oven”.

Step Three: Put the squash into a hot oven (375-425F degrees) and let it steam right in its own skin. The skin will brown and the inside will come out moist and ready to scoop right out and eat. Depending on the size of the squash, it will take anywhere from 12 minutes to about 25 minutes.

Step Four: For small squash, serve right in the skin with your favourite toppings. For a bigger squash, scoop it out or slice and serve. As I mentioned earlier, we are savoury people in our house, so a little oil and pepper makes us drool. I’ve heard of other cultures (including many Americans) adding sweet things to squash, including nutmeg, brown sugar, cinnamon, and even marshmallows! To each their own.

This works for any kind of squash. If you make a spaghetti squash this way, you can scoop out the cooked insides and serve it in less time than it would take to make regular pasta. How do you like to cook your squash?

Cabbage Double Duty Dinner Meals- Part Four (Asian Cabbage Soup)

This is the last post of a series.
In part one I gave the recipe for a yummy cabbage salad. You will need that salad for the other meals. The entire DDD plan is as follows:
Day 1: dinner- cabbage salad.
Day 2: lunch- cabbage salad, dinner- salad rolls.
Day 3: lunch- salad rolls, dinner- Chinese(ish) food with chow mein.
Day 4: lunch- Chinese(ish) food, dinner- Asian cabbage soup.

Day 4.
Lunch– Leftover Chinese foods from last night.

Dinner- Asian Cabbage Soup.
Again, this is not strictly an authentic Asian recipe, but it is reminiscent of that style. It is the easiest meal of all the days.

1 Litre vegetable broth
Leftover cabbage salad (with dressing, veggies, and noodles mixed in)
Optional- Leftover tofu from salad rolls (this time I served it on the side, I could have put it in the soup too).

-Put all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes until veggies are bright and crisp-soft.
-Serve with any sides or toppings you would enjoy.
-As a variation you could add in some wontons or other noodles.
And that is it! The dressing provides extra seasoning to create a surprisingly good broth-based soup in seconds. And that is also the end of a good large head of cabbage,  with superfood meals for a week.

OK- time to add up my 4-day score in my DDD game (rules in this post):
4 points for the dinners, 2 bonus points for no pans on the first two days, 0 points for the lunches (all repeats but mighty fine anyway). 6 points. Points are doubled because everyone has seconds (and sometimes thirds) on the salad rolls and the soup. Final result is a 12-point game. I`ll take it! (and really I should have “bonus-bonus” points for the easiest, fastest healthy meals ever, and for having my children ask for more cabbage).

Cabbage Double Duty Dinner Meals- Part Three (Chow Mein)

In part one I gave the recipe for a yummy cabbage salad. You will need that salad for the other meals. The entire DDD plan is as follows:
Day 1: dinner– cabbage salad.
Day 2: lunch– cabbage salad; dinner– salad rolls.
Day 3: lunch– salad rolls; dinner– Chinese(ish) food with chow mein.
Day 4: lunch– Chinese(ish) food; dinner– Asian cabbage soup.

Day 3.
Lunch- Cold salad rolls (pre-made at last night’s dinner) with other accompaniments as desired.

Dinner- Chow mein with Chinese side dishes.
This is another super easy, unbelievably good meal.

Leftover mixed cabbage salad
Remainder of the chopped cabbage, veggies, dry noodles, and dressing.
Other leftover veggies (from salad rolls, etc)
Optional- 1 cup of fresh bean sprouts
Optional- store bought jiaozi/potstickers or other side dishes
Cooked rice (enough for the family)

-If you have time, stop in on the way home from work and grab some fresh bean sprouts and veggie jiaozi. (Also known as potstickers or gyoza for the Japanese version). Or any other Chinese dishes you and your family like to eat with chow mein. Or make your own favourite side dishes to go with it- there are no rules here.
-Cook enough rice for the family in your rice cooker or stovetop.
-By now you have likely nearly eaten all the mixed salad, but remember the cabbage and veggies (container 2) from day one? Take that container out of the fridge and add it to the leftover salad along with any leftover cut veggies from the salad rolls, and the bean sprouts (if you picked them up. If not, never mind). Add in the leftover dressing, and mix. (Put aside the leftover noodles/nuts).
-Throw half of the newly refreshed salad in a wok or frying pan. Put the other half in the fridge. Stir and cook over high heat. The veggies will cook quickly and the dressing will thicken and become sauce. If necessary, you can help to thicken it with a tablespoon of cornstarch mixed into 1/4 cup of cold water. Cook only until the veggies are bright and still have some crispness.
-Top with the leftover noodle/nut mixture and serve with the rice and jiaozi. I also served the leftover tofu in teriyaki sauce (I know- not strictly Chinese but it was good, and this version of chow mein is not traditional Chinese either).
– Pack up the leftovers ready to go for tomorrow`s lunch.

Cabbage Double Duty Dinner Meals- Part Two (Salad Rolls)

(continued from part one- of course)
In part one I gave the recipe for a yummy cabbage salad. You will need that salad for the other meals. This entire DDD plan is as follows:
Day 1: dinner- cabbage salad.
Day 2: lunch- cabbage salad, dinner- salad rolls.
Day 3: lunch- salad rolls, dinner- Chinese(ish) food with chow mein.
Day 4: lunch- Chinese(ish) food, dinner- Asian cabbage soup.

Day Two-
Lunch is self-explanatory. Just take some of the leftover cabbage salad. You can have it as is, or add it on top of some lettuce salad. You can also take some extra chow mein noodles for a bit of crunch. I haven’t explained yet just how good this salad is. People who don’t like cabbage will like this salad. People who like cabbage will love this salad. The combination of the hot cabbage and onions with the salty umami soy sauce and soup seasoning is very “moreish” as we say in our house. The noodles and the nuts and seeds make it hearty and filling. Nobody complains about having the salad two days running.

Dinner- Salad Rolls

This is about the easiest dinner ever, and kids love it.
– Simply pull out the leftover cabbage salad (which will be getting quite soft and marinated by now, but also nutty and salty). Also set the table with the other veggies you pre-sliced yesterday. I try and make sure to have lots of crunch and colors, so I like to have radishes or red peppers, yellow peppers, carrots, and green veggies. Usually I will also put out
other items to add to the rolls- noodles, sauces, dense proteins
like tofu, etc.This time I added tofu marinated in teriyaki sauce for a little sweet to the salty. Non-vegans could add prawns or chicken I suppose.
– Also put out dried rice paper wraps and a large dish of water. The family each wets a wrap and lays it on their plate. Then they add whichever ingredients they like, fold
in the ends, and roll them up. They stick shut easily. Eat
with dips and sides- this time I quickly baked a squash and
steamed a little pre-cut broccoli.
– Be sure everyone remembers to make one or two extra rolls to put in their lunch the next day. Simply put them in a sealed container or wrap them individually in cling wrap to keep them moist. The crunchy veggies stay crunchy and they will still be bursting with flavour the next day at lunchtime as long as they are kept sealed and refrigerated.

Cabbage Double Duty Dinner Meals- Part One (Best Cabbage Salad)

Time for another double duty dinner. This one is not such a high scorer (reminder of the game rules here) because I repeat the exact same dish a few times. But that is because we like it so much just as it is. It is a special favourite for my kids. The soy sauce and ramen noodles add some salt, but you can offset that by packing a lot of vegetables into it. As with many of my meals, I make it more by taste than measurements, so change up amounts on the dressing to your taste, and add or change veggies as you like.

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I’m Too Healthy for My Meds, Too Healthy for My Meds, Too Heal-thy (Apologies to Right Said Fred)

I thought I was on the right track- trying to eat vegan, harder and harder workouts, entering road races, losing weight- yeah, nothing could stop me now. Then work got crazier than ever and I got sick, skipped a few workouts, felt tired out and started looking for sugar fixes now and then to give me some energy. Skipped a few more workouts.

After my dog, Patch, died I thought maybe I’d lost interest because I was grieving. I gave it a little rest and then began pushing myself again. But then my heart started thumping in a disconcerting way at odd times. I didn’t have pain and exercise did not seem to make it worse, so I thought maybe it was stress and grief together, but I made a doctor’s appointment to be prudent. At my next workout I felt dizzy but believed I could go on. My trainer believed differently and cut it short when the colour drained from my face in front of her eyes. I was getting a little concerned, but I knew I had been healthier than I’d ever been for the past year, so it was more puzzling than concerning to me.

I went to my doctor’s appointment and she put the blood pressure cuff on as we chatted. I get the “white coat syndrome” (where my blood pressure goes higher in the doctor’s office because of nerves), so I do have a BP cuff at home, but I had not used it for a while. So I was not prepared to see my doctor’s eyes grow so wide as she checked the readings. It turns out that my blood pressure was way too low! I had lost weight and improved my cardio tremendously, but I had not adjusted my medications to match! She immediately took me off my diuretic pill and we will likely be adjusting the other one down when things stabilize a bit more. Definitely monitoring medication is something for us older people to remember when we improve our health through exercise and diet. I also went and had my blood tested for a few other things, but I already feel a whole lot better.

Just how much better do I feel? Well, I’ll show you- before my personal training session today I did a little warmup on one of the ecofit bikes at my gym. These devices are great- as you work, they actually capture some of the energy you generate and the gym uses it to power their air conditioning. They also give you continual stats and readouts, and even email your results to you. Since the system has only been recently installed, there have been a few glitches, but clearly they have now ironed them all out, as you will see. I will post my warmup here- check out my average speed! Yes, average speed. Which means my top speed must be a fair bit higher than that. Holy moley, I figure I must be back to full health and more with that kind of performance. Probably the only reason people didn’t stare is because I was such a blur that I might actually have been invisible. Yeah- feel free to call me the bullet.

Equipment Location Start Time Duration
Valley Health and Fitness 10:20 AM 00:23:41
Metrics 11/12/2012
Average Heart Rate 104.8 BPM
Average Speed 170.7 KM/H
Calories Burned 167 Calories
Power Generated 19.8 Watt Hours
Total Watts Generated 38.5 Watt Hours
Points Earned
Valley Health and Fitness Power Points 3

Cindi’s Quintessential Quinoa Salad

I wrote about this super, frequently requested salad in another post, and Cindi was kind enough to give me the recipe, so I am going to print it here just as she gave it to me:

Cold Quinoa Salad – Cindi A.

You will need:
Quinoa – (this recipe is based on roughly 3 cups of
uncooked Quinoa)
8- Green onions – separate the white end from the green and dice both finely
1 fresh lemon – take zest off lemon for dressing – finely mince
2 inches fresh ginger- finely grated, skins removed
½ – 1 Tbsp. minced Garlic, minced (more if you like, like, like it!)
Olive oil – (amount should be roughly 3 parts oil to 1 part lemon juice)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 cup roughly chopped, Cilantro
Pint basket, halved Grape tomatoes
½ to ¾ English cucumber, peeled and diced (I love to use the mini cukes for this salad when I can find them)
1 to 1 ½ finely diced bell peppers. (I like to mix a few different colours of peppers.)
Broth for cooking quinoa

Cook Quinoa and allow it to cool. I use my rice cooker with equal parts chicken broth and water to Quinoa. Drain any additional liquid away from Quinoa. Quinoa is cooked when you can see a white silky line arching the outside edge. I let cool on a cookie sheet, because it’s faster.

While Quinoa cools, make the dressing for salad by combining together the white ends of green onion, juice from lemon, finely minced lemon zest, olive oil, ginger, garlic, and salt & pepper to taste. Shake and let marinate. If it too thick, you can play with the amounts of oil and lemon juice to your taste. Salt is important for a balanced flavor.

While Quinoa cools, and dressing marinates, and if you plan to serve your salad same day; Put Quinoa into a large mixing bowl and add cilantro, green onion (dark ends), tomatoes, cucumber and peppers, additional S &P to taste and serve.

If you want to make your salad a day or so ahead of time, combine everything, EXCEPT tomatoes and cucumbers.

I believe that’s it, peeps. I made this recipe up over the years, so forgive me if it doesn’t make sense somewhere along the line. It’s a simple concept. You’ll figure it out if need be.

NOTE: Allowing Quinoa and dressing to rest in the refrigerator is never a bad plan. Salad is best when ingredients are thoroughly chilled, except for the grape tomatoes of course!


So, I made it almost exactly as Cindi outlined, but you know me, I can’t resist experimenting nearly immediately upon getting a new recipe. Since I try to keep things vegan at home, I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Instead of just using the zest and juice of the lemon, I threw the pulp in too. Then I put the dressing through the bullet blender before mixing it into the salad. I forgot about Cindi’s note about salt and I didn’t add enough (or maybe the veggie broth is less salty), so I sprinkled in a little rice vinegar on my plate to bring out the flavours more. I think that worked too. Next time I might try mushroom broth, or add different veggies like snap peas or edamame along with the ones listed here, because for me it is always about playing with my food. This salad is so good (even better after sitting to develop flavours) and good for you (quinoa is a superfood), that you can go back for seconds with a clean conscience- and believe me, you will! Thanks Cindi, prepare for fame on this one!

Get a Better Workout- That’s a Laugh!

Staying motivated was a big problem when I was beginning to change my couch potato ways, so I read lots of online advice. Some authorities advised me to exercise with a friend, the idea being that I wouldn’t want to disappoint my friend, so I’d be less likely to skip out on my exercise plans. Well, surprisingly enough, me skipping out on exercise was not going to be a great letdown for many of my (equally sedentary) friends. Since I was the one wanting to change things up, I would more likely be the “motivator” (or more accurately, the “bringer of shame”) if I wished to coerce my friends into changing present exercise patterns that they were content with.

(Photo: Some rights reserved, Kevin Dooley)

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