Day 313 – We Went to Lewisburg

As I approach the end of the 365 day blog, you’ll notice me posting less on here and redirecting more of my content to my new blog, which I’ve began publishing material to.

However, I wanted to take time to share some photos from my and Michelle’s day at Lewisburg, WV for their annual chocolate festival.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There will be a more in depth blog about this at “The Break Up Note“, so keep your eyes peeled!


Day 302 – Two Methods of Making a Healthier White Sauce

Fettuccine Alfredo

Image by TheGirlsNY via Flickr

Yes, I took a short hiatus from writing to enjoy the little bits of spring we were getting.  I’m also doing a lot of other projects now, which is a side effect of living a healthier lifestyle – you want to do more stuff.

Many people has requested my white sauce recipes for pasta.  If the people want white sauce, the people shall have it!

Over the course of the past three weeks, I’ve worked with a couple recipe ideas I found posted on the internet.  Basically, I wanted an alternate way to make a white pasta sauce without the cream and saturated fat you would find in, say, Alfredo sauce.  I researched and then worked up two methods:  The steam cauliflower method, and the tofu method.

First, we’ll talk about the steam cauliflower method.

Cauliflower is a very healthy vegetable to eat, but isn’t particularly flavorful.  Many people may not know this, but you can steam cauliflower and mash it into a puree.  Basically, I used this to make a white, creamy pasta sauce.  Here are the ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower

1/2 to 1 cup of almond milk

zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of nutmeg (or more if you want)

1 clove of garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter (lowfat if you want even less calories, or you could omit it altogether and use olive oil)

salt and pepper (to taste)

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

First, melt the butter in a pan with the chopped garlic.  Turn the heat off before the garlic browns.  This will bring out the sweetness in the garlic and take away a lot of the less desirable “bite” that raw garlic has.  Then, break the head of cauliflower into florets and steam them using whatever steaming apparatus you happen to have.  Once the cauliflower is fork tender (meaning you can stab it with a fork and pull out the fork without picking up the cauliflower), put it in a bowl with the garlic and butter, half the milk, and then mash it.  Keep mashing and adding milk until it is as fine a consistency as you can get.  Then, pour the cauliflower mash, along with the olive oil, nutmeg, Parmesan cheese, and lemon zest, into a blender (or food processor).  You may want to let it cool before blending (some blenders don’t do well with hot food).  Blend until the texture is smooth and creamy.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the tofu method you simply replace the steamed cauliflower with a block of silken soft tofu and omit the milk unless you want a thinner sauce.  That’s up to you.  Cook the garlic just like you would for the steamed cauliflower method, and blend all ingredients except the salt and pepper.  Then heat it in a sauce pan and add salt and pepper (and anything else you may want to add more of) to taste.

As you can imagine, these sauces have a light, delicate flavor, and way less unhealthy fat and calories than a traditional Alfredo sauce.  I like to serve this sauce with angel hair pasta and some sauteed or steamed peas, or red and yellow bell peppers.  As for you, be creative!

Day 281 – A Word on Fats

Poster from New York City's board of health en...

Image via Wikipedia

When I was a kid, all you ever heard was “fat free” and “low fat”.  Yes, my memory is a little hazy but it seems like the diet trend back in the 90s was “low fat”.

Anyway, I used to perceive fat as something that, when you eat it, goes to your belly forever.

Nowadays, I don’t worry so much about “fat”.  I watch sugar, more than anything.  Nonetheless, here are some tips about fat for when you’re looking at the nutritional labels:

1.  Some fat is good; some fat is bad.  Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat is healthy for your heart.  They actually help in lowering cholesterol.

2.  Saturated fat is to be avoided, except in small volumes.

3.   Trans fat should be avoided all together.  This is an engineered fat that doesn’t occur in nature, and doesn’t sit well with our bodies.

4.  If the label only says “Fat” and doesn’t specify what kind of fat, look at the ingredients.  Any type of “hydrogenated oil” is, by definition, trans fat.  Fat from oily fish like sardines is generally very healthy for you.  Also, olive oil as a fat source is mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.

5.  Don’t eat too much of any fat.  Watch the percentages based on a 2,000 calorie diet.  I generally don’t stress too much over fat, but even so, too much of anything can be bad for you.

6.  At the same time, you need fat.  Your body needs it.  As a matter of fact, eating the right amount of healthy fat can help you maintain a healthy weight.

In summary, one of the best choices you can make, concerning fat, is to cut back on foods high in saturated fats, and completely forbid yourself from eating foods with trans fat.  Trust me on this one, trans fat is gross.

Day 277 – Pay Attention to Protein Bars

Public domain photograph of various meats. (Be...

Image via Wikipedia

I have to say, protein bars can be amazing.  If you’re in a hurry, and need something nutritious, they can be really handy…just be sure to pay close attention to the labels, because most of the protein bars I’ve seen on shelves are full of grossly unhealthy things.

Here’s a few guidelines I use when choosing a good protein bar:

1.  If it has more sugar than protein, it’s a sugar bar, not a protein bar.

2.  If it’s covered in chocolate, tastes sweet and delicious, and boasts having 0 sugar, check the ingredients for carcinogenic sweeteners such as sucralose.

3.  Watch out for TBHQ in the ingredients.

4.  If it’s more than 400 calories in one bar, than it most likely either has more whey protein than is healthy to consume all at once, or it has too many simple carbohydrates from processed sugars.

5.  Don’t eat it if it has more than 10 grams of sugar (especially if it isn’t sugar from a natural, unrefined food).

Once again these are just guidelines I go by.  I want a protein bar to nourish my muscles and my appetite without spiking my blood sugar or giving me a temporary energy fix with sugars.  If you aren’t careful, your protein bar could be just as bad for you as a Snicker’s Bar.

In general, I don’t take protein supplements of any kind, whether it’s a shake or a bar, unless I’m missing my protein from my regular diet that day.  Now that Michelle and I have raised the bar on the meats we buy, we aren’t eating as much meat.  So, when we’re going through long periods without meat I’ll use whey protein a lot more.

Anyway, I just felt like sharing this after seeing a new protein bar on the shelf today, which looked healthy at a glance, but upon closer examination turned out to be horrifying:  TBHQ, more sugar than protein – all the above listed red flags were present in this particular bar.  It just goes to show that you have to be careful even when buying “health foods”.  Companies will slip grotesque ingredients into them and market them to people seeking to change their lifestyles.  Be a prude about food! 

Day 268 – The Habit of Healthy Living

It’s a good feeling, knowing that you’ve made the transition.

Well, I’m down to my last 100 days of healthy blogging, and while my actual posting isn’t nearly as frequent, the pattern of health goes on.  Michelle and I no longer have to deal with cravings for things like fast food and soda.  “Splurging” involves eating at a nice restaurant, perhaps a good Indian dish or steak from a trusted eatery.  We’ve taught our palettes to desire things that are wholesome, and have curbed our taste for overly sweetened “snacks”.

Working out regularly has become a part of life, when even on the most dire of droughts we still have to squeeze in at least one good workout a week.  Michelle is even using her healthy energy to be more organized by cleaning and decluttering everything.

We’re known in our community now as ‘health-nuts”.  A title I used to chide at is now a source of pride and accomplishment for me.

But, the best part is this:  It’s no longer a thing that we have to think about much.  After a long, hard fought battle, being healthy comes very naturally to Michelle and I.  So, here’s a little encouragement for those of you who might be feeling overwhelmed:  You can make it to the promised land, where the enjoyment of health is full and real.

Day 257 – I Made a Relatively Healthy, Nutritious Dessert

'Cavendish' bananas are the main commercial cu...

Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t posted any recipes up in a while, so here yuo go. This will be quick. Since Valentine’s day is coming up, I have been thinking about dessert, which for some reason is a big deal this time of year. Here’s what I did, today. We’ll call this recipe “Valentine Bananas”. First, I took four bananas (100, calories each I would estimate) and cut a slit in the peels down the insides of the curves. Then I took a tablespoon of dark chocolate almond butter (Maranatha brand, I bought it at Kroger’s, about 90 calories per tablespoon), and stiffed it in there, and spread it up the length of the banana. Then I baked those a 450 degrees for ten minutes. When they came out, they were all melty and sweet. So I carefully scooped them out of the peels and into a martinit glass. I mushed them up a little, and drizzled about a half teaspoon of honey over them. Then, I finished them with a sprinkle of cocoa powder (unsweetened). The recipe makes two servings at about 450 calories a serving, so dont’ be making this every day!

Day 248 – Is it worth it?

It’s heavy price to pay in order to be healthy.  We all know (or should know) that being a healthy person means looking better, feeling better, living better, and generally having a longer, more fulfilled life.  It means that you will have more energy to enjoy each day that passes by,  that you will be able to more deeply enjoy those days by simply feeling better inside, that people around you will be affected by your positive influence and will be inspired by the way you live your life… but is it worth it?

Is all that worth having to give up weekly McDonald’s or Burger King?  Think about all the good things you’ll miss out on, like frequently ordering pizza.  Think about all of the fine, carefully crafted food you’ll miss out on like Big Macs and onion rings.

Let’s consider the pros and cons of each.

Healthy Life (pros):

– You feel better.

– You enjoy everything more.

– You stay healthy at an older age.

– You can do more.

– You look better.

– You inspire people.

– You are more positive.

– You will have higher standards for the food you eat.

Well, I don’t really have enough room on my page for the full list so we will go with this.

Health (cons):

– You will have to be active and not spend most of your time doing nothing.

– You can’t waste your life.

– You won’t be able to just eat anything you lay eyes on.

– You have to care about yourself and value yourself.

– You will have to give up on low grade meats and foods high in saturated fat and processed sugar.

Unhealthy (pros):

– You can devalue yourself and have lower standards, which are easier to meet… so less work.

– You may have a chance to qualify for shows like “The Biggest Loser”.

– You will be free to smoke, drink excessively, and eat low quality cheap foods!

– You can waste all the time you like by doing nothing!

– You can have an excuse not to get out and do anything.

Unhealthy (cons):

– You will have high risk of heart disease.

– You will constantly struggle with weight.

– If you get to big you will have to buy two plane tickets to fly anywhere.

– You will feel pretty bad.

– You will have to settle for less.

– It will be hard to do simple things like walk up stairs, push a shopping cart, or tie shoes.

– You will probably not be able to enjoy your time on this Earth as much.

– You won’t be able to do as much.

Well, I suppose I could go on.

By this point people should be aware that I’m being facetious.  This is a ridiculous question, “Is it worth it?”.  Of course it is!  How warped is it that people aren’t willing to give up their fast food, sodas, cigarettes, and junk in order to live an awesome life?  I can’t even describe to you how much better it feels.  Sometimes I just get mad over how long it took me to realize just how much “worth it” it is to rebel against this culture and choose life and health over cheap junk!

There is nothing good about constantly being unhealthy!  Nothing!  There’s no justification for it, and no right reasoning.  It’s self-mutilation.  It’s morally questionable to junk yourself into oblivion.  Is it not wrong to destroy yourself with poor quality junk food and laziness, then raise children and model that to the children, and take part in raising a generation of apathetic people?  Is it not wrong to build a nation where corporations can flourish on our poor countenance?  Who wants to be a part of that?

People can argue that there are those who can’t afford to live a healthy lifestyle.  I won’t disagree, either!  What’s wrong with the picture when junk food costs less than good, wholesome food?  Don’t you see that we’re to blame?  Companies sell what the people demand, and we have demanded, for the longest time, to have food as cheap as possible without considering any of the consequences.

Well, I’m just going to stop for today.  I’ve been on a rant for days now so maybe I should step back and take a breath!

Have a good one and see you all soon!