12/29/12

Homemade Pumpkin Bread


About a week ago I was craving Pumpkin Bread while doing a long swim (5000 yards) at the YMCA. Sure, I could have picked some up at the grocery store, Starbucks or Panera but that's not like me. For the majority of the time, my cravings are satisfied by preparing items at home. I realize that in today's society, the convenience to food to satisfy cravings makes it really easy to obtain food when we want it and "need" it. I also believe it makes it just as easy to crave food that we may not otherwise crave if we knew we had to prepare it ourselves in order to eat it.  Although, there are occasions when both Karel and myself crave something different, this doesn't happen a lot but I still find a way to incorporate it into our diet in a controlled manner. We don't speak of food negatively in our house so we avoid anything like "I'm being bad" "I shouldn't eat this" etc and we don't do anything extreme in this house like cleanses, juice fasts or even a list of off-limit foods.  That is not our philosophy with food. If we eat well most of the time we don't have to worry about the rest of the time.

After Karel did the Jax Bank 1/2 Marathon, he was craving ice cream. We don't crave ice cream on a daily basis and that's likely because we don't keep it in the house. Not for the reason that it is a trigger food but we learned to not "need" it on a daily basis like we did in years past when we were dating. Likely, this is because I have put my emphasis on creating satisfying meals and not intentionally leaving room at dinner for "dessert". Oh, so Karel did end up eating ice cream - he drove down the street to TCBY and made himself an ice cream treat. Enjoyed fully and no guilty feeling involved.

I came across this article written in 1987 called "Whatever Happened to Home Cooking."

When I think about all the allergies, intolerances and issues that people have with food, I simply think about the eating habits of people in society that have occurred over the past 20 years. It's not just about the obvious culprits like portion sizes when eating out (along with excessive sodium), skipping meals, eating habits secondary to poor sleeping habits/sleep deprivation or processed foods but the forgotten past of the joy of home cooking, eating slow (or making time to eat) and sitting down to eat. Now we live in a very sedentary world where wholesome food is de-valued and comes across as too time-consuming and costly and "health-claimed" processed food is overly emphasized, cheap and easy.

In anticipation for the New Year, I look forward to your reactions when you begin to appreciate home cooking and most importantly, taking the time every day to appreciate the food that you choose to fuel your lifestyle and workout routine.

Pumpkin BreadI used a recipe from Cooking Light w/ a few modifications (listed below is the recipe I used):
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup 1% milk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup baked pumpkin (I baked a small pumpkin in the oven and pureed in my blender. Feel free to save the time and use 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree - NOT pumpkin pie filling) 
  • Cooking spray
  • Sliced almonds 

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 7 ingredients (flour through cloves) in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture.
  3. Combine sugar and the next 5 ingredients (sugar through pumpkin) in a bowl, and stir well with a whisk until smooth. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.
  4. Spoon batter into 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray (I used 1 loaf pan for the bread and the rest of the batter for muffins), and sprinkle with almonds.
  5. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool loaves in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool loaves completely; cut each loaf into 12 slices.
  6. Keep refrigerated for up to 5-6 days in sealed container or bag.


12/27/12

Color in Motion 5K



Looking for a fun event this weekend? Needing a little color in your bland lifestyle? Look no further - Color in Motion 5K is coming to Jacksonville and they have given me a discount for all the colorful runners who enter TRIMARNI15 when registering online. I was not paid for this endorsement but rather, excited to support families and individuals who enjoy a little twist on the same-old running routine.

Enjoy!

More details HERE

12/26/12

How's that working for you?

 
 
We are on the verge of the New Year so that means the hype is building for companies and guru's to prove that they have the best pill, fitness equipment or fad diet to help you finally reach your fitness and body composition goals. As I continue to read about weight loss pills that are dangerous for the consumers (like this one called WOW), I am sure I don't need to convince you that weight loss pills do not solve long-term problems.

I really love this picture because I feel it holds true to so many things in life. So much to do and not enough time. As someone who loves to fill my plate just as much as I love crossing things off my long to-do list, it is not exclusive to procrastinators to leave everything to the last minute. Sometimes, we let time pass by too quickly not recognizing that every day brings an opportunity to bring us closer to our goals. The bigger issue is that we can lazy and make excuses so that when we feel the pressure, we expect results. Thus, it is when we feel like there is not enough time, people are motivated by quick results....results that never last and rarely work.

However, despite dedicating the past 11 months to trying to motivate, inspire and educate you on how to create lifestyle habits and to bring you to a more balanced active and healthful lifestyle, it is likely that a few days, weeks or months of over-indulging and/or minimal physical activity have caused you to reach your breaking point. Of course, there's no better time than the New Year to resolve those habits that are moving you further away from your goals but why is it that after 11 months, you are fed-up with habits...habits that result from actions and actions that result from thoughts?

Certainly, if you need help from a professional, seek help before you find yourself setting 2014 resolutions after 364 days of doing the same things yet expecting the same results. For most people, you have the capability to change habits but perhaps you are confused as to how to make changes that will bring long-lasting results?

If you are someone who constantly finds yourself questioning if habits are bringing you closer to your goals, here are 5 of my daily tips that may help you live a more balanced lifestyle:

1) Get a good night of sleep. Try to eat dinner at least 2 hours before bed and create a balanced and satisfying meal that does not leave you stuffed and does not leave you wanting an  after-dinner "snack". If you aren't hungry enough to eat an apple, you aren't hungry (but OK to enjoy up to .5 ounce of dark chocolate or 1.5 ounce dark chocolate daily). Instead of eating or stimulating your brain w/ the computer, phone or TV, try to go to be 30-60 min earlier than normal in order to get a restful night of sleep.

2. Develop a healthy coping mechanism. I use Campy to de-stress me instead of food or alcohol. Find something that makes you feel good when you feel overwhelmed, sad or stressed. Look up quotes, funny animal pictures or just take a walk. Food and alcohol don't solve problems.

3. Create a routine that allows for consistency. If you find yourself like a zombie by Friday due to your training routine alongside balancing work, family, etc. consider a "rest" day on Wed. Too busy to make a lunch every day of the week - aim for bringing your lunch 3 days a week instead of eating out 5 days a week. Always find yourself dragging at work by 3pm, save your favorite email or project for the afternoon so that you have motivation to stay strong all day long.

4. Prepare meals when you aren't hungry. Don't expect to spend 30 -60 min on food prep if you are starving and with low blood sugar. Seek out times during your day to make a few items for meals when you wouldn't normally eat. Cook grains or start the crock pot in the am as you are getting ready for work or pack your lunch for tomorrow immediately after you finish dinner (before you sit on the couch or get to house-work).

5. Don't expect quick results, set yourself up for success not failure. Need to lose weight? How about aiming to lose 2 lbs in 1 month instead of 10? If you happen to lose 5 - you will be more delighted than if you fail to lose 10. Don't expect every changed habit to result in a change in body composition or performance. The body is a very exceptional thing. Don't confuse progress with backtrack. If you find yourself happier, healthier, more productive, more energetic, more satisfied, more balanced or more consistent than yesterday - you have made progress. If you find yourself in a cycle of habits that keep you frustrated, overwhelmed, anxious, exhausted, isolated and sad - it only takes one change to prove to your exceptional body that you are ready to make progress.

12/25/12

The holidays - Czech style

I love the holiday season - it all starts around Thanksgiving and then we get to celebrate a New Year. The last two months of the year sure do make it seem like time goes by rather quickly because before we know it, we will be approaching 2014!
 


Last night I was thinking about the holidays and why things are so special around this time. When you only get to celebrate something once a year (holiday, event, birthday), things are much more appreciated (or at least they should be). The time that goes into cooking, the extra effort to show someone that you care about them and the planning that goes into making sure that everyone is happy and safe. I could go on about why I feel that we should enjoy the holidays and not feel restricted, guilty or depressed when it comes to the diet and exercise routine but it really just comes down to understanding that every year we get the privilege to enjoy the holidays because we have made it through another year.
 
 
I'm sure most of you flip on the Christmas Story on TBS around this time of the year and watch at least one showing of the movie as it airs for 24-hours straight. If not the Christmas Story, one of my favorites, the National Lampoons Christmas Vacation would be among the all-time holiday favorite movies.
 
I'm sure you have seen one of those movies dozens of times but yet every year, you watch it again and laugh as if you are watching it for the first time. After 364 days, you forget little details but are quickly reminded of why you enjoy watching it - because it makes you feel good. Sure, you could watch the movie anytime during the year - April, July...but there's something special about watching a movie that was meant to be enjoyed around the holidays. Watch it too much throughout the year and come December, you will be burnt out and may even be annoyed as to the thought of watching it again.
 
This is a good example as to why I enjoy having those "occasional" times in life to enjoy different things - food, places, events. It just makes everything that much more special knowing that a year or so has passed and the same (yet new in a way) opportunity to make more and new memories is gladly welcomed.
 
Since Karel's family lives in Czech Republic, the holidays can be a sad time for him as I am sure you would feel the same way if you haven't been home in 13 years. One day, I hope to share Karel's story of how and why he came to America with only a backpack and wanting a better life for himself but for now, I am happy to share pictures from our Czech Christmas. I really enjoy experiences in life that present an opportunity to make memories. Every year since Karel and I started living together, we make his traditional Czech meal which includes fish, potato salad (w/ root vegetables) and Vanocka (Czech Christmas bread - similar to Challah). Of course, there are a few modifications (tofu for my protein and no fish soup made of Carp like Karel had when he was in Europe) but overall, the traditions are still there and it is a nice opportunity for Karel to share stories w/ me as I enjoy his family traditions. Of course, no Czech Christmas would be complete without cookies so every year we anxiously await a package from Karel's mom, filled with homemade Czech cookies. This year, she did not disappoint as we were amazed by the 26 different varieties of cookies, all prepared with love. Karel's mom started on the cookies near the end of November/first week of December and mailed them to the US about 2 weeks ago. She packages them very tightly in a container and although most of them are beautiful when we get them, it's the broken ones that taste the best!
 
Always keep in mind that through a balanced active and healthful lifestyle, you can make memories every day. Therefore, no matter what holiday you choose to celebrate or how you choose to do it, it is during the holiday season that we are quickly reminded that our daily lifestyle is a direct result of our daily actions. Always enjoy yourself on a daily basis but consider how you can find comfort in saving a few things in your life for the special occasions. For most people, life brings stress, busy schedules, uncontrollable emotions, exhaustion and restless evenings. It's easy to get too wrapped up the hype of living and forget how to slow down. Even through that busy time, sometimes we find ourselves gravitating towards those "occasional" items and not really enjoying them like we should.
 
The holidays should be a time of happiness, love, good health and relaxation- thus a perfect and appropriate time to take full advantage of those occasional items that can be enjoyed with a healthy mind and body.
 
Thank you for checking out our pics - Happy Holidays!
 
 
A taste of "winter" - Sunday's first workout included removing frost from the car.
 

My homemade Vanocka. This year it came out better than ever and tasted great! I'm still struggling with the dough and getting it to rise properly so the bread was a little dense but still delicious!
I follow this recipe. One day, I will make it with Karel's mom to see how the expert makes it.

I LOVE this picture. Karel took this on 12/24 when he got home from work. I was still working at the hospital and I couldn't stop laughing at our "guard" dog. No one has a chance trying to steal our Czech cookies!


Plate 1.


Plate 2. The two plates are only 1/2 of the amount that she sent. We will try to pace ourselves this year...although we always say that and it never happens. They are SO good!


Karel's homemade potato salad. So delicious! The flavor is unbelievable!


A beautiful dinner spread, shared with my Czech hubby. I always love to hear his stories like when Karel was young and he would steal cookies from his mom as she was making them. Of course, telling her that he is just making sure they taste ok when he was caught.


Campy in his new fleece and enjoying his new toy.


Campy exhausted from destroying his toy in less than 5 minutes. Mission accomplished for Campy.


Too much fun....sleeping and thinking about all the memories he made this year.