The Road to Hell…

ha ha ha ha…What the hell happened to February????  I swear it was just Valentine’s Day!  I know it’s a short month, but c’mon!

Okay, so we didn’t go anywhere this month [EPIC FAIL!]. Plus there is this amazing recipe I planned on making for a tasty and healthier treat this weekend and I just now realized that this weekend is, in fact, next month [ANOTHER EPIC FAIL!].

But I’m not going to stress about it.  Why?  Because stress is bad for your heart (our theme of this poor forgotten month)!  A large part of the issue (and by large, I mean it is the “problem”) is that I got a new job. Unfortunately, it means I can’t just lie around eating bon bons all day!!  Fortunately, it does mean that I get to pay rent and bills and buy food, so I think it’s a pretty darn good trade-off!  Plus job is 180 degrees from last job, which is a fabulous and refreshing change of pace!

Now that I’m getting back into the swing of a work routine and have been playing around with my writing schedule, you’ll be getting more posts–I promise!

Healthy for the Soul

It’s been a particularly cold and snowy winter here in NYC.  And yes, yes, I know it’s been a lot colder and snowier in other places–but, well, that’s why I don’t live in those places!

Despite the cold and snowy weather, it has been entirely too long since I made a big, ol’ pot of chili.  Now, before you ask–the recipe is not mine to share.  What I will tell you, however, is how I bump up the nutritional value.  As a Texan, I’m the first to admit it makes it less of a proper chili: aka, it won’t be winning any chili competitions, but since that means there’s more for me, I’m perfectly okay with that ;- )

My additions (hey, don’t knock it until you try it! And if you want to add some or all of them to your favorite chili recipe, just don’t forget to adjust the spices!):

Beans.  3 types of beans (black, red, and kidney)–these help bulk up the chili, so I can use less beef and still get a nice big pot!  I use canned beans and just give them a good rinse before I add them, which helps get rid of up to 40% of the sodium level listed on the can!

  • They are very high in soluble fiber–which lowers cholesterol and triglycerides
  • They are high in protein
  • They are low on the glycemic index (in other words, they help control blood sugar)
  • They metabolize slower and thus, make you feel fuller longer
  • They’re chock full of nutrients and antioxidants, which studies show to lower cancer risks in people who eat beans 3 times a week!
  • They’re very wallet friendly–the 3 cans of beans that I use in my chili cost about the same as a pound of ground beef!

Corn.  That’s right, I said corn.  I use frozen and just toss about 1/2 bag in.

  • Corn is high in both soluble and insoluble fiber–again, lowering cholesterol
  • Corn provides a good source of B-vitamins as well as Vitamin A and cancer preventing antioxidants
  • Corn, however, is higher in sugar than most veggies so it’s definitely something you want to eat in moderation
  • Oh, and the health benefits don’t extend to corn in it’s chip form.  Alas.

Diced tomatoes–2 large cans of diced tomatoes plus a can of Rotel.

  • Canned tomatoes are the best source of lycopene, which has been shown to lower risk of heart disease and prostate cancer.
  • They are high sources of fiber and Vitamin C as well.
  • There are some concerns regarding BPA in the lining, but the general consenus is that if you’re eating them in moderation, then you are fine.  If you’re concerned, you can always switch to tomatoes canned in jars or boxes or look for organic brands which have made the switch over to non-BPA lined cans.

Cilantro…because, well, I add cilantro to everything.  I found these great frozen cilantro cubes by Dorot–perfect for keeping a lot of fresh herbs on hand in the freezer without them going bad!  I use about 6-8 cubes in my chili.

  • It is high in vitamins, particularly A & K
  • It is rich in antioxidants
  • It can help lower you LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise you HDL (good) cholesterol
  • It is  an analgesic, a digestive and a fungicidal (aka, it helps with pain, digestion, and killing germs–which is part of the reason some people find it to have a soapy taste!)

Greek yogurt (as a topping).  It’s the bomb and if you know me, then you know I pretty much use nonfat Greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream for everything.

  • I cup provides (on average) 23 grams of protein and 20% of your daily calcium requirement
  • Because of the straining, Greek yogurt has less lactose than regular–making it easier to digest
  • It is a good source of probiotics
  • Greek yogurt usually has about half the sugar AND salt than regular yogurt.

Avocado (as a topping).

  • They contain over 25 essential nutrients and lots of antioxidants, which helps you look and feel better
  • They help lower LDLs and raise HDLs.
  • They are a good source of potassium, which helps control blood pressure
  • They are a great source of Vitamin E, which helps keep your heart healthy
  • They are also a great source of folate, which helps prevent birth defects and can help prevent stroke
  • They have lutein, which helps you see better.
  • They help inhibit growth of prostate cancer and can help prevent breast cancer.
  • I could go on, but really, why AREN’T you eating avocado???

I will admit that today’s big bowl was also accompanied by Fritos and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese (that’s where the Healthy for the Soul part comes in)–because sometimes a Frito pie is just what is needed when a Texan is surrounded by snow, snow, and more snow.

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Have a [Healthy] Heart!

So in honor of Valentine’s Day and seeing heart shaped EVERYTHING in the stores, I thought I could focus this month’s food items on: things that are good for your heart!

You thought it was going to be chocolate right?  Too cliche–and by that I’m mean, we’re saving cliche for NEXT month ;- )  Besides, if you pay attention to commemorative months, February is National Heart Month.

Did you know that cardiovascular (aka heart disease and stroke) diseases causes 30% of deaths worldwide?  I don’t say that to scare you, I just wanted to let you know just how prevalent it is.  And it’s not just a disease afflicting the elderly–my cousin had a heart attack and (I think) quadruple by-pass surgery when he was in his mid-30s!

The good news is that there are things that you can do to help lower your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases–and it’s never too late to get started! There has been quite a bit in the news lately about a 12-year study showing a direct link between added sugar and heart disease.

In addition to cutting back on your added sugar intake, here are some other things that you can do to help lower your risk:

  • Exercise every day–start slow and work up to a minimum of 30 minutes a day.  The good news is that every bit helps–from parking your car at the end of the parking lot to taking the stairs to spending part of your lunch break walking around.
  • STOP SMOKING.
  • Eat foods that are high in fiber, low in saturated fat, and lots of vegetables and fruits.  Seafood is great, anything fried is not, and avoid trans fats like the plague.
  • Eat nuts.  Unless you’re allergic, then  DON’T EAT NUTS.
  • Switch everything you can to whole grain, such as bread, pasta, crackers, etc…and you know, be adventurous–try quinoa or barley or other high fiber-no wheat grains!
  • Drink water.
  • Cut down on salt intake.
  • Drink wine–one glass of dry, red wine a day is very heart healthy. Don’t overdo it, though, too much alcohol puts a strain on your heart and is no longer healthy.
  • Stress less.  Learn to let things go or channel them into pulling weeds.  Clear your mind and calm your heart.

I know, I know…not the post you were expecting to see two days before Valentine’s Day.  BUT before you write in to yell at me, I would like to remind you that dark (cacao content over 60%) chocolate is very good for you…just don’t eat an entire box in one sitting.

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Carpe Cupcake!

Apparently the new job is big on celebrating birthdays. Fine by me, especially when birthday girl happened to mentioned she liked ice cream cakes. I’d like to also mention there is a Cold Stone Creamery within walking distance–12 blocks, to be exact, and not of the avenue-block variety (if you live or been to NYC, you know that there’s a big distance difference between a street block and an avenue block!)

We got on the website to try and figure out which flavor birthday girl would like when we discovered ice cream cupcakes in an assorted pack: problem solved!

After the singing and the wish-before-you-blow-out the candles, it came time to choose a cupcake. Birthday girl went for chocolate decadence, but I went for the birthday cake cupcake.

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One bite and I was hooked! First of all when I went to take off the wrapper, I realized it wasn’t paper. It was CHOCOLATE!!! Seriously. CHOCOLATE!! And maybe some of you aren’t shocked and this is common knowledge, but not to me–the only other time I had ice cream cupcakes, they had wrappers.

On the bottom of the cupcake was a smaller layer of red velvet cake, then the rest of the cup was filled with birthday cake ice cream, topped with pink icing and, naturally, sprinkles.

One word: scrumptious! Honestly, ice cream is never anything that even enters into my brain when someone asks what kind of cake/cupcake I like, but I think that will definitely be changing!!

Oh and before I dip into a sugar-induced nap, Happy Birthday, Ainsley!!

January Recap!

What the hell happened to January?  How is it already February 1st?? (btw, Happy Birthday James!)

Oh, yeah…I got a new job.  Great for bank accounts and pesky things like paying rent and bills, bad for blogging!  Well, not bad–I just need to figure out a better blog strategy!

We took a very brief trip to Portugal and made some soup.  C’mon is there anything better when it’s cold and nasty outside?  And thanks to this Polar Vortex, it’s been really cold and really nasty!

I neither perfected my Kaliflower soup nor found the secret to unlocking the deliciousness of Jaime’s asparagus soup, but I will continue my efforts and when I know, you’ll know…you know?

But all is not lost!  And as a final tribute to January, I’m going to leave you with a delicious Tomato Basil soup (click the link because allrecipes.com has made it so much easier for both of us!).  It’s a specialty of my friend Tracy, who serves it with the most amazing grilled cheese (think cheese and bacon and avocado and turkey–everything that is right in the world!!).

Why should you make it?

  1. It’s easy to make!
  2. It’s delicious!
  3. It looks like this:

    mmm...mmm...good!

    mmm…mmm…good!

  4. It makes a light enough dinner you can splurge on dessert AND port (c’mon, you knew I was going to reference it somewhere)!
  5. It’s made with Bloody Mary mix and there’s enough left over for brunch 🙂  And if that’s not a great reason to make a soup, I don’t know what is!

Hopefully, you were able to find some warmth, comfort, and a little bit of tasty inspiration this January.  Saude!