Friday, December 28, 2012

Homemade Hamburger Buns (Great taste, no cancer!)

One of my goals for 2013 is to find some bread recipes that my family will actually eat on a regular basis so I can stop buying the terrible bread currently offered in grocery stores. Even the "good" bread has dough conditioners and preservatives that include ingredients like human hair and substances known to cause cancer. How can I cook my sweet little boy a grilled cheese sandwich on cancer bread?!? I can't. That's why I bake bread.

Tonight was experiment numero uno: hamburger buns. I am so happy with how they came out. I used a Betty Crocker Bread Machine Cookbook recipe and it's pretty simple. Now that I know the recipe works, I can start tinkering with different types of flour, adding seasoning, etc.

Here's the recipe for your bread machine:

My buns straight from the oven!
1 cup water
2 tbsp melted butter
1 egg
3 1/4 cups bread flour (I had to use all-purpose, which was fine, but bread flour would be best)
1/4 cup sugar (I'll be tinkering with lowering the sugar content)
1 tsp salt
3 tsp quick active dry yeast

Instructions: Place all ingredients into bread machine pan in order listed. Select the "dough" or "manual" setting on your bread machine and let it run. Mine took about 90 minutes to knead the dough. After it is done, remove the dough from the machine and let it rest on a lightly floured surface, covered with a towel, for 10 minutes. Then, shape into 15 small rolls, place on a greased cookie sheet, and allow to rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes or until doubled in size. I flattened mine a little so they would be more like buns than rolls and put them in a warm oven. Once they have risen, bake them at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, slice, and serve! Put unused buns in the freezer.

The result? They were really, really good. I had four taste testers and they all loved them! I doubt I will ever buy hamburger buns again. Give these a try! They are easy and well worth the time to bake them, especially since the bread machine does all the hard work!

Good bread is a real treat, and you deserve good bread. Get out there and get healthy! Skip the bread aisle and make your own!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

5 Ways to Make Resolutions that Stick!

Image bykibsri
Ah, the week between Christmas and New Year's is here. It's one of my favorite weeks of the year. Pretty much anything we do this week is under the grace of being forgiven on New Year's Day, so if you're going to be bad, this is the week to do it!

This is also a great time to make New Year goals. Do you make resolutions? I do, and over time I've come to learn that when I put a little muscle into my daydreaming, amazing things can happen. Here are five easy ways to make sure your resolutions hit the bulls eye!

1. Give yourself time. It takes about 90 days to cement a new behavior as a lifestyle change, so expecting your entire life to change in the first week of January might be pushing it a little. To create some instant gratification, create a visual reward center where you can record your progress every day. I like to put smiley face stickers on a calendar for good days, others use programs like MyFitnessPal or DailyMile to track their habits (and brag about them).

2. Be specific. Vowing to lose weight or exercise more are great goals, but to make it achievable, you need to be a little more specific. A goal to, say, lose 10 pounds by the first day of Spring or complete a 5k race on a certain day are more likely to happen. 

3. Be proud! Tell people about your goals, seek support and camaraderie online, and (kooky as you may feel) say them out loud to yourself! Hearing them in your own voice helps your brain believe that you really will do it. I'm serious. It works.

4. Fast forward. Get out your 2013 Healthiest Year Ever Calendar (I know you ordered one, right?) and flip to February. Write a little note of encouragement to yourself on any day you choose. Do the same for April. You can be your own accountability and keep yourself on track!

5. Have fun! Go on, go for what you really, really want! It's your life, take it! Waiting around for permission to live the life you want wastes time and is no fun at all. When you set goals for 2013, ask yourself what you want to be celebrating in December of next year. Then, work backwards to you goal!

I'm thinking about my goals for the year ahead, and fine-tuning them to make sure they are precisely what I want. Next I'll go about figuring out what it will take to turn them into reality. Then the real fun starts: actually doing the stuff.

2013 is just around the bend. Get out there and get healthy: take time today to think about what you want to be celebrating this time next year!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The 12 Days of Fitness: Healthy and Fun Kids Activity

My son came home from school this week and told me that in PE, they did the 12 Days of Fitness. Oh realllly? Do tell, young lad! I got so tickled seeing him try to recreate the song and he was definitely getting his heart rate up! I love this idea - try it with your kids, your friends, your walking group, or just by yourself. :)

*ahem* All together now:
  • On the first day of fitness, my teacher gave to me: 1 snowman standing on a hill (balance on one leg)
  • On the second day of fitness, my teacher gave to me: 2 snow angels (jumping jack) and 1 snowman standing on a hill...
  • On the third day of fitness, my teacher gave to me: 3 arm circles…you know the rest
  • On the fourth day of fitness, my teacher gave to me: 4 toe touches…
  • On the fifth day of fitness, my teacher gave to me: 5 big lunges…
  • On the sixth day of fitness, my teacher gave to me: 6 torso twisters…
  • On the seventh day of fitness, my teacher gave to me: 7 windmills…
  • On the eighth day of fitness, my teacher gave to me: 8 legs a’lifting…
  • On the ninth day of fitness, my teacher gave to me: 9 hops forward
  • On the tenth day of fitness, my teacher gave to me: 10 arms a’swimming
  • On the eleventh day of fitness, my teacher gave to me: 11 bicycle pedals
  • On the twelfth day of fitness, my teacher gave to me: 12 stomach crunches, 11 bicycle pedals, 10 arms a’swimming, 9 hops forward, 8 legs a’lifting, 7 windmills, and 6 torso twisters…. and a snowman standing on a hill. 

Get out there and get healthy today - lead everyone in a rousing chorus of the 12 Days of Fitness!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Recipe! Sweet and Spicy Nuts

I made these sweet and spicy nuts for teacher gifts this year and seriously, I had to give them away quickly lest I eat them all. They are really easy to make and really tasty too so either make a lot or not very much, depending on how skilled you are at self control. :)

  • Four cups total of nuts of your choice. I used raw natural almonds, walnuts, and pecans.
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger, cayanne pepper, and salt. You may want more or less of these depending on your tastes. 
1. Preheat oven to 325 Farenheit
2. Mix the nuts with the spices and seasonings.
3. Pour the honey over the mixture and stir it all up.
4. Spread it on a greased cookie sheet in one layer.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes, checking a few times to stir them around.

The honey will melt all over and make an enormous mess, so be prepared for that. Once you take them out of the oven, let them cool before messing with them. But not too long, or it will all stick to your cookie sheet like mine did and you'll spend 45 minutes with a spatula trying to get them off (and eating the pieces that are not pretty enough to give as a gift)! 

The nuts will be sticky, but they are really good and I was very glad to get them out of my house and into the hands of someone else. :)

Get out there and get healthy today, even if you decide to keep these for yourself. :)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Veggie-Packed Muffin Recipes (and they're delicious!)

As I've said before, it always tickles me when people want my "recipes." If you could see what I use to cook, you'd quickly realize that there is absolutely no magic going on in my kitchen. Oh wait! You can see! Hold on.

See? Here you go. My magic tricks revealed. One sure-fire way to keep your food simple is to not use any recipes that cannot fit on a teeny tiny post-it and then taped to the inside of an altogether different cookbook that you rarely use.

But, I have become a bit of a muffin connoisseur over the past few months as I have discovered that my baby will eat just about anything as long as it comes in the form of a muffin. I'm not a huge fan of him eating so much flour, but I also hate throwing away food and picking it up from the floor all day so hey. Bring on the muffins.

I am a very lazy cook prone to just throwing everything in a bowl and mixing it up, but there are a few personal policies I like to follow: 1) Mix the dry and wet ingredients separately. I don't always do this but they come out better when I do. 2) Don't over-stir. Your muffins will be too dense and not fluffy. And 3) I bake everything for 20 minutes at 350 no matter what the recipe says. Seriously y'all. I am not a chef.

But here are the muffins I made this week. So far they are pretty popular! 

Zucchini Muffins
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 egg white
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup grated zucchini (about 1 medium)

Mix the dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls, except the zucchini. Combine the two bowls, stir in the zucchini. Pour into muffin tins and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.

Another variation of this is to take out the cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla and stir in shredded cheddar cheese, pepper, and cajun seasoning. Less sweet, more kicky.

Pizza Muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 package dry active yeast (the quick rise kind)
1 cup hot water (110-120 degrees)
1 tbsp olive oil
tomato sauce
Boar's Head pepperoni
mozzarella cheese
italian seasoning, garlic, that kind of thing

Combine the flour, salt, and yeast in a big bowl. Add the hot water. Stir by hand until it is all combined and let it rise in a warm oven for about 2 hours. Come back, punch it down, roll it around a little in your Italian seasoning and garlic and olive oil, and then break the dough into little balls. These balls are going to be your muffins. Spray a muffin pan and press each ball into the pan making a little bowl in the middle for your toppings. Chop the onion, spinach, and a few pieces of pepperoni until it is very fine. Mix it in with the tomato sauce, and spoon the mixture into the little dough bowl. Top with mozzarella cheese and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until they are bubbly. These are great for school lunches!

Carrot Apple Muffins
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup anise seeds (optional, leave this out if you don't like licorice)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup lowfat milk
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
1/2 cup raisins

Mix the dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Combine the two bowls and mix just until blended. Pour into muffin tins and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.

Banana Cauliflower Muffins
This recipe is adapted from the Banana Bread recipe in Deceptively Delicious.

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup oil
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup mashed banana
3/4 cup pureed cauliflower
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts if your kid is not allergic

Mix the dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Combine the two bowls and mix just until blended. Pour into muffin tins and bake at guessed it...350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.

When I look for muffin recipes, I always follow the same scientific procedure: I Google "_____ muffin recipe" with the name of the food I want to make muffins with filling in the blank. Sometimes I type, "healthy ____ muffin recipe" if the search results pop up with too many pictures of Paula Deen. But really, any muffin recipe can be healthified by reducing the sugar and using half whole wheat flour. Using all whole wheat is admirable, but I think a half and half mix makes better muffins.

I'm not a great chef and you don't have to be either. Tinker with these recipes, try a few variations, and let me know what you come up with. Get out there out there and get healthy, even if your kid will only eat muffins.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Those Sneaky Calorie-burners!

Sometimes people tell me that they "can't" run 10 miles a day to get into shape. I put "can't" in quotes because of course they can, they are just choosing not to for whatever reason. There are perfectly legitimate reasons why exercise is inconvenient at times, I get that. I'm just saying that you likely can do it, you're just deciding to do something else instead. That's cool.

But I digress. Back to what I was saying.

During the week, I run 5 miles three mornings or so and do the elliptical and weights on non-running days. Then on Saturday I do my long run of between 8 and 10 miles. So naturally I consider Saturday to be my "big burn" because, duh, running 10 miles in one day is going to burn way more than just 5, right? 

But check this out: the other day I ran my 5 miles, and then I walked almost everywhere I went. I took the baby for a 30-minute walk in the backpack that morning, and then I walked another hour in the afternoon when I could have driven instead. When I added all that exercise into MyFitnessPal, it came to about 900 calories of exercise. Dang. That's a lot!

Then the next day I went out and ran 9 miles. I entered that into MyFitnessPal and it came to 868 calories.

What? I burned more calories with a 5 mile run and then just walking around than I did on the day I ran 9 miles?? I was pretty shocked!

And inspired. Research has shown that you don't necessarily have to get all of your cardiovascular exercise at one time. Even small bursts of exercise are beneficial and provide health benefits. Excuses begone!

Imagine this: if you got up and did a workout in the morning like you were going to do anyway, and then you looked for opportunities all day long to be active in other ways, you could very well rack up enough calories to be the equivalent of 10 miles run. Okay, maybe 8. Still, that's a lot! 

Here are some ideas for where those opportunities may be hiding:

1. Designate one meeting at work that would typically be held sitting around a conference table and take it outside as a walking meeting. There's likely 30 minutes right there.

2. If you're meeting a friend for lunch, choose a restaurant that you can walk to. Round trip could be 20 minutes!

3. Get up and walk 3 minutes for every 60 that you spend sitting at your desk. Over the course of an 8-hour work day, that adds up to 24 minutes of exercise!

So, hmmmm....maybe you can "run" 10 miles a day after all. Just sayin'. :)

Get out there and get healthy today, even if you think you can't run 10 miles.