Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Heifer Holidays!

Here's what we gave this year to honor our friends and family and the spirit of Christmas. Happy Holidays to all of you!  Parsley Christmas Card

Happy Christmas!

To: Our Family and Friends
From: Libba & Henry

In your honor, a gift has been made to Heifer International to help struggling people around the world become self-reliant for food and income.

May this gift bring you joy as it brings hope to a family in need.

We gave a gift of the Gardener's Gift Basket in your honor and in the spirit of the Christmas season. May the blessings of this gift be bountiful for the family that receives it and for you that it honors. This basket represents everything a family will need to start a sustainable farm – tree seedlings, rabbits to generate organic manure, chickens to eat pests and a hive of bees to pollinate crops and increase yields. Many blessings to you in the year to come!
Heifer International provides livestock and training so that families can improve nutrition and earn income for health care, shelter and education for children. Each gift multiplies because every family that receives a Heifer animal promises to "pass on the gift" by giving one or more of their animal's offspring and knowledge to another family in need.
Learn about how Heifer gifts make a difference around the world

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Healthy Changes, Day 10: Stir-Fried Chicken

Day 10 Overview:
Weight:  207 lbs (-10 total!)
Exercise:  Walk & Yoga
Recipe:  Stir-Fried Chicken with Red Cabbage and Plums (really good - try it!)

We had some wine with dinner last night and I wasn't sure I'd be down any extra weight because of it, but I lost another 0.9 pounds anyway, which makes it an even 10 today! Yay!  That seems to be the one thing that hasn't stuck on this program.  We've had wine with dinner a few times in the past ten days, but my goal for the remainder of the 21 days is to not have any alcohol at all.  The caffeine hasn't really been an issue since the shakes are packed with energy foods and I'm allowed to have tea.  I have to be careful what tea I have after about 2pm or I'm up late with insomnia.  The other goal adjustment is that I want to commit to more than just exercising every day (which I've done, even with all the rain!) and to make it that I go on a walk AND do yoga every day.  It doesn't have to be an hour of each, but at least a mile walk and at least 15 minutes of stretching every day.  

I'm putting the recipe from last nights dinner on today since I will be having it for lunch and the shakes today are variations on what I've already posted.  We both hate water chestnuts with a passion so I didn't even consider putting them in this recipe, but feel free to add them if you like those slimy crunchy abominations of nature.  Henry looked for Angelino plums but couldn't find whatever that is, so we went with the dried plums suggestion.  Hmm... "dried plums" eh?  Seems to me those used to be called "prunes."  Granted, prunes sound like something old people eat at every meal and dried plums sound like some exotic fruit.  I don't blame them for using that marketing scheme, but I'll have to do some price comparison to see how much more they cost when they don't say the word "prune" on the label...

This meal was really good!  It was the first time I'd ever used coconut oil and it added a really interesting dimension to the dish.  The tamari is basically gluten-free soy sauce, so that was a familiar flavor, along with the garlic.  I'm not sure what is in the five spice powder since the packet just says, "Herbs and Spices, Onion, and Chili," but that Asian spice flavor combined with the sweetness of the plums was really great.  I thought it was really delicious but Henry said it wasn't his favorite of the new recipes.  He said he'd give it a 7 where the other meals were 8 or 9s.  I totally forgot the sesame seed garnish at the end, but don't think it was missing too much without it.  I made some brown rice to have as a side and there are plenty of leftovers of each for lunch today for both of us and maybe for tomorrow, too.  The recipe is below and can also be found on the Clean Program website's pdf file.

Stir-Fried Chicken with Water Chestnuts, Red Cabbage and Angelino Plums
I found dried Angelino plums in the bulk section at my local market and bought them without knowing what they would work in. They worked in granola and breakfast porridges, but this recipe was the absolute perfect place for them. This dish has just the right amount of sweetness and is absolutely delicious, with the soft plums, crunchy water chestnuts and flavorful chicken and cabbage. If you can’t find Angelino plums, any dried plums would work, or I also made this with dried apricots and it was a close second in flavor!

4 small chicken breasts, cut into small pieces (roughly 1-2 inches)
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 cup water chestnuts
1 cup chopped Angelino plums (or any dried plums without added sulfur or added sugar)
2 tablespoons coconut or olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup raw coconut amino acids or wheat free tamari
1 small red cabbage, loosely chopped
Sesame seeds to garnish (black or white)

Using the bare minimum of the coconut, sesame or olive oil needed to cook without burning, stir everything together over medium-high heat in a large saucepan or a wok, until the chicken is cooked and the cabbage is tender.
Serve warm, garnished with white or black sesame seeds.
Serves 4-6.
Recipe from

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Healthy Changes, Day 9: Shakes, Two Ways

Day 9 Overview:
Weight:   207.9 lbs (-9.1 total)
Exercise: 2.6 mile walk in the park.
Recipes:  Becky's Morning Shake (not good)
               & Favorite Green Shake (pretty darned good)

All I can say is that I feel sorry for this Becky person if this is how she starts her days.  What a nasty shake.

It isn't so bad once you get a third of the way through it, but I had to add stevia and brown rice syrup to it to make it palatable.  The strangest part of it is a texture issue.  It is almost fluffy or whipped, like sour cream, but more like the airiness of whipped cream.  I was finally able to (mostly) accurately describe it as avocado, almond butter cool whip.  Yep.  I told you it was weird.  I used a little less water than the recipe called for and put in some ground flax seed instead of their powders.  If you are brave or love almond butter and almond milk then I say give it a whirl; otherwise, I recommend you do what I did and go back to the berry smoothie with variations.  All recipes can be found here on the Clean Program website.

8 ounces of water
3-4 ounces of nut or hemp seed or rice milk (unsweetened)
1/2 of an avocado
2 teaspoons organic almond butter
a pinch of sea salt
1 scoop Nourish
1 scoop Move
OR your own protein powder and fiber addition (flax meal is the most commonly used one, or chia seeds work as well)
optional: sweetener to taste (stevia, agave, brown rice syrup)
optional: 1 tablespoon carob or raw cacao powder
1. Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Farmers Market bounty.

I actually had that shake last night for dinner.  Not to be repeated without major adjustments.  Today I ended up making a shake when I got back from the farmers market since I had a big bag of spinach.  Our downtown farmers market is small and cute, probably about the same size as the one in Boone, which was surprising to me, but packed into a big room so there are a bunch of rows.  There is a huge market off of I-40, but I'd rather go to the smaller one and support more local farmers and craftspeople.
The market winding down for the day.

Here's the shake I made today, and it was definitely more of a shake instead of a smoothie.  I didn't want a repeat of the cool whip mess so I just let it be thinner this time. 
Half-way blended, before the berries turned the "green" shake purple.
I washed and hand-tore a cup and a half of spinach and halved the rest of the ingredients on the list.  I ground some flax seeds since I didn't have any flax oil, skipped the maca powder (but had Henry pick some up for other shakes), used H's GREENSuperFood powder, and cut up a date.  I think I'll skip putting the dates in the shakes from now on.  It is so fibrous that it kills the blender, even if I cut them up first.  I'll just have one for a snack and put a prune or apricot in the shake instead.

3 cups spinach
1 cup frozen blueberries (or raspberries, blackberries, mangoes, papaya, etc.)
1 tablespoon flax oil
1 tablespoon maca powder
1 tablespoon spirulina AND/OR 1 scoop Clean Greens
1 cup almond milk
2 dates or a few drops of stevia to taste

1. Blend until creamy.

Recipe found here:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Healthy Changes, Day 8: Grilled Fish with Mango Salsa

Day 8 Overview:
Weight:  209.7 lbs (-7.3 total)
Exercise:  2.5 mile walk after the rain.
Recipe: Grilled Fish with Mango Salsa  (great - try it!)

Waking up to a very rainy day, I didn't feel like cooking very much and was glad to be on the routine of shake for breakfast & shake for dinner.  Easy.  The quandary was what to do for lunch.  I had pulled some cod out of the freezer the other day and knew I needed to do something with that, even if neither of us was in the mood for fish.  It has taken getting used to this quantity of fish on the menu, but with no shellfish as an alternate.  I was going to try the Whitefish Salad (like Tuna Salad) recipe but didn't really want that, so I looked up some other recipes for fish and came across this one on the Allrecipes site. 

Marinating the fish.

 I've adjusted the one below to show what I actually made today, but there were very minor adjustments.  The fish was really good and the mango salsa was wonderful!  The recipe page suggests eating the leftovers with black beans, which would also be delicious.  I added a side of rice to sop up the extra juice from the salsa.  A good combo.

Grilled Tilapia with Mango Salsa

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (6 ounce) tilapia fillets  1 cod fillet
  • 1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced  didn't have any, but they are in the nightshade family - so not on the list.
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion  I added more since we were lacking on peppers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced  didn't have any on hand
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, parsley, garlic, basil, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl and pour into a resealable plastic bag. Add the tilapia fillets, coat with the marinade, squeeze out excess air, and seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  2. Prepare the mango salsa by combining the mango, red bell pepper, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeno pepper in a bowl. Add the lime juice and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat, and lightly oil grate. I used a grill pan on the stove.
  4. Remove the tilapia from the marinade, and shake off excess. Discard the remaining marinade. Grill the fillets until the fish is no longer translucent in the center, and flakes easily with a fork, 3 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Serve the tilapia topped with mango salsa. 
Original recipe can be found at here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Healthy Changes, Day 7: Turkey Burgers

Day 7 Overview:
Weight:   210.5 lbs (-6.5 total)
Exercise: 3.5 mile walk in an hour.
Recipe:   Turkey burgers with sauteed onions & mushrooms (great- try it!)

I had a terrible case of insomnia last night and didn't fall asleep until 3:30, after lying there for over 3 hours.  Ugh.  As a result, I was rather cross-eyed when I woke up at 6:30 to work out and promptly went back to sleep for a couple more hours.   I awoke to banging and shouting that had to do with the stairs-removal.  A couple of hours in, it is still quite noisy, so I've had no problem using the blender, turning up the stereo and running the vacuum this morning. They keep making the most horrible noises and all I see in my head is the Black Knight skit from Monty Python:

I had a berry smoothie for breakfast and the last of the squash noodles with rice for lunch.  I definitely recommend them as a third day meal since they were much more mellow and I didn't mind having them at all (now that the olives are gone), especially with the side of rice.  I was planning on another shake for dinner, but realized Henry would be home and we could come up with something for both of us to eat instead. 

So he brought home a pound of ground turkey and I set to making four burgers out of it.  We would normally add shredded cheese to it, too, but didn't this time since dairy isn't on my list of allowed foods.  However, for some reason I can have goat cheese, so I plan to pick some of that up when I'm at the farmers market.  As you can see, I added some of the leftover sauteed squash as an additional side.  Henry didn't add another side since he was able to have his burger on a bun with all his favorite accouterments and I just had mustard on mine - thank goodness for the mushrooms and onions!

There is no official recipe, but what we do for turkey burgers (or beef, or bison) is mix up a bunch of seasoning and cheese with the meat before cooking.
Combine the following in a bowl
(or make up your own spices & seasonings).
1 lb of ground turkey
Worcestershire sauce
onion powder
garlic powder
all purpose seasoning
parsley (fresh or dried)
thyme (fresh or dried)
oregano (fresh or dried)
a dash of sea salt & dried mustard
freshly ground black pepper
We will often use a little Moore's Marinade (like Dale's Steak Sauce but without the high-fructose, etc.) since it has so many of these flavors, too, but used the Worcestershire this time instead.
Squish it all together with your hands and then divide it into four burgers and put in a container in the fridge until time to cook.  You want to take them out of the fridge for at least 15 minutes before you cook them so that they can be closer to room temperature when you put them in the pan.  Henry is the burger chef, but I think he just puts a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and then adds the burgers once the pan is hot.  I don't know his rules for timing things, but it seems like 4 minutes per side and then see how they are looking (especially depending upon the varied thickness of potential burgers).

For one of the sides, we did a variation on Lisa Crescitelli's famous beans.  No one knows for sure what she puts in her beans but this is what we put in ours this time.
Start with a can or two of whole green beans
Dump the whole can with sauce into the pot and add
Garlic (fresh, chopped, minced, powder - whatever you have)
Onion (red or yellow, chopped, minced or powder - whatever you have)
Worcestershire sauce
Black pepper, Tabasco, Cayenne pepper (whatever your heat tolerance level)
Again, this is an opportunity to open the spice cabinet and put in whatever you think will taste good with the beans.  I like to make a big batch of these because the flavors just get more intense the longer it sits in the juice in the fridge.  Heat on medium until it starts to boil & then turn it to low.  Great leftovers.

Sauteed Onions (& Mushrooms)
Chop up some onions (red or yellow)
Start with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and turn to medium heat.
Once the pan is warm, add the chopped onions and stir frequently, cooking down until they are almost translucent.  You can add seasonings like black pepper, Tabasco, garlic powder, etc while they are cooking.
When they are getting a little dry in the pan, add pickle juice (or some of the green bean juice from the stove) instead of more oil. 
For the mushroom lovers, you'll want to add fresh chopped mushrooms at the same time as the onions (& you will need an extra tablespoon of olive oil for this) or canned mushrooms once the onions have started to break down a bit.
This is also great as a leftover and makes the extra turkey burgers into a wonderful lunch.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Healthy Changes, Day 6: Berry Protein Shake

Day 6 Overview:
Weight:  211.9 lbs (-5.1 total)
Weekly Measurements:  Waist 49in., Upper arm 14in., Thigh 28in.
Exercise:  45 min of Wii Yoga & 1 mile walk after the rain.
Recipe:  Berry Protein Shake

I'm down 5 pounds already and have been exercising every day!  Woo-hoo!  Go me! 

Leftovers lunch.
I wasn't looking forward to lunch at all since it was the leftovers of the Three Taste Noodles recipe from the other day.  Blah.  I did, however, figure out what it is that I really don't like in it.  It's the olives.  Olives are to me, as mushrooms are to Henry - gross.  I love olive oil and love how olives flavor things but I cannot stand to eat olives in their normal state.  I'll suffer through them on a pizza and can tolerate them in some dishes, but even though I had chopped them up quite a bit in this dish I still wasn't able to eat them without triggering my gag reflex.  Gross, gross, nasty. 
However, the "noodles" had mellowed out quite a bit from the other day - not so crazy curry land anymore - so combining that with a little bit of brown rice made for a good meal (sans olive pieces, of course!).  Like I said, I'm planning to re-do this dish in the future, just with different flavors.  It was good to have the brown rice as a side - makes it more like the healthy fare at an Asian cuisine restaurant instead of random mushy squash noodles.

Yoga Wii me & the rest of the family.
I had big plans of going to the farmer's market and then on a long walk this morning, but was thwarted by the arrival of a note that they would be replacing the stairs to the second floor in our apartment building (the stairs are outside) and I wouldn't be able to come or go most of the day.  Because of that, I decided I would stay put and work on things from home, but then the torrential rains came and prevented even the stair replacement from happening today.  So, I decided to pull out the Wii and do my long yoga workout since I wasn't going to go on a walk.  After it finally stopped raining, I went out for a short walk around the neighborhood instead of in the park.  I'm getting up early tomorrow to see if I can knock out my walk and get back before they rip off the stairs.  I'll plan on cleaning and cooking tomorrow while I'm stranded - how very 1950's of me.  ;-)

The rain that prevented my walk.
 For dinner, since I'm on the "real" plan now on the Clean Program, I picked out one of their shakes.  I'm supposed to have a shake/smoothie for dinner and one for breakfast with a 12 hour gap in-between, and a meal off the regular food plan for lunch.  I can have whatever "clean" snacks I want, too, but I honestly haven't been hungry at all since I've been eating this way.  That's quite a change from the carb munching monster I've been in the past.  I've been drinking a lot of water (but that's no big change) and tea with a little bit of fruit/veg juice in it and will usually have an apple or a couple of dried apricots before or after my walk, but that's it really.
Ingredients for the dinner shake.

The recipe I picked is the Berry Protein Shake and I'm not using the "Clean Kit" (that'd be how that site makes their money, I assume) so I used a tablespoon of ground flax seed I ground in the coffee grinder.  They say that flax seed doesn't do any good if you eat it in seed form and that it can loose a lot of the nutritional benefit if it isn't ground immediately before use (i.e. if you buy it ground, not as good, or if you grind a bunch of it and save it, not as good).  I've also used a mortar and pestle to crush it, but the coffee grinder is much faster (though it does scare the fur-babies).  Here's some more info on flax seed.

Here, too, is the recipe for the Berry Protein Shake, below.  I didn't have any raspberries, so I just upped the quantity of blackberries instead.  I used almond milk and frozen berries and had to pit the dates that Henry got for me, but that's no big deal. It took a while for me to find something big enough to hold all the shake, but I got a coffee mug and filled it up and was thinking it looked like a lot for one person but drank it down.  Then I got on their website and looked at the recipes file and saw where it said most of the shake/smoothie recipes were 2 servings.  Oops.  It'd be nice if they put that on the individual meals!  So, I've added that to the recipe below.  Luckily I hadn't had the apple I was going to eat earlier today, so I just considered that my snack.  Next time around I'll be making 1/2 of the requested shake since I hate leftover smoothie.  I'd rather wash the blender twice then have a nasty re-blended mess.  But that's just me...

1 cup nut/rice/hempseed milk of your choice (either homemade with 1/2 cup nuts and 1 1/2-2 cups water, or unsweetened from the health food store)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blackberries (optional)
3 pitted dates
1 teaspoon vanilla
If using the Clean Kit, add 1 scoop each of the Nourish (any flavor) and Move. Otherwise, add 1 tablespoon flax meal powder or 2 ounces aloe juice

1. Blend all ingredients until smooth.
 Serves 2. (I added that important info.)
The whole pdf file of smoothie recipes is found here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Healthy Changes, Day 5: Sweet & Sour Chicken

Day 5 Overview:
Weight: 212.5 lbs (-4.5 total)
Exercise:  3 miles in 52 minutes (almost at 17 minute splits!)
Recipe:  Sweet & Sour Chicken

Instead of the curry crazy "noodles," I had leftover millet risotto for lunch.  I made olive oil sauteed squash and zucchini seasoned with fresh rosemary and pepper to go with it and quite enjoyed it all.  I hit the library and then went on a walk with no dead snake in sight.  I wonder if he got away or if the snake had been "removed" by the next day?

Home by dark and Henry started prepping the garlic, ginger and chicken for dinner while I took a shower.  I took over the cooking so he could watch the world series of poker on ESPN.  It cracks me up when they call it a "sport."  No, actually, it isn't a sport.  A sport is something where you break a sweat, work up some cardiovascular goodness, and build muscle - none of which happen while sitting at a poker table.  Don't get me wrong, I know that poker is an amazing game and takes giant brains and great courage to play it well, but it isn't a sport.  Just because it's on ESPN doesn't make it one either.  But I digress... 

For some crazy reason this recipe tells you to preheat the oven.  Uhh... why??  I didn't do this & I recommend you don't bother either since it is all cooked on the stovetop.  Also, I have no idea why they say low heat for the first part, unless it is just a mode of caution.  It took FOREVER to get the sauce to come together and I actually put the chicken in before it was very "saucy" just to get dinner finished sooner.  I took the chicken out and cooked down the "sauce" into what more resembled a syrup or dressing and then turned off the heat and put the chicken back in.  Henry prepped the salad parts and then we ate this great smelling and tasting meal.  It was a little heavy on the ginger, so I recommend not using as much as they call for the first time around.  The only things we adjusted were that we used tamari (a gluten free soy sauce), 1/8 c apple cider vinegar, 1/8 c balsamic, and we didn't preheat the oven.  Otherwise it was the same as the recipe listed below.

Sweet and Sour Chicken with Mixed Greens
1/2 cup wheat free tamari or nama shoyu or coconut aminos
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or balsamic
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
A knob of fresh ginger (roughly 1 1/2 inches), peeled and minced or 1 teaspoon ginger powder
2 chicken breasts, sliced into long strips about 3” long and 1/2” thick
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 475
Over low heat in a pan mix the first five ingredients until you have a smooth and thick sauce, roughly 12 minutes.
Lay chicken pieces in the sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through (about 12-15 minutes).
Add pieces to bowls of mixed greens, pour the remaining sweet and sour liquid equally over each bowl.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve. This works well warm or chilled.

Serves 2-4
Time: 30 minutes
Recipe from the Clean Program website.