Monthly Archives: May 2014

Giardiniera with Chicken Sausage (Super Fast Version)


giardiniera3
I have a confession to make. I love sausage. I know that’s probably odd coming from someone whose business is health coaching. I’ve recently realized that sausage is my favorite meat.  It just adds so much flavor to anything you put it in!  My husband finds this hilarious because when he met me, the only animal protein I ate was fish, chicken and turkey.  On the rare occasion that I did decide to eat pork or beef it could not be what I referred to as a “circle” meat – meat that was cylindrical in shape and was comprised of lots of bits of unknown things (think salami, bologna, sausage, hot dogs, pepperoni etc).  I just never liked it and frankly they grossed me out (bologna and hot dogs still do).  It wasn’t until I started to learn to cook after I moved in with him that I even considered the possibility that sausage could have a place in my diet.  These days, it appears on our dinner plates at least a couple times a month.  I get local when I can (our meat share from our CSA at Middle Branch Farm provides some) and the rest of the time I purchase chicken or pork sausages whose ingredient lists only contain things I recognize (applegate organic, aidells, organic prairie and al fresco are some brands that have simple ingredient lists that I see where I live).  They all have more salt in them than I would like but let’s be honest that’s partially what makes them so delicious.

This week, during one of my sausage cravings, I decided to make a fast version of italian giardiniera salad and serve them together. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out (cold salad & hot sausage?) but it was a good idea and very filling!  The actual making the salad only takes about 10 minutes (between chopping and lightly cooking the veggies) but you’ll want to serve it chilled so throw it into the fridge for an additional 20 minutes or so.  The flavor of the salad will get better the longer it sits (real giardiniera is marinated for a couple days usually before eating) but I wanted crunchy, tangy cold veggies right away so 20 minutes it was (and that’s why this is the super fast version).  Super yummy.And don’t feel like you need to serve this with sausage or any other meat – it’s pretty delicious on it’s own.  This may make an appearance at a few BBQs this summer.giardiniera2giardinieraI know you’re wondering, where’s the starch? carb? bread? grains? for this meal or for most of my recipes. I do eat grains (whole ones mostly) and starches but I find filling up on vegetables, protein and fat for most of the day keeps me the most satisfied and least bloated.  And, the less I eat grain/starchy carbs the less I get urges to binge or eat uncontrollably because my blood sugar isn’t being subjected to spikes.  I probably eat only one or two servings of grains or starch a day. I know this may not work for you but it’s something to think about if cravings or binging are something you struggle with. It’s taken me my entire adult life to get in touch with how the food I eat affects me physically (and emotionally) so I’m sticking with it.  The key is making sure I get a good amount of fat and protein plus bulk (from the veggies). Okay, sorry I’ve gone off on a tangent (but one that I love to talk about).  Here’s the recipe!!!

And my apologies for the blurry photos.  I was in a rush to get this into my belly and really wasn’t thinking it would be blog worthy before I ate it.

Giardiniera with Chicken Sausage (Super Fast Version)

Ingredients
1 small head of cauliflower
2 large carrots, peeled, thinly sliced
3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
2 roasted red peppers, diced (make your own or buy them)
14 green olives, chopped (I used pitted unstuffed ones but anything you like goes!)
2 green scallions, diced
1/4 fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp dried oregano leaves
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt to taste (I use Light Grey Celtic Sea Salt by Selina Naturally)
freshly ground black pepper

4 – 5 links chicken sausage, casings removed (skip this if you bought pre-cooked sausage*)

Directions
Bring a small pot of water to a boil and toss in the cauliflower, carrots and celery. Let simmer for 5-6 minutes, then drain water and put veggies in a big bowl.  Add in the rest of the ingredients (except for sausage) and stir well.  Put in the fridge to chill.  Cook the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks.  Once cooked, set aside for a few minutes until your giardiniera is cold enough for you then top the giardiniera with the warm sausage and get crunching.

*If you are using pre-cooked sausage, leave the casing on, dice up and then just cook until warmed through.

Serves 4 (and assuming you choose gluten free sausage, this is gluten free & dairy free)

I ate the leftovers cold (both the sausage and salad) for lunch the next day and it was even better!  I’m thinking this would also be delicious with some white beans and pepperoncini mixed in.

Advertisements

What to Expect When You Hire a Health Coach

What the heck is health coaching?

What the heck is health coaching?

It seems like the term “Health Coaching” or “Health Coach” are being flung about a lot these days but most people aren’t really sure what it is or what it means.  It’s a pretty young field and is still developing.  In fact, it’s so young that at this moment there is no single licensing board that regulates who can call themselves a health coach and whether or not they can dispense nutrition advice varies by state.  Anyone can call themselves one without any training (that’s why you see diet pill pushers on TV calling themselves a health coach).   This makes people a little wary of hiring one (and they should be).  You want to know a little about someone’s background, training and what you’ll get by hiring them. When I’m asked what I do and tell the person that I’m a Health Coach, sometimes I get a look of confusion (when that happens I just know that they think it has something to do with kale).

I’m always happy to explain more about what it is that I do (and what training I’ve had) and I know it’s only a matter of time before the term Health Coach is in everyone’s vocabulary but for today I thought I’d take a minute to lay out exactly what you can expect from working with me. I think it’s important for clients and potential clients to know exactly what they can expect from my services and our sessions.

I also want to be clear about what they won’t be getting when working with me. I am not a nutritionist, dietician or personal trainer.  I can’t diagnose you with anything, prescribe medications or treatments and I won’t advise you specifically on how much fat, carbs or protein you should be eating.

Health Coaching is a subset of Life Coaching.  You have health or wellness goals you would like to reach (lose weight, stop your sugar addiction, find more time to exercise etc), I’ll hold you accountable and together we’ll confront obstacles in your way and work through them.  We’re so used to having to go to outside of ourselves (the doctor, books, the internet etc) for help managing our health, that we forget that much of it is actually in our control.  We have the power to create a healthier lifestyle by making little changes that add up to make a huge impact. A Health Coach can help you get control back and be an objective sounding board when you feel like you are going in circles with information overload or decisions.  And, no, it’s not all about kale (but maybe it’s a little bit about kale). And a real coach with a quality background is not going to try to sell you a quick fix.

photo credit: SweetOnVeg via photopin cc

photo credit: SweetOnVeg via photopin cc

Here’s what you can and can’t expect from me as your Health Coach:

      • I will help you define goals and form a plan with you on how you can reach them.
      • I will hold you accountable.  When we decide that you are going to take an action, I expect you to take it.
      • I will ask you questions that make you think deeply about your choices, excuses, motivations and more.
      • I will keep what you tell me private.  I want to provide a safe and trusted space for you.
      • I will be your cheerleader and support you through both the ups and downs on this journey.
      • I will help you deconstruct your food cravings so that they don’t derail your goals.
      • I will help you address issues that may be forming in many areas of your life, including your career, physical activity, diet, spirituality, creativity, social life and even relationships.
      • I will give you my undivided attention during our appointments.
      • I will let you know that you are not alone.
      • I will help you figure out the “how” when it comes to implementing these changes.
      • I will let you lead the discussion.  Some days you may want to talk about your diet, other days it might be work or your home life that needs some attention.  We’ll go where the need arises.
      • I will encourage you to be open to trying new things (in your diet and elsewhere in your life).
      • I won’t hand you a meal plan that tells you exactly what to eat but I will help you figure out what foods make you feel your best.
      • I will help you dig deeper when you feel stuck in a situation.
      • I will recommend eating more whole foods and less processed foods (but I don’t subscribe to one particular diet for everybody).
      • I’m going to make these lifestyle changes as easy as possible for you by being with you every step of the way.
      • I don’t expect perfection from my clients but I do expect effort!
      • I won’t judge you.  I want you to feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings with me.
      • I won’t and can’t do the work for you.  I’m here to support you in making lasting changes.  If you aren’t committed to doing the work, then coaching may not be for you.
      • I won’t recommend or support magic pills, surgery or other drastic measures for losing weight.
      • I won’t tell you that you can’t eat something (but I may suggest alternatives to try).
      • I won’t hesitate to suggest you seek additional help or services from other medical or mental health providers if I believe your needs go beyond my scope of practice.  Your safety and health is of utmost importance.

I hope this helps you to have a clearer picture of what working with a Health Coach is like.  I really love the work that I’m doing.  It’s so awesome to watch people transform their lives (especially if they were feeling stuck before). Have you ever considered hiring a Health Coach?  The first session with me is free if you want to test the waters and see if it’s for you. If you have any questions, please submit them in the comments or send me an email and I’ll respond as soon as I can. Untitled drawing (1)

What’s the deal with GMOs in food? Should you eat them or not?

IMG_2697We keep hearing about GMOs in food. It’s on the news. Vermont just passed a mandatory labeling law. Some food products packaging declare that they are GMO free. But what’s the deal? Should you be eating them?

Some say we shouldn’t eat them and other’s say there’s absolutely no danger and that they’re necessary for the future.  I can see the potential benefits to the science behind it but I am wary that enough long term research hasn’t been done (especially when it comes to things like Bt corn).

When I decided to hold a veggie garden workshop last month, I sent home attendees with a handout on GMOs (along with some organic non gmo seeds) and I thought I would share it here because so many people have questions about whether they should be eating GMOs.  I tried to give pros and cons to both sides (but I’ll admit it’s hard for me to not sound biased).  Here’s the thing, no matter what research you do, you’ll be able to find sources that support whatever side you look at (and not just with GMOs) so it’s really important to try to take in as many facts as possible and then make up your own mind.

What do you think?  Do you think I’m crazy for being wary of them?  Do you worry about GMOs in your food?

GMOs Yay or Nay?
For a little background, GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.  Humans have been altering the genomes of plants for a very long time but until relatively recently it was through natural means; things like planting only the seeds of the best crops or cross breeding varieties to produce a sweeter plant. Today, a scientist in a lab can take DNA of any living thing and choose to insert it into another, completely unrelated species.  For example, they may choose to insert a gene from a moth into a potato to reduce the effect of potato blight disease on the next crop.  We even have GMO crops that have been engineered to withstand normally deadly doses of herbicides and pesticides.

The Upside of GMOs
Some of the benefits of GMO foods are that they are expected to increase our food supply. Advocates of GMOs say that with less disease or pest problems, farmers can grow more crops and feed more people, in less time and for less money.  GMO foods can be bred to taste and look better.  There is even potential to increase the nutrient content in certain varieties. GMO science also has wider reach than just food production. GMO research is helping the medical community understand which genes are responsible for certain diseases and speed production of some vaccines.  We are even studying GMO pigs for future organ transplants into humans!  There is also research being done to see how GMOs could be used for cleaner fuel sources.  With the growing problems our planet is facing, it would be irresponsible not to investigate the potential of GMO science.
The Downside of GMOs
As far as GMOs in our food goes, there is a lot we just don’t know yet.  The USDA does not require independent safety studies on GMOs and no long term studies have been done.  Research on GMOs is still in the infancy stages.  Some plants have antibiotics added to them so that they are resistant to certain diseases.  These antibiotics then show up in our bodies making medicines less effective when we need them. Some GMO corn and cotton varieties have been bred to contain Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacteria that naturally occurs in the soil that is deadly to moths, caterpillars and butterflies.  This bacteria has been used as a pesticide in Organic farming because it is effective but easily washes off produce.  These GMO plants that have been bred to contain this bacteria have it in every fiber of the plant.  There is no washing it off.  So while this bacteria previously wasn’t harmful to humans, what happens when we’re ingesting large quantities of it in every bite of corn, corn syrup or tortillas that we eat?  Try finding processed food that does not contain corn in some form. Cornell University found that Monarch Butterfly larvae died after eating pollen that came from Bt corn.

Beyond unknown health risks, a few other possible consequences of GMO foods is the potential to create super weeds that are resistant to herbicides, difficulty preserving non-gmo fields (A farmer in Oregon found GMO wheat growing in a field he did not plant it in), legal ramifications (GMO seeds are patented and farmers have been sued for planting seeds more than once after purchase), and environmental pollution from liberal pesticide spraying (on pesticide tolerant gmo plants).

Unfortunately for us, there is no clear answer yet as to whether GMO foods are good or bad. Credible research on the dangers of GMOs are limited and often inconsistent but at the same time, much of the research that has come out saying GMOs are safe for consumption have been done by the same biotech companies who benefit financially from their widespread use.  If you do your own research, you will find people on both sides armed with lots of “facts” to obliterate the other side’s argument. It’s confusing and frustrating. It’s up to you to decide.  There is no requirement at this time to label foods containing GMOs so we don’t always know when we are consuming them.

For me personally, just because there isn’t a ton of evidence saying that they are bad yet isn’t enough for me to jump on board wholeheartedly.  Once upon a time, the American public was convinced cigarettes were not harmful either.  I’d rather be safe than sorry.

If you are concerned about GMOs in your food, the most important thing you can do right now is getting the government to require labeling for GMO foods. There is a lot of money coming in from biotech companies (like Monsanto) to prevent labeling.  They know if we know there are GMOs in our food we will choose to spend our dollars elsewhere. We at least should have a choice in knowing what we put in our bodies.

What foods in our food supply are more likely to be GMO?
The crops most likely to be GMO today are: soy, corn, sugar beets, canola oils, papaya, rice, potatoes, tomatoes and peas, zucchini, yellow squash, dairy (due to the use of rbGH growth hormone) and alfalfa (fed to factory farmed animals).   To give you an idea of the reach, 88% of corn and 94% of soy produced in the US in 2012 were GMO.

How can I avoid GMOs?

  • Buy Organic when possible.  The USDA organic certification states that “the use of genetically engineered organisms and their products are prohibited at any stage in organic production, processing or handling.”
  • Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal.  GMO labeling is not mandatory in the US and this label is the closest thing we have currently to any guidelines.  You can read more about it online at: http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/understanding-our-seal/
  • Buy from local farmers – ask about their sources.  Local is usually a better choice even if it isn’t organic.

What else can I do?

  • Advocate for GMO labeling in your state. Until we know if GMO foods are truly safe (and we won’t know for many years) we should at least have the right to know what is in our food.  A label declaring this is the first step. Visit www.righttoknow-gmo.org/states to learn how you can help your state to support GMO labeling.

    Untitled drawing (1)

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Cranberries and Sunflower Seeds

Warm Brussels Sprout Salad

Warm Brussels Sprout Salad

I know we’re still a few months from Brussels Sprout season but I can’t help myself! Despite trying to eat what’s in season most of the time, I go out of my way to eat Brussels sprouts year round.  I may have hated them as kid (me and everybody else) but as an adult, they are one of my favorite veggies! Roasted, pan fried, steamed – I don’t care! I think they are fab!  This is one of my favorite ways to make them.  It’s super fast (the thing that takes the most time is trimming the sprouts) and simple to make.  Plus, you don’t even need to be much of a cook to pull this one off.

As usual, with most of the food I make, this recipe is a loose guide – if you don’t have cranberries or sunflower seeds, skip them or substitute raisins, chopped dried apricots, fresh blueberries, pumpkin seeds, chopped cashews or hemp seeds.  If you don’t have lemon, use fresh lime juice/lime zest or even vinegar.  It’s no big deal.  The main reason they’re in this salad is to add some additional texture and take some of the bite out of the sprouts.

Not only do they taste amazing, but Brussels sprouts are crazy good for you! They’re an amazing source of vitamin K and vitamin C, and a pretty good source of folate, potassium, B Vitamins (there’s some B1, B2, B3 and B6 in there), fiber and choline.   Try this salad next time you’re looking at sprouts and wondering what to do with them.

Ingredients
4 cups Brussels sprouts, base trimmed, loose / damaged leaves removed
1 tbsp olive oil, butter or melted coconut oil
1/2 cup dried organic cranberries
1/2 cup organic raw sunflower seeds
1 lemon, juiced & zest reserved
1.5 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I’m a fan of California Olive Ranch these days)
sea salt and black pepper to taste

photo 1c copy
Directions
After trimming your Brussels sprouts, slice each one 3 or 4 times (so it looks like somewhat shredded cabbage when you are done).  Heat the olive oil (not extra virgin) in a 3 or 4qt pan over medium heat.  When it’s hot, add the sliced/shredded sprouts and saute for about 5 – 7 minutes (or until your desired doneness), stirring occasionally. I like to saute them just until some pieces begin to brown and get crispy but the rest are still pretty firm.

Take them off the heat and toss with lemon juice, lemon zest and the extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and dress with the cranberries and sunflower seeds. Serve warm or at room temperature.  This is a great salad to bring to cookouts when sprouts are in season in late summer!

Makes 4 hearty servings.  Make this a well balanced meal by adding grilled chicken or cannellini beans on top.

The Secret to Getting More Done

take a breakI have to say, I’m really happy I decided to start my own business last year.  It was something I’ve always wanted to do and finally had the courage to go after and things are going really well!  I love the work that I’m doing.  Even the behind the scenes stuff, writing blog posts, newsletters, research and planning client programs is fun and doesn’t feel like work but I can easily work from 9am to Midnight some days and only stop for bathroom breaks or dinner!  That’s no good.

When I work at these long clips, I started to notice that my mind was wandering more and I wasn’t getting as much done in the time I set aside.  I want to give my best self to my clients and in my work. I want to be a great wife and a great friend. And I want to be productive and effective. I can’t do that if I’m burning the candle at both ends. I have to take breaks and nurture other parts of me. So do you.

That’s the secret to getting more done:  Breaks.

I know it sounds like the opposite of what you should be doing when you have a lot to do or are on a roll but it’s the truth. A study from the University of Illinois found that taking breaks from a task can improve your focus and creativity drastically. Breaks refresh, recharge and rejuvenate our minds and souls.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a small break like a 30 minute walk or a big break like a week long vacation.  There is a part of you that needs those segues.  It’s like rebooting your computer.  Suddenly things that you thought were broken seem to work again.

This past weekend, I decided that once 7:00pm on Friday rolled around that I was done working from then until Monday morning (okay it was closer to 7:30 but still!).  This weekend was for me to reboot! My husband took me up to Portsmouth Saturday to walk around and go out for a nice dinner. We stayed over in a downtown hotel, had Sunday brunch with my brother in law and then spent Sunday evening cuddling with the cat and watching 80’s movies.  It was a short break from my usual routine but it was just what I needed! It was hard not checking in on my work email or looking at my to do list when I came home Sunday night but I felt great and was really excited about all the things I wanted to do in the upcoming week. My mind feels more clear!

I’ve learned that if I want to be able to give my best in all I do, then I need to nurture myself.  No one puts out their best work or gives their best to their families or friends if they’re not taking time for themselves.  It’s not selfish and it’s not lazy.  It’s essential!

Obviously I can’t go away for the weekend every time I need a break (wouldn’t that be nice!) so I’m committing to taking regular breaks during my work day so that I don’t burn out. A few things that can help get your energy and focus back are:

  1. Exercise. Getting some fresh air and your blood pumping is incredibly invigorating.
  2. Read a book (something fun!)
  3. Meeting a friend for tea or coffee. Friends can be great stress relief.
  4. Cat naps.  Just 15 – 30 minutes is enough to clear your head and feel refreshed.
  5. Have a snack.  Something with complex carbs, fat and protein.  Some celery and carrot sticks with hummus or an apple and a hard boiled egg are energizing options that won’t slow you down.

Do you feel scattered when you don’t take breaks? Do you need to make more time for you to be your most productive? Is there a part of you that feels like you don’t deserve to take time off? What sorts of things do you do to take a break?

This was originally published as an email. To be included on this list, sign up in the green box below!

Let’s Go to the Barre!

 

Coaching Blog Photos1If you knew me when I was in my 20’s, it would probably be not too far of a stretch to say that I was addicted to going to the bar.  Now, in my 30’s, I’m also addicted to going to the Barre.  I never thought I’d enjoy going to a fitness class so much that I would drive 40 minutes to it, each way.  But I do.  In case you’ve never heard of Barre, the classes are fitness classes that are based on ballet, pilates and yoga.  I’ve had such a good experience with the classes that I wanted to share about them here.  I love sharing things that I love because I think you will love them too!

I started taking Barre classes at Strength in Balance NH (the first barre-only studio in NH) last November.  I bought a groupon/living social deal with a friend and settled in to enjoy what I thought would be a handful of reasonably priced fitness classes.  I’d workout and move on to something else when I used up all of my classes . . .because that’s what I usually do with trying something new (BECAUSE I HAVE ADD AND GET BORED EASILY. WHY AM I YELLING?).

I enjoyed my first classes.  I thought they were challenging but still doable no matter what your fitness level with modifications. I enjoyed the classes so much that I signed up for a 90 day 50 class challenge in January when I used up my deal classes. I knew it was going to be tough for me to make it to 50 classes in winter (when I live in a town that thinks snow plowing is optional) but I was determined to do it.  It was tough!  Towards the end of the challenge, I had to double up on classes just to get them all in but it was totally worth it.  I lost 8.6 lbs and 23 inches over the 90 days!

Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of exercises – running, cycling, Body Pump, yoga, heavy weights – you name it. My body changed with those things for sure, but Barre hits spots that no other exercise gets to in the same way.  For the first time in my life I’m wearing skinny jeans.  Even when I weighed 30 lbs less than I do now you would never have caught me in a pair of skinny jeans because they just didn’t look right on me. I’m not a tiny girl but I now look fab in my skinny jeans.  I’m noticing definition in places that have never had definition before (hello abs? I have some under there?) and changes in places that have historically been impossible to change (for me at least), my inner thighs!   I can even now zip up knee high boots over my calves . . .something that was pretty tough even when I was my thinnest 5 years ago.  Barre can be crazy hard but it’s also crazy effective.

The instructors constantly change up the workouts so I’m not getting bored and my muscles continue to be challenged.  Just when I think I’ve got a certain move mastered or that something should be getting “easy”, we do something else and I feel like I’m at square one.  It never gets “easy”.  You’d think that would be unmotivating, but it’s not!  I keep coming back because I’m getting results (results I wasn’t getting even when I used to run 25 miles a week).

It’s not just a great workout.  It’s also a positive and warm environment. The instructors, Becki Somers (owner), and Julia LeFebvre make it a point to learn everyone’s name who comes to class. I’m always impressed at the effort they put into making newcomers feel welcome and comfortable.  There’s nothing worse than going to a new class for the first time and having it feel like a big high school clique. I’ve been to some straight up snotty & superficial classes before. That’s definitely not the case here.  Everyone is too busy trying not to slip on the floor in their own sweat puddle to spend a moment judging you.  There’s a lot of laughter and joking among the women who come to class. It’s a great group of women. Everyone is super friendly and welcoming.  We may not know each other’s names (in some cases) but if I’m sweating alongside you for months while we both curse the little blue sponge ball that we’re squeezing between our thighs (while on our toes and in a pulsing plié) I feel like we’ve bonded.  Sweaty sisterhood.

If you live in the Nashua or Hudson, NH area and are tired of your current workout or looking for something to help you get through a plateau, you should come check it out!  Strength in Balance NH is right on the Nashua/Hudson border on Bridge St.  There’s a fabulous deal/challenge going on right now. It’s the Bikini Challenge (no bikini involved) and it’s $99 for UNLIMITED classes for 6 weeks.  You can sign up between now and May 25th.  It’s a ridiculous deal and I’ve already signed myself up for it.  If you’re interested and thinking of checking it out but feeling intimidated, let me know when you’re going and I’ll come with you if I can!

A couple of things you might want to know before going:

  • Your first class is free!  And you can sign up online for it.
  • Class is done barefoot or in socks (if it’s cold)
  • Yoga mats, weights, thera-bands, and any other equipment you’ll need is provided
  • You don’t have to have a dance background or be graceful to take these classes
  • You’ll probably be really sore after your first class (even if you workout already). My calves were so tight after my first class that I almost fell getting out of bed the next morning.  Husband thought that was hilarious.

Oh and the studio just moved to a new location on Bridge St and they may not have signs up when you go, so check out my little dorky picture spread below to give you hints about how to get there.  It’s like fitness and a treasure hunt all in one.  Aren’t you lucky?!

The new studio is a little tricky to find if you've never been in this area before so I made you dorky OCD picture directions!

The new studio is a little tricky to find if you’ve never been in this area before so I made you dorky OCD picture directions!

Untitled drawing (1)