Monday, January 31, 2011

Push Yourself Sometimes!!

Picture a revolving door at a busy department store where it just keeps spinning. As one person is leaving, another person is pushing in.  This is how my day felt today at work.  Did you ever leave work for the day and just think to yourself, what in the world just happened?!?  My energy level was low and my stress level was high.  I didn't have a minute to breathe.

I stopped off at the market on the drive home which usually destresses me.  It takes my mind off of whatever happened during the day and I have a chance to separate myself from the workday and reconnect with what I enjoy.  I found such good treats at the market for dinner and felt a touch better on the drive home.

After walking through the front door of my house, I had the urge to zone out.  It would have been pretty easy to get under the covers and take a nap or mindlessly surf the web for an hour.  Instead, I played online for a couple of minutes, looked up my gym schedule, threw on exercise clothes and pushed myself to a spin class that I usually do not take. 

I swear, everything happens for a reason!  I walked into the spin room, set up on a bike that I've never used before and started pedaling mindlessly while lost in thought.  A man approached me and startled me out of my daydream.  It was the best surprise of the day.  Two of my old spin buddies from my previous gym were right there in front of me.  I haven't seen them in over a year and this was such a treat to be reunited.  I never thought I'd see them again.  I was on a high all throughout spin and left feeling completely cleansed and removed from all the stress at the beginning of the day.  I feel so grateful that I didn't get under the covers when I got home and decided to try a new class at the gym instead.

I came home from the gym and made a simple and quick dinner...salad and sandwiches.  Salad was easy.  I mixed together some mesculin lettuce, raw pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds and chopped onion with a garlic flavored vinaigrette.  For a sandwich, I sliced up a ripe tomato, fresh mozzarella, chopped up some basil and put it on a  Farro Grain roll with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.  Cleanup was a cinch and there was enough fresh basil left over to put out in a vase.  Pesto will definitely be made soon!  The Farro Grain roll was something I never tried before.  It was soft and delicious.  Check out the healthy description of Farro Grain in the picture below.

So the moral of the day is...if you have any energy to push yourself to exercise, do it.  If not, surrender and relax.  But usually, the hardest part is just getting yourself to go.  It's rare that I don't feel better after releasing some endorphins and working up a sweat.

Farro Grain Rolls

Farro Roll Description

Fresh Tomatoes
Caprese Sandwich and Mesculin Salad

Leftover Basil

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What a Wonderful Sunday

This day was plain old wonderful!  I woke up and took a spin class and afterwards Brad drove me into NYC where I met one of his colleagues for a vegan brunch (cornbread with tahini spread, kukicha tea, and beautiful veggies!).  I feel so fortunate to have yet another energetic, independent, health-conscious, and interesting female friend in my life who likes cooking, yoga, and adventures!!  (We set up a future date for her to teach me how to cook Indian food.  Don't worry, there'll be a post on that!)

Afterwards, I met my brother for some hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows at City Bakery (dark for me and milk for him). 

Dark Hot Chocolate (left), Milk Hot Chocolate (right) from City Bakery in NYC
We took the bus together home to NJ, and I went to Whole Foods to buy food to make my meals for the week as well as dinner for the night.  When I came home, I put on some soft music, finished making my breakfast, lunch, and two snacks for the work week and then took some time to pamper myself.  I read my book in a lavender oil bath with a face mask on and some coconut oil in my hair. 

Feeling relaxed and refreshed, I made a meal in under 30 minutes!!  Taking some influence from one of my friends, I made basmati rice with lite coconut milk (cook 1 cup of basmati rice in 3/4 cup lite coconut milk and 1 cup water), Chilean sea bass (seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, and salt), and mixed veggies in some extra virgin olive oil.  The coconut rice was a hit!  It was fluffy with a touch of sweetness.

Coconut Rice, Chilean Sea Bass, Mixed Veggies

It's getting late...time for bed. Here's to fun-filled weekends with old friends and new. :)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Feeling Grateful

Okay, okay...I know I haven't been blogging so much lately, mostly because these past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of fun, one adventure after the next, which hasn't left so much time to write, and actually, we've been eating out in restaurants a lot lately.  Tonight I go to bed feeling so extremely grateful for all the wonderful people in my life, each one a little blessing.  Last week I turned 30 years old and I am just bursting with gratitude. I look at how much I have accomplished, how many risks I have taken, how many challenges I have overcome, how much I have grown as a person, all the wonderful friends and family I have in my life, the strong network of women and support I have for role models, all the adventures I have had, my consistent healthy lifestyle choices, and it makes me so proud and so excited for my 30's.  Since I am one of the youngest out of all of my friends, I hear we get even more comfortable in our own skin in our 30's and therefore, our 30's are even better than our 20's. 

So for my actual birthday, I took a spin class after work and came home to a healthy meal cooked by the hubs.  He made lemon sole, sauteed kale with Parmesan cheese (try it! it's a nice flavor combo), and cous cous.  Don't worry, we had to have birthday cake!  He brought home a Junior's Cheesecake and it was delicious!

Sole, Kale, Cous Cous

Birthday Cake (Junior's Cheesecake)

The birthday celebration continued!  We stayed at my favorite hotel for the weekend, The Ritz Carleton where everytime we go, we get to live in pure luxury for three days...breakfast in bed, a day at the spa, massage, steam room, sauna, movies on demand, a rain shower, huge bathtub, etc.  We also went to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner in Greenwich, Connecticut called Polpo where we spent the evening feeling overly sophisticated.

So now that the festivities calmed down, Little Earth Mama's Kitchen is reopened and back in business.  We'll be back to cooking this week. :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Care Packages

When was the last time you sent or received a care package in the mail?  I absolutely love them!  Besides holidays and birthdays, when do we just get random little gifts to show we are cared about?  Since I grow my own herbs, fruits, and veggies in the summer, I am a big summer care package sender.  I like making jars of dried herbs, pesto sauces, jams, etc. with the food that I grow and give them as gifts to family and friends.

Today, I came home to a pretty heavy box sent to me by my parents in Florida.  I rushed upstairs, opened it up, and felt like a kid!!  One small gift after the next after the next.  My parents sent me the most thoughtful care package filled with boxes of teas and flours, snacks, dried fruits, and granola, natural oils and body products all from my absolute favorite health food store near their house.  I am in heaven and can't wait to try these things out!!

I feel so loved!  This is just a little reminder of how good it feels when receiving small acts of kindness. I will surely pass this energy on.  Big :).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Healthy Burgers and Fries??

There is nothing better than receiving a phone call the night before a snow day to let you know that you have off the following day from work (they usually call at 5 am!).  I was able to relax for the rest of last night, and I had some peace of mind knowing that I could sleep in (which my body allowing me to sleep until 8 am is a miracle for me).  We decided to have a fun dinner last night and take advantage of our relaxed moods. Burgers and Fries!

Well, not exactly...veggie burgers for me and turkey burgers for Brad with some baked organic french fries.  I've tried so many different types of veggie burgers and they usually have this awful chemical kind of aftertaste, so when I discovered this past year Amy's California Veggie Burgers which taste like homemade restaurant quality, it's all I buy.  Actually, all of Amy's frozen products taste really good and have all natural, organic ingredients.  I'm not sure how she does it.

We used whole wheat buns, topped our burgers with some chopped onions, lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, and pickles and had a nutritious and filling meal.


Snow Day Breakfast

I'm off from work today for a snow day and Brad's working from home, so after a high-energy, fantastic dance class filled with the die hards (there were definitely about 20 of us in that room that braved the snowy roads this morning) and half of a scultping class, I came home and cooked a pretty delicious, dairy-free, healthy breakfast.

Scrambled Egg Whites with Whole Wheat Pancakes (some made with dark chocolate), cut up Strawberries, and OJ.  To keep breakfast dairy-free, I cooked the eggs in extra virgin olive oil, used almond milk in the pancake batter, and cooked the pancakes in canola oil.  We used 100% real maple syrup to top it off.  Now it's time for a magazine under the covers and a nap. :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year's Resolutions: Don't Fail - Advice from Jolene Matthews

I've said it before and I'll say it again...Jolene Matthews is a top notch personal trainer.  If you live in the NYC/Northern NJ area and you ever have the chance to work with her, she will work you out hard and make sure you are staying on task (she even put a work out plan together for me when I was on vacation in Florida to make sure I was on track).  She is extremely knowledgeable in the field of fitness and always has fabulous advice.  Her last post, Healthy Holiday Tips provided us with ways to stay fit and healthy during the stressful and hectic holiday months of November and December.  Now that we are in January, and resolutions and new fitness goals have been made, here is Jolene's tips and advice on how to stay on track.

Jolene Matthews

New Year's Resolutions: Don't Fail - by Jolene Matthews
The case for the “new year, new you, new start” concept has all of us reevaluating what we want to accomplish, change, alter, etc. in the coming year.  Research and our own experience tells us that an overwhelming number of individuals who commit to a health and fitness resolution fail within 6 months! It simply doesn’t work for most and, even worse, sets up us for failure.

What to do? Change the Game and Play Fair!

Don't promise yourself 20 lbs. of weight loss in 30 days and don't be faked out by the 10-minute workout (usually accompanied by some "nutritional" pill).

Credible trainers have long known that there needs to be a process that is as individual and customized to our clients to help them in their efforts.  The most important elements begin when our clients start by telling themselves the truth. Here are some thoughts to chew on:
  • Why have you chosen this resolution now?
  • Is it a choice that you are deliberately making or are you doing this for your spouse, children, doctor or someone else?
  • Review the past resolutions you have made and discuss the barriers, not the goals, which kept you from achieving them. 
  • Look at the upcoming year and see if there are any dramatic changes that will alter your lifestyle.
Certainly you’ll use your own approach with these questions but try to reveal the underlying behaviors that will likely repeat themselves.  This is a critical step in going deeper and being honest with yourself.
As always, what matters is what happens next.  The rest is simply talk.  This month I want to give you some tips that will create an environment for success!

Journal. After determining your goals or resolutions, take a few days to journal your feelings and thoughts around these goals.  Tune into anything that comes to mind  – past successes, failures, potential barriers, underlying saboteurs, etc.

Talk to a Professional. Schedule a meeting to review what you have written and discuss the underlying reasons for your fitness goals and past failures, and also discuss what works for your time frame, diet, schedule, etc. This consultation can help you understand yourself better and help the expert know where to begin correcting your course of change.

Once a month determine together with a fitness expert some very short-term, positive expected outcomes for the month ahead that you can measure and/or track. 

Being fit takes work and is truly difficult for the majority of people.  Brainstorm with your personal trainer some creative ways to make these changes gradually – make them part of the solution. A drastic change can create feelings of desperation and even result in moving backward instead of forward.  Change can be something as small as adding five minutes to your cardio workout.  Since the you create these changes and rewards, the chances of success grow dramatically.

Talk about the things you are passionate about – what you really love or want for your health. This goes beyond say losing 15lbs., or strengthening abs. Inside each of us there is still a child who wants to dance, ride a bike and express ourselves uniquely. Express and embrace those underlying desires as it can truly create  a light at the end of the tunnel that is reached one day at a time.

Once you've unlocked your potential and understand the deeply rooted personal reasons for your resolutions and goals, you will most likely have a successful and gratifying relationship with yourself that goes beyond fitness goals.  You are your own change agent.  Try something new!

Jolene Matthews
Nationally Certified Group Fitness and Dance Instructor/Personal Trainer
Actor/Commercial and Fitness Model
Columnist "Lifestyle and Trends", Edgewater View

Friday, January 7, 2011

Carrot Ginger Soup

On my most recent trip to Boston to take one of my dear friend Goldie's yoga classes (if you live in the Boston area, she teaches the best yoga classes I've ever taken), I had the pleasure of meeting one of her close friends, Michael Dehni.  I took an immediate liking to Michael who is a dedicated yogi and committed to living a healthy lifestyle, but I liked him even more when I saw his kitchen!! There, staring me right in the face in his kitchen was dun dun dun....a Vitamix (a juicer's dream come true!).  From one juice lover to another, I knew this guy could cook!  And although I have not had the opportunity to try his cooking yet, I plan on making his carrot ginger soup recipe.  It sounds soothing, nutritious, and the perfect way to cure a winter cold. 

Carrot Ginger Soup by Michael Dehni
-1 pound of chopped carrots
-2 shallots chopped
-Fresh ginger (about 1.5 inches of a ginger root)
-Organic vegetable broth. 
-Orange peel (fresh or dried - I used dried but better to have fresh)
-salt and pepper
-2 tablespoons of Ghee
-pumpkin seeds

1) Saute shallots, carrots and ghee for a few minutes until shallots become clear.
2) Add two cups of veg broth, simmer until carrots are tender.
3) Add a few dashes of orange peel and mix in a blender.  I use the vitamix because it handles hot stuff.  You can also add oranges for a more orange sweet taste.
5) Keep adding veg broth while mixing in blender to adjust consistency.
6) Season to taste with salt and pepper.
7) Saute the pumpkin seeds with some olive oil in a pan.
8) Garnish with cinnamon and pumpkin seeds.

Sharing Quick Meal Ideas

I've linked up with Alyson Seligman's blog, The Average Girl's Guide (TAGG) in past posts, and I just have to do it again because it is just so good!  When she put up a recent post about making healthy meals for dinner (mind you she is a busy full time working woman who also has a one year old little girl), I asked if I could share it on Little Earth Mama's Kitchen.  In her post called Quick Bites: Dinnertime Concoctions, she has some great tips and suggestions that I will be sure to use.  Check them out here.

His and Hers

If you've been following this blog, then you already know I am a pescatarian.  I haven't had meat (except for fish) in 6 years.  My husband is a meat and potatoes kind of man.  Most people when they move in together worry about things like finances, furniture, and decorating; however, one of my biggest concerns was how we were going to share meals.  I didn't want to have to give up my lifestyle choices and why should he give up his.  It took a little bit of time to get used to, but we have really learned to compromise.  We typically have the same meal for dinner; however, there are days when I want to make something that he doesn't like which provides him a great opportunity to cook a meat based meal.  For example, the other night I was making salmon (one of his least favorite fish), so he cooked himself a piece of chicken (and let me tell you...he SWEARS by his chicken recipe), and we both had the same sides of sweet potatoes and kale.  Do you live in a situation where your partner or roommate has different eating choices than you?  What are your tricks to making it work?

Balsamic Chicken, Kale, and Sweet Potato

Brad's Balsamic Chicken Breast Recipe
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Use a piece of chicken breast (organic if possible) pounded to half an inch thick consistently.  Lightly salt and put a fresh cracked pepper coating on both sides.  Put a touch of canola oil in a cold pan (not non-stick).  Introduce medium high heat to pan.  Once the pan is as hot as it is going to get, sear the chicken on one side for one minute, or until brown.  Reapeat on the opposite side.  Remove from heat.  Pour good balsamic vinegar in the pan, swirl around pan, enough to coat the chicken.  Add the entire pan to the oven and cook for exactly 12 minutes (make sure your pan is oven safe!).  Do not cut chicken before it finishes cooking otherwise you lose the juice.  The browned sides keep all the moisture in.

Top 10 Tips for Living a Healthy Lifestyle

I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by the group of passionate people that I work with everyday (I am a high school guidance counselor).  Oh, to be a fly on the wall for most of the conversations between 8 strong female colleagues in the counseling profession.  I can promise you this...the conversation is NEVER boring.  One of the women who is an inspiration to me not only professionally but also personally is Janet Gould.  She is an excellent counselor and is a wonderful role model for the choices she makes in her own life.

Janet is by far the healthiest person I know; however, this has not always been the case.  She admirably made major lifestyle changes when she turned 50.  With all of her hard work and dedication, she has lost, get ready for this...50 pounds.  I have taken dance, spin, sculpt, and yoga classes with her and she can outlast anyone in the room.  With a grandmother and sister who are diabetic and a mother who is pre-diabetic, Janet knew she needed to incorporate exercise and healthy eating choices into her life.  Going from never stepping foot inside a gym, she has been exercising consistently for years now on average 5 to 6 days per week.

Janet is an inspiration to all, and she continues to challenge herself physically everyday.  Below is Janet Gould's TOP 10 TIPS FOR LIVING A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

Ten Top Tips for Living a Healthy Lifestyle by Janet Gould
Commit yourself to some form of exercise at least three times a week and mix it up – something with weights, especially for women who are a bit older, and cardio. For me, it is Spin, Zumba, walking outside for cardio and Kettlebell, Circuit Training and Yoga for weights and strength.
*Important* Find yourself a workout buddy (does not need to be your best friend, just someone who is at or about your level - you will get to know them, trust me!).  You can either train with a personal trainer together (cheaper if you split the session) or go to the gym together and make up a program that you follow or take walks together - you will push each other and one supports the other especially on days that have been tough!

If you are overweight or just want to lose a few pounds – find a program that suits youwhether it be a nutritionist who you see privately or a diet you find supportive – you need to have a healthy way of eating and to do so, you need to understand how to eat properly without denying all eating pleasures. In my case, I did see a private nutritionist to begin, lost 45 pounds and then needed to really figure out how to eat to live, not to just lose weight. I found something that worked for me called “Trim in 6” which is a program run by Bessie Neshan from Carve Your Body in Emerson. It was a totally supportive program and I did learn how to “carve my body” the best I could.

Mentoring – this has been a 6 year journey for me. I started to lose weight and exercise at the “young” age of 50 and now, six years later it has become a part of my daily life and routine. On that journey, I have had phenomenal mentors to which I am eternally grateful and have helped me change my life. Find people you like and can work with – if you are not happy with your personal trainer, nutritionist, workout buddy, class instructor, change and make sure it works for you. In my journey, I can think of three women, all of which I am still in contact with on some level, who really supported my journey – my nutritionist, my trainer (which I have had a number of them, but one has made the immense difference) and my current Zumba instructor and Trim in 6 teacher. I have also had many more that have touched my life in this capacity and it really helps.

Form is vitally important. For those of us who are a little older, injury is always a risk when exercising. PLEASE find people who care and practice the best form. Instructors should be able to modify exercises to fit all types and you should not be at risk for unnecessary injury – some is unavoidable if you have weak areas. Know your body and work to the level your body can handle!

Be prepared! I always make sure I have a healthy snack, water, and things I might need if I get caught up and can’t go to lunch, dinner or whatever the situation may be. I always have a handful of almonds, a piece of fruit, a protein bar, either in my gym bag, purse or whatever you may carry so that I am not starving and tempted to eat whatever I can find – which is usually not a good choice.

DRINK A LOT OF WATER! This has truly changed my life. I do actually drink 64 ounces of water a day. I used to drink 3 -5 Diet Cokes thinking that was a good choice, but have literally stopped that altogether and if (very occasionally at this point), I feel like I want something sweet , I will drink one (caffeine free works for me). The water flushes out the system and it is good for you.

Do not rationalize that the weather is bad therefore I can’t go to the class or the gym or I had a bad day at work and I just can’t find the strength to go or or or. There are always excuses not to go, but once you go and get there, your adrenalin levels get raised, you feel good and accomplished and it is healthy. I really do push myself on those bad days and ALWAYS feel better afterwards.

Try not to become obsessed with anything. The reason I so enjoy the Zumba classes are two-fold, they are a fun workout, but for me they did something else. They “freed” me in a certain way. I was not a dancer, although I’m sure somewhere in my childhood I dreamed of being one! I can let go and move and not care – there are so many body shapes and sizes and ability levels in these classes that it does not matter – I try to concentrate on what I am doing and the instructor and I do not even realize the hour has passed – that for me, was extremely liberating. However, do not become obsessed with any one thing. Be kind to your body and rest when you need to.

Think outside of the box – try new things. Did I ever think I would be swinging a kettlebell? (Do people know what a kettlebell is?) The first month my workout buddy Lorraine asked me to do Zumba – I stood in the back of the room and laughed at how uncoordinated I was. When my trainer Marisa, started teaching Spin on a new Real Ryder bike that moves with you, I thought I could NEVER do it. But, as one of my mentors always says, the body is meant to move – change it up and try new things. It stops you from being bored or stuck in a routine and increases the fun!

Share your experiences with people who want to either learn or participate and are afraid to do so for whatever the reason. In addition, just sharing with friends who do other things opens up new worlds for you as well and can make for good conversation. I actually choose who I speak with about exercise and nutrition, because some people just don’t want to hear it. I have brought Zumba classes to the place I work at and given people the choice to join or not – never pressure, but sharing experiences can be fun. One of the Zumba instructors where I go ended up telling everyone in her class about a concert that was in NYC – one of the groups she uses the music of and an entire group of us went – got dressed up for the evening – took our respective significant others and had a great time – who would have thought! SHARE.

Vegan Thumbprint Cookies

The fact that I am lactose intolerant and get a sweet tooth craving after dinner pretty much on a nightly basis makes Vegan Thumbprint Cookies a perfect choice for an after dinner treat.  They actually make a great addition to breakfast and a wonderful snack anytime throughout the day too.  They are loaded with nutrition, fiber, are vegan, and taste delicious.  I got the recipe from a vegan baking class I took about 6 months ago, and everytime I make a batch of these for myself and friends, they are a hit.  The ingredients can be a little expensive if you buy them all at once, but they last for a long time.  The flours can be found at any health food store or Whole Foods Market.  I like using Bob's Red Mill flours the best.  These cookies are sweet yet wholesome at the same time without any white flour or white sugar.  Enjoy!

Vegan Thumbprint Cookies
1 cup oats or gluten free oats
1 cup almond flour
1 cup millet flour
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup palm sugar
3 tablespoons flaxmeal
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Fruit sweetened jam

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a food processor pulse the oats.  Mix oats, almond flour, millet flour, olive oil, maple syrup, palm sugar, flaxmeal and sea salt.  With your hands, roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on lined cookie sheet.  With your thumb, press into center of ball to create an indentation.  Fill each cookie with a tsp on jam.  Bake for 20-25 minutes

Dark Chocolate Cranberry Protein Bars

Do you ever buy protein bars (Powerbars, Clif Bars, Pure Protein Bars, etc.)?  The boxes and packaging usually have pictures of ripped abs or a person doing physical activity so our first thought when picking them up is that these bars have to be good for us, but if we take a closer look, many of them are loaded with sugar, are high in calories, and are made of ingredients that we can't even pronounce (and they tend to be pricey too).

A friend of mine forwarded me an email that she received from Bessie Neshan, owner of a fantastic workout studio called Carve Your Body (in Emerson, NJ), and she is one of the most knowledgeable people in the field of fitness and nutrition that I have ever met (I've taken one of her amazing Zumba classes too which I highly recommend!).  Bessie sent a recipe for homemade Dark Chocolate Cranberry Protein Bars.  What a great idea to make a large amount of protein bars at the beginning of the week, cut and wrap them up, and grab one on the go for some post workout fuel.  Below is Bessie's recipe for Dark Chocolate Cranberry Protein Bars.  I'll be making myself a batch this weekend.

½ cup almonds
½ cup pecans
½ cup dried cranberries
2 scoops unflavored, low-carb whey protein powder
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
40 grams of 85%-90% dark chocolate (see packaging to divide properly)
¼ cup water
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix all items together in food processor until all pieces are uniformly chopped. Press mixture firmly down in square baking dish (optional: line square baking dish with parchment paper).
  • Bake at 350 for 10 minutes (just enough to melt chocolate). Allow to set before cutting into bars. Cut into approximate 8 bars.
You can also experiment with other desired nuts or dried fruit. Just keep the portion sizes the same as above. Also the bars freeze really well in case you’d like to freeze or even double the portions and make a bigger batch and freeze for future consumption.
Nutrition Facts:
8 servings
Calories: 193
Carbs: 11g
Protein: 9g
Fat: 13g  (good fat… but if you want to reduce – reduce to 1/3 cup each of the nuts and a tad less dark chocolate to taste)
Sugar: 6g
Sodium: 18mg
Fiber: 3g

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Little Earth Mama's Mama

It is not uncommon for my family to roll their eyes and make a joke whenever I bring up the idea that they need to start exercising and be more mindful of their nutrition.  It's hard for me to know how much to push and how much to stay quiet because after all...the motivation to make a change has to come from within.  So when my father told me yesterday that he exercised for the first time in months and did 20 minutes of cardio by himself, I felt so proud of him!  My mother said she is going to get back to it this week too which is fantastic.  So along with all the other people who are starting their exercise routine with the New Year (my friend who does sales at my gym said membership is up 150%!!), I asked my mother if she could share on my blog how she plans to keep herself motivated and this was her response (I couldn't be more proud!)...
Motivation??? by Andrea Cooperstock
I am the mother of a daughter with so much 'motivation'.  I sometimes wonder how she does it all.  She explains to me all the time how eating healthy and regular exercise will improve my life, but my mind hears one thing and my body wants to do another.  As many of you must understand, 'tomorrow' has many different meanings.  For me, it is just another day of procrastinating.  I am tired almost all of the time.  I know a regular routine of exercise would improve my energy level, but the motivation is just not up to par.  My daughter puts in a full day of work, but always manages to get some form of exercise for the day.  Tomorrow I am going to go to the gym???  Exercise for 20 minutes and hopefully add more minutes as time goes on.  I REALLY want to do it (just as I am sure many of you would like to) but I need to learn how to motivate myself.  If we take care of our bodies, we can be more productive for ourselves and our family.  If the gym is not an option, I will put on some good music (with a beat) and do my thing!  That is going to be my motivation.  What will be yours???

Monday, January 3, 2011

Get Happy, Fit, Let Loose, and Live a Balanced Life

Stephanie Cohen
If you've been following my blog or you know me personally, then you are aware that I absolutely, positively love my dance classes.  From these classes, I have met some of the most energetic, positive, happy, and fit women who I am honored to call my friends.  One of these women happen to be Stephanie Cohen who is not afraid to break it down in the front of the class like no one is watching!  She exudes positive energy, not to mention she has a killer set of abs!  It is so admirable that she has two children and is still able to incorporate exercise into her daily life.  So when I approached Stephanie about contributing a post to Little Earth Mama's Kitchen about her healthy lifestyle, she enthusiastically shared an article she recently wrote.  She is such a wonderful role model to all. 

Here is Stephanie's article, "How Omar Saved My Career (and helped me lose 9 pounds)".  Enjoy!

How Omar Saved My Career (and helped me lose 9 Pounds)
by Stephanie Jill Dunne Cohen, MMR

The first day of my first office job I wondered why the work schedule of the 'real' world had to differ so much from the schedule most students keep while in college.  After all, the standards at most universities are extremely high, performance evaluations are competitive and great research is achieved, even if the valedictorian played tennis every Tuesday morning.

Drowning in a world of required face time and inter-office politics was no longer a viable option once I became the mom of two daughters.  Surprisingly, most US companies have not made it a priority to assist their employees to achieve work-life balance.  Talented men and women are often forced into rigid work schedules to avoid unacceptable financial consequences.

For over three years, I have been lucky enough to work for a company that supports employees that work from home.  I sell specialized patient communication software to medical practices and was PhoneTree's first employee to work remotely outside of the main office in North Carolina.  The Internet, phone, and Instant Messenger keep me plugged in as if I am sitting next to my colleagues during office hours.  However, I have managed to carve out sacred time for myself to be UNplugged from my office and my responsibilities at home.  It is a priority for me to be in the front row just left of Omar, the teacher of Full Out at my gym.  This exercise dance class is the perfect combination of Latin, strip tease, and dance around crazy in your living room.  I no longer believe it is a coincidence that I do not compromise my fitness goals and I am one of the top sales people and a manager for my company.  I also get a good laugh picturing my colleagues watching me salsa with seductive moves and jump around to Miley Cirus songs (yes I am 40 years old and a great mother too!).

By the time I reach CanDo Fitness in Edgewater NJ, I have already gained a lot of energy blasting pop music in my car.  I grab my protein shake and claim my usual first row spot in the group fitness class room.  The music vibrates around us and together we follow Omar into an hour of heaven - where no one calls me mommy and I can not check for the red light of my Blackberry.  The track lighting keeps the room dim and when Omar moves around, the class often looks to me in the front to keep the steps in time and sometimes I will lead a song or two on the instructor stage.  For those few minutes I am the leader propelled by a situation where a successful outcome is guaranteed every time.  Isn't this exactly what parenting experts advise us to do with our own children to promote growth and confidence?

Many religions and cultures incorporate group dance into their rituals and I have tapped into that most powerful energy.  Someone in the class once said to me "I have never seen such pure unadulterated joy on anyone's face as you express in here."  This is an accurate description of me and by the end of each class, I am sweating, feeling strong and most importantly like I was a part of something bigger than myself.  The energy gained in this dance class filters through all of the other areas of my life from my kids, my friends and to my prospective clients.

As confirmed from my early days of performing arts school and leading roles in many plays, music and dance are the essence of who I am.  Even a stolen moment of perceived stage presence makes me feel free.  According to spiritual guides, I am listening to my inner child - the one we seem only encouraged to hear when we are actually children.  We are socialized to follow a strict linear life path; childhood, school, work, retirement.  I am not sure why we tend to spend the first three stages planning for that final phase.  The staggering rate of depression, anxiety, obesity and low self-esteem in our society are evidence of the damage caused by ignoring what we love to do during our working years.

Imagine a job interview where the hiring manager said "we here at Company X expect that your work week will include dancing around with Omar and your friends at your gym."  I guarantee that this company would lower staff turnover, increase loyalty and most importantly expand its bottom line.

Consider researching what your earliest characterizations and interests were and prioritizing those into your life now regardless of your age.  What makes us truly happy often remains limbic in the brain.  There are times when we can not control our own schedule and at that point I would suggest incorporating what brings positive energy into your life whenever possible (even if in 15 minute time slots).  Remember it is okay to put yourself first because in the end it will only help everyone around you over time.  We are used to hearing the "place the oxygen mask over your own face before attempting to help others" every time we are on a plane and our every day lives are not any different.

Discover what makes you feel you could defy gravity and trust me...once you find your Omar and dance like no one is watching, your sales will go through the roof.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Future Breakfast

I've never been a big tv watcher and there aren't many shows that I like to commit a time slot to on my weekly agenda. However, I do look forward to my dvr'd episodes of Aarti Party on the Food Network every Sunday.  Indian food is one of my favorites and I have experimented cooking it on my own, but it is definitely an area that I'd like to improve in.  (If you live in the NYC area, and like to cook your own Indian food, have you ever been to Dual Specialty Market in the East Village?  If not, it's fantastic!)  Aarti makes cooking Indian food look so easy.  On today's episode, she made this luscious looking Pumpkin Oatmeal which was basically water, almond milk, canned pumpkin, raisins, a couple of warm spices, and oatmeal that turns into this creamy, sweet, vitamin-enriched breakfast goodness.  Aarti suggested making a big batch at the beginning of the week to last you until the end which is exactly what I plan on doing next Sunday. :)

And just for some extra information...take a look at the nutritional benefits of eating pumpkin.

A Week of Cooking in Review

I was off from work this entire week and decided to just stay home and relax for the first time instead of travel somewhere (well, except for a small trip to Philly to see our friends for New Years Eve).  It feels good going back to work tomorrow with all the laundry done, meals made for the week, groceries are stocked, and the house is neat and clean.  We also did a lot of good cooking this week.  We stuck to simple, wholesome, hearty meals.  I'll just highlight a few.

Eggs and Black Bean Breakfast Burrito
All I did was cook two scrambled eggs per person (I cook my eggs in extra virgin olive oil on a low light), heated up a can of black beans with some sauteed onions, and placed both the beans and eggs in a multi-grain tortilla with a little bit of shredded cheese.  We rolled it up for a delicious breakfast.

Cous Cous with Roasted Shrimp, Cauliflower, and Chickpeas
This dinner was easy and tasty.  We cooked the cous cous according to the directions (which if you've never made cous cous, it's quicker but the same process as rice).  The cauliflower and shrimp were both drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  The oven was heated to 400 degrees.  The cauliflower cooked for 25 minutes and the shrimp cooked for 8 (both in 400 degrees).  We mixed the cous cous, shrimp, and cauliflower together with some chickpeas, cooked onions and garlic, a little more extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and it was superb!

Bowtie Pasta with Mixed Vegetables

This was the easiest of them all and the best part...hardly any pots and pans to clean up.  I cooked some bowtie pasta (1 cup per person cooked) at the same time that I sauteed garlic, onions, and extra virgin olive oil for the sauce.  Once the pasta was done, I mixed it into the oil and added a bag of frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots that I heated up in the microwave.  We topped with some parmesan cheese and it was hearty, quick, and filling.