What’s healthy and tastes good?

quesadilla with spinach and avocado
My plant-based quesadilla with spinach and avocado.

My husband absolutely loves this quesadilla I came up with during our quest for a plant-based diet. I have given up going full on plant based because it’s does not agree with me. I get really shaky with low blood sugar. I’m sick of lentils and tofu. So I bake chicken, grill sea bass and the like to add to my daily veggies.

This quesadilla is absolutely delicious though. Here’s what goes in it:

First I saute´ spinach in avocado oil and put the spinach on a plate. Then I use the pan to heat a tortilla on both sides. I found the most amazing tortillas at the farmer’s market. (The one in these photos is store bought and not nearly as good, because we ran out of the farmer’s market ones quickly.)

Next I sprinkle a quarter cup blend of finely shredded Mexican cheese on the tortilla and one slice of havarti. I top that with spinach and a quarter of an avocado in chunks.

Top it with pico de gallo or salsa and drizzle sour cream.

I let it cook until the cheese is melted and the tortilla crisps to a golden brown. Then I fold it in half.

spinach and avocado quesadilla
I kept this one in the pan a little longer to brown a bit more.

What are your favorite healthy snacks? Do you have any simple recipes to share that I can add to my plant-based repertoire? Do you create your own recipes or use already written ones?

To juice or blend?

I talked to one of my friends who is a former nutritionist from Loma Linda hospital about plant-based diets. She said she and her husband decided to try it and one of the helpful things she found is juicing. It’s interesting that they are going mainly plant-based because her husband is a big hunter and their freezer (and mine) are stocked with venison and other game. He also free dives for lobster and fish. (Somehow when they’ve given me lobster, it never makes it to the freezer!)

I’m not 100% plant-based. I’m hypoglycemic and my body craves protein — in the form of chicken, beef and fish. But I’m trying to cut down on meat, so I thought juicing would be a good way to get more fruits and vegetables into my body.

Then my son said juicing removes fiber. He recommended blending. I googled the pros and cons of each and decided to try a blender, too. After a little bit more research I settled on a Ninja blender.

Ninja blender for smoothies.
My Ninja.

After my morning walks, I am now making fruit smoothies. I haven’t gotten into the green drinks — yet.

Here’s the recipe I threw together for a start. It’s delicious! Normally I don’t measure, but my husband is using an app to track calories so he asked me to.

1/2 cup almond milk

1/4 cup cran raspberry juice

1/4 cup Vanilla yogurt

1 banana

1/2 cup frozen peaches

1/2 cup frozen strawberries

BLEND!

It is so refreshing but not filling enough for me for breakfast. So, it’s more a pre-breakfast snack.

I almost forgot to take a picture of the finished product, sorry for the half full pic.

peach strawberry smoothie
Peach strawberry banana smoothie.


Do you prefer blending or juicing? Or neither? If you do like smoothies, can you suggest some recipes or your favorite drinks to try? What is your favorite breakfast?

It’s a Game Changer…

Lentil recipe with veggies.
Red lentils with veggies that I cooked Sunday.

Saturday evening, after watching a show on Netflix called The Game Changers, my husband announced he wanted to go on a plant-based diet. He said the show talked about the health benefits and that we should try it several days a week. Not go full vegan, but cut out meat three to four days per week. The movie featured professional athletes and Olympians who went plant-based and got stronger and gained more endurance. It argued against theories we’ve grown up with that to be strong you need to eat animal protein. The movie explained that plants also offer complete proteins.

When our kids were young, my husband told them that if they wanted to grow up big and strong they needed to eat something “with a face.”

At the exact time my husband said he wanted to cut out meat, I was charring a giant tri-tip on the barbecue that I found half price at the store. I also sauteed shishito peppers in sesame oil, cooked green beans from the farmer’s market and heated up mashed potatoes. It was a delicious meal. Yes, we eat a lot of meat. Would I be able to give it up? Or cut back? I crave protein and eat beef, chicken, pork and fish.

Charred rare tri-tip, green beans and mashed potatoes.
Last night’s dinner. Tri-tip charred on the outside, rare inside and veggies.

I watched the show on Sunday and thought I could try it a few days a week and see how it goes. We’re both feeling aches and pains we didn’t a year or two ago — and if a plant-based diet makes us feel better and healthier, why not? So, I cooked a batch of lentils. My son introduced me to lentils a few years ago and they are a staple in his diet. He’s not a vegan, but he definitely doesn’t eat meat every day.

I tried a different type that that I haven’t used before, fast cooking red lentils, and I simmered them in vegetable broth for 15 minutes. The package said one cup lentils to three cups liquid. They need to be rinsed before you cook them. Then I prepped garlic, onion, peppers, carrots, celery and cherry tomatoes.

Red Mill red lentils
The lentils simmering on the stove.
lentils draining after simmering
Red lentils draining after 15 minutes of simmering.
onions, peppers, celery, carrots and cherry tomoatoes
The best tasting and most beautiful part of this dish.

I sauteed garlic and onion and spices in avocado oil. I’m an avocado oil fan because it cooks at a higher temperature than olive oil. It cooks faster and hotter.

garlic and onions sauteed in avocado oil
Sauteed onions, garlic and spices of cumin, ginger, ancho chile powder, turmeric, salt and pepper.

The secret is to come up with a blend of spices that you love and season it well. The lentils pick up the flavors of their surroundings.

It was filling and delicious. I sent my husband to a friend’s house with a big slab of the tri-tip roast. I’ll enjoy the leftover tri-tip on a non-vegan day, but if I’m going to try going meatless three days a week, I don’t want it sitting in the fridge staring at me.

Should I try going plant-based three days in a row? Or, mix it up?

Have you tried a plant-based diet? How did it make you feel? I’m not known for a lot of will power. Do you have any tips or recipes I should try? Is it cheating to eat cheese or use butter? Would you give up meat? Why or why not?

Here are some plant-based recipes from the The Game Changers website: CLICK HERE.

What’s your favorite burger?

Here's the screenshot of Five Guys

Screenshot of Five Guys home page.

This weekend, we went to Five Guys for the first time. I will admit I was a bit skeptical having lived in California for 37 years. In-N-Out Burger has a cult following and during COVID-19 the drive-in line was never less than 50 cars wrapped in a serpent through their parking lot and out onto the street. It’s always busy. Everywhere you see an In-N-Out there is a line. Always for all 37 years I lived there.

When we pulled up to Five Guys there was one family and lady with a Yorkie in line ahead of us. That was it.

I did like the Five Guys burger. In fact it was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. I’m not ready to say it’s better than In-N-Out though. My loyalty won’t allow it.

As for the fries….Five Guys was too salty. The salt ruined perfection. You could see the salt granules sticking to your fingers with every bite. Next time, I’ll ask them to go light.

 

Here’s a screen shot of In-N-Out’s website.

My first poll! I’m proud of myself for figuring out how to make one. Also, for my first post using Block Editor.

Do you have a favorite burger place? What is it? Or, please share your home kitchen secrets to the perfect burger.

Ash Wednesday during COVID-19

brother and sister at piano

My kids at a piano recital.

I just read that the Vatican has instructed priests to sprinkle ashes on the heads of people, rather than the traditional cross on the forehead. I’m going to forgo Ash Wednesday services in person this year and will listen to the service online. That’s a new practice for churchgoers that I hope will go by the wayside by next year.

I do believe that Lent is a good time to reflect on our lives. One Ash Wednesday service in past years stands out to me. Rather than giving something up — like chocolate or alcohol — the priest suggested doing something. He talked about investing more time in prayer or volunteering to help someone else, he felt it should be a time of giving of ourselves. He suggested reading the book of Mark from the Bible during the 40 days of Lent.

I’m a convert to Catholicism so I had to learn about Lent. I didn’t grow up with it. My kids did and my daughter always said she was giving up piano lessons for Lent. Yes, she hated piano. I thought piano had so many benefits and forced her to take lessons, years beyond what I should have done, she often reminds me.

If you don’t observe Lent and wonder what it’s all about, here’s a definition from Britannica:

Lent, in the Christian church, a period of penitential preparation for Easter. In Western churches it begins on Ash Wednesday, six and a half weeks before Easter, and provides for a 40-day fast (Sundays are excluded), in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry. In Eastern churches Lent begins on the Monday of the seventh week before Easter and ends on the Friday that is nine days before Easter. This 40-day “Great Lent” includes Saturdays and Sundays as relaxed fast days.

Here’s a link to Good Housekeeping’s article called 25 Creative Things to Give Up for Lent in 2021: From gossip and complaining to junk food and coffee, ditching these habits could change your life by Juliana Labianca. There are a lot of good ideas to do in that article that could improve your life — whether or not you observe Lent.

A friend emailed this eight-minute Homily about Lent. It’s a time to be cheerful and transformative.

Food for Thought and Recovery

Back in the pool is my New Year’s Resolution. I’ve swam three days a week for two whole weeks and we’re not even into the second week of the year! I noticed, however, that I am not recovering. I feel tired afterwards and the next day, too. My daughter told me, “Make sure you drink some chocolate milk as soon as you get home!” Well, I forgot and after I showered and got dressed, I headed off to the grocery store, feeling weak and famished. “Shoot, I forgot the chocolate milk.” There was a Halloween-sized bag of M&Ms in the car, not quite chocolate milk, but I downed them thinking they’d be better than nothing. 

That incident reminded me of a story I wrote about nutrition and recovery a couple years ago:

 

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Nutella stuffed 1/2 cronuts. Food for thought?

I called one of my mentor swim moms, who has advised me all along the way from my son’s first swim meet in 2001 to navigating college recruiting years later. She worked as a dietitian years ago, and I wanted her input for a SwimSwam article about what kids should eat at meets. I asked a half dozen more moms what their kids ate at meets because we happened to be at UCLA and USC swim meets watching our Utah kids compete.

After I wrote that story, that you can read here, I thought, “Yikes! I do not practice what I preach!” I’m finding it harder to recover after a workout and perhaps if I looked at my own diet, I would feel stronger.

I’m swimming consistently three days a week, and after I swim I get so hungry. I have a tendency to believe that because I made it through a tiring swim practice, that I can eat whatever I want. Most often, I make terrible choices including a #1 meal at Taco Bell (taco and burrito supreme) or fried chicken! Seriously, what am I doing to myself?

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At USC for a swim meet.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s okay to eat unhealthy now and then. But this has turned into a habit to reward myself after a healthy workout with fattening food that lacks much in nutritional value! It’s totally unproductive.

I discussed this with another mom via text. This mom is crazily fit and works out for hours every day. She had some great tips that I’m incorporating into my daily life that she promised would improve my muscle recovery.

AVOID SUGAR AND CARB LOADING

“I’ve actually been learning to fuel my body with fat. However, I’m not a swimmer so I would not begin to offer advice. But, after doing research I started limiting my carbs to less than 50g/day and saving them until dinner. During the day, I fuel my body with healthy fats. I’ve noticed a huge difference! Swimmers need a lot of energy but they won’t get any energy from sugar.”

PLAN AHEAD

“Have a plan. Know what you’re going to snack on after practice. Prepare eggs and a meat before you leave for practice so that it’s ready when you get home and you won’t eat the ‘worst stuff.’ Plus, the protein in the eggs will assist in muscle recovery. Or have peanut butter on a rice cake. But the important thing is to have it prepared so you can grab it right away.”

HOW ARE YOU FUELING YOUR BODY?

“Also, when eating your snacks, look at it and determine how you are fueling your body for recovery and the next day’s workout. That’s what keeps me honest with myself.”

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At my first meet a year ago with my good friend and fellow swim mom, Linda.

Yesterday, after practice I had a half banana and a hard boiled egg when I walked through the kitchen door. I was able to make it through until dinner without fast or fried food and I feel less sluggish and tired today. I’m curious to see how this plan works for me and if I’ll feel stronger after a few days. After all, I have my own swim meet coming up this month!  I’ll let you know how it goes.

What do you eat after working out?

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At UCLA last Friday.

 

About that diet….

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I started a diet a few weeks ago and wrote about it here. I said I’d follow up to let you know how I’m doing.

I dropped about five pounds the first week. I marveled at the ease of sticking to a high-protein, low-carb diet. After all, how hard can a diet be if you can eat bacon?

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The second week was harder. I was craving pasta. I had to force myself out of the drive-thru at Taco Bell. What I wouldn’t give for a Burrito Supreme.

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I started to feel a little off kilter. I was dizzy, hungry, and going insane. I called my husband and demanded that he stop by In-N-Out on the way home.

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“Make it protein style,” I said thinking that a single burger patty wrapped in lettuce would keep me on track, but add a little flavor and spice in my life.

Little did I know that he was going to bring home a Double Double protein style–and fries! I wolfed it down and it felt like a brick hit my stomach. 

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I weighed myself the next day. I had gained all the weight back. With one Double Double.

So much for dieting. I’m watching what I’m eating, following the guidelines of the diet, but not going overboard. It seems to be working for me. I was weighed at the doctor’s office today and I was five pounds lighter than my last exam.

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Getting exercise seems to be key for me. I’m walking, stretching, doing sit-ups and weights.

What are you doing to stay fit and trim for middle-age?