Tag Archives: healthy living

Turkey Day Menu

22 Nov

I’m thankful for my health, my ability to participate in an early morning turkey trot…

And trotting alongside such excellent company at that.

I’m thankful for another year of our family brunch allstars…

Egg casserole and monkey bread.

I’m thankful for an incredible menu.

Not listed: our favorite libations, specifically very classy wine.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

I’m thankful to have such nice folks reading my blog! Hope there is plenty of football and elastic-waisted pants in your future, wherever you might be celebrating today.

Perfectly Brined Turkey

19 Nov

Road voyage to Atlanta, complete!

Now that we’re here, it’s time to get to steppin’ with our storied Thanksgiving Menu.

I’ve already been crowned the victor of one turkey opponent so far this year …

A warrior goes to work. The amount of things I already had done by 8:34am is sheer insanity.

Each year we name our Friendsgiving bird, and this time around Turkey Thurman truly delivered.

The key to our rave reviews? We have become turkey brining professionals!

Why brine a turkey?

Brining involves soaking meat in a high salt solution for several hours before cooking. This allows the meat to take in lots of moisture, which it then retains during the cooking process, leading to extremely tender and flavorful turkey. And we all know turkey gets a bad wrap for turning out dry and bland.

As everyone out there carefully crafts their menu masterpieces, here are is a homerun brining recipe for your digestive pleasure!

{Barely adapted from this recipe – brine for a 12 to 14 lb bird}

1 C. salt (I just used sea salt)
1 gallon vegetable broth
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 TBSP black peppercorns
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp ground ginger
1 gallon ice water

And for the aromatics, roasted inside the bird for even more flavor:

1 red apple, quartered
1 onion, quartered
1 cinnamon stick
1 C. water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
butter, as you see fit

Sometime on Tuesday, you can begin the brining process.

In a large pot, combine all ingredients except ice water.  Heat over medium-high flame, stirring occasionally to dissolve solids and bringing to a boil.

Then remove brine from the heat, let cool to room temperature, and store in the refrigerator.

Sometime on Wednesday (I like to begin the evening beforehand), combine brine and ice water in a large cooler. Place your thawed turkey, innards removed, breast side down in the cooler. Cover and refrigerate if you like (ours was too large and it was fine left in a cooler with plenty of ice). We like to flip our turkey in the brine every so often.

Let turkey soak for 8-16 hours.

When you’re ready, remove turkey and rinse very well with cold water; pat dry with paper towels. Throw away the brine.

Now, prepare to stuff your turkey with the aromatics. Preheat oven to 500 degrees and place turkey breast side up in the pan you’ll roast it in. I like to use a large disposable aluminum tray for easy disposal.

Combine apple, cinnamon, onion and water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. When finished, add contents of dish to turkey cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck wings under bird.

Here’s my Paula Deen moment: I like to get butter on my fingers and rub it all over the bird’s body, getting my hands up under its skin. I’ll make sure to cover all surfaces between meat and skin with butter. I know this is healthy living blog, but come on, this is Thanksgiving.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of oven for 30 minutes at 500 degrees. Insert a probe thermometer and roast until temperature reads 161 degrees F at its thickest part. Should be a total of 2-2.5 hours for a 12 to 14 lb bird. Cover with aluminum foil if the bird’s skin starts to burn.

Let turkey rest for 15 minutes before carving. Ask someone else how to carve because I seriously don’t know the first thing about that business.

It’s a lengthy process, but SO well worth it!

Have you ever tried brining a turkey?

Scenes from Soldier Field: Nike Workout + Fashion Show

16 Nov

I mentioned yesterday that I took advantage of a last minute opportunity to attend a Nike Women’s workout event at Soldier Field.

In case my pics didn’t give you this hint, it was awesome. And yes, that is Kristin Cavallari, and yes, she is showing off those shoes I want so desperately. I think I want them as much as Kristin wanted to roundhouse Lauren Conrad in the face circa 2004. And now I’ve been sucked so deep into a Netflix Laguna Beach marathon, I’ve almost convinced myself that chokers and toe rings were kind of cool after all.

  Damn her. That’s what I get for cheating on LC.

Reality TV affinities aside… the evening was divided into two parts: a football-inspired workout with NTC Master Training Marie Purvis, followed by a fashion show highlighting Nike’s newest looks, hosted by Brittney Peyton and none of other than K Cav herself.

The workout consisted of everything from plyometric drills to individualized toning exercises. We were FREEZING on the field (mid-November in Chicago isn’t exactly a walk in the park), but I swiftly forgot about the chill as soon as we started in on some jumping lunges, air squats, and skaters, maintaining a steady jog throughout. With upbeat music vibrating through the stadium as we worked out in droves, I have to admit this was one workout whose end I regretted!

I quickly forgot about how sad I was to stop working out when I realized it was time to head inside to the [heated] club level of the stadium for some warm appetizers, complimentary wine and fantastic fashion show. I kind of want to buy everything I saw, especially these.

Overall, not too shabby for a Wednesday night. Nike made hundreds of ladies feel like a hundred bucks!

This weekend I’ll be hitting the road, heading to Atlanta with JC via car trip (picking my brother up along the way.) I can’t express how stoked I am for a calendar week at home, eating, drinking and yoga’ing myself into oblivion. Don’t worry about me, I packed exclusively stretchy pants.

I’ll post from the road this weekend, but stay tuned early next week for Thanksgiving tips from my Friendsgiving feast!

Crockpot Taco Soup

14 Nov

I don’t usually participate in #WIAW because I’m not too big into photographing all of my meals in a day (I’m too forgetful, and let’s face it, how many pics of pumpkin-based foods can I show you nice people before you leave me forever?) But, I love the concept — so many bloggers link up to share their eats, resulting in such an interactive community.

So this Wednesday, I thought I’d join the party by sharing in the best way I know to share.

This is not your ordinary taco night.

I woke up about 15 minutes earlier than usual and prepped before work yesterday. Threw it all in the slow cooker and, when I strolled through the door last night, our home smelled like a bonafied fiesta.

Friends, I give you the gift of a rock star throw-together slow cooker dinner. And, it’s actually fun to eat – there are so many ingredients in this bowl, I can hardly call it a soup!

{Barely adapted from this recipe}

Serves 6

1 lb lean ground beef (We used 80/20)
1 TBSP coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 onion, chopped
1 jar roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
1 15 oz. can black beans, with their liquid
1 15 oz. can white cannelini beans, with their liquid
1 15 oz. can whole kernel corn, with liquid
2 14.5 oz. cans peeled & diced tomatoes (the Trader Joe’s fire roasted variety is great)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 4 oz. can diced green chiles
2 cups water
1 oz. taco seasoning (I like the all natural variety from Whole Foods

In a medium skillet, heat coconut oil over medium-high eat until liquified. Next, cook beef until browned over. Drain and set aside.

Chop up your onion.

Ready for this? Open cans. Throw them their contents in your crockpot. Add beef and onion. Stir, set, forget – cook for 8 hours on low.

Come home & feast. I recommend topping with light Mexican shredded cheese & a dollop of 2% Greek yogurt.

Pinata optional.

Your turn! Do you use a slow cooker when the weather outside is frightful? For me, it’s tough to beat a greeting as sweet as a  home cooked meal waiting for me on a Tuesday!

Calling all Cavepeople

13 Nov

Per my 30 in 30 challenge for National Health Blog Post Month, today’s prompt encourages me to “write about my favorite book and tie it to your views on health.”

Instead, I want to float an idea about a book. I’ll be in a car for upwards of 13 hours this weekend, and I’m thinking of giving this one a whirl:

Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo. (source)

I know, I know. Everyone is doing the Paleo thing. If you’re unfamiliar, the Paleo approach centers itself around foods that our ancestors could digest – and avoids those that simply weren’t around at the time, believing that many of these foods aren’t as easily digested by the body. Super basic explanation, and I’m not fully edumacated (hence my desire to read the book), but that’s how I understand it thus far.

But I’m genuinely interested in learning more because I have a couple of things going on with my health that are starting to point to sugar problems/insulin tolerance issues. I am beginning to wonder if my body responds negatively to grains. I’ve mentioned this before, and I already monitor my high carb foods like grains (Even whole grains) very carefully – avoiding those that are refined carbs completely.

So has anyone read this book? Done a Paleo challenge? Think liverwurst n’ junk is crazy talk?

Menu Monday: “Fast Food” Favorites

12 Nov

Every Thursday on his way home from work, JC listens to a radio show called “Who You Crappin?” – I think he loves few things more in this world. Basically listeners call in to give their “crap”, or in other words call BS on someone or something that completely contradicts itself. It all started with Coach Mike Ditka of none other than Da Bears, so how can you not like it?

Now I can’t hear the phrase “calling BS” on someone or something without thinking of Da Coach and my husband’s radio passions.

I’m 12 days late, but I’ve decided to participate in a “30 posts in 30 days challenge” in honor of National Health Blog Post month (Who knew?) I’ll continue into December to hit my 30, but I’m picking up on Day 12.

When I saw today’s prompt, “Call BS on something that is just ridiculous”, my mind instantly blurted out, “Who you crappin’?!”

Today I have to crap conventional pre-packaged frozen meals (the likes of Lean Cuisine, Smart Ones, etc, I’m looking at you.)

Back in college when I first enrolled in Weight Watchers, I definitely leaned upon these freezer meals at least a couple of times a week. After all, they tasted great, quickly and easily heated up in my microwave, and of course were low in calories. It seemed most people at my WW meetings ate them regularly with much success.

I see a lot of folks I care about at work turning to similar meals at lunch time, usually accompanied by intentions to eat “eat healthier.”

Now I don’t mean to bash anyone here, but I find the products these companies push out to be completely deceptive and downright irresponsible. If you visit their websites or simply read their packaging, you’ll be inundated by claim after claim that these products are healthy.

I started browsing some conventional frozen products and was especially intrigued by a line of products touting itself as “the lighter side”, even going as far as to use words such as “fresh veggies”, “no preservatives” and “whole grains”. Words that these companies know make consumers say, “this is healthy!”

Meanwhile, the ingredient lists are horrifying. Check out this labeling for Thai Chicken with Noodles:

Modified tapioca starch? Corn syrup solids? Modified cornstarch (essentially engineered frankenfood)? Conventional frozen meals, who you crappin’?!

Friends, all quick meals are NOT created equal. My favorites:

  • Trader Joe’s Super Spinach Salad (not a frozen meal obviously, but you will almost always find this is in my fridge!)
  • Amy’s frozen meals, especially low sodium varieties (I recognize EVERY single ingredient! Real food!)
  • Kashi’s Mayan Harvest Bake (Don’t love the ingredients quite as much as Amy’s, but still much better)
  • Chipotle burrito bowl – my go-to fast food. I get a bowl with no rice, black beans, veggies, chicken, a little cheese + guac.

These meals will do the trick when in a pinch, but of course, meal planning a week in advance is my best bet for a successful & healthful week! I do my planning every Sunday, choosing a weekly menu and then making my grocery list from there. Here’s my plan for this week:

  • Monday: Thai with a friend from work (& the Super Spinach Salad above for lunch!)
  • Tuesday: Slow cooker taco soup
  • Wednesday: Dinner with a friend
  • Thursday: Grilled salmon with roasted brussels sprouts and cubed butternut squash
  • Friday: Out to dinner
  • Snacks: pumpkin yogurt from Trader Joe’s (!) and apple slices

We’re headed to Atlanta for Thanksgiving this weekend, so I tried to take it easy on fridge supplies. There’s more “out to eat” this week than normal for me, but believe it or not I still “meal plan” for this instances – I always check out the menu ahead of time and commit to my order so I won’t be moved by hunger pangs at the restaurant.

Moves for the week:

  • Monday: 20 minute Turkey Treadmill workout from Fitnessista (I LOVE this one)
  • Tuesday: Hip Hop Cardio class
  • Wednesday: special workout with my friend Kate!
  • Thursday: Hip Hop class
  • Friday: OFF
  • Saturday: Run before driving to Indianapolis

What are you eating this week? What are your favorite “Quick Meals”? And, who you crappin’?!

Thanksgiving Thursday: Must-haves

8 Nov

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Now that Election Day is behind us, I hope everyone is ready to talk a real American topic: getting your November fat on.

This past weekend marked the celebration of our annual Friendsgiving feast – a true success this time around. I awoke at 6am to a 24 pound bird ready for brining, and all but sprang out of bed. This much-anticipated event culminated in a food coma so painful, only a group viewing of Home Alone could console anyone.

“No clothes on anybody – sickening!”

Since our big event has come & gone, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite tips leading up to my second Thanksgiving feast with the fam (Easy, I can feel your judgment from here.)

My must-haves include: An adorable turkey/pumpkin apron from Crate & Barrel, a festive fall floral arrangement, a nifty probing meat thermometer that runs a wire through the door of the oven (GENIUS!!), a large cooler for brining (absolutely key to a juicy bird), and obviously red wine – I choose Green Fin, a deliciously affordable $3.99 from Trader Joe’s.

What are your holiday feasting must-haves? Anyone else enjoy spending inordinate amounts of time preparing and hanging out with poultry?

You can admit it.