Archive for May, 2012

STIR-FRIED GREEN BEANS WITH GINGER AND WATER CHESTNUTS

Stir-Fried Green Beans with Ginger and Water Chestnuts

ingredients

2 t vegetable oil, divided

1 lb green beans, trimmed

2 t peeled, grated fresh ginger

1 clove garlic, minced

½ t sugar

1 8-oz can (5 oz drained) of sliced water chestnuts, drained

¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 t low-sodium soy sauce

¼ t ground white pepper

1/8 t crushed red pepper flakes

1 t cornstarch

1 T cold water

directions

In a large wok or heavy skillet, heat 1 t of oil over medium-high heat. Add the green beans and stir-fry for about 3 minutes. With tongs, remove them from the wok/skillet and set aside.

Add the remaining 1t of oil to the wok/skillet. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Return the green beans to the wok, and mix in the sugar and the water chestnuts. Stir-fry for 1 minute.

Combine the broth, soy sauce, white pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and add to the green beans. Cover and steam for about 2-3 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and the cold water. Add to the wok/skillet and cook and stir until the sauce is thickened.

(Adapted from a recipe found in “Diabetes Forecast”, June, 2012)

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WHAT’S THE DEAL THE DEAL WITH DASH?

Have you ever heard of Mrs. Dash seasoning?  I always thought Mrs. Dash was the Mrs. Butterworth of seasoning. But no, Mrs. Dash’s low-sodium products stand for something more: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Who knew?

And there’s more: There is actually a DASH diet that is designed to lower blood pressure (http://dashdiet.org/). If followed, this diet works! The key is to reduce sodium in your diet and at the same, to increase potassium. This combo works because potassium helps relax the blood vessels and counterbalances the effects of sodium.

What are good sources of potassium? Well, we all first think of bananas but there are other great sources as well: raisins, prunes, apricots, dates, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, beets, greens, spinach tomatoes, mushrooms, peas, beans, avocados, turkey, fish, beef, salmon cod, plain yogurt, skim milk and soy products. Whew.

So, if you’re trying to make dietary changes to decrease blood pressure, don’t only think about sodium reduction–remember to increase potassium!

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WHERE’S THE WEIGHT MAINTENANCE SECTION?

If you go to any bookstore there will always be a section dedicated to weight loss. There they are—book after book spelling out the best way to lose weight. And most of them work. The problem is that losing weight doesn’t seem to be the issue—maintaining it does. Where’s the “weight maintenance” section?

The statistics for weight maintenance after weight loss are grim. I’ve read many articles and studies on this. It seems that anywhere between 70-80% of people who have lost weight regain it back over time. This is very depressing. Why does this happen?

My take is that after weight loss, we tend to think, “whew……..I’m glad that’s over”, and very slowly return to the bad habits that got us into trouble in the first place. Instead, we have to mentally prepare ourselves that weight maintenance will be just as hard, if not harder than weight loss. Maintenance means that we get to eat a little bit more. Adding back more food or forbidden treats can be extremely triggering for many people. Bad habits have a great way of sneaking up on us.

For successful maintenance, you must continue to do the things that promoted weight loss. For some, it’s keeping track of calories. For others, it’s getting on the scale regularly. Don’t stop the good habits that you worked so hard to develop.

The key is knowing and accepting that you will have to pay attention and stay and vigilant. AND, you have to do this as long as you want to keep the weight off. Never say “whew”.

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BBQ LEMON GARLIC CHICKEN

BBQ Lemon Garlic Chicken (serves 4)

ingredients

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1 to 2 T finely minced garlic

1 T Dijon mustard

1 T fresh thyme

1/2 t salt

pepper to taste

8 skinless chicken pieces with bones (breasts, thighs, legs)

directions

Wisk the first seven ingredients in a small bowl. Place the chicken pieces in a plastic bag and pour the marinate over the chicken to coat.

Marinate chicken as long as overnight but at least try to do it all day!

BBQ the chicken and enjoy!

(Adapted from a recipe found in “The Joy of Cooking”)

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HOW WE’RE STILL LIKE CAVEMEN

We hear all the time how stress is so damaging. It is. The reason why it’s so destructive is because we haven’t evolved enough. Biologically, we are still like cavemen.  Over 10,000+ years ago, we had to hunt and kill for meals. We also had to run like hell if our prey came after us. This is where the expression “fight-or-flight” comes from.

Along with “fight-or-flight” comes fight-or-flight hormones. When the body senses stress it physically prepares itself for exertion. Many different hormones are released causing heart rate and blood pressure to increase. Glucose and fatty acids are released into the bloodstream so we will have the energy necessary to move quickly. And when we physically exert ourselves (fighting or fleeing), our body goes back to “normal” and we return to homeostasis.

Flash forward 10,000+ years. While there is no beast chasing us, our brain responds the same way to stress by releasing those fight-or-flight hormones. The problem is that we are not fighting or fleeing. So many people come home at the end of a stressful day and say, “I had such a tough day, I need to relax”,  and plop down on the couch with the TV remote. Heart rate and blood pressure are still elevated as well as blood glucose. You can see why stress—especially chronic stress—is so harmful. You can also see how exercise helps manage stress since it physiologically gets our bodies back to a more “normal”, relaxed state.

Bottom line: Exercise helps stress. Start moving!

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EXPERIENCE THE MIRACLE

Ok, I know I sound awfully dramatic but I think planting vegetables is a miracle.

I started planting vegetables and herbs about 4 years ago with my friend, Lydia, who taught me the basics. At the time, I used plant containers. I couldn’t believe, for example, how one small tomato plant could grow and produce the amount of tomatoes that it did—it felt like a miracle! The strange thing is that while I have been doing this for years, I haven’t gotten over that incredulous feeling. It comes back to me EVERY year. It’s like I have amnesia!

If you’ve never planted herbs or vegetables before I think you should give it a try. It’s easy. Plant something that you love. If you cook with a lot of parsley, give that a go. It’s not only convenient to have a parsley supply but it will be the freshest, most delicious parsley on the planet. Try basil, rosemary, thyme, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash—whatever you like.

Instead of using plant containers, we now have a fenced in organic plot in our backyard. Last weekend, we planted our vegetables and herbs. Here is a shot of a few tomato plants.  Just wait and see what happens in a few months—I’m telling you—it’s a miracle!

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ROASTED CORN AND BLACK BEAN SALAD

Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salad

ingredients

1  T olive oil

4 ears of corn, husked and stripped of their kernels (see tip below*)

salt and pepper to taste

1 garlic clove minced

1, 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 large, ripe tomato diced

1/8 t red pepper flakes

1 T fresh lemon or lime juice

Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

directions

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet and turn heat to high. Add the corn, along with a large pinch of salt and some pepper, and cook, shaking the pan or stirring occasionally, until the corn is lightly charred, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more stirring.

Combine the corn with all the other ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve at room temperature.

*The easiest way to husk the corn is to use a bundt cake pan. Place one end of the corn in the hole and use a sharp knife to slice off the kernels. This prevents the kernels from flying all over your kitchen. (A tip from my friend, Lydia!)

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