Papaya Creamsicle Smoothie

It’s not just hot, it’s HOT!! And this is the perfect breakfast to fuel up and cool down: 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (heaping) frozen papaya cubes
  • 1 cup frozen yellow squash slices
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup Simply orange juice (or fresh-squeezed if you have the time/energy)
  • 1 scoop unflavored or vanilla protein powder
  • 1 Tbsp Yacon Syrup (or Molasses or Maple syrup or whatever sweetener makes you happy)
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds (or ground flax seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)

If your blender is anything like ours (old & inexpensive), it will take some work (pulsing, shaking and turning off the blades to mix/scrape/fold with a rubber spatula) to get this mix going. Once it’s whirling along smoothly, be sure to run it on the highest setting for at least 60 seconds to get the fluffy, dreamy concoction you see in my picture.

PS – In case you are wondering about that crazy vine surrounding my smoothie, that is our first ever successful attempt at growing a cucumber plant! Despite the fact that it looks a bit wilty in the photo, it is doing remarkably well and producing lots of delicious cucumbers. We call it Clown Cucumber because we can’t believe how many cucumbers are bursting out of it in such a short amount of time. 

So…expect another round of cucumber love coming soon.

Weight Loss Advice – An Inconvenient Paradox

Garden Maze

Here’s an annoying little paradox that’s been plaguing me for 8 weeks:

  • When I am out of control – overstuffed, lazy, packing on the pounds, and downright ashamed of my body and my behaviors – I love to discuss healthy eating. I cannot stop talking about ways to get active, diet myths that need to be debunked and my whole theory of a Creativity Diet to feed body and soul. And yet, I’m also PAINFULLY aware that I look and sound ridiculous. I can hear this voice in my head, “Oh my God, Becky! Look at the size of her gut. She’s just so big. She looks like one of those middle-aged Weight Watchers? Oh my God, look at how she’s busting out of those XL yoga pants. I mean gross. Look! She’s just so…FAT!” 
  • And yet, when I’m on the wellness path – making better choices, moving my body, getting energized, shedding pounds and feeling just a wee bit proud of myself – I clam up. Suddenly, I’m shy and superstitious…half convinced that some terrible emotional crisis will strike me down at any minute and I will spiral into a wild feeding frenzy of pizza and pound cake until…I’m back where I started. Or worse.

So….hmmm…yeah. I’ve been telling myself to keep quiet about Creativity Diet until I can report some real progress. But what is REAL progress? Shedding five pounds? Ten pounds? Losing 5% of my worst/highest starting weight ever?

My last post was in early March. My silence since that post has nothing to do with giving up. Quite the contrary. I’ve been actively working on healthy living – exercise, nutrition, and overall creative wellness solutions – for eight weeks now. Instead of posting here about what I should do to make myself look and feel better, I’ve been walking the walk. I’ve been living the Creativity Diet lifestyle. And I have passed all of the weight loss milestones mentioned above without posting a peep about what I’ve been doing here.

Yep, that’s right.  I can now tell anyone who reads this blog that my Creativity Diet works! It WORKS!!

So far, I have reduced my total body weight by 10%. [Which puts me roughly halfway back to my ideal weight.]

In case you’re wondering, losing 10% of your body weight has some very wonderful health benefits for overweight and obese people, including:

  • lower cholesterol
  • lower blood pressure
  • decreased risk of Type II Diabetes
  • decreased insulin levels
  • more restful sleep
  • reduced inflammation
  • higher self-esteem

So that is definitely REAL progress and I’m baaaaaaack!! [And by back, I do not mean that I’m not back in my skinny jeans. I still have some serious work to accomplish.] But it is time to come back to this blog.

I’m finally ready to share some of the hard-won tips, tricks and stone-cold truths I’ve been learning and re-learning along the way.

photo credit: Spain Trip 2009 090 via photopin (license)

Exercise in Creativity | Walk on the Winter Side

Frozen_2015I’m curled up in a chair by the fireplace. Zoey is snuggled in my lap purring her very special, human-hypnotizing purr. A mug of Earl Gray tea is steaming at my elbow and a stack of new art/creativity magazines is within arm’s reach.

Michael: Let’s go for a walk.

Me: Baby, it’s cold outside.

Michael: The snow must be beautiful up in the mountains.

Me: Baby, it’s BAD out there.

Michael: I really think we need some exercise.

Me:

Looking down at the Spring 2015 issue of Artful Blogging, I see an article entitled Walking by Elizabeth Blanton. What I read prompts me to stand up and get moving. Swaddled in 3-4 layers of clothes and armed with my iPhone in camera mode, I join the wild rumpus of my sweetheart loading the dogs in the truck. YES!!! Let us go to the snowy mountains you and I…

“A walk is an exercise in creativity…”Winter Walk_4

“Find the horizon line…”Winter Walk_10

“Pick out the patterns…” Winter Walk_9

“…look up at how the tree branches might contrast against the sky…”Winter Walk_12

“Look down and see….” Winter Walk_11Since most of my creative expression happens when I’m behind a keyboard, every day I’m not working at my corporate job feels like a tug-of-war between activity or creativity. But do I really need to choose? Will I be active today? Will I be creative today? Or can I be both at the same time?

This article reminded me that it is entirely possible to stand up and put one foot in front of the other while enjoying creativity. For its own sake. Just because.

Taking pictures while walking is a pretty obvious way of mixing physical activity with creativity. Now I’m hungry for more.

Does anyone out there have other suggestions?

Note: I’m not talking about typing on a treadmill. I’m looking for creative exercise that is actually active…a photo safari, sidewalk chalk art games, mixed media scavenger hunts.

Cozy Cooking | Asian Beef & Vegetable Soup

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Asian Beef and Vegetable Soup – Cozy, comforting food to soothe body and soul

This recipe started with a fistful of organic rainbow chard stems. After preparing the greens using this Midwest Table recipe as part of a special romantic feast for my sweetie, I was left with a bouquet of jewel-colored stems stripped of their greenery. They were so pretty! And organic (a.k.a. expensive). I couldn’t feed those stems to the garbage disposal. After searching Google for “swiss chard stems” and surveying the leftovers in my fridge, I came up with this lovely creation. To be honest, I threw this together using stuff that needed to be used up with absolutely no plan to share the recipe. But the result was so perfectly healthy and delicious that I decided to share.

Asian Beef & Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, grated or finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed or very finely diced
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard stems, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 small white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 6-8 large shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced (I used dried mushrooms softened in hot water for 30 mins)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 2/3 – 1 cup leftover rice (I had black/forbidden rice) or rice noodles
  • 1 cup tri-color coleslaw mix (or very thinly sliced green cabbage)
  • 1 very lean New York strip steak, any visible fat removed
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (unseasoned, I like the brown rice variety)
  • 1 cup frozen cut leaf spinach
  • 1-2 tsp toasted sesame oil (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Start by putting the steak in the freezer for 30 – 40 minutes. (This step makes it easier to cut the meat into very thin slices.
  2. Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a wok (or a non-stick soup pot) over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic. Saute until fragrant (1 minute). Add chard stems, onion & mushrooms and continue to stir fry until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Add pepper, soy sauce, broth, rice and coleslaw mix. Bring everything to a bubble, then turn down and cover the pot to simmer.
  3. Remove the steak from the freezer and cut across the grain to create very thin slices. In a separate pan, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp oil over high heat. Stir fry the steak in the oil until browned on all sides. Remove from heat and add the rice wine vinegar to deglaze the pan. Add the meat, juices and vinegar to the simmering soup then add the frozen spinach. Bring the soup back up to a bubble and simmer an additional 10-15 minutes.
  4. Serve with toasted sesame oil to drizzle over the top.

Serves 3-4 (Depends on how hungry you are)

Note: I was limited by the contents of my fridge & pantry, but there are some other ingredients that could be wonderful in this recipe – scallions, shredded carrots, celery, snow peas &/or red peppers come to mind.

Supercharged Breakfast – Sweet Potato Hash

2015/01/img_0614.jpgThis is one of my favorite weekend brunch indulgences.  I created this recipe while trying to use up some leftovers in the fridge, but now I make it as a special treat. My meager food photography skills don’t do this dish justice. Every bite is a mouth full of spicy, sweet, eggy deliciousness!

Makes 2 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 6-8 shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
  • 1 fully cooked sweet potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • dashes of green and red hot sauce to taste (optional)

Heat one tsp of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are softened and the onions are translucent. To the same pan, drizzle in the remaining tsp oil. Add the sweet potato cubes then sprinkle with chili powder, garlic powder. Stir/toss all ingredients to combine.

Press everything into the bottom of the pan to form a single layer. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and continue to cook until the bottom gets browned and caramelized. The key here is to let the potatoes get brown without burning. (Sweet potatoes burn much faster than regular potatoes, so monitor this last step carefully.) It usually takes my potatoes 10 minutes to get a nice crust.

If desired, flip the hash and allow to crisp again. (I usually skip this step because I feel one sear is enough for sweet potatoes.)

While the hash is getting brown, prepare your eggs any way you prefer. (I strongly recommend trying this dish with an egg cooked over-easy or poached. If the yolk is warm and gooey, it mingles with the hash to create a little bite of heaven!)

Divide the hash onto two plates, top each with an egg and garnish with red and green hot sauce to taste.

Note: Serving this hash with citrus really brightens up the flavors and cuts through the richness.

Good news! Even though it tastes decadent, this is actually a super healthy breakfast. The egg provides protein, including the metabolism-boosting amino acid leucine, to keep you feeling full longer. Sweet potatoes are a filling, low-glycemic carbohydrate packed with carotenids – which (among other health benefits) may lower the risk of diabetes. East Asian mushrooms, such as shiitake and maitake, reduce cholesterol, fight cancer and boost immunity. And adding the citrus fruit brings plenty of vitamin C, folate and potassium to the party.