Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Health Challenge, Yes in December

I was thinking that so many people start up New Year's resolutions in January that I would get a jump on it and start in December instead so that by January it will feel like a part of my routine rather than something new.

It all started with my new phone, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which was a gift from Paulie and my in-laws. One day after poking around the available apps I noticed there was a health tracker called S Health (all Samsung smart phones have it pre-installed).

The first few days after this discovery were no different, I saw the number of steps I took but made no additional effort in upping my activity. Then I realized that the expecting a different outcome when I've done nothing differently would be insane. That day I publicly announced, via my YouTube daily vlog, that I was starting a Health Challenge - Walk 5 Miles a Day by the End of December! Let me tell you, no one was more shocked then me. But now that I've said it out loud I had to take steps, literally, to change my activity level and even more so, my mind set.

As a work from home full time employee by daily commute is mere moments and would not yield anything in way of exercise so I had to think bigger. I own a treadmill but like millions of others, it has only served as a room divider for a long time and a place for our big dog Chester to create a sleeping space behind. (sad but very true). I asked Paulie to give me the gift of a fully functioning treadmill as my present for the Holidays.... time went by and nothing was happening so I took things into my own hands.

Being blessed with extremely mild weather, I decided to use what I had at my disposal - my driveway and more specifically my Toyota Sienna as the base around which I would walk. It has since become known as Hensel Track. I started with a few laps at a time to see just how much I could do but quickly realized that my Birkenstocks were not going to cut it, sore spots and blisters at the end of my second toes were glaring signs that it's the wrong footwear.

A simple Amazon search later and 2 day shipping and I was a proud owner of my first pair of walking shoes (my high school pair of pink Reeboks were laughing at me when I attempted to put them on, they were 'retired' shortly there after).

Now with the correct shoes, a desire to change my activity level and the beautiful weather worked in my favor. Starting on December 3rd, I set my goal at 3,000 steps a day. Not going to kid you, initially I was not even sure how many steps an average person takes but sitting on my butt for 10+ hours a day in front of the computer for both work and fun was not adding any for me.

To keep myself honest and accountable I decided to share my progress on Social Media and in my vlogs on YouTube. On the first day I only reached a little over 1,000 steps but in a matter of a few days worked my way up to near goal of 3K. December 6th was 2,983 steps, that annoyed me more than anything so I promised myself to never let the day get away from me.Since the 7th, I've met or exceeded my daily step goal and starting on December 13th I upped my goal by a 1K each week. Finally on December 15th I started reaching my 60 minutes of activity a day goal. It's exciting to be able to accomplish my daily goals and I've noticed some interesting side effects - cleaning up after dinner sooner than later, doing laundry without getting grumpy, offering to let the dogs in/out without a stare down with hubby.

Since starting this Health Challenge, I've reorganized the walk in pantry, went to the store multiple times just to window shop and have had friends join me in making even small changes like adding more water intake or making better food choices. You just never know where inspiration comes from, mine was from a phone app and that's pretty incredible.

Here is last night's goal and targets:

How are you planning on being better to yourself?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Food

Gorgeous spread at my sister's house who hosted Thanksgiving this year
Shrimp Appetizer with homemade cocktail sauce (our contribution)

Moist and delicious turkey, expertly carved 
The BEST green beans ever and no gloppy 'soup' out of a can in sight 
Roasted butternut squash 
Stuffing Muffins (our contribution) 
Mashed Potatoes

My Plate - a bit of everything 

Spectacular desserts - pumpkin muffins with no crust and Dutch Apple Pie with homemade salted caramel

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Longan Fruit

The 'cousin' of Lychee, Longan fruit is milder, less messy with delicate white semi-translucent flesh and when you bite into it the nickname of 'Dragon Eye' is completely understood
Outer skins peal easily with nails or a small pairing knife, discarded in a pile like this they look like small egg shells
I might be officially in love with the cute pits, looking like jewels with a shiny skin and exotic tiny chestnut similarity.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Cannoli Cream Cookie Sandwishes

I craved a cannoli but did't feel like going to all the effort of getting in my car and driving to the wonderful Italian bakery or even more involved of making them from scratch at home so these are a great alternative.

Cannoli Cream Cookies:
  • 1 cup whole or part skim milk Ricotta
  • 3-5 tablespoons of powdered sugar, depending on your sweet tooth
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Vanilla wafers or Tea cookies
Drain a cup of Ricotta is water logged in a paper towel lines strainer for several hours or overnight. Place the strained Ricotta in a mixing bowl, add vanilla, powdered sugar and almost all of the mini chocolate chips (reserve enough in a plate to roll the edges). Mix well with a fork and spoon cannoli cream on a cookie evenly, cover with a second cookie and roll in the reserved mini chips. If ships are not your 'thing', chopped pistachios are a great alternative.

These can store in the fridge for a few hours so if you are making just enough for a snack or a treat at tea time, keep the cannoli cream in an airtight container in the fridge till needed (image below)
Lucky for everyone, they accompany tea as well as coffee equally deliciously! What would you like to enjoy these with?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Saving Seeds for Next Growing Season - Green Beans

Allow the been pods to dry on the vine, once they turn brown and outer shell brittle, they are ready to pick, pluck and store for the next growing season 
Shell the pods, extract the beans that should be dry and light to the touch without any visible moisture

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Red Wine Potatoes

These potatoes are delicious, filled with savory flavor and the undercurrent of wine essence, here is how I make these very popular and often requested side dish in our household.