Monday, February 22, 2010

Twitter Moms: The Influential Moms Network

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mama Mia Pizzeria!

My family and I love my homemade pizza. It's fun to make, and if I have time for it I will let my 3 year old help me. It's always good, yet never exactly the same depending on what ingredients I have on hand.

Last night's creation was a winner. Sometimes I make my own dough from scratch but occasionally I find it more convenient and just as tasty to use Trader Joe's (fresh,not frozen) dough found in their refrigerator aisle. The key is to remove the dough from the packaging and put on a floured cutting board for at least 30 minutes. This will help make the dough easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put a pizza stone in the oven and get it really hot. Meanwhile, flour your hands and rolling pin and flatten out the ball of dough. I don't really fully roll it out. I actually start stretching it with my hands underneath the dough until its pretty thin. I take the pizza stone out of the oven and put the dough on it and spread the pizza sauce (Trader Joe's also) and sprinkle the toppings. Cooking time from this point may vary depending on what toppings you use, but typically 20 minutes does the'll know if you see the cheese is fully melted and the crust is slightly browned.

My toppings were 1/2 pepperoni and sliced black olives with mozarella cheese only...the other 1/2 was the "grown-up pizza". You will need:

1 cup grape tomatoes sliced in half
1/2 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 can quartered artichtoke hearts
sliced black olives
feta cheese
shredded mozzarella cheese

Take a large skillet and heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Carmelize the onions, and whenjust about done throw in the tomatoes until they are heated through and have a "roasted" appearance to them. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

After spreading a thin layer of pizza sauce on the dough, I sprinkled a light layer of mozzarella cheese which I find helps hold the pizza ingredients together especially when they are a bit chunky and heavy. Then I followed with the feta cheese, the quartered artichoke hearts, the carmelized onion and tomato mixture, sliced olives and more mozzarella to hold it together. Pop back into the oven until heated through and cheese is melted, approximately 20 minutes.

Serve with red wine (optional). Delicious!

Good Day for Baking

With the gray cloudy sky and rain in the forecast, what better day to bake some yummy banana nut bread. I prefer mine less on the sweet side, letting the natural sweetness of the bananas to shine through. Also, I don't do white flour, period. So I am sharing my recipe which I think is healthier (whole wheat flour and less sugar) than most. Enjoy!

Banana Bread :
Preheat oven to 350
Makes 1 loaf
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 beaten eggs
1-1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (approx. 5)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with Pam and set aside.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

3. In another medium bowl, combine eggs, bananas, sugar and oil. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until moistened. Fold in nuts.

4. Spoon batter into the loaf pan and bake in the oven for 55 minutes. Wooden toothpick should come out clean. If during baking it appears the loaf is getting to brown, you can cover it with foil for the remainder of cook time.

5. Cool in pan, remove from pan and wrap to keep fresh.
I love this banana bread with coffee in the morning. It can be warmed in the microwave or toaster oven and then buttered if desired. I had some, freshly baked, with some green tea this afternoon. Perfect treat for a cloudy day!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Get Your Groupon!

I love good deals. When I buy something at a significant discount, I feel like I just did the smartest thing. I have been shopping online for a good 10 years now, first for the convenience but now because I have access to so many sale items without having to spend hours searching in stores. I love sites like where you can comparison shop and find the best price for the item you want.

My latest obsession is Groupon. Its a cute play on the words "group" and "coupon". Every day they have a different deal at a great discount, which they are able to offer if enough people have joined Groupon that day. They call it "collective buying power". I call it fabulous!

You see discounts offered on anything from massages, pilates classes, pole-dancing classes (no joke) to meals at some pretty cool restaurants - not just places that people would only go to if they had a coupon. I have seen significant offers for teeth whitening, laser hair removal, microdermabrasion and other facial treatments. Groupon isn't just for meals and spa treatments. You can also find deals on shows at your local theatre. In this economy, a lot of these things are luxuries that many people may be more likely to partake in if they have a special offer. Good for the people and good for the economy. Better yet its broken down by city, so you can receive the offers just for the geographic locations you are interested in.

If you're not a member its time to get your Groupon!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Your Skin's BEST Friend This Winter

I know your skin gets dry in the winter. I know this because its a fact of life. Every year, whether I am headed up to Tahoe for skiing, or just doing my usual thing at home, my arms, legs and hands get dry and almost seem a bit itchy. I used to try to remedy this issue by using body oil when I was still wet in the shower. The problem with this is that it would seep between my fingers before I could apply it and seemed hard to control.
I recently tried your run-of-the mill drugstore brand oil in a gel form. Can you say faaaabuuuulooous? You put a little bit in your hand, and the gel blob stays put until you smooth it over your skin. And a little bit goes a long way. Not only do you seem to get more bang for you buck, but you put out totally less buck in the first place. The name-brand sesame body oil that I was using ran me anywhere between $12-16 where this generic gel oil is only $6. Ok, I haven't done the whole run-down of what exactly is in the gel oil, if its environmentally friendly or not...but if your main issue is budget this is hands-down the better choice!
After you get out of the shower and dry off you can apply your usual body lotion if you choose, but you'll be fine if you skip it. It has been a lifesaver. Try, and enjoy! Your silky skin will thank you!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

When You Blow It, Keep it in Perspective: Stress and Eating

I have been under some stress lately. Boy, do I wish I was one of those people who gets so stressed they can't eat. I have maintained a fair amount of self-control considering the circumstances. When my cortisol levels are sent into a tailspin, I reach for 1/2 cup of my plain yogurt, toss in some blueberries and drizzle with honey. This has really worked for me countless times.

Yesterday, however, I had a little breakdown. I was stuck in a room full of cookies for 4 hours and lost my sense of self control. I was at a work function (a reception of sorts) where store-bought cookies and sugary mini cupcakes were on display, along with sodas, water, fruit snacks and granola bars. I know, if I really wanted to eat something I could have gone for the fruit snacks or even the granola bars but that wasn't the case. Over time I just became fixated on the cookies. Luckily, I only had one, but also went for one of the mini-cupcakes without much consideration of calories, sugar or fat grams of either. Well, that's not entirely true. I immediately wiped off the frosting of the cupcake, leaving only a very sheer layer, before I ate it. And it was so small it was gone in two bites. Not that any of that makes it healthy, but still.

After work I went to a celebration at a neighbor's house and was literally greeted at the door with an open box of See's candy. I swear, I do not make this stuff up! Well I have not seen See's candy since before the holidays and I just went for it. Part of me felt like I was already having a "cheat day", albeit unplanned, so what the heck. I did also indulge in a glass of wine (my first in a week). Does all this sound like a bad dream to you? Being held captive in a room full of cookies and cupcakes and doors opening with boxes of candy waving in front of your face? I know, its pretty funny.

I could be down on myself but I woke up this morning SORE. Yesterday, my worst cheat day (not including the drinking or dessert I ate on my Vegas birthday weekend, which doesn't count at all) since the new year, I went to the gym on my lunch. This was before all the cookie and cupcake madness happened. I was on the elliptical for 30 minutes and worked my abs, and did 5 different machines, concentrating on legs. I had a great work out. I should have felt like I didn't want to ruin all that by eating the cookie and cupcake. I think that what happened is that my metabolism went a little haywire after the work out and I burned off the protein bar that I ate in a millisecond.

So this is what I mean by keeping it all in perspective. Sure, my diet absolutely sucked yesterday. But I did work out, developed my muscles (in my biggest muscle group) which we all know increases your metabolism to burn more fat. My work out may or may not have cancelled out the goodies entirely, but as long as I stick to my normal routine I should be ok. My running partner agreed to walk with me today because my legs were sore and I felt like I just needed a good long walk and a stretch to release my lactic acid build up in my sore muscles. We did a brisk 3 mile walk and I had plenty of time to share my stresses and came home feeling much better. Its just as important to me to be mindful of my mental health as my physical health...there's only one of me!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Just say NO to FAKE FOOD

Thank goodness this weekend was dry for a change! I was able to get outside both days and enjoy some fresh air while getting fit. Saturday I loaded both of my kiddos in the bike trailer (approx 65 lbs of offspring + trailer) and rode for over 6 miles. My legs were burning and I loved it. I was still even a little sore from my run the day before so I felt like I was really pushing myself. Sunday my friend and I went for a very vertical 1 hr. hike. It was great to be out in the sun, catching up with my friend between huffs and puffs and knowing that the fat off our booties was melting away. Great day!

One of my goals, which I feel that I have achieved, is to just reincorporate fitness into my daily life. I realize that technology, unfortunately, has made me more sedentary. On a regular basis I need to balance out the texting, Facebooking, Tivoing and general websurfing that I do with some cardio and strength training. Sometimes it is just as simple as doing crunches, leg lifts or bicep curls while I'm catching up on my shows.

My other goal is just to be more conscious of what I am putting in my mouth. I'm not much of an absent-minded snacker, its just that for periods of time I get caught up in eating what I want or what sounds good without really thinking about what I am really eating. Where did it come from? Are the ingredients a bunch of things I can't pronounce? What about hormones? I am TOTALLY over low-fat, low-carb, low-cal processed crap. I have realized that in order to make these things taste good they are typically pumped up with too much salt, too much refined sugar, sugar substitute or too many strange chemicals. I want to eat REAL food. I have been getting better about this. I have even decided to take a break from my beloved hydrogenated oil-laden coffee creamer for a while. I have also really improved my portion control. Truly, I find that I am more satisfied from smaller portions of REAL food.

Last thought for the day: Question that that does not rot.