Healthy Balance, Healthy Life

I’ve lived literally a mile from the local farmers market here in Burlington, Vermont for 2 months now and I have yet to go until today (tisk tisk!). My friend Carrie asked me to meet her there and I was excited to make the date because I knew I’d have no excused to sleep in and do nothing all morning (I find myself having trouble being motivated to get out and do things on my own without a scheduled plan. This needs to change!). So I woke myself up at 8 AM and got ready to go. I packed some cash, strapped on my CamelBak backpack and sneakers, and jogged down. Carrie and I were overwhelmed (in a good way) by all of the selection: produce and meat at most every stand, jewelry, homemade housewares, art work, flowers, natural food vendors, and the occasional niche vendor (one was Dinky Donuts for example).

I think the coolest part of going was seeing what produce is supposed to look like. Without all of the chemicals and pesticides, the produce was way smaller and not as perfectly shaped and colored as what you find in the supermarket.

The size of the produce, watermelons, eggplants, etc. seemed to be perfectly portioned by mother nature. The watermelons could be held completely in one hand!

We also got pretty excited to see beans being sold still attached to their stalks. It's sad that we've lived 22 years and have yet to see the food we eat in its natural state.

So I bought:

PURPLE Bell Peppers

A few varieties of summer squash

Raw Honey (awesome in greek yogurt!). I'll do a post on the health benefits of raw honey too.

I’m planning on grilling the veggies or using them in a stir fry–we’ll see!

So, enough of this reminiscing–what’s so good about farmers markets? There’s a lot of reasons to stop by and pick up some goodies! Specifically:

It’s good for the farmers

  • They cut out the middleman so they can reap more profit from their hard work.
  • They can get direct feedback from buyers on what they can do to improve the quality of their product.
  • They travel less to get their produce to consumers, and thus less travel cost incurred.

It’s good for us

  • We know exactly what we’re eating — We know who’s growing your produce and meat and can ask any questions directly to them.
  • They make fresh, chemical free food accessible. After produce is picked, it starts to lose its nutrients. Fresh food = more nutrients!
  • Market prices are often lower than those at the grocery store. Less cash, more quality = win, win! (A pound of the raw honey I bought was just $5)
  • From Sparkpeople “Since the produce is picked at the peak of the season, nutrients, and phytochemicals will be more abundant.”
  • Better variety of produce than a grocery store means a better variety of vitamins and minerals going into your body. It also, keeps cooking fresh and exciting and you can ask the farmer how to prepare whatever you buy!
  • Who doesn’t love fresh air and sunshine (as opposed to fluorescent lighting and concrete)?

It’s good for the environment

  • Reduces travel and packaging
  • Encourages environmental practices, such as organic or pesticide-free

So, you know the moral of this story — GET YOUR BUTT TO THE FARMERS MARKET! (See below to find one near you)

LocalHarvest – Find the closest places to buy sustainably grown food near you!

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This week I made some progress on my bedroom. I painted it a light beige and put up the paintings I made last semester behind the bed. Check it out!

I think the carpet really brings everything together. Still looking for some decorative throw pillows, though!

I also got to see MGMT and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals on Lake Champlain at the Lake Champlain Maritime Festival.

View of the lake from the festival

Awesome place for a summer concert.

This is a picture of the stage at MGMT but they're so bright you can't see them!

Pictures of Grace Potter to come soon!

Time to get some beauty rest,

Hummus adds creamy garlic flavor (and protein!) to breaded chicken cutlets.

I tried this recipe from Sabra.com last night. It was such a quick and easy recipe that turned out to be awesome! It’s even boyfriend approved 😉 He was wondering what my “special sauce” was. Who knew hummus could disguise itself so deliciously well! Try this out on a day you’re not feeling too up to a complicated meal–you can whip this one up quickly and easily. Even better, stuff them the night before work so all you have to do is throw them in the pan when you get back. Almost a pre-made meal!

What you need:

  • ½ cup Sabra hummus (choose your favorite variety)
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5-6 ounces each, tenderloins removed)
  • 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, egg whites only
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1½ cups bread crumbs, Panko are the best
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup olive oil

What you do:

  1. Place trimmed chicken breast in a large, Ziploc, plastic bag. Pound with a meat pounder or a rolling pin until ¼ inch thick. Repeat with all chicken breasts, each breast should be about 8 inches long and 6 inches wide.
  2. Lay the chicken breasts smooth side down on work surface and season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly about 2 tablespoons hummus on the chicken breasts leaving about ½ inch border all around. Roll each chicken breast and wrap each rolled breast in a sheet of aluminum foil (or plastic wrap works also). Twist the ends like a candy wrapper and chill in the refrigerator about 45 minutes.
  3. Heat oven to 400° degrees. Using 3 pie plates (or shallow dishes) pour the flour in one, lightly whisk the egg whites and water in the other and place the breadcrumbs in the other. Unwrap the chicken breasts and using tongs, roll in the flour (shake off excess), then submerge in the egg whites (let the excess drip off) and then finally place in the breadcrumbs, use your fingers to press the breadcrumbs so that they stick.
  4. Heat 1/4-cup olive oil in a large non-stick skillet until shimmering, about 4 minutes. Place the rolled chicken breasts in the oil, seam side down. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes on all sides. Put the chicken breasts (seam side down) in a baking dish and cook about 15 minutes or until thermometer registers 160 degrees. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Using a sharp knife, slice on a bias into 4 or 5 pieces. I like to serve this dish with a side of vegetables, such as sautéed Spinach-see below, or a side of rice for a more filling meal.

“Your body is the most powerful instrument you will ever own.” – Baz Luhrman.

Treat it with care, nourish i, love it, accept it. You have innate intelligence that will guide you.

(From a note I found in a copy of Bethenny Frankel’s Skinny Girl Dish at Borders (which, btw, looked really good from what I read)

I’ve always avoided being around girls when the conversation turns to the topic of “I-look-so-fat-I-can’t-wear-anything-let-me-look-for-imperfections” and all its variations. Sure, I might look in the mirror and think how nice it’d be to have a sports illustrated swimsuit model’s body but I also recognize that that is impossible to attain. All of the pictures of models we see are retouched (see Huffinton post article on an Ann Taylor model) even though those models are super skinny and “perfect” to begin with! Furthermore, a lot of those models are most likely getting in that shape in an unhealthy way (kudos to those who do it the healthy way). Being overweight is unhealthy but so is being underweight.

Aside from “skinny”, we have to stop seeing our differences as imperfections. See them as parts of you that make you unique or symbols of the life you live. For example, my scars have stories. The one on my shin is from falling on a metal soccer cleat (ow!), a testament to my unharnessed high energy (and clumsiness!). My birth mark is just that, the mark of the miracle of life and my presence in this world.

Okay, okay, I’m getting kind of mushy now so I’ll stop. The moral of the story is we need to stop this negative talk! Mostly because the more we talk, the more we get this false impression that the subject of our conversation is important and meaningful. I started hanging out with a girl a few years back who lived her life by attacking her looks, talking herself down, and doubting that she looked good when she looked great! After spending time with her, I noticed that I started thinking the same way but applying it to  myself! This way of thinking is contagious! The fat talk consumed her and anyone she came into contact with. Sadly, I had to minimize my time with her to protect the health of my thoughts and eventually we just stopped being friends.

There are days when we aren’t feeling our best and we have some doubts. That’s normal. If you need to talk with a close friend about your feelings, that’s fine. The idea here isn’t to pretend we don’t have insecurities sometimes; the point is to stop making these thoughts a casual and usual subject of conversation.

Remember, fat talk is contagious so when you stop spreading it, others will be less likely to come down with the “fat talk flu”, and then they won’t spread it–and so on and so forth, you get the picture!

Finish the Fat Talk Flu!

Question: How do you deal with fat talk thoughts?

May be of Interest:

How to Put an end to “Fat Talk” – Self Magazine

Fat Talk – Healthy Tipping Point

Ann Taylor Website Glitch Reveals Un-Retouched Images – Huffington Post

Made a really good dessert last night that took literally 30 seconds to make.

All you need is store-bought chocolate peanut butter (or make your own) and strawberries. Scoop some peanut butter into a bowl, zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds, dip your strawb, place in mouth, melt.

Skinny indulgence in a jar

Good nutrition, check! Wholesome ingredients, check! (Double Click to check it out for yourself!)

Easy peasy dipping "sauce"

So good, how could this have protein and antioxidants in it?

*Suitable for Phase 2 of South Beach Diet

Question:

What’s your go-to quick dessert?

I made this tonight (with my new All-Clad saute pan!!! I looove it) and it’s definitely one of my favorite dishes. Very filling, flavorful, and full of protein and veggies! Those of you who don’t like it hot might want to omit the red pepper flakes and chili sauce but beware, it probably won’t taste as good!

Stir crazy: in progress

Tasty Thai: Success!

What You Need:

1 cup Quinoa
2 cups Chicken stock
¼ cup Low sodium soy or tamari sauce
2 tablespoons Oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Fish sauce
3 tablespoons Sweetener (I used sucanat)
3 tablespoons Peanut Oil
1 Vidalia Onion, halved and sliced into strips
1-1 ½ lbs Chicken, cubed
5 cloves Garlic, minced
¼ cup Chili sauce
2 Bell Peppers
1 cup Baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Sprouts (Any kind but soy sprouts have tons of protein)
3 Plum tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 ½ cups Fresh basil leaves (Thai is best but I used Genovese)
Ground pepper
Red pepper flakes
1 Lime (or lemon)

What You Do:

  1. Prepare quinoa (Rinse quinoa to remove bitter coating, boil the chicken stock, pour in quinoa, simmer until moisture is absorbed)
  2. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sweetener. Set aside.
  3. Heat peanut oil in a large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add onions and chicken.
  4. When onions are fragrant, add garlic and chili sauce and stir for 1 minute.
  5. Add bell peppers, mushrooms, sprouts, tomatoes, and basil and stir-fry until soft.
  6. Turn heat down to medium and add ground pepper and red pepper flakes. Squeeze lime directly over ingredients in pan.
  7. Serve stir fry over a bed of quinoa and a few spoonfuls of sauce from the pan. Enjoy!

Question for the Foodies:

What’s your favorite grain?

Mine is quinoa. I love the texture and the fact that it’s protein packed. Mix it with veggies and you have an easy, well-rounded dinner! I just bought hard red wheat berries today so I’ll be trying those in a recipe for the first time soon. Stay tuned!

May Be of Interest:

Quinoa, my Favorite Grain!

Dan is really good at throwing together a meal off the top of his head. He isn’t really into recipes and what he makes is usually so amazing it boggles my mind that he could have winged it! What he makes is usually pretty simple to create and fast too. Wish I could cook like him!

When I came back from my walk down to Lake Champlain this morning, he was making something that looked so yummy and delicious, I had to let you all know about it.

The Egg and Cheese Pack on the Protein

Our kitchen is so small, poor Dan had to deal with me watching his every move. I wanted to know exactly how to make it!

And I did!

What You Need (for each sandwich):

  • 1 Whole grain Arnold’s sandwich thin
  • 1 egg
  • Salsa
  • Reduced fat sour cream
  • Reduced fat cheese of your choice
  • Salt
  • Pepper

What You Do:

  1. Sprinkle some cheese on one half of the sandwich thin and place on a griddle (or pan) on medium heat/350 degrees until the cheese melts. Place the sandwich thin on a serving plate.
  2. Make an egg sunny side up.
  3. Spread a spoonful of sour cream on the other half of the sandwich thin and place the egg on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Spread a spoonful of salsa on top of the cheese.
  5. Unite the two halves and enjoy!

Welcome!

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I am a 22 year old social work graduate student living in beautiful Burlington, Vermont. I love do-it-yourself projects, being active, and cooking delicious, healthy food! Feel free to leave comments or email me at AlixandraWest@gmail.com. You can also anonymously ask me questions at http://www.formspring.me/HealthyBalance1 I would love to hear from you!

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