Crab Cakes with Red Curry Dipping Sauce, Pesto Linquine and Citrus Salad

Crab Cakes with Red Curry Dipping SauceAs you know, I love to eat well and that means it has to be easy, nutritious, balanced and most of all appetizing and delicious.  So this meal meets that criteria and I’m going to show you how I break it down in terms of basic nutrient balance.

Protein = Crab Cakes (2 small)

Carbohydrate = Pesto Pasta (1 cup cooked)

Veg/Fruit = Arugula & Grapefruit slices (@1/2 cup ea.)

Now I’m sure some of you see “pasta” and think, “the devil’s food.” But let’s remember portion size is as important as what types of food you’re eating.  Imagine taking your car to the gas station and overfilling your tank until it was running down  the side of your car and pooling in your shoes.  This would be a bad thing, right? So don’t do the same thing to your body.  Pasta does not need to be vilified, just eaten in an appropriate serving and probably not every day. The average restaurant’s entree of pasta is 6-8 servings. That’s an entire box of pasta!  It’s important to read labels on food until you can get a good sense of what is a legitimate serving.

You might be thinking that one cup of pasta would be too small to fill you up or satisfy you. Well, that’s where the other nutrients come in to play.  The protein and veg/fruit complete the meal.  And Happy Fun Fact: the body absorbs nutrients better when all are present in combination than in individual servings.  Translation: the crab is absorbed more effectively when eaten with the pasta than it would be if eaten by itself and you will feel more happy and satiated when you eat in balanced proportions.

I’m not a big fan of measuring and weighing my food and that is also entirely impractical if you’re out to eat in a social setting.  So here’s a stealthy strategy: the palm of your hand excluding the fingers is about a serving size for your body size.  I have relatively small hands; my boyfriend’s hands are three times mine.  Obviously, he will require a higher quantity of calories and nutrients than I will.  If you’re eating breakfast hold a handful of berries and take stock of the amount.  Without getting out a measuring cup, you’ve just naturally selected the right amount of food for you. (For me that’s about 3 large strawberries or 8-10 good-sized blackberries.)  And let’s be honest, we all know the fable of the monkey who gets its fist stuck in a jar because it’s so greedy that it won’t let go of some of the goodies in hand.  So no giant fistfuls – just the size of your palm minus the fingers.

This technique also works when you’re out to eat.  No need to cause a scene by getting the waiter to divide your meal up or to alert everyone at the table that you’re learning how to reset your portion instincts. Fake like you’re reaching for the salt and pepper and hold your palm over each element on your plate (meat, veg, carb) and then feel confident that you can eat the amount that is appropriate for your body.  Ninety percent of the time, you’ll have enough food left over that you can have it for lunch tomorrow, also in the right amount.

We can take away the fear and replace it with  nutrient balanced, properly portioned and economically feasible food based on confident, stress-free choices.

If you’d like the recipe for this dish, please let me know! (Psst, the Pesto sauce is from the Salmon Recipe I posted earlier; it keeps a week or two in the fridge and is great for so many quick dishes.)

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Don’t Be Afraid of Your Food

“You know what I love about you, Deb?  It’s that you EAT. You’re a trainer and you EAT like the rest of us, none of this ‘my body is a temple’ BS.”  This is what my friend says to me on a regular basis, but the truth is I like many people, have a love affair with food.  And I would argue that you should love food.  I mean think about it: you wouldn’t be angry, judgmental or upset by the fact that your car needs fuel would you?  But you also know that if you consistently put crappy fuel in a race car, it is not going to perform well.

From a divine design point of view, it’s simply beautiful the way we are built.  Think about it, you are required to eat several times a day.  That means that naturally you are taking breaks throughout the day to check in with yourself, to pause and be present, to nourish you own body and mind and to share that time with those close to and around you.  Also the fact that you are going to need to eat again gives you an infinite amount of chances to make better choices.  So you pigged out at your friend’s birthday party, so what?  Move on, be present and eat balanced the next time around.  It’s not necessary to starve yourself on the next meal nor is it a good idea to eat birthday cake from that day forward.  Was it a joyful occasion to share with your friend?  Of course!  So, keep the joy, ditch the control and judgment, move forward and now fill the mouth with nutrient rich, appropriately portioned deliciousness.

When it comes down to it, many people are afraid of their food.  And generally speaking we fall into two camps: one, those who consume way too much and two, those who count every calorie and control every mouthful.  Either way, the mind is occupied and consumed daily with choices about sustenance.  Wouldn’t it be nice to achieve a measure of balance through knowledge and behavioral adjustments such that the fear vanishes, the controls free up and you are able to sustain your weight and optimize your health without too much thought?

The word, “Diet” needs to change in people’s conception. I was once at a lecture given by Mark MacDonald, author of a great nutrition book called Body Confidence, and he asked only those in the audience who had never been on a diet to raise their hands.  My friend and fellow trainer and I were the only ones in an entire room to do so.  The speaker, knowing the secret ahead of time asked my friend, “How is this possible?”  My friend replied that to him the word “diet” meant the food choices you make over a lifetime, not a highly restricted short duration format.  And he added, “Look if it’s the playoffs and I eat pizza and beer for seven nights in a row, I know that at some point I have to stop doing that.  If some people call it a diet because I can’t eat pizza and beer every day of my life, well, then I guess I’m on a diet.”

I work with people via empowerment.  The first step is to let go of your fear and inwardly directed hostility.  The second is to begin to understand how to maximize nutrient intake at every meal in a way that you can simply look at your plate and know you’re balanced or not.  The third is to eat foods that you find enjoyable so that a meal becomes an enrichment of your day.  That is not to say, that I advocate whatever you want in whatever quantity you want all the time.  But it is most definitely possible to change your mindset and life that food becomes your friend and not your enemy.

I am proud to say “I love food and it makes my body and mind happy!”

Grilled Salmon Pesto and Roasted Red Pepper

Check out this recipe I posted yesterday for a quick, balanced and yummy salmon dinner!

Grilled Salmon Pesto with Roasted Red Pepper

Grilled Salmon Pesto and Roasted Red PepperI used to get frustrated at buying fresh herbs at the grocery store because the bunches were so big that I could never use it all up and it felt like a waste.  But then I discovered “Pesto” sauces.  You can essentially modify this with whatever herbs you have and store it in a jar for later use in quick and savory meals.  You can toss it on meats, pasta, potatoes, even sandwiches.

PESTO SAUCE

  • 6 TB Pine Nuts
  • 2 Cups fresh Basil Leaves
  • 2 Cups fresh Parsley Leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1/3-1/2 cup of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup of Freshly grated Parmigiano

1) Combine the pine nuts – salt in a food processor – blend until a paste is formed.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while blending.  Add the Parmigiano 1 TB at a time until a thick paste is formed.

2) If storing (several weeks in the fridge) place in a jar and pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top to seal in freshness.

If you want to make what I just made (about 15-20 minutes total time) follow my lead.

1) Boil the pasta water and heat the grill pan over low-med heat.

2) Coat the flesh of a salmon filet with olive oil and salt of your choice (I used Hibiscus salt.) Chop the red pepper into sizable chunks and brush with olive oil.

3) USE 1/2 THE PACKAGE OF PASTA (typically it’s 4 servings!) Cook pasta according to the package instructions. Place the salmon on the grill and arrange the red pepper around the cooking fish.

4) When the pasta is cooked, drain it and toss with some pesto (not all! Save some for another day.) Plate the grilled salmon on top of a serving of noodles, garnish with a side of grilled red peppers, a crumble of cotija cheese (that’s what I had in the fridge) and drizzle with a taste of balsamic vinegar.

Chronicles of Rehab: Episode 2, Fun Police

View from the sofa

View from the sofa

February 8, 2013: I open my eyes and for the first time see my deep purple marbled leg encased in the mid-thigh to mid-calf, weighted, black brace.  It’s not a surprise. Dr. Gerhardt had given it to me two days before the surgery along with my crutches; he had detailed what would happen during the surgery and what would occur when I woke up and the process of the next four weeks.  And although my brain and rational mind took in all the details the impact of the whole event didn’t sink in through the levels of denial until the unchanging view from the sofa assaulted me through the window and pressed me down into the cushions.

The brace locks my hamstring at a 70 degree angle and it is my constant companion day and night, save for a few daily minutes in the shower.  As my apartment is a comfortable, but modest two bedroom place that I share with Katie, my roommate and as the 5 inch incision under my gluteal fold makes it impossible to sit my choices of perch are limited.  It’s either the sofa or my bed for the next four weeks!  Therapy is not even allowed to start until the brace comes completely off at the end of the month of imprisonment.  As a person who has the energy of a hummingbird and the tenacious spirit of a Jack Russell Terrier, this confinement could be torture.

My surgery was on Friday.  My brother, Geoff had come for the weekend and gone home on Sunday.  Monday I have my first post-op appointment, but the two hour field trip leaves me wrecked.  By the following Friday, I have not been outside of my apartment in five days and not likely to leave until the following week.  It’s President’s Day Weekend and all of my friends are away out of the city having fun.  Katie’s working doubles leaving me with nothing to do but to feel massively sorry for myself!

But then as I tearfully look out my window, I experience an epiphany: I am at least in the comfort of my own home.  Physically, I am in excellent shape, enough to support myself in basic tasks.  My windows look out on the sunny Pacific ocean, where I can see sailboats riding the wind. And most importantly, every single day I am getting better and headed to 100% recovery even if the road is long.  How many people are suffering in hospital rooms and not mending?  What do I have to complain about?  I have had excellent support every step of the way, so much so that the experience has felt blessed…which feels odd to say, but totally true.

I mention my revelation to Christi, my Godmother who calmly replies, “Of course it’s blessed.  You’ve been doing a lot of internal growth throughout the last year and you’ve been asking for your life to change.  So the universe has replied by asking you, for the first time in your life, to sit still, to be silent and to only take care of yourself.  You’ve been much more comfortable taking care of everyone else at cost to your own self.  But now, you have nothing but time to put on your own oxygen mask. If that doesn’t constitute a positive change and opportunity for more growth, I don’t know what does!”

As the weeks continue, Dr. Gerhardt, all of my friends and my new PT, Mike continually impress upon me the severity of this injury.  As Mike seriously says, “How many people do you know that are telling you to ‘take it easy’?” I reply, “A lot.  Don’t worry.”  “How many?”  “Oh, um…you want an actual number? Like there’s my friends and roommate and…”  “You’re missing my point.  I want you to enlist the aid of every single person you know to monitor you and tell you to back off and not push it!”  “Don’t you worry, I have more fun police than I know what to do with.”

For my entire life, I have been a “pusher.” Someone who puts my head down, shoulder into things and doubles my efforts when obstacles arise.  But I reached the point where I physically broke from this way of life.  And now I am discovering as Deepak Chopra says, “The Law of Least Effort.”  If I am more still, gentle and calm with myself I can discover better my true strengths and my own inner voice.  That does not mean that I am not strong.  As an athlete, I look forward to my body being able to be agile and powerful again.  But I don’t have to make up for anything I feel insecure about in this present moment.

So what this has taught me is to find my “victory” today.  If you’ve just worked a 60 hour work week and stayed up late with a sick child, and every minute of your day has been scheduled, why are you taking a kickboxing class?!  Take 1 minute out of each day and really check in with yourself and see HOW AM I?  And make better choices for yourself off of that answer.  Be your own Fun Police and feel blessed in every minute of your day, even in the face of challenge!