Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sandal Season

So the weather this weekend was beautiful! We spent a lot of time outside working in the yard, bathing the dogs and enjoying the sun. Besides being a great reminder that I had vowed to be in perfect shorts-friendly shape by this time (whoops!) it is also the beginning of sandal season! 

Ladies, one of the great things about being a woman is the opportunity to enjoy pretty things and celebrate our femininity. No, I'm not saying you HAVE to be all dolled up in order to be considered a successful woman. I am not making a statement on feminism or equality here. I am simply saying that it is totally appropriate to celebrate what it means to be a woman. With fun, sassy sandals from flip flops to espadrilles to heels, you can make a great fashion statement. However, if you plan on busting out those toes, let's take a moment to prepare. A cute shoe is completely trumped and defeated by gnarly toes, chipped polish and cracking heels. If your heels look like a pumice stone, it doesn't matter how cute your shoes are. That is all that will be drawing people's eyes. It's like a train want to look away, but you just can't.  Your feet have been hiding inside thick socks and tall boots for months. Here are a few basic tips to helping them make an impressive debut:

  • Exfoliate! Use a foot scrub to help remove dry skin. (Here is an easy homemade sugar scrub that works great.) These exfoliator creams can be used on legs and hands as well for extra soft skin. Use a pumice stone or foot file to work over rough or callused spots like the heel and ball of the foot. 
  • Moisturize! Your feet need moisture to help keep them looking and feeling fresh. The best time to do this is right before bed so you get the advantage of the moisturizers working while you are sleeping. I recommend using a cream or shea butter rather than a lotion. These options are much more concentrated to help keep your natural body moisture in rather than just evaporating like a thin lotion will. One I have found that I like is Cetaphil. You can buy this by the tub as Costco which makes it cost effective. It is a great moisturizer for your whole body.
  • Groom! Keeping your toenails shaped is important. After showering (so the nails are softer) trim nails straight across the toe, then snip corners at a 45 degree angle. Nails should not extend past the toe itself. Use a file to round the sharp corners slightly to avoid ingrown toenails.
  • Express Yourself! Pick a color that is fun and bright. Use a base coat prior to applying the polish in order to avoid yellowing your nail beds. If you do find your nail beds a bit discolored, try rubbing them with a lemon wedge for a minute. The lemon juice is said to contain oxidizing agents that can help brighten your nails.

And finally...let go of your beliefs that your feet are weird. All feet are weird. If you are taking care of yourself and putting just a little effort into presenting them at their best, you can wear those strappy sandals with pride. As a teenager I was embarrassed of my short toes. I remember going to Lake Powell with my high school friends and actually being self conscious about people seeing my feet. I would cover them with a towel on the boat. Now I love that they give me an opportunity to express some fun and color. Your feet take you everywhere. They have put in thousands of miles for you. Treat them right and then show them off!

photo credit: pumpkincat210 via photopin cc

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Easter Brunch

Every Easter we host a dinner with lamb roast and homemade mint jelly. We didn't want to miss the opportunity to have the family over, but this year we wanted to try something different so we opted for a brunch instead. I made 2 frittatas, a beautiful fruit salad, some virgin mimosas and oven-cooked bacon (because everything is better with bacon).
All of these recipes were easy to put together and perfect for feeding a larger group. We kept it fairly Primal (grain & sugar free), but for those of you still loving your bread, this recipe for Stuffed French Toast would be a great addition as well.
Click below for each of the recipes.

Cooking Bacon in the Oven

Who doesn't love bacon? It is definitely a crowd pleaser, but can be tough to prepare in larger quantities. Last Christmas I tried preparing it in the oven and it worked beautifully, so I went with that method again for Easter. It is a lot less maintenance to prepare and much easier to make for a large group. Plus, when you are done, you can just discard the foil & grease. Easy clean up.

Oven-Cooked Bacon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with foil and turn up edges slightly to help keep grease inside the pan. Lay bacon out flat on foil, not touching. Bake on middle rack for 18-25 minutes. Time will vary based on how thick your bacon is and how close together the pieces are. Just keep an eye on it. When it looks "done", it is. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towel to drain. Serve.

Non-alcoholic "Mimosas"

Simple way to liven up your orange juice for a party or gathering. Add berries for extra color and serve in champagne flutes.

Virgin "Mimosas"

2 (2-liter) bottles of Sprite Zero
1 gallon orange juice
2 cups pineapple juice
berries for garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients in drink server or punch bowl. This was a fun way to have a special drink without too much fuss or extra sugar. If you make the Honey-Poppy Seed Fruit Salad, just use the pineapple juice you saved from draining the cans. We put blackberries, raspberries and sliced strawberries in this for color.
Serves 20

Honey Poppy-Seed Fruit Salad

This delicious fruit salad makes for a beautiful presentation. Throw this together right before your next gathering. The colors and flavors are a great addition to any tablescape.

Honey-Drizzled Fruit Salad

2 (20 oz) cans pineapple chunks in real juice
7-8 ripe kiwi, peeled, sliced and cut in half (to make half-circles)
3 cans mandarin oranges, drained well
3 cups strawberries, quartered
Approx. 3-4 T raw natural honey
poppy seeds

Drain pineapple chunks well (reserve the juice if you are planning on making "Mimosas"). Combine all fruit in large bowl. Lightly drizzle honey over fruit and stir to evenly coat. Sprinkle with poppy seeds as desired and stir again.
This salad stays beautiful for a couple hours, but then starts to "blend" colors. Best to make and serve immediately.
Serves 12-15

Easy Frittata

This is an easy recipe and perfect for customizing to whatever your tastes are as far as ingredients. Use this same basic recipe but try it with ham, bacon, cheddar, mozzarella, broccoli, peppers, etc. Simple and fast way to feed a larger group.

Sausage, Spinach & Pepperjack Frittata

1 lb spicy ground sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded pepperjack cheese
1 pkg (16 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out
14 eggs
1/2 cup milk
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pyrex baking dish.
In a skillet over medium heat, cook the onion and sausage until meat is no longer pink. Remove from heat and stir in the drained spinach.
Spread 1 cup of cheese in the bottom of baking dish. Layer meat mixture over the cheese. In large bowl, scramble eggs and milk. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Pour eggs over meat mixture and cheese. Do not mix or stir contents of baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, or until eggs are no longer runny and top is lightly browned. Cut into squares.

For variety, just change your layers using any type of meat, cheese and veggies that you want. I also made a ham and cheddar frittata using diced ham and sharp cheddar cheese.
Serves 12

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Planting a Vegetable Garden

I am excited to plant a garden this year. Last year we waited too long and missed the planting window. But we did dump a few bags of planting soil over the spot we wanted to use, which made it much easier to prepare the ground when the time came around again. For some reason the soil in our area is hard clay. After it bakes throughout the summer, it is almost impossible to work with, so I got out there early this time and prepared a spot for a small garden. I used some wooden sign stakes to plot out the boundaries and bought some basic garden fencing to wrap around the stakes. Inexpensive and easy to do. Looking at the area now, we may decide to expand it. It just looks so tiny! And since we haven't laid the sod down yet, it is easy right now to expand this area where there is no grass.

There is something so fun and rewarding about planting a vegetable garden. It is amazing to watch as your plants literally change and progress every day. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment, a chance to work outside in the sun, and of course, the nutritious food for a fraction of what you would spend at the grocery store for fresh produce. 

I think we are planting our salsa ingredients this year (tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapeƱos), I would also like to try some squash, carrots and maybe cucumbers. In looking for some tips on when to plant, I found this site. It lays out a basic schedule specific to the Wasatch Front. I thought I would pass it on in case you are planning your garden too.

Here are some tips I found as I was doing my research:
  1. Position your garden in a spot that gets at least 6 hours of direct sun each day
  2. Start planting early in the spring and plant in multiple phases so you have vegetables to harvest throughout the season
  3. Soak your seeds in room temperature water a few hours before planting them to start the germination process
  4. Use compost in your soil for a better result and higher quality product
  5. Make sure to give your plants plenty of water - they are not very drought tolerant
  6. Keep your garden free of weeds. Those little freeloaders want to soak up the nutrients and can harm your plants

So, what will you be planting this year? Do you have any tips to get better results?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

30 Days of Primal

Let me introduce you to Grok. He is my Caveman companion. On this blog I make reference to eating Primally and realize that some people may not know what that means. The Primal Blueprint is a fantastic book by Mark Sisson about how to retrain your body to function like the strong, healthy, amazing machine that it is. I highly recommend reading this if you have not already. The cliffs notes version of the plan is this: while our civilization and food have changed dramatically over the last 10,000 years, our genes have not. So, essentially out bodies are not able to process a lot of the food we eat day to day, including grains and processed sugars. By returning to a hunter-gather lifestyle, like my friend the Caveman, we experience countless health benefits including weight loss, energy balance, and immune strength.

I won't go into all the science here. If you have an interest in learning more about this, I recommend you visit Mark Sisson's blog at It is a fountain of information and success stories. What I do want to share here is my experience. About 2 years ago, we decided to become Primal. This meant giving up all grains and processed sugars and focusing our diet on meat, veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, and occasional dairy. If you can kill it or find it, you can eat it. No more pasta, rice, bread, etc. The first week is tough. Being a sugar lover, I discovered that my cravings were much more psychological and habitual than physical. I'm bored, I eat. I'm happy, I eat. I'm stressed, I eat. You get the point. In the afternoon, you find something sweet as a treat. After dinner, who doesn't want a treat? These habits were not due to needing or even wanting the food in question. They were much more based on what I had always done. The thing I noticed is that after embracing the new diet, there is a huge sense of power and freedom in choosing what I would eat. I remember the first time someone at work offered me a cupcake from the inevitable box of deliciousness that was left by a vendor and I simply said, "No thanks". I was amazed afterward at how easy it was. I didn't miss it. I didn't need it. And keeping my commitment to myself gave me power.

So what was the effect? I stopped having energy crashes throughout the day. No more fighting to keep my eyes open at my desk at 10:30 am and no more afternoon carb overloads after lunch. I would wake up, head to the gym and maintain a high energy level from morning until bedtime. I lost about 20 pounds. The weight loss wasn't hard or painful and my workouts were fairly simple; walking and occasional weight lifting. And, as you may have experienced, when you improve one area of your life, other areas are affected. Keeping your commitment to yourself creates self-confidence and I felt great!

Being someone who loves to cook, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to make anything fun anymore or anything delicious to others. While Roland gets excited about a big slab of steak on a plate, it doesn't do a whole lot for me. I soon discovered that there were countless blogs and even cookbooks with Primal and Paleo recipes. You can use cauliflower in place of rice, spaghetti squash in place of pasta, almond flour in place of white flour, honey in place of sugar, etc. This was a fun and new challenge for my skills in the kitchen.

After about a year, we got a little lazy. Our meals at home were still Primal, but we found ourselves eating out more and allowing too many "cheats". It was too easy to just grab a burger and fries when we hadn't planned ahead. The snowball took effect and we veered back to a mostly conventional diet. The pounds inevitably returned, and naturally brought a few friends with them.

So March 1st we re-committed to 30 days of eating Primally. While you can get strict on this, to us this meant no grains, no sugar. Today is day 35 for me. I feel great! I am down 4 pounds in a month and Roland is down 5. While it is less than I was hoping for, I realize my body is having to fight through all the crap I fed it. If your body doesn't believe you (say, because you have "dieted" for the last 20 years) it tends to hold on to its storage. Over time, the compound effect will take place and the results will speed up. I have no doubt.

More importantly, I kept my promise. I followed through on my commitment and took back my power over the foods that, in all honesty, have dictated my choices for years. Keeping your promises builds confidence and that allows you to make more and bigger promises. I have revived my schedule of getting up at 5:00 am and heading to the gym. I am planning on participating in a couple of 5Ks this summer, even if I am the last to cross the finish line. I have recommitted to this blog, which has been depressingly neglected. I am making efforts toward finishing books that are gathering dust on my nightstand and nurturing friendships with people who may not even remember my name at this point. Growth takes effort. But not as much as you'd think.

Just make one promise. Then keep it. Grok on!