28 Days to a Healthy Heart: Day 18 and 19

Day 18: Add a Stretch Break to your calendar
I stretch all the time. I sit at my desk and stretch, I do leg lifts while at the computer and if no one is watching I may do some high knees or touch my toes at the copier.

Today at home, I added some resistance bands. Here is a printable resistance band workout from Women’s Health magazine. Give it a shot!

Day 19: Swap the Sweets for a Piece of Fruit
I have a massive sweet tooth. Is there any other kind of tooth? Not over here! They are my downfall. If I have sweets in the house, I’m doomed. DOOMED I tell ya! Needless to say, since I do the grocery shopping, I have the power to keep the sweeties out.

The past couple of weeks, much to my daughter’s dismay (she also has “the tooth”) I have been buying a lot more fruit. I even made fruit cups for her Valentine’s Day class party. Which is probably the equivalent of passing out toothbrushes and floss for Halloween, mind you.

We are loving Fuji apples and mangoes right now. Well, I am the only one loving mangoes and since they are in season they are always on sale. SCORE! This is a perfect time of year to incorporate fruit into your diet. Processed sweets actually suppress the immune system, and with cold and flu season well underway the addition of fresh fruits and is even more important.

Besides mangoes, here are a few other fruits to enjoy this winter.

Mandarin Oranges
Passion Fruit

I have the kids pick colors at the beginning of the week and we get those fruits and veggies in their color choice. It seems to help by giving us for a variety and also allows us to try new things. Give it a try.

Have a healthy day!

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28 Days to a Healthy Heart: Day 17


Hey there!

Wondering where I’ve been? Did you think I gave up? Threw in the towel? I sorta did and sorta didn’t. Let me start from the beginning. Last month I was having weird pains in my chest. So I did the worst thing anyone can do and I hit the internet for some answers. Bad idea! If you want peace of mind, cyberspace is NOT the place to go. You will have yourself diagnosed with pretty much everything after a couple of minutes of searching your symptoms.

What I did find was the Heart Challenge and I realized that even being nervous about the health of my heart was enough for me to take some action. So I have been following the challenge and so far it’s been pretty helpful

Remember Day 4: Schedule a Physical? I scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist due to aforementioned chest pain and saw him last week. It was an eye-opening experience. And since I love you, I’ll share. Because if you haven’t scheduled your appointment, maybe you will.

In a nutshell, my blood pressure was high and my EKG was abnormal. I have white coat syndrome, so the elevated blood pressure wasn’t a shock. He told me he wanted to do a stress test and that until then he didn’t want me to exercise. Instantly the panic set in and if my blood pressure wasn’t high enough at the time, it went up more, I’m sure when they told me the next appointment was in 2 weeks.

Now ladies, I’m all for women’s lib and all that jazz, but sometimes you just have to pull out all the stops a girl has. For me, that’s tears. Tears works wonders! Needless to say, I had an appointment the very next morning for labs and a nuclear stress test, which should show exactly what was going on.

8:00 a.m. the next day I arrived, my blood pressure was good (nurses were wearing bright colors…no white lab coats!) and I took my test, which showed that I did indeed need blood pressure medication but my stress test looked good. The pain in my chest was believed to be muscular, probably from lugging my daughter and her gigantic cast around for weeks and apparently an abnormal EKG is pretty normal for me. Go figure.

*Sigh of relief*

My question to the doctor immediately was, “How do I get off the medicine?”

“Take off some significant weight and relax”.

Duh. I’m working on it, but now with a much more sense of urgency than before.

So there! If you haven’t made that appointment. Please go do it! Not only is it important to your physical health, but important for you mentally. I was emotionally being held back when I exercised for fear I would push my heart too far. Now I am free to physically exert myself and break through the walls that was stuck behind. The fear and anxiety are gone and I feel a great relief.

Here is a bit of a catch up for the days I missed. Well, I didn’t miss them, I just didn’t post them.

Day 11: Calculate your BMI…Check (but I’m not telling)
Day 12: Share you favorite inspirational quote…”A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.” or pretty much anything that came out of Eleanor Roosevelt’s mouth
Day 13: Give the elevator a day off and take the stairs…Always!
Day 14: Protect your sweetheart’s heart. Plan a healthy date…does napping count? I think so.
Day 15: Saturday Night Fever! Dance to your favorite song…Pul-leaze! I am a dancing fool!
Day 16: Stress less! Practice mindful mediation for 10 minutes…10 minutes workouts on On Demand has some great relaxation sessions. I try to do one every day.
Day 17: Give meatless Monday a try! Sorry meatloaf is on the menu tonight, no pre-planning. How about Steak-free Saturday or Squash Sunday? We’ll see.

So there it is. Not much more to go. Stay tuned for tomorrow, Add a stretch break to your calendar. I’m going to have to elaborate on that. I stretch daily. How about stretching with bands? Ooooooh yeah, that’s a bit different.

See you tomorrow!

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28 Days to a Healthy Heart: Day 7


Today is National Wear Red Day!

Did you wear red today?

Post a pic to my Facebook page of you wearing red today and send me your mailing address (privately of course) and I’ll send you a little gift! Feel free to post all weekend.

Let me say, I hate my picture taken and I hate selfies even more, but here I am, sporting my red in support of women’s heart health.


*Oh, and according to my food journal, I need to eat more. Who knew! But my sodium was ok.

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28 Days to a Healthy Heart: Day 6

Today is a NO SALT day! Good thing for me, I am not a big fan of salt. I rarely use it on my food. Gordon Ramsey would call me some sort of “muppet” and tell me to “season”. But I can go without or at the least very little. But sodium is hidden everywhere. Some of the biggest culprits are canned soups, canned tomatoes, baking soda, baking powder, deli meats, cheese, salad dressings, pickled foods, and of course processed snack foods.

The current percent daily value for sodium is 2400mg, however, the American Heart Association recommends that people with high blood pressure eat less that 1500mg per day, or less than 3/4 of a table spoon of salt. That really isn’t a whole lot, if you think about it.

Today I am making a point to log in my food journal. I love the food journal on at Myfitnesspal.com.It is easy and has pretty much every name brand and type of food available, which makes it really quick to log in your daily food intake. I have used this in the past, but then put it aside. Today I’m logging back in. I am curious as to how much sodium I’m actually getting. As I said, I typically don’t use a lot of salt. So, I am interested to see if whatever food choices I am making during the day are still too high. Anyone with me?

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Here are some articles for some tips on reducing your sodium intake.

How to Reduce Salt and Retain Flavor
High Sodium Foods and Ways to Reduce Sodium

And if you have a sweet tooth like me, I wanted to share this recipe for Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies and fantastic post from an amazing blogger. Dorothy at Crazy for Crust can relate first hand to women and heart disease. Go check her out.

And don’t forget, tomorrow is National Wear Red Day started by the American Heart Association to bring awareness of the severity of heart diesase in women. More often than not, a heart attack doesn't present itself like it does in the movies. You know the dramatic clutching of the chest, falling to the floor. Especially in women.
Some of the signs include:
■Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
■Back pain
■Jaw pain
■Nausea, breaking out in a cold sweat, or lightheadedness
■Pain or discomfort in one or both arms
■Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.

Read more at http://www.crazyforcrust.com/2014/02/heart-healthier-chocolate-oatmeal-cookies/#tJpXfoVEH8i8Vs3Y.99

For a little comic relief on a serious subject, check out Just a little heart attack starring Elizabeth Banks. It just may save your life!

Have a healthy day!

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28 Days to a Health Heart: Day 5


Ok, so today speaks directly to those who smoke. Hop on over and visit Smokefree.gov to take the first step in quitting smoking. I don’t smoke, although I am sad to say that I did way back when. So, I am one of those hyper-sensitive, judgy ex-smokers. Sorry, I try not to be, but it just happens. I’ve been there and I totally understand how difficult it is to quit. But you can do it!

Check out this post on smoking and heart disease . The information may surprise you.

Since today doesn’t apply to me, I plan on just being extra nice to me today and also try something new. So tonight I’ll be giving a yoga video a shot. I could use some stress relief and lately I have increased my activitity level, so I think some stretching and de-stressing is just what I need.

What are you doing for you today?

Fact: Smoking increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by 2 to 4 times. Also, women who smoke have a 25 percent higher risk of developing heart disease as compared to men who smoke.

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28 Days to a Healthy Heart: Day 4

It is Heart Health Month. And being so, I am going to pour mine out for you. I hope maybe it will touch someone. Because to tell you the truth, it’s kind of sensitive and not something I would typically share.

January was a bad month for me. I struggled with eating right and exercising. I didn’t sleep well and I felt intense stress. I suffered with panic attacks throughout the month. I felt helpless and robbed of precious time. I’m not sure if it is because I am getting older and my body is changing, but I have a tendency to worry to a point that causes these anxiety attacks. If you have never suffered an anxiety attack, which I had not until last year, they can be debilitating, terrifying and all-consuming.

For me, every twinge, ache or pain means that I am having a heart attack. I can’t sleep because I am afraid I won’t wake up. I hesitate taking medication because it is an admission of defeat. That is my mindset. I know it is wrong. But I have a hard time convincing my mind otherwise.

My fears of having a heart attack stem from the lack of exercise, poor eating habits, lack of sleep and stress. It is a vicious cycle. I know this because when I do the right things for my body, the panic attacks disappear. I know this, yet I continue to do the wrong things. It is time to break the cycle.

So I decided to join The Heart Truth 28 Day Challenge and the Go Red for Women initiative and take control. To be honest, control, or lack of, is ultimately the root cause for my panic attacks in the first place. On a negative day I tell myself I don’t have any control over my body or my anxiety. On a positive day, I tell myself I am taking control by eating right and making healthy choices. That I do have control over.

The challenge works by making little changes to your everyday routines therefore making a big difference in your overall health.

So for all my sistas out there (and brothers too), I hope you will join me. Remember, it doesn’t have to be running a marathon. It can simply be to take the first step and get off the couch for a walk. The first step is always the hardest, you know?

So come back each day and check out what’s going on. It’ll do your heart good. I promise.

Today I scheduled an annual physical for next week. I know this will help calm my fears about having a heart attack and relieve much of my anxiety. And, if there are underlying problems, I am aware and can take proper steps to make them better.

Fact: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women and is more deadly than all forms of cancer.


1.What is my risk for heart disease?

2.What is my blood pressure? What does it mean for me, and what do I need to do about it?

3.What are my cholesterol numbers? (These include total cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, HDL or “good” cholesterol, and triglycerides.) What do they mean for me, and what do I need to do about them?

4.What is my “body mass index” and waist measurement? Do they indicate that I need to lose weight for my health?

5.What is my blood sugar level, and does it mean I’m at risk for diabetes?

6.What other screening tests for heart disease do I need? How often should I return for checkups for my heart health?

7.What can you do to help me quit smoking?

8.How much physical activity do I need to help protect my heart?

9.What is a heart-healthy eating plan for me? Should I see a registered dietitian or qualified nutritionist to learn more about healthy eating?

10.How can I tell if I’m having a heart attack?


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Chicken and Butternut Stew with Quinoa and Weigh in Wednesday

Chicken and Butternut Stew with Quinoa

Chicken and Butternut Stew with Quinoa

So, the fam is officially “In Training”. Andrew has hockey tryouts coming up in a few weeks. After seven long weeks, Nina had her cast removed, and now her pathetic, little chicken leg needs some attention. And me? Well, I’m always in training. I would like to actually put on a bathing suit and head to the beach this year without fearing the folks from the aquarium will come try to put me back in the water. And my husband? Well, he eats pretty much whatever I cook, so I guess he’s along for the ride whether.

Yesterday I noticed I had a package of ground chicken that had to be used. I was planning on making some chicken chili, but was not really in the mood for a Mexican vibe. So, I went to my Soups/Stews board and thought I’d try something new. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. I’m so proud of myself!

I came across this recipe from Cookin Canuck. It looked so delicious and I actually had the ingredients (although out of necessity, I made a couple of tweaks). This was my guy.

First let me say, Dara at Cookin Canuck is UH-MAY-ZING! Her website is loaded with information, helpful healthy living articles, not to mention her own personal transformation. She is my new blogger crush! I spent so much time on her site, this soup almost didn’t get made. I had a hard time tearing myself away. Please stop by and visit her. You will not be disappointed.

Now, all of you out there know that soup is a dieters best friend. Healthy, hearty and best of all, nutritious. If you are looking to break away from boring soups or canned varieties, I urge you to try this. It is flavorful, satiating, simple, quick and just plain delicious.

Oh, and by the way, I gained 1.6 pounds this week. Yup, it’s true. So, I will be eating LOTS of soup and putting in some extra workouts to get back on track.

I read a quote this week that I will try to remember.

“If you get a flat tire, you change it and move on. You don’t slash the other three”.

    Chicken and Roasted Butternut Soup with Quinoa

1 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded & chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups lower sodium chicken broth
1 lb. ground chicken
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt (more to desired taste)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 can (14 oz) petite diced tomatoes
2/3 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbls. dried parsley or 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (if you prefer)

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet and roast 15-20 minutes until fairly tender. Mash slightly with a potato masher or back of a fork and set aside.
2. While squash is roasting, saute chicken, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt and oregano in a large pan over medium-high heat until chicken is just browned and onions are translucent. Chicken will continue to cook slightly when added to the soup.
3. In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring the chicken broth, and tomatoes to a simmmer. Add all remaining ingredients and simmer until quinoa turns translucent. (approximately 15 minutes).
4. Season to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Note: This stew thickened quite a bit overnight as the quinoa absorbed more liquid. I added a small can of chicken broth to the container and stirred it in and brought it for lunch, and I must say, it was even better the next day! Feel free to eat it as a thick stew though if you want. But I wanted something slightly thinner and the additional broth did not affect the taste at all.

Original recipe adapted from the wonderful Cookin Canuck

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Caramel Corn with Cashews

Caramel Corn with Cashews

Caramel Corn with Cashews

Today is National Popcorn Day, did you know?

Well, after reading about all the horrid, disgusting, carcinogenic garbage that is in microwave popcorn, my family has switched to popping it ourselves. Yes, throwing a bag in the microwave and pushing a button is easy and quick. But popping it yourself takes only a few more steps. It is healthier (way healthier), better for the environment and much cheaper than a toxic bag of corn.

All you need are paper lunch bags and popcorn. Place 1/2 cup corn in the bag, fold over twice, place in the microwave and pop until popping slows to 1-2 seconds. You don’t want it to burn. Top with whatever you want. Melted butter, parmesan cheese, chili powder, herbs. You name it! I urge you to try this. Your body will thank you for it. Check out these ingredients in Act II microwave corn (Popcorn, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Salt, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Annatto Color. Contains: Fish, Milk)
I’m not sure about you, but fish and milk? Really? No thanks!

If you would like to expand your popcorn repertoire, here is a wonderful recipe for caramel corn.

I love caramel corn. Love, love, love, love, love, love, love it. I love the sweetness, the crunch, the way it sticks into my way back teeth. Ok, well maybe not so much the sticking in the teeth (and I’m sure my dentist doesn’t appreciate it either) but pretty much everything else. I had clipped this recipe ages ago. MS drizzled with white chocolate. Sorry folks, I thought it would be way too sweet. I may drizzle with some dark chocolate though. Anyone with me?

Caramel Corn with Cashews
12 cups popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup kernels)
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped cashews
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, divided


1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place popcorn and nuts in a large bowl. Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir in corn syrup, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook until sugar dissolves, stirring once or twice. Raise heat to high, and bring to a boil (do not stir). Boil, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 248 degrees, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Pour caramel over popcorn mixture, stirring to coat thoroughly. Transfer to 2 rimmed baking sheets, spreading in a single layer. Bake 45 minutes, stirring twice. Test doneness by removing a few pieces of popcorn from oven; if they crisp within 1 minute, popcorn is ready. Remove from oven, and immediately sprinkle with remaining salt. Let cool completely.


Note: Caramel corn can be stored in an airtight container up to 1 week

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, October 2012

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Growing Microgreens


Many of us treat the new year as a new beginning. A time to make changes, whether they be personal or professional, resolutions are made.

Many focus on their health. Losing weight, getting fit, more daily exercise, reducing stress, eating better. My “every-year” resolution is to lose weight. Since I resolve to do it every year, it obviously doesn’t happen. This year I thought I’d change the mindset a little. To focus less on the negative and more on the positive. So instead of “This year I am going to lose 40 pounds!” to “This year I’m going to get healthy!”. That encompasses a broad scope. Getting more rest, daily exercise, reducing stress and of course, eating better. All of which will help me reach my weight loss goal.

The winter months are always tough in New England. This winter has been especialy difficult as Nina can’t get outside to play because of her injury, so we have been reduced to indoor activities. I must say, if I do one more craft I might hurt someone. Just sayin.

It is also the time of year where our bodies, and minds crave the outdoors. I don’t know about you, but it does a lot for my psyche to have a fresh vase of tulips on the table or a forsythia wreath on the door.

I am eager to garden but that can’t happen with the frozen ground. Or can it? Yes, it can! Nina and I did this project and it was a huge success. It allows you to get your hands in the dirt, although a little of that dirt may end up on the kitchen floor, it isn’t a big deal. Nina got to get dirty and learn about the growing process. And as an added bonus, for those lacking patience, these plants are ready to eat in just about a week. It was a win-win for both of us!

If you haven’t tried these, you absolutely have to! Growing them yourself is super easy and fun and they are readily available whenever you want to throw them in a salad, sandwich or omelette. Not to mention more economical. I see them at our farmers’ market for $6-$8 for a sandwich bag full. For real!

Follow these simple instructions and in a week you’ll be eating these delicious, flavorful, healthy greens.

Now go get dirty!

Using a clean, repurposed food container, sprinkle seeds over organic seed starting mix

Using a clean, repurposed food container, sprinkle seeds over organic seed starting mix

Lightly sift a fine layer of soil over the seeds and mist with water. Check the packets for seed planting depth

Lightly sift a fine layer of soil over the seeds and mist with water. Check the packets for seed planting depth

Mist with water when soil gets dry and place in a sunny spot (6-8 hours)

Mist with water when soil gets dry and place in a sunny spot (6-8 hours)

When ready to harvest, gently pull up and rinse or snip with scissors. Growing in succession will give you an ongoing supply

When ready to harvest, gently pull up and rinse or snip with scissors. Growing in succession will give you an ongoing supply

photos from Martha Stewart and additional directions for growing sprouts


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Cookie of the Week…Plain Oatmeal Cookies

plain oatmeal cookie

After all the super sweet, mega-chocolaty holiday cookies, I wanted a simple, not overly-sweet cookie to put in lunches this week. I decided to try one I had pinned some time ago.

It seemed exactly what I was looking for, as oatmeal cookies are probably my absolute favorite, especially hot out of the oven. Your typical oatmeal cookie has raisins or chocolate chips and maybe some sort of dried fruit for some sweetness. But, I was looking for plain, buttery, hearty snacks. There is enough sugar in these to make them sweet enough on their own. They didn’t need any add ins.

I used a large ice cream scoop, so one would be just the right size for a school snack. I tweaked the recipe only slightly by using old-fashioned oats, increased the water and added some crushed walnuts to the mix.

Looking for an easy, yummy, cookie? Here they are. Now let’s see if they actually make into lunch bags.

Plain Oatmeal Cookies

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 T. water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 3/4 c. flour
2 1/2 c. Old Fashioned Oats
1/2 c. crushed or finely chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla, and water, and mix well.
Add salt, soda, and cinnamon and mix well.
Add flour, and mix just until combined. Add oats and walnuts and mix just until combined.
Drop spoonfuls onto a silpat lined baking sheet, and bake at 350F for 8-11 minutes (I used a large ice cream scoop and baked them until the edges were just barely brown and slightly underdone in the center)
Let cool for a minute or two before transferring to a cooling rack.

Yield 1 1/2 dozen large cookies


Original recipe at Jen’s Favorite Cookies


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