No Recipe Tilapia Dinner

So my intention was to make a Sesame Fish recipe for dinner and then write a post about it…but guess what?  It’s pretty tough to make “Sesame Fish” when you are all out of sesame seeds.  It was already late when I got home (I had a lovely massage after school – thanks Phyllis! – and then went back to work for about an hour and a half), I had my heart set on the Tilapia, and I didn’t have time to thaw something else, so I just rolled with it.  I’m cool with that, but it kinda ruined the “recipe” post.  Oh well; you will just have to be cool with it too!

This is my No Recipe Tilapia Dinner:
I sprayed a broiler pan with olive oil and then placed four pieces of Tilapia, which I sprinkled with a bit of Mrs. Dash* original blend and some paprika.  I baked the Tilapia at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes (while I was making everything else; I kept an eye on it, so I’m not certain of the time).

Meanwhile, I steamed brocoli and cauliflower (also sprinkled with a bit of Mrs. Dash).  When the veggies were done, I tossed on a little bit of Kraft 4 Cheese Italiano Light.  I also fried fresh mushrooms in a tiny bit of olive oil spray with crushed garlic and a sprinkle of No Salt Montreal Steak spice – yum!

I accompanied the fish and veggies with a nice tossed salad – lettuce, spinach, cucumber, celery, carrots and tomato.  I dressed the salad with a splash of Rene’s Sherry Herb Italian Vinaigrette; I prefer Rene’s salad dressings because they actually have fresh ingredients and need to be refrigerated.  I often wonder what chemicals must be in the salad dressings that can be stored unrefrigerated on the shelf for months at a time.  Hmm…not so appealing!

To top off my meal, I enjoyed a cold glass of almond milk – much better than your typical dairy milk, in my opinion.  I like the unsweetened Earth’s Own (especially because I use it in fruit smoothies where I really don’t need the added sugar), but I have also tried and liked the regular (sugar added) stuff!

All in all, it was a pretty decent dinner, and I would indeed make it again…if I was out of sesame seeds.  Maybe it’s because I’d been thinking about it all day, but the sesame fish would’ve been better.  I’ll pick up some sesame seeds so I can make and review the recipe for you sometime soon!

* I use Mrs. Dash because it doesn’t contain any sodium.

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17 Day Diet Update

Hi folks!

Thought I would give you an update about my progress with the 17 Day Diet, since the last time I posted about it, I told you that I had paused.  Remember that prior to starting this diet that I was eating well-balanced, healthy meals with the occasional indulgence; this would have been a great plan if it wasn’t for the 2 1/2 month hiatus from any sort of calorie burning exercise – damn back injury!  I re-started the “diet” on Monday, January 30th, and it’s mostly going well, though there have been a few roadblocks I’ve had to navigate around.

On Tuesday, I attended a PD session with Dr. Steven Layne (an excellent children’s author and expert on engaging students of all ages in reading – check him out; you won’t be disappointed!  But I digress…back to the Diet).  Before hand, I had been told by the powers that be that “there will be a variety of healthy options, including some vegetarian items.”  Now, I have no desire to be a vegetarian, but that statement assured me that there would be something there for me that would fit the 17 Day Diet.  Wrong.  Would you like to know what “healthy” options my school division served for breakfast?  Banana bread and scones, and a syrup-y fruit salad.  Yum.  For lunch we were served Caesar salad, dinner rolls, lasagna, vegetarian lasagna and cake.  “Healthy options” my ass.  They did try to appease the vegetarian people, so I suppose I’ve got to give them some credit for that.  I did eat some banana bread and lasagna, but it’s a good thing I stashed a yogurt and two pieces of fruit in my purse!

Later that night I hosted book club* and that only happens once every month and a half to two months, so I had already planned a little indulgence.  I enjoyed a glass of red wine (or four – who’s counting?) and sampled the appies (Spanikopita with Tzatziki, hummus dip, guacamole, pepperoni and cheese tray, and a cinnamon roll) in place of my regular dinner.  My friend Tiffany also brought a delightful surprise dip that was like a Village Greek salad and hummus dip rolled into one (If you are reading this Tif, can I please get the recipe?).  I know it’s sorta lame that I “indulged” on Day 2 of my diet, but I really believe that (unless food has become an unhealthy addiction for you) it’s okay to roll with the punches, enjoy foods that make you happy, and then get right back on track.  So that is what I did.

I ate well all of Wednesday and all day Thursday, but enjoyed the Roast Beef buffet and a few beers at the Edmonton Oilers game Thursday night.  That’s right – I was at that game.  Sam Gagner tied Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffee for an Oilers’ points record:  he had 4 goals and 4 assists for 8 points total on the night.  It was incredible…and there is nothing wrong with celebrating a little bit when a player from your team has that kind of night – even if I did start the celebrating before the game actually began!

Other than those few “indulgences,” I’ve been eating quite well:  lots of fruit, veggies and lean protein.  Today is Day 9 and I was down to 148.6 lbs this morning.  That is a 5 lb drop from Day 1, and means that I’ve got 13 lbs more to go to reach my goal.  I’ll keep you posted!

* We read John Grisham’s The Confession for book club, but I didn’t finish it (do you remember how hectic this past month has been for me?!).  The other ladies in my book club all scored the book at 3 out of 5 fingers, and told me that I would be better off starting one of the books from my giant “to read” pile than attempting to finish reading The Confession.  That probably tells you all you need to know about the book.

Spicy Chicken Veggie Soup

This is what I ate for dinner tonight:

I took this pic with my Blackberry; no ever said I should be a photographer.

It was delicious.  It also fits Cycle 1 of the 17 Day Diet, which I have been following lately.  I ate two bowls full with about 1/2 cup of fat-free cottage cheese and an apple.  I know that the 17 Day Diet says I am not supposed to eat fruit after 2 pm, but I don’t care.  I sometimes eat more than 2 pieces of fruit in a day too.  I am such a rebel.

Here is how I made the soup:

I sprayed a baking tray with EVOO using my new Misto Oil Sprayer, and then sprinkled Mrs. Dash Chicken onto 3 large chicken breasts before baking at 350 for about an hour.  While the chicken was baking, I went for a run.  My house did not burn down, and I wasn’t even a little bit worried that it would.
When I came home, I took the chicken out of the oven and let it rest to cool a little.
I chopped up:
3 large carrots
5 celery stalks
1 white onion
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
I threw all of the veggies in a soup pot with a spray of EVOO, and cooked over med-low heat until the veggies were a bit soft (I tossed the veggies in the pot as I chopped them, but I’d say it was about 10-15 min total).
Then I chopped the chicken breasts, and added 3 Tetra Paks of Campbell’s No Salt Added Chicken broth, 2 Tetra Paks of Knorr Vegetable broth and a can of Aylmer Accents Spicy Red Pepper tomatoes.  I sprinkled in a dash each of Sage and Thyme, then added a packet of Old El Paso Smart Fiesta low sodium Fajita mix and 3 bay leaves.  I let the soup simmer on low for about an hour before I dished it up to eat.  Like I said earlier – it was delicious!
What I love most about soup is that I can make a giant pot, eat some, freeze some for quick meals at a later date, and leave a bit in the pot in my fridge to reheat for the next day or two.  All of those meals from less than 1/2 an hour of actual work.  Soup is my friend.

My Favourite Running Buddies

I have two running buddies – yup two, and they are the best running buddies that a girl could ask for.  Meet Jax (the blond one) and Naava (pronounced “Nay-va” – the black one):

Photo by Kathy Lovell - click to link to her Facebook page

We have absolutely no idea what kind of dog Jax is.  My brother Ryan brought him home as a two month old puppy about six years ago, after a May long weekend camping with his buddies in Saskatchewan.  Two puppies were wandering around the campsites scavenging for food after their mother had been hit by a car, so Ryan and his friends fed them for the weekend.  A family from another camp site took the other puppy, and when Jax just sat there staring at him as Ryan packed up his campsite, Ry decided that he couldn’t just leave him there.  He brought him home, and all of a sudden I had a dog.  A good dog, who never wanted to leave my side.

Naava came into my life only a few months after my husband, Rob did.  I had been looking for another dog as a playmate for the then 1 1/2 year old Jax.  I contacted Terra at PARS in High Prairie (where I was living at the time), and took Jax to meet her.  I told her about our lifestyle, and about what kind of dog I was looking for, and then toured her facility meeting a bunch of dogs.  None of them seemed right for us, but Terra promised to keep her eyes open.  About a month later, she called me up saying “I think I’ve found your dog.”  I went out to meet “Peanut,” who was your typical prairie dog: a Border Collie crossed with who knows what, about two years old.  They knew she had already had at least one litter of puppies, and she had been picked up by the Grande Prairie Peace River SPCA (Thanks Terra for the correction!) as an emaciated dog who had been surviving by eating a rotting carcass in a ditch.  She was really skinny when I met her for the first time (even though she’d already been getting food and medical care from the SPCA for about a month) and had an injured front paw, but she loved me with her whole being, even though I was a complete stranger.  I couldn’t help but love her back, so I brought her home to meet Jax, and gave her a brand new name – it means “beautiful,” and she is.

It didn’t go well at first.  She was injured and scared and wanted nothing to do with Jax, who was so excited to have another dog around that he just wanted to play.  It took a few days for her to come around, but they eventually became the best of friends, and now they are inseparable.  I can’t even take one of them to the vet without the other one freaking out; I just load them both into the vehicle if either one of them needs to go anywhere.

Jax and Naava are good dogs, well, at least they are good dogs most of the time.  They perform simple commands when we tell them to, lie down while we are preparing and eating food, come when they are called, and ring a little bell when they have to go out to do their business.  They do jump over our fence occasionally to play with other neighbourhood dogs (or eat the food left out by the owners of the poor little dog who is always chained up outside and wearing a bark collar – I feel so sad for him!), but when I call and go after them, they come back almost immediately.  I guess they did chase a little terrier around the neighbourhood for a couple of minutes about a month ago, but in their defence, that little terrier is always running around the neighbourhood, nips at Jax’ heels when we run by, and had been in our yard taunting Jax and Naava in their dog run only a few minutes before hand.  That was my bad.  I should have waited until I knew the pesky dog was gone before letting them out of their run.  Instead, I came home, shooed the dog away (or at least I thought I did), and then let my dogs out.  The terrier was apparently still in my front yard, and Jax was over the fence before I even had time to say his name.  Naava, who loves her brother very much, followed immediately.  Whoops.

I didn’t lie and tell you that they are always good because I am trying to make a point:  they are always on their best behaviour when we run regularly.  During those two months where I was at the peak of my back/leg pain and wasn’t able to run at all, Jax and Naava wanted to explore our neighbourhood A LOT more often.  They were still getting walks, but I was walking very slowly, and I know they weren’t burning the energy that they needed to.  When we run regularly, they are angels; it doesn’t matter if the poor chained up dog with the bark collar has a full bowl of food only two houses away – they don’t jump the fence to go there; they are content to play in the yard and lounge around the living room.  They already burned off the excess energy on our run, and don’t need to explore the neighbourhood.

Jax and Naava are always excited to go for a run; they don’t care if it’s cold, or raining, or really early in the morning.  Motivation is not a problem for these two, in fact, they are pretty much the greatest motivation for me.  Forget wedding dresses, bikinis and high school reunions – aside from running to feel good for me, I run because my dogs need the exercise.  If you are a dog person, have the time/energy/lifestyle to adopt a rescue (or even a purebred if you really feel the need – though I advocate for rescues always!), and are – or want to be – a runner, then get down to your local shelter and adopt a running buddy or two.  I promise you that your new running buddy will be all the motivation you will need to get your butt out of bed or off the couch each day.  Your new running buddy will enhance your life in a myriad of other ways as well, and if you decide to go the rescue route, you will be saving a dog’s life too!  How can that NOT give you the motivation to run?

BOSU: A Fabulous Piece of Exercise Equipment

In my new career as a fitness instructor, I focus on using small, portable equipment in my classes.  I thought I’d review one of my favourite pieces of equipment – the BOSU (short form of “Both Sides Up”).  It really is a fabulous piece of exercise equipment, and there are so many different moves you can do using a BOSU.  Let me share a few of my favourites…

1. Kneeling on the BOSU

This move forces you to engage your core because you are unstable.  Any exercise you do while balancing on the BOSU has the added bonus of providing an ab workout – score!  I always add in hand weights for the addition of upper body strength moves:  bicep curls, front shoulder raises, side shoulder raises, or an overhead press.

2. V-Sit on the BOSU

The v-sit is an even more targeted ab move that will strengthen your core in no time.  To do this move, sit on the centre of the BOSU on your sitting bones (NOT your tailbone) and contract your ab muscles in.  My mantra is “belly button to spine,” and I say it so often that I sometimes worry my fitness participants might get sick of hearing it.  It is a very important message, though, so I will keep on saying it!  You basically want to create a V shape with your legs and upper body, then draw those two parts toward each other.  Repeat for 5-20 reps (do as many as you can within that range), rest, then repeat twice.  I find that placing my hands beside my butt on the BOSU gives a bit of extra balance and still provides an intense workout, but if you want more of a challenge, raise your arms up to chest height (like in the photo).

3. BOSU Push Ups

Push ups on the BOSU have all the typical chest/arm/shoulder strengthening benefits of a regular push up, with the added benefit of targeting your core more specifically than a regular push up can.  I’ve mentioned core muscles multiple times in this post for good reason:  the BOSU is an unstable surface, so you are forced to employ your core muscles more effectively in order to maintain your balance.  Doing BOSU push ups off the dome side, with the flat side down is very effective, but for an even more challenging exercise, try flipping the BOSU over.  Because the BOSU dome is rounded, placing it with the dome side down will provide even less stability – an excellent thing when you want to force your core muscles to work harder.  Push ups are fantastic all on their own; you use your own body as weighted resistance.  Using the BOSU (in either direction) only adds to the equation!

4. BOSU Squats  

Squats strengthen the glutes, quads and hamstrings, and are a great all around “functional fitness” move because they work muscles that we rely on in our day-to-day lives.  Just like all of the other moves I’ve described, doing squats on the BOSU adds the benefit of instability.  To do this move, begin with both feet on the BOSU and lower down into a squat.  Remember to keep your butt pushing back toward the wall behind you, and keep your knees above (never forward of!) your ankles.  Get as low as you can, with the end goal of having your thighs parallel to the floor.  Rise up to standing straight, then step off the BOSU with your right foot to the right side, and again lower down into a squat (following all the same guidelines as above).  Come back to centre, squat, rise, and then step off to the left into a squat.  That is one rep.  Repeat for 5-20 reps.  This move is an easy one to add in the cardio factor as well – simply speed up your moves with a “jumping” motion in between squats on the centre and off to each side.  As with any jumping move, though, please be careful to maintain proper alignment – keep your knees safe!

These four moves are really only the tip of the iceberg; there are MANY more moves that you can do with a BOSU.  One additional thing that is great about the BOSU is that it can be used for strength training using your own body weight AND it can also be used for a variety of cardio workouts – it is really a very versatile piece of equipment.  Good luck in finding new workouts and happy sweating!