Sunday, October 25, 2015

Iced green tea drink recipe with watermelon ice cubes

It’s a great time of year to be a resident of Michigan. That is because it is berry season! Although I’m sad that strawberry season is over I think I can get over it because now it’s raspberry and blueberry season! Also, we will have fresh cherries to look forward to soon as well. If you haven’t tried the Michigan cherry wine that Michigan is famous for you are definitely missing out. My two favorite cherry wines are from Good Harbor Vineyards located near Traverse City, MI and Karma Vista Vineyards & Winery located in Coloma, MI. Both wines have a perfect balance of sweetness and tartness and both are perfect to sip on a hot summer night.
Another great drink to sip on during a hot summer day is the iced green tea drink I made with watermelon ice cubes and frozen raspberries.  It is very easy to make and only has three ingredients. It is my new favorite drink, I hope you like it as much as I do!
Here is the recipe:
  • A pot of your favorite loose leaf green tea
  • 1-2 tablespoons of frozen raspberries
  • 2-3 watermelon ice cubes
  • 1-2 teaspoons organic light agave nectar (optional)
Puree several cups of seedless watermelon in a blender.  Pour the pureed watermelon into an ice cube tray and freeze overnight. Make a pot of your favorite green tea and put the pot into the fridge to chill for a couple hours. Once the tea is chilled you are ready to assemble the drink. Add a handful of the frozen raspberries to a glass and warm them a little in the microwave or by waiting a little while.

Fill half the glass up with some of the green tea and muddle the raspberries a bit to release their flavor.  We didn’t have a proper mojito muddler, but the handle of a butter knife worked just fine.  Add the rest of the tea, a couple of the watermelon ice cubes, and a teaspoon of agave syrup.  Stir and enjoy!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Spicy Elbow Macaroni with Veggie Sausage and Cherry Tomatoes

I am so excited!!!  I went outside to water my plants and found that a couple of my cherry tomatoes have turned red and are ready to pick! I picked and ate them immediately (no sharing!). They were delicious and had a lot more flavor than some of the tomatoes you find at the supermarket these days.

A bowl of tomatoes from my container garden!

This might seem like no big deal to a lot of people but I am excited because this is the first year I’ve attempted to grow herbs and a few other vegetables in my backyard. I didn’t know if I would succeed or fail but my plants seem to be doing very well! I decided to go with a container garden because I thought it might be too much work to figure out a way to keep our dog out of the garden.
In my container garden, I am growing cherry tomatoes, red chili peppers, basil, oregano, peppermint, thyme, dill, parsley, cilantro (the cilantro is for B because I am not a fan of cilantro but he loves it), red bell pepper and eggplant. I’m not sure if I will succeed in growing any eggplants but eggplants are one of my favorite vegetables so I had to try! I brought the plants from our local farmer’s market and from our local Whole Foods store.
I love having an herb garden in my backyard because I am able to pick fresh herbs from it on a daily basis. For me, it was very wasteful to buy fresh herbs from my local grocery store because I was never able to use the entire container before the herbs went bad.
Next year, I hope to install raised garden beds in our backyard and plant a proper garden with a bigger variety of vegetables. It would be nice to have room to plant zucchini, summer squash, green beans, wax beans, strawberries, black raspberries, cucumbers and some chives. We also are thinking of buying a composting barrel as well, so we can have organic soil to plant with next year. I will still need to look into ways to keep the dog out of the garden next year as well. Does anyone have any suggestions?
I found a great recipe that I plan on cooking again, once I have enough cherry tomatoes from my garden to use in the dish. I found it on the Rachel Ray website and I made a few changes to the recipe.  I made a few changes because I wanted to use up what ingredients were available to me in my house. I was hungry and I did not want to make a trip to the grocery store for just a few items! I wasn’t sure how the recipe would turn out but I thought it ended up being very tasty!

Spicy Elbow Macaroni with Veggie Sausage and Cherry Tomatoes

  • Salt (for the pasta cooking water)
  • 1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound frozen sausage-style veggie crumbles (I used the brand Morning Star Farms)
  • A pinch or two of red pepper flakes
  • 3 large cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
  • 2 bundles arugula or1/3 pound baby arugula
  • Salt and pepper, seasoned to taste
  • Low fat ricotta cheese
Cook pasta according to the directions listed on the packaging. Reserve a ½ cup of the starchy cooking water to add to the veggie crumble mixture later and then drain the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, add the olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium high heat. To the hot pan add the frozen veggie crumbles and cook until the crumbles start to turn brown. Then stir in the red pepper flakes, and garlic and toss for a couple minutes. Then stir in the cherry tomatoes and cover the pan with a lid and cook until the tomatoes start to burst open, this should take 10-15 minutes. Make sure you keep an eye on the veggie crumbles by stirring the mixture occasionally. The veggie crumbles are likely to burn if they are not stirred (I found this out the hard way). When tomato skins start to burst open, crack softened tomatoes open with a wooden spoon.
Once this is done, toss the drained pasta and reserved starchy cooking water in with the veggie crumble mixture. Stir to combine. Then season with salt and pepper to taste.
If you are serving with low fat ricotta, place a dollop on top of each serving for mixing in and serve immediately!
On a side note, I like the sausage style veggie crumbles because they have  83% less fat than regular ground Italian sausage, they are cholesterol free and only have 90 calories per serving. A serving is approximately 2 ounces. In comparison, a 2 ounce serving of ground Italian sausage has about 172 calories and it is not cholesterol free.
One thing to be aware of though, is that the veggie crumbles are high in sodium so I still wouldn’t eat them on a daily basis (though some pre-packaged sausages are about as high).

Friday, October 2, 2015

My 12 Hours On The Beyonce Lemonade Diet - Don't Get Me Started!

Let me start by saying that I'm not really fat per se but at the same time, I'm carrying around at least fifteen pounds I could afford to lose and when I recently tried to convince my doctor that perhaps it was muscle mass (from working out at the gym) that was making me tip the height to body weight chart on its ear, he felt my bicep and dryly said, "I don't think so."

I was in LA last week and I had heard that when Beyonce was getting ready to do Dreamgirls she had decided that she needed to lose weight so that she could look more like the icon, Diana Ross so she went on this lemon water with maple syrup and cayenne pepper fast and lost twenty pounds.

I thought, perfect right? I read about it and found out that it's really called "The Master Cleanse" and after getting the supplies, I was all ready to start. So this past Friday morning bright and early I made my lemon water and drank it all day, by 7pm that night I would have eaten the sofa. Thus my story...

The real idea behind the supposed cleanse is to rid your body of toxins, give your colon a cleaning out and give you a clean slate as it were to begin to re-toxify yourself all over again with the environment around you when you're done.

On my recent family vacation my sister-in-law and I had discussed it and we were ready to go on this thing. My massage therapist had gone on it and he had lost nine pounds in six days and said he felt more energized than he ever had in his life during and after the cleanse. I had also read in US Magazine that one of the Coreys (can't remember if it was Haim or Feldman) had also gone on it and lost over 150 pounds to get in shape for their new reality show.

I was ready for the adventure to begin on Friday. I chose that day because I was working from home and while I didn't expect major action on the first day, I was taking the precautionary methods that made sense in this situation. Well, it's a damn good thing that I did because approximately one hour after my first glass of the Jekyll and Hyde fluid (and a cup of "Smooth Move" tea that you're supposed to drink with it) I was off to the races (or moving as quickly as I could to the bathroom).

I'll spare you the details of what followed next but let me say that it was not pretty and you could hear my yelping for miles. (And let me say that days after that my stomach and my bowel movements are still not back to normal.) Okay so if I had done a bit more research I would have known what to expect but, oh well!

All day on Friday I stayed away from the kitchen. I kept talking myself into another glass of the yellow liquid, trying to convince myself that it was the most delicious thing ever.

To say my stomach was making odd noises is an understatement. All the while, my husband is saying, "I want to be supportive so let me know if it bothers you if I eat in front of you." God love him, he knew I was crazy and doomed for failure but he did try to show his support. Unfortunately I only heard part of his sentence as I was running back to the bathroom at the time.

Finally at 7pm having drunk all the lemonade that I was supposed to for the day, my stomach screaming and with a very sore behind from all the bathroom trips, I had to end my cleanse, my fast, my stupidity.

Look, I know that I need to eat less and work out more but I just haven't been able to do it. My heart (or mouth in this case) just doesn't want to do what my head knows it should. Let's face it, if I'm really honest with myself, it's not like Bill Condon (director of Dreamgirls) is waiting for me to lose the weight to have me star in his next film.

There are no quick fixes for us normal folk, it's all a lot of hard work and the sooner I realize that, the better. So hey, I tried to be a celebrity but during that twelve hours I felt less like a celebrity and more like Morale from A Chorus Line when she sings, "I felt nothing, I'm feeling nothing and he said "nothing" could get a girl transferred. They all felt something but I felt nothing except the feeling that this bullshit was absurd." Nope, the lemonade diet might be a success with the stars but it's definitely not for me!