Sunday, February 28, 2010

Crock, Continued

Just wanted to add a few more tips on this fascinating subject!

Cooking the crockpot dish overnight and then just reheating when ready to eat at
dinner time can solve the time-crunch problem with busy mornings and if not getting
home within 10 hours of cooking time.

After researching how safe slow cookers are to leave on while away from home, it seems that there is extremely low risk of fire, mainly because this is what these
appliances are made for. Just check for any frayed wires and if you don't have
granite countertops, place it on a pizza stone or thick baking sheet for extra


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's A Crock!

Remember the avocado green crockpots from the 70's that were trotted out for holiday parties, full of gourmet cocktail weenies or meatballs? It seemed like every household had one but through the years the crockpot turned into an embarrassment...
we became too cool for them! The stigma must have been that crockpot cooking was only done by those too lazy to prepare a real meal...that any self-respecting cook would never throw all ingredients into a pot and just walk away! But times they are a-changin' and these days, those who are able to produce any type of home-cooking versus restaurant, packaged or convenience meals, especially during the work week, are now viewed as Superhuman!

And so the trusty, dusty Crockpot a.k.a. Slow-Cooker has re-emerged as the smart,
efficient and successful method of meal preparation for active lifestyles. Hopefully a growing trend, there is starting to be more awareness of nutrition and why Americans keep getting fatter - primarily, inactivity and processed foods. The
key to weight control and good health is to eat whole, nutritious foods (and that means "home-cooking") along with regular exercise. Slow-cooking gives you more time and freedom to add workouts to a busy day. The solution has always been there.... way in the back of the kitchen cabinet, behind the fondue pot...waiting patiently to earn a spot on the counter, or at least move up to the front of the shelf.... the
"CP" (I think it needs a new, hip name since re-inventing itself)!

For the young, under fifty crowd, who may not have been familiar (or interested) in such things, here's a little background. Like the Q-tip, CrockPot is actually a brand name by Rival that was so catchy and popular that its name became the term for all similar products.
A slow cooker is basically just a big electric casserole dish that cooks food with
low, steady, moist heat. The great thing about this method is that during the 8-12
hour cooking time, the flavors in the pot combine and results in tasty, juicy goodness. There is nothing like coming home after a long day to the delicious smell of dinner, ready to eat!

Using a slow-cooker improves the odds that you'll eat healthier food, because your dinner will be ready when you are so there is less temptation to opt for fattening
take-out, pizza or snacking. Other ways the crockpot method is a healthy option:

* Cooking in broth or water doesn't add fat or calories
* Very lean meats come out tender and juicy
* It is easy to combine vegetables with the protein all in one pot
* You control the sodium, sugar, fat and calories
* Vitamins and other nutrients aren't lost in the cooking process because
the food is cooked at a low temperature and the cooking liquid becomes
part of the dish rather than discarded

All it takes is some pre-planning before weekly grocery shopping to have ingredients
ready to throw in the pot. You can find easy crockpot recipes doing a search on the internet and they even have crockpot cookbooks. Some of the best dishes I've made have been with beef...adding broth or onion soup and cream of mushroom or celery soup makes a delicious gravy for beef tips or pot roast. And its the best way to prepare less-expensive cuts of beef. Also, it doesn't need to be exact measurements with ingredients, just make sure there is enough liquid to cover the meat and place potatoes and veggies on the bottom to cook thoroughly. The slow-cooker is also
wonderful for making soups and stews.

There was actually an article in the Food section of the Observer today about slow cookers, with a Pot Roast recipe. This article talks about the new fancy cookers with duo and trio pots in one base with more features. But if you don't have one and I've managed to sell you on the idea, the standard model with a low & high temperature switch and ceramic pot that can be removed for cleaning is all you need.

So get crockin'!!! And please share any favorite recipes - thanks!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Change in Plans

Doug was 65 and planned to retire in July and move to Mexico with his wife of 45 years. They had sold their house at the lake along with all of their furnishings and possessions and were only taking their clothes (and Doug's beloved recliner) in a U-Haul to Mexico. It was what they had worked, saved and dreamed of for years.
What they did not plan on was Doug having a stroke last week and dying days later.

Doug's untimely death is so sad and such a loss for his family, co-workers and many
friends and acquaintances. I can only imagine what his wife must be feeling...he was her world ever since she was 15 yrs old and now to be without him must be so lonely and scary. Her retirement years will be nothing like she had anticipated and now everything has changed so suddenly.

I always look at the obituaries in the paper each morning and wonder how people died who were "young" (funny how my idea of young has changed over the years!). People lose their life every day unexpectedly but when it happens to someone you know and know their "story", it makes you stop and think...."what if". I did not know Doug very well but he was a close friend to some friends of mine so I have heard alot of the details about his death and family, etc and it has been on my mind alot.

It is sometimes hard to understand God's plan for us. All we can do is to try to be prepared as much as possible for the unexpected, live life to its fullest by doing our best to be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, appreciate all of the things in life that make us happy and accept the things we can not change.

My own life certainly has its challenges and is not perfect by any means but I am going to make more of an effort to keep my mind and heart full of love and gratitude for my many blessings. Because no matter what is happening with the economy, weather, jobs, bank accounts or other "problems".....LIFE is good!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

ANYONE can be Fit!

Maybe it's S.A.D.D. (Seasonal Depression due to lack of sunlight)that is making me more aware of those lucky people we all know who seem to be always jetting off to an exciting, warm paradise for some R&R. Or the ones who have vacation homes readily available for the last-minute weekend getaway. It is just human nature to be envious of other people who have things that we are lacking. For others it may be someone's job, height or designer wardrobe that you longingly admire.

But I got to thinking the other day that there is one aspect of life that everyone
has the ability to acquire, no matter what they look like, how much money they make or how they live. And this "thing" will improve the quality of life more than any vacation home or 401k.... it is called "good health by being physically fit".

It doesn't even matter if you can't afford a gym membership. Cardio exercise can be done by putting one foot in front of the other or jumping rope in the yard. Strength training can be done with just body weight (pushups, pullups, lunges, squats) or by lifting heavy objects (all cavemen had were rocks!) Actually this back to basics concept is now a fitness trend with high-priced bootcamps!

But really, isn't it amazing how we all have the potential to be athletic? We may not be Olympic material, but with a commitment to regular exercise can be in the Very Fit category. And even though we may not make the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, we do have the ability to change our body shape, be lean and toned. Of course proper nutrition plays a huge role in body composition as you can not out-train a poor diet!

I think fitness is a great boost for self-esteem, especially for those who don't feel particularly athletic or co-ordinated. There is always some type of physical activity that you can do successfully for gains in cardiovascular and muscular strength. Seeing and feeling healthy changes in your body can be empowering and have a positive effect in all other areas in your life.

Something to think about while sitting on the sofa watching the Olympics, huh?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

You Could Be Another's Inspiration!

Here at Trim Up, I would guess that 75% of our members are over age 40, and as young as 16 with the oldest in their 70's. I guess the main reason we don't have more younger women is lack of childcare....although our younger moms say they like having exercise as part of their "alone time".

Some of our members are relatively new to a fitness program but many of the 40+ women have been exercising for decades. Yes, we start to have "issues" with knees, backs or necks and need to be a little more conscious of certain movements that could be problematic. So modifications are the "norm" around here and always offered and encouraged. But otherwise there is not much difference in the abilities of our age groups (except for the menopausal obsession with room temperature!)

One day I was talking to a 20 yr old girl who recently joined our program. She is very thin but had not been exercising regularly for awhile. She made the comment that she liked taking classes here because when she feels like she can't keep going during aerobics, she will look at the 50-something next to her who is going strong and it pushes her to stay with it. I love it!

I bet there are other people in our lives who notice how we take care of ourselves with exercise. Making fitness a priority and part of our daily routine can make a huge impact on our families as actions speak louder than words. Stopping at the gym after work a few times a week may mean that dinner will be delayed (or in the crockpot if planning ahead)but important enough to make adjustments. So instead of feeling guilty for being away from home, think about how you are being a positive role model, good parent and/or a responsible person with high self-esteem!