Sunday, August 30, 2009

Healthy Heart Observations by a Pregnant Woman

For those that don't know, I'm 12-weeks pregnant with my first child. I've been exercising consistently for most of my adult life and now at 32 I'm healthier than ever. My doctor gave me a higher heart rate goal than most because I have an established exercise program going into my pregnancy. The conventional wisdom for prenatal fitness is 140 beats per minute and my doctor gave me a max target of 160 bpm. I was very happy to hear the news. Based on my zone training with my heart monitor, I previously targeted 170 -175 as my max for aerobic endurance. Now, I only have to hold back a little to exercise safely during pregnancy. Using my zones, I was able to manage my asthma symptoms naturally with aerobic endurance training.

Pre-pregnancy, I worked out 5 times per week and 3 of those days were taking spin class. Read my previous post from my former cycle instructor for beginner tips. Now, in my early pregnancy, I work out with less intensity because my heart rate elevates faster than before, but I still try to exercise 4 days per week. So now, I do less running and slow jogging. When my heart rate creeps up to 160, I switch to brisk walking.

Yesterday, I went to a one-hour spin class. With cycling it's easier to control your heart rate than with running. I can ease the cadence (speed) or the intensity on the gears if my heart rate goes above 160. I worked out steadily for 60 minutes feeling fantastic and strong. Pregnant or not, cycling is a foundational form of exercise that you can do at any age or fitness level, without putting undue strain on your joints.

The ONLY way I can manage my heart rate is using my heart monitor. It's great for everyone. It's a perfect workout companion. I only paid $100 for mine. If you use your heart monitor every time you exercise, you can learn more about your body than just going "blind."

When you exercise with a heart monitor, you know for sure whether to pull back or push forward with intensity to exercise safely. I truly believe it's tool that can optimize your workout!

Check out this resource page for more info on heart rate training.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Smoky Corn Chowder: Using Summer's Bounty

We have an abundance of Indiana sweet corn at the moment. Sweet corn is in season and our friends and family are eating some of the corn, but freezing the extra for the coming months ahead. Last weekend we went to the lake house in Northern Indiana and came home with another dozen ears, in addition to the other four we had in our organic produce box! Needless to say, I thought a great way to use the fresh sweet corn is to make corn chowder.

My light Smoky Corn Chowder recipe is a combination of sweet, spicy, creamy, and smoky. I used smoked paprika, bacon, and shredded smoked provolone cheese to garnish. I made 4 servings and you can see I pack up the remaining 2 servings for future meals in resealable containers so it's easy to grab-and-go for future quick meals. I use light milk and chicken broth thickened with a roux to make the soup creamy. I happened to have leftover grilled bell and jalapeno peppers from my fajitas the night before so that added even more smoky flavor.

Serve this up with a fresh green salad, fruit salad, or grilled cheese sandwich.

Smoky Corn Chowder (4 servings)
Make with fresh or frozen corn.
  • 6 ears corn (cut off the cob) or about 3-4 cups corn
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 cups green bell peppers, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeƱo peppers
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cups flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups low-fat milk, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 slices bacon (pork or turkey)
  • 4 teaspoons shredded smoked provolone cheese
  • Use a wide-shallow bowl and a sharp knife and cut the corn off the cob; set aside.
  • Preheat a soup pot on medium heat. Dice onion, bell pepper, and mince jalapeno. Add olive oil to the pot, then vegetables and crushed garlic. Saute until tender about 2 minutes. Add fresh corn and saute for 3-4 minutes, mixing frequently.
  • Preheat a small saucepan while you're mixing the corn. Add 2 cups of chicken broth to the corn mixture and bring to a boil. Add more broth, if you need it to just barely cover the corn.
  • Add butter to the pre-heated saucepan. Add flour and stir gently with a whisk for 1 minute until the flour and butter is incorporated. Add 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of broth and whisk constantly on medium-high heat. The sauce will thicken. Add smoked paprika, prepared dijon mustard, salt and pepper to season. Reduce to low.
  • When the corn comes up to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until the corn is cooked.
  • Cook 4 slices of bacon between 2 pieces of wax paper for 3-4 minutes in the microwave on HIGH. I use a microwaveable bacon rack. Let bacon cool and set aside on paper towels. Shred smoked cheese.
  • Add the thickened sauce to the corn mixture and stir until completely incorporated. Taste to see if you want to a bit more salt.
  • Serve soup in a shallow bowl and garnish with 1 slice of crumbled bacon and 1 tsp of smoked provolone cheese.

Tonight's project will be cutting the corn off the cob for freezing. When you freeze the corn, use a freezer plastic bag and be sure to mark the date with a permanent marker. See my freezer storing tips from my previous post.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What's In Season: Sweet Corn

When I was a kid, my father always served corn to the family because he loved it! Most of the time, we ate frozen corn, but in the summer we enjoyed fresh corn on the cob. Now that I live in Indiana, my husband and family buy fresh sweet corn from the Amish kids that bring their wagon down to the lake house community where my in-laws live. The sweet corn is always the best in August and coming from a local garden from the Amish or friends, seems to make it taste that much sweeter!

This weekend, I was cooking lunch with my friend, Betsy. She has an amazing garden that her family enjoys and helps tend all summer. Betsy brought some lettuce and corn from her garden and veggies from her Farmer's Market that we made into a fresh green salad, corn, and edamame lunch feast! She shucked the corn and started to prepare as she does at home and I thought I'd share some of these tips with you.

As I write this post, I just received my weekly organic produce delivery and I got 4 MORE ears of sweet corn so it looks like I will be cooking them in the next few days!

Betsy's tips for cooking fresh corn:
  • Start with cold water, tall enough to cover the corn. Place cleaned ears of corn in the water and bring to a boil in a covered large pot.
  • Add a bit of sugar to the water as it warms.
  • Gently place 2 table knives across the top of the ears of corn to keep the corn submerged in the water.
  • Reduce the water to a high-simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.
  • Drain the corn in a colander.
  • Lightly coat the corn with a bit of butter and sprinkle a small amount of salt.
  • Enjoy right away or cut off the cob and freeze for another time of the year.
Here's a couple of my favorite healthy corn recipes:
  • Roasted Fresh Corn, Poblano, and Cheese Pizza (vegetarian) - I made this a couple summers ago and we really liked it! You can serve it up with light sour cream and a green salad on the side.
  • Sweet Pea Risotto with Corn Broth - I made this earlier this spring when I got fresh peas and I used frozen corn at the time. It's really tasty. You can serve as a side dish or main course. It would be fantastic with fresh peas.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Asian Vegetarian Noodle Bowl Hits the Spot!

Even though it's summer, I seem to be on a soup craze! That's what air conditioning is for, right? My friend told me her father, who was from the South where it's quite muggy, always wanted to eat chili in the summer because he said the heat from the chili made him feel cooler. I don't know if it's true, but it's worth a try.

For tonight's dinner, I was inspired by lots of fresh ginger and Napa cabbage that I got in my produce box. I made a Tofu, Veggie Soba Noodle bowl. I used mushrooms, Napa cabbage, fresh ginger, and chopped cilantro at the end. Soba noodles are Japanese buckwheat noodles are a complex carbohydrate with fiber, ideal for slow-burning energy. Check out this Cooking Light recipe for additional info on Soba noodles and quick summer salad entree idea - Soba Noodle Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

This quick recipe is really easy because you can take advantage of pre-made soup and sliced mushrooms from the store. Tofu only needs a quick chop and it's ready to use. This hearty, vegetarian meal is packed with nutrition of the fresh ingredients and though it doesn't have meat, your not going to miss it!

Tofu, Veggie Soba Noodle Bowl (about 4-6 servings)

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8oz pre-sliced mushrooms (cut smaller, if desired)
  • 8 leaves Napa cabbage, stems sliced separately and leaves reserved
  • 14oz container of extra firm low-fat tofu, drained and chopped
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cups water
  • 32oz container of prepared miso soup (prefer Whole Foods 365 brand)
  • 8oz Soba noodles (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • Preheat large stockpot or dutch oven to medium heat. Chop onion and slice Napa cabbage stems. Reserve leaves. I cut on an angle, like a triangle along the line of the stem.
  • Add olive oil to pot and onion and cabbage stems with crushed garlic. Saute for 2 minutes, then add chopped mushrooms. Grate fresh, peeled ginger over the vegetable mixture. The vegetables will be very fragrant, which helps flavor the tofu.
  • Drain and chop tofu into bite-size pieces. Add to the vegetable mixture when the mushrooms have released their moisture, about 4-5 minutes.
  • To the pot, add 3-4 cups water and miso soup. Increase the heat to high to bring to a boil.
  • After water is up to a boiling temperature, add soba noodles and reduce heat to medium-high. After 5 minutes, add sliced cabbage leaves and chopped cilantro.
  • When the noodles are tender, the noodle-soup bowl is ready to serve. Use tongs to serve the noodles in the middle of a large shallow bowl and then the soup ladle to grab broth and veggies.
Optional Seasoning: instead of adding salt, add low-sodium soy sauce or my favorite, Liquid Aminos, which adds soy sauce-like flavor without adding lots of sodium. You can buy it at health food stores and for the best price, Whole Foods.

Nutrition Information (estimates using The Daily Plate): 386 calories, 5g fat, 20g protein, 68g carbs, 8g fiber, 900mg sodium, and 0g cholesterol.

NOTE: This meal may need to be balanced with lower sodium foods throughout the day. Miso soup has a lot of sodium overall. I tried to add water to thin it out per serving.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Chorizo and Eggs Without the Guilt: It's Turkey!

When I was a kid, my mom made chorizo and eggs on special occasions. My mom has always been health conscious and she didn't want me to eat too much fat. The traditional way to eat chorizo and eggs is with potatoes in a small burrito or with frijoles (refried beans) and break off a bit of your warm torilla to scoop up a bit of egg, chorizo, frijoles, and even potatoes in every bite. These days you can find turkey chorizo at specialty grocery stores to cut back on the fat, but you keep the spicy unique flavor of chorizo.

Yesterday, I was shopping at Whole Foods, looking for turkey chorizo in the butcher's cold case, but they didn't have any laid out. When I asked the butcher for it he offered to make it for me. They have the Chorizo-spice mix behind the counter and he mixed seasoning into 1/2 pound of ground turkey thigh meat for me. He only charged me for the ground meat, even with extra service. I was so happy! What a great tip! I didn't know before that you could ask them to mix it for you on-site.

This morning for Sunday breakfast, I made the chorizo, egg, and potato burrito and it tasted really great and authentic, minus the fat from the traditional Mexican (pork) chorizo! Here is the recipe so you can make it for your family.

Turkey Chorizo, Egg, and Potato Breakfast Burrito
Serves 4

  • 1/2 pound turkey chorizo (ask your butcher to mix it)
  • 3 small golden potatoes
  • 1/2 tbs olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 eggs (2 per person)
  • 1/4 cup low-fat shredded Mexican-style cheeses (Cheddar, Monterrey Jack)
  • 2 tbs chopped cilantro
  • 4 flour torillas


  • Preheat medium skillet. Wash and peel potatoes. Cover with wax paper and cook in the microwave for 5 minutes on HIGH.
  • Chop the cilantro and set aside in a small bowl. Serve shredded cheese in another small bowl to start to build your assembly line.
  • While potatoes are cooking, cook turkey chorizo in a skillet coated with cooking spray, over medium-heat. Break apart the meat as you cook it so it cooks in small bits. Set aside in a bowl covered with foil to keep warm.
  • Cut the potatoes in small pieces and season with salt and pepper. In the same pre-heated skillet that you used to cook the turkey chorizo, add 1/2 tbs of olive oil and then the potatoes to warm and season. Cook for 2 minutes and set aside in a bowl covered with foil to keep warm.
  • Warm the tortillas in the oven (on 350 degrees in foil) or you can warm them in the microwave with a wet paper towel on top (for 1 minute).
  • Crack eggs and add into to a mixing bowl and whisk with a fork. Using the same skillet (since it's already warm), spray with cooking spray, if needed and scramble the eggs. After the eggs are cooked through, serve the eggs in another serving dish or let your family serve themselves from the skillet.
  • To the warm tortilla, add the potatoes first to absorb the flavor from the chorizo. Then add chorizo, scrambled eggs, cheese, and cilantro. Fold the tortilla over and warm if needed. Eat immediately!

For best results, let everyone build their own burrito so they can customize the amounts they want of each item. For spice lovers, hot sauce or salsa on top adds even more heat, but the chorizo is already spicy so add with caution! Enjoy!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Frozen Spinach, a Nutritional and Budget Bargain For the Pantry

I've professed my love for pasta many times on this blog! Tonight, while cooking dinner I added frozen spinach to my sauce, something I do regularly, and I thought I should share the tip. Tonight, I made ground turkey and spinach marinara with a spaghetti. It's really simple and you can throw it together in 30 minutes.

Spinach is a highly nutritious food, providing fiber, vitamin C, and folic acid for only 45 calories per cup! Many times kids request marinara pasta, but adding chopped frozen spinach takes the nutritional factor up to a higher level.

Fresh spinach is fantastic for pasta or side dishes, but it can strain a family's budget. Chopped frozen spinach is less than $2.00 for a 16-oz bag where I shop and no cleaning required! I opt for the pesticide-free version at Trader Joe's. The easy thing is that I just put in the sauce frozen and let it work directly into the sauce! This particular brand seems to have less water than others I've tried. Other brands may need to be thawed in the microwave and squeezed dry with a clean dishtowel or sturdy paper towel.

Practical and Delicious Uses for Frozen Chopped Spinach:
  • Egg Frittata or Quiche: use defrosted, drained spinach in eggs for a Florentine-inspired egg frittata or quiche with shredded mozzarella cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Serve for breakfast, lunch or dinner with roasted potatoes and fruit.
  • Spinach-Parmesan dip from Cooking Light made with yogurt and fresh basil. I served it with fresh cut veggies.
  • Creamy Spinach-Feta dip from Cooking Light I made this earlier this summer and served with pita chips and veggies for a family get together. It was delicious!
  • Ground Turkey and Spinach Marinara: Cook ground turkey with chopped onion and add garlic, dried oregano, basil, crushed red pepper and salt. Add frozen spinach and stir until thawed and then add a can/jar of marinara. I prefer the Trader Joe's all-natural marinara sauce because it's lowfat and lower sodium. Serve over spaghetti or any pasta.