Saturday, February 6, 2010

Creativity in a Salad

Thanks Trish, Tawny and Michelle for letting me guest blog today. My name is Nancy E. Gibson, and I’ve been a member of Romance Writers of America for ten years. Two years ago, I decided to dedicate myself to living a healthy lifestyle. Losing 47 pounds and adopting other healthy habits like regular exercise has impacted my writing in many ways. Leading the list is the fact that I’ve experienced a significant increase in energy and more focused concentration. My renewed energy and concentration increases my ability to set and meet writing goals quickly which in turn boosts my confidence. It’s a win-win cycle.

My weight loss/healthy lifestyle program is Intervent, a holistic program available in many hospitals across the U.S. One-on-one meetings with my coach/mentor cover a wide range of topics including nutrition, exercise, goal setting, emotions, and stress.

In my healthy eating plan it’s recommended I eat three servings of fruit a day. When my coach, Debby, looked at my food tracker she noticed that most days I was eating one or two servings of fruit, rarely three. I made a quick fix by adding half a cup of orange juice to my daily plan. On my next visit, Debby reminded me that although orange juice works in a pinch, I wasn’t getting the same nutritional fiber I would by eating a whole piece of fruit. Part of the problem was boredom; I was tired of grab-and-go, oranges, apples and bananas, all day every day. I knew I had to get creative. Hey, we’re all writers here and we’re all creative, right? :)

I solved my not-enough-fruit dilemma when I saw the following recipe for Summer Fresh Spinach Salad, a green salad which includes fruit. Now I’m hooked on all the ways fruit and greens can be combined to make delicious salads. Here are two quick, easy recipes to try. Recipes are from Kraft Kitchens.

Summer Fresh Spinach Salad

2 9-ounce packages of baby spinach
6 small ripe peaches (sliced thin)
1 small red onion, sliced thin
1 cup pecans, whole or sliced (toast in microwave until fragrant and crisp, stir every 30 seconds)
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 8-ounce bottle light raspberry vinaigrette dressing

To keep fresh peaches from browning, toss in a separate bowl with 3 tablespoons of dressing, then add to the salad. Combine all ingredients. Add remainder of dressing just before serving and toss. This recipe is best with fresh peaches but frozen or canned in their own juice works too.

Citrus Salad

4 cups packed torn mixed salad greens
4 cups packed baby spinach leaves
1 large navel orange or 1 (11-ounce) can of mandarin oranges
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup thin red onion rings
3 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled
1/3 cup light balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Add dressing just before serving; toss to coat.

Play with combining or substituting the ingredients in each recipe. Losing weight doesn’t have to be boring. Be creative, have fun, eat and enjoy. Do you have a creative way to get more fruit or veggies into your day? Do you have a recipe to share?

While working toward her final weight loss goal with great determination, Nancy E. Gibson also writes historical paranormal romances about love, danger, and intrigue in the court of King James IV. She is equally determined to see her books in bookstores some day soon.


Sandy James on February 6, 2010 at 8:57 AM said...

Thanks for the great recipes, Nancy! I'm so proud of your achievements! Forty-seven pounds -- WOW!
I need to adopt the same lifestyle makeover. Not so much for weight (although I'd like to drop some), but to keep myself healthier. Instead, I resort to the tried-and-true writers' best friend -- chocolate -- whenever I'm too stressed.
You're a great role model!

snickers on February 6, 2010 at 9:40 AM said...

Hi Sandy,

You know what? My biggest motive for losing weight was when all my blood counts started creeping up along with my blood pressure. I've lost two dear friends way too early to unhealthy habits. I'm happy to report that all my blood levels are normal and it happened when I'd lost only ten percent of my body weight. Your desire to keep yourself healthy is POWERFUL! One thing I've learned is to go slow, like in revisions:)A few life changes can really add up and once you see the benefits you just want more.

A little tip: You can still have chocolate. I eat one piece of Dove Dark chocolate whenever the craving strikes me. The trick is one piece. There really are no bad foods.

Thanks for posting Sandy!


Stacy Post on February 6, 2010 at 10:30 AM said...

Nancy, I love the recipes you shared. I'm going to have to try those soon! Congrats on losing 47 pounds...that's a huge achievement!

Tawny on February 6, 2010 at 10:54 AM said...

Nancy, thanks so much for the motivation!!! I love salad but like you say, it gets boring. Adding in fruit, other veggies, and oh yum, Parmesan!!! makes it so much more fun and varied.

Congratulations on your weight loss- that is so inspiring :-)

Michelle Butler on February 6, 2010 at 10:56 AM said...

Nancy, congratulations on the 47 pound weight loss, and thank you for sharing your story.

I like to add fruit to salad too. I'll add raisins or craisins, mangoes, or chopped granny smith apple. I especially like adding fruit when I've added salmon or chicken to make the salad a full meal. I look forward to trying your salad recipes.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on February 6, 2010 at 11:44 AM said...

Nancy, thanks for being with us today and sharing these yummy sounding recipes. These sound really good for summers, when I'm not so inclined to reach for comfort foods to keep me warm.

And your 47-pounds loss is so inspiring. I've been plateaued for awhile, and it gets discouraging. But I'm hoping if I keep making adjustments and keep up daily exercise that the weight will start going down again. Anyone got any good tips on kick starting weight loss to move away from a plateau?

snickers on February 6, 2010 at 11:55 AM said...

Hi Stacy!

Thanks for the congrats. It means a lot to me. I've been on a weight loss plateau for about six weeks but hanging out here and having people like you and rest of the gang remind me how far I've come has fired up my determination to blast through it.

It seems like we always forget to reflect and pat ourselves on the back for our achievements. Why is that?? Maybe that's a topic for Trish, Tawny or Michelle will tackle in future blog posts.

I hope you enjoy the recipes and come up with some of your own combinations. Thanks again for taking the time to chime in.


Michelle Butler on February 6, 2010 at 11:58 AM said...

I felt like I was in a plateau all last summer - and I think it was exercise induced. It was extremely frustrating, and I did play around a lot with stuff. I tried eating more, I tried eating less, I tried eating different stuff, I tried exercising more, I tried exercising less - not much change.

In the end, I "broke" it unintentionally by going on a business trip and experiencing other stresses - I gained 5 pounds in two weeks, and suddenly, my plateau did not seem so bad. In about 3 or so weeks, I lost the 5 pounds and continued to very, very slowly lose about 8 more pounds for the rest of the year. It just came down to being patient, continuing to practice my "new" healthy habits, and eventually I lost weight. It just didn't necessarily happen as quickly as I wanted or in a neat week-by-week pattern. Best wishes, Trish!

snickers on February 6, 2010 at 12:03 PM said...

Hi Tawny,

I'm big on Parmesan too, especially fresh Parmesan, the flavor and the texture is so much better than the saw dust in the sprinkle can.

Thanks for having me as a guest and thanks for the congrats on my weight loss too.

Nancy Gibson

snickers on February 6, 2010 at 12:29 PM said...

Hi Michelle,

The pictures you posted of your before and after on this blog were an inspiration. Thanks for congratulating me on my weight loss.

Can you believe I've never tried Granny Smith apples on salad? I've tried other types of apples but just thinking about a Granny Smith with a few walnuts, fresh parmesan and a splash of raspberry vinaigrette makes my mouth water.

Nancy Gibson

snickers on February 6, 2010 at 12:39 PM said...

Hi Trish,

A nutritional one-two punch of salad with fruit goes great with comfort foods. Can you tell I'm a little obsessed with this?

As far as your plateau goes, I can commiserate. Michelle is spot on with all her suggestions. Weight loss doesn't always follow a neat downward pattern, darn it. My coach told me to vary my exercise and I feel slimmer but the scale isn't revealing the pounds lost yet.... One way to get a high calorie burn and burn off fat is through circuit training. I saw a good article in More magazine and if you go to their website they have an article and plan under whittle your waist. This is how I'm going to vary my exercise. I'll let you know if it works.

I'm honored to be a guest blogger here today. I love what all of you are doing to help us be healthy writers. Thanks!

Nancy Gibson

Michelle Butler on February 6, 2010 at 2:58 PM said...

Nancy, I'm so glad I could be an inspiration.

I love granny smith apples - and any apple that mixes tart and sweet.

I struggle a lot more with getting my vegetables in for the day than getting my fruit in daily. I'm snowed in today and cooking up a storm. I just made this totally yummy soup called caldo verde (portuguese green soup) that has a lot of Kale in it - a new to me vegetable. You guys may want to try this recipe.

Caldo Verde

Grated into the soup, the potato melts, its starch thickening the broth into a creamy winter warmer.
Makes 6 cups; 4 servings

POINTS® value 4 per serving

* 1 spray nonstick cooking spray
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 8 ounces turkey sausage, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
* 4 cups chicken broth
* 1 medium baking potato (about 8 ounces), peeled
* 4 cups stemmed and shredded kale
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 3 dashes hot red pepper sauce


1. Spray a large saucepan with nonstick spray; set over medium heat. Add the onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 20 seconds.
2. Add the sausage; cook, stirring often, until browned, about 5 minutes.
3. Pour in the broth; bring to a simmer, stirring often.
4. Using the small holes of a box grater, grate the potato into the stew. Stir well while returning to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring a couple of times.
5. Stir in the kale; cover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the kale is tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, and hot red pepper sauce before serving.

Serving size: 1 1/2 cups.

snickers on February 7, 2010 at 7:57 AM said...

Hi Michelle,

Have you've become a more adventurous cook in your effort to get all your fruits and veggies in for the day? Ingredients that I used to ignore like kale:) now intrigue me. This recipe sounds wonderful for a snowy day. In fact we're due for another storm on Monday night into Tuesday so it looks like I'll be picking up some kale and turkey sausage tomorrow.

Here's a quick recipe for veggies that we love at our house. Eating Well magazine suggests "roasting" vegetables. The first time I used their suggested mixture of fennel, red beets and sweet potato but now I do it with whatever suits my fancy and with whatever is in sesason. Chop the veggies into medium size cubes or slices, roll them around in a little olive oil mixed with whatever herbs you like and a dash of salt, place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until tender/firm at 350 degrees.

My husband said he could veggies like this at every meal. I think I could too.

Stay warm and snuggly. Thanks for the soup recipe!
Nancy Gibson

Michelle Butler on February 7, 2010 at 9:47 PM said...

I do think I've become a more adventurous cook, Nancy. I'm not sure if that's entirely because of my year plus health kick - though I'm sure that's part of it. Another part is just becoming more experienced as a cook and confident that my changes or experiments will work out.

Thank you for the roasted veggie recipe. I've done it before, but your method sounds easier, so I'm sure I'll try it out soon. My mom makes a very great roassted fennel and carrot recipe that includes a little orange zest and juice. It's amazing, and you may want to think of adding some citrus zest and juice to your roasted veggies one night.

I hope you like the soup as much as I did. There's a photo of it in my Monday post.

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