February 2014: Chocolate and Strawberries

Chocolate: Sweetness without the Guilt!

Indulgently delicious, dark chocolate has many surprising health benefits:

  • May lower overall blood pressure
  • Can lower cholesterol
  • Contains serotonin which boosts mood
  • High in antioxidants
  • Flavanols found in chocolate may have other cardiovascular benefits such as improving circulation
  • The scent of chocolate can induce relaxation

In general, research does not appear to indicate that more is better- so enjoy chocolate in moderation. As little as 3 grams per day of dark chocolate (1 ounce of chocolate could easily have 30 grams alone) has been shown to have potential health benefits. Now you can celebrate Valentine’s Day guilt-free with a few pieces of decadent dark chocolate.

Recipe of the Month: Vanilla or Chocolate Coconut Mousse
Something delicious to dip your favorite fruit into.

Serves at least 4
• 1 can coconut milk
• ¼ cup cocoa powder (optional for chocolate mousse)
• ½ spoon pure vanilla extract
• Sweetener to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. Place the unopened can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight.
2. Remove from refrigerator in the morning, open can, and scrape the top solid layer into a mixing bowl. Do not place the thin liquid at the bottom of the can into the mixing bowl- instead consider using it for a smoothie or other recipe.
3. Whip the coconut cream (*you can purchase premade coconut cream in many stores and skip the above steps) with an electric mixer until it appears to have the consistency of of whipped cream.
4. Gently mix cocoa powder, vanilla extract, sweetener, or anything else you might enjoy, such as cinnamon, into the bowl until uniform during the mixing process. Do not over mix.
5. Pour over your favorite berries. For the data below, consider using 2 cups raw, halved strawberries:

Per serving: 1/4 ingredients used

Calories 128
Protein 2g
Total Fat 13g
Carbs 69g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 8mg
Fiber 1g

Fitness Corner

According the online video titled 23 1/2 hours, if you walked or exercised just 30 minutes to 1 hour a day, you can gain some of these benefits:

  • Improves knee arthritis pain and ability to move
  • Can reduce progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Helps to manage diabetes
  • Reduces the number of hip fractures among post-menopausal women
  • Can decrease anxiety
  • Reduces depression
  • Can lower overall risk of premature death
  • Fights fatigue
  • Improves overall quality of life

Winter Garden Inspiration

It’s cold outside and there isn’t much green outside, even down here in the South, this time of year.

Image

However, when you just want to cozy up inside and have a hot bowl of soup, it can give you time to prepare for the Spring and Summer months; after all, there are bathing suits in the stores already!

I’ve been trying out a few different apps (Noom, Endomondo, and MyFitnessPal to name a few) to monitor my nutritional intake and my physical activity. I’ll post in the future about my reviews on those. Like many others, I take January to re-assess my needs and focus on my weaknesses (again, did I mention the bathing suits?!?!). I’ve stumbled upon a few free fitness websites I’d like to share if you’re getting ready for the warmer seasons like I am: Fitness Blender on Youtube and ToneItUp.com (which is really geared towards the female population but trust me, if you can look past all the girly marketing, there are some great workouts for anyone!). I don’t get anything from anyone to share these; I just like to share anything I come across that might be helpful (and especially if it’s free!).

I’ve been telling myself every morning my new mantra “Summer bodies are made in the winter”. So, I’ve changed some workout habits and as I have posted previously, I’ve been working to shift to a ‘clean eating’ lifestyle. Which brings me to two topics I want to share: 1. Clean eating recipes I will start to implement as I try them out and 2. Updates, occasionally, on my own garden in which I will include some form of nutritional tips to accompany those posts (recipes, what’s in season, tips on storing them, etc).

Image

To ensure I have a long growing season of delicious vegetables to eat, I had to start some seedlings, early, indoors.

Speaking of, let me introduce you to my favorite soup recipe during the winter months:

Cabbage & Garden Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 potato
  • 1 medium cabbage (we like red but green tastes delicious too)
  • Tomato paste to taste
  • 1 turnip
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 3 cups diced vegetables of choice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste.

Image

Directions:

  • Boil 2 quarts of water in a large pot. Add olive oil, as desired.
  • Peel potato. Dice it up and boil in 2 quarts of water until tender. Once tender, mash it up in the water, as desired.
  • Add tomato paste, salt, and black pepper to taste.
  • Dice up all vegetable, as desired (you might like chunky or smaller pieces), and put in pot of boiling water.
  • Add cabbage last, putting in as much as will fit. Let it boil down and add more, as able.
  • Add water, if needed.
  • Approximate cooking time is 1 – 1.5 hours. Taste broth and add seasonings as desired.