Make Time for You

Lonely SeckelI have an influx of stressed calls and emails this time of year, mostly from clients and students trying to manage health and holiday stress at the same time. I know how frustrating this time of year is, I struggle with the same problem! Don’t fret, there are simple solutions to help you have a healthy holiday season.

First, make a schedule and stick to it. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, if you schedule time for exercise, food preparation, and sleep and you follow the schedule, you’re better equipped to take care of yourself and manage stress. Second, eat before events and move away from the treat table! At my friends’ parties, we always stand around the food, chatting and snacking. This is such a hard habit to break, but if you eat ahead of time and pull your friends away from the table you’re less likely to overeat. Third, make time to decompress. Whether you enjoy stretching, reading, games or simply sitting quietly, allow yourself at least 10 minutes every day for quiet time and positive thoughts. Finally, and most importantly, be kind to yourself! Nobody is perfect and there is always tomorrow. Remember that the holidays are about celebrating family and friends, so allow yourself to splurge a little, then get back on track the next day. Happy Holidays!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

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This winter has been one of the coldest, snowiest I can remember! I don’t like being cold, so I spent this past weekend watching a movie marathon while 10 inches of snow fell outside. And… now it’s official: I have the winter doldrums. But, nothing can fix this cabin fever like a little exercise! Today I’m planning to be active, won’t you join me?

Exercise boosts endorphins, chemicals that trigger feel-good emotions in your brain. Likewise, exercise focuses the brain and relieves stress, depression, anxiety, and sleep disruptions that lead to more stress. While we still have this snow, I’m planning to pull out my sturdier running shoes for a short snow run – I feel less impact on my knees. Walking releases stress, too, and allows me and my doggie to enjoy the loveliness of the winter wonderland! Perhaps this weekend I’ll grab a few friends and hit a nearby trail for some snowshoeing. And if the snow doesn’t stick around, I can do any of these activities with different footwear! There are so many more activities, too – skiing, snowboarding, sledding – all of which torch calories while you’re having fun. No matter what winter activity you’re enjoying, make sure to dress warmly, stay hydrated, and grab your snacks before you hit the cold. Plan to eat an hour before you head out or find easy, portable snacks, like pears plus peanut butter, that fit in your pocket or next to your water bottle in your pack. Even better, après snow, curl up with a steaming bowl of tomato soup plus a grilled pear and cheese sandwich. Mmm, deliciously warms the soul! I promise we’ll all feel better getting out and about!

Tangy Braised Cabbage with Pears

Tangy Braised Cabbage with PearsHere is a great side dish for winter dinner menus. If it has never occurred to you to use cabbage for anything other than coleslaw, give this recipe a try. The cabbage becomes wonderfully tender as it cooks, and the tanginess from the balsamic vinegar alongside the sweetness of the pears is really a thing to behold. This dish is excellent alongside a whole roasted chicken or with Braised Pork with Pears and Sherry Vinegar.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium sweet onion, halved, peeled, and cut into thin half-rings
1 medium head red cabbage, cored and cut into approximately 2 inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
2 firm ripe USA Pears, such as Bosc or Anjou

Directions
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once foamy, add the onions and sauté until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add all of the cabbage to the pot and season generously with salt and pepper. Sauté the cabbage, stirring often, until softened and glossy, about 5 minutes more. Add the wine and continue to cook until it has mostly evaporated, again, about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and the bay leaf, stir, and cover the cabbage, reducing the heat to low. Cook the cabbage for 45 minutes, setting a timer to remind you to stir it every 15 minutes. After 45 minutes, cut the pears into a medium dice and add them to the pot. Stir and cover, cooking 15 minutes more. Check the seasoning of the dish, adding salt, pepper, or a little more vinegar if necessary. Serve the cabbage hot.

prep time: 10 minutes plus one hour cooking
yield: 4 servings

Keep Moving!

RBP9037046 Woman with Pear

With chilly weather sweeping the nation, it’s easy to stay inside and put exercise on the back burner. Although that’s certainly a good idea if it’s icy or the weather is too cold to exercise safely, after a few days it’s important to get moving again! To put this in perspective, consider these benefits of moving during cold weather.

  1. Prevent weight gain. Especially with the holidays approaching and the abundance of winter comfort foods, moving more can counteract excess calories consumed.
  2. Prevent seasonal depression. When I’m stuck inside for too long, I notice I get the blues (and cabin fever!). Getting out for a brisk walk, hike, or snowshoe helps clear the mind and increase endorphins that improve mood.
  3. Reduce stress and sleep better! This time of year is rife with stress, but moving more can balance stress and reduce negative effects of stress on the body, such as increased risk for illness. And here’s another benefit to decreasing stress – more energy AND better sleep!
  4. Improve immunity. The flu and cold season is upon us, and exercise boosts the body’s ability to fight illness by naturally cleansing itself and improving circulation of antibodies and nutrients.
  5. Prevent health conditions and diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. ‘Nuff said!

So get moving! Bundle up in layers that wick sweat away from your skin, drink a glass of water, power up with a piece of fruit such as a pear, wear appropriate footwear, and have fun!

National Hot Tea Month

That’s right—January is National Hot Tea Month! And there couldn’t be a more fitting time. It’s warmed up a bit here recently, but I’m still drinking cups of hot tea at my desk all day just to stay warm.

If you like to get a bit more creative in the kitchen, check out the following recipes for inspiration. Back in August, we put five food bloggers to the test. Their task? To pair USA Pears with Tazo tea in an original (and tasty!) recipe. Here are the results:

Pears in Sweet Tea Syrup by Coconut & Lime
OK, so this isn’t technically “hot” tea, but you get the idea. As Rachel of Coconut & Lime says, “[This is] the quintessential summer drink.” File this one away for summer, I say!

Cinnamon Pear Dumplings with Ginger Tea Syrup by Eat, Live, Run
YUM. Cinnamon and ginger perfectly complement pears. As creator Jenna says of the dumplings, “They’re good for your soul.”

Spiced Ginger Pear Pie by In Good Taste
“If you’re looking for something sweet but not so sweet that you’ll immediately need something salty, this is the dessert you’re looking for,” says Maris of In Good Taste.

Spiced Pear Butter by Hangry Pants
“This is actually quite easy to make,” says Heather, “and tastes fantastic.” I’ll take her word for it!

Iced Ginger Tea with Honey-Macerated Fruit by Healthy. Delicious.
Again, maybe not the first thing you’re craving in the chilly middle of January, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind for the warmer months. The flavors of this “sangria-like iced tea” will deepen if you let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour or two before serving. Ahhh.

And lastly, a simple and tasty dessert by the pros at Tazo: Spicy Ginger-Poached Pears. They’re great for a group dinner or a weeknight treat. Celebrate National Hot Tea Month in a unique way—put down the mug, put on your creative cap, and mix pears and tea for an extra-special treat!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

It’s the dead of winter, and I mean dead – it was -7˚ in Denver last night! A blanket of snow and silence has descended on the city, the streets are slick with ice, and the thought of going outside is only a thought. Winter is sometimes hard for me; I like warm weather, playing outdoors day and night, and eating the fresh, zesty foods of summer. Cold weather makes life just a little bit harder… going to work is more of a chore, there are more excuses not to exercise or even leave the house, and cooking usually includes more frozen and flavorless choices. And let’s face it, winter is a time when many of us neglect our health and gain weight. Eating nutritious foods that energize the body and finding time to exercise is just as important during the winter!

 

Last night I ventured to the grocery store for some staples and inspiration, and found a nice selection of seasonal produce. Pears, for instance, are harvested in the fall and placed in cold storage for distribution throughout the year. This means that there are fresh, ripe pears available during the winter (I picked up some lovely Bosc and Bartlett pears). Not only good for health, they piqued my interest for experimenting in the kitchen. When it’s freezing outside and the snow is coming down, there is nothing nicer than preparing a warm delight to share with my hubby and cuddling in front of the fire to watch the snow. If I have to be indoors, I may as well enjoy it!

 

 

What’s on the menu this week? First up, Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Pears, Cranberries, and Walnuts, and perhaps Bartlett Pear Muffins for Saturday brunch. Yum!