Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Who Says Muffins Can't Be Healthy?

The Garden Lites chocolate muffin

Healthy muffins for travel, for kids, for hoarding at home.

In today's New York Times, there is a recipe for a healthy muffin, with whole grains and reduced sugar. While I love to bake, I know many people don't like to, or are too busy to light the oven, let alone buy all the ingredients to make these themselves.

But there is an even healthier, and easier option. Garden Lites sells frozen, vegetable-focused muffins that somehow taste as decadent as those from a coffee shop.

The Queens, NY company mades three varieties of muffins that all have vegetables as their first ingredient: Blueberry Oat, Banana Chocolate Chip and Chocolate. They are ideal for kids since they are a reasonable two ounces, not the gargantuan muffins at bakeries.

But they aren't just for children. They are great for anyone who needs breakfast on the go, packed with fiber and other nutrients.

Enjoy your muffin from your window seat
All of the muffins are made of 1/3 vegetables; those chocolate muffins have zucchini and carrots as the first two ingredients. I have made zucchini bread with just a few scattered chocolate chips in it and my kids gobble it down like any other sweet bread; zucchini has this magical ability to disappear in baked goods.

The Banana Chocolate Chip is equally kid friendly; though the Blueberry Oat may read too 'healthy' for children, I thought it was perfect for breakfast in the car.

The gluten, dairy and nut free muffins are sold frozen and you heat them in the microwave. You can also just bring a frozen one along and eat it when it defrosts; I took one on an early flight and was happy to have a much better meal than the bloated corn muffins I saw at the airport.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Ultimate Fitness Challenge - Survivor!

The cast of Survivor
Survivor Kaoh Rong is the 32nd! season of this CBS show

One of the perks of exercising is looking better; another is feeling great. But imagine the ultimate benefit of of being fit - winning the Survivor competition and netting a cool $1 million.
I recently attended the premiere of the new season, Survivor Kaoh Rong, where host Jeff Probst and a couple of previous winners, Parvati Shallow and Stephen Fishbach, chatted about the show and the current crop of cast-aways.

Imagine this - you are on a remote, gorgeous island - in this case, in Thailand, with a bunch of strangers, all competing and strategizing to be the last one standing. I enjoyed my inaugural mud run, but this is way more intense - a grueling 39 days of competition.
Live streaming with Parvati Shallow, Jeff Probst and  and Stephen Fishbach

In this Survivor edition, the competitors are broken into three groups, or tribes: Brains, Beauty and Brawn. The one contestant who looked to be about my age (let’s just say, shall we, “of a certain age”) was in the Brains group but I loved Jeff Probst’s answer to a question about what group he would want to be placed in.

He said that he felt he would be equally at home in any group, and that most people would probably feel the same way. Though the one self-professed ‘skinny guy’ with Eugene Levy eyebrows questioned his placement in the Beauty tribe.

This reality show requires a mental toughness that could elude many contestants- in the first episode, a Brawn tribe member is reduced to tears when an insect burrows deep in her ear. The challenges in Survivor reminded me of the movie The Revenant, where Leonardo DiCaprio had to escape murderous fellow trappers, murderous native Americans, murderous French, extreme cold, a bear mauling and a premature burial. And that was in about the first 10 minutes.

Besides having to swim, dive, and haul a boat up a huge hill, the Survivor contestants had to put together a puzzle. So my crossword puzzle should really count towards my fitness regime.

Thanks to Beth Feldman and CBS Radio for this opportunity to meet real Survivors.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Vegetarian Frito Pie: Why Can't Super Bowl Food Be Healthy?

Frito Pie in Santa Fe
My southern friends brag about their trashy Frito Pie, which often consists of greasy meat chili dumped over a bag of chips, lots of high fat cheese and sour cream.

That won't fly in my vegetarian household. We enjoy our trashy food, but we have to have a few healthier twists.

When my kids were little, they loved the canned Health Valley chili. I developed a recipe based on the favor profile:

Vegetarian Chili

2 T olive oil

1 yellow onion - diced
2 cloves garlic - crushed
1 tablespoon salt
2 cup dried pinto beans, rinsed 
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 carrots, diced
1/2 C textured vegetable protein (TVP)
1 T cumin
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (more if your kids like spicy food)
In a large saucepan add olive oil and add diced onions. Cook until onions soften.  Continue cooking while adding pinto beans, crushed garlic and 4 C water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and stir in salt. Cook for 1 hour, covered, then add tomatoes carrots, TVP and cumin and cook till carrots and beans are almost tender, about 45 minutes.
Stir in pepper and cayenne to taste, and add more salt if needed.
Serve over brown rice, with a dollop of tofu sour cream if desired.

It's also good with guacamole.
For Frito pie, pour Fritos into a large baking dish (11 x 9)
Top with chili, grate low fat cheddar on top and dot with tofu sour cream. Bake for 10 min at 350, until cheese is melted.