Archive | November, 2013

Recipe: Macaroni & Cheese

20 Nov

Macaroni & Cheese

Time: About 20 minutes prep; 55 minutes to cook

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups fat-free milk
  • 2 ounces light pasteurized processed cheese, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked
  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned dry bread crumbs
  • Paprika, as garnish

Procedure

  1. Saute onion in margarine in medium saucepan until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in flour; cook  over medium-low heat 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Stir in milk and heat to boiling. Stir until thickened, about 1 minute.
  4. Add cheeses and mustard, stirring over low heat until melted.
  5. Combine sauce and macaroni in 2-quart casserole
  6. Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper; sprinkle with bread crumbs and paprika.
  7. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees until bubbly, 30-40 minutes.

Courtesy: 1,0001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes

Verdict

I love macaroni and cheese. I’ve been on a mac & cheese kick lately, so color me ecstatic when I found this recipe in my cookbook. I added a little more cayenne because I prefer spicy food. It came out really well. It needed a little salt and pepper on reheating, but I really liked this one.

I Did It: Self Magazine’s 23-Minute Lunchtime Workout

18 Nov

“I Did It” is a feature post running on I’m Skinny, Now What where I will tackle a new workout or diet and give you my opinion. Wish me luck, because I don’t like changing my routine.

I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but I work at a newspaper. Not just any paper, but one of the biggest papers in the world (no hyperbole). We cover everything, which can keep a chica busy. I usually like to work out in the mornings to keep my evenings free, but sometimes that’s not possible. Don’t blame me; blame my boyfriend pillow. With that, I decided to try this mid-afternoon workout routine, courtesy of Self magazine. I like to burn tons of calories in order to keep the weight off, but I need to do more strength training so my muscles don’t turn to sludge.

Workout breakdown

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Here’s me going through the circuits.

Minutes 1-7

Move1: Power Squat with dumbells
Move 2: Leg Press
Move 3: Plank Jump
one-minute breather

Minutes 8-15

Move 1: Air Lunge with dumbells
Move 2: Seated Cable Row
Move 3:  V-Up
one-minute breather

Minutes 16-23

Move 1: Curtsy & Curl with dumbbells
Move 2: Triceps Dip
Move 3: Ab-Blaster Push-up

Day 1

As with any new workout plan, there are kinks I need to work out, one of which is the triceps dip. That machine didn’t exist in my gym. There was a similar contraption that didn’t have the weight resistance. There was some contraption that said “triceps,” so I figured it would be a good cheat for day one until I actually talked to a trainer to help me find the proper alternative.

Something else I realized: I have absolutely no upper-body strength as evidenced by my pathetic push-ups in the above video. It was really sad. I had to go to an out-of-the-way corner so no one would see that I barely put a bend in my elbows to get that exercise done. But I did it, so there!

I definitely burned some calories, but I’m not sure how many. I don’t have one of those watch/calorie-counter thingies. I didn’t build of much of a sweat, which is new for me because I sweat like demon. The exercise circuit also lives up to its name of 23 minutes.  I did three sets of the first circuit and one each of the final two, but that was from not managing my time well. I should be able to do two sets of each.

I have to admit I didn’t study the workout plan. But from the couple of times I read it, it seemed doable. I should have checked to make sure my gym had all of the appropriate equipment. But that doesn’t mean this workout isn’t doable. Life’s all about adjustments, and that’s what I’m gonna do…tomorrow.

All told, I spent a little more than 5 minutes changing my clothes, 23 minutes on the workout and another 10 taking a shower and changing post-workout. I was gone from my desk for 45 minutes, a reasonable amount of time for any lunch break.

Day 2

My body was a little sore when I woke up on Day 2. Not so bad that I couldn’t move, only a little achy. The exercises got easier, though, which is to be expected. I was able to manage my time better and completed two sets in each seven-minute circuit.

One of the downsides to having to do this in a small gym is that all the equipment may not be available when you want it. Day 2’s lesson came from the rowing machine. Every time I’d finish one of the other two exercises, the rowing machine would be occupied. Since I didn’t know what machine would be the equivalent, I skipped it. Excuse me while I hang my head in shame.

Tomorrow I’ll be taking a day of rest because at the end of Day 2, I was really feeling the work I was putting in my body, especially my thighs. Those squats and lunges are no joke! Epsom salt bath, here I come.

Day 3

There’s nothing like a day of rest, especially if you’ve been beating your body with a new workout routine. My thighs were so tight that I almost slipped down the stairs a few times. And when you have an enthusiastic dog like mine who breaks off in a sprint at the first whiff of fresh air, it can be hard to maintain your balance while he’s tugging at you from his leash. Luckily, no permanent damage was done. I did remember that stretching is very helpful. I’ll have to remember that when I pick up the workout routine again tomorrow.

Day 4

The best thing about a recovery day is the rest you give your body. The worst thing about a recovery day is trying to wake that body back up. I was able to lounge around my house on Day 3. I didn’t have to worry about packing a gym bag or carve out time between meetings to get to the gym. Also, my muscles were still pretty tight.

I stretched out my hamstrings and glutes before starting, and that helped a lot. Also, the segments got even easier. I was able to do three sets of the first 7-minute stretch and two sets each of the other segments. However, my pride and joy of Day 4 was not looking as pathetic during my push-ups. I got a little more bend in my elbows and was able to do four before needing a breather in each round. Yay, me!

Day 5

Last day of the workout and I’m excited. I’ve been doing this routinely for a few days, so I should kick ass on the last day, right? Um, not so much. For some reason my enthusiasm outweighed my abilities. The lunges, which caused me the most thigh pain, were easy going. But those push-ups were like to be the death of me. I gave it an honest effort, but I was only able to do one final circuit.

Verdict

I really need to incorporate more resistance and strength training in my workout routine. Sure, I’m shedding the fat but my muscles are really weak. My goal isn’t to get a hard body. I don’t want to be one of those small people who has to be rolled around, either. I think the exercise is doable and a little fun. You’re able to shake up your routine during your workout, which is fun. Just make sure some rowing snob isn’t hogging the machine.

Side note: A special thank you to my photographer/videographer Willa Plank, who took time out of her work day to watch me work out.

The Perks of Living in a Walking City

15 Nov

I don’t know if I’ve said this here, but I love living in New York. It’s awesome.

From the garbage on the streets to the guy peeing in the corner of the subway, it’s truly an enchanting, quaint little town.

My favorite thing is that you can get anywhere by foot. Manhattan, where I reside, is 32 miles around the island. If you’re training for a marathon, you’re set.

The best part, though, is just walking. I’m a wanderer. I often have no plan of attack, except perhaps finding a nice cafe or a wine bar. Usually I’m just out exploring new neighborhoods. I will trek from the Brooklyn Bridge to the meat packing district and will have only stopped for a cup of joe at Joe. I’ll take a stroll on the High Line and end up walking to Macy’s at Herald Square to buy a new ‘fit.

A lot of exercise is just taking that first step. When I began my weight-loss journey, all I could do is walk. I was living in Atlanta and would get my morning exercise at the park around the corner. In the beginning, I could muster just three miles an hour walking. Now, I cringe at that rate, but I had to start somewhere.

The first step is the hardest. You have to will yourself into taking it. What do you want to learn about yourself during the process? Always have a goal in mind, but you need motivation for that first step.

When I backslide, which happens more than I’d like, my motivation to get up and walk around the city is that I don’t want to be how I was before: sedentary. There’s so much to see and do here that I’ve walked for hours without noticing. And I’m burning calories in the process. I’m learning more about the city and what I enjoy about it.

But that comes from living in a city that encourages walking. I was born and raised on the north side of St. Louis where walking around is OK, but you’ll still get the occasional side-eye. So on my visits back, I have to find places to go. Forest Park is perfect for seeing some beautiful aspects of a great historical city. The park offers so many sights, and as a native St. Louisan I can’t stress this enough: pretty much everything in the park is free. Parking, the zoo, the science center, the museum—they’re all free.

These are a few suggestions on how to get moving during a lull. Maybe it will motivate you to do a little more to burn a few more calories. Moving can be motivating.

What are some of the best walking routes in your city?

Recipe: Curried Sweet Potato Couscous

13 Nov

Curried Sweet Potato Couscous

Time: Preparation and cook is about 50 minutes

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sliced onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cooked and diced
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 cup each of raisins and walnuts
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2/3 cup couscous
  • 1 cup thinly sliced kale
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in large saucepan until tender, two to three minutes.
  2. Add sweet potatoes and cook until lightly browned, about five minutes.
  3. Stir in curry powder, raisins, walnuts and broth; heat to boiling.
  4. Add couscous and kale, stirring with a fork; remove from heat and let stand, covered, until couscous is tender and broth is hbsorbed, about five minutes.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Courtesy of 1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes (fourth edition)

Verdict

I’ve been trying to make more vegetarian dishes lately. I still eat meat, but I’m always looking for other options for dinner. I actually called my grandmother about this one because I rarely cook with kale and Gram is my go-to guide for all things culinary. It wasn’t a recipe she’d heard of before, but she did offer tips on how to cook the sweet potatoes (just a few minutes in the microwave so as not to overcook) and how to rinse and slice the kale (look, I’m not a chef!). This dish was surprisingly sweet and savory. The flavors melded together very well. Plus, you can never go wrong with sweet potatoes. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

I’ts Not Us, It’s You

11 Nov
courtesy of Lululemon

courtesy of Lululemon

Last week, the founder of Lululemon caused a minor Internet stir when he placed the blame for fraying fabrics on large-thighed women. Women with thigh rub — and there are a lot of us — are familiar with the consequence called pilling. That’s where little dots of fabric pop up from too much friction. Have thick thighs, will pill. It’s a thing.

“Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t work for it,” Chip Wilson, Lululemon founder and chairman.

He callously blames women for misusing his product. When asked if he thinks every woman can wear Lululemon pants, the founder says, “I think they can. I just think it’s how you use it.”

What are the different ways to wear pants? Should I place them over my head first and then try a downward dog? Should I put my arms through first before getting on the exercise bike? I just…I can’t.

Lululemon has built its brand on exclusivity. There are only a few sizes of each item in a store. Very few women will walk out with the exact same bra or pair of pants. A low inventory with high demand will drive up the cost. I get it; you gotta make money.

What I don’t get is how you expect to make money if you insult the people who want your clothes but can’t wear them. Sizes at Lululemon only go up to a 12. But it’s stretch material, so a size 14 or even a 16 could feasibly fit in a pair of yoga pants. There have been large thighs a lot longer than Lululemon. You want a particular customer, but most of your customers do not have thigh gap.

Thigh gap, for most women, is neither a realistic expectation nor is it a healthy one. You can be a size 2 with sticky thighs or you can be a size 14 with inches of space between your gams. It’s genetics. To accuse women with thigh rub of product misuse is hurtful and shameful. In doing so Chip Wilson perpetuates an unhealthy stigma on women who have no control on how they use the product but are doing it to the best of their abilities.

If Mr. Wilson had taken ownership of the faulty technology or even admitted that he hadn’t foreseen the effects friction would have on his product, I might not be so peeved. But to sit back and place blame on the woman’s body is unacceptable.

Larger women work out. Athletic wear manufacturers need to make a more durable product. I get that you want repeat customers. But can you make a pair of pants that won’t literally rip at the seams for at least a year? If I find a good pair of pants, I will happily recommend them to my friends. You know why? Because none of us likes to chafe. It hurts.

I am the owner of four items of Lululemon clothing: a sports bra, a tank top, a jacket and a pair of running shorts. I don’t use the shorts for running because of my thigh rub. They’re really short and tend to bunch in the middle, which makes me self conscious. I also have an ample posterior, so bunching only makes my short shorts look teenier. I like the other products, especially the sports bra, but I don’t think I can shop at the store anymore. The prices have always been crazy high, but I’m usually able to find items on clearance racks between seasons.

But if Lululemon doesn’t seem to want me as a customer, I’ll happily take my thunder thighs some place where they’re appreciated.