Recipe: Ginger Beef

Happy Saturday everyone! How’s your weekend going so far?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t eat enough red meat. Why? Well, mostly because I get bored with how to prepare it.  I usually eat more of it when the weather is cooler by throwing it in to tomato sauces or making meat balls out of it. If I had a bbq, I’d totally be making hamburgers  but I don’t. So I’m not. But, this next recipe has made me forget all about juicy hamburgers. Trust me.

It’s another saucy one but just as easy (or easier) than the teriyaki recipe from Thursday. This was even amazing the next day. The combination of the ginger and the honey with the spices gave it so many levels of flavour. I happened to have made this on a cold, rainy day so this was the perfect remedy for feeling blah.

Ginger Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/4″ piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp agave or honey
  • 3 tbsps of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp of chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp of black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of cumin
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp water
  • t tsp cornstarch, optional

Method:

Combine all ingredients (save for the cornstarch, that would be bad for business if yo mixed that in) in a blender or food processor until liquefied.

Done.

 Not to brag, but I saved myself about half a minute and bought my beef pre-cut. But, if you buy steaks, cube them so they are bite sized and easy to eat. Did you know that grocery stores are now selling anti-biotic and hormone free meat at about the same price as the other meat? If you had the choice, why wouldn’t you opt to buy that instead?

 To get started, add a bit of olive oil to your heated frying pan then throw in the beef. Let the beef simmer on one side for a few minutes or until it has browned.

Turn the meat pieces over and add your veggies.

For my veggies, I used a yellow bell pepper (chopped), spinach, carrots (chopped) and green onion (chopped), but be as creative as you like with your veggies. These were what I had on hand.

Pour your ginger sauce over the beef and veggies frying in your wok and let everything simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes (or until the meat and veggies have cooked). You’ll want to stir everything around about half-way through.

Before everything has cooked...
Before… 
After!

I served mine with brown rice pasta but this would be good on its own or with brown rice or quinoa.  I still had left over quinoa, so I was bad ass and mixed a bit of quinoa in with the beef plus the brown rice pasta. It was delicious!

TIP! If you want to thicken your sauce, like I did, remove the hot liquid from your wok after everything has cooked and in a separate bowl, stir in the corn starch with a fork (make sure you smush all the clumps, too). Once it has reached the desired thickness, add it back in to the stir fry.

Side Note: If you don’t feel like adding the veggies, no problem. Just cook the beef with the ginger sauce. You could always serve this with a side salad or whip up that asparagus dish from last week.

Enjoy!

Stay tuned for next weeks post  – all about turmeric!

Recipe: Asian Inspired Stirfry

Is it just me, or is time passing by really quickly? I can’t believe that we’re almost in the middle of May! I feel like I blinked and the year is nearly half over. But, a lot of great things have been accomplished so far this year (like going to Florida for a work conference, making it through my first Bikram class after a hiatus for more than a year, and finding an awesome room mate) so really, there’s no need for me to complain.

The only real thing I have to complain about are my allergies. Those damn dandelions that grow on every inch of land in my neighbourhood are dying and thus, their white little fluffiness is flying around everywhere. Granted, since I’ve started eating better they aren’t as severe as before. Still, I wake up in the morning feeling groggy and exhausted. Sometimes it takes me a minute to remember whether or not I went out drinking the night before or not. Yeah, it’s that bad.

Today’s post isn’t about allergies or amazing trips to Florida, it’s about making a kick-ass stir fry! Last week, I shared with you a recipe for a Thai inspired stir fry and this week, I’m raising the bar with this little diddy,  an Asian inspired stir fry with homemade tereyaki sauce. You’re welcome!

Maybe even hearing the word “home made” is making you cringe. Are you conjuring up images of an old 1950’s house wife slaving away in her kitchen for hours? Don’t. This recipe is super easy and super delicious. Not only that, but you know exactly what you’re putting into your sauce.

Ginger is key for this recipe. It adds a bit of heat and just enough zing to make your mouth water for more. You can even use it as  marinade for chicken or beef. I wish I thought of that before! But it’s still amazing either way.

Ingredients – The Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1/8 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (or grated)
  • 3 tbsp of agave or honey
  • 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tsp of corn starch

Method:

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the cornstarch, in a small sauce pan.

Cook on medium heat and stir rapidly with a whisk until the mixture has boiled (about 3 minutes or so).

Then, add the cornstarch and mix it in until the liquid thickens. Voila, done!

This was so simple, it wasn’t even funny. Or was it?

Add to your stir fry or use as a marinade for meats.

For my stir fry, I used water chestnuts, carrots, broccoli, green onion and chilli flakes to add some heat. I had some leftover quinoa so I mixed that in with my stir fry. Delicious!

Enjoy!

Recipe: Asaparagus with Lemon and Garlic

What a busy week! Between work, exercising, errands, cooking, writing, socializing, cleaning, commuting, reading and sleeping, I’m spent by Friday. I’m tired just writing this!

If your weeks are anything like mine and even if they’re not (who am I kidding?) you’ll be excited for this recipe. It’s easy and ready within 20 minutes – a fantastic side to any sort of meat dish, too!

Asparagus is great, especially when you buy it fresh. According to this website, here are 8 benefits:

  1. can detoxify our system
  2. has anti-aging functions
  3. is considered an aphrodisiac
  4. can protect against cancer
  5. reduces pain and inflammation
  6. can prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis
  7. reduces the risk of heart disease
  8. can help prevent birth defects

Not too shabby, eh? Since it’s an aphrodisiac, why not load up on this super food with someone special and reap the benefits together. I have to say, asparagus combined with garlic will be the newest power couple in the veggie world. Not only will this make one excellent dish but it’s good for your health, too!

Ingredients:

  • Asparagus (cut ends off and then cut in half)
  • 2 tbsp of butter (organic, unsalted) – melted
  • 1 clove garlic – chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • Chili powder to taste
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste

Method:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Wash and cut the asparagus (make sure you cut those ends off and discard).

Place in a medium-sized baking dish.

In  small bowl, mix the lemon juice, melted butter, spices and garlic (use a whisk if you have one or a fork if you don’t).

Drizzle over the asparagus and cover the dish with tinfoil (shiny side down).

Bake for 15 minutes.

At the half way mark, turn the asparagus using tongs.

Serve as a side dish!

I served mine with coconut chicken (inspired from Thursday’s recipe) mixed with quinoa.

TIP! Combine this GLORIOUS juice with some cornstarch (just add a little at a time until it thickens) in a separate bowl and drizzle over your asparagus.

Serves 2

Cooking time:

Prep: 5 minutes

Baking: 15

Enjoy!

Stay tuned for my next post where I talk about ginger!

Recipe: Thai Inspired Stir Fry

Today’s recipe is an oldy but a goody. If you like Thai food but don’t want leave your apartment to get take-out or not enough funds in the bank to go to Thailand BUT you do have enough veggies in the fridge to make this (more or less) then you are in luck!

In keeping with the garlic theme, I made sure to include garlic in this recipe – and believe you me, it was a wise decision! It added a certain sweetness to the curry that otherwise would not have been there. Or maybe it was due to the coconut milk. Either way, it turned out pretty darned good.

In my quest to find foods that are both antiviral yet delicious, I stumbled upon coconuts. Coconuts for me have become this wonder fruit and I try to incorporate this ingredient into as many meals and drinks as I can on a daily basis. In my previous post all about coconuts, I gush about how not only they are high in magnesium (which is excellent if you are active) but they kill the bad bacteria in your gut and aid to flush it all out. Incredible.

Give this a try and let me know what you think!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk (I used light organic)
  • 1 handful of baby carrots – chopped
  • 1/4 head of broccoli – the florets only
  • 1/4 cup of red onion – finely chopped
  • Chicken (as desired) – make sure it’s cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 bell pepper – cut into strips length-wise
  • 1 small romano tomato – diced
  • 2 baby bella mushrooms – diced
  • 1/4 tsp of chili powder (or to taste)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of coriander
  • 1/4 tsp of turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp of cumin
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 servings of brown rice pasta, brown/wild rice or quinoa

Method:

Heat the oil in a pan and add the spices and let this simmer until fragrant (usually about a minute or so). Add the onions and stir.

The red onions sizzling in the pan with the spices.

Then add the chicken pieces, tomatoes and mushrooms. Let all of this goodness simmer for about 5 minutes.

Here she is…in all of her glory….

Next, stir in the coconut milk (you’ll want to slowly mix this in so that it doesn’t splatter everywhere).

This is what I used…YUM!

Flip the chicken pieces over (they should be browned by now) and then add the broccoli and the bell peppers.

Stir everything together. Let everything simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the broccoli has cooked. You’ll know it’s cooked when it starts to appear softer in texture.

By now your rice pasta/rice/quinoa should be ready. Add this in and mix it all in together! Don’t be shy!

Let everything sit for a few minutes and serve.

The final product! I had 2 helpings and even had enough for lunch the next day.

Serves 2-3 people.

Prep time: 5 to 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 to 20 minutes

Total: 30 minutes

Enjoy!

Recipe: Quinoa Patties

Looking for a way to add other grains into your diet? If you’re getting bored of rice, mix things up with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH).

Some quick facts about this super grain:

  • An amino acid-rich protein (a complete protein suitable for vegans) considered to be a grain but actually part of the the leafy green family, like spinach or swiss chard (WHO KNEW?)
  • Contains the high levels of the amino lysine, essential for tissue growth and repair. Lysine is also used to treat cold sores.
  • Great source of maganese, magnesium, folate and phosporus making it useful in combatting migrains, diabetes and atherosclerosis

Did you know that you can purchase quinoa all year round? Find it at either at your local health food store or in the health food section of your grocery store.

This week, I wanted to make something different but not too complicated. With a little digging on the interwebs, I found this recipe.

This was simple enough and one of the only quinoa patty recipes I’ve found that doesn’t require me to purchase a dehydrator (more on that later).

*** I made mine bite sized. Though it took a little bit more time to cook, it was TOTALLY worth it.

I really like their ideas on what to pair it with.  Another treat would be goat cheese, with sliced roasted beets on top. Or avocado with a slice of tomato and some salt and pepper. Or, have it with salad and/or soup. That’s usually my fail safe option. Or you can cut up the patty and put directly on your salad or in a pita or tortilla.  I had a couple for breakfast this morning with my Vega shake. So many options!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed (organic if possible)
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour (I like to use rice flour)
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for frying (olive, coconut, saffoil, grapeseed…)
* I also added some chili powder to spice it up a bit. Feel free to add any spices that you prefer!

Method

Simmer the quinoa in the water for approximately 15 minutes. By then , the liquid should be absorbed and the quinoa should be tender. When it has finsihed cooking, let it cool for a bit.

Mix the cooked quinoa with the eggs, onion, garlic, flour, parmesan, salt and pepper, adding more flour if required.

Here's the quinoa mixed with all of the ingredients.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.

Spoon the mixture into the pan and form patties of any size that you desire and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side.

The bite sized patties frying in the pan...they smelled SO good!

Set aside on paper towels to drain.

The first few that I made...I must have ate about 5 of them, you know...to make sure they came out alright 😉

 
 
 
 
Here they are, the finished product, served on top of my spinach salad!
 
 
 
 
 

___________________

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Enjoy!

_________

Tell us, how do you prepare your quinoa? What is your favourite dish?

Up next…spicing it up with spices!

Benefits of Whole Grains

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably overwhelmed with information and choices about what to put into your body. There is a lot to consider from nutritional benefits, to taste, to cost and to the effects it will have on your body.

Then there are those fad diets and extreme diets urging you to eliminate foods from your diet, not just harmful foods but nutritious foods. How does that make any sense? I’ve successfully lost more than 20 pounds and have kept it off for a year by simply eliminating foods that are harmful to me  (refined sugars, processed foods, coffee, wheat and dairy).  But that’s me 🙂 You have to find what works for you. I’m hoping that some of this information will help take some of the guesswork out of choosing healthy grains and alternatives to wheat.

So let’s jump in!

What is a whole grain?

According to WebMD, “A whole grain contains all edible parts of the grain, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. The whole grain may be used intact or recombined, as long as all components are present in natural proportions.”

A grain is considered whole when it is comprised of 3 parts: Bran, Germ and Endosperm.

According to HealthCastle.com, “…whole grains are a good source of B vitamins, Vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber, as well as other valuable antioxidants not found in some fruits and vegetables. Most of the antioxidants and vitaminsare found in the germ and the bran of a grain.”

Wheatfreefood.com illustrates this best:

“To visualize a whole grain’s structure, think of an egg. The bran in a whole grain is akin to the shell of an egg, it is the protective outer coat. The germ is within the bran similar to the white of an egg. And the endosperm is the innermost part of a whole grain much like a yolk sits in an egg.”

So, what’s the difference between WHOLE grains and REFINED grains?

“Refined grains have their bran, germ, and most of the vitamins and nutrients removed during processing. The only part that remains is the starchy endosperm. This is why refined grains have more of an impact on raising blood sugar levels and thus have a higher glycemic index. Whole grains as mentioned earlier, contain the endosperm but also contain the germ and the bran. The bran provides abundant fiber which helps with satiety and slows down absorption keeping blood sugar levels happy, making whole grains a very good source of nutrition.”

Other reasons they are FANTASMIC?

Because whole grains are high in fiber, they aid in the following:

  • Lowering risk of heart disease by decreasing cholesterol levels, blood sugar and blood coagulation.
  • Helping to regulate blood glucose (especially those with diabetes)
  • Contributing to weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.  Some studies have also shown that people who consume more whole grains consistently weigh less than those who consumed less whole grain products.

It is recommended that women get at least 25g of fiber a day and men should get at least 35g of fiber a day. This shouldn’t be too hard to achieve since each serving of whole grains yield from 1 to 4 g of fiber per serving, comparable to fruit and vegetables. If you have balanced meals and snacks throughout the day, it should be manageable.

What are the options?

  •     Whole oats/oatmeal
  •     Popcorn
  •     Brown rice
  •     Whole rye
  •     Whole-grain barley
  •     Wild rice
  •     Buckwheat
  •     Triticale
  •     Bulgur (cracked wheat)
  •     Millet
  •     Quinoa
  •     Sorghum
  •     100% whole wheat flour

How do we incorporate into our diet?

Choose whole-grain breads (like Ezekiel), cereals, bagels and crackers.  Be sure to read the ingredients on the package to ensure that there is very little sugar, in fact, there shouldn’t be any sugar in the mix if it’s whole grain. And make sure that all the ingredients are from REAL food – nothing you don’t understand or cannot pronounce. The simpler, the better!

Here are some quick suggestions:

  • Sandwiches with whole grain breads (like Ezekiel).
  • Whole oats in the morning
  • Snacks including whole grain crackers or make your own trail mix with whole oats
  • Use rice and quinoa when making your meals, rather than white rice or white pasta

So readers, I’d love to hear from you: How will you incorporate whole grains into your diet?

Stay tuned for a few recipes involving whole grain rice and quinoa!

Alternatives To Wheat

Be honest…does looking at this painting make you nervous?

VAN GOGH - WHEAT FIELD WITH CYPRESSES

If you’re anything like me and eating wheat is taxing on your body, please know that you may not have to give up foods that you enjoy! Nowadays, with food allergies becoming more prevalent in our Western society, there are more and more alternatives to wheat: brown rice pasta, spelt, quinoa, many varieties of rice, buckwheat and many more.  But even if you’re fine with wheat you need to be aware of the difference between whole wheat and whole grains.

Whole Wheat tends to be a clever marketing gimmick to entice consumers to purchase their bread products. The wheat is still highly processed and stripped of the germ, the bran, and majority of fibers, vitamins, and minerals. Whole Grains still have maintained their nutrients (you should see the seeds and grains in the actual bread). One brand that I love, and they make sprouted grains (a more natural occuring form of seeds and much easier to digest) is Ezekiel. This can be found in your frozen food section in your grocery store.

How do you know if you have developed a sensitivity to wheat?

Symptoms of food intolerance include:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Gas, cramps, or bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Irritability or nervousness

What’s the big deal?

By continuing to consume foods that you are sensitive to, not only do you suffer some of these symptoms (how fun is that?) but your body will become inflamed and you will have trouble losing weight and over a long period of time, you could develop some serious health complications.

This is a great article that explains why inflamtion is your worst enemy.

The Solution.

You can avoid inflamation by eating foods that are clean and non-toxic (no preservatives, no sugar) and avoid foods that are harmful to your immune system – that means pinpointing foods that trigger reactions and eliminating them and avoiding other foods that contribute to the breakdown of your boday.

Please note that I’m not saying that wheat is terrible – what I am saying is that if you notice your body reacting negatively when you consume wheat, please do not ignore it! If you don’t notice any reaction, then nevermind 🙂

For those that cannot consume wheat, stay tuned for some recipes to help inspire your cooking!

Detox Complete….Hello Vacation!

I finished my detox on St. Paddy’s day and I have to say that though I partied a little too hardy celebrating my Irish heritage, I didn’t let all of the hard work over the past 28 days go down the tubes – at least, not completely.

What did I learn from this?

That I can attend social events and not feel the need to drink or eat naughty foods. I went to a few concerts over the past months and some parties and I avoided adult beverages and opted for sparkling water or virgin caesers (which are amazing!) and really do the trick. People around you who like to peer pressure you into drinking assume that there’s vodka in it. Nope. I’d also make my way to the veggie tray and load up on that rather than the breaded goodies that kept calling my name…But the feeling I had the next day when I woke up, the energy I had, made it all worth it.

That routines and discipline are my friends. I’m not normally one who follows a routine or exercises much discipline, but I found that if I set a daily and weekly routine, it made life much easier. For instance, I would make double the amount of food for dinner so that I had lunch the next day at work. I would buy groceries on the weekend and then again on Wednesdays after work. I set a workout routine so that I always knew what were my “yoga days’ and what mornings I’d get up a bit earlier for my run. I’m still sticking with it! I don’t think I’ll go back to the chaos that was my life before (though the state of my bedroom is a WHOLE other story).

I learned new recipes and about new supplements (the Vega shake was ground breaking for me). I recently discovered the value in shakes, especially green smoothies (adding kale and/or avocado for extra vitamins). I like to add coconut water for the magnesium and potassium (I don’t really do that well with bananas, so it’s a nice alternative). I created almost every combination of salad and stir fry and for some reason, did not get sick of it. I discovered new blogs that inspired me to cook and eat healthily, like this one. It’s all very exciting…at least to me 🙂

So, have I reached my goal? I would say yes. Originally, I wanted to feel more energetic and lose a few inches since I will be sporting a bikinin whilst in Florida and I have to say that these objectives have been achieved. I don’t struggle to get through a workday, though I am more mentally tired at the end of the day, I have way more stamina. I’m looking forward to keeping this up. This has definitely been worth it!

I managed to inspire two of my close friends to consider their eating habits and as a result, they have made some changes and better yet, love them and are sticking to them because they notice how much better they feel! Amazing!

I hope that I have been able to inspire some or all of you to do the same.  Even making small changes here and there (subbing in green tea for coffee or honey for sugar) can make an impact on your health.

This week, I’ll be in Florida. I’m hoping to try out some of the yummy food while I’m soaking in some sun.  Until then, I’ll be hanging out in the beautiful lounge at Pearson Airport dodging hyper children and the many men glued to their smart phones.

I’ll try to give you updates while I’m there and let you know what I think about the food, of course!

See you on the other side!

Whole Grain 5 Blend Rice

I experimented with some new rice last night. I had found it at the most magical place on Earth – the Bulk Barn (more on that later). I was getting bored of the same old brown rice and brown rice pasta so I decided to mix things up a bit. Living on the wild side, I know!

It’s called: Whole Grain 5 Blend (long grain brown rice, grano, Colusari red rice, sprouted brown rice (YES PLEASE!) and wild rice).

Here it is!

The verdict? Delicious! Definitely loading up on more of that stuff on my next trip to the Bulk Barn.

And here's what it looks like...

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp of pepper, chili powder, turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp of coriander and paprika
  • 2 tbsp grape seed oil (olive oil or coconut oil as a substitute)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 smal onion, chopped
  • 1/2 a chicken breast chopped
  • 1/4 cup lentils – cooked or canned
  • 1 lime (juice)

Veggies of choice:

  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • small handful of baby carrots
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 romano tomato diced
  • 1 generous handful of sprouts
  • 2 baby potatoes, chopped
  • Rice – 1/2 cup of cooked rice (brown, wild, mixed, brown rice pasta)

Method:

Cook rice (as per the instructions) while you prepare and cook your stir fry (takes about 30 minutes).

Put the oil in the pan, then spices, then chicken. Next, add your onion, tomato, potatoes, garlic and lime juice.  Let simmer for  a few minutes. Flip over chicken pieces when they are a brown on one side. While they are simmering, add red bell pepper, spinach and sprouts.  Let simmer and mix occasionally. When the rice has cooked add about 1/2 a cup (or however much you prefer) to the pan along with the lentils. Stir and let it sim-simmer (you want the flavours to mix).

This is enough for 2 servings (one for dinner and one for lunch).

The finished product... What I brought for lunch today.

Enjoy!

Detox: Day 20

The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can influence your life by 30 to 50 years. (Deepak Chopra).

Well folks, I’m on day 20 of the detox. The time has flown by! I can’t believe that it’s been nearly 3 weeks already. I’d like to fill you in on how I’ve been feeling, what I’ve been up to, some of the challenges I’ve faced so far and what’s next.

Why would I do this?

When I first began the detox/cleanse, I was groggy, tired ALL the time, no “get-up and go”. It sucked. Even the thought of walking to the bus stop in the mornings seemed daunting (moreso than usual). I knew that I needed to do something. Fast. So I decided to do a 28 day detox cleanse eliminating wheat, dairy, refined sugars, caffeine, alcohol/drugs and processed foods from my diet. In exchange, I’d eat more veggies, fruits, brown rice, lean meats and lots of water and green and herbal teas.

The first few days, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts were a bit tough but once I got passed the first few initial adjustment days, I noticed that I had more energy, felt more focused and began to feel more motivated. Now that I’m on day 20, I feel even better! More invigorated, sleeping better (going to bed earlier and waking up earlier – even before my alarm!) and more active. I’m in a better mood (more often than not, unless I’m overtired or starving). I’m more focused at work; I find that I’m not as easily distracted by others around me or tempted to take breaks to read the news, check Facebook etc. (as often – I am human, after all!). What else? Oh, because I’m more active (running in the mornings and recently doing hot yoga), I’ve noticed my muffin tops are decreasing. Always exciting! Especially since I’ll be in a bathing suit in a few short weeks on the beaches of Fort Meyers. And, the other thing that I’m loving is the more FREE TIME! Because I’m not going out all the time anymore, I’m not hung over the next day. My weekends are free to spend time with friends, catch up on errands, housework, blogging, running, hot yoga, travelling, shopping, researching, you name it. It’s been great – very rejuvinating.

Having all of this free time meant that I could really indulge in things that I’ve been putting off, mainly, waking up earlier to go for a run in the mornings before work. Sounds horrible? Actually, at first, to be honest – yes…it was the worst. My body didn’t even know what the heck was going on but by the time I dragged myself out the door and onto that treadmill and finished my 20 minutes, I was just starting to wake up. The next time, it got easier. And easier. Before I knew it I was waking up before my alarm to go for a run! I had more energy throughout the day and slept like a log. I’ve now developed a love for running first thing in the morning! For anyone who knows me they know that the snooze button and I are joined at the hip, so this is huge! The other thing that I got back into, was hot yoga. I used to do it quite a bit about a year or so ago, but stopped going after my trip to India and when I got sick. BUT Goodlife Fitness had an incredible deal on Living Social: 5 classes for $15. YES PLEASE! I’ve been to two classes and I’m hooked! I’m considering buying a class pass when I get back from Florida. For me, it’s great – I sweat out all the toxins and stretch out muscles that are either cramped from sitting at a desk all day or tight calves/hamstrings/hip flexor/glute (I’m a mess) from running. I’ve also purchased a deal for spinning classes that I’ll be using post-Florida. PUMPED!

Other than exercising and sleeping better, I’ve been saving a lot of money. Not going out and eating out all the time have saved me a pretty penny. Instead, I go out during the day on the weekend. During the week, I’ve been going to concerts, meeting friends for tea, checking out comedy at the club around the corner from me, going to the movies, catching up on reading, catching up on tv and planning trips. Just because I’m not going out on Friday or Saturday night does not mean that my social life is on hold. If anything, I’ve been busier than ever! It’s all how you spend your time.

It really has made me think: How will this activity impact me?

This all sounds lovely, right? But let me tell you…these past 20 days have not been without their challenges. For instance, it was my mom’s birthday last weekend. You should have seen the look of shock, confusion, disapointment and more shock when I declined an alcoholic beverage at dinner and then declined a piece of cake for dessert. My parents reacted as though they were suddenly transported in some parallel universe. I wish we had more kids in our family to take the heat off of me not drinking and eating sugar. Yes, these are the main struggles in my life right now. First world problems, anyone?

Another challenge was passing up a $10 all-the-beer-you-can-drink-before-you-pass-out-or-vomit kegger tonight. Enough said.

But in all seriousness, initially it was tough to say “no” but once you make the decision to not partake, it’s all good. You feel at peace. It’s done and I’m not turning back. Nope? Nope.

And the thing is, I don’t want to undo 3 weeks of sacrifice and hard work just for what, a few minutes of a cheap thrill only to feel terrible shortly after.

The other challenges were planning. I am NOT a planner! I’m more of a procrastinator and spur of the moment type of gal. I had to be sure that I had food on hand at all times so that I wouldn’t be tempted to order pizza. I had to make sure that I had lunch ready for the next day, which  meant cooking enough at dinner for left overs the next day. Otherwise, I’d be at the mercy of the salad bar at work.

The last challenge I’ve faced was to stay motivated. Yes, I feel great but every so often, I’d get a whiff of someone’s delicious, juicy, mouthwatering burger at lunch and I’d think, “Screw it!” But then I’d talk myself back down off the ledge and remind myself that I’d feel foggy/tired from the wheat bun and feel sick from the saturated fat in the burger. Not worth it. But those days have been fewer and fewer as the detox has gone on.

So, what’s next? Well, 7 more days! My last official day is on St. Paddy’s day. I’ll be celebrating my proud Irish heritage with a few friends. I will probably definitely be tipsy after one sip of beer since by then it would have been a month without a drop of alcohol.

I’ve made the decision to only indulge in these kinds of things on special occasions: holidays, birthdays and special events (weddings, funerals – hey, I’m part Irish!). I’ve realized that I don’t miss going out all the time and that there are better ways that I can spend my time. A personal choice.

Also, I’ve been working hard at getting back into fitness and I don’t want to get off track with that. My new goal is to exercise at least 3 days a week and anything extra will be a bonus. I also have my new spinning classes to look forward to.

By now, I’m so used to eating healthy that I can’t see myself going back to bad habits that have somehow crept their way back in to my life. BUT the good news is that it’s always reversable. You can always regain control of your health and get back on track. Nobody’s perfect but I’m realizing that, like most things, it’s much easier to just keep doing the right things rather than trying to re-train yourself to get back into good habits.

Question for all of you: Have any of you considered making a change to better your health? If so, what is it and what steps could you take to do it?

Challenge: if you are craving one thing in particular (chocolate, bread, booze, dairy) go without it for 3 days.

Notice the following: How do you feel without it? How much  of it do you consume on a daily basis? What alternatives are there? What are some emotions that you feel when you crave it but can’t have it?