Food & Fitness After 50: Assembling Healthy Meals

Eating well coverI’m often asked if I develop recipes. The answer is no. I am great at following other’s recipes and I enjoy cooking, but I most often assemble meals. With basic cooking skills anyone can assemble a great tasting and good-for-you meal. I was happy to see the that the latest issue of Eating Well Magazine was called “The Convenience Issue” because it paired convenience foods with ingredients most of us have in our kitchens. As I talked about in a recent blog, frozen meals can be used for convenience and as the base to assemble a quick meal.

Today, I’ll share four meals that can be quickly assembled. These are favorites in my house.

#1          Thanks to my brother-in-law, Lew, for this meal assembly hack. I’ve modified the sauce to make it a bit lower in calories and saturated fat (I eliminated the cream and butter, sorry, Lew!) but it is still delicious and easy to make. Start with refrigerated ravioli (like Buitoni spinach ricotta, spinach artichoke, butternut squash, or mushroom agnolotti) and make a fresh tomato sauce. For the sauce, dice 2 fresh tomatoes, mince 3 cloves of garlic, and shred some fresh basil leaves. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick pan and add tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Cook down until tomatoes and garlic soften and add a little white wine; cook some more. Add a dash of milk and a squeeze of fresh lemon.  As the sauce cooks, boil water and cook the ravioli according to package directions. Plate the ravioli, top with tomato sauce, sprinkle with fresh Parmesan cheese and more fresh basil. Pair with a big green salad and enjoy!

#2          I love stir-fry, and this is so easy. I have an electric wok (I know, probably not Lean Beef Stir Fryauthentic, but it works for me). Thinly slice chicken breast or lean steak (if partially frozen, it makes it easy to get thin slices).  If you like a beef stir-fry, click on this link for the best stir-fry cuts. Clean out your refrigerator veggie bin…carrots, bell peppers, onion, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms…..whatever you have will work. Chop veggies into bite-sized pieces before starting to cook. Heat oil in wok (I like peanut oil because it has a high smoke point) and when oil is hot, quickly add meat and stir-fry until done….it only takes a couple of minutes. Remove the meat from the wok, heat up a bit more oil and toss in the veggies and stir-fry until tender crisp. Add the meat to the veggies and toss all together. If you want a sauce, mix a teaspoon of cornstarch in cold water and add a bit of soy or teriyaki sauce, some grated fresh ginger and minced garlic and add the sauce at the end of cooking. Push the veggies and meat to the sides of wok and pour in the sauce and let it get bubbly. Then toss everything around to get it all mixed. Serve over brown or white ready rice (a super speedy way to cook brown or white rice in the microwave is to use the pouches of ready rice). And, if you don’t like brown rice, that’s ok…. the recommendation is to make half your grains whole.

channa masala#3          This next one is a yummy vegetarian dish, that my friend Lisa Carlson made last spring when I was in Chicago.  Start with a package of Indian Channa Masala (you can find it in the Asian or Indian section of your grocery store). Break up a head of cauliflower and broccoli and steam in the microwave until the veggies have lost their crunch but are still firm. Mix steamed veggies with the package of Channa Masala (it is a blend of chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, and spices) and add a can of drained, rinsed chickpeas to the mixture. Spread on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until the veggies are done. If you want to add protein and make it a meat-based dish instead of a vegetarian dish, stir in some cooked chicken. You could serve it with rice if you want to but the added chick peas make it a hearty dish without the rice.

#4          Have you ever thought of grilling watermelon? Sounds crazy but grilling brings out the sweetness of the melon. For this dish, use frozen, peeled and deveined shrimp and cubes of watermelon. Thread the shrimp and watermelon on skewers and drizzle with olive oil. Grill over medium heat, turning skewers frequently to get an even cook. It only takes a few minutes per side to cook the shrimp and grill the melon. When done, place the skewers on a plate and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and fresh mint. Serve with favorite sides, such as an ear of grilled corn, roasted new potatoes, quinoa, or coleslaw.

grilled-watermelon-shrimp-skewers-su

All of these meals are easy; experiment with cooking times and seasonings and you can’t go wrong! I’d love to hear your favorite quickly assembled meals, so please share!

For more ideas on food and fitness, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: Owning a Dog Might be Good for Your Fitness

Thanks to Dr. Bob Murray for writing this post. As a dog-lover and dog-owner (well, I think Samson and Buddy own me!) I can related to the benefits of having a dog. Even when I don’t feel like walking, those pleading doggie eyes get me every time!

woman-walking-dogThat sure is a wishy-washy title.  Why not something more definitive such as “Owning a Dog Makes You More Fit”?  After all, most dog owners can vouch for the increase in their daily physical activity just to care for their pet, including regular walks around the neighborhood.  About half of U.S. households own at least one dog and some studies do suggest that dog owners walk more than non-dog owners and are much more likely to meet the current physical activity recommendations (150 minutes of physical activity each week).  I use the word “suggest” because it is not yet fully clear if dog owners walk more just because they already lead more active lifestyles or if the dog owners studied overestimated the amount of time they actually spend walking their pets.  On a more positive note, other studies report that dog owners are less sedentary because they do move more and sit less during the day.

a-person-walking-a-dogIn theory, dog ownership might help reduce the epidemic of sedentary behavior that increases the risk of all sorts of diseases such as heart diseases, stroke, obesity, and diabetes.  It is clear that increased daily physical activity combats all those nasty outcomes, yet most adult Americans do not come close to getting the recommended amount of physical activity (150 minutes each week).

isolated jack russell terrier holding leather leach over white backgroundWe often think of physical activity as something to be scheduled into our days rather than as the total of all the movement we’re able to accomplish during a day.  It’s actually the sum of that movement—day after day—that provides lifelong benefits to health and well-being.  For example, if a person goes to a one-hour daily exercise class, works up a sweat, but is then sedentary the remaining 23 hours, the benefits of that hour of exercise are greatly diminished.  In contrast, there are great benefits for those who are active all day long in one way or another, be it housework, gardening, walking, labor, and so on.  Add to that list taking care of pets, especially dogs.

Motivating people to swap a sedentary lifestyle for an active lifestyle is no easy task.  It’s relatively simple for us to change our habits in the short-term (e.g., joining a gym), but sustained long-term behavior change (e.g., going to the gym regularly) is much more difficult for most people.  And that’s where dog ownership comes in.

You may or may not be surprised to learn that some scientists have put a lot of thought into what motivates us to exercise.  Here’s one recent scientific explanation: “… the multi-action control (M-PAC) framework is a [physical activity] PA-specific model that recognizes reflective processes (e.g., perceived capability) as antecedents of PA intention formation, regulatory processes as key to the translation of intention to behavior (also known as action control), and reflexive processes (e.g., habit) as potential hallmarks of PA maintenance.” (Click here to see the study cited.)

Responsible dog owners recognize their pet’s need for physical activity and that involves daily walks, among other dog-related activities (feeding, petting, grooming, etc.)  Good dog parents develop sustainable, repeatable daily physical activity habits that can last for many years, motivated by the love they feel for their pet and their desire to provide the best care possible to ensure their dog has a long healthspan.

funny-5-miles-dog-walkingOwning a dog is obviously not a sure solution for reducing sedentary time and increasing physical activity time, but being a responsible dog owner does mean that you’ll be taking more walks (and bending over more often) than you did before you owned a dog.  And if those activities add to your daily activity total, you’ll be better off both physically and emotionally.

If your spouse or partner is reluctant to take on the responsibilities of a pet parent, perhaps a convincing argument might be “But honey, owning a puppy will help us both live longer, happier lives and there’s nothing I’d like more than to spend more time with you.”

For more tips on moving well as we age, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon and other book sellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.