Another Annual Orphan Thanksgiving

This year I am upholding my own Thanksgiving tradition with what I refer to as Orphan Thanksgiving. It is a cozy and enjoyable event for the people who share in this wonderful celebration. I invite friends who don’t have a place to go for the holiday, usually because their relatives live far away.

Though there is a considerable amount of food prep involved, I get a kick out of making each dish and roasting and carving the turkey. You might think that this desire to cook huge holiday meals and have people over is something that was handed down to me from my mother, but my mom never entertained guests in our home, and she never considered herself a cook. My mother’s idea of cooking was to heat up Stouffer’s entrees or throw a piece of meat on the broiler, and when the holidays arrived, she made restaurant reservations instead of spending time in the kitchen. Somehow I had a natural affinity for cooking and baking, and I also quickly discovered how much I enjoyed hosting events. I am certain that my desire to host parties evolved from my tendency to nurture others.

Thanksgiving-Dinner-New-York-CityWhat’s on the table this year? Turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole (a HUGE hit), mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. I’m letting my guests bring dessert to ease the cooking and baking load, since I make these feasts by myself. Since I fully believe in enjoying “normal” foods during the holidays, provided they are enjoyed in moderation, I have no problem featuring a few “forbidden” foods on the holiday table.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Orphan Thanksgiving…My Tradition

For many years I have hosted what I refer to as Orphan Thanksgiving, and it has become a tradition in my home. I realize the nomenclature has a lonely connotation, but it is a wonderful event and I enjoy it thoroughly, as do the people who share in this wonderful celebration. I invite friends who don’t have a place to go for the holiday, usually because their relatives live far away.

Though there is a considerable amount of food prep involved, I get a kick out of making each dish and roasting and carving the turkey. You might think that this desire to cook huge holiday meals and have people over is something that was handed down to me from my mother, but my mom never entertained guests in our home, and she never considered herself a cook. My mother’s idea of cooking was to heat up Stouffer’s entrees or throw a piece of meat on the broiler, and when the holidays arrived, she made restaurant reservations instead of spending time in the kitchen. Somehow I had a natural affinity for cooking and baking, and I also quickly discovered how much I enjoyed hosting events. I am certain that my desire to host parties evolved from my tendency to nurture others.

Thanksgiving-Dinner-New-York-CityThis year I will continue the Orphan Thanksgiving tradition and make my secret recipe for stuffing, throw a turkey and a spiral ham in the oven, make mashed potatoes, and tempt my guests with homemade fudge, pumpkin pie and other tasty treats. Some selections are relatively clean, while others are fully decadent and challenge any fitness-minded meal plan. Since I fully believe in enjoying “normal” foods during the holidays, provided they are enjoyed in moderation, I have no problem featuring a few “forbidden” foods on the holiday table.

This year I am throwing something new into the mix. I recently had a networking mixer/barbecue, and one of my guests brought Cards Against Humanity, which quickly turned the party into a rollicking good time. We all had a blast allowing ourselves to indulge in the game, which utterly and completely flies in the face of political correctness. I enjoyed the game so much that I bought ALL the expansion sets, along with the original game set, for Thanksgiving and beyond.

It is incredibly satisfying to know that my good friends will be in my home, celebrating life and enjoying good food.

My Shake And Bake Sweet Potatoes Recipe

You can use either sweet potatoes or yams for this clean and delicious recipe! I used to make very large batches when I was still competing, and think this recipe and the yield are perfect for those who do their food prep ahead of time. I don’t peel the potatoes beforehand but you can certainly do so if you wish.

DR. NAITO’S SHAKE AND BAKE SWEET POTATOES

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

INGREDIENTS:
5 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, washed and cut into one-inch sections
Potatoes in bag
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves

GlazePlace cut sweet potato sections into a clean kitchen trash bag. Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl, then pour into bag. Twist bag closed and shake mixture so that it coats the potatoes evenly. Place coated potato segments in a large baking dish which has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
Ready for the oven
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until slightly tender.

Orphan Thanksgiving

For many years I have hosted what I refer to as Orphan Thanksgiving. I realize the nomenclature has a lonely connotation, but it is a wonderful event and I enjoy it thoroughly. I invite friends who don’t have a place to go for the holiday, usually because their relatives live far away. Though there is a considerable amount of food prep involved, I get a kick out of making each dish and roasting and carving the turkey. You might think that this desire to cook huge holiday meals and have people over is something that was handed down to me from my mother, but my mom never entertained guests in our home and did not cook. Her idea of cooking was to heat up Stouffer’s entrees or throw a piece of meat on the broiler, and when the holidays arrived, she made restaurant reservations instead of spending time in the kitchen. Somehow I had a natural affinity for cooking and baking, and I also quickly discovered how much I enjoyed hosting events.

Thanksgiving-Dinner-New-York-CityThis year I will continue the Orphan Thanksgiving tradition and make my secret recipe for stuffing, throw a turkey in the oven, make mashed potatoes and tempt my guests with homemade fudge, coconut brownies and vegan banana bread. Some selections are relatively clean, while others are fully decadent and challenge any contest prep meal plan. I fully believe in enjoying “normal” foods during the holidays, provided they are enjoyed in moderation. I feel the greatest comfort knowing that good friends will be in my home, celebrating life and enjoying good food.

My Yummy Shake And Bake Sweet Potato Recipe

I prefer the texture of yams to sweet potatoes, but you can use either one for this clean an delicious recipe! I make a very large batch which is reflected in this recipe and which is perfect for those who do their food prep ahead of time. I don’t peel the potatoes beforehand but you can certainly do so if you wish.

DR. NAITO’S SHAKE AND BAKE SWEET POTATOES

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

INGREDIENTS:
5 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, washed and cut into one-inch sections
Potatoes in bag
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves

GlazePlace cut sweet potato sections into a clean kitchen trash bag. Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl, then pour into bag. Twist bag closed and shake mixture so that it coats the potatoes evenly. Place coated potato segments in a large baking dish which has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
Ready for the oven
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until slightly tender.

Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Healthy Breakfasts

Healthy Breakfast Ideas

 

I am definitely one of those people who stresses the importance of eating breakfast each morning.  In fact, I cannot imagine starting my day without healthy foods to provide fuel so that I can hit each morning full force, especially since I am not much of a morning person.  I recognize the fact that many people do not have a clue as to what to eat and what is healthy.  As a response to this, I have compiled a list of healthy breakfast meals which will provide balanced nutrition and give you the energy you need to tackle the day full force.

 

Old-Fashioned Oats, Fruit and Egg Whites:  Take 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats or steel cut oats and add 2/3 cup water in a saucepan.  Cook on medium heat for three minutes.  Transfer to bowl and add a dash of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon unsalted nuts (slivered blanched almonds are my favorite here), and ¼ cup fresh blueberries or raspberries or ½ of a sliced banana.    If you must have sweetener, either use one packet of sucralose or stevia, or add ½ teaspoon of agave nectar.  Another great variation is to take 1/3 of a chopped apple and add it to the oatmeal as it is cooking. 

 

Nonfat Greek Yogurt With Nuts, Fruit and Granola:  Place 1 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt in a bowl (Fage is my favorite brand due to its nutritional value, texture and flavor).  Add ¼ cup of high protein granola, 1 teaspoon of nuts and ¼ cup of fresh berries. 

 

P28 Bread With Peanut or Almond Butter:  Take 2 slices of P28 Bread or a whole P28 Bagel (www.highproteinbread.com) and lightly toast.  Remove from toaster and spread 1-1/2 tablespoons of UNSWEETENED peanut butter or almond butter (FYI P28 now makes incredible high protein nut spreads!) on top. 

 

Eggs and P28 Toast:  Scramble 4 egg whites in pan.  Toast one slice of P28 Bread.  Once eggs are cooked, place on top of toast and add 1 teaspoon of tomato salsa. 

 

Protein Egg Wrap:  Take a low carb wheat wrap or a P28 Flatbread and fill with three scrambled egg whites, 1 ounce of fat free feta cheese and 1 teaspoon of salsa.

 

Cottage Cheese, Fruit and Nuts:  Scoop 1 cup of lowfat cottage cheese into bowl and add ¼ cup fresh fruit and 1 teaspoon of chopped nuts. 

 

Asian Egg and Tofu Scramble with Rice:  Take 7 ounces of firm tofu (this is half a cube of Hinoichi brand tofu) and mash with fork.  Add three egg whites, dash of garlic powder and black pepper and mix.  Cook in pan with nonstick spray until done, then serve over 1/3 to ½ cup of brown rice.

 

Protein Pancakes:  Mix 3 egg whites with 1 scoop protein powder of your choice and 1 tablespoon of unsweetened almond milk.  Cook in pan which has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray on low to medium heat for 3 minutes on each side.  Serve topped with fresh fruit and agave nectar or maple syrup if desired. 

 

Homemade Protein Bars:  Here is a great recipe which IFBB Bikini Pro Natalie Pennington developed.

No-Bake Protein Bars
Ready in 40 minutes • Makes 6 servings

  • 2 cups quick cook oats
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 4 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup water
  1. Line a loaf dish with parchment paper.
  2. Using clean hands, kneed all ingredients in a large prep bowl.
  3. Spread dough into dish or pan, pressing down to flatten. Use a spatula smooth out the surface. Freeze for 30 minutes. Cut into six large bars. Serve and refrigerate the rest.

Optional ingredients:

  • 1 tsp cocoa powder (add it in the mix)
  • dried fruit
  • raw maple syrup or honey (drizzle on top of pressed dough you put it in the freezer)

Nutrients per serving: Calories: 310, Total Fats: 13 g, Saturated Fat: 2 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 25 mg, Sodium: 30 mg, Total Carbohydrates: 28 g, Dietary Fiber: 5 g, Sugars: 5 g, Protein: 22 g, Iron: 2

“Healthy” Bars

Granola BarMany people love the convenience of bars, whether they are labeled as granola bars, energy bars or protein bars.  However, many of these bars aren’t much better than candy bars in terms of nutrition.  Beware of granola bars, as many of them contain sugar, oil, and even candy.  Energy bars and protein bars are also frequently high in sugar and can also contain caffeine and artificial sweeteners.  Regardless of the type of bar, many formulations also contain preservatives.  What’s more, some bars are so highly processed that they could be described as “fake” foods.

There are some bars out there which are minimally processed and can be considered pretty decent in terms of nutritional value.  Make sure to check the ingredients on the wrappers and look for natural ingredients like oats, fruit and nuts.  You can also make your own granola bars and protein bars.

Here is a great link which has numerous recipes for natural protein bars:

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/recipes/protein-bars

This is a good link for a granola bar recipe:

http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=394740

If you don’t have time to make your own bars, healthier bar choices which you can purchase are the Lara Bar and Quest Bar (http://www.questproteinbar.com).

Move Over, Potato Chips…Here Come Healthy Kale Chips!

Kale chips are a healthy alternative to potato chips and they are absolutely DELICIOUS!   You can either purchase these ready-made from stores like Whole Foods or save a considerable amount of money and make them at home.  They are incredibly easy to make, even for people who are oven-shy.  YUM!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
You will need a large bunch of kale, about the size of a basketball.  Rinse and dry very thoroughly.  Separate the leaves from the thick stems and break up into small bite size pieces.  Spread out on cookie sheets.  Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil over pieces.

This is where it gets fun.  You can sprinkle Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, black pepper, kosher salt, or use my favorite which is lemon pepper (Trader Joe’s makes a great version).

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until edges turn sightly brown and kale is crispy.  Remove from pan and allow to cool before eating.

‘Tis The Season – How To Stay Lean During The Holidays

Last year I posted a little blurb about off-season maintenance which I think deserves a re-post.  This is especially appropriate since I recently made homemade (unclean) fudge and plan to make it again.  Keep in mind that you can still indulge in these little cheats as long as you keep the rest of your meals clean.  If you do this, you can absolutely maintain a good degree of leanness throughout the holiday season.

There are a few tricks to minimize the amount of bad foods which you may be tempted to devour.  You can consume a small amount of lean protein right before you have a carb cheat.  This will slow down digestion so that the carbs aren’t stored as readily.  Another trick is to drink a glass of water before you indulge in a decadent treat.  This will help to fill you up so you consume less food afterward.  When you are aware that you will be at a function in which tempting foods will be around, make sure your meals beforehand are kept clean and that you you eat every 2-1/2 to 3 hours to ensure that you won’t be ravenous come party time.  One of the worst things you can do is skip meals beforehand in hopes that the caloric deficit will balance out the overindulgence later.  All this does is squash your metabolism and increase your chance of overeating.

As long as you eat clean the remainder of the time, you should be able to stay within a few pounds of your maintenance weight if you do not compete, or within a few pounds of competition weight if you do compete.  Case in point:  I have been eating clean the vast majority of the time, with rare cheats here and there.  Though I was not in contest prep mode for NPC Nationals on November 9th and 10th, I weighed in that week at 117 pounds which is one pound over my competition weight, and had a waist measurement of 22.75 inches.  Last week, I had pizza twice but kept all other meals clean, and was able to maintain my weight at 117 lbs. with a 23 inch waist measurement.  The last thing I want to do is to unravel the results of all the hard work I have invested and continue to invest into my physique.  I did not skip any meals when I had these fun foods but just continued on my usual clean food path.

Some of you may be wondering what the cleanest choices are when you are at the holiday banquet.  Though this reflects the common holiday foods which are rather calorie dense, here are some of the better choices out of the bunch:

  • Roast turkey breast
  • Green beans without butter
  • Mashed potatoes made with whipped butter and Greek yogurt instead of milk and regular butter
  • Pumpkin Pie

Some of you may also be wondering what I am planning on cooking and eating, so here is my Thanksgiving menu:

  •  16 pound turkey
  • my secret stuffing recipe which has lots of goodies in it but is relatively low in fat and calories compared to other exotic stuffing recipes
  • mashed potatoes made with light butter and Greek yogurt
  • creamed spinach
  • my homemade fudge
  • whole cranberry-mandarin orange relish
  • turkey gravy
  • rolls
  • wine
  • store-bought chocolate pecan pie (which I probably won’t eat)

Obviously there are some items on my menu that fall outside of my “clean food guidelines”, but since the holidays only come once a year, and since I am only cooking one holiday feast which will be served on one day, I have no qualms about it.   This is the time during which we should count our blessings and spend quality time with the people we love without getting anxious about what we are eating.  However, this does not mean you have free license to go nuts on bad foods for the next month!  If you end up indulging in other foods, don’t beat yourself up.  Instead, enjoy the feast and resume healthy eating the next day.  Happy holidays!

The Secret Ingredient to Making Baked Goods Vegan

When I first began competing in 2009 I resolved to rid my pantry of every item which had processed flour or sugar.  That meant also getting rid of the basic ingredients I would use to make banana bread.  Yet due to my love for the taste of banana bread, I quickly replaced my pantry ingredients with oat flour, barley flour, organic succanat and agave nectar.  But I could not see how to make my favorite bread without using at least some butter and a couple of eggs.

After a couple of experimental runs (which incidentally were all delicious), I began to use unsweetened applesauce and omitted eggs and butter altogether.  Once I figured out the ratio, I developed a recipe for banana bread which was moist, flavorful and completely vegan.  Yes, there is sugar and fruit in this bread, but a great deal of fat and calories are shaved off when I use this recipe.  I have since used applesauce in other baked goods with fantastic results.  So if you aren’t in contest prep mode, and you have a bit of a sweet tooth, you might want to whip up one of your favorite baked goods with applesauce and enjoy the results with minimal guilt!

Incidentally, I don’t buy Dr. Oz’s claim regarding apples.  That’s all I will say on the matter.