10 Tomato Tips and Recipes

Whether you enjoy your summer tomatoes from your backyard, patio, or farmers market, you'll want to try these recipes. Not only are tomatoes fun to eat, the lycopene is a powerhouse nutrient for you.

If you like to grow your own tomatoes, the 5 tips discussed in the video will help you to get your best harvest.  

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Men: Mind Your P's to Keep Well

It's Men's Health Week and I want to thank all of the men in my life who have led by example in their pursuit of health.  Over years, here's what I've seen these healthy heroes do:

1.  Prioritize time for Physical Activity.  One man consistently rides his stationery bike each morning while he studies the Bible and prays.  He also plays golf.  Another man uses his breaks at work to exercise and then hikes on the weekends.  Find what works for you.

2.  Portion control.  I've seen these healthy men eat everything from salads to birthday cake.  The portions are always "reasonable."

3.  People.  One man, who is an introvert, makes an effort to invest time with family and close friends.  Why?  He knows that individuals with good social ties stay healthier than those who isolate themselves.

4.  Peace.  While social ties are important, peaceful time alone to reflect and rest is also vital to health.  These men find ways to manage their stress - time alone, exercise, talking through issues, and mindfulness techniques.

5.  Phyto-nutrients.  Specifically lycopene in tomatoes and other red fruits/vegetables, which has been shown to lower risk of prostate cancer.  I will admit, I have not talked with the healthy men throughout my life to learn if the reason they eat vegetables is for the lycopene.  However, I do know they eat a variety of vegetables.  So, I'll just choose to believe it was for the phyto-nutrients.

Mind these 5 P's a few times each week and you'll be a healthy hero.

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Fitting in Fitness on Vacation...Part One

When you are planning vacation, you think about the places you'll see or the beach you'll lounge beside.  You pack your favorite book and the tropical print you wear once a year.  You plan your route, how long it will take to get there, and what distractions to have for the kids if it is a long drive.  If you are flying you compare airline deals and you pack your essentials in your carry-on and your liquid items according to regulations.

But where does fitness fit in on your vacation?  Here are a few ideas.

First, decide if you want to Use, Maintain, or Increase your fitness.  

USE IT - If you want to Use it, try hiking, skiing, learning to kiteboard, kayak, or surf in the ocean. Keep your eyes open for opportunities.  A few years ago we were in CO and a rock-climbing gym was having a grand opening.  Doug likes to rock climb and I had never tried it.  So, off we went for a free afternoon of indoor climbing.  (I'm glad it was free, because I discovered I find facing a wall for hours boring, despite the physical challenge of climbing.)

MAINTAIN IT - If you want to Maintain your fitness, consider the length of your vacation.  If it is a long 4 day weekend, your fitness will maintain itself and your body will appreciate the rest.  Don't plan any workouts, just stay generally active (shopping, sight-seeing, and so on).  

If your vacation is 1-2 weeks, you can ease back on your workouts and maintain.  For example, if you usually walk 4 miles on 5-6 days each week, then cutting back to 3-4 days will maintain your fitness.  If you usually lift weights or do yoga for an hour 3 days each week, make sure you get in 1-2 days to maintain your strength and flexibility.

If you are going for more than 2 weeks, you will need to keep up some of your normal routine.  

INCREASE IT - Ahhh....here's where the adventure spas come in.  You can create your "stay-cation" spa, too.  I'll post a whole blog on creating a wellness stay-cation.  

Next up?  Questions to ask yourself when planning vacation.

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Hiking Food: What and How to Pack

Pre-hiking lunch at John Muir Woods, California

Pre-hiking lunch at John Muir Woods, California

Live on energy bars and a jar of peanut butter?  Not if I can help it.  They make a quick snack, but one that doesn't satisfy and keep energy up for the miles.  (Plus, if I'm hiking in a bear area, I don't want the sweet smell.) 

On a recent hiking vacation, I took time to record the process I use to pack for full day hikes.

Questions to ask:

  • What will be the temperature?  
  • Is the day one 8+ hour trail, or several shorter trails with driving between them?

Water - Plan for way more than I need.  I drink 4 cups of water before hiking.  I take 12 cups or more with me for a full day hike.  More if the weather is warm.  I mentioned in another post that Camelbak's make consuming your water much easier.

Water Foods - To increase my fluid intake even more, I pack fruits and veggies that do not spoil easily when out all day.  Apples, oranges, celery, cucumbers.  You can take whole fruit and put the remains in a sandwich bag, or you can pre-cut them.  Cucumbers sliced long-ways are great on a sandwich.

Protein - If an all day hike in one location, freezing the sandwich meat will help it to last until lunch.  Also, nuts and the above mentioned peanut butter and energy bars are good for snacks. However, I don't recommend relying on them for the whole day.  For an afternoon protein, I usually pack a turkey-jerky stick.  (Nicks Sticks is the brand I currently use.)

Sandwiches - Hearty bread that won't fall apart.  A slice of meat and cheese (frozen). Lettuce, cucumber, tomato (if you don't mind the mess).  If the hike is all day, the afternoon sandwich might be peanut butter, since even frozen meat would thaw and be risky after 7-8 hours.

How much to pack - I plan on a small meal or snack for every 2-3 hours.  I would rather come back with food still in my pack than to hike hungry for the last few hours of the day.  If the day includes driving between hikes, then keeping the afternoon food and water in a trunk cooler means my backpack is lighter and the food fresher.

How to pack - My backpack has two main pouches and two side pouches.  Heavy food, like apples and celery, go on the bottom of a main pouch.  Then first aid supplies, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. go on top of that.  At the very top are crush-ables, like sandwiches.  The side pouches work great for the energy bars and nuts, giving quick access if my blood sugar drops while hiking and I need food immediately.  When I've gotten "suddenly really really hungry" it's been difficult to try to find a bar buried underneath everything.

Of course, if you are packing for a short hike, less than 2 hours, water is your main concern.  On the other hand, if you have never done a full day hike on one trail, I encourage you to experiment.  Hike several short trails with breaks in between to test how much food you would need for a full day of hiking.

Whatever length of hiking you do, congrats on getting out there and enjoying the trails and keeping healthy.

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Basil in a Bag ... now you can try it at home

A few weeks ago I planted some basil seeds in pre-bagged product.  (See video here.)

Four of the six seeds germinated.  Now, what to do with them?  Eat with tomatoes, of course. Make a basil tea as medicine (yep - details are in the video). Store for the winter.  (Watch to learn how.)

Happy growing.

Remember, you can find your path and fulfill your potential.

10 Tips for Great Hiking Trips (mostly learned the hard way)

It is time to plan your summer fun ... 

Planning some hiking as part of your summer fun?

We just returned from some hiking in the Redwoods and South Lake Tahoe, CA.  So, I thought I'd share Ten Tips we use when planning our hiking trips.  (Yes, we've learned these the hard way.)

  1. To keep sore muscles at bay, alternate days of long trails and short trails, with perhaps a little driving between the short trails for rest.
  2. Camelbaks.  These make drinking your water so easy.  Always have more and drink more water than you think you need.  We've hiked "all day" with Camelbaks and without them.  They made more of a difference than I expected.  If you are hiking on two or more days of your vacation, a Camelbak is the best investment you can make.  This trip, because we only planned one "all day" hike, we only took Doug's Camelbak.  (We were trying to save room in the luggage.)  I carried bottled water in a lay-flat backpack, but we both drank from his Camelbak for convenience on the hikes.  So, at least invest in one Camelbak per couple.
  3. Food.  I'll post a whole separate blog on packing food for hikes.
  4. Stretching.  Lots of it.  And often.  The days leading up to your hiking trip, during your hikes, and at the end of each hiking day for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Have a few "extra" trails picked out on your route.  Once you get to your destination, you may find out that a trail has been closed (snow, bear-issues, landslide, whatever).  It is better to have already decided an alternate than to spend hours trying to locate another one and your day of hiking is gone.
  6. Plan on a few hours before your trip to map out the directions to trailheads.  And be patient.  Usually the directions to a trailhead are written by locals.  So it may say "the trailhead is located on Hwy 72 after the big waterfall."  Sounds simple, until you get to the area and see that there are several big waterfalls.
  7. That means an opportunity to get to know the locals.  Stop at hiking stores, gas stations, etc. and show them your directions.  Ask, "Any idea which is the big waterfall?"  If they don't know, just count it as part of your adventure.  (Admitted:  tough for me to do.  I just want to get there and hike.)
  8. First aid:  Depending on how deep into the woods you are going and how well traveled the trail, take at least basic first aid supplies (alcohol wipes, bandaids, allergy med for stings)...and whatever else you might need if you were alone a few miles into the trail.
  9. If not a very well traveled trail or the trailhead is away from the parking/ranger area, let someone know (either at the ranger station or the front desk at the hotel) what trails you plan to do and approximately when you will return.  For most trails, an average of 1.5-2 miles per hour is typical.
  10. Massage.  Schedule a massage for the latter part of your hiking trip, or at least for when you get home.  You will have earned it.  (And, if you have challenged yourself, you will need it.)
  11. Bonus.  I said 10 Tips...but this one you must remember.  2 Ziploc bags.  1 empty.  1 with toilet paper.  And a sturdy spoon.  I'll say no more.
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Is your exercise right for you?

There are tons (and tons) of exercise programs out there.  How do you know if yours is right for you?  

What exercises do you like?  What programs have worked well for you?  Share your thoughts with me (and the rest of our ViREO Life community).

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Sleep ... not just for kids

Spring is a time for renewal.  To renew and maintain your body and brain, sleep is essential. If you want to succeed in life, sleep is not a luxury.  It is mandatory. 

Here are a few renewals that happen when you sleep ...

  • REPAIR YOUR CELLS and HEALS YOUR MUSCLES AND ORGANS
  • REMOVES TOXINS FROM YOUR BRAIN AND BODY
  • RECHARGE IMMUNE SYSTEM
  • REST YOUR MIND FOR FRESH IDEAS and IMPROVES CONCENTRATION and INCREASE MEMORY AND PLANNING SKILLS
  • REGULATE YOUR HORMONES – including hormones that impact your appetite and stress levels, so it helps with weight management
  • RISK IS LOWERED FOR ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE
  • SLOW THE AGING PROCESS (I would have loved the "R" for Reverse, but I've not seen a lot of compelling research on reversal.  But sleep definitely slows the aging process.)

(Cue music) Here's a story, of a man named Sleepy...

One gentleman I’m working with was tired of being tired.  He used to deprive himself of sleep by staying up late reading blogs or watching videos.  While he didn’t like being tired and wanted to change his habit, the tiredness itself was not enough to motivate him to turn off the devices and go to sleep on time.  That is fairly common, so don’t feel alone if this describes you. 

The times he did get enough sleep he was more productive in his business, in a financially measurable way.  You can guess where this went.  I asked him to quantify his tired productivity vs his alert productivity.  We attached those dollars to segments of time.  It was then his choice:  “I’ve played enough to relax.  If I watch more videos it will cost me X hundreds of dollars tomorrow.”  The devices got turned off and he’s now living alert. His income has increased to the level he said “This is the first time I’ve not had to worry about having enough money for me and my family. I've never been this focused on my health, and I've never had this much success in my business.  I'm happier with my business and income than I ever have been on almost 7 years of business.”

So if you want to be healthier and have greater energy for work and family and life...how do you get better sleep?  Follow a few Don'ts and Do's ...
The Don’ts
O    Don’t put your blood sugar on a roller-coaster.  Don’t eat a lot of simple carbohydrates – like desserts, a bowl of cereal, or sweet drinks – before bed.
O    Don’t drink caffeine – or at least cut way back.  Why? It increases your stress hormones (which as a side note can increase your appetite and weight) and can remain the body for 20 hours.  So those extra cups of coffee in the morning and the energy drinks during the day, can keep you awake at night.
O    Don’t use Nicotine.  Don’t drink alcohol before bed.  Both of these disrupt sleep and often cause insomnia.
O    Don’t do intense exercise right before bed.
O    Don’t watch TV or use computer screens an hour before bed.

The Do’s
O    Evening snacks that aid sleep?  Plain yogurt, peanut butter, turkey.
O    Take a warm shower/bath before bed, especially with magnesium (Epsom) salts.
O    Drink a hot herbal tea that is known for its relaxing properties (like chamomile or valerian root) an hour before bed.
O    Take a break during the day.  Why? It lessens the stress hormones, so you fall asleep faster at night.  And if the break is a walk in sunshine, even better.
O    Exercise.  30 minutes of exercise, such as walking, 4 times a week significantly improves sleep.  Numerous research studies show that people who begin exercising for just 30 minutes 4 times a week are able to sleep about an hour longer and fall asleep in half the time compared with before they started exercising.
O    Keep your bedroom clutter-free, dark and at a cooler temperature.
O    Take care of personal “keeps me awake” issues…cold feet, drinking too much water right before bed, going to bed “too hungry.”
O    Experiment with various relaxation techniques before bed: journal, light candles, look through pictures of nature, read something uplifting, meditate on scripture, pray and cast the cares of the day on Jesus…
O    Do seek professional help for more complicated issues – hormonal imbalances, a snoring spouse.

Happy Sleeping!

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My 3 Favorite Asparagus Recipes with Spring Savings!

Asparagus is in season...so it is usually in abundance and on sale.  Plus asparagus is on the Environmental Working Groups "Clean Fifteen," which means it is low in pesticides.  Purchasing conventional asparagus saves even more money.

Asparagus is loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and an amino acid which acts as a natural diuretic.  (Leeks, included in the third recipe, are also a natural diuretic.)

When I am tempted to buy several bunches (which I did this week), I get home needing several ways to cook the asparagus.  Here are my 3 favorite:

Steamed Asparagus

Steamed Asparagus

1.  Traditional steamed:  If you are planning to eat the steamed asparagus as a finger food, buy the thicker stalks.  If you are planning to eat with knife and fork, purchase the thinner stalks.  

Rinse.  Snap off the hard ends.  If using thicker stalks for finger food, you may want to peel the lower half with a vegetable peeler.  (Or when eating, just hold the end and eat down to the tough area.) 

Either place asparagus in a steamer or in a shallow pan with a little water so the asparagus does not stick to the pan.  Do not cover the asparagus completely in water.  Boil the water, cover the pan, and steam for 2-4 minutes.

Serve with mayo, flavored olive oil, no-salt butter, or even salsa.  Delicious chilled the next day, too.

roasted asparagus

roasted asparagus

2.  Traditional roasted:  Best to buy the medium or thick stalks.  Though, I have roasted then stalks and the results are acceptable.  Rinse, pat dry, and snap off the tough end.  Toss with olive oil and herbs of choice. 

Line a baking sheet or shallow pan with parchment.  Roast at 475 degrees F for 10 minutes, stirring once.

(If you are roasting other vegetables, add the asparagus for the last 10 minutes, as other vegetables usually roast for 15-20 minutes.)

asparagus and leek frittata

asparagus and leek frittata

3.  Frittata with Leeks:
2 leeks, white/light green parts, cut/washed
One bunch of asparagus washed and cut into bite size pieces (again, removing tough end)
1/2 onion diced
Saute these veggies until soft, in coconut oil preferably
Hand whip 6 eggs with herbs of choice
Pour egg mixture over the veggies. Cook until bottom is set.
Add shredded cheese on top. *
Then cook in 350 degree oven until top of egg/cheese is set.

Enjoy for dinner or the leftovers for breakfast or lunch.

(*If you are wanting to rid your body of excess water retention, limit the amount of cheese you use in the frittata.)

So, there we have my 3 favorite asparagus recipes.  Please share yours!

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This is easy. But don't try it at home quite yet.

You go into a store.  You see a product you want to try, but you hesitate.  Will it work?

That's the scenario I found myself in over a fancy seed starter kit.  On vacation last year I saw a burlap bag with soil and seed and directions.  

Cute?  Home-y?  Yes.  Expensive and not sure about the results?  Also, yes.  I didn't buy.

Fast forward several months to when I saw the same product in a hometown store for 1/3 of the price.  I decided the price was worth an experiment.

And, hey, why not make it my first product review?  

Have you tried one of these?  How did it work for you?

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Healthy Snacks for Work and On the Go

Here's the video with Jack Scalfani's "Cooking with Jack" that launched the whole idea of video for me.  If you struggle with healthy eating on the go, jump into this video now.  You'll learn and be inspired to create your own ideas for healthy snacks.  You can do it.

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Making habits stick like glue...Part Two

In our last video, you learned two of the principles that help good habits last a lifetime.  It's time to learn the third principle. 

Now comes the fun part.  Experiment.  Try out these ideas.  Then let me know how you succeed.

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Making habits stick like glue

I was reading last week in the book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle about how our brains form structures (called myelin) which make talents seem like second nature.  This usually takes about 6 months of practicing a new skill.  Hmmm.  Got me to thinking about what research shows on making healthy new habits really "stick" ...

For some tips to help you make a new lifestyle feel like "you've always done it this way" watch this Healthy Habits video.

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Essential tips to start growing some of your own healthy food

When we started gardening a few years ago, I wish I knew the tips and had the resources which Mike Nocks introduces in this interview.  I want to save you the struggle we had.  

It's worth the effort to grow some of your own food.  But I might as well make it easier for you, right?  

After you watch the video, let me know what you are planning to start growing this year.  A favorite herb?  A tomato plant in a container?  A 4X4 bed of greens?

(Oh, I did buy the Vegetable Gardener's Handbook and the Medicinal Herbs book.  They've been very helpful.)

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A Powerful Plate

Want more power in your life?  Start with two essentials:  sleep and what you put on your plate.  On your plate, it is not as much specific foods for energy, as it is categories of food in certain ratios.

Let me know what your favorites are for your Powerful Plate!

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Here's the dirt on some dirt

I do not claim to understand the intricacies of soil building (nutrients, pH, microbes, and so on).  There are books written about dirt.  I just want to grow my food in healthy soil and I want a convenient way to get the "dirt" to my house.

Enter "The Big Yellow Bag."  I compared their prices per cubic yard (enough to fill a raised bed or 30-40 pots for container gardening) and it is a good value.  Healthy soil.  Delivered to my house.  And if I don't use it all, I can seal up the bag for later.  

What brand(s) of soil do you use in your gardening?  What do you like or not like about it?

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Best 5 Herbs to start your window garden

Spring is around the corner!  (We have had a warm winter in TN, but I am still excited about spring.)  In the next few weeks we will be planting outside.  But if you are ready to start now ...

Listen to this interview with Colonial Creek Farms from Georgia to plant some healthy herbs near your kitchen window.

  • Hint: Make sure they get enough sunlight
  • Remember to plant the tall choices in the back
  • Keep like herbs with like herbs

Let me know what herbs you decide to plant.  And, of course, your favorite recipe cooking with them!

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Break the diet mentality and eat the way you were designed

Intuitive Eating is how you were designed to eat.  If you have ever watched a toddler eat, you know that they eat what they want, when they want it, and you can't force-fed them when they are not hungry.

Watch this to learn (or re-learn) how to eat like your body was created to.

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Do you need a good laugh? Or tips to keep your resolutions?

Your Best 2017: Spirit, Mind, and Body workshop is on its way to Nashville.  First, though, laugh along with the workshop speakers in our spoof "Resolution Forgetters Anonymous."

It is important to laugh as you move toward your goals in 2017.

If you live in the Middle Tennessee area, join us for our February 4th workshop...and laugh with us.

Register by going to Middle Tennessee Health and Wellness Events on Facebook...or just email to me.

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A new kind of stress-eating...that is actually beneficial

If you ever eat-out-of-stress, you are not alone.  Almost everyone has.  However, there are actually beneficial ways to eat when you are stressed that help you to manage it.

If managing your stress is a goal for this year, watch this video and implement the principles...this weekend, even.

I've included some recipes and meal ideas for you.

Let me know what you try and what you enjoy the most.

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