Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Recipe: Spicy Chipotle Hummus

Are you getting ready for the Super Bowl next weekend? Whether you're looking forward to the big game or not, hummus is a terrific winter recipe. It makes a delicious dip for raw veggies, and because fresh fruits and veggies are scarce this time of year, hummus is a delicious, high-fiber way to encourage my family to enjoy more carrots and cucumbers. Hummus is also a fun spread for sandwiches, or a yummy topping for Mediterranean recipes. And, of course, it's a perfect pairing with pita chips for a healthy, hearty chips-and-dip snack while you enjoy the end of the football season!

Hummus is also versatile from a flavor standpoint. I've used all sorts of add-ins to create different flavor profiles. I tried roasted red peppers with basil and rosemary; extra garlic with basil and oregano; artichoke hearts and tarragon; and jalapenos and avocado, and they're all delish. However, this particular variation disappears almost as soon as I make it!

Two quick notes: First, we love garlic. If you're not quite as passionate about garlic as we are, I suggest reducing the garlic to 1/4 cup. I amp up the garlic, in part, because I don't use salt, which is a classic ingredient in hummus. If you back down on the garlic, you may want to add in a teaspoon of salt. Second, you can easily omit the chipotle powder, and either enjoy your hummus plain, or experiment with other add-in ingredients.

Either way, don't forget to come back and tell us what you try, and how it turns out! As they say in the Middle East, Bil-hana wa ash-shifa! (May you have your meal with gladness and health!
Spicy Chipotle Hummus


2 (15.5) ounce cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed, if desired
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup bottled minced garlic
1/4 cup tahini, olive oil, or canola oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons ground chipotle chili pepper (or 1 1/2 teaspoons for a less-spicy hummus)


Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor. Process until hummus reaches desired smoothness. (I've had hummus that still had noticeable chunks of chickpeas; or, the consistency may be absolutely smooth, like whipped mashed potatoes.) Hummus may be served immediately, but the flavor is better if refrigerated overnight.

Cook's Note: When I started making hummus, I used tahini, which you can find in your grocer's Middle Eastern food section, or at health food or specialty food stores, or international markets. Tahini is the oil of choice for hummus in Lebanon (which is considered to be the birthplace of hummus, by most accounts). However, after going through a few cans of tahini, I began experimenting with olive oil, which is the oil used in Greece and other areas. I now use canola oil, as I find raw olive oil upsets my stomach.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Recipe: Lucky Red Sweet & Sour Sauce

If you've taken my online class "Luscious," you either experimented with, or heard about, the Sweet & Sour Chicken, and the Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Meatballs. Both recipes are always classroom favorites. My recipe for sweet & sour is a unique blend of pineapple and tomato paste, which gives it terrific flavor. Because I use tomato paste to thicken the sauce, the final product isn't translucent. For years, students have been asking me to develop a sweet & sour sauce that's as good as the version in the course -- but glossy and translucent, instead of opaque.

Years ago, I had an interesting conversation with a woman from China, who told me that her grandmother once told her that the red color in sweet & sour sauce was traditionally from beet juice. So, I started with a can of sliced beets...and this translucent, deep red sauce is the result. It's not cloyingly sweet, and it has a wonderfully fresh, balanced flavor.

I'm posting it today in honor of Chinese New Year, which is celebrated on January 31st this year. In Chinese tradition, the color red is considered lucky, which is why red is often used in Chinese New Year decorations. Red foods are served on Chinese New Year for this reason, too. Whether you intend to celebrate Chinese New Year or not, this recipe makes a terrific accompaniment to grilled chicken, meatballs, or steamed veggies and rice. Enjoy!

Lucky Red Sweet & Sour Sauce


3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 (14-ounce) can reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
3/4 cup beet juice OR 1 (14-ounce) can sliced beets (see Cook's Notes)
1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic (or three garlic cloves, peeled and minced)


Combine cornstarch and broth in a jar with a lid, and shake until cornstarch dissolves. Pour mixture into a saucepan, and heat over medium-high heat. Add beet juice, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar substitute, and garlic, and stir frequently until mixture reaches a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Cook's Notes: Beet juice is enjoying popularity as a health food, so you may be able to find it at your grocery store, drugstore, or online. If not, you'll find that a 14-ounce can of sliced beets contains roughly 3/4 cup beet juice. If you choose canned beets, make sure you choose beets that are not pickled! -- this will give your sauce an off-flavor.

If you use canned beets, the leftover beets make a colorful addition to green salads. Or, use beets as the base for a cold veggie salad. Quarter the beets and combine with a 14-ounce can of drained green beans, drizzle with balsamic dressing, and add a sprinkle of feta cheese. You can either chill the salad for a few hours until it's cold, or store the canned veggies in the fridge so it'll be ready to go as soon as you prepare it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"I Want": The Power of Positive Self-Talk

Have you ever said to yourself, "I can do this!" I know I have. One of my running routes ends in a short-but-steep incline, and for years, I would think, or even say aloud, "I can do this! I can do this!" as I ran up the hill.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this kind of self-coaching, but even when I made it to the top of the hill, I didn't find my self-talk especially useful. It almost seemed as though my self-talk made the run more uncomfortable, rather than less.

We talked last week about using self-determination theory, which is based on the belief that people don't like to be told what to do. As I thought about how true that premise is, and my "I can do this!" mantra, it occurred to me that "I can do this!" focuses only on whether or not I can do something, not on my motivation for doing it. And, as I'm fond of telling my children, "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should!" Little wonder, then, that saying "I can do this!" wasn't all that motivating.

So, I changed up "I can do this!" for "I want this!" -- and the change was remarkable. I had no problem thinking of reasons I wanted to run up that hill, from "I want to build my glutes and hamstrings, so belly dance is easier!" to "I want to burn off all that fruitcake and eggnog I ate over the Christmas season!" to "I want to be healthy and fit!"

"I want" worked beautifully with physical activity, so I tried it out in other areas, too. I quickly discovered it's an easy way to counter negative self-talk. Here are some examples of ways you could use "I want" to motivate you:
  • I don't feel like walking today...but I want to be healthy
  • I hate drinking water! -- but I want to make sure I'm really hungry, not thirsty
  • It's been a horrible day and I really deserve a treat...but I want to stay on track with healthy eating
Now it's your turn! Think about what you're finding most challenging as you follow through on your plans for a lifetime of health and happiness. Next, identify your negative thoughts. How can you change those negative thoughts that are holding you back into "I want" statements? Post below, and let us know what you experiment with, and how it goes! :)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year, New Motivation...New You!

Happy new year! Today we're going to take a fresh look at motivation. Motivation is often one of the first obstacles to successful weight loss, and it's something everyone wrangles with at least occasionally. So, let's see how we can punch up our motivation, and enjoy more weight management success!

There are many theories about how motivation works. One of these theories is self-determination theory (or SDT). Self-determination theory is based on the premise that people don't like to be told what to do. (I can relate -- can you?) According to Deci and Ryan (2008), the psychologists who developed self-determination theory, there are five different categories of motivation:
  1. Intrinsic: You do something because you like it.
  2. Integrated: You do something because it's who you are.
  3. Identified: You do something because it helps you reach a goal.
  4. Introjected: You do something because you think you should.
  5. External: You do something in order to avoid punishment, or get a reward.
Are you wondering how self-determination theory can help you? Let's say your physical activity goal for cardio is to reach 10,000 steps a day on your pedometer. If your motivation is introjected, you'll probably think something like, "Well, I guess I should try to get in 10,000 steps today, because I guess it'll help me lose some weight."

Compare that to someone who's motivation is integrated, who might think, "I'm going to get at least 10,000 steps today, because that's just the kind of person I am!" If I were the gambling type, I'd put my money on the person whose motivation is integrated. Wouldn't you?

Once you identify your motivation, you can develop affirmations that encourage a shift in your motivation. For instance, if your motivation for physical activity is introjected ("I know I should exercise today, but I really don't want to"), you can use self-determination theory to make your thoughts more motivating. Here are some examples:
  • You might choose a reward to motivate you (external motivation)
  • You could say, "Being physically active helps me reach my weight management goals!" (identified motivation)
  • You could say, "I'm going to be active today because I'm someone who exercises every day!" (integrated motivation)
So, here's your challenge for the week:
  1. Find one aspect of weight management that's difficult for you.
  2. Identify your SMART goal for that aspect of weight management. (Good thing you did this last week, right?)
  3. Pay attention to your thoughts about your goal for three days. Write those thoughts down!
  4. After three days, examine your thoughts and identify your motivations.
  5. Challenge yourself to make your thoughts more motivating, using the self-determination theory categories.
One aspect of weight management that's challenging for me is getting enough rest. I don't need much sleep, but I need to be asleep no later than 11:30 PM. Since I get home from work around 9:30 PM several nights a week, following through on my sleep goals can be iffy. After observing my thoughts for a few days, I noticed they were usually along the lines of, "I really should stop puttering around on the computer and go to bed..."

When I challenged this thought with, "Yes, I should...because I'm the kind of person who makes sure I get enough rest, so I can get things done the next day!" I found it surprisingly easy to disconnect from the Internet and get in bed. And, when I woke up refreshed the next day -- and it really was easier to be the kind of person who gets things done -- following through on my new integrated motivation was easier still.

I'm looking forward to hearing how you use self-determination theory to master your thoughts and create your own motivating affirmations that not only help you be successful, but make the journey easier and more enjoyable. Keep us posted! :)