Quick Meal: Chicken Sausage with Eggplant & Tomatoes

I like to keep certain staples on hand for emergency meals or quick meals.  A few go-to staples on hand make my life much easier after a busy day working or running around.  One of the items I rely on are nitrate free, natural chicken sausage; another new staple is chia pasta.  With the chicken sausage I can make a few different meals and they cook quickly.  The chia pasta has protein, fiber, iron and cooks in 3 minutes, definitely something to keep on hand.  I had some eggplant, tomatoes and onions in the fridge so I decided to make a quick meal out them, add the sausage and throw it over the chia pasta.

Ingredients
2 Italian style nitrate free chicken sausage, sliced
1 large tomato, diced
1 small eggplant, peeled and diced (you can leave the peel on, I don’t like it)
1/2 large sweet onion, sliced
a handful of sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 TBS olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped or dried basil to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Chia pasta – cook according to package directions

Boil water for pasta.

Heat olive oil over medium heat, add onions and cook until softened, about 3 – 4 minutes.  Add garlic in, saute 2 minutes.

Add eggplant, saute for 3 – 4 minutes, then add in both tomatoes and simmer for another 5 minutes.  Add in sausage and cook for another 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta.  Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of cooking liquid.  If sausage, eggplant and tomato mixture seems dry add in 1/4 cup of reserved liquid and top pasta with the mixture.  Top with basil, fresh ground pepper and salt.

That’s it, dinner in under 30 minutes with chopping.

What is your favorite emergency or quick meal?

Not sure what you should be eating?  Do you need help in planning meals for yourself?  If so, send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, and together we can come up with a plan that works best for you.

Trying New Things

I don’t belong to a gym and I rely on programs like SportSkool and Mag Rag to give me new workouts.  I mostly don’t miss the gym since I have a lot of that equipment in my house and I’m pretty motivated to workout regardless of where I am.  Having said that sometimes I miss the camaraderie of the fitness classes.  I don’t have someone telling me if my form is off or just the commiserating with other students.


This week I was excited to attend a Barre3 class that Well & Good was offering to their readers.  I knew the program from the now defunct Exercise on Demand.  Sadie Lincoln, founder of Barre3, was coming to New York City and teaching the classes herself.  She was warm, engaging and pushed you while offering modifications if you needed or wanted them.  

Barre3 is a blend of pilates, yoga, and ballet.  You engage your small muscles as well as the large ones and you work your whole body.  I left with legs that were a little shaky and a core that I felt every muscle of.  I know from the comments of those around me I was not alone.  

The other class I took this week was yoga on the beach.  It was held to welcome in summer and was a pretty active practice.  The energy was amazing and our instructor was enthusiastic.  There were two assistants helping us to go further into our poses and a few “models” to follow along with.  My shoulders and back felt the numerous planks, chatarungas (pictured above, courtesy of Yogacards.com) and updogs.  

Both of the classes had live deejays and it made a difference in the energy of the practice.  Especially in the yoga class, where we had contemporary music rather than the music I normally hear.  There is an element of fun when you are doing flipdogs to I’m Sexy and I Know It.  I don’t know that I want to hear that all of the time but it was appropriate for the time and place.  

Trying new things gives me a lift and a better knowledge of what I appreciate about my current practices and what I might like to add or stop.  We all need a boost or a tweak to liven things up.  What new thing have you been meaning to try?  Why not go give it a whirl?

Need help figuring out what you want to do?  Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, and together we can come up with a plan that works for you!  You can also check out my website, http://empoweredplate.com/

Some New Treats – Including a Juicer

Friday was a really great day.  The weather was beautiful and I had two deliveries.  My monthly treat box came from Bestowed.com and my new juicer arrived.  The juicer had me so excited I ran outside to meet the Fed Ex lady (and startled her, unfortunately).  What can I say?  I am nothing if not enthusiastic!

My box had a few things that I’m really excited about:

Sharkies Organic Energy Sports Chews – a good alternative to my Honey Stingers Gel.  I am not a fan of gels and chews filled with ingredients I don’t understand or that contain high fructose corn syrup.  These taste good and I knew what the ingredients were.

Artisana Organic Raw Cacao Bliss – it’s chocolate coconut butter sweetened with nectar rather than sugar.  It’s vegan and it’s raw.  Mostly, it’s darn delicious.  I’ve had it on toast, crackers, bananas and right off the spoon.

Al Dente BonaChia Fettuccine pasta – It’s made with chia grains, it has a good texture and taste.  It’s high fiber/low carb and it has protein, calcium, iron and antioxidants.  It also cooks in 3 minutes.  My husband said yum when we ate this last night.

There were also fiber sprinkles, which I’ve tasted but not really used.  They taste like a rye cracker and I’m going to try them in place of bread crumbs later in the week.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  I’ve also not tried the Kookie Karma Holistic Chocolate Chip Cookie yet, mainly because I baked up a batch of Nikki’s Healthy Cookies and I want to finish those before opening something else.

My juicer probably deserves it’s own blog.  I got a deal through Good Morning America and it was a little more than half off the regular price.  It’s an Omega 8005 Nutrition Center.  It makes pasta and nut butters, grinds coffee beans, minces and chops as well as juicing.

I’d also like to say that Omega was a pleasure to deal with.  After waiting a few weeks I inquired to see when I was to receive my juicer and I got an immediate response back from them.  My order didn’t print out and they would send it Fed Ex 2 day service without any extra charge.  It came in 2 days as promised.

I have only used it for juicing so far.  It’s quiet, easy to clean and doesn’t take up more room than the Juiceman Jr. that I had.  I can also put citrus fruits it, which I couldn’t do with the other juicer.  The con is the shoot is very small so fruits and vegetables need to be cut fairly small.  That’s not a big deal to me but I can see if time was tight I might stick to foods that fit right in:  carrots, greens, celery.

I am loving the fresh juice and knowing that the sugar content of what I’m making isn’t through the roof.  Bottled green juices tend to have a lot of fruit and the sugar content is pretty high and there’s not a lot of fiber to slow the sugar’s entry into your bloodstream.

Are your snack habits getting the best of you?  Do you need some new ideas?  Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.comand together we can come up with a plan that works best for you and your lifestyle.  You can also visit my website, http://empoweredplate.com/, for inspiration.

Easy Fish Packets and No Dishes!

If you want to be fancy and impress your friends the French name is Fish en Papillote.  And seriously – no dishes, the fish and veggies steam together in a parchment packet so clean up is a cinch.  It’s versatile, you use whatever veggies you have on hand, what ever grain you happen to have and whatever spices you prefer. A little white wine also works nicely in this (or with it, too)!

It’s a great go to meal and it’s also good for my runners.  There are plenty of healthy carbs:  whole grains and veggies, some healthy fat and lean protein.  It’s filling but not heavy.  You can go shower after your run while this bakes and have a delicious dinner ready to go.

This is what I made last night:

1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 tilapia fillet
1 cup chopped swiss chard
handful of sliced cherry tomatoes
a few sliced shiitake mushrooms
sliced shallots
a drizzle of olive oil
a squeeze of lemon juice
2 thin lemon slices
fresh ground pepper
18″ of parchment paper per packet (or aluminum foil)

Put the parchment paper down on the counter and layer quinoa, veggies and top with fish.  I like to put the tomatoes on top rather than under the fish, it looks prettier.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the fish, drizzle with olive oil, fresh ground pepper to taste and top with the two slices of lemon.  Crimp the edges of the parchment to seal.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes.

Need help with preparing quick healthy meals for yourself and/or your family?  Send me an e-mail, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, and together we can come with ideas that work in your busy lifestyle.  You can also visit my website, http://empoweredplate.com/.

Me, A Runner?

I ran my 10k on Saturday with 6,000+ other women, that’s me on the left, top row.  The energy was amazing and there were runners of all ages there.  I still am sometimes surprised to hear myself described as an athlete and/or a runner.  I was overweight and out of shape when I was in my late 20’s.  I started exercising and was faithful to the gym and working out.  But running?  Nope, not me.  If you chased me I’d run but I really had no interest in it.

When I did finally give it a try I was pleased with my results.  I hit my goal weight and was running about 3 miles 3 times a week.  Then my chiropractor told me to stop, it was hurting my knees and lower back.  I listened because what did I know?  Now I know I could do exercises to strengthen my quads, hips and core.  I no longer get much back or knee pain from running.

Then when I was 40 I was bored and looking for a new challenge.  I signed on with Team in Training and started training for a half-marathon.  Yes, when I put my mind to something I jump right in.  I didn’t like running even then.  I’d listen to music, say some mantras, talk to fellow runners, and occasionally curse – anything to get me through the damn thing.

But you know, my legs looked good and my butt was up where it belonged.  I tend to have pancake butt so that made me especially happy.  Walking hills was becoming very easy, as did running for the bus.  The bus driver even asked me if I had run track in school.  I explained that I was a newer runner but had been training with a coach.  He told me he could tell because my form was very good.  So I kept running, hey – vanity is a powerful motivator.

After I completed my half-marathon I liked running.  I started running for a challenge and to raise money for cancer patients but I had gained so much.  I had more self-esteem, I knew if I could run 13.1 miles I could do almost anything.  My body looked and felt better, I had more energy, and my thinking was clearer when I ran.  Exercise stimulates new brain cell growth and it also stimulates the area of the brain where problem solving occurs.  No wonder I was able to work things out when I ran.

Now when I am unable to run I get bummed out.  My husband just looked at me the first time I complained about being unable to go for a run.  Then he asked me if I ever thought I would be the woman who was annoyed because she couldn’t run.  No, no I never imagined those words coming out of my mouth.  And now? There are days when the run isn’t great and I can’t wait for it to be finished.  I think about what I did that maybe hindered my run and change it for the next time.  But most days, I love to be out and running.

What exercise works best for you?  What gets you excited to be moving?

Need some help figuring out a fitness program or what to eat when working out?  Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, and together we can come up with a plan that works just for you.

New Favorite Class?

I took a class yesterday, Yoga Body Bootcamp, that I cannot stop raving about.  I can honestly say I didn’t really know what to expect and I was very happily surprised.  The room was heated to about 85 degrees.  I was a little warm before the class even started, which is not usually a good sign for me.  I don’t enjoy being hot and exercising.

We started with a few sun salutation warm ups.  I like the vinyasa flow and, even with variations, it’s familiar.  We then went into bootcamp stations.  They were mostly very active variations of yoga poses.  Sideplanks, warrior III with knee to chest pull ins, dancer and a walking handstand.  I chose not to walk but to stay stationary.  A) I have my race tomorrow and preferred to be in one piece B) The people on either side of me were not in sync and I’m claustrophobic.

There were also foot to hand skips, ab twists and different animal floor walks.  The latter I have done in a kickboxing workout.  I love them and dread them at the same time.  Crab walks, spiderman crawls, walking planks and bear walks.  We closed with plank wars – you and a partner are in plank and you pull each other until one of you goes to your knees.  I won the war but I think that may be because my partner just wanted to end it, not that I was necessarily stronger.

Surprisingly my legs and abs are okay.  I know I worked out but it’s my shoulders and upper arms that are complaining a bit today.  I can deal with that and it lets me know that I have to do a little more work on my upper body.  At least I will be in good shape for tomorrow’s 10k in Central Park.

The only sad part was the class will not be offered regularly until September.  Until then I will have to practice handstands and animal walks and build those shoulder muscles back up.

Do you need help on figuring out an exercise program that excites you?  Do you need help figuring out what foods will fuel you through those exercises?  If so, then send me an email,  janinemchale@empoweredplate.com , and we’ll schedule a consultation to see how I can help you have a more active and fit life.

Food in Strange Places

My husband and I were walking through Sears the other day on our way back to our car.  I noticed that Sears sells candy right by the register.  It’s not something they used to do, I think it’s a fairly new addition.  I can’t say how new since I’m not a regular mall goer.  But why in the world does Sears need to sell candy in the the clothing section?

I am puzzled by the way food, especially treat items, have popped up in odd spots.  Many libraries have cafes now.  I’m sure it’s to compete with large book stores but shouldn’t the library be a food free area?  It’s very hard to escape this constant influx of food temptations.  Eating in class was frowned upon when I was in school but my visit to Hunter College last year told me that was no longer true.  There were vending machines all over and everyone carried the ubiquitous ginormous cup of coffee.

Is it really any wonder that as a society we are having epidemic records of obesity?  More than half of the population is overweight and of that number half are obese.  It’s the children that move me though.  One in three children or teens are overweight or obese.  Triple by-passes are being done on 18 year olds.  Where does the insanity end?

I am by no means saying you cannot have treats, I like my occasional cupcake or ice cream.  I would like for people to really think about their food choices and plan for the occasional treat.  It’s all about moderation. If you know you are going out for dinner then make sure your breakfast and lunch are healthy choices.  If there is to be cake and you know you want it don’t eat treats throughout the day.  When you have that piece of cake savor it, enjoy each bite, and know that you made a conscious decision to treat yourself.

Having trouble figuring out how to incorporate treats or how to eat in moderation?  Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, and together we can work on getting your eating habits healthier.  You can also visit my website, http://empoweredplate.com/, and fill out one of the health forms for a complimentary health consultation.

What Are You Putting Off?

We all have something we plan on doing someday.  Sometimes it’s a big ticket item, like traveling around the world or a big physical adventure, like skydiving or something that rocks our day to day world, like changing jobs or getting married.  We also have little goals that sometimes get ignored.  I will exercise more, I will eat better, I will be a better friend, or I will go home and do more than clean the house and watch tv.

I make loose goals each year. I will visit one place I’ve never been to, I will do something outside of my comfort zone, I will meet new people and I will eat something I have never tried before.  It sounds easy but it’s not.  I’m fairly introverted and putting myself into situations with new people is not always comfortable for me.  On the other hand, it gets easier, starts to become more natural and I really like that.

Not every destination has to be exotic, sometimes it’s something closer to home that I’ve just never visited.  How many of us take advantage of the touristy things in our own neighborhoods?  I love the Tibetan museum, it’s one of my favorite places on Staten Island but the majority of my friends have never visited it.  I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently, I had never been there.  I’ve been to other museums both locally and in other cities but not the Met.  I’m glad I went and I’d like to go again, since it would take several visits to see all of the exhibits. (and that’s not including the special exhibits).

I plan on trying sea urchin very soon.  Why?  It’s been featured on several programs that I’ve watched recently and I’m curious to see what it tastes like.  I may not love it but at least I’ll have tried it.  I recently tasted Vietnamese food and all I can think is where has pho been all my life?  It’s my new favorite soup.

I’ve met new friends through running, from attending a study group of women I never met before and from networking dinners.  These are all things that were previously out of my comfort zone.  Sometimes they still aren’t totally comfortable but I’m working on it.

What are your goals?  Have you thought about them recently?  Have you made any of them happen?  Post below and let me know why or why not.

I can also be reached via my website, http://empoweredplate.com/, or via email:   janinemchale@empoweredplate.com.