Full-Time Fitness

Cynthia Nixon in the TV show “Sex and the City.”

Until now, this blog has focused on food, recipes, and gadgets that facilitate the preparation of healthy brown-bag menus. Today, I would like to address another topic: How to stay physically fit when you’re working full-time.

It’s not easy. When I was employed as a full-time HR trainer, I typically rose at 5am in order to get to the training site by 7am. I had an hour for lunch, and finished work at 5pm. Because so many of my training assignments were far from home, it sometimes took more than two hours to get back to my condo.

Nevertheless, I found ways to incorporate exercise into my daily schedule. Here are some things that worked for me:

Public transportation. Do you have access to public transportation? Consider using it. On days that I didn’t train, I used Metrolink and subway lines to get to my office in L.A. On the way, I walked through railroad stations and up boarding ramps. Finally, I exited the subway onto Wilshire Blvd and started moving my feet. By the time I got to the office, I had probably walked at least 1/2 mile.

Stair Master, the old-fashioned way. Do you have an upstairs office? Use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. It’s a more intense aerobic exercise than walking, and good for you.

Take a stretch break. Keeping fit as an office worker means taking periodic breaks in order to move and stretch, especially if you do a lot of repetitive tasks using office machinery. I learned the hard way that pounding out reports on the computer without an occasional break will send you to Workers Comp with tendinitis, carpal tunnel, or worse.

Program your iPhone to give a reminder every 20 or 30 minutes. When the alarm goes off, spend 5 minutes doing stretching exercises like the ones on this mayoclinic.org link: mayoclinic.org 2006525.

Lunchtime activities. One reason that I advocate bringing your own pre-made lunch to work is that it saves time. Instead of wasting precious minutes ordering and picking up takeout, you can polish off your midday meal and use the rest of the lunch hour doing the following:

  • Go back to that stairwell that you used earlier, and spend 20 more minutes walking up and down the stairs.
  • Get together with some of your coworkers and go walking. Making an exercise date with others will be force you to be accountable to the group. No excuses for not putting on those walking shoes!
  • Do you have a gym at your offices? If so, use it! And If you don’t have time to change into exercise gear, just throw on some tennis shoes and do 20 minutes on the treadmill.
  • Is there a gym near your offices? I have been an L.A. Fitness Gym member for several years. They have locations all over Southern California. If there was one near my training site, I often spent some time on the treadmill during my lunch break.
  • Use exercise CD’s. One of my favorites is the Leslie Sansone Walking in Place series. You can get them on CD at amazon.com. You can also download them onto your IT device from the same site. What’s great about Sansone’s aerobic program is that you need very little space to execute the steps.

After work. Okay, you just got home from work. It was a long day, and all you want to do is eat, have a glass of wine, and watch some TV. Well….why not exercise and watch TV at the same time? That’s what I still do almost every night. Again, Leslie Sansone is great! I play my CD on a mini CD player while watching my favorite TV programs. I’ve exercised at night using this method for more than seven years.

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I hope that I’ve given you some fitness ideas that you can use at work. And if you have additional suggestions, it would be great to see them in my “Comments” section.

Greek Salad with Sardines

Greek salad with sardines

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who abhor sardines, and those who adore them. I belong to the latter camp. To me, tinned sardines are delicious on crackers, in a sandwich, or straight out of the can.

So I was delighted when I found a recipe for sardine salad on http://www.eatingwell.com. It’s easy to assemble and requires no cooking. You might want to prepare it for the weekend, then bring leftovers to work. Great with sourdough bread spread with a little butter.

I should add that sardines offer several nutritional benefits. They are full of protein and healthy omega-3 oils. In addition, canned sardines that have not been deboned contain a lot of calcium. (Don’t worry about the bones. They are extremely soft and unnoticeable when consumed.)

GREEK SALAD WITH SARDINES (4 servings)

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium tomatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 1 large English cucumber, cut into large chunks
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sliced Kalamata olives
  • * 2 4-ounce cans sardines with bones, packed in olive oil or water, drained

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1.Whisk lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano and pepper in a large bowl until well combined.

2.Add tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, feta, onion and olives; gently toss to combine.

3.Divide the salad among 4 plates and top with sardines.

*When I recommend fish dishes, I’m always mindful about whether a species has been overfished or contaminated. According to Monterey Bay Seafood Watch (seafoodwatch.org), sardine schools in the Mediterranean Sea have been severely depleted. Therefore, Seafood Watch does not recommend buying brands obtaining fish from that part of the world.

What I can recommend is looking at labels for sustainable sardine fisheries. Wild Planet is usually reliable in terms of sustainable produce.

References:

  • eatingwell.com
  • seafoodwatch.org

Meze: Mediterranean Appetizers for Lunch

Meze-style lunch with stuffed grape leaves, grape tomatoes, cheddar cheese, hummus, and pita chips

Here I am in the middle of a California summer. It’s way too hot for a heated lunch. So today, my cold lunch alternative is meze.

“Meze” refers to a selection of appetizers commonly served in Middle Eastern countries. In predominantly Muslim regions, meze can be served as part of a multi-course meal. In Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans, meze is often served as a snack with alcoholic beverages.

Foods in a meze menu can include the following:

  • Dolma (stuffed grape leaves)
  • Sheep, goat, or cow cheeses
  • Kalamata olives
  • Pita or other breads
  • Cold vegetables (for example, cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Grain salad (please see my post from last week for an excellent grain and legume salad)
  • Dips such as hummus, baba ghanoush (mashed eggplant), and tzatziki (yogurt dip)

These are just a few choices. You can find more listed on “Wikipedia” and other culinary resources. Or…just use your imagination. If it’s cold and edible, you can put anything into a meal like this!

I’ve fixed a Meze-style lunch several times for work. It’s easy to assemble, especially if you have access to a Trader Joe’s or Sprouts. Today, all of the ingredients you see in the above photo were purchased at Trader Joe’s. They are pre-made, pre-packaged, and can be dumped into your lunch bag with little preparation on your part.

If you access the Menu section, “Equipment and Gadgets,” my October 18, 2018 post features the lunch bag and plastic containers seen in the photo.

Reference:

  • “Meze”  Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.  24 July 2019,.  Web.  26 July 2019.

Lamb and Couscous Salad

Lamb and couscous salad

Those who have followed this blog know that my husband and I have been on vacation in the Pacific Northwest and the eastern Sierras. Well….we’re finally home. And what a shock! We went from 70 degrees in the mountains to just below 90 degrees upon arrival in Orange County.

Yup, it’s definitely summer here in Southern California. Much too warm for any hot entrees. So this weekend, I put together a cold main dish that’s filling and easy to make. Got it from the New York Times, a dependable source of tried and true recipes. Their lamb and couscous salad can be assembled on the weekend, and the leftovers are perfect for a portable brown bag meal.

If you don’t like lamb or cannot get it this time of year, pre-cooked roasted chicken works equally well.

LAMB AND COUSCOUS SALAD (6 servings)

  • 1 cup dry couscous
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound cooked lamb or chicken, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled into large chunks
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped

1.Combine the couscous and raisins in a large bowl. Pour 1 1/4 cups boiling water over the mixture. Cover and let stand 5 minutes; fluff with a fork.

2.In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil.

3.Add the meat, chickpeas, tomatoes, feta, mint and green onions to the bowl of couscous. Pour the dressing over the mixture and toss well. Taste and add more lemon juice and salt if necessary.

Eat at room temperature or chill in the frig before consuming. The portion you see in the photograph is garnished with hard boiled egg and calamata olive slices.

Brown Bagging on the Road: High Sierras, California

Roast beef sandwich with horseradish, cucumber/tomato salad, Pete’s cold baked beans

Over the last several weeks, my husband and I have travelled all the way from Southern California to Canada, then back south to the Eastern Sierras. We are currently camping at Mono Village above the small town of Bridgeport, off Hwy. 395. Here’s a photo of some meadows below our camp. As you can see, the wild irises are in bloom.

Cow pastures full of wild iris below Mono Village camp site.

There are great opportunities for hiking, fishing, and just taking some nice walks at Mono Village, which is right next to Twin Lakes.

Upper Twin Lake

I make a point of walking the area every morning. To not do so would be forfeiting the wonderful gift of seeing things like this on a daily basis:

Creek near our campsite

Let me get to the food portion of this post. My husband, an experienced RV camp guy, is also a fine cook. Using both his crockpot and grill, Pete has produced many delicious meals at camp.

One day, we decided to have a cold dinner. We’d just gotten our provisions at Von’s supermarket in Bishop, which is about 2 hours south of the campsite, and Pete didn’t really want to cook. Here’s a photo of what we ate:

Roast beef and horseradish sandwich, cold baked beans, deli cucumber-tomato salad

That’s right, cold baked beans. And they were surprisingly good! This dish is easy to make and a convenient, transportable item for a brown bag lunch. Here’s the recipe:

PETE’S COLD BAKED BEANS (3-4 small servings)

  • One 16 oz. can Bush’s vegetarian baked beans
  • One tsp. prepared mustard

Mix beans and mustard together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for three minutes. Let beans cool and then chill in the frig for an hour or two.

The Bush’s Beans website shows the following nutritional data for 1/2 cup portion:

  • Calories: 130
  • Fat: 0
  • Sugar: 12 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 29 grams
  • Sodium: 550 mg.
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Iron: 10%

The website also indicates that this product is gluten-free.

Brown Bagging on the Road: Vancouver Island, Canada

Tropical greenhouse garden, Buchart Gardens, Vancouver Island

I took this photo during our visit to Buchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. Here are some additional photos of the greenhouse garden:

So: Today’s brown bag recipe is another offering from our Vancouver Island hostess, Gail Bishop. Edamame (Japanese green soy beans) can be found in the freezer section of most grocery stores. The beans are tasty and filled with high-quality protein.

Try this edamame salad with teriyaki chicken or salmon. You can also serve it as a vegan entree.

EDAMAME, RED PEPPER, AND CORN SALAD (4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. Sodium-reduced soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. Toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. Honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup frozen edamame, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup diced sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained

In bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, honey and garlic until blended. Stir in edamame, red pepper and corn.

Brown Bagging on the Road: Vancouver Island, Canada

Koi pond at Bear Mountain Golf Course and Resort near Victoria, B.C.

Pete and I had a nice time at the Bear Mountain Gold Course and Resort near Victoria. Here’s a photo showing some of the golf course:

Part of Bear Mountain golf course. So green!

I started this post off with a photo of the koi pond because today’s recipe will be a bit “fishy”: an aromatic, lemony shrimp salad. I obtained the recipe from our host, Gail Bishop, who in turn pulled it from her copy of “Contest Winning Annual Recipes 2005.” And I promise this truly is a winner; it’s delicious. I would suggest making a big batch on the weekend for appetizers or a light brunch entree. For a weekday brown bag lunch, pair some of the leftovers with vegetable sushi purchased at your local supermarket deli. Or perhaps some nice French sourdough bread spread with butter.

Gail cooked her own shrimp, but you can purchase pre-cooked shrimp at the meat counter, or use frozen thawed cooked shrimp.

MARINATED SHRIMP (14 small servings)

  • 2 pounds cooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into rings
  • 2 medium lemons, cut into very thin slices
  • 1 cup pitted ripe olives
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespooons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

1.In a 3-quart glass serving bowl, combine the shrimp, onion, lemons and olives. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the remaining ingredients; shake well. Pour over shrimp mixture and stir gently to coat.

2.Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf before serving.