When I visited Provence last year, and landed in Avignon, I made a bee-line to the covered market, Les Halles. There, I had the best mix of French-Italian food I ever had. Actually it reminded me more of the Italian food that I would get growing up in Brooklyn. The marinated stuffed eggplant, marinated artichokes, stuffed hot peppers…. I don’t see much of this type of “salumeria” food in San Francisco. If you have never been to Provence, you need to go for the food. We ate one night at the Chef’s table at La Mirande. We dined with 12 other people we didn’t know and the Chef was the host and entertainer, telling us what ingredients were used to make each dish. The meal was simple and incredible — white asparagus soup, monkfish with basil grapefruit sauce (that I will try to re-create in another blog post), and duck with artichokes in a sauce of white wine and liver… yes liver, and it was great. Continue reading
I mentioned The Female Body Breakthrough, the Revolutionary Strength Training Plan for Losing Fat and Getting the Body You Want by Elizabeth Cosgrove, in an earlier post about the inspiration and direction it provided for my weight work outs. The book offers more than eight exercises, it also offers some guidelines for healthy eating…that are really helpful. I don’t follow all the advice — I’m just not a protein shake kind of gal… But I do follow a lot of the guidelines…. And all the exercises. It’s like having a personal trainer…really!
Some of the healthy eating guidelines I follow are:
- Eat something within 15 minutes of getting up to start your metabolism
- Eat something every few hours
- Always include a protein and a fruit or vegetable at every meal – including snacks
- Stay away from gluten
- Keep within the guidelines 90% of the time (85%-90% is fine by me)
- Workout in the morning
This book really has changed me. And I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to be fit, toned and strong… You do need to have a certain amount of determination and motivation…. But the results you start to see within weeks should do the trick.
I like red meat. I know it isn’t as healthy as chicken or fish, but as I say, the Hellbent Living way is eating healthy 85%-90% of the time. Which leaves a little room to splurge. This recipe isn’t actually that big of splurge in my book…or blog. In fact, when I make this recipe I count it as an 85% meal not the 10%-15% of meals where I’m really splurging. I often save those for when I am eating out or having a dinner party. This recipe calls for my Pepper Lime Cilantro Marinade which is low in oil and has no sugar. I portion out 4-5 oz for my serving so I do not overdo it with the calories.
Flank steak is a tough piece of meat so it needs tenderizing. The lime juice in the marinade works well to break down the protein and tenderize the meat. This recipe calls for 2 lbs of flank steak. It can serve 4-8 people depending on serving sizes. I use half the marinade to tenderize and flavor the meat before grilling and the other half as a salsa served on top of the meat. I serve the grilled flank steak with grilled onions and red peppers, and warm corn tortillas. Rice would also go well with this dish instead of the tortillas.
Flank Steak with Pepper Lime Cilantro Marinade-Salsa
2 lbs flank steak
3 red bell peppers
Make marinade. Put flank steak in a gallon size plastic bag, add half the marinade and move it around the bag to cover the steak. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
To grill: Take steak out of refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Heat grill and to medium high and grill 10 minutes on each side. While the steak is grilling, cut up 3 red bell peppers in strips and slice 2 onions and put those on the grill in tin foil…and grill until they are soft.
Warm tortillas, if serving.
I like a lot of flavor and a lot of spice in my food. I typically believe the hotter, the better. When it comes to marinades, it’s hard to find one that has big flavor without having a lot of sugar, salt and oil. I kept thinking that there has to be a better way to make a marinade out of great fresh ingredients, that has spice but not all the sugar and fat. So I started to play around with peppers. To me peppers are the perfect vegetable. They are versatile: great in salads, as a side dish vegetable (roasted, or sautéed), an accompaniment to a protein and even as a main dish (stuffed). And as flavoring agents: jalapeños which I love for spice and dried peppers make for wonderful sauces, braises and stews. And they are healthy: a good source of Thiamin, Niacin, Folate, Magnesium and Copper, Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6 and more.
I used a bunch of fresh peppers (jalapeños, pasillas, anaheims) and puree them in the food processor with other spices like cilantro, garlic, scallions, and a little olive oil and lime juice to provide the acidity needed to break down the proteins…which is basically how a marinade softens and flavors meats. I added very little oil and no sugar. The result was so flavorful. I use it as both a marinade and a salsa in the same dish. If you don’t like food as spicy as I do, you can temper the recipe by using fewer jalapeños.
I have used this beautifully green marinade on chicken breasts, fish, and flank steak. My favorite is using it on flank steak. I usually serve it with corn tortillas. This recipe calls for 2 lbs of flank steak. It can serve 4-8 people depending on serving sizes. I portion out 4-5 oz for my serving so I do not overdo it with the calories. I use half the marinade to tenderize and flavor the meat before grilling. I serve the steak with grilled onions and red peppers and serve with corn tortillas and use the remaining marinade to top off the tortillas. If you want to make a big batch, this freezes well.
Pepper Lime Cilantro Marinade: (makes 3.5 cups of marinade)
4 poblano peppers – stem removed, cut into big chunks, seeds regarded
4 jalapeño peppers — stems removed, sliced. I use the whole pepper with seeds for extra spice. If you want it more mild, discard seeds and white pith and perhaps only use 1-3 peppers, depending on your palate
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Juice of two limes
Half a bunch of cilantro
I teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
1 clove of garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
Mix all ingredients in a food processor. Process for 2-3 minutes. Marinade will be finely chopped. It will not be a puree.
In January 2012, I was starting to get serious about figuring out my next career move and I was prepping for a speaking engagement I had on the east coast. The person who was organizing my speaking engagement had a friend in Los Angeles that she felt I should talk to. I am pretty much always open to talking to anyone and actually believe that you can learn something from every conversation you have if you are open to it.
So I set up a call with this woman, Jennifer who runs a marketing agency in Los Angeles. We talked about work, life, work-life balance…. and during this conversation she told me about a book that within minutes of hanging up with her, I downloaded on my Kindle app. It’s called The Female Body Breakthrough, the Revolutionary Strength Training Plan for Losing Fat and Getting the Body You Want by Elizabeth Cosgrove. It is filled with great information on nutrition, what to eat, when to eat, as well as a 16-week great weight workout for women program.
Now keep in mind, at the time, I was watching Live with Kelly (before Michael) pretty regularly to kick start my day with a laugh before hunkering down on my job search. And when I started to read this book, I thought that getting Kelly Ripa-toned arms was somehow in reach. Well I may not have arms quite like Kelly’s, but I can tell you that they’re far more defined than they were. I work out with this program 2-3 times a week…. And take my ipad with me to the gym so I can look at the sketches of the exercises for reference.
My favorite exercise is part of the warm of the warm up; it’s called Bent-Over Y-T-W-I. You can see it from her book here I started with 2-3 lbs weights and moved to 5 lbs weights.
This book was a real life changer for me. While some of the text didn’t really reach me, the exercise program definitely did. The exercises are all doable with some effort, and you definitely start to get stronger, feel stronger and believe that you can take on the world — and get the body you want.
In my mid forties, I got into the best shape I’ve ever been in. The company I was running marketing for was sold and I was laid off. So I had the time to work out every day — even if it meant walking on resting days. I had the time to read books on exercise and eating right. I had the time to cook my own balanced meals with creativity and without additives, extra sodium, extra fat. Basically, at what I hope to be mid-life, I found myself feeling younger, motivated, inspired and empowered. I’m still a big fan of moderation, and pizza remains one of my favorite foods, but I believe in moderation and in the 85% rule of eating healthy. I know plenty of people who get up at 5am to work out before heading to work, everyday. Waking up at 5 am is not me. I’ve battled the extra 15- 20 pounds for most of my life…. So losing it took a lot of energy and focus. But I was hellbent on doing it. And doing it in a way that works for me. And I’m hellbent on keeping it all off for good.
While I still enjoy a great meal out, or a not so healthy meal in, most of my meals are pretty healthy – meaning low calorie, low fat, low or no sugar, and mostly gluten-free. I believe flavor is essential. And with a little planning and desire to create, you can cook healthy, good food too. During this time, I also got serious about my workouts and incorporated weight training 2-3 times a week, which burn calories and fat, and is healthy for bones. I cook my lunches (and bring them to work) so that I can stay away from the carb-, fat- and additive-centric bought lunches. I have transformed how I eat (85% of the time), cook and my activity level and I know how wonderful I feel, how motivated I am and how much better I look.
I have always loved to cook and entertain. It is my mission here with this blog to offer you devilishly good recipes and tips for cooking healthy meals…with some worthwhile splurges added in along the way. I will also share with you books, products and inspiration from around the web and world. My vision is motivated, healthy-minded people who cook up a life of moderation and spice. If you are “Hellbent,” healthy isn’t boring or bland.
Hellbent Living is about living and eating healthy… 85% of the time. 85% healthy; 15% naughty! That’s living The devilishly good life!
I hope you will try the recipes and tips and leave comments for me and the entire Hellbent community. Please note that the products I write about are my preferences; I am not paid to write about them. Also, if you have any ideas for Hellbent Living, please feel free to contact me at Leslie@HellbentLiving.com.