A Thai Lo-Co Crock-Pot Winner

Before today’s blizzard that thankfully didn’t hit where we live in CT (strange to be thankful for 6″ of snow and counting), the weather last Saturday was atrocious. I had decided to try a new crock-pot recipe so we would be treated all day to the enticing aroma of curry while stuck inside catching up on a long list of household chores.

And it both looked and tasted delicious. Which is a big thing, because my easy-going husband usually does not enjoy crock-pot casseroles.  A huge shame given the easiness of crock-pot cooking, but there you go.

But this one was a hit. On the plus side, it was relatively easy and quite flavorful. On the down side, it uses beef.  I may try again with chicken but had decided a little beef on a cold, miserable day seemed a fine plan.  And while it does have more cholesterol than I usually go for (50 mg/serving) that really isn’t too bad.

Thai Red Curry CrockPotThe recipe was from Cooking Light – my go-to for new, healthy recipes – and it was in an article entitled, 100+ Slow-Cooker Favorites. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure we’d like it as I’ve tried a few I didn’t love from recipes in this trove, but gave it a go and was glad I did. My plate of Thai Red Curry Beef didn’t look as pretty as the picture on the recipe, but hey, I’m no food photographer. What I can tell you is that it was quite tasty.

If you like curry, give this a try. Before you do, be sure to read the recipe and ALSO read the reviews so you can adjust to your taste, especially vis-a-vis spiciness.  A few things I’d suggest if you give it a go:

  • I used one whole jalapeño with seeds because we like very spicy – and it was very, very spicy.  When I make again, I’ll use only half the seeds …
  • Based on the reviews which said the sauce was thin, I debated dusting the beef with cornstarch before browning it as some suggested.  But that seemed hard. So instead I made a cornstarch and cold water ‘slurry’ (same as if making gravy) and spooned that in after the spinach. Easy and effective.
  • They don’t say to use cubed stew meat – but that’s what the picture looked like so that’s what I did. Buy or cut the meat ahead of time, even though that’s not in the recipe.
  • I did dice some carrots as you’ll see in my photo above (but not in the recipe photo) and that worked well. I cut 4 carrots into relatively big bites and added them when the crock pot had about 1 hour left.  They were great – not mushy; cooked just through.
  • I wish I’d added mushrooms.  Will do next time.
  • I bought freshly diced onion from Trader Joe’s to save time and highly recommend that. Probably would NOT use frozen diced onions as they’d release too much water to a broth that some considered watery.

For today’s blizzard-that-wasn’t I bought some fresh arctic char which I enjoyed last night with several glasses of wine… See recipe for Baked Arctic Char on my recipes page. So easy, healthy and delicious.

For tonight, we’re having chicken breast with bok choy and quinoa. I wish instead I’d bought a whole chicken to roast: my friend Michaela (a talented author who prefers writing to cooking) raves about this whole roast chicken recipe, which I keep meaning to try. She just emailed me to say, “You should try. It is fabulous and I’m an indifferent cook at best! But the bird is completely juicy and the skin crunchy.”  OK, the skin is a lo-co no no, but still – I bet it’s great. And with a name like How To Make The Best Roast Chicken Of All Time – and with video instruction on how to truss a chicken – how could you go wrong?

I’ll let you know about the whole roast chicken – but if you like curry and are of a crock-pot mindset, give Thai Red Curry Beef a shot.

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New Year’s Exercise Resolutions and Heart Health

If you’re like most Americans, getting more exercise is on your list of New Year’s resolutions.

And for good reason: exercise is one of the key methods for lowering cholesterol – and blood pressure, my new concern — without medications.  Oh, and that dropping weight side-benefit (ha ha) is kind of fantastic, too.

So to reduce my blood pressure and to continue to keep my cholesterol in check without any meds, I’ve been wondering just how much, how hard, and how often I need to exercise.

In researching, I found this nifty chart from the American Heart Association.  It’s a little busy, but the key is the bottom-most graphic, which is for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure (how handy that they are together goal-wise!)

Apparently, to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, one needs to exercise for an average of 40 minutes at a ‘moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity’ 3-4 days each week.

AHA Exercise Guidelines

Which sounds like kind of a lot, people.

I mean, I like exercise and exercise more frequently than most people I know, and that sounds like a lot to me.

So obviously, the next question is – what is ‘moderate-to-vigorous-intensity’ aerobic activity?

Luckily, the American Heart Association had a post that answered that exact question: Moderate to Vigorous – What is your level of intensity?  The AHA defines moderate and vigorous exercise as follows (link to the article for more detailed, pretty interesting info):

Examples of Moderate Intensity:

  • Walking briskly (3 miles per hour or faster, but not race-walking)
  • Water aerobics
  • Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Ballroom dancing
  • General gardening

Examples of Vigorous Intensity:

  • Race walking, jogging, or running
  • Swimming laps
  • Tennis (singles)
  • Aerobic dancing
  • Bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster
  • Jumping rope
  • Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing)
  • Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack

I found this useful, but prefer a more specific goal: for me, moderate-vigorous means my heart rate hits at about 70-85% of my Max Heart Rate (for me, that’s 140-154 or so).  If you want to know more about setting a personal heart rate goal, read How To Set A Simple Heart Rate Goal.

Since the only thing I do for exercise that lasts more than 30 minutes is walking or spin class, all this means I need to be a bit more, um, diligent about working out. Sure, I play tennis 2-3 times per week, power walk on nice days (3 miles at about 4 mph) and take spin classes – but I’m pretty clear that I’m not hitting the 40 minutes part of the 3-4 days per week goal.

One option to boost exercise without it taking too much time is High-Intensity Interval Training. This explanation of HIIT from Karen Reed of Positive Health Wellness was music to my ears, “Thanks to the non-stop, high-intensity pace of the workout, you can fit in both aerobic (cardio) and anaerobic (resistance training) exercise in just 15 to 25 minutes.” For more details, read her article, “All The Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training Workouts.”

I’d rather ramp up my exercise plan than go on blood pressure or cholesterol meds, so I’m looking at trying out High-Intensity Interval Training and/or scheduling more – or longer – aerobic exercise into my week. How about you?

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