Fit Foods: Turkey Quinoa Enchiladas in the slow cooker

Yummy turkey quinoa slow-cooker enchiladasI can’t tell you the last time I made a recipe that called for lots of foods that came from cans.

Well, at least until last week, when I stumbled across a recipe that looked delicious, healthy and easy (despite the long list of ingredients). I made a few tweaks, paring down the ingredient list, and prepared it for a weekday supper and wow, was it ever good!

In fact, I ended up freezing half of it to enjoy later.

Turkey Quinoa Slow-Cooker Enchiladas

20 oz. ground turkey breast (99 percent fat-free)
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed1 15 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes with green chiles
1 cup frozen yellow corn
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup water
1 10-oz. can medium enchilada sauce
(optional: 2 tbsp. chili powder, 1 tbsp. cumin)
1 cup low-fat shredded Mexican cheese blend

Brown the ground turkey breast in a skillet on the stove (if you can’t find the 20-oz. package, a 1-lb package is just fine).

Place the browned turkey in a slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients, up to but NOT including the cheese. If you have the spices on hand, they will add extra flavor but if you do not have them, no worries.

Mix the ingredients together in the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for about 3 hours. The liquid should be absorbed and the quinoa should be done.

Stir the ingredients again and taste — adjust the spices if you are using them. Add the 3/4 cup of the cheese and stir again. When the cheese has melted, sprinkle 1/4 cup on top. Serve.

Besides the fact that it’s hearty, yummy and nutritious, the other beautiful thing about this recipe is that it’s scalable — you can use it to make 6, 8, or 10 servings depending on how you divide it.

Here’s the nutrition info for 10 servings:
288 calories; 5 grams fat, 6 grams fiber, 37 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams protein

For 8 servings:
360 calories, 6 grams fat, 8 grams fiber, 45 grams carbs, 31 grams protein

I finally donated my size 00 jeans and I’m waiting for the magical epiphany to happen

Bye-bye jeans that don't fit

I thought so much of these jeans that I took their picture before I sent them packing to Goodwill.

Last weekend I brought a dozen pair of jeans to Goodwill and said goodbye to them forever.

This was a pretty big deal for a few reasons.

First, I get sentimentally attached to clothes. I remember when and why I bought them, who I was with and some of the fun things I did while wearing them.  With all that history, banishing them from my life seems harsh. (#hoardingtendencies)

Second, I tend to be frugal. Saying goodbye to things while they are still “good” makes me feel like I’ve wasted money.

But mostly, this was about giving up ever being size xx again and meeting a certain bizarre standard of size/weight/fitness, and all that that entails.

Frankly, I’m feeling exhausted by this. I almost don’t know what to do with myself.

Size 00 (yes, 00)

There was one pair of jeans in the pile that dumbfounded me. Had I ever been *that* small? I remember when I bought them, in July 2009, at the Lucky Jeans outlet in Kittery. Yes, I’d just finished competing in a figure show so my body fat percentage was quite low, and I’ve got a small frame to begin with but … wow. These jeans were small.

When I tried them on last weekend before putting them in the “donate” pile I couldn’t fathom that my hips could have ever been THAT narrow. I couldn’t even begin to wiggle them up over my legs. And I probably weigh only 8 pounds more now than I did then.

But here’s the kicker: when I bought them I felt pretty shitty about the state of my physique. I thought I needed to be leaner, have more muscle, narrower hips, wider shoulders, and basically a completely different body than the one I was born with. Which meant I should have been born to different parents who had swum in a different gene pool (k, not really because my parents were kinda spectacular, but you know what I mean).

A few hours after this picture was taken (in 2009), I stopped in Kittery to buy an awesome pair of size 00 jeans that I wore (shhh!) maybe three times.

*Important note: I do not apply the standards I set for myself to other people. It’s something I reserve just for me, because I’m nice to myself like that.

Adding another layer of weirdness to it is the fact I’m really not that appearance-obsessed. Come see me in the gym where I am a personal trainer some morning and you’ll see firsthand that this is the case. Some days I am too bored with looking in the mirror to bother fully combing my hair.

Anyway, there were other pairs of jeans like that, too — maybe not quite as small, but still uncomfortable. Not only physically, but also mentally.

I got rid of them all. And as I said above, I still feel kind of icky-weird about it. Like, what do I DO without that expectation of improvement hanging over me? To what do I apply this energy?

Good thing-bad thing

Fitness is a very appearance-driven industry. Not only is there a lot of time spent around mirrors, there’s a perception that you have to be uber fit, lean, strong and somehow inspirational.

Then, because of the special standards I set for myself in almost everything I do, I took that pressure to the next level by participating in a sport-hobby that is 100 percent judged on appearance (much of it based on genetic potential) so my personal standards for myself were a LOT to live up to.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking physique sports. Competing can be fun and the self-discipline that they require can be life-changing because you learn that you are capable of far more than you ever believed. Legit: it changes your life in many empowering ways. One of my favorite things to do as a trainer is to help people get ready to compete in their own shows.

And competing helped keep me focused during a really hard time in my life, when I was dealing with the fallout from the death from lung cancer of my mother, whom I cared for during the two years of her illness; a drawn-out divorce spanning two continents; and a stupid relationship I entered into when rebounding from the previous two events.

So anyway, there was this big pile of jeans sitting in the closet. Some pairs were tiny, like the size 00s. Some were a size or two bigger than I now wear, because that’s life when you compete. You have small sizes, “regular” sizes, and then the “why does she always wear a sweatshirt?” sizes for when you are in “bulking” (i.e., eating like a person who has been dieting for a contest too hard and too long) season.

Occasionally I would try on the smaller jeans and think, “Hmmm. Maybe I’ll compete again. Maybe I’ll lose that 8 pounds.” And then I’d try on the bigger sizes and think, “Wow, these are comfy. Maybe I will keep them for my ‘fluffy’ days.”

Then I moved the pile to a bureau and thought, “Hmm. Maybe I’ll put these in storage for when I am ready wear them again.”

Last weekend I thought. “Screw it. I’m getting rid of these RIGHT NOW.” And I immediately loaded them into the car and drove to Goodwill.

Weight-y stuff

The writer in me wants to tie this up into a neat little package and say that now I feel like I have lost more than the 8 pounds that those tiny jeans represented. Like, I’m finally A-OK with myself the way I am and I’ve gained freedom from the tyranny of unrealistic expectations.

Your comfort zoneThat’s the politically correct thing to say, isn’t it?

But I kinda was A-OK with myself before this. I mean, yeah, I enjoy those mornings when I wake up with a flatter stomach but I am also OK on those days when I don’t. (And a half-serious question: is it OK these days to admit that you’re kinda OK with yourself?)

When I dropped off the jeans, I told the young woman working the counter that my donation was a pile of “awesome jeans.” Because they were awesome. I miss them.

You know how it feels comforting to have a heavy blanket on top of you when you sleep? But then sometimes that blanket makes you feel too hot to sleep so you have to kick it off, but you miss its weight?

It’s like that. So maybe it’s not so much that I miss the jeans, but what they represent: the goals and the challenge, the “what’s next.”

What is next?

Feeling unfettered is new to me. I feel really uncomfortable with it. And now as I try to wrap this up and make a nice package of this post, a truism keeps ricocheting through my head: “The magic happens when you’re outside your comfort zone.”

Well, I’m outside that comfort zone and I’m waiting for that magic, that next thing, to happen. Or maybe the magic is that the next thing DOESN’T happen. What would that even be like?

I don’t know. I’ll guess we’ll see. And in the meantime, I’m going to have to learn to settle into this feeling of not having the weight of those jeans upon me.

(And yes, for the freedom-from-tyranny seekers, I have found some freedom — the size 00s and the rest of the jeans were taking up valuable real estate in my closet. Now I have more space for clothes that fit.)

Sculpt a strong core with the woodchop

kettlebell woodchopWoodchops are a GREAT way to sculpt a strong core — especially your obliques (the muscles along the sides of your waist) — in a functional way.

And by functional, I mean in a way that you would use in your everyday life, whether it’s taking dishes out of the dishwasher or getting groceries out of the car, or any number of other activities of daily life (like golfing!).

Most exercises have you move through only one plane of motion — directly in front of you. This exercise has you move through a different plane because of the rotation involved, and mixing it up to work different muscles is a very good thing.

But because we don’t often use rotation in standing movements it’s really easy to cheat this move.  Your body is going to want to take the efficient (easy) route and disengage the big muscle groups we’re targeting.  No worries: I am offering my top trainer tips in the video below. (It’s kinda loud in the gym where I recorded this … sorry!)

Some things to keep in mind:

Keep your posture in neutral alignment, shoulders back, abs engaged, knees soft.

Think about rotating your hips through the movement. I tell my clients to have their hips say “hello” to the one wall and then the opposite wall across the room.

Move the weight across the muscles you are trying to target (your abs!). If you find that it’s difficult to move in the 45-degree angle, move the weight from the hip to the chest to over your shoulder.

Try this and let me know what you think! (Also making a rare appearance in front of the camera is my dog Zoey, who hates having her picture taken. 🙂  )

Do you have any exercise-related questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer!