HEALTHY WEEKNIGHT COOKING

Make Healthy Weeknight Cooking A Breeze

For as long as I can remember I’ve loved planning menus, organizing dinner parties and generally just daydreaming about food stuff.

At school I doodled appetizer ideas in the margins of my math book — calculus equations would morph into lists of fried zucchini flowers, smoked salmon blinis, and morsels of sweet splendor.

After class I would come home and pull down every cookbook from the shelf above the fridge, sit down with a cup of tea and a notepad, and get to work on organizing what the family would eat for dinner that week.

My suggestions regularly included things like:

Tuesday: 8 hour lamb ragu over polenta

Wednesday: braised quail with wild mushrooms

Thursday: spinach and ricotta stuffed conchiglioni with scratch-made marina sauce

By the time my mum got home from work I had the shopping lists made, the recipe pages marked, and I was ready to hit the grocery store and start work in the kitchen.

Oddly, Mum wasn’t as keen on whipping up a three-course meal as I might have thought, which always confused me as she loved food and cooking as much as I did. All she had to do was work an 8+ hour day, look after two kids, a dog, and a massive garden, pay bills, exercise, stay up to date on current affairs…I mean, what gives?

Fast forward ten years and the ball has dropped. I totally get it. The last thing that I want to do after a busy work day is spend hours in the kitchen on a meal that, to be honest, I may end up eating in front of an episode of Grace & Frankie.

(In hindsight my mum was actually a domestic goddess, serving up exotic stir-fry, handmade chicken pot pie, and incredible salads on a nightly basis.)

That isn’t to say that I don’t still spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about dinner parties and planning lovely menus, but my weekly rotation is a heck of a lot more simple than it used to be.

These days I’m happy with simple food, like baked salmon and veggies, chicken and rice soup, or tossing something on the grill.

Because as my mum knew, choosing food that is tasty, nourishing and quick to prepare makes it easy to consistently eat healthy meals.

With that in mind, try using these three tips this week, to simplify your healthy weeknight cooking routine. 

Make Healthy Weeknight Cooking A Breeze

Tip #1: Use one cooking method

You can boil, steam, roast, grill or serve raw…but don’t try to do them all at once.

Roast: In the same oven you can roast vegetables (zucchini, asparagus, tomato, fennel, sweet potato…) and cook a bit of protein (chicken, fish, tofu, lamb chops, meatballs…).

Steam: Use a large saucepan with a steaming insert to simultaneously cook rice, and steam greens and chicken or fish on top; squeeze with lemon and drizzle with sesame oil to serve.

Grill: Cut vegetables into thin strips, brush them with coconut oil and season to taste, then cook alongside whatever meat or fish you’re grilling; it’s also delicious to skip the meat and serve with grilled haloumi cheese instead.

Raw: Go vegan and make a chopped salad with any raw vegetables that you like, a can of drained chickpeas, and lashings of olive oil and lemon juice.

Tip #2: Cook once, eat thrice

Cooking from scratch every day is not time-efficient. 

In fact, it takes the same amount of time to roast one or two chickens, to bake multiple sweet potatoes, or to cook four cups of quinoa. You can even batch make salads and leave undressed until serving. (Cheeky salad!)

Leftovers become the saving grace of healthy eating during the week, so I recommend that you regularly plan to cook more than you need and reserve the rest for another meal; store in the fridge for quick assembly over the next couple of day, or freeze them for future use.

(We’ve just discovered that chopped and roasted sweet potatoes actually defrost really well…this was a very happy realization in my house, where the sweet potato currently reigns supreme!)

Tip #3: Keep it simple

The benefit of simple cooking is three-fold:

  1. It eliminates the challenge of meal planning and makes preparing food feel manageable, even for the novice cook
  2. You’ll save money on groceries as you’ll buy fewer ingredients and use them all
  3. And it helps keep you honest about what is on your plate and how much you’re eating

Your Challenge

This week I challenge you to keep it simple in the kitchen: choose one meal, one cooking method and use six ingredients or less. Make a double batch and repurpose it for lunch or dinner the next day.

Here’s What I’m Doing Tonight — Grilled Lamb Chops

  • Lamb loin chops
  • Zucchini
  • Sweet potato
  • Asparagus
  • Coconut Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Cut the vegetables into 1/4” strips, brush with coconut oil and season with salt and pepper. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Cook the lamb chops and vegetables until done to deliciousness. Serve.

Leftovers: slice leftover lamb and vegetables and toss it over lettuce for a lunch salad.

Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below.

With love,

cellulite jennifer dene wellness

Let’s Talk About Cellulite (Dare to Bare this Summer)

Cellulite. Now there’s a topic that nobody likes to discuss.

Unlike concerns about hair, pimples, or even weight, talking about cellulite feels really personal. But while we may not be talking about it, being saddled with cellulite is something that many women think about, and even obsess over.

So today we ARE going to have a chat about cellulite and why you should shake off your sarong this summer…dimples and all.

Let’s dive in.

So you have cellulite. Welcome to the club.

Here’s a reality check for you: 90% of women have cellulite. I’m one of them, you’re probably one of them, and you’d better believe that most magazine cover models and A-list actresses aren’t immune from a bump or two either.

Yet despite that reality, cellulite is something that makes most of us feel insecure and — let’s be honest — even a little ugly.

I get it.

I first discovered that I had cellulite when I was just 24 years old, and let me tell you, I was taken by complete surprise. It was as if I went to bed one night, skin as smooth as a supple leopard, and woke the next morning to find the little buggers broken out over my backside.

My first reaction was one of slight horror and embarrassment. Did my friends have cellulite? Would other women judge me? Was I destined to spend the next 80 years wearing long pants?

At that time I was living in hot and humid North Carolina where baring one’s legs is unavoidable during the long summer. I looked at my social calendar and, to my dismay, I noticed that the coming weekends were filled with pool parties, lake parties and shorts-appropriate cookouts. I felt a little devastated.

Admittedly, my initial response was rather dramatic (as was the hasty decision to invest in multiple pairs of linen trousers), but I can understand why it happened. Every day mainstream media makes women think that cellulite is ugly, unhealthy and not at all sexy.

Apparently, being beautiful is being dimple free.

Of course the magazines can’t say those exact words — what a PR nightmare that would be! —but the message they’re sending is loud and clear, and it’s delivered by airbrushing all the lumps and bumps off their already gorgeous models.

Why I Dare You to Bare

Having cellulite does not mean that you’re an unhealthy, unfit, or undesirable woman…it doesn’t even mean that you have too much body fat.

Cellulite occurs when the top layer of fat cells (those which are responsible for padding your body and supplying energy) push up into the outermost layer of skin, creating dimples at the surface.  Your susceptibility has to do with the strength and elasticity of your skin, which declines with age, and how well it cushions and compacts your subcutaneous fat.

While it may not always feel desirable, having cellulite is actually quite normal.

So don’t hesitate to reach for that pair of shorts or your bikini bottoms this summer.  “Perfect” is an Instagram filter that you don’t need, and life’s more fun when you love the skin you’re in.  So go ahead and flaunt it!

With love,

Jennifer Dene

joyous movement jennifer dene

Joyous Movement & My Surprise Athleticism

Athleticism has never been in my blood. If you throw a ball at me I’ll close my eyes and my running style has been likened to some form of interpretive dance. 

So you can imagine my surprise when, in 2008, I was asked to start teaching fitness classes at some of Sydney’s top gyms and health clubs.

(Me! The girl who spent school lunches hanging out in the library!)

At the time I was studying journalism at the University Of Technology, Sydney, and had joined a gym in Bondi Junction.

Even though I enjoyed taking classes I never imagined that I could be the one on stage. Yet there I was, mic’d up and ready to roll. I guess the fitness gods finally decided to cut me some slack.

My first gig was teaching a program called BodyBalance™. Visualize a dimly lit studio, a pre-choreographed flow of tai-chi, yoga and pilates, and a playlist that rotated between Seal, Sting and Sade. Oh how I loved it!

Teaching BodyBalance™ was the first time I realized that I was actually quite good at this whole physical activity thing  (as long as you didn’t throw a ball at me or ask me to run).

In fact, by the time I left for America, I had gathered quite a following in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and Lower North Shore, with my classes regularly holding 90-100 people.

I’m telling you this because yesterday, seven years hence, I decided to put on one of my old BodyBalance™ workout DVDs. It was going to be great!

Right?!

15 minutes in and I was giggling so hard that I had to I hit the pause button.  As it turns out, BodyBalance™ was extremely easy (and I may not have been the total badass trainer that I thought I was)!

One quarter-way into the workout and all we had done was some deep breathing, a basic yoga salutation and the modified Pilates Hundred.

The L.A fitness crowd would have died of boredom.

Personally, I kind of loved it.

Breathe. Move. Flow. Be gentle to your joints and kind to yourself. That’s the kind of fitness that I can get behind.

Its simplicity allowed the hour to be spent in a state of movement meditation and, as previously crowed, it made me feel like I was good at something physical, which counts for a lot.

I wanted to share that story to remind you of one of my healthy living truths: you should exercise to feel good, not to prove a point.

A lot of women I know think that exercise has to be grueling to be effective. This is absolutely not the case. Your motivation to exercise comes from doing something that makes you feel great, in body, mind and spirit.

Exercise shouldn’t feel like just another chore, and daily joyous movement can become something that you crave.

Plus willpower is finite, which means that you need to find a form of fitness that inspires you to do it on a regular basis.

With that in mind, I give you permission to do the following:

  • Stop any form of exercise that doesn’t make you feel good
  • Ignore the latest fitness advice from glossy magazines
  • Don’t worry about how your expression of movement ranks on the hot-right-now scale
  • Find your own interpretation of athleticism
  • Exercise to feel good, not to prove a point

Let me know how it goes.

With love,

HEALTHY LIVING

29 Nuggets Of Healthy Living Gold

Today is my 29th birthday.

In just a little while I’ll be celebrating with the handsome Nathaniel, a glass of Moet and some very good cheese. But before I kick off my shoes and pop open that bottle of bubbly, I’m taking some time to reflect on the last (almost three) decades.

I sometimes look around at my life and think: huh, who would have ever thought that’d happen. Every year brings with it new surprises and adventures, and we never really know what will transpire next.

Growing up as girl in a beautiful yet small Australian country town, I never would have expected that I would find myself living in Los Angeles, married to a Southern boy, and teaching women how to feel fit, feminine and fabulous through healthy living and self care.

In fact, this life that I’m living never really crossed my mind…it just sort of happened!

At various times throughout my childhood I wanted to be: a gas station attendant (I loved washing windshields with a squeegee); a bank teller (I got a real kick out of counting coins and shuffling notes); and for a few years my aspiration to become a lawyer (which would justify the owning of a briefcase) butted heads with my desire to be a marine biologist (and swim with the dolphins every day).

What actually happened was that I got a degree in journalism and started teaching fitness.

Since then, a series of unforeseen events, saying yes to new opportunities and rolling with the flow of life has brought me to where I am today…sitting in the Miracle Mile, thinking that pre-breakfast mimosas sounds like a very civilized idea.

The road that takes us to where we need to go is rarely clear and often tricky to navigate. But what we discover with every step will shape us in ways that we could never have realized, had we not dared to step off the beaten path. 

With that in mind, and in honor of turning 29,  I wanted to share 29 things that I’ve learnt about healthy living and loving the skin you’re in.

And then I’d love to hear from you.

What one nugget of knowledge would you tell your younger self?  Like a rising tide lifts all boats, sharing our words of wisdom with one another makes us all stronger. So please, leave a comment below!

29 Things That I’ve Learnt About Healthy Living (And Loving The Skin You’re In)

Choose progress over perfection

There’s always room for improvement, so get comfy on the journey and take one new step each day.

Invest in your sleep

Clock enough hours in the land of nod, buy a great mattress and make your bedroom a serene sleep space (the preferred option is dark and quiet, with clean air).

Eat well to feel well

Making healthy food choices isn’t about dieting, it’s about showering your body with love and nutritious bites of goodness.

Define healthy for you

I know what a healthy life means to me and I don’t let other people impinge on that vision; this helps me make the right decisions for my body and life in any given situation.

Self care is what empowers us to give back to the world

By nourishing your own body and spirit with good food, water, movement, and me time, you’ll have more of everything to give to others.

Some is better than none

A five minute walk, a one minute meditation or two bites of broccoli…some will always be better than none.

Give up your need for control

Allow people, situations and events to simply be as they are, and notice how much more present and relaxed you become.

Breathing deeply is the miracle pill for anxiety

Inhaling and exhaling through your nose activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the body rest, digest and recover.

Stop counting calories

That old myth is officially busted; the new kid on the block is to count nutrition, not calories.

There will always be more food

Farewell Clean Plate Society! Choose to stop eating when you’re satiated and keep your leftovers for another meal.

Exercise is a form of stress; approach it mindfully

A gentle 20 minute walk or a few mobility stretches is enough to feel the benefit of exercise without adding to your stress.

Fear is temporary, regret is permanent

It can feel really overwhelming, and even scary, to change your lifestyle habits. But it’s worth it.

Start before you are ready

Whether that’s cooking at home, exercising or learning a new skill; you don’t need to be a pro to be a participant.

What concerns me is my health and not the opinion of others

I choose to take care of my body rather than trying to change it in unhealthy ways to meet other people’s expectations.

Negative self talk is polluting your mind

You would never say that filthy stuff to your friend, so why do it to yourself? Being trapped in your own mind is holding you back from loving your body and life.

Listen to your body

The human body is wildly intelligent, with an innate capacity to heal and regenerate itself. Once you get out of your head you can listen to what your body needs.

There’s no one-size-fits all

The same set of rote recommendations won’t work for a 40 year old woman in Florida and a 65 year old woman in Minnesota; you need to put on your detective hat and figure out what works for you.

Fat is wonderful

Sugar on the other hand…

 If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got

Change happens outside your comfort zone…consider spending some more time out there.

It’s about building a lifestyle, not painting a finish line

There is no such a thing as a right or wrong decision when it comes to your wellness, there is only the decision that you make.

Sitting is the new smoking

Seriously! Get out of your chair regularly, park further away from the stores, shrug your shoulders up and down…just move your body.

Give up the need to label yourself

You’re a unique human being, regardless of the lifestyle choices that you make. Don’t trap yourself in to being “vegan” or “Paleo” or “a Yogi”. Just be you and do a bit of anything that enhances that

Trust your gut

Listen to your intuition and eat fermented foods!

KISS

People insist on making things difficult, such as healthy living. Don’t be one of them. Keep It Super Simple.

Find movements that fill you with joy

Exercise should be energizing and rewarding for your body and mind, so get out there and find some kind of activity that make you feel great.

Women need to put their health before their physique

Get healthy and you’ll love how your body looks; force your body into looking a certain way and chances are you won’t be healthy (or happy).

 Connect with nature

It reminds us that our place in the universe is bigger than our immediate problems.

You have more time that you think

Figure out your key life priorities and then make time for them.

Pantene was right

It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen >>>

 

With love,

P.S. For the record, I still get a kick out of washing windows, counting coins and carrying a briefcase! Oh, and I did swim with dolphins one time!

Your Healthy Rules JDW

What Should Healthy Look Like?

Healthy. It’s such a loaded word, isn’t it?

Once-upon-a-time being healthy was as simple as feeling well, getting good results at your annual check-up, and being able to do the things you want to do — physically, mentally and emotionally.

Today? Not so much…

It seems that being healthy in 2017 is no longer just about how you feel, but is also defined by your ability to complete a long list of the latest *cough arbitrary cough* healthy rules.

So while it was once simple to gauge the old health barometer, these days it’s much harder to know if you’re in good shape or need to shape up.

I mean heck, what does healthy even mean anymore?

If you had asked me that question at different stages of my life I would have given you very different answers.

During my childhood and early teens I defined being healthy as having a clear mind, an active body, and no runny nose or belly ache. Add to that sleeping well and eating my vegetables, and I figured I was doing just fine.

It wasn’t until my late teens that things like body-shaming and dieting really came to my attention, but boy did I catch on fast. At this time I would have described being healthy by my pant size, weight and rapidly receding reflection.

In my mid-twenties I worked hard on redefining what healthy meant for myself, yet the little voice inside my head — the one that then drove most of my decision-making — still came straight from the pages of a women’s health and fitness magazine.

At this time I also confused the need to be healthier with the need to be the healthiest, a mistake that you might also be making and one which is preventing you from loving your body and life.

Yet now, as I peer over the edge towards my 29th year, I’ve made a discovery that will make you smile.

Can you guess what I’ve decided, after more than a decade of wading through contradictory advice on what it means to be a healthy woman?

Being healthy is having a clear mind, an active body, and no runny nose or belly ache!

(Don’t you love when things in life come full circle?! I know I do!)

Is that a simplistic statement? Sure.

Am I actually more healthy now than I was as a teenager? Undoubtedly.

Do I think we all need to be more proactive about our health, and feel encouraged to make gentle changes every day that make us that little bit healthier? I do.

But the truth is that we can do that without making healthy feel harder. We can define this term for ourselves and recognize that there is no one-size-fits all when it comes to creating a healthy life.

So if you’ve been feeling behind the eight-ball in trying to figure out what healthy means for you, here’s what I recommend you do:

  • Close the magazine or shut down that social media app that is trying to define YOUR health on their terms.
  • Take a breath.
  •  Then, think about what your 12-year-old self would have told you, had you asked what healthy meant to them.

Start there and the right actions will follow.

As always, let me know how it goes.

With love,