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TrainerTiff: 2013 >

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fit in 5: New Year Challenge


You know the drill. The New Year is finally here, and that means it's time to focus on improving yourself. Maybe you want to read more. Procrastinate less. Get fit. Whatever.

It's a time to do you.

This is a fantastic tradition that I believe in totally. We can all be better versions of ourselves, and that's what I'm all about: Empowerment through improvement.

Now when it comes to fitness, it can get tricky. Everybody has questions. "What should my diet look like?" "How often should I work out?"  ... "What exercises should I do?" ... "When should I do them?"

All these questions, normal as they are, can lead to that feeling of being overwhelmed, which can make the most well-intentioned people do absolutely nothing. Nada. And that's not empowering at all.

Let me offer some assistance. I've designed a five-day program to jump start your fitness routine.

It's complete with a sample daily meal plan and exercise program that covers everything. All you have to do is the work.

The nutrition plan consists of several meals each day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) to provide you with good sources of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats that really boost your metabolism.

The workout plan consists of daily cardio plus a muscle group specific exercise routine for each day (Monday for shaping legs. Tuesday for toning arms and abs, etc.). The routines include set and rep suggestions and links to exercise demos.

This program will help you maximize your gym membership. You can choose to do this program for the five days, or repeat the program each week up to 4 weeks. Ready to go? It's only $9. But it's only available for a limited time -- just like your chance to use the New Year to help create a New You.

Click here to get started.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Banana Nut Protein Muffins with Coffee


Let me be frank. A lot of delicious foods made into protein versions are just plain gross.

Nasty.

Yup, I said it. This is why I set out to make some muffins that actually taste good and aren't hard little rocks being passed off as edible objects that you have to choke down while wondering, why the heck am I eating this?

The muffins I created are not only yummy, but they're a quick grab-n-go option. If you have a hard time eating breakfast or frequently miss your post-workout shake or meal, then this is great for you -- and for everyone else.

Check it out!

Ingredients:
3/4 cup protein (I used Isopure with coffee which adds a nice kick.)
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
dash sea salt
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup buttermilk, plus (or use regular milk and add 1/4 tsp vinegar, let sit for 5 min)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 ripe banana, mashed
1-2 cups nuts of choice (I used pecans)

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix the protein, flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt together well with a spoon. In a small bow, beat one egg with a fork. Then to the dry ingredients add the egg, oil, milk, vanilla and banana. With a spatula, incorporate all the ingredients until moist. Depending on how much moisture the banana added, you may need to add a little more milk. You want the consistency to look like the picture below. Spray paper muffin cups with a nonstick spray and fill cups halfway. Add crumpled pieces of nuts of choice on top. Bake for 12-14 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Once cooled, store in an airtight container. Or you can freeze extras for a later date. Makes 12-14 muffins.




Tips:

  • Mix by hand. Don't use an electric mixer. Too much mixing will make the muffins dry.
  • I use ripe bananas that have been frozen. When they thaw, there tends to be a lot of water which adds a little extra liquid to the batter which helps it look like the picture above. 
  • The buttermilk or milk with vinegar helps make the muffins moist. If you use regular milk or a non-dairy milk substitute, I can't guarantee tastiness. 
  • Don't skip spraying the muffin cups with a nonstick spray. It also helps keep the muffins moist.  
  • You don't have to use the coffee protein powder, but again, I can't guarantee tastiness. 
  • This mix can be used in a loaf pan. 
Enjoy! 


Sunday, December 15, 2013

How to Get a Perfect Body

Photo via whole9life.com

It seems like if we all had the answer to the question, how do we get a perfect body?, suddenly our lives would improve immeasurably, birds would sing and we'd be happy for eternity.

Right?

Think of all of the companies out there trying to sell you this product and that product, with the promise of (fill in the blank) to help you get that body and happiness that you somehow just can't obtain on your own. Sadly, it's in our culture to pursue the ever elusive ideal of perfection.

Well, I have a little bit of insight on this topic. In fact, I have the answer for you.

Ready? Wait for it. Wait for it.

There is no perfect. It's all relative.

This is something I think we all know intuitively, but lose sight of it when we're constantly bombarded with images of what thin is -- or what sexy is -- or what fit is.

The truth of the matter is that we're all different. That's worth repeating. We're. All. Different. What is perfect for one person, isn't necessarily perfect for the next person. And let's not forget that some ideals may not even be genetically possible for some people.

Yes, genetics play a huge role in what we look like. No matter how hard I try, I'll never look like Serena Williams. Granted, I can put on muscle, sure. But how I put on muscle won't look like how she puts on muscle because we're different people, with different genetics.

Let's use sports to makes sense of this on a very basic level. Well, because we all love using sports to simplify matters in life, right?

In football, quarterbacks and linemen have two completely different body types -- and yet, both are professional athletes operating at peak performance. Chances are, a QB will never look like a lineman and vice versa. And in boxing, a heavyweight (think Mike Tyson) would never look like a welterweight (think Manny Pacquiao), and vice versa.

Of course these are very broad generalizations that I'm using to make a point. There are exceptions in everything, but generally speaking, this is the case.

Now that said, we can all work hard to achieve the body we want that's within our capabilities. How is this done? With focus, dedication and consistency. This is where we start.

If you're not putting in the work, you can't sit around complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. Hard work does pay off. Exercise often, eat clean often and you'll get where you want to be.

Keep in mind that it takes time. Two weeks of exercising and eating clean isn't going to reverse years of avoiding exercise and poor eating. Put in the work and make yourself a priority.

Set goals. Make a plan. Follow the plan through. Tweak plan if necessary. Achieve goals.

And in the process, don't get all caught up in some ideal of what you're supposed to look like. You decide what you should look like, don't let anyone else decide that for you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Thoughts on Thanksgiving Eating



It's that time of year again ... holiday season. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I'm sure many of you might be stressed about what to eat and what not to eat. See what I have to say about eating on the upcoming holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Protein Shake


If you're unsure about whether fall has arrived or not -- just take a look around.

Signs for pumpkin this, and pumpkin that, are everywhere. Any if you're lucky enough to live in a state that actually has leaves that are changing, you know the season is here. Watching the trees change is one thing I really miss about living in Michigan. Here in the Phoenix, AZ area, we miss out on that. But that doesn't mean I can't join in on the pumpkin madness.

So here you have it. My pumpkin inspired protein shake. Check it out!

Ingredients:

1 cup vanilla almond milk
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
4 ice cubes of vanilla almond milk
sprinkle of cinnamon
sprinkle of nutmeg
dash of sea salt

Directions: place all ingredients in blender and mix until smooth. Pour into a glass. Sprinkle a little extra cinnamon and nutmeg on top.

Notes: I've found that using the vanilla almond milk gives it a sweeter taste. If you're in a leaning out phase of your fitness plan, go for original almond milk or unsweetened. But note that it will have a bit of a bite without the extra sweetness. I like to freeze ice cubes of almond milk for shakes so that my shakes are more creamy, and taste more dessert-like than health food-like.

Enjoy!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Back to Basics 5-Day Fitness Challenge



Let's take it back. Back to basics.

With all the information out there, it can be downright frustrating when deciding what to do with your fitness program.

Have no fear.

With this challenge, I'm taking in back to a simpler time. Back before things like green smoothies, quinoa, gluten-free, acai or maca became popular trends and made things confusing. You don't need all that fancy stuff to whip yourself into shape. All you need is an easy clean eating plan and a basic weight training program. For those of you looking for a routine that will help you shed some pounds that doesn't require referring to Google to get a million questions answered ... this is for you!

Below is a sample meal plan and training program for five days. If you can stick to this, it'll be a great boost to your current routine or a perfect place to jump start your fitness program.

Here's a bonus. I'll be doing the program with you! This challenge goes from Monday Oct. 21 through Friday Oct. 25, 2013. Use the hashtag #tiffs5day for posts on Instagram or Twitter. Post your meals, pics of your workout or whatever you want!

Let's go!

A few things to keep in mind this week:
  • Drink a minimum of 64 oz.
  • Have protein shake immediately following your workouts.
  • No cheating: no sugar, no soda, no junk snacks, etc. 
  • If you find yourself hungry after a meal, there's no limit on green veggies. Eat up!
  • Have fun with it! Enjoy the challenge of pushing yourself. You'll be proud of yourself at the end.


 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

7:00 AM

1 banana

½ cup oatmeal

Egg and veggie scramble with 2 egg whites, 1 whole egg

1 banana

½ cup oatmeal

Egg and veggie scramble with 2 egg whites, 1 whole egg

1 banana

½ cup oatmeal

10:00 AM

Apple

Almond butter sandwich with 1 slice bread and 1 tbsp almond butter

Apple

Almond butter sandwich with 1 slice bread and 1 tbsp almond butter

Apple

12:00 PM

3 oz chicken

½ cup sweet potato

1-2 cups broccoli

Chicken stir-fry with 1-3 oz chicken, ½ cup brown rice and assorted bell peppers

3 oz chicken

½ cup sweet potato

1-2 cups broccoli

Chicken stir-fry with 1-3 oz chicken, ½ cup brown rice and assorted bell peppers

3 oz chicken

½ cup sweet potato

1-2 cups broccoli

2:00 PM

1 cup cucumber slices

1-2 tbsp hummus

Apple

1 cup cucumber slices

1-2 tbsp hummus

Apple

1 cup cucumber slices

1-2 tbsp hummus

4:00 PM

1 oz almonds

1 oz almonds

1 oz almonds

1 oz almonds

1 oz almonds

7:00 PM

3 oz salmon

6-7 asparagus spears

Large salad with 3 oz chicken

Vinaigrette dressing

3 oz tilapia

2 cups broccoli

Large salad with 3 oz chicken

Vinaigrette dressing

3 oz salmon

6-7 spears asparagus

 

 

Monday

Cardio + Shoulders

30 minutes intense cardio of choice.

Dumbbell Overhead press 3x10-12

Barbell Upright rows 3x10-12

Dumbbell lateral raises 3x10-12

Reverse flyes 3x10-12

 

Tuesday

Cardio + Legs + Abs

30 minutes intense cardio of choice.

Smith machine squats 3x10-12

Dumbbell deadlifts 3x10-12

Leg extensions 3x10-12

Lying leg curls 3x10-12

Crunches with legs at 90 degrees 3x30

Russian twists with medicine ball 3x30

 

Wednesday

Cardio + Back + Biceps

30 minutes intense cardio of choice.

Pull-ups 3x to failure

Lat pulldowns 3x10-12

Seated rows 3x10-12

One-arm dumbbell rows 3x10-12

Cable bicep curls 3x10-12

Hammer curls 3x10-12

 

Thursday

Cardio + Chest + Triceps

30 minutes intense cardio of choice.

Push-ups 3x to failure

Machine flyes 3x10-12

Dumbbell bench press 3x10-12

Rope pushdowns 3x10-12

Overhead rope extensions 3x10-12

Tricep cable kickbacks 3x to failure

 

Friday

Cardio + Calves + Abs

30 minutes intense cardio of choice.

Standing dumbbell calf raises 3x20

Seated dumbbell calf raise 3x20

Standing barbell calf raises 3x20

Stability ball knee tucks 3x20

Crossover crunches 3x20

 

 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

You Better Work B**ch



Kudos to Britney Spears for this one. I saw this video and said "yes!" Thank. You.

I get so frustrated with people who make excuses for their mediocre attempts toward reaching their goals. "I don't like this ... I don't want to do that ... well, can I do this instead ... that takes too much of my time ..."

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Laziness. That's what it comes down to. Pure laziness.

If it (and "it" can be anything) means something to you, work for it. Work hard for it. Don't expect great things to happen with half-assed efforts.

Don't be lazy. Don't be an excuse maker. Don't be a quiter. Just don't.

Be better than that.

"If you want a hot body ... look hot in a bikini ... you better work b**ch." Well said Britney. Well said.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Green Smoothie You'll Actually Enjoy Drinking


Green smoothies should taste good.

No really, they should.

Let me tell you, I've made my fair share that were downright disgusting. That usually happens when I end up winging it, and throwing whatever is available in the house into the blender.

Not a recipe for success. (Well, in the taste department anyway. The body is happy, but the taste buds are not.)

The other day I was at the Whole Foods in Tempe, AZ and visited the juice and smoothie bar. (I should note that only certain locations have the juice bar.) I had the tropical green smoothie and it was delicious. It was thick, cold, frothy, and made me take a sip -- hold out the cup -- look at it, and say "wow, that's good."

All of the green smoothies I've made prior to this Whole Foods experience lacked that smoothie quality that reminds you of a milkshake. And my friends, that is the difference between a green smoothie you choke down and one that makes you want more.

Let's be honest. Milkshakes are tasty. And so are the smoothies from those places that appear to be healthy. But the problem is that those choices aren't going to help you with your weight or give you any vegetable nutrients.

After tasting that tropical green and shelling out $6 for a small, naturally, I had to come home and make my own version. I just can't justify buying those all of the time. And unlike many of the tastier green recipes, this is one where there are more greens than fruit -- so you're getting plenty of plant nutrients.

Get ready, because it is good. Check it out.




Ingredients:

3/4 cup water
3 cups spinach
1 1/2 cups romaine lettuce
1/2 cup pineapple
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 small frozen ripe banana
1 cup ice

Directions: In the order listed above, add all ingredients to blender. Start on low speed and gradually turn to high until consistency is smooth and well blended.

Notes: The frozen elements are what makes the thick and cold consistency. Don't swap frozen for non-frozen, it won't come out right. Also, you definitely want to use a ripe banana because it will make it sweeter. If the banana you use isn't ripe enough, it'll taste a little bitter.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Recipe: Grilled Veggies and Chicken Sausage Lazy Omelette


When it comes to making omelettes, I love it when I can perfectly form them. But since that rarely happens, I don't even worry about it. Enter, my lazy omelette -- a bit of an omelette and a bit of a scramble. And perfectly delicious.

We had some Labor Day leftovers which was the inspiration for this recipe. I had grilled some veggies in my veggie grill tray as mentioned here. I used a mix of  sliced red bell pepper, orange bell pepper, red onion, zucchini and yellow squash. All were tossed with olive oil, kosher salt and cracked black pepper before grilling. Let me tell you, they tasted so good.

For the next day, I decided to throw them into an omelette with a few other ingredients, and seriously, I think this is the most tasty omelette I've ever made!

Check it out.


Ingredients:

2 eggs
2-3 tbsp milk of choice
1/3 of one sun-dried tomato chicken sausage, sliced and sauteed (I used Aidells)
handful of grilled veggies
1 slice provolone cheese
handful of fresh baby arugula
non-stick olive oil spray

Directions:
In a bowl, beat eggs and add milk. Heat skillet to medium heat and coat pan generously with cooking spray. Add egg mixture, chicken sausage, veggies and cheese. Let set until edges appear firm (about a minute). Then take a spatula and gently flip sections. Let set for about another minute, then put on plate. Top with arugula.

Enjoy!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Almond Butter vs. Peanut Butter

Photos via Flickr by Stacy Spensley and Daniella Segura
In the world of nut butters, peanut butter has gotten a bit of bad reputation -- and for good reason. But first, let me back up a tad. If you're trying to make improvements to your diet and are opting for peanut butter on celery sticks instead of oh ... your favorite bag of chips, that is great. No, really, that's awesome. It takes a lot of discipline to make better choices and kudos to you. Now, that said, if you really want to step up your nutrition game, listen up.

Peanuts are toxic. You're probably getting a visual of a science lab with oozing green stuff and a sign reading "hazardous waste." Well, not quite like that ... but sort of.

Peanuts which actually aren't nuts at all, but legumes, contain aflatoxin which is a carcinogenic mold that occurs before they're harvested. Aflatoxins are bad because they been linked to liver cancer. The liver metabolizes all toxins that are present in the body. Since the liver is our main fat burning organ (hello, getting rid of those unwanted pounds!), we don't want to overtax it unnecessarily. Instead we want it to work as efficiently as possible.

It should be noted that aflatoxins are also present in corn, some grains, soybeans and tree nuts such as walnuts and pecans.

If you're looking to improve your diet, I would suggest almond butter as your go-to source for a healthy nut butter. Now, if you have peanut butter on occasion, that's less risky than having it all of the time of course (for those who just love peanut butter).

Aflatoxin aside, almond butter is just better anyway. It has more vitamin E and iron. It's also a better source of omega-3 fatty acids -- which is what you want for heart health, reduced inflammation in blood vessels and joints, reduced depression and prenatal health to name a few.

If you find yourself standing in front of the nut butters section way longer than you intended, reading and re-reading labels, trying to make a decision ... decide on almond butter. And if you really want to step it up, opt for raw almond butter -- it's less processed and therefore better for you.

Resources:
Dr. Weil
Cornell University
Prevention

Friday, July 5, 2013

Some of My Favorite Things - Kitchen Style: Part I

When you're focused on living a healthy lifestyle, you tend to spend a good chunk of time in the kitchen. I know, I know. Womp. Womp. It's not the most exciting way to spend your days. But, lucky for you, I'm going to share with you some of my favorite kitchen tools that save you a few precious minutes, and make food prep a little more ... fun. That's right. Fun. Who says you can't be a food prepping machine and actually enjoy it? At least a little bit. In an attempt to save you some time (wink, wink), I've broken my list of favorite things into two posts. So, be sure to check back for part deux.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Exercise Demo: Squat with Bicep Curl


Some movements can get boring after a while. Change it up by doing compound movements. It's a great way to change up your routine a bit. You burn more calories doing two exercises at the same time. It's also a great way to save precious time in the gym. I recommend doing 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps. Give this a try the next time you're planning on squats or bicep curls. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kombucha is My Treat Beverage

Photo by schvin via Flickr
Every now and again I want to drink something fizzy, flavorful and downright tasty. Grab a soda, you say (or "pop" as we call it back home in Michigan)?  No way. I gave that stuff up a long time ago. Try again.

Kombucha, you say? Ding ding ding. Yes!

If you're like me when I first heard of this drink, you're probably making a scrunchy face and internally shaking your head back and forth, while saying to yourself "what is that?"

I know, stay with me.

Kombucha is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, yeast and bacteria. When the fermentation process is complete, the tea is rich in probiotics and B vitamins. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that help maintain a neutral balance of organisms in the intestines. They reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system.

Awesome, right?

When you open a bottle of kombucha, you can see the fizz rise to the surface. That's how you know you're in for something good. It's just the kind of thing I like to sip here and there. But because it does contain sugar, I don't drink it very often. It's a treat -- one that comes with beneficial probiotics. My favorite is GT's Kombucha cherry chia. I love the addition of chia seeds because they add protein, fiber and omega-3s to the drink.

It should be noted that it does contain a little bit of alcohol. Certainly not enough to get you hammered, but pregnant women and children should not drink it. But, if that doesn't apply to you, go ahead and have yourself a little. You can find it a most health food stores.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Recipe: Herb Roasted Root Vegetables


When I was a kid, the thought of eating unfamiliar sounding vegetables was worse than thought of the boogeyman that I swore lived under my bed.

A turnip? What? Um, no. Beets? Excuse me? Um, no again.

Let's face it, we like what we like. And we usually like what we're familiar with. Even as a more open-minded adult, I still find myself raising my eyebrows at foods that aren't in my regular rotation. Yup, before I tried nutritional yeast, it got a giant one-eyebrow raise (think, The Rock's People's Eyebrow).

But at least these days, I am willing to try anything once. (Well, most things. I probably will never know what lutefisk tastes like. And I'm OK with that.)

But vegetables can be really tasty, especially when roasted. The process allows the natural caramelized sweetness to come out and can make for a delicious side dish or snack.

I took a variety of root vegetables: turnips, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets. I stuck them in the oven with some thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper and was pleasantly surprised when the family gobbled them all up.

Root vegetables contain loads of fiber, vitamins and minerals that keep our bodies functioning well. Not to mention, most tend to be slower-digesting carbohydrates that keep our insulin levels stable while keeping us full for a long period of time.

Beets are particularly awesome because they contain betalains which not only give them their bright color, but also antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The betalains also trigger enzymes that bind and neutralize toxic substances in the body allowing them to exit the body.

Now, it should be noted, that though root vegetables are healthy and contain many vital nutrients, you shouldn't go all crazy when eating them. I mean c'mon, it is possible to eat too much of something -- even healthy items. They are higher in starchy carbohydrates, which should be limited. Just make sure you keep your portions in check.

If you're in a rut of eating the same 'ol stuff, give this recipe a try. You'll be happy you did.

Check it out.


What you'll need:

beets
carrots
sweet potatoes
turnips
olive oil
dried thyme
pepper
sea salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with foil. I recommend using a cookie sheet or some other shallow baking pan/dish. Using a deep roasting pan doesn't give the same effect. Trust me, I've tried using a deep baking dish. While still tasty, you don't get the "roasting" result of browned and caramelized vegetables.

Slice vegetables in any shape you like (except the beets, I'll explain those later). I find that 1/2 inch to 1 inch thickness works well. Take some olive oil on a pastry brush and lightly coat the vegetables, on both sides. Then lightly sprinkle the seasonings over both sides.


Or use the method pictured below by adding about (I eyeball it, so I don't have exact measurements), 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt, pepper and thyme to a plastic baggie. Add the vegetables, seal bag and massage oil mixture evenly onto vegetables. Repeat until done with all vegetables. You may need to make another oil mixture depending on how many vegetables you're using.


Place the vegetables on the foil lined cookie sheet. Be sure not to overcrowd the sheet, don't let the vegetables touch each other.


Now, for the beets. As pictured below, place beets with tops sliced off in foil. Add olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme to beets. Completely seal the beets inside the foil.



Place all vegetables in preheated oven. Cook for 30-40 minutes, turning the cookie sheet lined vegetables once. The beets may take a little longer. To check beets, test with a fork. If fork tender, then they are done. If you have to put any pressure to get the fork to go through, cook a little longer.


Enjoy!

Resouce: Dr. Weil

Friday, April 19, 2013

VIDEO: Glute Sculpting Circuit


I used to hate my butt. OK, I'll say it, my butt was flat. That's right, flat as a board. But then I found out that I wasn't doomed to a lifetime of feeling insecure every time I heard Sir Mix-A-Lot scream about his love for big round ones. I discovered strength training. And then I learned that not only can you become fit by adding some resistance to your workouts, but you can also sculpt some serious curves.

Haaay!

The increasing popularity with butt implants and injections is just ridiculous. I mean, don't get me wrong, do what you want. But what's wrong with putting in a little hard work to sculpt your own natural booty? After all, that is an area you actually do have control over.

I'm just saying.

This video showcases some of my favorite glute exercises that I'm doing right now. If you're looking to boost your backside, take control, and add this circuit into your workouts.

I recommend doing this routine 2-3 times a week for at least 30 days. Consistency is key. Nothing worth having comes easy. Keep at it.

Glute Sculpting Circuit

1. Leg Lifts with Extended Arm Plank, 20 reps on both legs
2. Leg lifts with Fire Hydrant, 20 reps on both legs
3. Resistance Band Kickbacks, 20 reps each leg

Do the circuit two times with little to no rest between exercises.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Kale and Sun-dried Tomatoes Pasta Salad


Ever since I gave up eating meat with starchy carbs, I've found that being creative in the kitchen is necessary. I usually get a taste for something (or request) and start thinking about what ingredients I can add to it to make it interesting. That's exactly what happened here.

Hubby wanted me to include a noodle dish in our week's lunch menu. I was kind of tired of some of my usual dishes. I love my tomato basil pasta dish, but like with anything, too much, too often can leave you feeling like a break is needed. So I started thinking about what flavors would go well together and created this dish.

It's really easy to make. The dressing on here is just a light coating. If you'd like more, just double up on the dressing ingredients. Check it out.



Ingredients:

6 oz whole wheat penne pasta
4-5 cups kale
1/2 avocado
2 tbsp basil pesto
3 tablespoons vegan mayo (I prefer soy-free Vegenaise)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup artichokes from a jar

Directions: cook pasta according to directions. In meantime, saute kale lightly in a skillet with olive oil for 2-3 minutes. After pasta has cooked, drain in colander. In a food processor, make the dressing by adding the avocado, basil pesto and mayo. Pulse for a few seconds until smooth. In a large mixing bowl, add the pasta, dressing, sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes (cut down large pieces). Mix well. Best served chilled.

Enjoy!

Friday, April 5, 2013

What to Bring to Hot Yoga

hot yoga essentials


When it comes to yoga, Bikram hot yoga is my absolute favorite. I remember the first class I took many years ago like it was yesterday. At the time, I had just done a figure show and felt like I could take on any fitness challenge. Surely, I could handle a little yoga. So what the room was hot. Big deal.

Boy was I in for a surprise. The heat was so intense and unlike anything I had done prior, I questioned whether I would make it through the entire class. I was plotting my escape to make a beeline for the door. But I hung in there, and made it through. It was truly a humbling experience.

I found the heat to be a new challenge. I wanted to conquer it and all those poses that I could barely do. Yes, practicing yoga in a room set to 105 degrees is mildly torturous, but I love it.

I've taken a bit of a break from yoga and am going to start incorporating it into my routine again. It made me think of all the things I need to remember to bring with me to be comfortable. In case you're thinking of adding a little hot yoga into your mix (which I highly recommend), I thought I'd share the items I find to be most essential.

1. Yoga mat. Of course, this goes without saying. I find that any yoga mat will do. You can rent a mat for a small fee at Bikram studios.

2. Towel. You can use a bath towel, and these can also be rented at Bikram for a small fee. One year I got a yoga towel for my birthday and now I can't imagine practicing without it. The towel fits perfectly to the size of a yoga mat and doesn't bunch up. A worthwhile investment in my opinion.

3. Fitted top. Because you sweat so much, you don't want a loose fitting top to get in your way. A fitted tank is the way to go.

4. Water bottle. You'll want one that has a wide mouth that you can easily add ice cubes. CamelBak makes one that's good for this use and it's BPA free.

5. Coconut water. Add this to your water bottle with a bunch of ice cubes. As you get through the class, the ice cubes will melt, keeping your drink cold. Be sure to add plenty of ice cubes. I suggest filling the entire bottle with cubes, then add the coconut water on top. Coconut water is a great source of electrolytes and potassium which helps regulate fluid balance in your body.

6. Flip flops. You don't want to leave class and have to stuff your sweaty feet inside a pair of gym shoes.

7. Yoga shorts. Like with the top, you want to wear a fitted short of some sort. I think ones with some color and flare are fun, but any will work. You definitely don't want to wear pants.

8. A clean top and short. After you're done practicing, you'll be a sweaty mess. There's nothing worse than sitting in your car, and driving home drenched with sweat. A fresh shirt and pair of shorts will make the drive comfortable. If you want to rinse off and shower at the studio, go for it (just remember to bring all of your shower goodies).


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Banana Split Protein Shake


Believe it or not, you can actually enjoy your protein shakes. I do. I've heard so many people complain about how they just can't stand the taste -- that you can taste the protein too much, they're gritty or just plain gross.

Well, those unfortunate people have not had the pleasure of allowing me to make them a shake. The ones I make are downright delicious. Case in point, my banana split adaptation. I took all the great flavors from the tasty dessert treat and made it into a drink that will help you with your fitness goals and not sabotage them. Check it out.

Ingredients:

1 cup almond milk
1/3 banana
3/4 cup frozen mixed berries or just frozen strawberries
1 tsp cacao or cocoa powder
1 tsp almond butter
1 scoop vanilla protein powder

Directions: place almond milk in blender first, then all the remaining ingredients. Blend for about 30-60 seconds until all the frozen fruit has mixed in well. Pour in a cup and enjoy!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Secret Ingredient Vegetable Fried Rice

A couple years ago before I started pairing my foods properly, I would usually have fried rice with its most traditional accompaniment -- shrimp. Not anymore.

Now that I've changed my diet to focus on efficient digestion by carefully combining foods, the mere thought of eating meat and a starchy carb together makes my stomach turn. I have to say, my belly has become quite sensitive to improper food combos.

In order to get my fried rice fix, I make a vegetarian version that keeps my tummy feeling pleasant, full and satisfied. As I've discovered with many of my meal remixes, I find that excluding meat from many dishes, like with my vegetarian chili recipe, it actually tastes better. Go figure.

While making my veggie fried rice one particular time, I stumbled upon two secrets (well, they seemed to be secrets to me anyway) that made it absolutely delicious.

Secret number 1: use day old refrigerated rice. I discovered this by accident one day. I had planned to make the dish, but got too busy to finish it. So naturally, I put the pot of rice in the fridge to make the next day. And oh my goodness, what a difference. The rice gets a chance to stick together and holds better when you're stir-frying it.

Secret number 2: use a tad bit of sesame oil. And let me tell you, a little goes a long way. It gives the dish a richer and fuller flavor. I found this out because I had bought the oil to make a different dish and just figured to add it to the rice (because how many times have we all bought ingredients for single dishes, to only have it sit in the pantry ... forever?). So in my attempt to not be wasteful, I came to find out this little gem of information.

OK, enough chit chat about how awesome I clearly think this dish is. Check it out for yourself.

Ingredients:

1 cup brown rice
2 1/2 cups water
1 16 oz package of frozen stir-fry vegetables or use fresh
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 cup of low-sodium soy sauce or use Tamari (add more or less to taste)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp coconut oil

Directions: bring water to a boil, add rice stir well. Reduce temperature to low setting, cover with lid and let rice finish cooking for about 30 minutes or until water is absorbed. Let rice cool, then store in refrigerator overnight.

To make stir-fry: if using frozen vegetables, either microwave in a bowl of water of lightly boil in water on stove-top for just a couple minutes -- enough so that the veggies are thawed, but not cooked. Put veggies through a strainer to get all the water off. Set aside.

In a wok on medium, medium-high heat add oils. Then add garlic and ginger and saute for about 30 seconds. Add veggies and saute for several minutes, moving continuously with a wooden spatula or spoon. Add rice and mix well. Then add soy sauce. Mix thoroughly then remove from heat.

Enjoy!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Photo Blog of My Recent Trip to Europe

 
Sometimes we all need a little relaxation time and a chance to get away. I'm so happy that I got a chance to do just that with my hubby, and in all places -- Europe! We were mainly in London, but did spend a day in Paris. We figured since we were so close to France, why not do a day trip there. I truly enjoyed my vacation and can't wait to go back. I thought I'd take a short break from my usual health and fitness posts and share some of my trip photos with you. The pictures start in London and end in Paris.

I made sure I worked out while on vacation. I know a lot of people like to skip the gym while away, but for me, I enjoy it. Traveling can be a bit stressful and getting in a good workout is a great way to de-stress and relax. I was thrown off a bit though with the weights being in kilograms -- but I managed.

One of the best parts of the trip was seeing Stonehenge. It was absolutely amazing to see these stones in real life that have been around for 3,000 years.

After riding around in taxis a lot, we finally ventured onto London's subway, the Tube or Underground. Surprisingly, the connections were really easy to navigate. It helped that the lines had cute names like, Piccadilly and Bakerloo. 



We found this nice Turkish restaurant called Ozer. Our spread included dolmades, lamb and falafels. Oh and a little red wine.

Big Ben


Street shot in London. 

To get to Paris, we traveled through the Chunnel on the Eurostar. After about 2.5 hours and going under the English Channel, we were in Paris. It was nice to see some of the French countryside. 

Surprise. Surprise. In Paris you have to pay a fee to use the public restrooms. I usually don't like having change on me, but I here I made sure to have bathroom change readily available.

Street shot in Paris.

The Louvre.

The Arc de Triomphe is massive.


 And to end our day trip in Paris, a little escargot at this cute traditional French restaurant called Terminus Nord. I had a great time! C'est la vie!


Friday, February 22, 2013

The Almighty Chia Seed


Chia seeds have sort of come onto the scene as a new trendy healthy option to add into your diet. Well, these little seeds aren't new. In fact, they've been around for hundreds of years. But it's great that they are gaining popularity because they pack a lot of nutritional benefits. If you don't already use them, consider stopping at a health food store and picking some up. Check out their awesome benefits and tips for using them below.

Benefits:

  • High in omega-3 fatty acids which helps reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Good source of protein. They contain all 8 essential amino acids. 
  • Have a higher concentration of omega-3s than flax seeds.
  • Rich in antioxidants which helps protect and repair cells from free radical damage.
  • High in fiber which helps cleanse our intestines, makes us feel full and helps slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.
  • High in calcium, magnesium, copper, niacin, zinc, manganese, iron and molybdenum -- all nutrients that help our bodies function optimally.
Uses:
  • Add to smoothies and shakes.
  • Take advantage that they become gel-like when in contact with liquid and make pudding
  • Add to homemade baked goods. 
  • Sprinkle on salads.
  • Sprout them and add to salads or sandwiches. 
  • Use as a thickener for meatballs or meatloafs.
  • Mix into spreads like hummus.
Resources: