Monday, November 28, 2011

Basil Gnocchi with Mushroom Ragu

Long time, no post! I know, I know. It's been a combination of adjusting to my new job, studying, spending time with Doug and a certain adorable beagle and primarily, just having zero motivation to post about, well, anything.

But you're not here to read about my excuses and my lack of posting, are you? Didn't think so. Well, to help get me back into the swing of things, I decided to try a new recipe that involved making gnocchi. From scratch. For the first time.

Whilst catching up on my tweets today, I came across a recipe from Fitness Magazine for Basil Gnocchi with Mushroom Ragu, perfect for Meatless Monday. I had all of the ingredients, more or less, so I decided to give it a shot. We have pre-made gnocchi in the pantry, but I had some potatoes that needed to be used up, so I rolled up my sleeves and started preppin'.



Mushrooms, onion and garlic. I used white mushrooms instead of cremini since I already had some on hand. Added garlic for more flavor.



Gnocchi taking over my counter space, waiting to be boiled.



Cooked (and not in a million pieces like I feared!).



Topped with mushroom ragu and parmesan.

Aside from using different mushrooms and adding garlic, I also used dried basil instead of fresh. And for accuracy, I re-calculated the nutritional info for my version:



Although it took longer than 30 minutes to put together (hey, I even microwaved the potatoes instead of baking them), I still really enjoyed it. I had to sprinkle on some more salt and black pepper at the end, but after that, it was pretty damn good. When I put extra time into a dish, I worry that it won't end up being worth the effort, but this one was.

Even though I can buy it pre-made, I wouldn't mind making gnocchi from scratch again; I liked the texture (a bit more rustic, if you will) and being able to add herbs to the dough. Perhaps next time, I'll try sweet potatoes and make it over the weekend. Aside from the higher carb content, I was pleased with the nutrition and how filling it was. No complaints here!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Homemade Surf 'N' Turf.

Earlier this month, I was offered a new job. Yesterday was the last day at my old job and I start the new one on Monday. To celebrate, Doug surprised me by buying all of the ingredients for a bitchin' surf 'n' turf dinner:



Bone-in NY Strip, grilled lobster tail (with melted butter & lemon slices), fingerling potatoes (with butter & chives), roasted brussels sprouts (!!!) and wheat french bread on the side.



*bites knuckle*



I also busted out some cheap raspberry-flavored fizzy booze. Not the best picture, but I was mostly trying to get a shot of Randal, who has decided he's camera shy these days, apparently.

Not pictured is the special ice cream Doug bought as well: Caramel Hazelnut Chocolate Truffle.

Definitely a bit more than we spend on food in a typical week, but worth it for the occasion and still way more affordable than going to a steakhouse. Oh, and friggin' delicious, of course! Looking forward to leftover steak and potatoes for lunch.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bob Harper: Ultimate Cardio Body

Time for another DVD review! Although it was released earlier this year, I just now got around to snagging a copy of this ass-kicker:

I find it kind of twisted that I did this DVD twice in the first week I got it and am looking forward to doing it again this weekend. Yes, it's tough. However, Bob pushes you *just* enough to where you're burning and droppin' f-bombs, but still able to finish the interval (barely, in my case).

I found that this particular DVD is like a hybrid of his Pure Burn Super Strength and Body Rev Cardio Conditioning workouts. I personally liked this, because while I love (and hate) both of those DVDs, I find it hard to motivate myself to take them on separately since they're both a little over an hour.

With Ultimate Cardio Body, Bob does get you sweating with standard cardio moves (jumping jacks, high-knees, skaters, mountain climbers and the like), but what really pushes you closer to OMG-I'm-Gonna-Die territory is his use of weighted strength moves performed at a moderate-to-fast pace with basically no breaks in between. I'm noticing that more "cardio" workouts are doing this these days and I absolutely love it. I think using light/medium weights in circuit-style workouts is a fantastic alternative to separate cardio and lifting workouts. Burning fat and building muscle in the same session? Oh, hell yes.

Some examples of those moves: Squat jumps and split lunges (a.k.a. jumping lunges) WITH dumbbells in each hand. I've probably done thousands of squat jumps in my life, but adding extra weight makes that move incredibly challenging. And it doesn't end there; with both of these plyometric moves, Bob makes you do isometric holds in between (don't ever let his smile and good looks fool you- the man is clearly a sadist).

While the workout is heavy on lower-body training, Bob also incorporates some basic upper-body work as well with push-ups, planks, shoulder presses, bicep curls and lateral raises. While standard moves, Bob increases the intensity and makes you perform more isometric holds to push your muscles almost to the point of failure. Going from push-ups to plank to mountain climbers (all back-to-back with no break, mind you) made my arms and shoulders weep.

Toward the end of the session, Bob pushes you to finish strong by performing more agility-type moves like single-leg hops, jumps (as if you were shooting a basketball) and sprint-runs in place.

U.C.B. also includes a separate Glutes workout, but honestly, I haven't bothered trying it because there seems to be a lot of glute work in the main workout alone. If anyone's tried that, please share your thoughts in the comments!

Overall, this is a top-choice workout for me. Bob really does challenge all of your major muscle groups and the pace of the workout makes that hour fly by. And during the cool down stretch, when you're thinking about how beaten down you are, Bob makes some funny comments about his knee-high black socks. I must say, I appreciated a good chuckle at the end of a workout like that.

Definitely for intermediate/advanced levels only. There are a few modifications here and there, but not to the point where I would advise a beginner to give it a try. Another plus is that the only equipment you need is a couple sets of dumbbells. I used 5's and 8's on my first try.

Bottom line: This is one of the best total-body workouts I've ever done. Bob mastered the balance between cardio and strength training with this routine, so whether you're looking for a new cross-training option or something to break your plateau, U.C.B. has got you covered!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Supreme 90 Day Check-in and Changes.

After doing about half of the Supreme 90 Day system and trying out all 10 discs, I'm respectfully bowing out... Sort of.

While I've enjoyed the new variety of challenges, there are some specific training goals that I would like to meet which involve going outside of the pre-determined S90Day routines. Those goals include getting back into running and increasing my upper body strength.

Although I was noticing inches lost and biceps starting to bust out of my sleeves, consequently, I also noticed that my overall endurance was, well, pretty shitty. When attempting longer runs (currently 3-4 miles for me since I stopped running regularly a couple of years ago), I just couldn't hack it. I also tried an hour-long Jari Love DVD the other day and quickly noticed how much I struggled to keep up, just 20 minutes in. I still feel the S90Day discs are effective, but they are also quite short, hence not the best daily choice for my endurance training.

I definitely plan on throwing in some of the S90Day discs into my new custom routine though; as much as I hated it, the Ultimate Ball disc proved to be a great core workout and the Tabata Inferno disc is still, to this day, one of the hardest cardio workouts I've ever done.

So what is my routine these days, now that I'm no longer sticking to the S90Day calendar? I'm aiming for 3 days of cardio (primarily running, followed by short/intense intervals of incline walking, stair master-ing and elliptical-ing) mixed with 3 days of strength training. For strength, I'm rotating my Jari Love DVDs. While I liked the idea of working specific muscle groups on separate days with S90Day, I tend to get better results with total-body strength routines and it's really hard to beat Jari in that area (homegirl includes push-ups in all of her workouts, which I need more of). On days where I'm short on time, I'll opt for Jackie Warner, Jillian Michaels, the NTC app or S90Day.

Another reason for my decision to pursue other workouts outside of S90Day was the difference in calorie burn. Between my slower metabolism and my goal to lose about another 8-10 pounds, I really need a higher calorie burn throughout the week which I just wasn't getting with S90Day (exceptions being Cardio Challenge, Tabata Inferno and the longer Back/Biceps disc). After adding gym-cardio and Jari Love back into my routine, I've already broke my weight plateau in just a week.

LASTLY, my exercise A.D.D. got the better of me. I know, "how can a person get bored of 10 different discs, Tam?" It's just the way I roll, I guess. I surprised myself sticking with it for the 40+ days though; I thought I would throw in the towel after 30. So, coming from me, that's actually a good sign.

So that's where I'm at with exercise. I still give S90Day my seal of approval; the price you pay for the number of discs and variety of moves simply cannot be beat. If you're on the fence about trying the program because of the 90 day commitment, consider working the discs into your current routine without following the calendar.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Health/Fitness Truths.

I came across a new blog today, SweatyGirl and read a post about her top 10 Fitness Truths. I really dug the idea and decided to share some of my health/fitness-related truths.

1. I think every vegetable is amazing when roasted. Seriously. I'm not a picky eater these days to begin with, but if every serving of vegetables I eat could be roasted, that would be a doozy. A doozy of awesomeness. A doozy of awesomeness with a side of ketchup.

2. I still can't do full-fledged push-ups. I'm getting closer, but still need more training in this area, even after more than 4 years of working out regularly. Being able to rock out 10 push-ups without having to be on my knees would be a dream come true.

3. One of my fitness goals is to beat Doug at arm wrestling. I think that's all I have to say on the topic.

4. I subtly play air guitar and air drums at the gym. It's just hard to resist when a kick-ass song comes up on shuffle. And really, 99% of the music I listen to kicks ass, so there ya go.

5. The swimming part is what keeps me from doing a triathlon. It's not that I can't swim, I just don't swim well enough. I know it's just a matter of training, but swimming in a competitive event just doesn't sit well with me at the moment. Hopefully that will change in a few years.

6. I really, really, really love vodka. And tequila. My penchant for cocktails and shots keep the bro-ham in me alive and kickin'. And also keep my abs from looking better. The ultimate compromise. Sigh.

7. I wear sweatbands. But only at home. When doing fast-paced circuit or lifting routines, I rock the sweatband to keep my drippy curls out of the way. Also, I'm the sweatiest person I know.

8. I will never turn down a slice of cake, ever. No matter how much I preach about eating better and avoiding excess sugar, I WILL stop whatever I'm saying mid-sentence and eat cake if it's put in front of me. And I'll even take that extra frosting off your hands because it really is a shame to waste.

9. I prefer to exercise by myself. I've gotten offers from coworkers to meet at the gym and have participated in a few group exercise classes, but I really just prefer to bust out a sweat session on my own. There's less distraction and I can push harder or go slower without having to worry about someone else's pace. I'm sure working out with others could open me up to some different challenges though, so I'm willing to give it a try more often in the future. (Though, it's hard to find people who already wake up at 5 am most days just to exercise. Hello? *tap, tap* Is this thing on? Anyone out there?)

10. I shop for new weight equipment and fitness DVDs like they're porn. Sad, but true. On the rare occasion I have some extra money to burn, my mind doesn't go to clothes, shoes or a new phone (I've had the same sliding Samsung Blast for 5 years now, holla!); I immediately think, "Hmm, I could go for some new dumbbells right about now."

What are some of your fitness/health truths?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beans, Bacon, Beagles.

Quick dinner post from last night:



Pasta with Kale, Bacon & Great Northern Beans!

Serves two. You will need:

  • 4 oz pasta (I used Ronzoni Smart Taste thin spaghetti)
  • 4 slices of bacon, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced or diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups kale, rinsed and chopped (could also use spinach)
  • 1 can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed (could use any preferred white bean)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice (optional)

Get some water boiling for your pasta. While you wait, prep the bacon, onions, garlic and kale.

In a large pan, cook the bacon. Toss it onto a plate with paper towels and set aside. Drain *some* of the grease from the pan, not all of it. If your pasta water is ready, go ahead and drop the pasta at this point.

Add the onions to the bacon pan and if necessary, deglaze with a bit of water. Once the onions are sweating, quickly add the garlic, kale and a bit of salt & pepper. Stir continuously until the kale starts to cook down. You may need to add a more water to move this process along. Once the kale reduces significantly in size, add the beans. Feel free to add more salt, crushed red pepper and lemon juice at this point. Add the bacon bits back into the pan, stir, remove from heat and cover with a lid until the pasta is done.

Drain the pasta, divide into serving dishes and top with the kale/bacon/bean mix. Sprinkle on grated parmesan if you'd like and enjoy!

Lastly, a random Randal pic for the dog lovers:



Sleeping, as usual. I always said I would never own a cat because of the hair, but Randal sheds so much, it doesn't even matter. Ah, well. He's cuter than most babies and a total goofball when he's awake, so I can't complain too much.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Supreme 90 Day: Week Four

Just a quick check-in regarding my progress with Supreme 90 Day... I'm into week 4 and almost done with month one! Time does indeed fly when you're having fun... And sweating. And burning out your muscles. And cursing at a stability ball.

So what kind of progress have I seen, exactly? Well, I'm down almost a whole dress size! Unfortunately, I'm one of those people who doesn't take formal measurements (gasp!) so I can't post a pretty number for you all, but I'm back to fitting in clothes that haven't seen the outside world in about a year.

In terms of weight, I've only lost about two pounds. And I can tell ya right now that it's all due to my sub-par eating habits. I haven't been eating and drinking like a maniac, but I have been indulging more than I should, so on the plus side, Supreme 90 Day has at least kept me from gaining. Losing the extra inches has been great, but I know I can do better by making better choices and exercising more discipline. I still won't commit 100% to the Tosca Reno meal plan that came with the DVD, but I will definitely refer to it for new ideas. Trying new foods and recipes always boosts my efforts and gives my motivation more endurance.

Notable improvements: Upper body and core, for sure. My push-ups still need work, but I'm a lot better off than I was prior to starting the program. After noticing a difference in less than a month, I'm stoked to see my final results at day 90.

New discs since last update: Total Body and Core Dynamics. Total Body reminded me a bit of Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred or Ripped in 30; a steady-paced circuit workout with compound exercises that activate all major muscle groups in a short amount of time. I'm also digging Core Dynamics as a nice change from Ultimate Ball; this disc incorporates dumbbells and bodyweight exercises to work your abs and back, which I found to be a nice break from rolling around on the floor with the ball, feeling like a hamster.

Adjustments: I've been following the program *almost* to a T... I did switch around one of my rest days and on core days (Ultimate Ball or Core Dynamics), I've been adding a cardio session at the gym. I still like to get out of the house every once in a while for some hot cardio machine action and these particular discs are short enough that I can do both.

So far, so good! I'm surprisingly not bored yet and very much looking forward to months two and three. It's been nice not having to figure out what workout to do each day! Just need to clean up my eating a bit and I should be at my ideal weight and body composition. Remember, kids: Weight-loss is 80% diet and 20% fitness; you CAN eat your way through ANY workout.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Larabros and Roasted Randomness.

Ever since I saw Chocolate-Covered Katie bust out homemade Larabars, the idea struck me as too easy to be true... But, hesitation aside, I picked up some pitted dates in bulk and decided to experiment with some mix-ins we had around the kitchen. The result?

Almond Joy LaraBros.



Yes, I'm completely aware of what these resemble. Har har.



And yes, you read the name right; I can't afford to get sued! I'm known to say "bro" (or, if I'm feeling sassy, "brah") on a regular basis and to be honest, I do have bro-like tendencies, so the name just seemed to fit. No idea what I'm talking about? Do a little more research on these types of guys:



Minus the date-rape, but maintaining the ability to lift weights and throw down some tequila shots.

ANYWHO, here's my version of the recipe, which yielded 10 mini-bros:

  • 1 cup pitted dates, packed
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I used the reduced-fat kind by Let's Do Organic)
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds

Throw everything in a food processor and blend until well-mixed and you can form the mixture into bars or balls. Each bar has about 135 calories.

Not much to look at of course, but hot damn, they tasted good and did indeed mimic an original Larabar almost 100%. Had I known how easy, fast and cheap these were to make at home, I would've tried it months ago. I still have plenty of dates left, so next time, I think I'll experiment with some fruit flavors.

After making my bars bros, I proceeded to make dinner. I knew I had some broccoli and asparagus that needed to be used, as well as one of 3 jumbo zucchini that my grandma brought me, so I started by roasting them all in a little bit of olive oil, salt & pepper. After a few minutes of brainstorming, I settled on Roasted Veggie Pasta:



Whole-wheat linguine topped with the aforementioned roasted veggies, fresh diced tomato and, wait for it, cottage cheese (mixed with grated parmesan, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt & pepper).

Definitely one of the more random dishes I've slapped together, but I found it to taste quite good. I often replace ricotta with cottage cheese, so my idea wasn't totally insane. Plenty of protein, fiber, complex carbs and vitamins, so from a healthy point of view, I think I hit all of those nails on the head. Hooray for leftovers for lunch!

Hope everyone is having a great week.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Supreme 90 Day: Week One

Well, I survived week one of the Supreme 90 Day workout system. And really, it was much less "trying to survive" and more "kicking ass and feeling strong." If you scroll through my DVDs posts, you'll quickly learn that I'm no stranger to working up a sweat at home and rely on DVDs to give me a good challenge.

Supreme 90 Day has quickly moved up my list of favorites, easily being somewhere in the top 10. Why so much praise, so soon? It meets my criteria for a good (and in this case, great) workout DVD:

  • Affordable price.
  • Reasonable completion time (33-47 minutes each, *including* warm-up and cool-down).
  • Lots of variety to prevent boredom (10 discs, different disc each day).
  • Strong base of exercises that can be adapted to increase or decrease intensity, therefore acceptable for various fitness levels.
  • Challenges all major muscle groups.
  • Well-balanced mix of cardio, strength and core training.
  • Requires little space and few pieces of equipment.

I talked a little bit about the Chest and Back workout last week, but since then, I've tried a few others:

Ultimate Ball: Using a stability ball, this workout (about 40 minutes total) focuses on core muscles (think abs and back). I wasn't sure what to expect with this one, but I certainly wasn't expecting to sweat and curse as much as I did! Working with a stability ball quickly showed me how weak my core is, and consequently, how I have shit for balance. Lots of moves requiring you to roll the ball around with your legs or arms, but recruiting abdominal and back muscles to properly execute the move. I know my description is probably a little simplified, but believe me when I say that this disc is no joke. And of course, it hurt to laugh, cough or sneeze for a few days afterward; my abs were en fuego! There aren't a ton of alternatives for a stability ball in this workout; you might be able to get by with a chair or making up your own modifications, but my advice? Either buy a stability ball if you don't already have one OR skip this disc and opt for a moderate-to-high intensity Pilates workout.

Tabata Inferno: If memory serves, I think this is the longest workout in the whole set, BUT, thanks to tabata intervals, those 47 minutes flew by! In this workout, you do 20 seconds of a move at high intensity, usually one that's plyometric in nature (jump squats, burpees, high knees, etc.), recover for 10 seconds, then repeat. You repeat the cycle until you've completed about 4 minutes of work, then you get a full one-minute rest and move on to the next set of exercises. LOTS of different moves in this set, including a few with dumbbells to boost your afterburn even more! This workout may come across as intimidating to new exercisers, but go at your own pace and don't get discouraged; you have 90 days (or more) to improve your force and speed.

Shoulders and Arms: Pretty standard mix of moves to work the specified areas: clean & press, shoulder press, bicep curls, tricep extensions, triecp kickbacks, lateral raises, skull crushers and bent-over reverse flies. As with the other discs, the exercises are performed at a pretty quick 'n' steady speed with very little rest in between sets, so your heart rate stays elevated, thus more sweat and more calories burned. I'm loving this disc in particular because my arms have never been as defined or strong as I would like; after I did this workout, my arms were nice and warm for days, haha.

Cardio Challenge: This workout is similar to the Tabata Inferno, but *slightly* less intense and shorter in duration (about 40 minutes total). Instead of 20 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds of rest, you work for 30 seconds and rest for 30. This disc also incorporates more weights for compound moves like squats with an upright row, dumbbell swings with squats (could also use a kettle bell), wood chops, alternating forward lunges with a shoulder press, etc. Non-weighted moves include high knees, pop-squats (could also be defined as a "squat-jack"; kind of a hybrid between a jumping jack and a squat), jumping lunges, straight leg kicks, plank-walks, plank jacks, bear crawls and much, much more!

Legs: This is another shorter workout (about 32 minutes total) and it uses several variations on two key leg exercises, squats and lunges. This disc uses a stability ball as well, for floor moves like hip/pelvic raises and ball roll-outs. There are modifications provided if you don't have a ball and want to use a chair or weight bench. Since this workout was shorter, I got cocky and did a 2 mile run later that same day... Kinda regretting that now as my glutes are pretty damn sore! All in all though, another thorough workout in a reasonable amount of time.

One thing to be aware of is that quite a few of the workouts start out with an ab routine after the warm-up... Tom explains that this helps warm up your core for the exercises that follow and the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Your abs and back muscles do a lot of work in helping you balance and stabilize in a multitude of moves for other muscle groups, so it's good to ensure that those muscles are warmed up as well. I guess my only criticism is that those types of moves should've just been added to the standard warm-up that's performed on every disc. Oh well.

Overall, I'm really pleased with this system so far. Since I'll be rotating the same discs mentioned in this post for the remainder of month 1, I don't know that I'll post too many more updates. Once I move into month 2, some of the other discs will be incorporated.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cool as a Cucumber [Sandwich].

If you're still suffering in the heat and running out of no-oven-needed meal ideas, help is on the way!

When Doug and I first started dating, he told me about these cucumber-black olive-cream cheese sandwiches that his mom made for him, growing up. The combination struck me as a bit odd, but once I tried it for myself, it quickly became a favorite that I like to recreate every once in a while.

Anyway, last week, I picked up a discounted French bread-like loaf from the bakery and some Neufchatel cheese. We had a cucumber and a can of sliced olives on hand, so a fantastically simple (and frugal) dinner was on the way:



Served open-faced, with a black eye pea/tomato/red onion salad on the side. You could use any type of crusty bread, really. It works well with sourdough, French, whole wheat... You choose.

I lightly toasted the bread, spread on the Neufchatel, topped with cucumber slices (peeled off the skin and scooped out the seeds as a personal preference), sprinkled with salt & pepper and then crushed the olive slices on top. The textures of this sandwich are pretty amazing. Light, crisp, delicate and refreshing, and simultaneously filling and savory.

If I ever get around to opening my own restaurant or sandwich shop, I'll be sure to put this one on the menu. My first inclination was to name it "The Doug," but that seems like a better name for something that may or may not include bacon and peanut butter. Since it is, in my opinion, a more sophisticated sandwich, I think I'll go with "The Douglas." Enjoy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Can I have a Taco Supreme 90 Day instead?

Why hello there, dear readers! It's finally Friday and the week has slowed down enough for a nice lil' blog update. I have another food post coming up soon, but before I work on that, I wanted to throw some fitness schtuff in between.

Today, I started Day 1 of the Supreme 90 Day Workout System:


(got a better price on Amazon, of course).

I've been hearing about this program for a while, but didn't jump on the bandwagon right away since I'm a bit wary of "As Seen On TV!" labels. I didn't let it fall completely off my radar though, since it's basically a MUCH more affordable option to P90X.

I kept reading good reviews though and for the price, I decided the risk was pretty low; surely out of 10 different discs, there would be something I would enjoy...

Now, before I go into the basics of Supreme 90, I felt I should share my experience with P90X...

First of all, I love Tony Horton. I really do. He's motivational, funny and uh, let's just say that even though he's old enough to be my father, I wouldn't kick the man out of bed for eating crackers. I actually still have, in a box somewhere, his original Power 90 workout system on VHS. So I respect the man and his work. But...

I just wasn't feelin' P90X. Definitely a great variety of workouts that will no doubt deliver results when done consistently, but all in all, I just felt each workout was too long. Sixty minutes or more, nearly everyday, wasn't doing it for me. I have no qualms (most of the time) about getting in a good workout most days of the week, but I also get bored easily and do best with faster-paced workouts in the 30-45 minute range.

Enter Supreme 90.

It could be (and probably has been) labeled as the "poor man's P90X," but I am indeed a semi-poor [wo]man who is still intrigued by the idea of muscle confusion and seeing improvement in all major muscle groups in just a few months. Sign me up!

The program is hosted by Tom Holland (who doesn't sound or look unlike Tony). There's also a 28-Day meal plan included, which was put together by Tosca Reno (author of the Eat Clean Diet books and regular contributor to my favorite, Oxygen Magazine). So all in all, it seems pretty legit.

Anywho, the next biggest selling point to me, after the number of workouts and the price, was the duration of the workouts. Turns out, instead of one grueling hour after another, the Supreme 90 routines fall between 30 and 47 minutes, including the warm-up and cool down stretch.

Next pro that caught my attention? A short list of equipment: Dumbbells and a stability ball. That's it. No extra pull-up bar or anything like that. Simple, simple, simple.

Now, that said, a good variety of dumbbells is what I would recommend. After doing the Chest & Back DVD this morning (which I really dug, by the way), a good mix to have would be light (3-5 lbs) medium (8-10 lbs) and heavy (15-25 lbs). The disc I did this morning included a few moves using a stability ball, but Tom provided alternatives to complete the routine without it. I won't say (yet) that you can do the whole program without a stability ball (there's one disc called "Ultimate Ball," for example), but so far it seems like modifications will be prominent throughout.

SO, how was the Chest & Back workout? Pretty darn good. And fast, too (finished in about 32 minutes, including warm up and cool down). It was a basic circuit routine where you would perform 2-3 different exercises, 8-12 reps each, repeat the set 1-2 times and then move on to the next round. Tom has 3 different people working with him (two guys, one girl) and they all go at different paces so you're encouraged to go at your own pace as well. This was an adjustment for me because I'm used to being in sync with everyone in the video, but it is nice not to feel rushed. Tom encourages you to avoid rushing through the moves because it affects your form.

Today, I did lots of push-ups, deadlifts, chest presses, supermans, bent-over rows, push-ups to plank rows (kill me) and a few other moves that were completely new to me. Definitely felt like my chest and back got a thorough workout in a short amount of time. The pace was steady enough to work up a nice sweat, but there was also just enough time in between sets for Tom to explain each of the moves and show how to perform them.

It's a bit early for me to judge, but I'd say this would probably be better suited for intermediate to advanced fitness levels. Although, with the people in the videos going at their own paces and with the modifications, a beginner looking for a challenge might benefit from this system too. Either way, I'll follow up on that after trying the majority of the discs.

I'm really excited to keep going with this plan. I can't guarantee that I will stick to it 100% for the full 90 days, but I'm sure gonna try. I probably won't do daily blog updates either, but I'll definitely check in every week or so to recap which workouts I tried and how I felt afterward.

Have you tried P90X or Supreme 90 Day? What are your thoughts?

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Almond Butter Whey Cookies, Part 2.

So, those Almond Butter Whey Cookies from my last post? Well, I decided to follow up on those and experiment with making them more moist. I think I found the trick... Add a ripe banana!

My revised recipe:

  • 2/3 cup oats
  • 1 tbsp creamy almond butter (could also use peanut butter)
  • 1.5 scoops whey protein powder (I used Designer Whey's vanilla variety)
  • 1 egg white (or 1/4 cup liquid egg whites)
  • 2 packets Stevia (or sweetener of choice; I used 2 tbsp of granulated Splenda)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 cup carob chips (optional; I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 1 small ripe banana
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • dash of salt

-Pre-heat oven to 350˚F.
-Whisk dry ingredients together.
-Mash the banana and mix well with wet ingredients; add to dry ingredients.
-Use a teaspoon to scoop the batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper & sprayed with non-stick spray. The mixture will be a bit runny. Aim for 12 cookies.
-Bake for 10 minutes.



I ended up with 12 this time (2 are missing from the picture after Doug and I did a little quality control).

MUCH better! The mashed banana made a big difference. Plus, it added a nice banana flavor to complement the chocolate and nut butter. What more could I ask for? Moist, fresh chocolate chip cookies ready in well under 20 minutes.

The nutrition changed a bit though; instead of the original 30 cals per cookie, my revised recipe makes these 58 calories per cookie. Still not bad at all, considering how much more satisfying they were than the first batch. Glad I decided to give this recipe another shot!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Treats in the heat.

Last night's dinner was another specialty a lá Doug. There was brief talk about taking advantage of a special at Domino's Pizza, but remembering how much cake I ate over the weekend and into Monday, I quickly shut that idea down. So back to healthy meal planning we went.

We ended up with a Quinoa salad, topped with grilled chicken and homemade vinaigrette dressing:



For the salad mix, Doug tossed together diced tomatoes, sliced radishes, green onion and cooked quinoa. For the dressing, he whisked together:

  • Minced garlic
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Dijon mustard
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Ancho chile powder
  • Dried cilantro flakes
  • Salt & pepper

The chicken was cooked on the grill and brushed with Famous Dave's Texas Pit BBQ sauce. If you want to go meatless, this salad would go great with black beans and corn.

Fresh, clean flavors and a great summer dish that required minimal use of the stove. Works for me! And apparently it also worked for Randal, who did a great job of cleaning up some quinoa that spilled on the floor:



Before dinner, I already had dessert on the brain, so I decided to try a couple of recipes I had seen in the latest issue of Oxygen Magazine, both of which featured whey protein powder.

The first recipe was a batch of Almond Butter Whey Cookies:



Bite-sized, of course:



For this recipe, you'll need:

  • 1/2 cup Oats
  • 1 tbsp creamy almond butter (I used Barney Butter; it's so smooth!)
  • 1 scoop whey protein powder (I used Designer Whey's chocolate variety)
  • 1 egg white (or 1/4 cup liquid egg whites)
  • 2 packets Stevia (or sweetener of choice; I used a generous tablespoon of granulated Splenda)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 cup carob chips (optional; I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)

(I also added about a tablespoon of cocoa powder for extra flavor, along with a dash of salt.)

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl, then stir in the wet ingredients with a spoon. The dough will be really sticky and kinda difficult to work with, but mix as well as you can.

Use a teaspoon to make the dough into golfball-sized portions. Bake in a 350˚F oven for 10 minutes. I ended up with 10 cookies instead of 12, but whatevs. Each cookie is about 30 calories!

Things to do differently next time: While the chocolate flavor in these cookies was spot-on, Doug and I both agreed that they were DRY. Like really, really, I-need-copious-amounts-of-milk-stat! dry. I'm already planning to make another batch, but I will definitely play around with adding milk and/or unsweetened applesauce to give them some much-needed moisture. A little softer, and these could be a pretty satisfying, guilt-free treat when the chocolate craving hits.

The second recipe I tried was for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups:



In a blender, add:
  • 4 oz water
  • 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder (I used Designer Whey)
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter (I used Peanut Butter & Co's Dark Chocolate Dreams)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1-2 packets of preferred sweetener (I used a generous tablespoon of granulated Splenda)

Blend until well mixed, pour into a muffin tray and freeze for 1-2 hours. (I used a mini muffin pan and ended up with 10 cups total.)

Things to do differently next time: As far as the recipe goes, I don't think I'd change much because they tasted pretty darn good. But they're also super-messy to eat because it's basically like eating pieces of a frozen fudge bar without the stick. That said, I think this recipe would work as a really great base for a low-cal ice cream. I'm going to try mixing it with a few cups of almond milk, freezing it and seeing what I end up with. Given the creaminess of the cups, I think the ice cream would turn out pretty good.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Perspective; I has it.

The summer has been pretty insane and non-stop so far, thanks to various appointments, social gatherings, adopting Randal, making time for family visits, traveling to Vegas, weddings, graduations and of course, making time for the usual workouts and healthy eats.

On top of all that, I also applied for a new position in my department. I've completed the two interviews, but I'm starting to think I won't get an offer. As with any position, I recognized and accepted the possibility that I wouldn't get it, and that's totally ok. No hard feelings. Playing the waiting game has still been a bit stressful though, so when I found myself lying awake at 4 am this morning, wondering if today would be the day I finally get some news, I rolled out of bed and changed into my workout clothes. I made my way to the gym and did something I haven't done in a loooooong time; I ran 4 miles.

I wasn't particularly fast and I took my share of walking breaks, but I felt so damn good, I just kept going. And although my running can be sporadic at times, one thing's for sure; I almost always clear my head in the process and feel pretty damn optimistic about, well, everything.

When life gets busy (see last two months and counting), I tend to lose sight of how good I have it right now.

So, how about a quick recap of the things I'm thankful for, eh?

-Doug
-Randal
-My awesome, smart, hilarious friends
-My family
-My current job (money's tight, I'm a little bored, but bills are still getting paid; others haven't been as lucky in this economy and I need to remind myself of that.)
-Shelter
-Wholesome food
-My strong body
-My confidence and sense of self-worth (didn't have either of these for a good chunk of my life; changing my lifestyle these past few years has made all the difference.)
-My intelligence
-My sense of humor (Doug tends to roll his eyes at most of my jokes, but if I can still make myself laugh every day, that's good enough for me.)
-Peanut butter
-Studying for my PT certification
-Music
-Netflix

I guess I'll stop there, but the point is, I've got a lot going for me already. That's not to say everyday has been smooth sailing; there's been ongoing financial struggles, arguments, tears, crappy eating and terrible workouts. But that's life. You can't control most of the things that happen to you, but you can control how you respond. Choosing a positive attitude is easier on some days than others, but it's always an option with little-to-no risk involved. What have you got to lose by recognizing the good things in life?

This morning's run helped me come to such a conclusion. Since I don't know what the rest of the day will bring, I at least know that for 50 minutes this morning, I was centered and at peace with myself and my body. I'm thankful that my legs carried me though and that those endorphins lifted me up to a new level of optimism.

Alright, enough of the hippie stuff. In short, no matter how the day (or month or year) ends up, life, as it is, is pretty bitchin'. And really, how can I ever be upset when I know I've got this face to come home to?



So, with that said, I suppose I'll close this post with a gentle reminder to pause and reflect on the good in your life. Sure, things could be better, but they could also be much worse. Make the most of what you have. And run! (Or walk.) And eat your veggies. Heh.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bro-ing it up in Vegas.

Um, where the eff did June go? I guess I shouldn't complain about summer going by so fast because I hate the heat, but having time to breathe and y'know, remember what day it is would be kinda nice.

Anywho, Monday, I got back from a long weekend in Vegas to celebrate my sister's 21st birthday. And also kinda celebrating 5 years with Doug:



Ignore the red eye.

It was a great trip, filled with public drunkenness and drag queens, but of course, the main thing I want to talk about is THE FOOD!

My mom treated us all to a buffet at the Paris hotel the first night, but after that, Doug and I quickly decided that we didn't want to do the buffet thing during the whole trip. We stuck to cheaper, non-buffet eats (thank you Panda Express for supplying us with veggies!).

We did however make not one, but two special trips to a new favorite joint, Hash House a Go Go. I originally saw them featured on Man vs. Food and wrote the name in case we got the chance to actually visit. Turns out, they were located in our hotel (stayed at the Imperial Palace), so we made plans to eat there for breakfast. The dish that beckoned? Sage Fried Chicken & Bacon Waffles, topped with fried leeks and a maple reduction:



Ultimate food porn. I wanted to get a better picture, but I was also eager to try my first bite, so I threw down the camera in a hurry, attacking the poor dish like a lion on a gazelle.

Definitely a chorus-of-angels-worthy dish. My only regret is that we didn't think to share one plate; this place serves up H-U-G-E portions. Oh well. We munched on the leftovers during the day, so we could skip snacks and lunch. This method came in handy for balancing my walk-around-vodka munchies.

Since we enjoyed breakfast so much, we decided to go back for dinner. Complimentary buttermilk biscuits, topped with a warm honey glaze:



Sometimes, there just aren't enough calories in day... I would've loved to tried these babies with some sausage gravy!

Next, we ordered an appetizer; Tiger Prawns, fried in cornmeal:



Served with a creamy chipotle sauce and garnished with fried angel hair pasta. I must admit, I haven't been to too many places that focus on presentation, so this made the trip so much more enjoyable!

Next, we decided to SPLIT a burger. We learned our lesson from the Chicken 'n' Waffles incident and knew that one burger would be plenty for the two of us. And it was. This is the #5 burger, stuffed with cheddar, applewood bacon and avocado:





Hot damn. Another winner! So, next time you're in Vegas and looking to splurge, pleasepleaseplease don't pass this place up! Aside from their location in the Imperial Palace, they also have a stand-alone location near the Sahara. Oh, and their original location is in San Diego as well.

Lots of calories consumed, but we also walked everywhere, so everything balanced out pretty well. We had a blast, but it's great to be home. I've had my share of excess for the year, haha. Hope everyone's having a great week!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Great minds think alike.

Not that I needed more proof that Randal is a great fit for our household, but the places he falls asleep crack me up:



Hope everyone had a great weekend! Got a busy couple of weeks ahead of me, followed by some much-needed R&R in Vegas. How's your summer going? Busy? Cool travel plans? Work? 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hows & Whats.

Time for another edition of Hows & Whats.

HOW I'm currently eating:
DISCLAIMER: As with any nutritional plan, always seek guidance from a professional first; this way of eating is what currently works for *me* and may not be the best option for you.

Oh, food. You and I always seem to be at odds, depending on the week and where my head is at. For the time being, I'm aiming for higher protein and less sugar, using Jackie Warner's book as a guide:



I actually bought this book shortly after it was released, just never got around to doing a proper review. I know it probably comes across as just another fad, but it's actually a pretty decent read when it comes to food. And nothing is banned; the main goal is to eat less refined sugar and processed foods, which pretty much every one can benefit from. I'm fond of this plan because it works best for my current way of eating (eat clean for 5 days, then allow for some treats on the weekends), but also forces me to improve my meal composition (less sugar, more protein, more veggies and focusing on whole grains & fruits for carb sources). Each day, I aim to eat 4 servings of lean protein, 3 servings of veggies (though I allow myself more if I want), 2 servings of fruit, 2 servings of healthy carbs (oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, pasta, wheat bread or wraps, etc.) and 1 serving of healthy fat (olive oil, nuts, avocado).

It's not rocket science by any means, but since my fitness goals include improving my sprinting speeds and increasing my lean muscle mass, Jackie's nutrition plan is pretty much spot-on for properly fueling my workouts. Before following her plan, I was eating healthy (for the most part), but had cut back on protein and found myself eating more carbs, in addition to drinking more alcohol and overeating on the weekends. Doing so was starting to affect my athletic performance; I just always seemed sluggish whether I was running or lifting and was taking longer to recover, thus bailing on more workouts. Getting back into my protein groove has already kept me from half-assing a session and has kept debilitating muscle soreness in the backseat.

I'm into my second week of following the plan and have noticed a dive in my junk food cravings and my appetite is starting to subside as well. First week, I dropped 3 pounds, so I can't complain. And because there's no counting calories or tracking involved, it's keeping my anxiety and binges at bay. I'm not hungry either, which is kind of a big deal. As with any healthy eating plan, there is some more prep involved (taking time to cut up veggies for snacks & lunch; boiling eggs and mixing protein shakes the night before, etc.), but nothing I haven't had to do before.

HOW I'm currently sweating:
Right now, my routine is pretty basic: 2 days of cardio, 3 days of strength/weights, 2 days of rest. For cardio, I head to the gym and do some sort of mix of the following, for about 45 minutes or so: sprint intervals, incline walking, stairmaster, elliptical or spinning. I try not to do any single activity for more than 20 minutes because I have a confession to make: I'm officially bored with cardio.

Back when I first started to lose weight, I adored cardio and despised strength training. Anyone who's followed me from my LiveJournal days knows this is true. It seems after getting into Jari Love and Jackie Warner workouts, I finally learned to love lifting and compound strength exercises. They just always seem to give me that edge when trying to meet a goal, be it improved definition or fat loss. I STILL meet women to this day who shy away from weights or believe they shouldn't start lifting until they're closer to their weight goal. For any ladies reading this, please, please, please- don't put off this type of training any longer. You will NOT get big and bulky (unless you're getting testosterone injections, lifting 300+ pounds AND eating a steady diet of chicken & creatine supplements). Study after study has proven time and time again that weight training boosts fat-loss efforts, improves performance in other fitness activities and improves bone density. You can scarf down all the milk and calcium supplements you want (*raises hand*), but adding some extra resistance in your workouts will ward off osteoporosis and fractures even more. Running, yoga and Zumba are all great, but don't be afraid to pick up some dumbbells a couple times a week.

Ok, stepping off of my soapbox now.

WHAT I'm currently reading:
Well, technically, all I should be reading is my ACE Personal Trainer Manual, but I need a break from that every once in a while. Right now, I'm pretty much obsessed with Oxygen Magazine. 


I'm letting my subscriptions to Shape, Self and Fitness all expire because I relate to less and less of their content every month. I don't identify with flavor-of-the-month celebs or the numerous underweight models featured on every other page, parading as fitness role models. And when I'm in the mood to read about exercise, I want to read about just that; not flip through dozens of pages featuring beauty products and $500 boots. Can you feel the rage?

Well, Oxygen is not like the others. Forget the anti-aging moisturizers and bring on the butt-kicking workouts! I've gotten 2 issues so far and just reading them makes me feel like a strong, healthy bad-ass. They cover a variety of workout types, share great clean recipes, tell inspiring success stories and feature models who truly do exemplify what eating healthy and working out should look like, without any fluff.

Don't get me wrong; those other women's health mags deserve some credit, but they just seem so shallow to me now. And honestly, if I see another Kardashian being played up to be a source of health/fitness inspiration, I'm gonna need corrective surgery to pull my eyes from the back of my head.

Bonus: You can score a subscription from Magazine Deals Now for a more than reasonable price. (I've used this site tons in the past; it's legit. If you sign up for their mailing list, you get sweet discount codes too.)

What are some of your current Hows & Whats?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Q-Q-Q-Q-Quinoa.

I'm pretty terrible at post titles. Whatevs...

So, I'm a new fangirl of Oxygen Magazine. I was about to give up on women's health/fitness magazines, but Oxygen seems to know what's up. It's great to see ripped, fit women doing tough workouts as opposed to the usual underweight bikini model pretending to be disappointed by what she sees on the scale in an article about weight-loss. ANYWHO, rant aside, I found a great Spanish-style quinoa recipe on the Oxygen site and decided to give it a try last night.

I opted for the version that used pinto beans instead of peas. I also left out the green onion because we were out.



Turned out great! I sometimes (well, all of the time) find myself stuck when thinking of new ways to jazz up quinoa and this recipe was just what I was looking for. It reminded me of really well-seasoned, hearty Spanish rice.

To boost up my protein intake, I served it with some salmon:



I seasoned the salmon with taco seasoning (we likes to keeps it classy like dat) and topped it with my new obsession:



There are only a billion different jarred salsas out there, so I don't usually buy it, but I'm officially a whore for Frontera. One of my new goals in life is to eat at a Rick Bayless restaurant, based on this salsa alone. There's also a red pepper-garlic variety that's pretty great too.

Turned out to be a tasty meal, no thanks to my lazy sous chef:



Oh well. Being cute does give one a lot of free passes in life.

This dish would also great with grilled chicken, pork, ground beef or turkey. And to keep it meatless, add more beans (black or kidney, perhaps?) and/or tofu. Looking forward to trying the leftovers with cheese & sour cream.

Hope everyone's having a great week!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Catching up with the times...

Hello, readers! Just a quick post to let you know I finally created a Facebook page for this blog.

My goal is to offer a more interactive, supportive place for readers. I'll also post food/fitness tips that don't always make it to the blog.

Thanks!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A new partner in crime...

Hope everyone had a safe & fun weekend! Things were a little busy at our house, but for good reason; we finally got a dog!!!











His name is Randal (a nod to the movie "Clerks"), he's one and a half years old and so far, he's the best beagle ever. Sure, he's misbehaved a few times, but I mean, look at that face! We're quick to forgive him once he goes back to being a goofy sweetheart.

I've been looking at dogs for over 3 years now and Randal is proof that patience is a virtue. The local Humane Society was having a really good deal on dogs over the holiday weekend, so I twisted Doug's arm to go look after I left work on Friday. I figured if we didn't see/meet any that we liked, we could leave, but I think I knew better; visiting a shelter is pretty heartbreaking, so leaving empty-handed is a challenge.

I saw Randal on the website earlier in the day and he was definitely one of my top choices. He was a stray who had already been there a week; can't believe he lasted that long! He had just been neutered, had a clean bill of health and no behavioral problems. When we went to a visitation room to meet him, he immediately went to Doug and put his paw's on Doug's knees. It's almost as if Randal planned that move, since Doug was being really resistant to the idea of getting a dog that day and I was already won over from the beginning.

About an hour after the visit, we were new dog parents and taking Randal to his new home. It's been like the Summer of Love ever since, but without the psychoactive drugs and, y'know, hippies. For $100, his adoption included getting neutered, shots, license tags, a free first vet visit, microchip and a free month of pet insurance. He was originally $200, so aside from being the coolest dog ever, his adoption process was a pretty rad value too.

But not everyone was happy about Randal joining our family...





This is my sister's Shih-Tzu, Chato. Chato has stayed at our house a few times in the past and was kind of a "practice" dog for me and Doug. He's usually cheerful and energetic, but when he stayed the night this weekend with Randal, he quickly became super-jealous and would go into our bedroom by himself because he thought he'd been replaced. He's not used to being around other dogs, but hopefully he'll eventually warm up to his new cousin.

So that was this weekend's excitement! Once Randal heals up from his neuter surgery, we're looking forward to taking him hiking and to the dog park. He's already a bit spoiled and I expect that will only get worse as time goes on.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Boot camp, baby!

It's been a while since I've blabbed about a fitness DVD, but I couldn't seem to go another day without praising my new favorite: Jeanette Jenkins' Bikini Boot Camp!



I first learned about Jeanette through the Nike Training Club App after unlocking her bonus ab workout. After that, I got curious and started to browse her DVD releases. After reading some reviews, I decided to give Bikini Boot Camp a try.

First, I'll cut to the chase and say: This workout is NOT for beginners! In fact, I think even intermediate and advanced exercisers will find this one tough to keep up with.

The basic format of the workout is a warm-up, a cardio camp (about 27 minutes), a strength/toning camp (about 25 minutes), an ab camp (about 10 minutes) and finally, stretching & cool down. You can do each camp individually or all together.

Don't let the girlishness of the word "bikini" fool you- the cardio camp is no joke! It's very athlete-driven, starting with some basic moves (jumping jacks, high knees, etc.), but then quickly transitions ("quickly" being a key word here) to kick boxing, plyometrics and sport drills one might do in volleyball, basketball and football (shuffling, overhead spikes, mixed jump rope routines, etc.)

While the cardio camp is under 30 minutes, Jeanette does not let up for a single second; there are 5 circuits, all of them repeated about 2-3 times with no breaks. While her cuing and pace are both steady, she doesn't really pause to show you how to perform the move, so it's up to the viewer to really pay attention and keep up. None of the moves are terribly complicated, but if you're expecting a lot of explanation beforehand, it simply isn't there.

The strength/toning camp moves at a slightly slower pace with a couple of breaks, but because most of the moves are compound exercises (working more than one muscle group at the same time), your heart rate will stay up and you'll definitely start to feel the burn all over.

This routine starts off with push-ups and plank exercises and then moves on to using dumbbells with lots of variations on lunges, squats, arm curls and extensions. One move that was new to me was plie squats performed while standing on the tips of the toes- hello calf muscles! Many of the moves also involve balancing on one leg, which I found really challenged my core muscles.

Finally, there's the ab camp. Nothing particularly spectacular here; just a lot of crunches (with the added weight from a dumbbell), bicyles and leg raises that will set your stomach on fire for almost 10 minutes. Y'know, the usual.

I've done this DVD twice now and I think I may be addicted, despite how incredibly tough it is. The first time, I did the entire DVD, all of the camps in order. This morning, I skipped the ab camp and changed up the order, doing the strength camp first, then the cardio camp. I'm sure it depends on the person, but I found doing the strength camp first was a little bit easier to get through. The cardio is just so tough that trying to get through resistance training immediately afterward was a little too much of an ass-kicker for me. Plus, I think my form was better in the strength camp since my muscles were still fresh and not completely spent from all of the plyometric work in cardio camp.

This DVD was a little pricier than what I usually spend on fitness DVDs (Collage Video actually has the cheaper price; Amazon wants almost $40- yeah right!), but so far, it's proven to be worth every penny. It's provided the type of muscle confusion I've needed lately and goes by pretty fast. Plus, the only equipment you need is some dumbbells (I used a set of 5's and a set of 8's). If you're looking for a great total body workout, Bikini Boot Camp delivers a solid challenge that will leave you soaked and sore (in a good way, of course). You've got a new fan, Jeanette!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tae Bo with Billy Blanks!

As a long-time fan of Tae-Bo, I was pretty damn thrilled to meet and workout with the master himself, Billy Blanks!!!



Last Friday, I found out that Billy had done a workout at a local gym (my old-old former Planet Fitness gym, Westside Fitness) at 10 am. Totally missed it! I was pretty bummed. I started using the Tae Bo tapes back in my early college days, all the way through to my current fitness routine. It's one of those workouts that I can always depend on because it never feels like "work," it's just fun and empowering. And it always leaves me drenched in sweat, as depicted above, heh.

Anyway, as I searched the web for re-caps of the awesome workout I missed, I found out that Billy was doing a SECOND workout at 5 pm! There was hope! I still had a chance to live out one of my fitness dreams and workout with Billy in person!

I called the gym to see if there was any spots left and there were! Granted, the cost to get in was $30, but the workout and meet/greet was open to non-gym members, so I decided to dash home, change and get my kickboxing on.

Working out with Billy was incredible! Definitely one of the biggest challenges I've done to date. Part of what made it so challenging (aside from the non-stop kicking, punching and resistance band routine) was Billy walking around the room, calling us out to correct our form and holding up his padded gloves to make sure we were counting and punching and kicking on the beat.

When we were going through a punching routine, Billy came up to me and held up his gloves- just like in the videos! He yelled at me over the music to "look in the mirror!" so I could see myself and my form, but I was totally starstruck and had a hard time looking in the mirror when a fitness legend was by my side, haha.

He also held the gloves up to me when we were doing front and back kicks. There was so much burning going on in my muscles at that point, but I pushed through it. He said "Good!" after monitoring my kicks for a bit and I was walking on air from that point on.

After the workout, we all sat down and listened to Billy talk and answer questions:





He said that he was dyslexic and didn't read his first book until 20 years ago. I never knew that about him, so it was inspiring to hear how taking up boxing and Tae Kwan Do helped him eventually work through those issues.

I personally couldn't think of anything to ask because I was still in shock over the fact that we just worked out together, so I just listened. He of course got asked about food and diet and I was pleased with his answer. He basically said that diet books and trends probably work well for the people that designed them, but they more than likely won't work for you 100%. He recommended taking bits and pieces from different plans and customizing something that works for you, which I totally agree with. He didn't talk about calories or superfoods, he just advised healthy choices and avoiding extremes. I think some people were disappointed with his answer because they were probably ready to follow "The Billy Blanks Diet," but I think he responded well.

Someone asked if he lifted weights and I surprised to learn that he doesn't. He said the only resistance training he does is in the Tae Bo workouts, like the resistance bands and bars. We did a routine with the bands toward the end of the workout and it was no joke! At one point, we were performing squat jumps with a military press at the top and I was about ready to die right then and there.

All in all, it was a really cool experience! I'm glad I was able to make it, despite limping out of bed the next morning, haha. Billy is a great instructor, a true motivator and one of my all-time favorite fitness idols. Now I just need to hunt down Jillian Michaels, Jackie Warner and Jari Love and I'll be good to go, haha.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vegetable Curry, New Belgium-Style.

Yesterday's Meatless Monday dish combined two things that I enjoy: Curry and beer. But last night was the first time I enjoyed the two together. It was quite the tasty experiment.

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received a stipend to purchase New Belgium Brewery products and ingredients for a meal made with and/or paired with the beer.

I chose the Trippel Belgian Style Ale.



Since the main spice is coriander, Doug suggested a curry of some sort.

And so, New Belgium Vegetable Curry was born:



Ingredients:
  • 1 bottle of New Belgium Trippel style beer
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14 or 15 oz, I believe)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 bag of frozen peas & carrots (12 oz)
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1-2 tsp of garam masala
  • dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 cup basmati rice, uncooked

Add the oil to a large pot, set to medium heat. Add the onions and allow them to sweat for about 10-15 minutes. You're not trying to caramelize them, but rather slowly sweat and tenderize them. Add curry powder and stir for a minute or two.

Add the garlic and ginger and stir for a couple of minutes. Stir in tomatoes, salt then the beer. Let simmer for about 10 minutes.

While the base is simmering, prepare the basmati rice according to the package instructions (to save some time, we did the microwave option; place rice in a 2 quart microwaveable dish, add 2 cups water, cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Remove, stir and microwave for an additional 15 minutes on 50% power. Let sit for 5 minutes.)

Add the cayenne (if using) and additional salt, if necessary to the base. Stir in cauliflower and peas/carrots. Cover and continue to simmer until cauliflower is tender, about another 10 minutes or so. Add garam masala during the last few minutes of cooking. Serve with rice.



Great, flavorful dish. We sipped the beer by itself in between bites and aside from cooling down the effect of the cayenne, it also had a crisp finish and a smooth aftertaste, thanks to the coriander and the complementing spices in the curry.

Living in Colorado, I've been familiar with New Belgium Brewery for quite some time and have had a few of their beers in the past, but never really considered myself a huge fan. It wasn't until this Foodbuzz opportunity that I decided to give New Belgium another shot. I was pleased to discover how much I enjoyed the Tripple variety and even more impressed with how well it worked with our recipe. Warm curry, cold beer… What more could I ask for on a Monday night?