January 29, 2015

Almond Vanilla Bean Porridge with Blueberry Compote

I don't usually post recipes with a lot of fancy ingredients because I don't often have fancy extras on hand. However, I concocted this tasty bowl of porridge and spent some time making it look beautiful, so of course, I had to share it with you. :-)

I recently learned how to scrape the seeds out of a vanilla bean pod and I am in love with vanilla. The smell, alluring flavor, heavenly taste... Therefore, when I happened to have a vanilla bean on hand, I knew I had to create something worthy of its exotic presence. Also, it seems the more time you spend preparing your food, the healthier it turns out. This oatmeal is comprised of rolled oats, vanilla seeds, flax seeds, almond milk, almond pieces, coconut sugar, cinnamon, blueberries and agave nectar.

Each ingredient has healthful benefits--

Rolled oats - heart healthy, full of fiber, rich in protein, reduce the risk of coronary disease, mineral rich
Vanilla bean - anti-inflammatory, improves cognitive mental performance, soothes the stomach
Flax seeds - reduces blood pressure, helps alleviate depression, lowers cholesterol
Almonds - reduce risk of heart attack, lower cholesterol, protect artery walls from damage, aid in weight loss
Coconut sugar - lower glycemic index than regular sugar, retains some nutrients from the coconut plant
Cinnamon - regulates blood sugar, enhances cognitive processing, prevents brain swells from swelling after traumatic injury
Agave nectar - lower glycemic index (Now, yes, I've heard how "evil" agave is because it contains so much fructose. But I rarely eat high fructose corn syrup which is the real monster out there, and I only added a very small amount because agave is very sweet and you don't need that much. It's better than adding regular sugar and you have to pick and choose your battles. Everything in moderation, right? That's how you keep the weight off and the healthy choices abounding.)
Blueberries - major source of antioxidants, prevent memory loss

Almond Vanilla Bean Porridge with Blueberry Compote
Makes 2-3 servings

1 cup old fashioned or rolled oats
1 3/4 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp agave nectar
2 tsp flax seeds
2 Tbsp coconut sugar
1 Tbsp sliced almonds
1 container blueberries
1/2-1 banana, sliced

In a saucepan over high heat, combine the oats, 1 cup of the almond milk, half of the vanilla seeds, and the cinnamon. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then remove from heat, cover the pan and set aside. Stir in 1 Tbsp coconut sugar.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the blueberries, 2 Tbsp water, the remaining half of the vanilla seeds, and the 1 tsp. agave. Cook, stirring, until the berries release their juices, about 6 minutes.

To serve, spoon the hot oat porridge into 2 or 3 bowls. Drizzle with the warm blueberries. Top with the banana and sprinkle with the almonds, coconut sugar, and flax. Feel free to get creative and use whatever toppings or berries you like.



January 25, 2015

Chewy Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies (gluten free, no refined sugar) and Being Like Water

Isn't life crazy? The one thing I've learned is that no matter how "planned" you have your life, it will take its own twists and turns without adhering to your plans. You're just along for the ride. For example, my apartment unit has been for sale for a few months, and I've been wondering where I should live, how much I should spend, etc. But I'd been putting it off until I finished my internship (just finished that!) and secured a job making better money. My boyfriend and I started looking casually on Craigslist just to see what was out there and within a week we had signed a lease and are moving in 2 weeks!

I feel like the universe has it's own path for each person and when you just let go, it'll lead you to where you need to be. So I'm going to try (emphasis on try) not to stress about finding a job, moving, starting a new chapter of my life (the grown up chapter :-/ no more college) and just let the chips fall. During one of the happiest times in my life, I adopted the motto "be like water" and I felt truly free. I just let myself go where life took me. And it lead me to the love of my life and moving to San Diego. The past couple of years have been stressful in several ways and I realized I was worrying too much and had lost faith in the cosmic forces of my life. So for the last couple of months, I've tried to stress less and have more faith. It seems to be working. I have a lot to look forward to and many positive changes have been happening. Cabo next weekend, woohoo! Time to party with the beautiful gray whales.

Oh, and here's a tasty and clean cookie recipe for the chocoholic in you.

Chewy Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from @eatprayweights

1/4 cup organic peanut butter (I used natural PB)
1/4 cup organic pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 heaping Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp chocolate chips (carob chips for vegan)

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix all ingredients together. Form into 6 balls and flatten a bit on cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. They will be very soft and they don't spread out like normal cookies. Let cool at least 10 minutes before eating. Enjoy!

January 21, 2015

Coconut Oil Whole Grain Banana Waffles & Realistic Goal Setting

Good morning!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been making a lot of waffles with my new waffle iron. I also just got an ice cream maker for my birthday. (insert red faced emoji) I'll have to seek out some sorbet or healthy ice cream alternatives... or just not blog about the ice cream I make. :-) Hey, everything in moderation, folks! No one's perfect. But any ice cream will definitely have to wait until after Cabo. I'm leaving in 10 days and couldn't be more excited. This vacation will come on the heels of me completing my school counseling internship, which is a huge deal! I can actually start looking for jobs for next school year. I don't even remember what having money is like...

I've been doing a lot of HIIT to try to really lean out. But I've been very strict since after Thanksgiving on my diet and my exercise routine in general. I had a goal of 5 days a week for awhile, and I kept missing the goal or I would be super stressed out trying to figure out how to get to the gym 5 days in the midst of my two jobs, my internship, travel, and driving an hour and a half to school. So I re-evaluated. I asked myself what was realistic. I concluded that I could manage 4 days. And for the most part, I have consistently hit 4 days/week of really efficient and effective workouts. I also got on my boyfriend's case about needing to go to the gym and eating healthier (sorry, babe), and he's been doing great.

It's hard to have one spouse/partner/roommate being uber healthy and the other not so much. Even as an avid fitness and health food junkie, I can be tempted just as much as the next person. It's a lot easier to just give in and munch on some extra junk when the person next to you is. And it's a lot easier to keep laying on the couch watching football when someone else is doing the same thing. But now we've motivated each other. We each have a colored dry erase marker that we use to mark our dry erase board calendar with a dot for each workout. I'm pink, he's orange. Coincidence that it happens to be Bikini Baker colors? ;-) Holding yourself accountable by having a visual of exactly when you workout can be very effective. In the past I know I would forget how many times I had worked out, especially after a long, busy week. But now I just check my dots. You could also use this awesome Plum Paper Designs life planner, which is featured here, and is one of the top hits on the blog.

Last, who wants to be dealing with health issues and frailty when they age? I certainly don't. It's not always about aesthetics, although that's certainly a motivating factor for staying fit. But think about the quality of life you'll have. Is there someone in your household you can motivate to go on a fitness journey with you? I'd love to hear about it.

And don't forget to start your day with a hearty, nutritious, protein packed breakfast! That is number one.

Coconut Oil Whole Grain Banana Waffles
Makes 6-8 standard size waffles

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour (see note below for substitutions)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2-3 bananas)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup almond milk (see note below for substitutions)
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup melted coconut oil

*You may use any milk or flour of choice. For gluten free, try spelt or a gluten free flour blend.

1. In a large Ziploc bag (if you want to make the day ahead) or bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
2. In a smaller Ziploc bag or container with a tight-fitting lid, mash the banana, eggs, almond milk and rolled oats together.
3. Stash the wet mixture in the fridge overnight if you want to make the batter ahead of time, and leave the dry mixture on the counter or in your pantry.
4. In the morning or right after away, combine the wet and dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, whisking until blended. Stir in the vanilla extract and melted coconut oil.
5. Pour batter onto a hot waffle iron and bake until crisp and golden brown.
6. Serve waffles hot with a drizzle of maple syrup or topping of choice.
7. Let leftover waffles cool, then transfer them to a Ziploc bag and store them in the freezer. Reheat and re-crisp in the toaster. They crisp up very nicely.

January 13, 2015

Summer Bikini Booty Workout

So, I just turned 28 on Saturday. That sounds crazy to say! I do not feel 28 at all. Where did my 20s go?? The few months leading up to my birthday and the past couple of days have had me really focusing on how I actually feel. If I don't feel 28, then that must mean my energy levels are high, I'm getting enough sleep, and eating the right foods. Even though I don't like the sound of it, I am very happy that age is literally just a number for me right now and I'm very grateful for my health and for everything my body has accomplished on my fitness journey.

Lately, I've been working on making something out of my behind. Have you noticed how tiny swimsuit bottoms have gotten? It's almost like the Brazilian cut is standard and thongs are the new trend. I certainly don't want to be the beach girl hanging out in granny-panty bikini bottoms, but I need to make sure my butt is in tip top shape for those tiny little numbers!

And in society as a whole, doesn't it seem like all eyes are on butts these days? From skinny jeans, to leggings, to cheeky panties, to (I hate to say it) Kim K, booties are the new black. With that much attention on the backside, I've started really fine tuning my lower body workouts to focus more on my butt. I have to say, I'm pretty happy with my body's response. Because the glutes are one of the biggest and strongest muscle groups in the body and utilized anytime you move your legs or hips, they can quickly build with consistency, heavy weight, and a good diet.

The butt consists of three main muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. To get that round, sculpted and lifted booty, you really need to work the butt from all angles and hit all three muscles.

I wanted to share with you the workout I did yesterday, focusing on my glutes, hamstrings, and quads. I am super sore today, which is always a good feeling in my book. ;-)

Miss New Booty Workout
Please Google any exercise you don't know how to do. There are about 1,204,355 free videos that demonstrate each exercise.

Deadlifts - 3-4 sets of 12
Deadlifts are one of the best exercises overall for your body. When I finish a set and put the bar down, I can see my chest heaving in the mirror. They are so, so amazing for you because they not only utilize all major muscle groups in your body, but they can help combat depression, raise testosterone levels and human growth hormone levels. Don't worry, ladies. This doesn't mean you're going to bust through your tee shirt like the hulk and grow hair on your chest. What this means is that you will look younger, feel better, see actual results and muscle tone, and have more energy. You want to "tone it up?" Here's your opportunity. I am a testament to the fact that you will not grow hair on your chest or become huge. Just lean, strong, and confident. You will be sculpting your core, shoulders, butt, back, and improving your grip strength. Next time you'll be offering your husband help with the groceries. ;-)

Romanian Deadlifts - 4 sets of 12
These are great for your glutes, hammies, and buh-bye muffin top! Tone your lower back, core, butt, and hamstrings with this one simple movement. But make sure to keep your butt and hips back far enough so that you feel the pull in your hammies when you bend down.

Bulgarian Split Squats - 2 sets of 12 per leg
This is a great, safe exercise that can replace barbell squats. Personally, I have a lot of neck issues I inherited from my mom's side of the family due to having such elongated limbs and a tiny upper body. I have very little muscle on my back and shoulders, so any weight I place on my back basically crushes my spine. Enter the Bulgarian split squats which I perform with dumbbells. Get that booty, your quads, hammies, and calves.

Barbell Hip Thrusts - 3 sets of 12 (using a weight bench. If that's not possible, lay on the ground and thrust your hips up into the air, squeeze at the top, and lower back down. You'll need a towel or pad of some sort for your hip bones)
THESE will take your booty to the next level. Here is a great description of how to perform this exercise. Since incorporating these, I have noticed some serious changes in my glute size and firmness.

Seated Leg Press
- 3 sets of 12
This exercise pales in comparison to a squat. However, you still gain benefits and I always feel this in my butt. Your back is stabilized so you have far less risk of injury. I'm still able to keep increasing my weight to challenge myself. Plus, the squat bars are always full and the leg press is usually empty. Win-win.

Leg Extension - 3 sets of 12
I throw these in to make sure I'm challenging my quads. My quads are probably my most challenging area to completely tone. For whatever reason, my genes decided that's where my largest fat deposits should reside. Right now, I'm walking pretty stiff thanks to my super sore quads.

Lying Leg Curl - 3-4 sets of 12
This machine is so underrated for building the back of your leg. It works the glutes, hamstrings, and calf. Who wears short shorts? You do.

That's my breakdown for my Miss New Booty Workout. I do switch my workouts up A LOT, meaning I rarely repeat the same workout routine twice. I'll do a mixture of these, or add in different exercises, increase weights, et cetera. Another challenge I've started is performing interval sprints on the Stairmaster. O. M. G. Make sure you are up on your cardio game before attempting these. I had been doing interval sprints on the treadmill, but the max pace of 12 was too slow for me after awhile. So I switched over to the Stairmaster and I had sweat pouring down. Tone up your muscles with smart weight lifting then shred your fat with an intense 10 minute HIIT (high intensity interval training) session on the treadmill, outside, or on the Stairmaster.

January 6, 2015

Hearty Winter Veggie and Chicken Sausage Stew

Something I've been wanting to focus on committing to is meal prepping. I typically eat healthy no matter what, but it's more expensive to buy prepared foods and you're not as able to see how many calories and/or the nutrition content as easily as if you prepared your own food. Not to mention, a lot of prepackaged or restaurant prepared foods are loaded with unhealthy fats, salts, and artificial ingredients. Euw.

A great way to meal prep is by making a large pot of soup, chili, or stew. I have a few soup recipes already on the blog, and this stew is a mighty tasty addition. Loaded with carrots, potatoes, celery, and Swiss chard the nutrition content is off the chain. Leave out the chicken sausage if you're vegetarian or pack on the protein by adding a lean, flavorful option.

I also added a carton of veggie broth and a carton of chicken bone broth. Sounds scary, I know, but you must read the benefits.

This is such a stick to your ribs meal and it keeps you warm in the depths of winter.

This large pot allowed two people to have dinner 4 times and lunch once each. And for just one person it would last all week.

Hearty Winter Veggie and Chicken Sausage Stew
Adapted from the Wholesome Minimalist

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 package uncooked chicken italian sausage, casing removed (I used Italian chicken meatballs, basically sausage in a ball :-)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 32 fl. oz chicken broth or veggie broth (or bone broth!)
1 lemon, juiced
1 bunch whole carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 bag baby yukon gold potatoes, halved
1 bunch Multi-Colored Swiss Chard or Kale, chopped
Salt + pepper, to taste (recommended if you use low sodium or bone broth as bone broth has no added salt)

1. Sauté chopped onion in cooking fat/oil of choice until translucent in non-stick pan.
2. Remove chicken Italian sausages from their casings and break into pieces. Add to onion and sauté until meat is cooked through (no longer pink).
3. Add fresh minced garlic. Stir to incorporate.
4. Add both containers of your chicken broth + the juice from lemon.
5. Bring soup mixture to a boil.
6. Add chopped carrots, celery, and halved baby potatoes.
7. Allow soup to simmer (covered) for 30-45 minutes.
8. Add your chopped swiss chard or kale (only do so during the last 15 minutes!)
9. Re-cover and allow soup to simmer an addition 15 minutes.
10. Add salt + pepper to taste (if desired) and enjoy!
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