Ashley runs a 10k race

 

A guest post from fitness blogger Ashley:

 

Today was the day for me to finally run my 10k.  I must say it was a strange experience to run a race that I actually trained for.  Usually I just wake up and run it and then I’m sore for the next week because I shocked my body and it got mad at me.  It was a good feeling to actually feel prepared.  I was able to set some expectations for myself on how I wanted to do based on how my training leading up to it went.

 

I think goal setting is essential for success.  I have learned a lot about myself just by deciding to try running outside for 30 days.  Obviously I didn’t run everyday but I averaged about three days a week.  I would have never been able to run what I did today at the pace that I did without that initial goal in mind and the execution of my plan.  I found that my weekly goals were just as important in my success as signing up for the race itself.   I really don’t mind running after all, I would’ve never thought that.  I learned to give things a try more than once (the only thing I admittedly will never try again is hot yoga) and allow my body to get used to it before I give up and quit.  My body learned to endure through the hot and the cold, the long and the short distances.  I’m glad it is over but the journey to the finish line paid off and I’m proud of myself.

 

Here are some things I want you think about…

 

Think about your workout routine.  Do you feel like you get everything out of it that you want to?  Is it fun or over time do you get bored with it?  Do you set small goals for yourself or do you find yourself always just after a large long term goal?

 

I ask you these questions because sometimes I feel like people go through the motions.  They show up at the gym and think that’s enough.  If you are going to invest your time at the gym, it’s important to know what you want out of it and work hard towards obtaining that.  You should be feel like you got what you wanted out of your workout.  I find that even though I don’t sweat as much during a tough yoga class, stretching and flexibility for me is a different kind of hard.  I have a goal in mind for each workout.  For yoga, at the end of class I want to feel more flexible, relaxed and refreshed.  It’s important to have those thoughts in my mind otherwise I would think I didn’t do enough.  In reality, flexibility is just as important for my body as getting my heart rate up. 

 

If you’re bored at the gym, try something new.  You never know if you like something if you never give it a try.  We are creatures of habit and sometimes become content with what we are doing because it’s easy and familiar.  Last week I tried a barre class.  I thought I would need a tutu and we would be working on stretching and plies and a lot of ballet inspired moves.  I was completely surprised at how much I liked class and how many ballet moves we didn’t do.  My abdominals were contracted almost the entire class.  My muscles were worked in a completely different way than I would normally work them but the burn was the same, if not more intense than it usually is.  I was apprehensive to try it and so happy I did in the end.  It’s another thing to add to my list of activities I want to incorporate into my weekly schedule now and all it took was for me to take a step outside my comfort zone.

 

Small goals and small successes are the stepping stones to getting to your ultimate goal.  Whether it be losing a pound a week or being able to run for fifteen minutes straight, it doesn’t matter as long as you always have something to work towards.  Those small goals will help you get to your 30 pound weight loss goal or your half marathon.  I like to feel some sort of success every week and I think everyone should.  It gives you the push to keep on keeping on. 

 

So this week take a good look at what you’re doing and set a goal for yourself.  Try something new.  Allow yourself to find success somehow on a small scale.  Embrace your body and listen to it.  You only get one after all. 

Roasted Pumpkin Seed Recipe

pumpkin seed recipe

 

A guest post from Michelle:

The pumpkin is carved. The squishy pulp evicted. The seeds await their next purpose in life: cooking or planting. I always save at least 10 completely cleaned and dried seeds to plant in my Spring garden. The rest are for eating! Here is a great family-favorite recipe for cooking your pumpkin seeds.

¾ cup pumpkin seeds, cleaned and rinsed in a colander

1 Tbsp butter, melted

½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp seasoned salt

1. Put the pumpkin seeds into a bowl, then coat with melted butter.

2. Add the Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder and seasoned salt.

3. Spread coated seeds onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake for 25 minutes at 300 degrees.

This recipe emits such a wonderful, spicy Fall scent to your autumn home. Great for a quick snack while waiting for Trick-or-Treaters, delicious tossed on a salad and a good source of protein!

Lentil Soup

 

A guest post from Holly:

My husband makes the best lentil soup I’ve ever had.  This recipe is his personal recipe that comes out perfectly every time.  The spices really enhance the soup and give it a nice, middle-eastern flavor.  This time around we used our Brewers Organics kale as the leafy green, packed with nutrition.  By the way, my kids loved this soup…

 

lentil soup

 

Lentil Soup 

4 tbsp. Ground Sumac

1/4 tsp. Ground Cumin

1/2 tsp. Ground Coriander

1/4 tsp. Ground Cardamom

1/4 tsp. Cinnamon

1/2 tsp. Paprika

1 tsp. organic or cane Sugar

1 ½ tbsp. Salt

2 tbsp. Butter

1-2 tsp. Fresh Ginger – grated

Lentils – 16 oz. or 2 cups dried and rinsed

Leeks – 2 small-medium leeks with the tips of both ends trimmed off, split lengthwise, sliced into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thicknesses, and thoroughly rinsed (to remove sand and soil)

Carrots – 6 peeled and sliced into coins of 1/4 to 1/2 thickness

Spinach, Chard, Kale, or other Greens – 1 bunch chopped

*if using Kale remove stems

Water – 2 quarts plus 2 cups.

 

Optional – Fresh Cilantro, Fresh Parsley

 

To prepare lentils for cooking:  In a large pot, for each pound of lentils (about 2 cups) add 8 cups hot water. Simmer with lid on pot (tilt lid if necessary) until the lentils are beginning to get tender, but retain firmness about 15-20 minutes.  Rinse the cooked lentils thoroughly and set aside.

In a small bowl combine cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, paprika, and sugar.  Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Heat butter over low-medium heat in a large frying pan.  Add leeks and carrots, turning regularly until they reach light golden brown color.  About 10 minutes.  Set cooked leeks and carrots aside.  Return the lentils to the large pot.  Add leeks, carrots, greens (we used kale, but we typically use chard or spinach), ginger, 3 tbsp. of sumac, 1 tbsp. salt, and approximately half of the combined spice mixture to the lentils.  Mix thoroughly and add 2 quarts of water.  Heat to a boil and cook over high heat for 10 minutes.  Reduce to heat to a simmer, add 1 cup of water, and cover.  Cook for 30 minutes.

Natural Sugar Craving Substitutes; Peanut Butter & Chocolate Banana Cookies and Kefir Popscicles

 

A guest post from Ashley:

 

One of the questions I typically ask clients when I’m getting to know them is what is your biggest downfall when it comes to eating?  For some (or maybe I should say most) people, it comes down to portion sizes and lack of will power.  I like to eat and I know that if I wasn’t aware of the effects it could have on my body, I could eat a lot of not-so-good food in large quantities without even thinking about it.

 

 Over the years, I have learned a lot about nutrition and diet and for the most part I do a really good job eating right and fueling my body properly.  I have said from day one though that I’m far from perfect and I have my days where my eating habits are not the greatest.  Luckily, I work out enough to carry me through those subpar days and I can feel guilt free and resume my healthy eating habits the next morning.

 

The reason this topic popped into my head was because we all have that one food group that tempts us the most.  For some it’s carbs…breads, pastas, chips, you name it.  For me, it’s my sweet tooth that gets the best of me sometimes.  So I have found a couple of healthy recipes that have helped me curb my sugar cravings.  It gives me that sweet taste I feel like I need without all the added sugar and processed ingredients.  I personally have found that if I don’t completely cut it out of my diet, I’m less likely to binge on it some other time.

 

All in all, find what works for you to help you reduce your cravings even if it is simply substituting your favorite snack for a healthier one with ingredients you enjoy  but are also better for you. 

 

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Banana Cookies

cookies

  • 3 bananas
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup organic creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Dash of cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Mash bananas in a large bowl, then stir in remaining ingredients. Let batter stand for approximately 20 minutes, then drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. Bake 10-12 minutes.  When they are done you can always put half of the batch in a freezer bag and save them for later.  It should make about 30 cookies and will only be around 50 calories per serving.

 

The other idea I came across not too long ago was Kefir popsicles.  I have talked about Kefir in one of my previous entries and here’s a little review of what it is in case you don’t remember.  Kefir is a fermented probiotic milk product similar to yogurt but not quite as thick.  Probiotics are beneficial in helping with GI functions as well as pushing the bad bacteria out of the small intestines during the digestive process.

 

All you really need for kefir popsicles is a plastic popsicle tray with usually six compartments to fill and then stick in the freezer.  You could also just use an ice cube tray and it would work just fine.  Pick the Kefir of your choice and also a frozen fruit that would complement it well.  I think one of my favorites is strawberry kefir with chunks of strawberries in it.  Mix the kefir and fruit, fill the tray up and pop it in the freezer and boom, you’ve got yourself a frozen treat with not only less sugar but also many more health benefits for your body. 

kefir

ice cube

 

 

 

It is not hard to find healthy alternatives, you just have to make sure you are prepared.  It is much easier to not be tempted when you know you have another treat that will be just as satisfying.  Make good choices this week and try to be creative with healthy foods.  If eating gets boring that’s when we turn to bad choices.  Don’t let cravings distract you from your goals.  Consider them a speed bump along your nutritional journey and find ways to get over these bumps with healthy ideas to fall back on like I have. Happy eating everyone.

Crock Pot Potato and Carrot Soup

A guest post from Holly:

I woke up this morning with a sick child.  Not horribly sick, but under the weather enough to stay home from school — so — oh darn, I had to stay home too.  It was a nice day out, very typical October day, and all I could think about was potato soup. And I don’t typically cook, nor have I ever made soup.  But today I decided to, and it was delicious!  I used the slow cooker and added carrots from Brewers Organics, to give it that extra bit of flavor and vitamins.  Yummm!

Before/during:

crock pot potatoes

After

potato soup (1)

Creamy Potato Soup

Ingredients:

–1 pound brown potatoes (I used more – about 8 small/medium)

–1 medium yellow onion, chopped

–4 green onions, chopped
–4 medium carrots, sliced
–5 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
–1/2 tsp thyme
–1/4 tsp black pepper
–2 cloves chopped garlic

–1 cup ½ and ½ (optional) – don’t add until cooking is complete

Peel the potatoes and chop everything up and toss it in with the broth and the spices.
Cover and cook in slow cooker on low for 7-9 hours, or on high for about 4.
When the potatoes and onion are fully cooked and soft, use an immersible blender to soupify.
If you don’t have an immersible blender, blend in small batches CAREFULLY in your traditional blender.

Add ½ and ½ if desired.

Results:  a light, creamy soup perfect for a starter course – delicious and incredibly easy, thanks to the slow cooker!

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

baked-squash-1

A guest post from Katie:

I love fall and all the great harvest it brings! Squash soups, pumpkin breads and all the warm delicious meals! I made this really easy baked Squash for dinner and can appease vegetarians as well!

The sweet brown sugar melted into the squash as it bakes offsets the savory quinoa veggie mix you’ll stuff it with. There are a million things you could alter in this,so get creative!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of quinoa

1 red pepper

2 carrots

1 acorn squash halved

1 tbsp of organic brown sugar

1 tbsp of butter

Directions:

Halve the squash and place in a pan at 400 degrees for one hour. I put a little bit of water in the pan so it doesn’t burn the outsides of the squash. About 1 inch of water is fine. Scoop out the insides and place a little bit of butter and brown sugar in each half.

Meanwhile cook 1/2 cup of qunoia as you normally would. I then sauteed some sweeter veggies to mix in. I chose a sweet red bell pepper, diced. And a few carrots shaved. Both are more savory than the squash, but still a tad sweet. After soft, mix in with quinoa.

Spoon mixture into the Acorn squash halves and serve!

 

baked-squash-3

Giving Yoga A Try!

 

A guest post from fitness blogger Ashley:

When it comes to exercise, I have always been open to trying new things and switching my workout up depending on what I think my body needs or the goals that I want to accomplish. Back in July, I decided I wanted to give running outdoors a try.  Well, I am happy to report that outdoor running has become something I really enjoy…most days at least.  I used to be a treadmill runner and now I find it much more difficult and quite frankly, just plain boring.  I can honestly say I am surprised that I stuck with my training and I’m all signed up for a 10k in a couple weeks that I will be completely prepared for.  I would’ve never come to this conclusion if I didn’t give something I thought I would absolutely hate a chance. 

The reason I am bringing this back up is because I have decided to give another form of exercise a try…again.  A while back, I tried out a yoga class.  It was okay and I tolerated it but I never felt like I was getting a good workout from it.  Most of the time, I’m completely wiped out and sweaty after a workout.  I think because of my athletic background, I’ve always been a high intensity exerciser.  It is hard for me to turn off my thoughts and take the time to let my body rest, stretch and recover.  

Well I have come to the realization that rest is just as important sometimes as working out.  That’s where yoga has come back in.  It is a time I can deload, let go of my thoughts and just enjoy the quiet for an hour.  It also allows me to get in the stretching my body desperately needs.  It compliments my workout regimen perfectly and I plan on incorporating it in my weekly routine once or twice a week.  It will help my running, eliminate some of my soreness because my muscles will be more flexible and can endure more and it will also increase my balance.  I am excited to have found another new thing to try and yet another goal to work towards.  

Here are a few basic poses I have found beneficial to me.

 

Cat/Cow: these are great back stretching exercises.

 

Cat: Start in a four point kneeling position with hands shoulder width apart and stacked below your shoulders and knees hip width apart stacked below your hips.  As you exhale, arch your back and drop your chin toward your chest. 

 

Cow: You will switch back and forth between cat and cow.  After the exhale of cat pose, you will inhale into cow pose.  Hollow out your back, keep your abdominals contracted but your core should lower towards the ground a bit as you hollow out your back.  Raise your head to look up.  Continue the cycle of cat and cow in line with your breath.

Child’s pose: this is another stretch for the back.  It allows you to relax and stretch the lumbar spine.  Knees should be at the edges of your mat with your big toes touching.  Sit back onto your heels and stretch your hands out in front of you.  You can also move your hands to one side to include a side stretch.

 

Downward dog: this pose will stretch and strengthen the back and hamstrings and help improve circulation. Laying on your stomach, you are going to curl your toes under and raise your hips.  Think about trying to push the crown of your head towards the mat, relax the neck and shoulders and lengthen the back.  You can also pedal your heels to feel a good calf stretch as well.

Low lunge: this will stretch hips, quads and hamstrings as well as strengthen these muscle groups.  Start in a lunge position and drop your back knee to the mat. Bring your hands up above your head , breathe and hold the stretch. 

Take the time this week to think of something you’ve always wanted to try but never did for one reason or another and just do it.  Give it a go and you may find that you really like it.  It takes thirty days to make or break a habit so give it a fighting chance.  I’ve learned that sometimes it takes a couple classes or tries before you get comfortable with the unfamiliar.  Allow your body to adapt to it and get used to it before you give up.  Who knows you may be running 10Ks and be able to touch your toes if you give it all you got.

Eggplant Lasagna

 

A guest post from Kerri:

Eggplant: From India With Love

eggplant2

My first encounter with the “exotic” eggplant was at Summerfest (you know…that fairly large music festival that takes place on Milwaukee’s lakefront). Two words: Eggplant Fries! When I used to attend the festival quite regularly every summer, my first culinary stop was always at the Venice Club to grab an order of eggplant fries with marinara dipping sauce! Yum! These days I try to enjoy my eggplant, now a frequent star in my weekly meal menu, with a little less deep-frying 😉

The eggplant, a member of the nightshade family and a close relative of the potato and tomato, was originally domesticated in India from wild nightshade and, botanically, is classified as a berry, the seeds of which contain nicotinoid alkaloids (yep…a relative of tobacco…don’t worry…you have to consume 20 pounds of eggplant to consume the equivalent of one cigarette’s worth of tobacco).

The eggplant is called an aubergine in England, a far more descriptive name for this versatile berry/vegetable than our somewhat confusing “eggplant”. So where did this crazy name come from? Apparently, some varieties cultivated in the 18th century resembled goose or hen’s eggs, and now, some of these white and yellow varieties that earned the eggplant it’s unusual moniker are back! I was lucky enough to find a white variety to plant in my garden this year (pictured here with the more common purple variety).

A great recipe reminiscent of those Venice Club eggplant fries I enjoyed way back when (and continue to enjoy in moderation) is the tasty Any Meat Eggplant Lasagna recipe below. This is an excellent lower-carb version of traditional lasagna that will satisfy your comfort food cravings as the temperatures fall this Fall.

eggplant

Any Meat Eggplant Lasagna

The Ingredients:

2 T olive oil + 1 tsp olive oil for brushing

2 eggs

2 T water

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs Italian seasoning to taste

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch round slices

1 pound ground meat of your choice (turkey, beef, pork, chicken, soy meat substitute)

48 ounces tomato sauce

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

The Recipe:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 1/2 tsp olive oil on each of two baking sheets.

2. Whisk eggs and water together in a small, shallow bowl

3. Season the panko breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning to taste (You can also purchase Italian seasoned panko breadcrumbs or regular breadcrumbs. I just happened to have unseasoned panko on hand)

4. Mix the parmesan cheese, seasoned breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in a separate small, shallow bowl.

5. Dip eggplant slice in egg mixture and then press into crumb mixture. Tap off excess crumbs and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all slices.

6. Bake eggplant slices at 375 for 40-50 minutes, flipping slices halfway through baking to make sure each side is golden brown.

7. Remove eggplant from oven and increase temperature to 400 degrees.

8. Heat remaining 2 T olive oil in skillet and stir in ground meat.

9. Brown meat until crumbly (about 10 minutes) and drain any excess grease.

10. Stir tomato sauce into ground meat.

11. Place 1/3 of the baked eggplant slices on the bottom of an oiled 9 by 13 pan.

12. Pour 1/3 of the tomato meat sauce over the bottom eggplant layer.

13. Sprinkle 1/3 of mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce layer.

14. Repeat steps 11-13 two more times (you should end with a mozzarella cheese layer).

15. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes

16. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

17. Enjoy! (perhaps with a nice glass of red wine ;))