Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Abs Inferno

My cute brother just called me and asked for a GREAT abs workout.  Neil, this one's for you.  This should be a challenge.   Are you ready to sweat?  THEN BRING IT ON!  Each exercise is designed to work the core.

Begin by warming up your body with some Tuck Jumps (20) and High Knees (20 each side).  Yes.  I want those knees up to your belly button. Tuck the abs in; tilt your pelvis forward.  Let your heart rate come up.  Last warm up exercise is Scissor Lunge Jumps (20 each side).  Lunge with one foot forward.  Jump to switch feet.

Are you warmed up now?  Excellent. Time for Crunches: 300 reps.
Between Each set of 100 do 20 Jumping Jacks to keep your heart rate up.

30 Crunches (knees bent, forming a table top.  Engage those abs.  Back pushed into the floor)
20 Bicycle Crunches
20 Laying Toe Touches  (laying on the floor with toes reaching the sky try to touch the toes)
20 Reverse Crunches (laying on the floor with knees bent, pull knees to the chest.  lower down)

15 Side Plank hip lifts (left)
30 Crunches
15 Side Plank hip lifts (right)
40 Russian Twists (sitting on the floor, knees bent, twist torso from side to side)

30 Bicycle Crunches
15 Oblique V-Ups (left) lay on your side; bring knees and elbows together
20 Reverse Crunches
15 Oblique V-Ups (right)
10 Toe Touches

Now pick up that heart rate again with Crab Kicks.  Yes, it is what it sounds like.  Pretend you are crab walking but stay stationary-- lift your rear as high as possible.  Kick your legs up as high as you can while keeping your bum lifted HIGH.  (30 Seconds)

Ready for Plank Hell?  It is my favorite part!!!  30 Seconds each-- More if you're studly!
Tough Cookies (like me) to them straight without rest.

High Plank
Low Plank with toe taps
High Plank with heel raises
Low Plank Jacks (30 reps)
Spider Planks (knees to elbows while lowering into push up position)
Plank Up- Downs (switch from low plank to high plank to low plank... 20 reps)
and for good measure try some Leap Frog Planks High Plank Side Kicks & Eagle Crunches (30 each)

Last but not least, Finish off Strong with PUSH UPS (love the core work on the push ups)
(25 each for 100 total)

Traditional Push-Ups
Jack Push-Ups
Squat Push-Ups
Elevated Push-Ups

Have FUN!!!!  Keep that Core Strong!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Asian Eating Again- Kung Pao Chicken

Glorious Veggies
For some reason I have a love affair with Asian food-- especially mastering my favorite dishes.  Maybe it is  because I've been cooking noodles, and soups, and casseroles for so many years that I love the new adventure and the challenge.  Maybe it is because I am a tightwad and I can't stand spending $10 per plate at a restaurant when my kids won't even eat it.  Maybe it is because I hate all the greasiness of affordable cheap Asian cuisine.  Maybe I'm a health nut who loves hiding 4+ cups of veggies in a delicious sauce.  Maybe I'm just difficult to please. 
It is probably a little of each.

Here is my healthier incarnation of Wolfgang Puck's Kung Pao ChickenHow is my recipe different?  I added more veggies, baked the chicken, skipped the deep frying of the peanuts and increased the proportions of the sauce.

Kung Pao Chicken
My Secret Weapon: Red Pepper Packets
If you don't have rice vinegar you can substitute 3 parts vinegar and 1 part water.  My kids hate heat in their food, so I skip the dried red pepper during cooking and bring red pepper flakes to the table for heat lovers.

1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon corn starch
2-3 bonelees skinless breast halves

1/3 cup light soy sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup hosin sauce 
4 tablespoons chicken stock
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

Stir Frying Veggies:
1 Tablespoon oil
4 dried red chiles (remove the stem and cut in half)
1/2 inch piece ginger root, peeled & grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
4+ cups chopped vegetables, including but not limited to celery, red, orange & green bell peppers, broccoli...)

1 can (8 oz) sliced water chestnuts, drained    
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.  Toss chicken together with the marinade in a quart zip bag.  Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop vegetables, gather sauce ingredients and preheat the oven to 450.

Drain the marinade from the chicken. Bake the chicken for 10 minutes at 450.

While the chicken is baking, begin to stir fry the vegetables, chiles, garlic and ginger root until the garlic is aromatic and the vegetables are a bright color.   Stir in the sauce ingredients, the water chestnuts and the baked chickenLower the heat to low and cook until the sauce is shiny and thick.  Stir in the peanuts.

Serve over rice.
Kung Pao Chicken-- Erica Style

Friday, January 25, 2013

Take a Flying Leap

I'm not really a magazine reader-- except in doctor's offices.  Why? Once I got a subscription to a favorite magazine.  Shortly there after my kids got crazy sick and we spent TOO much time in a doctor's office and the hospital.  I was so disheartened that I had already read the magazines available.  So now I limit my magazine reading to the orthodontist/doctor/dentist's offices.  That said, my girlfriend sent me home one day with a recent "O," Oprah's magazine, because it had an awesome green drink recipe in it (and here is the link to that recipe-- I knew you'd ask).  I read the recipe, flipped the page and saw this article.  It impressed me and I had to share.

Martha Beck wrote the article "Take a Flying Leap" where she discussed fear based decisions.  The decision to eat veggies to avoid cancer; to keep a weed free yard so our neighbors won't complain; to throw a huge party for a child so they will like us and think we are awesome; put make-up on so we won't scare the ladies at church with our wrinkles.  You know all those things we do becasue we are afraid of rejection, failure, poverty, or looking stupid.  Have you ever wondered why you never feel joyous and free and extatic about those decisions?  Martha explains,
"Fear based decisions lead to hollow victories at best and endless regret at worst.  Only love based decisions create lasting happiness." [emphesis added]

Beck explains that love based decisions are the choices you would make if you had no fear; people wouldn't laugh at you, kids wouldn't complain; husband would applaud; you would celebrate.

That got me thinking.  What would I do differently if I didn't factor in the judgments of others?  Would I eat chocolate everyday and not worry about my waistline?  Would I grind wheat and make homemade bread if I knew my kids wouldn't complain?  What would my life be like if I lived in love instead of fear?
How would your life change?

Martha Beck envisioned a change and leaped.  She bought a house in California's mountains and flies where she needs for her work.  She took a leap of faith and made a choice despite her fears.  Beck says, "leaps of faith are frightening even when the choice to make them is based on love."

My ahahh moment?  If I feed and nourish my body becasue I love and cherish it, I feel better!  I see more success.  Beck explained,
"love based decisions have one more quality their fear based counterparts lack: They are enduring."
 If I'm looking to change my life-- create a real lifestyle change, it will only come with love.  So go on.  Do your hair and make up because you love the way you look.  Eat healthfully becasue your body is a treasured posession.  Give up weeding if you just don't care.  Live your life with love--

Take A Leap!
Photo Credit: . : : v i S H a l : : . via photopin cc can find Martha Beck's book Finding Your Way in A New World here.
Martha Beck's article "Take a Flying Leap" was featured in O The Oprah Magazine, January 2013; pp43-49

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday Workout- 100's day

We are officially halfway through the school year here- Translation: I have fewer than 90 school days to prepare myself for summer vacation!  Oh, and next week we will have a fun party in the first grade to celebrate the number 100.  Why not celebrate 100 with the elementary school kids by trying this workout?

Just do these 4 exercises.  If you only have 10 minutes, do each exercise for a total of 2 minutes with 30 seconds to rest between exercises.    Hard Core?  Go for 100 continuous! Or if you want to be able to walk tomorrow,  do each exercise 25 times (making 100 total). I promise your glutes & arms & abs will thank you!

"Olympic Dead Lifts"  No need to be an Olympic athlete to try this glute and hamstring toning exercise.  Begin by squatting down with  you chest lifted and knees over your ankles.  Imagine picking up a weight.  Begin to stand up and squeeze you tush together and and push your pelvis forward as you come to a complete stand.  Ready to pick it up a notch?  Add weights.  Here is your visual:

Bicep/Tricep Curls:  This exercise smashes your biceps and triceps at the same time.  Start with your arms glued to your sideWhile engaging your bicep muscles bring your wrists up toward your chest.  Now turn your wrists so they are facing the floor.  Extend your arms towards the rear and feel your triceps burn.  How heavy of a weight can you do?

"Insanity" style Suicide Drills (No, you are not pretending to die, but you might want to kill someone [me] halfway through this set.) Alternate lunging and touching your toes with a jump inbetween each lunge.   Not sure what I mean.  Check out this video

Sit Ups: You know the drill.  You did these in P.E. all the time.  How many can you do in a row?  20?  Can you do 5 minutes continuous?  Can you get to 100?  Go for it!

Happy Exercising!

Island Dreaming : Caribbean Pork Roast & Pita Pockets

Yesterday morning I went outside to see a shining white orb in the sky.  We are in the middle of an inversion here which means cold temps, bad air, foggy mornings, hazy afternoons, did I say cold temps?  Yes, I know.  I have a warm house to sleep, write & eat in, and a warm car to drive in.  But I still dream of warm water lapping up on the sand and the sun's rays warming my skin.

I cooked this recipe this week to help me feel some island flair and warm up my attitude.  My favorite part of this recipe is using the leftover roast to make pita pockets with a tropical salsa.  I based this recipe off one I found in the Pampered Chef's Main Dishes Cookbook.  I forgot to take a picture of the roast, but check out the glory of the Island Pita Pockets -- made with flat bread...)

Caribbean Pork Roast
1/2 cup pineapple juice
2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon minced garlic

3 lb boneless rolled pork roast
Roasting Vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, canned pineapple, carrots whatever)

Toss together the pineapple juice and spices in a gallon sized zip lock bag.  Marinate the pork roast for 4 hours to overnight in the refrigerator.

Pre-heat the oven to 350.  Remove roast from the zip bag; discard marinade.  Place roast in a 9x13 pan.  Add veggies to the pan.  Spirnkle with salt and pepper.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for one hour.  Uncover roast and bake another 13-30 minutes or until the interior temperature of the pork is 155.

Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before carving.  Set aside 1/3 of the roast for Pita Pockets.

Island Pita Pockets
1 lb reserved Caribbean Pork Roast
6 pita bread rounds, halved
6 romaine lettuce leaves

1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 mango, cut into cubes (I subsititue a peach)
1 can  pineapple tidbits, drained
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, snipped
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons lime juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon each cumin & sugar
1/4 teaspoon each red pepper flakes & cinnamon

Combine salsa ingredients in a bowl.  Cut pork into 1/2 inch cubes. Toss pork with the salsa.
Cut pita rounds in half.  Fill each pocket with lettuce and the meat & salsa mixture.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday Workout: More Zumba

Dancing is one of my favorite activities.  You want me to clean.  Pump the music and cleaning/dancing will happen.  You want me to fold laundry, ditto.  Dancing is an awesome form of exercise and mood enhancement.  

One of my off the beaten track movie favs is "Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School".  (long name = quirky film)  The film follows a grieving widower through a transformation brought on by attending a dance lesson.

Miss Hotchkiss teaches, "Dance is a very powerful drug Mr. Keane. If embraced judiciously, it can exorcise demons, access deep seated emotions and color your life in joyous shades of brilliant magenta that you never knew existed. But, one must shoulder its challenges with intrepid countenance if one is ever to reap its rewards."

Dance can change lives.  So dance a little.  Here are a few more routines from our Zumba Class.

So Fine focuses on your Quads and Abs.  Be sure to use your stomach muscles not your back when you pop.  Emphasizing  rotation of the hips intensifies the work in the quads.

Zoomer brings African flair to the dance party.  This dance will pump up the cardio.

I hope Perfect will inspire you as you stretch your muscles.  Never let anyone tell you you are not enough.

Need a good laugh, check out Dance/Walk Fitness

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Long Winter

It's crazy cold outside.  Translation: I am craving hot cocoa, marshmallows, hot soups and fresh baked bread.  Cold = Comfort Foods & me curled up on the couch with a good book.

The subzero temps outside remind me of Laura Ingles Wilder the year it snowed and snowed and snowed.  It  was so cold the train with supplies couldn't get through and the family was forced to live off very meagre rations for months.  Remember when Laura ground wheat grains in a coffee grinder and braided straw into fire logs.  I remember reading with horror about Laura's Bean Soup Lunches (pour off the water from the cooking dinner beans and voila you have lunch).  I feel so privileged to eat delicious foods, daily, almost hourly.

I felt so lucky and grateful for my blessings I started grinding wheat (in my electric grinder- Praise the Lord).   OHHHM the glory of fresh baked whole wheat bread.  I'm in heaven.

Here is a classic wheat bread recipe I use for my bread base.

Bob's Wheat Bread (makes 4 loafs)

Mix together and let the yeast bloom for 3 minutes:

4 1/3 cup warm water
1 cup honey
1/4 cup yeast

Add in and mix for 7 minutes:
1 Tablespoon salt
1/2 cup oil
6 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons gluten

Add 5-6 more cups of wheat flour.  Knead 7 minutes more.

Let rise 20 minutes.  Punch Down.  Shape bread.  Let rise again for 20 minutes.  Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.

The health benefits of Whole Wheat will have to wait for another day.  I'm busy eating.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tropical Macadamia Nut Bread

"Why Santa, Why?"  I lament!  Our Santa puts the same things in stockings each year: chocolate, nuts, orange, banana, hot cocoa packets (the same brand we keep in the cupboard-- he knows his stuff!), sometimes a lump of coal for those naughty kids, Almond Roca (for mom), and maybe candied cashews (for dad).

Each Christmas morning the kids dive into the filled stockings and gorge themselves on goodies.  Weeks later, when I am putting Christmas decorations away and rounding up the last hidden stockings, I find, to my dismay, brown mushy bananas and rock hard oranges.  WHAT A WASTE SANTA!!!!  Each year it happens, and each year I forget to update Santa on desired stocking stuffing!

So being a good, "use it up; wear it out; make it do; or do without!" kind of girl, I devise some nefarious scheme to use the unwanted fruit in delicious ways.  Smoothies are always a good option,  but this year I already have 4 zip bags full of frozen bananas waiting to be used in smoothies.... So .... Banana Bread?

I have a confession to make.  Deep breath.  I haven't made banana bread for YEARS!  It takes forever to bake, it is mushy in the middle and doesn't taste that great (to me..).

Determined to make a go at banana bread I searched for good recipes.  This one sounded good and used up my stiff oranges and mushy bananas.  The bonus was that it was low-sugar and low- fat.  The result.  "I like it, Sam-I-am!" 

Tropical Macadamia Nut Bread
I didn't have the macadamia nuts, and substituted with walnuts-- it worked.  Macadamia nuts or pecans would have been better.  YUM!
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 egg whites (I use powdered egg whites)
1 1/4 cups mashed bananas (about 3 medium)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2/3 cup  flaked coconut
1/2 cup coarsley chopped macadamia nuts

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Lightly coat a loaf pan with non-stick spray.

In a medium bowl, combine flours, sugar, zest and baking soda.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add the mashed bananas and orange juice  and beat until blended.  Add flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Stir in coconut and nuts.  Pour into the pan.

Bake 50- 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Let the bread rest in the pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.

To Resolve or Not To Resolve....

Are you full of resolutions?  Great ideas to keep yourself motivated?  I reviewed 2012 and looked at all the things I had begun and not finished and realized: dang, I fail more than I succeed!

  • January 2012:  I made a goal to complete an Olympic distance Triathlon, a couple sprint Triathlons and finish the Tough Mudder, but injury stalled my racing glory!!!!(separated shoulder, sprained both ankles (multiple times),  uncontrolled asthma in spring, summer, and fall  YUCK!)
  • August 2012:  I made a goal to have a six-pack for Christmas-- I found this awesome article about building super strong muscles...(I lost an inch around the waist.)
  • October 2012:   I made a goal to not gain weight over the holidays [Halloween through New Years] (I only gained 2 lbs.) 
  • December 2012:  I made a goal to post every day for Christmas No-Break.  I posted 3 or 4 times.... Not ideal... but I did workout 5 days a week.

In a sheepish tone I remind myself that
"Success is falling nine times and getting back up ten."

This year I resolve to fail... and fail with glory by getting back up each time.  I'm going to attempt a couple sprint and Olympic Triathlons, get that 6-pack and pledge to write 3 times a week.

This year : No matter how hard I fail -- or FALL-- I'll  keep trying.

Do you have any awesome resolutions?