Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving, Football, and an In Home Workout

Happy Thanksgiving (and Hanukkah for all you lucky folks getting two holidays in one). On Thanksgiving we feast like the famine is upon us and movement is pretty much limited to going from the couch to the table. Although most gyms are closed today, don’t use it as your excuse to skip an opportunity to move. I’m suggesting you put down that beer for the football game you're watching and pick up your water bottle. (Well, you could have a beer and then make it an Appalachian training routine.)

All you need for this workout is a football game that is of some level of interest. Maybe a jump rope or step stool if you're on overachiever.

What to Do:

First, pick a team to cheer for. (Follow these directions for the team you are cheering for.)

Push ups Do one for each point your team has on the board each time they score.
Burpees One for each penalty yard your team’s defense draws. If you’re doing this after dinner, you should pick a cleaner playing team.  
Crunches One for each penalty yard your team’s offense draws.  
Punting/ Kickoff Hold a plank from the time your team lines up until the end of the play. You better hope the other team doesn’t have a kickoff return.    
Commercial Break Car-di-o! Jumping jacks, high knees, fast feet, jump rope, step-ups. You get the idea, keep moving and get that heart rate up.   
Half-time Depending on if your game is a blow out or not, you can throw in the towel here or keep it going. To keep it going get outside and toss the old pigskin around or go for a walk/ run. Then repeat the instructions above for the second half. This may also be the optimal time to assist someone in the kitchen.

After the game, don’t feel an ounce of guilt when you reach for that pie later. You earned it! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Almost-Better-than-Second-Base Cupcakes

One day, not too long ago, a good friend stumbled upon a video of Emily Nelson, wife of Packer WR Jordy Nelson, making “Better-than-Almost-Anything Cake.” As my friend described it to me, the pure gluttony of this cake made me want to make it… my way.  I’m not quite as innocent as Emily, so I added stout to the mix and nixed the condensed milk. I present to you “Almost-Better-than-Second-Base Cake.” Or as my husband labeled them at work “Mocha Stout with Caramel and Toffee.”

What You Need:

1 Package of German Chocolate Cake
Vegetable oil and eggs as called for on the box
1 -3.4 oz Package of Chocolate Pudding Mix
½ Cup of Stout (I used Oakshire Espresso Stout)
Caramel Topping
1 Container of Cool Whip Topping
1 Heath Bar (or another toffee candy bar)

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line your cupcake pans with liners (it makes about 24 cupcakes).  You may want to double- line the tins since these cupcakes can be on the gooey side.

Mix the cake according to package instructions and add the stout to the mix. Divide the cake mix evenly among the cupcake tins. Bake according to package instructions.

Remove from the oven and let cool for about 20 minutes.

After the cupcakes have cooled, take a wooden spoon handle and make a hole in each cupcake. Drizzle the caramel over each cupcake, with a little extra going into the hole. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Frost each cupcake with the Cool Whip topping. Next, crush the toffee candy bar into pieces using a mallet, the thick handle of a kitchen utensil, or Clay Mathews’ wrecking ball of a hand. (Whichever you have access to will do.) Open the wrapper and sprinkle the toffee bits over each cupcake.

Store covered in the refrigerator.   

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall Paleo Lasagna

Ditch the pasta sauce in favor of fall flavors with this Paleo friendly version of lasagna. This recipe takes some time to put together, but is well worth it for a nutrient dense meal. (Plus, it can be dinner/ lunch for a few days.) 

What You Need:

4 Medium zucchinis
2 10-ounce packages of frozen squash
1 Medium head of cauliflower
1 Small onion
2 Cloves of garlic
½ T of Apple cider vinegar
1 Pint of Grape tomatoes
2 lbs of Bulk Italian sausage
1 lb of Raw mushrooms, sliced
1 lb of Baby spinach
Italian Seasoning
Salt and Pepper

What To Do:

If not already indicated as washed, wash your produce before beginning. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the tomatoes on a cookie sheet (lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper) and roast for 30 minutes.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel zucchini noodles (zoodles) until you reach the seedy middle of the zucchini. (You can also use a mandolin to make the zoodles.) Lay the zoodles, overlapping, on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper (you will likely need two cookie sheets for all the zoodles) and bake for 10 minutes.  

While the zoodles bake, cut the cauliflower into florets and place in a microwaveable container. Add a little water, cover, and steam in the microwave until cooked through. After steaming, place the cauliflower florets in a food processor and process until it is of mashed potato consistency. Add ½ T of apple cider vinegar and blend.

Heat the squash according to package instructions (I prefer the microwave option).  

Chop the onion and garlic. Spray a skillet with cooking spray, place on a stove top burner, set the burner to medium, sauté the onion and garlic until soft, and set aside in a bowl. Next, using the same skillet, sauté the mushrooms with the spinach and set aside.

Turn the burner under the skillet up to medium-high and cook the sausage until browned and crumbled. 

Turn the oven temperature up to 425 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 inch cake pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Take one sheet of zoodles and place on the bottom of the pan. Use half of the squash and spread over the noodles with a spatula (this will help hold it together). Layer half of the mushroom and spinach mixture, onion and garlic mixture, and sausage over the squash. Spread a layer of half of the cauliflower mash over the sausage. Layer all of the tomatoes over the cauliflower. Sprinkle ½ T of Italian seasoning over the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Repeat starting with the zoodles and ending with the cauliflower mash. 

Place the lasagna in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Diabetes and Exercise

Awhile back a friend who also is a personal trainer asked me for some information on diabetes and exercise. Knowing that he couldn't possibly be the only person interested in this, I decided to make a whole post dedicated to this topic. Most of the information in here is quite general. If you have questions, feel free to leave me a comment and I will answer them. This post is not meant to diagnose or treat diabetes (or any other disease), it is merely informational and perhaps inspirational to get someone to move a little more. For more information, please refer to a physician, a diabetes educator, or visit

(A Very Brief) Overview

In 2011 it was estimated that over 25 million U.S. citizens are believed to have diabetes. Of that number 18.8 million people were diagnosed while approximately 7 million people were currently undiagnosed. That was 8.3% of the U.S. population in 2011, almost 10% of us!

There are two main types of diabetes. These are referred to type 1 and type 2 diabetes (think Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Dr. Seuss books). In both types of the disease the body has trouble utilizing glucose (i.e. fuel) in the blood. Typically in a person without diabetes, when blood glucose levels increase (which generally occurs after a meal) insulin is produced and released by the pancreas which activates cells to transport glucose into cells via transporters and the glucose can be used in the cells for energy or stored for future use.  
Thing 1 and Thing 2 are far more pleasant than type 1 and type 2 diabetes. 

Type 1 vs. Type 2

In type 1 you do not produce insulin, so when blood glucose rises there is no signal that cells need to move transporters to the cells' surface to take in glucose. When this happens blood glucose can remain high and cause a litany of complications. In addition, when your body is unable to use blood glucose it causes the body to think it is starving and it then resorts to other sources of energy. This can lead to muscle breakdown and excessive utilization of fat stores (which can lead to a dangerous complication known as ketoacidosis). In type 1 diabetes, patients are prescribed insulin to help the body move glucose into cells.

In type 2 diabetes your body still produces insulin but your cells do not react to it as well, this results in glucose utilization by cells being lowered. This also results in high blood glucose levels and can result in complications. In type 2 diabetes, patients are not usually given insulin since their body can still produce it. Instead, patients can be given drugs to increase insulin production, to lower glucose release by the liver, and /or to make cells more sensitive to insulin. In addition to prescription drugs, type 2 diabetes can be managed through a healthy diet and exercise.

Diabetes and Exercise

In both forms of the disease, blood glucose levels should be monitored pre-, during, and post- exercise. If blood glucose levels are above 250 mg/ dL, the urine should also be checked for ketones (if they are present it could indicate ketoacidosis). Monitoring pre- exercise will let one know if they ready to exercise. For instance, it is not recommended a person with diabetes and blood glucose level above 250 mg/ dL with ketones present exercise. However, a person with diabetes and a blood glucose level above 250 mg/ dL without ketones could initiate exercise. Blood glucose levels should be monitored throughout exercise, especially if the workout is longer than 60 minutes.    

Type 1 and Exercise

In people with type 1 diabetes, exercise can be a balancing act. Caution and careful blood glucose monitoring should be used when beginning an exercise program.  People with type 1 diabetes will need to find the perfect balance of eating enough carbohydrates to fuel their workout while using enough insulin to be able to utilize the glucose. 

Too many carbohydrates and not enough insulin can lead to hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) which can lead put one at risk for complications associated with uncontrolled diabetes. Too much insulin and not enough glucose can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). Risk of hypoglycemia is highest during and post- workout. To counteract hypoglycemia, additional carbohydrates should be consumed and blood glucose levels should be monitored. It can take time to adjust one's diet when beginning an exercise program, so it is best to check blood glucose levels consistently when starting an exercise program to find what works best. 

Type 2 and Exercise

Unlike type 1, people with type 2 diabetes will typically not need to balance blood glucose by using insulin. In fact, people with type 2 diabetes can potentially control* the disease with exercise. Exercise alone can make the cells more sensitive to the blood glucose, meaning the cell's glucose transporters can move to the edge of the cell to transport glucose into it to be utilized. With time, the need for some medications prescribed for type 2 diabetes may be diminished if not eliminated.

(* Please note that I used the word control, there is currently no cure for diabetes.) 

I hope this short run down of diabetes and exercise gave you some insight into what to pay attention to as well as a sense of what direction to go. As with any exercise program, please consult with a physician before beginning.        

Friday, August 2, 2013

Weighting for Change

There it is, that magical date on your calendar. May it be a wedding, school reunion, post-baby date, beach trip, etc.; you have a date and a goal in mind.

"I need to lose X pounds by (this date) and then my life will be perfect."

Next thing you know you're paying more attention to infomercials for battery operated waist bands that do your work out for you while you sit. Dr. Oz suddenly has you mesmerized and whatever flies out of his mouth is the God-given fact to weight loss. You stand in GNC/ Vitamin Shoppe/ (Insert your supplement store of choice here) in awe of your options for fat-blasting aids and metabolism boosters. These are the answers you have been looking for! These will finally help you lose that pesky weight you have carried for so long!

At least that's what you think.

But why invest your money in pills with more ingredients than what goes into a loaf of bread? Why strap and battery powered belt yourself? Why put the stress of one, inconsequential day on yourself?

Setting a date/ goal is a preliminary step in weight loss. But having just that and no real idea of what it takes to lose weight will only set yourself up for failure. And no, buying pills and products does not count as a plan. These are "quick fixes" if they deliver what they promise. But odds that it will last you a lifetime are not so high. The thing is, many of the products promise results in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise!

I have seen/ heard from too many people who have said "I want to lose weight, I just don't want to change." (In all fairness, the phrase "I don't want to change" in its entirety was not stated. With that out there, the statement "I don't want to change the way I eat," or some variation of it, has been expressed.)

What You Need to Realize About Weight Loss

YES You will need to change. If you don't, how can you expect things to be any different?

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."- Albert Einstein.

NO You don't need the "latest and greatest" pill/ gadget to do it.

Someone once said "Your body is 80% what you put in your body and 20% what you do." Considering how far you have walk to burn off a doughnut, there is some truth to that.

NO You don't need to starve yourself. But...

DO Pay attention to what you're putting in your mouth; its the best place to start.

Tip: Look at the nutrition label to see what a serving size is and use that to put what you're eating in perspective. For instance, pour yourself a bowl of cereal. Then measure out a proper serving from the bowl you just poured with a measuring cup or a kitchen scale. How does this look compared to what you usually eat? Is there cereal left in your bowl or is the measuring cup coming up short? Do this for everything you eat for at least for a week. Some items you may be eating under a serving, but with others you may be eating double. Pay careful attention to items you are going over board with. Having too many vegetables isn't bad for the calorie bank, but too many chips can send you over your limit quick.

Pro Tip: Avoid eating straight from the package, things can quickly get out of hand. 

Image of the LoseIt! App
DO: Keep a log whether it be with pen and paper, on a website, or an application on your smart phone. This log can be not only for what you're eating, but for exercise too. There are a ton of options out there. Ones that I have personally used are and (both have apps and websites so you can update your log from just about anywhere).

Bonus: Most of applications out there can let you know how many calories you need to maintain, lose, or gain weight.  

DON'T Wait! Why put weight loss off for a special occasion? There may already be enough pressure on that special day, why add to it? Get out of the mindset of "now is not the time." My dad was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes two days before Thanksgiving. Two days, talk about "now is not the time." The holiday of gorging oneself was now him asking what he could eat and my mom scrambling to alter recipes. Chronic diseases don't wait for the "right time", why should you wait for the "right time" to be the healthiest you can be? Put yourself first and go after it!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Farmers Market Dinner Challenge: May Edition

Ever since I moved to Portland I have been told that I have to go to the Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University. Portland has farmers markets just about everyday of the week during the warmer months, but the granddaddy of them all is on Saturday on the PSU campus. I had lived here nine months and failed to go just about every weekend up until a few weeks ago when I mentally committed myself to going. 

I was overwhelmed by it all. Its very similar to the Dane County Farmers Market in Madison, WI. It has a few more stands, with many of them serving ready-to-eat food due to a lack of restaurants on the PSU campus. I didn't see anyone playing a drum, guitar, or recorder for money. There was also no one inside the market selling something that could not be consumed (minus the honey people selling beeswax candles). 

Note: If you're looking for something crafty, your place to be is the Saturday Market. Or if you're looking for a basket, go out on the sidewalk a hundred feet outside the main entrance of the farmers market grounds. That is where I spotted one man selling all sorts of baskets and I overheard a potential customer asking about where they were from. (I felt as though I should have been looking for Portlandia cameras.) 

My first trip to the PSU Farmers Market I made a critical mistake; I did not go in with a plan. I passed over mountains of beautiful produce and arrived too late to find the legendary Hood strawberries. Rather my friend and I sampled sausages and cheeses, including a vegan smoked gouda (I know for certain now that no matter how many times someone swears it tastes just like cheese, it doesn't). That day I managed to pick up a kielbasa from Olympic Provisions, a well-known sausage producer in Portland, and a cow's milk cheese called Juniper from Ancient Heritage Dairy. You can take a girl out of Sconnie, but you take the Sconnie out of the girl. 

The RD side of me was fairly disappointed with myself after my first trip. Then I swore to myself that next time would be different, next time I would have a plan. This week I had decided I was going to make a farmers market dinner for two for under $50. Many local restaurants boast/ warn you that their menu varies based on what they can find at the farmers market. They then charge you an arm and a leg as a reward for them going out there early, planning a menu, and having a sous chef prepare for you what they felt was the best of the market. Considering it was going to be a typical rainy day in Portland on Saturday, why not try to do it myself?

The market opened at 8:30 and I found myself there about 15 minutes after it opened. It was raining lightly as I made my way to the first booth with Hood strawberries. (I have this quirk where I feel pressured at farmers markets, panic, and buy from the first vendor I see selling what I want.) I ended up paying $4 for a pint of strawberries. I then turned around a saw another vendor selling strawberries for $3. I rationalized that I didn't see one other vendor use the word "Hood" by "strawberry" so I continued to allow myself to think that I did not get ripped off. 

The next stand I stopped at had golden beets. I had maybe had beets three times in my life before coming to Portland. Through my co-workers obsession with all things beet-related (mainly beet martinis, beet infused vodkas, and beet salad), I have come to appreciate them. I had never seen golden beets before and decided to actually talk to the vendor. I learned from him that golden beets are sweeter than red ones and don't stain as much. I also learned that beet greens are much like chard, the only difference is that chard was bred not to bulb like beets so the greens grow faster. I picked up bunch ($3.50) and went on my way. 

I walked along and tried a bourbon chicken liver mousse from Chopped. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, but I didn't want to spend $8 of my dinner fund on it so I moved on. I then spotted a stand selling asparagus and I had an idea of making asparagus soup. This time rather than buying something at the first place I saw it, I went along to see if I could find it somewhere else. I then passed by a hard cider stand offering tastings of their award- winning ciders. I considered stopping, but I wanted to see where I ended up before I bought a beverage to go with dinner.

The next task was finding a protein for dinner. Do I go with fish or meat? If I go with meat, what do I want? There is always chicken, beef, and pork. But what about buffalo, yak, rabbit, lamb or duck? Minus the buffalo and lamb, I have no experience cooking the other game meats so those were out. I tend to eat a lot of chicken and that made me less inclined to purchase it there. I also wasn't really feeling a seafood to go with my beet salad, even though it would have went well with the asparagus soup. I ended up consciously committing myself to beef. 

I walked passed a few stands selling grass-fed/ pastured-raised beef. I finally stopped at Sexton Ranches from Haines, OR. They were advertising tenderloin filets for $20 a pound. I was cautious because the first time I bought a grass fed flank steak at a farmers market it was $20 a pound and the smallest this particular vendor had was 1.5 pounds. I ended up spending $30 on a flank steak and blowing over my half my budget there. This time I was going tell the vendor how much I wanted and see if they could make that happen rather than taking what they handed me.  As it turns out, they only had pieces that were about .3 to .4 pounds. Perfect for me and my budget, I picked up two steaks for about $15.  

Sexton Ranches was also one of the first booths where I was getting the hang of the farmer/ rancher/ vendor- customer interaction. She congratulated me on making out in the rain and how she would not be there herself had she not had to work. Really though, Madison has had farmers markets on 30 degree days. If anyone should be congratulated, it should be those market goers. 

If I was going to be making dinner, I really didn't want to put the effort into making dessert. Why even attempt it when someone else at the market has already mastered that skill? I had this idea to have an apple or pear pie topped with melted smoked gouda. I had tried the smoked gouda, non-vegan, a couple weeks prior. On my way to the cheese stand, I stopped at the Packer Orchards stand to pick up a small apple pie sweetened with pears for $5. I then went to Willamette Valley Cheese to get their smoked gouda for $7. 

I only had a couple things left on my list. Onions and asparagus. I stopped at a near by stand where I found sweet onions for $2.50. I asked the vendors there if they had any asparagus, which they did not. However, the woman recommended I stop at Viridian Farms, which had "the best" asparagus at the market. I made my way to where she directed me and low and behold, that was the first stand I spotted with asparagus. The asparagus was $3.00 per bunch there, the same as most other places.

If you are tracking my costs, so far this meal is $36.00. I did not include the cost of strawberries since I'm not planning on using them for dinner. At this point the dinner menu consists of a beet salad, asparagus soup, and steak. For dessert I have an apple pie topped with smoked gouda. Now what to drink... I know!

I meandered over to the cider stand, where the gentleman there ask if I was now ready to try some cider. (He must have seen me pass by earlier.) I told him about what I was doing for dinner and after asking if he could come over, he had me try a few ciders that he thought would go with the meal. A couple others stopped to try what he had and I was able to taste 6 different offerings from Anthem and Wandering Aegnus Ciders. I ended up selecting the Pear Cider from Anthem. It is usually $6 a bottle (or 2 for $10) at the market, but he gave it to me for $5. I now had a complete meal for a grand total of $41.00. Below you can a see a picture of my purchases. (The honeycrisp apple was also not part of dinner, it was part of my breakfast.) 

The before. 
There were only a couple things I needed to make dinner that I did not get at the farmers market and had around the kitchen. Those items were olive oil, lemon, cashews, carrots, garlic, and ground ginger. These items were for the beet salad and the asparagus soup. Here are the recipes I used for these items. 

Beet Salad

What You Need:
4 Medium Beets
1/4 cup Sweet Onions, sliced
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1 T Olive Oil
1 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
Salt and Pepper to taste

What to Do:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Wash the beets and cut the greens and tips off of the beets. In a small pan, put down a sheet of aluminum foil. Place the beets in the center of it and fold up the sides to make a pouch. Roast the beets for about one hour (you should be able to easily pierce them with a fork). Remove the beets from the oven and open the pouch to allow them to cool. 

In a small container whisk together the oil, lemon juice, onion, and ginger.

When the beets are cool enough, peel their skin off. Then slice the beets half, then each half into four pieces. The pieces should be about a 1/2 inch long and 1/4 inch wide. Put the beets in the container with the oil mixture. Salt and pepper the salad to taste. Put a lid on the container and give the container a shake to coat the beets. Place the container in the refrigerator to chill and allow the salad to marinate for at least one hour. 

Asparagus Soup

What You Need:
1 bunch of Asparagus
2 cloves of Garlic
1/4 cup of Sweet Onions, sliced
2 cups of Vegetable Broth, warm (I made my own using 3 cups of water, the woody ends of the asparagus, 2 sweet onions, 1/2 cup of chopped carrots, one cup of sliced beet greens, and salt and pepper to taste.)  
1 T of Raw Cashews
1/2 Lemon, zested
Salt and Pepper to taste

What to Do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the asparagus well, cut off the woody ends, and place the trimmed asparagus on a lightly greased pan or a pan lined with parchment paper. Roast the asparagus for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the asparagus, add the onion and garlic, and roast for another 10 minutes. If the asparagus is thinner, you should be able to roast it in about 5 minutes on each side.  

In a blender, add 1 T of cashews to 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth. Blend until smooth. 

After asparagus is done cooking select a few pieces to use as a garnish. Place the rest of the asparagus on a cutting board and cut it into 2 inch long pieces. Place half of the asparagus in the blender with one cup of the vegetable broth and blend until smooth. Continue this process with the rest of the asparagus, onion, garlic, and vegetable broth. Add salt and pepper to taste.  

Pour the soup into bowls. If the soup seems fibrous, feel free to strain it with a sieve. Top each bowl with about a 1/2 a tablespoon of lemon zest. Serve warm. 

The finished meal minus the pie (it didn't last long enough to be pictured). That steak was as tender as it looks. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nanner Walnut Pancakes

I had been surviving on eggs (in just about every way, shape and form) for the last few months for breakfast. Needless to say, this past Saturday I was craving a change in my morning routine. This meant one of two things. I could either a.) succumb to Voodoo Doughnuts being my backyard and get a ridiculously topped and injected hunk of pure carbohydrates or b.) experiment in the kitchen.

Fortunately I had an overripe banana and an idea.  (A dangerous combination, but not nearly as dangerous as fried dough.) After a little bit of research I made Nanner Walnut Pancakes. This recipe is super quick and the batter was thick enough that it didn't spread and merge into a cell-undergoing-mitosis shape when I dumped (yes "dumped" and not "poured") it in the skillet. 

What You Need:
The ingredients (I made a half batch, the recipe is for 4- 6 pancakes.)

2 Eggs
2 Egg Whites
2 Bananas, overripe
1/4 cup of Walnuts, chopped
3 Tablespoons of Coconut Flour
1/2 teaspoon of Baking Powder
1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
Cooking Spray or Coconut Oil

What To Do:

In a medium bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Next mix in the vanilla, egg, and egg whites. (If you want to forgo the egg whites, use 3 whole eggs. If you prefer to cut out the egg yolks, use 6 egg whites.) Stir in the coconut flour and baking powder until slightly lumpy. Last, stir in the walnuts.

In the pan it goes!
Spray a medium skillet with cooking spray. (If cooking spray is not your style, you can also melt a 1/2 Tablespoon of coconut oil for cooking.) Heat the pan over medium heat. Pour/ dump a portion of the batter into the pan. Cook the pancake until the top of it is bubbled and looks "dry." Flip and continue cooking on the other side until the bottom side is browned. Remove from pan and put it on a plate. Continue this process until you are out of batter or made all you care to eat.

Once your plate looks like this, grab a fork and get ready for some nutty, nanner goodness! These pancakes are so moist you don't need butter or syrup (especially if you use coconut oil for cooking them). Added bonus: you won't want to nap after eating them!