Workout – Legs

While getting definition in my arms is gratifying and I can haul around a 32 pound toddler up stairs and across parking lots in the crook of either arm pretty easily these days, it’s my leg workouts that make me feel STRONG. It’s the day in the gym where I lose decorum, grunting my way through sets and pushing myself to squat and pull and bend heavier weight each time. For this workout with the four sets on most of the exercises, I do an easy set without (much) added weight to warm up. Then I add enough weight that I can just finish 10. Then I bump up the weight for the last two sets to try to lift as heavy as I can for 5 reps. It’s helping me break out of the weight limits I’ve been getting used to. If you can do 10 reps without sacrificing your form and finish each fully, I think it’s time to add more weight. I think the high reps of low weight BS most women hear does very little for our body composition. No one is getting pumped up and buff with testosterone here. Lift heavy. Also, I’ve noticed I eat so much more after a leg workout. I know it’s the day of the week my metabolism spikes and I demand the most power from myself. Good stuff.

Workout Focus: Legs
10 mins on the spinning bike at a steady pace
Leg Extensions 2 x 10, 2 x 5
Barbell Squats 2 x 10, 2 x 5
Hack Squats 3 x 10
Lying Leg Press 2 x 10, 2 x 5
Calve Press On The Leg Press Machine 2 x 30
Smith Machine Lunges 4 x 10
Lying Leg Curls 2 x 10, 2 x 5
Seated Leg Curls 2 x 10, 2 x 5
Stiff Legged Barbell Deadlifts 2 x 10, 2 x 5

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Blog No-Shows

Maybe I’m in a funk. Or maybe this just comes from trying to improve my diet and trying too many new things. Part of the reason I haven’t written as much lately is that I’ve intended three different posts with recipes I adapted, recorded, and photographed, but couldn’t ultimately share here.

First there were the gluten free, sugar free, high protein banana muffins. They were ok for being what they were, but spongy and a little artificial tasting to me.

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Next, there were the Cottage Cheese Chicken Enchiladas. I was excited about these. It had lots of protein, chilies, and spices. Besides, I’ve made enchiladas a million times. Turns out no one liked them. The flavor was just off, the texture with the cottage cheese was weird, and while believe me, I ate them anyway, they weren’t going to make it here.

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Last, I made two sheet pans of pumpkin bars with chocolate frosting for Aurelia’s preschool. I did eat one and it was very good. But. I’m trying not to eat that way right now and I don’t want to write a post about sweet sugary chocolatey pumpkin wonder when I’m making myself write down every thing that goes in my mouth for more than a month. My willpower is on edge as it is.

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See? I make plenty of mistakes. I eat so-so food sometimes. I cheat and make compromises and bounce back and get to be a lazy blogger. Here’s to better recipes to come..

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie with Whole Wheat Cornmeal Crust

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My sweet and impossibly smart friend Shawnee said recently that this blog is a lot more fun when I’m making pies and the like. She’s right. Trying to eat cleaner is simpler (boring), has a lot of meat and cooked veg (doesn’t photograph well), and isn’t particularly tempting to rush home and make yourself (try Lottie + Doof).

But it is the treat time of year and I’ve made 6 of these glorious pies now in the last couple weeks. Thank goodness I gave most of them away, but I did get to eat a piece at Thanksgiving and for lunch the day after. What I love most about it is that it seems to be a traditional pumpkin pie, elevated, while not being as dense and rich as a traditional cheesecake. The crust is hearty and buttery. The filling isn’t very sweet, but well spiced with the flavors of real pumpkin and cream cheese dominant.

I like it best cold straight our of the refrigerator with a dollop of real whipped cream.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
Adapted from Bon Appetit, November 1999

Ingredients:
Crust:
3 Tbs (or more) ice water
1 egg yolk
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt

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Instructions:
For crust:
Whisk 3 tablespoons ice water and egg yolk in small bowl to blend. Mix whole wheat flour, yellow cornmeal, sugar and salt in food processor. Add chilled butter. Using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle egg yolk mixture over. Using on/off turns, process until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by the tablespoon if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball. Flatten dough into disk; wrap disk in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (Can be prepared up to two days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Roll out dough on a well floured surface to 12-inch round. Fold dough lightly into four quarters and transfer to a 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Unfold the dough to center in the dish and press to make fit the inside of the pie dish. Crimp dough edges decoratively.

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For filling:
Using electric mixer, beat the cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy. Add the white and brown sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and egg yolk 1 at a time. Add remaining ingredients and beat until well blended. Pour filling into prepared crust.

Bake pie until filling is slightly puffed and just set in center, about 50 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely. Cover pie and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep pie refrigerated.) Serve pie cold.

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Costco Shopping

I’m headed to Costco tomorrow and am sharing my go-to list with you. Now that the local farmers market is closed (wail) and the local farm offerings in the small groceries are limited to potatoes, onions, and apples for only a bit longer, I’m back to relying on Costco. I like Costco. It’s big box and all that, but it’s not Walmart and they increasingly seem to be meeting the health demands of their picky customers, me included. My mom and I canned applesauce and tomato sauce this summer, so those are covered. Free range local eggs are available year round, thank goodness. I only shop at the health food co-op for Bubbies sauerkraut and pickles, kombucha, aged balsamic, raw cider vinegar, vitamins, probiotics, and noodle-y soups for Aurelia. So through the winter and spring, Costco gets the bulk of my shopping and I can keep my grocery budget well within reason without making too many unhealthy compromises to our diet.

A few staples on my Costco list:

  • organic ground beef (not now that we bought a share of a cow, but this has been essential till now)
  • organic boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • plain greek yogurt
  • plain cottage cheese
  • butter
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • extra virgin coconut oil (new and awesome)
  • romaine hearts
  • organic fresh spinach
  • organic spring mix
  • egg whites
  • wholly guacamole single serve guacamole packs
  • refrigerated salsa (there’s only one without sugar in my store)
  • fresh sweet potatoes
  • fresh broccoli
  • aidells chicken apple sausages
  • salmon patties (not optimal, but so easy. 170cal, 9fat, 20protein)
  • dijon mustard
  • balsamic vinegar
  • capers
  • sea salt
  • blueberries
  • frozen tilapia and salmon filets
  • frozen peas
  • canned wild salmon
  • coffee
  • kalamata olives
  • jalapeno and garlic stuffed green olives

occasionally:

  • almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, cashews
  • feta cheese
  • rotisserie chicken (not optimal, but great in a pinch, just remove the skin)
  • almond butter
  • kerrygold cheese
  • mushrooms
  • lamb
  • roasted turkey deli slices
  • artichoke hearts

Tell me what’s on your Costco list!

Workout – Back/Biceps/Abs

I’m enjoying hitting the weights harder and cutting my cardio down to high intensity, short duration bursts after a workout. Eat, Lift, and Be Happy has a great description:

A metabolic finisher is something you do at the end of a lifting session that gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat like a mother. It usually involves an interval format and can be in the form of a complex or circuit. The great thing about finishers is that they only take 5-10 minutes (12-15 if you’re feeling crazy) and they are super effective.

Why?

Well, the answer is simple:

1. You work harder, not longer. So you get a lot of intense work done in a short period of time. Great for people like me who run several business and have kiddos to feed.

2. This whole “EPOC” thing. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or after burn, is a fancy science term that basically means you will continue to burn calories–and in some cases even subcutaneous fat–for several hours after you’re done exercising. Studies have shown that EPOC is highest after anaerobic exercise (lifting) and high intensity intervals.

Yesterday’s workout was built off of Vanessa Tib’s routine again. I adapted a lot and added abs before a whole five minutes of cardio. I’m sore today and ready to do legs this afternoon.

Workout Focus: Back/Biceps/Abs
Assisted Close Grip Pull-ups 3 x 8
Assisted Wide Grip Pull-ups 3 x 8
Underhand Cable Pull-downs 3 x 10
Bent Over Barbell Rows 3 x 10
Seated Cable Rows 3 x 10
One Arm Dumbbell Rows 3 x 12
Weighted Hyperextension (Back Extensions) 3 x 12
Standing Alternate Dumbbell Curls 3 x 12
Dumbbell Alternate Hammer Curls 3 × 12
Preacher Curls 3 × 12

Lying leg extension with knee raises – 3 x 20
Exercise ball sit-ups 3 x 20
Bicycle Crunches 3 x 20
Lying Abdominal Pendulum 3 x 20

Jacob’s Ladder – 5 minutes

Good Morning Eggs

chicken sausage, spinach, salsa, guac eggs

I’ve been eating eggs every morning for months now and it’s the best food change I’ve made in a long time. It’s had a big impact on getting my metabolism going (I eat within an hour of waking up), keeps me full until lunch, and because it’s good fats, veg, and a shot of protein, I don’t start the day with a sugar rush or crave sugar earlier in the day like I do when I eat cereal or toast or other naughty things. I keep a jar of chopped onion in the fridge that’s easy to pull out and use. Also, those amazing Aidelle’s chicken sausages can be cut up and stored ahead of time. If I have meat leftover from dinner the night before I’ll often use that. The roast I used for a few mornings was from a lovely chuck roast I cooked simply in the slow cooker all day in a quart of leftover French Onion Soup. Talk about letting your meals feed each other. That was amazing.

These pictures are from my phone via Instagram (@sarahpoepoetry) and the quality is worse than my usual poor photography because it’s first thing in the morning and I just want to eat the darn eggs and not stand around taking pictures when I should be getting ready for the day. These Good Morning Eggs are quick and doable for weekdays, I promise. They can be made many different ways as you can see below, but the basic recipe is the same.

I ran my recipe from this morning (eggs + chicken + broccoli + feta) through FitDay to give you an idea of the nutritional profile. Most days I eat spinach instead of broccoli and most days I use those brilliant Wholly Guacamole single serve 100 cal packs instead of feta. But it’s not going to vary nutritionally much more than that.

chicken, broccoli, feta eggs

Not a bad way to start the day! Have other flavor combinations or suggestions? I’d love to hear! And really, if you’re not eating well (or at all) in the mornings, give these veggie eggs a try each day in different ways and see how you feel after a week or so. I think you’ll be happy, too.

beef roast, spinach, sauerkraut eggs

Good Morning Eggs

Ingredients:
1 egg
1/3 cup egg whites (about 2 egg whites)
1 tsp coconut oil
2 Tbs onion, chopped
1/4 cup precooked meat, chopped
1/2-1 cup spinach (or other green veg, like broccoli)
2 Tbs other – salsa, sauerkraut, capers, pesto, water
guacamole or feta for topping

Instructions:
In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt the coconut oil and add the onion and meat. Cook for a couple minutes until the onion is softened. In a little bowl, whisk together the egg and egg whites. Add the eggs to the skillet and stir quickly with a wooden spoon to break up the egg and mix well. Let cook, stirring occasionally, for a minute or two, until the eggs are just barely set. Add in the spinach and “other” ingredient. The “other” being something with liquid in it to help the spinach cook down. Stir well until the spinach is wilted and everything is combined. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl, and top with salt, pepper, guacamole, and/or feta. Nom nom.

salmon, pesto, caper eggs

Pan Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps with Spiced Cauliflower Rice

These are so simple and really delicious. Aurelia wasn’t a fan, but I can’t imagine why. I could eat these all the time. Such forward flavors without any bad stuff. What more could you ask from dinner?

The cauliflower rice is an awesome substitute for traditional rice in any recipe and it takes on the flavors of anything you cook it with. So instead of the Chinese five spice, try cumin and coriander or curry and garam masala or just salt and a splash of lemon juice. Love flexible, healthy recipes like that. It will become a staple for you too, I hope!

Pan Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps
Adapted from Everyday Paleo

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, grated (about 1 cup)
1 Tbs fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 Tbs tamarind paste (optional, but lovely)
2 Tbs coconut aminos (or soy sauce if you must)
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp red chili paste
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp coconut oil
Several butter lettuce or romaine hearts for the wraps

Instructions:
In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and carrots and saute until tender. Remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, brown the ground beef. While the ground beef is cooking, whisk together the coconut aminos, fish sauce, rice vinegar, hot chili sauce, sesame oil, tamarind paste, and ginger. Once the beef is done cooking, drain off the excess fat and add the carrots and onions back to the pan, pour in the sauce, and stir. Cover and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Fill lettuce leaves with big scoops of the meat mixture. Top with more hot chili sauce if you want it spicier. Serve with the Spiced Cauliflower Rice below.

Spiced Cauliflower Rice
Adapted from Well Fed by Melissa Joulwan

Ingredients:
1 head cauliflower, leaves and big stems removed, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1 Tbs coconut or olive oil
1 tsp Chinese five spice
1-2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions:
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil, onion, salt, and garlic. Saute until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Don’t burn the garlic! While that is cooking, make the cauliflower rice. In two batches, put the cauliflower in a food processor and blitz until it’s the size of grains of rice. This will take about 15 – 1 second pulses. Add the cauliflower, pepper, and Chinese five spice to the onion and garlic. Stir well and cook for about 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender. Add in the parsley and stir well. Cook for another minute and remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Serve with the Lettuce Wraps above.

Served with sides of Wham Bam Broccoli, my favorite, and thankfully, Aurelia’s too.

Workout – Back to the Weights

I’m not posting on Dailymile right now because I’m not putting in the miles running much lately. I ran over 100 miles in September in prep for my half marathon and it felt amazing. The weather was great, I burned a gabillion calories, and my long outdoor runs on the weekend really became something I looked forward to. But … I hate running in this cold. I am trying to spend more time on other things (dating! novels! toddler dance parties!) and cutting back on the hours and hours running each week allows for some other pastimes to take priority. Last excuse is that all that running didn’t actually do a whole lot to change the shape of my body. I’m not looking to lose (much) weight, but I don’t feel shame admitting that I’d like to look better. If anything, running distance made me more flat. Flat in front, flat in back, just squared up on all sides without much more definition. I like shape and curve and muscles. So, back to the weights I go. Less time on the treadmill, focusing on one body section a day, with short, high intensity intervals to round it out. I weigh about five pounds more than I did two months ago, but I’ve got to get my sweets under control again. And we’re just about to the holiday diet slide. Shoot. I do feel stronger though and sore, in the best way.

I’m not going to keep track of every workout, but I’ll try to post good ones here and there. It’s helpful for me to see other people’s routines when we have similar goals and maybe mine will be useful to someone else. As with any workout, adjust to your needs and weight capacity. The idea is to use weight just heavy enough that you can finish the reps, but not any more. When I finished this chest/triceps routine today, it was all I could do to pick up Aurelia to get her in the car from school after. My arms were DONE, which is a great sign to me. I’ll move on to other body parts the rest of the week, so they gave their all and now get some rest. Whew.

This is adapted from Vanessa Tib. I was in and out of the gym in 45 minutes.

Workout Focus: Chest/Triceps
Pushups 2 sets of 10 reps
Flat Bench Barbell Press 2 x 10
Incline Bench Dumbell Press 2 x 10
Flat Bench Dumbbell Press 2 x 10
Flat Bench Dumbbell Flyes 2 x 10
Cable Crossover 3 x 8
Parallel Bar Dips 2 x 10
Close Grip Barbell Bench Press 2 x 8
Lying Close Grip Barbell Triceps Extension Behind The Head 3 x 8
Triceps Pushdowns 4 x 10
Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension 2 x 15

HIITIntervals on the treadmill: 1 minute run (speed: 7.5, incline: 0), 1 minute power walk (speed: 4.5, incline 10) repeat x 5 (10 minutes)

Greek Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts were on sale and looking lovely in the grocery, so I picked up the biggest package and decided to cook them all up at once. But boneless, skinless chicken breasts are so boring. I like the lean protein source, but it’s not going to have the flavor on it’s own I can get from a roast chicken or bone-in thighs.

To compensate and do my best to make this exciting enough to eat instead of muffins, I pulled everything out of my fridge and pantry that said Greek to me. The great thing about this recipe is that it’s got to be awfully forgiving. I just used what I had. You do the same. Not making 3 pounds of breasts? Scale down. Don’t have an fresh parsley? Use dried. Want tons of spinach? Hate artichokes? Fine, go with it. It will still work out. It’s a ton of flavor in one bowl and it will only get better with a day or two to let all the flavors come together.

I was trying to make this paleo-friendly, but feel free to use some feta on top if you’d like. I’m sure this would be great on pasta or similar, but why? Skip the filler and tuck into a big bowl of chicken, veg, and olives. Awesome.

Greek Chicken

Ingredients:
3 Tbs olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, chopped
3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts – cut into 1″ pieces
6 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 cups fresh spinach
3 little jars marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 bunch parsley, stems removed and chopped
2 Tbs dried oregano
2 tsp dried marjoram
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and stir occasionally until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Add the herbs, salt and pepper, olives, spinach, artichokes, and tomatoes. Stir well and cover. Cook for 10 minutes to bring it all together. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley, and serve in big heaps in big bowls with big spoons.