This labor day weekend has found me in the kitchen cooking up a storm and in the yoga studio getting my @$$ kicked while completing the pre-req hours for a yoga teacher training that I’m hoping to begin in January. So I’ve been sore and well-fed. 🙂
I recently placed an order from Amazon for a Nut Milk Bag and it arrived on Saturday! This morning, after a brutal ZGYM workout, I made coconut milk from scratch and it came out amazing!! If you’re like me and have been shelling out too much money on Silk or So-Delicious coconut milk, filled with preservatives and often cane sugar, give this a try. With a Vitamix or high-powered blender it takes less than 10 minutes and is a perfect consistency.
- 1 cup Unsweetened Coconut Flake
- 1.5 cups Warm Water (not hot, warm from the tap or filtered that’s warmed up is fine)
- Optional: 1/4 tsp. Vanilla
- Optional: 1/2 tsp. Honey, or sweetener of your choice
- Add 1 cup of the warm water to the coconut flake and blend in a Vitamix or high-powered blender and blend on HIGH for 2-3 minutes.
- Over a pitcher or bowl pour the contents into a nut milk bag and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Note: the milk will be HOT after being blended that long, I squeezed with a towel over my hand.
- Add remaining pulp back into blender and add the last 1/2 cup of warn water. Blend on HIGH another 1-2 minutes.
- Once again, pour the contents through the nut milk bag and squeeze the milk out into your pitcher or bowl.
- If you want to sweeten or flavor the milk, put the milk back into the blender, add the vanilla and honey (or whatever flavors and sweeteners you’d like) and blend on 8 for ~20-30 seconds.
- Yeilds ~3 cups. Recipe can easily be doubled.
Just like with the almond milk, I was impressed by how easy this is and how great the results are. I also greatly appreciate the control I get over the final product. I like to use a slightly sweetened vanilla milk in my morning smoothies, but I’ve found it’s impossible to find a vanilla coconut milk at the grocery store that doesn’t either contain cane sugar (which I’m allergic to) or artificial sweeteners. Also, even when I purchase unsweetened coconut milk it has stabilizers and preservatives. This way I get the freshest product possible catered to my own tastes.
Now, what to do with the remaining coconut pulp? 😉
Since coming back from the Lomilomi retreat, I’ve been trying to cook more vegetarian meals for dinner. My goal is eating vegetarian 3-4 times per week. This is challenging since I really enjoy getting a lot of protein and don’t enjoy the gassiness from most legumes but I’m giving it a go. Since I’m also dairy-free, most of my veg meals are vegan, though I do use ghee or eggs in some of my dishes. It is not my intent to become vegetarian or vegan, both due to how my system does well with meat and that I have access to local meats from small farms that I trust. BUT, the American diet has definitely become a meat-fest and I think I’ll both be healthier and will eat more sustainably for our planet if don’t eat meat in every meal and eat it in smaller portions when I do.
Last night I was particularly pleased with the concoction I made up. I bought some great organic veggies at Sweet Pea in Waitsfield, VT, which included tomatillos, a veggie I’ve had in Mexican dishes but hadn’t really cooked with. I decided to see if they worked in a Coconut Curry, and holy crap I think tomatillos might be a perfect pairing for Indian food. I can’t wait to try them in my bhindi masala once my okra is ready to pick! This is an easy recipe with a lot of warmth and a good mix of tart and sweet.
- 2 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil (or oil of your choice)
- 2 Tbsp. flax seeds
- 1 Tbsp. mustard seed
- 1/2 white onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 5-7 sliced baby bella mushrooms (or 3 portobello mushrooms)
- 6-7 tomatillos, sliced thin
- 1 handful of snap peas
- 3/4 cup chopped broccoli
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
- 1.5 tsp. garam masala
- 1 Tbsp. red curry powder
- 1 tsp. tumeric
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- dash of cardamom powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: toasted coconut flake (throw some coconut flake under the broiler or in the toaster oven for just a few minutes, watch it, it burns fast!)
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the flax and mustard seeds, once they are starting to pop add the chopped onion and cook for just a minute or two.
- Before the onions are translucent, add the mushrooms (this is if you like your mushrooms well done, like I do, otherwise wait until the onions are translucent).
- Cook mushrooms to desired doneness, then add tomatillos, garlic and all spices. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until tomatillos have softened and there’s some juice in the pan.
- Add snap peas and broccoli, cook another 1-2 minutes, stirring often.
- Add coconut milk and stir well. Bring to a boil over medium heat while stirring, then reduce heat to low. Adjust spices as desired. Simmer covered on low 5-7 minutes or until veggies have softened a bit but snap peas still have some crunch to them.
- Serve over rice or quinoa, optionally top with coconut flake. Enjoy!
This morning I finally tried making almond milk from scratch. It was not only incredibly creamy and delicious, but it was also SUPER easy!
- 1-1/2 cup raw almonds, soaked 8-12 hours and rinsed (optional: remove skins by pinching then after they’ve soaked*)
- 6 cups filtered water
- Optional: 1 tsp. vanilla
- Optional: 1 Tbsp. honey (or sweetener of your choice, or 3-4 large dates)
- Toss all ingredients in a Vitamix or high-powered blender. Blend on high for two-minutes (if you’re not using a Vitamix you may need to blend longer and also may need to strain the final result for optimum creaminess).
Now, wasn’t that easy? Why have I been buying pre-made almond milk with preservatives and cane sugar?! Well, now I know. 😉 I also have to brag and say that I’ve found many store-bought brands are watery and either too sweet or flavorless. This was a nice mild nuttiness, very rich and creamy, and for me it was just the right sweetness.
Next up, making my own coconut milk! Now that I know how easy it is, the sky’s the limit!
August has been a pretty crazy month for me, but while my blog entries cooled down, my workouts continued to fire up! I’ve been traveling a lot, which means my routine has needed to shift to accommodate my locale.
The first adventure was a five day intensive Lomilomi retreat. Lomilomi is a style of Hawaiian massage that I’ve been studying for about two years now. This was my third class and it was incredibly inspiring. I knew that I would be in a calorie-friendly environment, as our meals were all vegetarian, mostly made from ingredients found right on the land we stayed at. Speaking of the land, I already knew about Dreaming Mountain in Johnson, VT, but now that I’ve spent four nights there I’m absolutely in love with it! I had done a mini-cleanse before the trip, so I had already cut out alcohol, red meat and was strict to my food allergies diet (generally no sugar, dairy, gluten, corn, coffee and a slew of other random things). This meant that I didn’t feel the need to do my really intense workouts on the retreat. Instead, I did yoga daily, a martial arts dance that’s part of the Lomi training, and, of course, I was giving and receiving massage daily. I ended up dropping 5lbs just from living a healthy stress-free active life for a week!
The next adventure was much more challenging. My company recently opened up a new store in Key West, FL. It was my job to head down there to set up all the infrastructure. This meant taking three planes each way to a hot, sweaty tourist playground, working five 12 hour+ days in a row and attempting to stick to my diet and exercise. The first thing I learned is that the sun rises LATE in Key West, after 7am. So to keep up my workouts I had to just deal with getting up in an unfamiliar place in the dark. I did a combination of creating my own workouts in the hotel’s (really spectacular) gym and yoga on the beach. I should have recorded what I did in the gym but I didn’t think to. It was nice varying between being in the gym and being on the beach. I really didn’t get much time at all to enjoy the island so at least doing yoga under the stars, next to the ocean, and then slowly watching the sun rise through my vinyasas was pretty spectacular. I’ll admit diet was much more of a challenge there, and I made myself outright sick once or twice, but you gotta live too, right?
It’s nice to be back home and back to a more normal routine. Though, it seems my yoga is going to be ramping up as I’m trying to hit the minimum pre-req hours for a yoga teacher-training I’m hoping to start in January. I only just found the program and they require 35 hours in their studio before I can enroll. Since I live an hour away this is a challenge, but I’ve been wanting to get my yoga certification for years now and it’s a teacher I really like. Wish me luck!
So, today’s workout was really unusual for me. It’s a little bit of everything. I started out doing someone else’s workout (some of you may recognize the first few items) and then decided I wanted it to be more dynamic. This was LONG. My arms were shaking at the end and I was dripping with sweat. I feel it’s a good mix of cardio and strength training, though the cardio portion never really ends. Check it out:
- 1 Min High Knees
- 1 Min Sprint
- 1 Min Low-Jacks
- 30 Weighted Burpees (I used 5lbs)
- 30 Knee Tucks
- 30 Side-Lunge w/ Floor Touch
- 30 Plank Side-To-Side Jumps
- 10 Prisoner Getups
- 10 Weighted Sit-Ups (I used 15lbs first 5 and then 10lbs last five)
- 10 Push-Ups
- 20 Knee Tucks
- 20 Side-Lunge w/ Floor Touch
- 10 Side Crunches, Right
- 10 Side Crunches, Left
- 12-10-8-10-12 Pyramid Tricep Kickbacks in Lunge Position (I used 8lbs, 10lbs, 15lbs)
- 12-10-8-10-12 Pyramid Bicep curls (I used 8lbs, 10lbs, 15lbs)
- 10 Weighted Lunge Twists, 5 Each Side (I used 10 lbs)
After that, I needed some protein and amino acids!! Cut to today’s smoothie!
This beauty contains pomegranate juice, coconut milk, spinach, flax seeds, fresh local blueberries, frozen mangoes, and a half-serving of vegan protein powder (Fat Flush). I’ve honestly moved away from using protein powders in my morning smoothie because I feel adding flax or chia seeds plus spinach gives me enough protein without making me bloat. But, today I really killed my upper body so it seems right to add in the protein and help rebuild my muscle tissue.
I also am on a daily gut repair formula from my Naturopath which includes l-glutamine. While new research is always coming out, there’s a lot out there showing a direct correlation between l-glutamine and muscle recovery. It’s recommended post-workout, along with protein and carbs (1:4). We always hear protein protein protein after workouts, but that’s one time when I think it’s important to have carbs to help with the recovery. Frankly, I do think there’s such thing as too much protein. I’m definitely trying to build my muscles, but that doesn’t mean I need to eat 10 eggs and a bucket of protein powder in one day.
What post-workout drinks/meals/supplements work for you?
- KB Snatch-Reverse Lunge R
- KB Snatch-Reverse Lunge L
- Double KB step-ups
- Elevated Plank Pushup/Knee Tuck
- Ab roller
- Weighted Sit-Ups
Buy-Out: 10 Burpees
- KB Swings
- KB Clean R
- KB Clean L
- KB Reverse Lunge
- Weighted Lunge Twists
- KB Renegade Row
- Reverse Crunch
- Side-Plank Toe Touch
- Front plank
- 6 Turkish Getups (3 each side)
- KB Single-leg Deadlift R
- KB Single-leg Deadlift R
- Ab Roller
- Weighted Ab Twists
- Pilates Hundreds
- Plank w/ Knee Tuck
- KB Swings
- Thruster R
- Thruster L
- KB Bent-Over Row
- Weighted Lunge-Twist
- Plank->Side Planks
- Dive Bombers
- Pilates Sit-Ups
- Bicycle w/ out-and-in-arms
- Box jumps x 20
- KB Snatch R x 10
- KB Snatch L x 10
- KB Renegade Row x 10
- Lunge Twist R x 5
- Lunge Twist L x 5
- Pull ups x 3-10 depending on your fitness level
And now for something completely
Raspberry Mint Smoothie
I’m on a mint kick right now and have really enjoyed adding it to my smoothies. It’s great for digestion and adds a nice refreshing kick to the smoothie. I’ve also learned that many fresh herbs go well in smoothies and have lately enjoyed cilantro and basil; can’t wait to find more good combinations!
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
- 1 tbsp flax seeds (or try using sprouted flax or chia seeds!)
- 1 handful spinach
- 2-3 sprigs of mint
- 1/2 package frozen raspberries
Mix that up in your blender until smooth and you will have a sucka-punch of flavor to your face!
Speaking of sprouted flax and chia seeds, that’s been my latest experiment and I’m pretty happy with the results:
That is chia on the left and flax on the right. It took only a week to go from seed to overflowing sprouts that were pushing the top of the container off. They added a really nice fresh flavor to my smoothies and some wonderful nutrients. The one thing I haven’t been able to find out is if sprouted flax and chia are more or less nutritious than the raw seeds. If anyone has info on that I’d love to see it!
One of my friends, Rosie of Rock Bodies, is a personal trainer who often posts delicious healthy recipes to Facebook. She found a recipe for pancakes that uses just two ingredients: banana and eggs. Seriously, that’s it. They are AMAZING. Before I made them though I had to finish my workout for the day (especially since I was having local sausage with my pancakes).
Today I wanted to focus on arms and abs. Yesterday I did Zuzka’s ZShred #3 which was a legs-intensive high-intensity workout. I really prefer full-body workouts and while I felt like a new person after this workout, it ended up being too much for me and I am HURTING today. So I decided to take it easier on my legs. This workout will definitely get your heart rate up but it’s primarily a strength training workout and while it’s an upper-body focus there’s definitely leg involvement as well.
- KB Swing
- KB Snatch R
- KB Snatch L
- Weighted pilates sit-ups
- Plank climbers
- Pull-ups (as many as you can do
- Dive bombers
- Renegade Row
- Single-Leg deadlifts
- Dragon flags
Once you’ve completed that you deserve some pancakes right?
Paleo High Protein Pancakes
- 2 Eggs
- 1 Banana
- Optional: pinch of cinnamon
- Optional: ~1tbsp protein powder or tapioca flour
- Beat the banana and egg together. You’re done making the batter! No, seriously, this recipe couldn’t be easier. I used my Vitamix to mix them but you can easily do it by hand. I added cinnamon, which turned out great. I also made the mistake of using jumbo eggs so my batter was a bit too thin so I added some tapioca flour to thicken it. You can use protein powder as a thickener if you prefer (I recommend using a plant-based powder without GMOs, soy or whey).
- Cook on skillet like normal pancakes. I recommend making them small and thin (the large one in the picture was to finish off my batter).
I found with the sweetness of the banana no syrup was necessary, though I’m sure if you like you can add some maple syrup or agave. Enjoy!!
I completed my third Hot Yoga/Bikram class at Geezum Crow Yoga last night and it was AWESOME!! I really feel much more supported there than at Bikram Stowe and I’m going to try to make a point to go there more often. In the meantime, to make things a bit more affordable I’m looking for a good iOS app for Hot Yoga. After scouring reviews it looks like Hot Yoga Doctor is the most robust app with actual full spoken classes, despite their website being abhorrent. I wish I could find an actual video. I was surprised that My Yoga Online doesn’t have one (I highly recommend that site, btw).
Yesterday I received back the results of my food allergy testing. I had IgA, IgE and IgG testing done against 96 foods. It was done by Green Mountain Natural Health (processed at US BioTek) and I’m extremely grateful that my insurance covered the test in full.
I had the testing done because I’ve always had digestive issues and for the most part I’ve just accepted that and try to ignore it. I’ve had acid reflux since I was a kid and that’s the only condition I really had diagnosed and treated. I used to be on daily prescription meds but got off them with the help of a change in diet, and adding in yoga and abdominal massage (speaking of which if you are ever in the NH area I highly recommend seeing Kym Feltovic for Maya Abdominal Massage). That was probably one of my first forays into the power that a change of lifestyle has.
On top of the acid reflux, I also struggle with bloating, stomach pains after eating and lower GI inflammation. Those things have become so common that I thought they were part of life. I’ve been on many types of diets. Some due to dating partners with diet restrictions, some for fun, and more recently some elimination diets. I’ve done two elimination diets (cleanses) and both times I found I had sensitivities to dairy and gluten. Dairy was no surprise, I eat sundaes with the full knowledge that I’m entering a world of pain. Gluten was annoying to find out but it makes sense. I also noticed from those diets that I do much better with very little sugar. This was also no surprise as both my Mom and I struggled with an overpopulation of yeast and my Dad and his Dad struggled with issues with diabetes. Since those diets I’ve significantly cut back on dairy, gluten and sugar.
Yesterday I was handed a large booklet and finally got the results in full technicolor:
I only photographed what I was allergic to. I’m thankfully not allergic to any meat/fowl/eggs or any vegetables. I am allergic to all dairy, coffee, sugar cane, brewer’s yeast, cranberry, clam, crab, kidney bean, corn, all wheat, oat, rye, sesame seed, spelt, and sunflower seed.
I posted the results to Facebook yesterday and had the most comments I think I’ve gotten to a post ever. Food issues really rowel people up. I’ve learned nutrition is a very personal thing with lots of different opinions and if you’re not already used to a restricted diet it can seem like the end of the world. Let me be clear, this is not the end of the world at all. I’m actually super-excited that I can now start working on these allergies and see how they will change my body!
The big surprises were cranberries and sesame seeds. That means no more cranberry juice in my smoothies and I have to find another gluten free cracker that isn’t sesame-based. I already knew dairy and gluten would be on there. Brewer’s yeast is unfortunate, especially since that rules out making nut cheeses with nutritional yeast. Crab and clam is annoying, but I eat them so infrequently that I’m not going to let it bother me (and I’m still going to rock soft-shell crab season). And thankfully I had already quit coffee, despite my undying love for both roasting and drinking it.
Since I had already intuited a good chunk of these allergies and started being very strict about my diet since March 1st, I’ve actually lost 7lbs and my belly isn’t sticking out like a pregnant woman anymore (still a bit poofier than I’d like but, meh). So I already know there’s truth to this test and I will feel better if I eat the foods that fuel and nourish my body. I really didn’t mean to lose weight that quickly, just strictly cutting out dairy, gluten and sugar made an enormous difference.
The next step now is to do an elimination diet with the foods I tested as allergic to. I let the doctor know that I’m going to cheat on St. Patrick’s Day and on a long weekend I might have coming up in Boston. But, I don’t intend to cheat excessively. After that I’ll be doing two solid weeks of elimination. Then I need to add in one allergen at a time and note my reaction. What surprised me is that my doctor said once I know how each effects me there are treatment options so it’s possible that I won’t have to cut these foods out of my diet for good. I don’t yet know what the treatment options are (one of my packets mentioned acupressure), but I’m curious to find out.
I was asked by a couple people if I’m actually allergic to these foods or if I just have a sensitivity to them. I technically have an allergy to them, but not a fatal allergy. The consequences are bloating, acid reflux, lower GI inflammation, fatigue and insomnia…with possibly more symptoms to discover as I do the elimination diet. Dairy also gives me some respiratory issues, coughing from phlegm. As far as food allergies go, I do consider myself very lucky. My throat doesn’t swell up, I don’t have trouble breathing, etc. So if you want to call it a sensitivity I suppose that would be accurate, but this test sitting next to me is calling it an allergy. It’s basically all semantics.
I’d love to hear from others out there who have been through this or who are curious about it! I’m also on the hunt for more recipes that fit my diet, have anything good? The first on the docket is a recipe for hummus without tahini. Must go Google now!
I’d love to tell you that the 90 burpees a day are getting easier, but they still seem like a chore I do three times a day. The one thing that’s really getting better is my form. I used to really struggle with pushups and I feel like I can do them gracefully now and even slow it down so I can really focus on working my muscles. I suppose my endurance is also getting better but I definitely still sweat every time!
Running is getting better. My times are getting shorter as my speeds are getting faster. I’ve been taking things very slowly with running and I tend to alternate between speed walking and sprinting. I’m making my sprints longer and am starting to set firmer goals so I get to a point where I can run the entire time.
My latest love is Hot Yoga, closely related to (and sometimes synonymous with) Bikram. I had tried Bikram two years ago and had a really poor experience. I’ve been practicing yoga for *counts* 16 years (!!) so I have a solid foundation, though I’m definitely still learning and am not a “pro”. That said, I feel comfy in most intermediate/advanced classes. I went in on New Year’s morning, which was a poor choice after drinking champagne the night before. The temperature and humidity of the studio immediately triggered my acid reflux, giving me pain in my esophagus and I quickly got nauseous. I managed to stay in the class for 75 minutes, having to drop to child’s pose on occasion. I then felt like I really was going to puke and I left the class quietly and ended up crying in the hallway. I am not a woman who often cries, especially in public settings, this was a really low moment for me. I swore off doing Bikram again.
Flash forward to a couple weeks ago when I had a really bad day and was meeting friends late in the evening so I had some time to kill in town. I wanted to do something to help me get over my bad mood and the only yoga class I could find that fit into my schedule was a 6pm class at Geezum Crow Yoga. This was called “Hot Yoga”, which the teacher said is similar to Bikram but the certification is different. The room was HOT (~108ºF with 30% humidity) and believe me I dripped with sweat the entire time but…I did it! It was hard but the teacher was really encouraging, the class was small and I felt comfortable. I felt like I could really work through my shit and focus on my body and my space. I pushed myself to places I had never been with yoga before and I left feeling both energized and exhausted all at once.
I think the main difference was that I was well-hydrated for this class and also I’m physically in better shape now. Since the experience feels like running a marathon, I didn’t expect to go back any time soon but I found myself craving that feeling of catharsis and accomplishment (hello endorphins!). I went back this past Friday and had another amazing experience with a different teacher.
Once again I began lusting after that amazing feeling. Plus, when I saw that my calorie counter told me I was burning almost 700 calories in the class I really wanted to go back! I decided to once again brave the Bikram studio near me, Bikram Yoga Stowe. I attended a class there yesterday and unfortunately it’s not the studio for me. We all have different needs in yoga. For me, I love to push myself and explore but I appreciate a teacher who’s soft (but pushes me) and flexible in their teaching. I also appreciate smaller classes when I can get them. Bikram Yoga Stowe was like walking into Yoga bootcamp. It wasn’t a full class but there were still about 25 people there. It felt much hotter than Geezum Crow, despite them saying the temperatures are the same. I expect it was just more humid in there. It also didn’t help that I managed to be right next to the heater.
The real turnoff for me was the teacher, she was just not right for me. The room was filled with what looked like athletes. While there were many body types and age ranges, the predominant crowd was younger, thin and with chiseled bodies. They were loud and social before class and had obviously been going there for a while; so it’s clear that the teacher is right for some people and the practice is effective. The teacher came in like a drill sergeant. While she had a nice demeanor, I felt like she was barking orders at the speed of an auctioneer. She never stopped talking. Constant, monotone instructions interspersed with hand claps to prompt us into the next pose. Her instructions were also colored with back-handed insulting remarks that surprised me. Things like, “If your head isn’t touching your knee you’re not even beginning to do the posture”. Instead of the encouraging comments that I’m used to like, “Try to touch your head to your knee to get into the posture”. There was a definite sense that things were her way or the highway and with her constant chatter it was difficult for me to mentally get in the zone. Again, I know this works for some people but it’s not why I come to the mat. Friday I will be back at Geezum Crow.
Finally, I made such a delicious smoothie this morning that I have to share it with you!
Chocolate Almond Delight
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 tsp spirulina
- 1 tsp flax seeds
- 1 tbsp flax seed oil
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach
- 1 scoop Fat Flush Body Protein (or protein powder of your choosing)
- 1/2 cup raspberries
- 1/4 cup blueberries
- 1 tsp raw cacao powder
Chocolaty, fruity, nutty, AMAZING!!! Give it a go!