Thursday, June 28, 2012

Take me out to the crowd!

Summer only comes once a year, so try to enjoy it while you can!

One of my favorite summer pastimes is cheering on the home team at the baseball stadium.  I don't care if it's major league, minor league, or the neighborhood t-ball team.  Nothing beats sitting in the stands listening for the crack of the bat.

Of course, a baseball game would not be the same without the baseball snacks!  Baseball vendors certainly know their audience.  Hot dogs, peanuts, cracker jacks...just the thought of this American menu makes me want to grab my baseball mitt and cheer for a fly ball.

It's no surprise that most baseball stadium snacks are not exactly models of good nutrition.  However, life is to be enjoyed, so leave your carrot sticks at home and relish in the moment.

pun intended

Now, this is an important time for the WWPTD question...what would your personal trainer do?  Would he/she eat three hot dogs, an order of jumbo nachos, cracker jacks, ice cream, a pretzel, and a giant soda?  Probably not.  But they might eat a regular sized hot dog with the works, a few peanuts, and a small beer. 

Remember, everything you eat has a consequence.  So if you want to feel sluggish and bloated, go for it.  If you want to enjoy a treat and energetically participate in the seventh inning stretch, keep your portions small.

Combine ball!  Find your local used sports equipment store and stock up on some summer sports materials.  Grab a friend and toss the baseball.  Kick the soccer ball down the field a few times.  Discover the lure of ultimate frisbee.  Exercise can be fun!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


 sweet potato chips +

boiled shrimp =

The perfect summer meal!

Keep it simple, smarties!

Combine with this thought...everything we do has a consequence.  Why not exercise and relish in the thought that the consequences will be positive?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bread distaster turned toasty

While recently surfing the world of Pinterest, I saw a pin for fresh bread made in the crock pot.


I decided I had to try it.  I love making bread, however, with the exception of pizza dough, I hardly take the time to do it.  Mostly because we have an amazing local bakery that makes fresh bread much easier to enjoy.

However, I had a Kitchen Aid mixer hook that was dying to be used and crock pots make everything easier, right?

I did a quick search for simple bread recipes and came across one for a French Batard.  The instructions appeared to be very similar to most bread recipes I had at home with the exception of not requiring 12 hours of rising! Bingo!

Bread making can be very intimidating, but if you follow the appropriate steps, make some key observations along the way, and give your dough the time it needs to come alive, you will have success.

You will need:
-1 1/2 cups warm water (when I say "warm," I mean that you can put your finger under the water and it is hot to the touch but not too hot that it is uncomfortable or you have to pull your finger away)
-1 tbs. sugar
-1 1/2 tsp. yeast (I use active fast rising)
-1 1/2 tsp salt
-3 3/4 cups flour (I used 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 all purpose)

Mix together the warm water, sugar and yeast.  I usually put these ingredients in a drinking glass and whisk them with a fork for 10-20 seconds.  Set this aside and give it 10-15 minutes to itself.  Now make your it foamy and bubbly?  If it is, you did it right! If it isn't, your water was too hot or your yeast was too old.  Try again.

Did I mention bread making is kind of like a science experiment?

Once you make it past this step, measure your flour into a mixing bowl and combine with the salt.  If you have a hook attachment for your mixer, yay! You just saved your hands and shoulders from a workout.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the wet yeast mixture to the dry ingredients.  This is when your observations are, again, very important.  Give the dough some time to figure out what it's going to do, but if it continues to be dry and flaky, add a dash of water.  If it's incredibly sticky or not coming together, add a dash of flour (not too much of either!).  Do what you need to do to get your dough looking like this:

(thank you google images)

If you do not have a mixing hook, it's not the end of the world! I have made bread plenty of times the old fashion way.  Slowly add the wet yeast mixture to the dry ingredients while slowing stirring with a wooden spoon.  Once it is combined, turn it out onto your floured countertop.  Start kneading!

Once your dough is ready to go, pull out that crock pot and line it with parchment paper.  Place the dough inside, turn the crock pot on high, and walk away!

The wonderful part of the crock pot is that it takes care of both the rising and the baking!  Mine took about 1.5 hours to finish.  I knew it was done when the house was filled with the smell of freshly baked bread and the loaf was slightly brown on the bottom.

Here is when the disaster occurred.

I read that I could place the bread under the broiler for 5 minutes to get a nice, crusty top.  So I did.  And then I broke the cardinal rule of using broilers...I walked away!  I went outside to water my plants, heard the timer go off, ran inside to check my lovely bread, and it was scorched.  It was smoking.  It was charred.

I was only burnt on top.  The majority of the loaf was safe, but to see that perfectly baked bread blackened like burnt toast was just heartbreaking.

My broiler and I are currently not on speaking terms.

After I calmed down and let the bread cool, I quickly realized that all was not lost and it still tasted delicious once you pulled the burnt part away.  Mr. PT and I enjoyed freshly baked bread for the rest of the week!

Try not to be intimidated by bread making!  It really is one of the more simpler projects to do in the kitchen.  It just takes some practice.

Combine with a workout extension.  Take your typical 30 minute workout and make it longer and harder, taking a few more breaks here and there.  Pushing for endurance will make you stronger and a better athlete!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Not your Mom's cabbage rolls

I had been avoiding the giant head of green cabbage in my refrigerator for about two weeks.  I just did not know what to do with it...and my cravings for sauerkraut are rare.  Surprisingly, when I pulled it out for inspection today, it was still edible!  In fact, it was crisp and glowing!  However, I knew its shelf life was dwindling so I began the search for a cabbage recipe to get myself acquainted with this hearty green.

I found an interesting idea on rolls!  They seemed simple to make and did not look anything like sauerkraut.  There is even a video demonstrating how to make them (check it out here).  However, I did not have ground beef or tomato soup in my cupboard (not a shock).  However, I did have salsa and tons of vegetables!  Therefore, I concocted these vegetarian Mexican cabbage rolls.

These require some time, but they are truly delicious and incredibly healthy!

You will need:
-2-3 servings of cooked brown rice
-1/4 red and yellow pepper
-1/2 yellow onion
-2 mushrooms
-1-2 chard leaves
-1 egg, whisked
-chili spice, salsa spice, Mexican spices, or a package of taco/guacamole seasoning
-fresh cilantro
-9-10 cabbage leaves
Chop all your veggies and throw them in a bowl with the cooked rice. Mix well, adding your seasonings.  I used these:

southwest seasoning, Mexican spice mix, and chili spice

Can you tell I like to re-use spice bottles??

Add the egg and mix well.  Your filling is ready to go!

As for the cabbage leaves, check out that video (here) to see a great way to separate the leaves and soften them in boiling water.  Fill the softened cabbage leaves with your filling (about 1/4-1/3 cup in each leaf) and top with fresh cilantro.

Roll it up and secure with a toothpick!

As for cooking the rolls, you can do this one of three ways:

1. Put them in a skillet with the salsa, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes
2. Put them in a crock-pot with salsa and cook on low long as you like??
3. Put them in an oven-safe dish with salsa, cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes

I did a combination of 1 and 3, however, I pulled them out of the oven prematurely.  They were still tasty but the cabbage was a little tough.

Serve with fresh avocado and maybe some cheese!  And for dessert...

 Confession: I gobbled a handful of dark chocolate chips later...that sweet tooth never sleeps!

As you can tell, Mr. PT and I continue our obsession with vegetables so I hope you readers are not getting veggied-out.  I hope I am demonstrating some easy, appealing ways to include more wholesome nutrients in your diet.  You can always add chicken or other lean meats to these dishes...whatever your preference!  The important take home message is to try and eat fruits and vegetables every day.  You don't have to eat them all day (although if you do, more power to you!), but they are too good to ignore on a daily basis.

Combine with...learning a new sport?  When is the last time you slipped on that softball glove?  How long has it been since you've hit a tennis ball?  What exactly is frisbee golf??  Grab your spouse or a friend and try something new.  You will strengthen some hidden muscles and challenge your mind...a personal trainer's dream workout!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rainbow Chard!

Our last vegetable share brought us a foreign vegetable...rainbow chard.  When I saw it, I thought, wow that's pretty.  I wish I knew what to do with it!

It looks like a cross between celery and spinach, except the celery part is yellow, purple, and orange!  These colors bleed up into the leaves, giving them a unique hue as well.

After some brief research, I found out that this leafy root vegetable is full of vitamins A, K, and C.  Also, you can thank iron for the brightly colored stalks!

I read that you can basically treat it like spinach and asparagus.  Mr. PT and I were late diners tonight, so I was in a hurry to throw something together fast.  What's the best way to cook a bunch of veggies in a short amount of time?

Rainbow stir fry!

To cook with chard, first rinse the leaves and stalks.  Separate the leaves from the stalks with a sharp knife.

In a hot frying pan, I combined:
-2-3 tbs. olive oil
-chopped chard stalks (1 inch pieces)
-sliced yellow bell pepper
-sliced mushrooms
-chopped sweet onions
-sliced zucchini squash
-salt/red and black pepper
-fresh dill and fresh parsley
-chard leaves cut into slices

Cook all veggies, except chard leaves, until soft.  Meanwhile, prepare 2 servings of fast-cooking brown rice.  Add leaves to veggies and cook until leaves are soft.  Add rice and toss until all ingredients have combined.  Add seasonings to taste.  Top with freshly grated cheese of choice!

Mmm...I am hoping to spend some more time with chard to discover more unique ways to serve it.  In the meantime, rice and veggies makes a pretty good meal!

Combine with some HIIT...which stands for high intensity interval training.  SELF magazine reports that "HIIT supercharges your body on a microscopic level, meaning you burn fat more efficiently. In fact, doing 10 one-minute sprints, each followed by 75 seconds of recovery, three times a week, appears to do as much for your muscles as 10 straight hours of steady running."

Try this routine!
Sprint for 8 seconds. On a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is the effort it takes to run water and 10 is the effort it takes to run a race, aim for 8. Recover for 12 seconds at level 5. Repeat for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Girls Night In

Mr. PT and I returned to Roanoke today after a fun and restful 5 days in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio.  I sure love to spend time in the kitchen, but I must admit, it was nice letting my mother do most of the cooking.  She made many fantastic dishes that I unfortunately did not get pictures of, however, I will share a short list of ingredients that she most excellently cooked with!

-sweet potatoes
-whole grain pasta
-red onions
-pita bread
-swiss cheese

Every dish she served was full of flavor and incredibly satisfying.  I am grateful that she has instilled in me the idea of using simple, natural, food that requires little processing to taste amazing.

Mr. PT was also introduced to Grandpa's roast beef, Uncle J's buttery mashed potatoes, and of course, a Columbus favorite, Tommy's pizza!

I even had the opportunity to reconnect with some dear friends I grew up with.  We had a great time laughing, catching up on life, and eating delicious homemade food.

I must apologize because the lighting in these pictures makes the dishes look somewhat bland...a new camera is hopefully in my future (the road-bike came first).

My friend Kelly brought a plate of cucumbers, peppers, and pita chips accompanied with hummus and feta cheese dip.  Both were incredibly full of flavor and perfect for munching.  She found the cheese dip on this neat blog!  Check it out and then come right back!

I made a homemade salsa with chopped tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, corn, pureed green pepper, and heavy seasoning...I threw in garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper, onion name it.  If it was spicy and tangy, I threw it in.  I also gave it a zesty bite with lime juice.  Kelly and I were on the same wavelength with the pita chips!

Overall, it was a great getaway that Mr. PT and I both needed.  Although, it was nice to be back with the bike group tonight!

Combine with...vacation exercise!  Don't let your travels be an excuse to abandon your workout routine.  Map a quick run around the neighborhood.  Borrow a friend's pool pass and swim some laps.  If you can, hitch your bikes to the car and spend a day exploring the city on your wheels.  You will find yourself having more energy and not feeling so guilty when you indulge in your favorite ice cream bar or pizza joint.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-Chia seeds!

For those of you who tried the flax seeds and

Or those of you who looked at the flax seeds and!

I give you, chia seeds!

These are tiny little seeds that are native to Guatemala and Mexico.  They are packed with protein, fiber, and other fantastic vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.  They also, in my opinion, have hardly any taste.  They have a bit of a texture (a light crunch), but they are truly hard to notice when combined with other strong flavors and textures.

Vanilla yogurt with strawberries, walnuts, granola, and chia seeds

So if you are willing to try a different seed supplement, try the chia seed!  As with the flax seed, a little goes a long way, so eat in moderation!  (about 1 tsp. will do).

Combine with a day of outdoor exercise.  I explored a new hiking path today with friends.  I even did some swimming in frigid water!  Was it structured exercise which burned x-amount of calories? No...but I felt fit enough to do it, which is the goal.  Challenge yourself with a few hours of unstructured exercise.  You will feel alive.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A different kind of salad

I'll eat one salad a day, but two?  That's a little much.

Chicken salad should mix things up a little! Especially when it's wrapped inside green cabbage and paired with fruit!

And a sprinkle of cheese for Mr. PT!

For this chicken salad, chop and combine:
-2 cooked chicken breasts
-broccoli florets
-fresh dill
-red/black pepper
-other favorite spices
-mayo with olive oil

Mr. PT and I both noticed the spiciness of the was a nice touch!

This meal had the added bonus of vitamin C and fiber wrapped up in our kiwi and red grapefruit.  Consider it our vitamin supplement for the day!

Combine with a cardio/strength workout.  If you are fortunate enough to be close to your gym, ride your bike, walk, or run there to do a quick strength session.  If the gym is only accessible by vehicle, do a quick cardio in your neighborhood (walk, run, bike) and do some push-ups, sit-ups, tricep dips, and lunches in your driveway.  30-40 minutes is all you need to keep you honest.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Time to get Green

Mr. PT and I have been bombarded with lettuce!!!

Our vegetable share brought us 3 types of greens last week:
  • green leaf lettuce
  • endive/chicory
  • Chinese cabbage
 Yikes!  We ate a few salads this past week but Tuesday's bounty is right around the corner so I had to get these greens in gear!  I decided to divide them into 5 different containers to keep in the fridge for the week.  I topped them with chopped scallions and carrots.

I figured I would add the more perishable toppings in the AM before leaving for work, like fresh berries, cheese, and nuts.  I must say, having 1/2 week of lunches already prepared feels pretty good!  My sister also had the great idea of making salads ahead in Mason jars...another great way to store your greens on the go!

Speaking of sisters, that same sister also made a delightful salsa the last time we visited.

Mango Salsa

This was delicious, with chopped mango, apples, cilantro, and red onion.  This did not last long with our family!

Combine with a new type of exercise, even if you are doubtful.  I've been a pretty avid yoga/Pilates follower for a few years.  Now, I am enjoying a new class at my gym called Body Flow.  Like most group exercise classes, you follow the instructor through a series of tracks practicing t'ai chi, Pilates, yoga, and meditation.  Increasing flexibility to music is a great way to spend 55 minutes!  I've been begging Mr. PT to join me, and after months of prodding, he finally agreed to pull up a mat for a Saturday morning class.  And guess what...he liked it!  He reported that he learned a few new stretches and core exercises to practice himself as well as use on clients.  So step out on a limb and try a new way to move, what's the worse that could happen?*

*When trying a new exercise, make sure to take it slow and easy at first to prevent injury!