Monday, August 26, 2013

Amaranth to the Rescue (well not really but I learned a lot anyway)

It is still technically summer in Western PA (even though everyone is gearing up to head back to school!) and with summer not only comes a surplus of sweet corn but a surplus of zuccinni. This is another what in the world do I do with all of this ____________ (insert vegetable here) recipes that came to the rescue. My CSA has been loading me up with zucchini. And I like some zucchini in a salad or to munch on raw but I could not possibly eat all of this zucchini by myself (because of course my daughter licks it and tells me its yucky.)

I decided to cook up some fun zucchini boats to try and trick my 2 year old with the novelty of what we are eating and to free up some space on my fridge. (It totally didn't work. She still licked the zucchini and told me it was yucky. At least I tried.)

I found this really awesome looking quinoa stuffed zucchini recipe and was psyched to make it. I get really excited about plant based protein and quinoa is a great one to have on hand. Most of the recipes I found at first called for some sort of meat stuffing. Yay plants! Until I looked in my freezer (yes I keep my opened grains in the freezer for freshness) and I had zero quinoa and it was the 11th hour. A trip to the store was not happening.

So I got creative. Quinoa is technically a seed and I had some amaranth from my field trip to Bob's Red Mill (best. day. ever.) which is also technically a seed. Sounded good to me and I started to cook it up. Well as it turns out it wasn't the best substitute I ever made. It tasted good but the texture was off. (And I added turmeric so that is why it is yellow - Yay for anti-inflammatory foods. I can use all the help I can get in that department!)

The amaranth cooked up kind of runny and it stayed really small. It doesn't fluff up when it cooks like rice or quinoa. I do think it would make an awesome (and protein packed) sub for oatmeal in the morning -- with a little cinnamon and some blueberries. (Yum!) But it was not the best choice as a sub for a stuffing in my zucchini boats. It kind of oozed out every where. It tasted really good it was just goopy looking (and kind of freaked me out.) So while I will never make that sub again I am excited to try it in other things especially after looking into what amaranth is all about.

Here are some things I learned about amaranth (thanks to for the lesson!)

  • It is a complete protein (Yay!) and for those of us who don't eat meat or would like to cut back on our meat consumption this is a great thing. A protein is considered complete when it contains all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies don't create. In this case amaranth contains lysine -- an amino acid that is typically missing in most grains. 
  • It is also good for your heart and studies have shown it to be a cholesterol lowering whole grain (for more information and links to these studies please visit

  • And it's gluten free -- and with all they hype around gluten right now that seems to always be a plus. 
  • It also has a ton of magnesium and iron
I also read that it can be popped, like corn. How cool is that -- I am super excited to try that out and see if it can satisfy when my crunchy munchy cravings hit. Or to throw on top of salads. Or soup.

So if you have a chance pick up some amaranth and try it. Leave any recipes in the comments below. I would love to know what you think and am always on the lookout for killer recipes (that may get my kid to eat something other than fruit and cheese-- but it could be worse.) I used Bob's Red Mill brand as I (indirectly) mentioned above. Because I am obsessed with Bob's Red Mill (it may be my very favorite place in the Pacific Northwest second only to Cannon Beach -- but seriously the corn grits may have been life changing. Not kidding.) 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Get on Fire Challenge (and may the odds be ever in your favor)

Maybe I just finished reading The Hunger Games
for the billionth time and maybe I am a teensy obsessed with the TurboFire program so what better way to combine my loves than into a group that I might have wanted to call the Girl on Fire challenge but was worried about violating some sort of copyright law?

But I have an obsession. The Hunger Games series consists of books that I never want to leave. Not because it would be such an awesome place to live but I become so invested in the characters and the story that I want it to go on forever. I want to be able to check back in with Katniss. See if they have built back up District 12. See how her kids are growing up. See how that whole new government thing is working out for everyone. (I also feel this way about the Harry Potter series.) I just can't get them out of my head for months after finishing the books -- no matter how many times I have read them.

I also might have a little bit of a girl crush on Jennifer Lawrence (ok a major girl crush.) I mean how awesome is she?

Between my recent rereading of The Hunger Games trilogy, all the leaks and pictures that are starting to circulate to promote the movie version of Catching Fire this November and the fact that I am in the middle of a workout program called TurboFire it seemed to be screaming for me to start a challenge based on something fire-y (or fire-ish -- Girl on Fire-escque? I don't know but now I totally want to make a shirt that says I am a girl on fire. I told you I am obsessed.)

So here is what I am thinking --

  • A 90 day Facebook group dedicated to completing the TurboFire program. I don't care where you get it. Borrow it. Buy it. Whatever. Just commit to doing the program for 90 days. We will support each other and get each other through what I like to call the middle of the program slump where the excitement that propels you the first month has worn off and the end seems so far away. (This is where I struggle the most and what I think is the hardest part!)

**Full disclosure -- I am absolutely in love with this program. It is what you could call my soul mate workout. I feel like it was made for me. It is upbeat, fun and motivating. The music is amazing and it channels the cheerleader I used to be and never want to let go of. You can read more about my love affair with TurboFire and what the actual program is all about here. And you can view a video on the program here.

  • We will not only support each other with workouts but with clean eating as well. We will be dedicated to eating healthy foods that will fuel our bodies. We can share recipes and I will provide you with a meal planner and lots of ideas and lists for how to grocery shop and what to buy.
  • Clean eating can be hard. It is funny but trying to eat 5-6 times a day can be tricky (and you think it would be easy. More food. Yay!) But I tend to get busy and forget and then over indulge later. I developed a planner page that will help you track your meals and plan your day so this doesn't happen. So not only do you get a weekly meal planner but you get a day planner as well so that nothing can be left to chance. 
  • Shakeology -- pretty much everyone at this point knows I love shakeology. It has made a huge difference in my life and my diet. I decided not to make Shakeology a requirement for this group but I highly encourage it. It is one meal I don't have to think about (and when I am super lazy sometimes 2 meals.) And it gives me the nutrition I need to get through the day -- the result of that is more energy and I am less likely to give into my cravings and less prone to stealing an ice cream cone from an unsuspecting child who just happens to be walking past me. 

So when will this start and what is going to happen?

We will start pre-season on September 3rd (the day after Labor Day) -- what is pre-season? That means you have a week to get it together. To start shopping for clean foods to stock your pantry (and get rid of the junk!) To take your measurements (and yes pictures!) and all that stuff everyone loathes doing until you see your before and after pictures side by side and are filled with pride at your accomplishments. 

The actually challenge will start September 9th and 90 days later it will end on December 7th -- I mean who doesn't want to be a On Fire for the holidays (hello - photo ops! I don't know about you but I am sick and tired of hiding from the camera when the holidays roll around. Plus all those relatives you don't see except for at the know there is some motivation there.)

And yes -- we will have challenges like Thanksgiving to work around but that is one day (or two or three if you are juggling multiple family commitments like I am) but we will work through it. We will schedule our cheats and talk about the best ways to attend a dinner where no one really cares about your commitment to health and tempts you with pumpkin pie. No biggie. We will totally have this under control. And the reality is, you are always going to have challenges to work around. Maybe not a national holiday but birthdays, when your co workers bring donuts to work, weddings, showers, more birthdays. They are always going to be there. The best thing you can do is educate yourself and understand how your body feels when you are giving it the best possible nutrition. I promise you will start to be pickier about your cheats and how they need to be the best possible indulgence or they are so not worth it. 

Plus what makes this even better is there is an awesome promotion going on featuring TurboFire this month. So you have 10 more days to take advantage of this deal. What it does for you is it bundles the TurboFire workout with a 30 day supply of Shakeology - normally this bundle is a discount in and of itself, however this month it is discounted even more. (Check out the how you can save with a challenge pack here. )

Send me a message or an email for more info or to get enrolled! 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Getting It Together (and how everyone going back to school inspired me to get more organized)

There is  (a very nerdy) part of me that used to love the start of the school year because it meant I could go shopping for school supplies. Planners and calendars, binders and folders in all sorts of colors and patterns that would help me stay organized and on top of everything. I also loved being a student. If I could I would stay in school forever. I don't know if it was nostalgia that had me caught up in the whole I miss being in school thing or if it was just the fact that I couldn't live with the chaos that has filled my days for the last month. I desperately felt the need to get organized. I am guessing it is because I haven't yet felt like I have it together since moving home and I am constantly running to catch up (ok not guessing -- I know this is the feeling plaguing me.) And I hate that constantly behind on everything feeling. So I did what I do best - I made some lists.

I love lists. I love crossing things off of lists. I love using different colored pens or highlighters to organize my lists. And then my lists started to majorly stress me out.

They were long. I wasn't crossing off quite as many things as I felt I should be. Things were just carrying over to the next day. It just made me feel like I couldn't get anything done. I was interrupted by toddler pedicure time -- all over my living room. Or potty training problems (yes this is still an issue here. Ugh)

After a call from my friend Katy (check out her blog here) I realized I needed more than lists. I needed to stop just trying to get things done and plan the time I was going to get things done. I needed to stop seeing how the day goes by taking that day and making it mine. I am a grown up (even though I don't feel like it) and I am the person who shapes my day. This whole day shaping me thing is not working. So why not change it. I am the boss of me. I can make these authoritative decisions (right?)

With this (tentative) realization I came to the heartbreaking realization that I may have to break up with my planner. I love my planner. I order it every year from PaperSource and it makes me feel so warm and fuzzy inside. It is small enough to tuck in the diaper bag (or purse someday-- am I ever going to get to carry a purse again?) The colors are pretty and muted. The font is clean and well choosen. There is plenty of space for my large, obnoxious (and often illegible) handwriting. It is also spiral bound so I can leave it open to the week we are on so I don't have to flip through pages when I need to check something (and yes this may make me a bit lazy.)

I spent some (ok too much) time searching various places online looking for my perfect replacement planner. It just didn't happen. It took me years to find the one I love now. So I had to come up with another plan. And it hit me that I should just make one. I mean I did go to school for graphic design (among other things much to my husband's dismay) and that all that education just kind of sits there dusty in my brain (until my friends or family get married and then I get to stretch out those design muscles and make some pretty rockin' invitations.) So it's not a wedding but I could do it.

And I loved it. Adobe Illustrator and I get along pretty well and it showed. I have a nice section to plan my day by the hour. Plus I could print out a new schedule for every day, since my days are all very different in terms of where I need to be and what I need to get done. I also added a section to track my meals, my water and other things I need to get better at (like writing here) make it work for me. And this was a major relief.

I am happy writing in what I need to do each day and planning when I can get it done. And when I have a plan like that I am much more likely to follow. Having to stop something I am in the middle of because it is time to move onto something like cleaning my house is going to be a challenge but overall I really think I am going to get more done. And that should make everyone happy.

As I was dancing in my chair, pleased as punch with myself, I also started thinking about how this would be a great tool for those just learning to embrace clean eating. One of the biggest challenges for me was making myself eat smaller meals five to six times a day. Especially when I was busy, running around, chasing a toddler, and organizing 22 high school girls into cheer lines and keeping track of their schedules, plus a million other things that will inevitably crop up -- like baking cookies for the cheer cafe when I get a last minute call they don't have enough stuff and I can't say no (another problem of mine that I am hoping this detailed day planning will help address) or permanent marker on the walls or a runaway dog we have to spend two hours looking for only to come home and find him on my porch with the whole Where have you guys been? I am so thirsty and I have been waiting here for you because I love you. And you are my master and I love you look on his face. 

So why not whip up one for my challenge groups? So not only do you get meal planning (and a weekly meal planner) but a daily organizer as well. I am pretty excited about this and helping other people possibly find the (maybe borderline OCD) level of organization that makes me feel sane and in control. Check out the document below and let me know what you think.

I am kind of really excited about this. And excited to announce my September Challenge groups.

On September 3 I am going to start a 90 day TurboFire challenge group. I am absolutely in love with this workout and with Chalene Johnson. It comes with a 90 day schedule and what's even better is 90 days means it will be ending the Monday before Thanksgiving. What a better way to show up for the holidays than in awesome shape? (And for me it means being excited to be in all the pictures this year!) And to sweeten the deal TurboFire is on sale until the end of August. It is pretty great deal.

For more information on TurboFire check out this post.

I am also going to run a 30 day clean eating and Shakeology group that focuses on clean eating including - recipes, meal planning and how to get it all done.

 For information on either of these groups or to enroll send me a message on Facebook or email me at

Monday, August 12, 2013

OMG where have you been my whole life! (and why Turbofire might be the best thing I discovered this summer.)

Have you ever had one of those moments? When you were all why the hell haven't I tried this yet? How have I lived 32 years without knowing this exists? I had that ahhah moment about a month ago with almond butter and this is just blowing that moment out of the water.

After some shipping kerfuffles, my Turbofire challenge pack finally arrived. And I thought I was happy
with the Insanity program when I started that. Hah! This is full of dancing and punching and energy and real music. Like Bobby Brown, Wild Cherry, Salt-n-Pepa and The Sugar Hill Gang. There is even some funkified Tina Turner and Kool and the Gang.

As my daughter would say, "what!" (and yes in a Lil' Jon fashion.)

I can't even handle the fact that the music not only rocks but it motivates me to keep going and keeps my energy way up. When I was struggling to get through all the Shawn T yelling at me and jumping stuff, it took everything in me to get geared up for just a few more suicide drills. Go, go, go! With this, I don't even have to think about it. The music starts to pick up and I am singing and jamming along and bam, workout is over and I am ready for more. (and not laying on the floor feeling like I died - although that does have a time and a place. Sometimes laying on the floor with nothing left feels awesome.)

For a girl who always tries to blast music and trick her brain into working out by pretending to choreograph in her head, this may be a perfect fit. I hope I am in love with this forever and ever. (I now think I understand what people mean when they talk about their soul mate workout!) Chalene Johnson is the trainer behind this program and she is just as upbeat as the music. She pushes you to keep going not by yelling at you like a drill sergeant but by telling you things like "You aren't tired!" and "You will believe whatever you tell yourself so tell yourself you can do this."

And any workout that encourages me to shake it as part of my exercise is already at the top of my awesome-sauce list.

So a little more about the program itself --

It is a 90 day program (which with the way I do things means it will probably turn into a 120 day program.)

There is a calendar that gives you exactly what to do every day for the 90 days.

It is cardio focused with kick boxing drills choreographed to pretty great music. Lots of punching, kicking, turning (using that core in a standing position) and using your legs (lunging and squatting) while you punch.

There are two strength building classes incorporated during month 2. For those you need a lower resistance band (included in the base kit) and a resistance band (or dumbbells - which I prefer. The resistance bands and I just do not get along.) I also picked up a pair of weighted gloves this month and added those to my workout. I can totally tell there is more definition from my shoulders from adding them. Yay!

It incorporates HIIT training (which means High Intensity Interval Training.) She asks you to go hard - as hard as you can - for a about a minute. These are spaced throughout the classes and there are classes built out of HIIT (and they are short - whoo hoo! Like 15 minutes short!) but mostly they are sprinkled throughout. There is some jumping but always a modifier so if you can't jump or are working up to that point, there is an option.)

Chalene always talks about how it is your class. And it is up to you to make it your class - whether that means working even harder to get all you can out of it or having to modify because you are coming off an injury or working toward getting stronger. I love this mentality and the thinking about my results being what I get out of these 30 or 45 or 55 minutes is totally up to me and what I make of it.

I am currently working through month 2 of this program and still love it. I am at a place where I am missing weight training (I think the 2 days of strength training on the schedule throughout month 2 have me itching for more) so I am looking forward to adding Chalene Extreme (a weight training based program) to TurboFire once I complete my 90 days.  And I am also excited to update this when I am finished to see if I am still so in love with this program (and of course my results!)

And the big news.... Throughout the entire month of August, Turbofire is discounted when bundled with Shakeology (you can read more about shakeo here.) But is is a super awesome deal (and I am really jealous it wasn't around when I ordered my copy!)

If you are interested in trying TurboFire or have any questions give me a shout. You can message me on Facebook or send me an email at

Friday, August 9, 2013

That Cookie Craving that Just Wouldn't Go Away (and what I did about it.)

So I really really really wanted a cookie. A chewy, cinnamon-y oatmeal raisin cookie circa the way my grandma would have made it.

And this is weird for me because I am typically a death by chocolate type of girl.

Since I moved back into my house, I refused to replenish anything that wasn't clean to put into my cupboards so when I have this problem there is very little I can do about it. But what I did have left was some individual serving packets of vanilla Shakeology. I found this recipe on my friend Melanie's blog and let me tell you it was pretty amazing.

1 scoop of vanilla Shakeology
1/2 cup of coconut milk or almond milk
3/4 cup of cold water
1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon (plus a little more to taste if you are cinnamon obsessed like I am)
1/2 a graham cracker
ice to taste

Blend this all up and I promise it is pretty much amazing. Dessert in a cup (and I don't say that too often - especially about meal replacement shakes.) I have a major sweet tooth so it has to be pretty good to qualify as dessert worthy in my book!

What To Do With All This Sweet Corn (you know you live in Western PA when this is a problem!)

So maybe it has to do with the fact that I am getting over some sinus and respiratory stuff but I have been craving soup like crazy. It is all I have wanted to eat (with some yummy bread to sop it up, of course! Who eats soup without bread?)

I have also been overloaded with corn from my CSA (community supported agriculture - you should
totally look one up and join. It's awesome.) My fridge is completely full of sweet corn and it is getting out of control. I have no where to put any other food and when I move something it all rolls around and it is getting silk everywhere (you know it's summer in Western PA when your floor is covered in corn silk ALL the time.)

In order to address my soup addiction and get this corn out of my fridge, I decided to goole some corn soup. I mean it has to exist, right? Somewhere people eat this? The idea of a creamy bowl of pureed sweet corn sounded amazing to my aching sinuses. (Maybe I will find something to fill the void that Panera's Broccoli and Cheese soup left in my life -- and yes with a bread bowl. Hello this girl, in love with bread. It's kind of an addiction.)


And yes, it does exist! There are actually a lot of recipes for sweet corn soup, much to my suprise. But I didn't anticipate how much of a pain it was going to be to make. In my head I was going to cut it off the cob. Cook it up. Add some broth and whatever else it called for and then use my fancy immersion blender to make it all smooth and awesome.

Generally, things don't seem to turn out the way I picture them in my head. Ever. (You would think I would have learned that by now.)

Almost all of the recipes I found wanted me to grate the corn off the cob to make a mushy mess of corn puree. Well I knew what kind of mess that would be. Corn juice all over my kitchen and a starchy mess all over my hands (plus the possibility of some scraped fingers.) I don't think so. This was the perfect instance to use my immersion blender for something other than my daily Shakeology. Look at me being versatile in the kitchen and making good use of my appliances. (And apparently so much smarter than the 400 people that have probably made this before.)

So I cut and sauteed and cooked and added broth and coconut milk. My house smelled awesome. And I blended, dodging flying hot lava soup when the blender got too close to the surface of the pot.

Then I tasted. And the taste was awesome. What was not awesome....the corn skin left in the pot even after I blended forever. So I blended more. Still corn skin. And I tried to convince myself it wasn't a problem. That it made it more authentic and corny to have the skins in there. That it gave it a more palatable texture. And it was all lies! All of it. I could not justify leaving the corn skins in the soup and I was not happy with what I knew had to happen next. (Why didn't I listen to all the people who grated their corn. Messy hands are so much easier to deal with than the straining of the corn skins.)

So I busted out a strainer and put it over a large pyrex measuring cup and ladled. Ladle-full by ladle-full I strained, using the back of a spoon to work the liquid through the strainer. Ugh. Talk about boring and time consuming but it was well worth the effort. The result was creamy and yummy corn goodness. If you are a corn on the cob lover (borderline obsessed) then this is a masterpiece in a bowl.

I froze two jars of my liquid corn gold and promptly enjoyed the rest for dinners (with some really good toasted sunflower whole wheat bread! yum!) while my sinus yuckyness cleared up.

The original recipe I found here and adapted it to meet my non-dairy preferences.

So this is what I did:

1 or 2 TBS of olive oil
10-12 ears of sweet corn - kernels removed*
1 medium sweet onion
3 small shallots
32 ounces veggie broth
2 cans coconut milk
3 TBS water
2 TBS arrowroot
Salt (to taste - I used Himalayan salt)
White pepper (to taste)

In a large pot saute the olive oil and onion and shallots.

When they are almost translucent, add the corn and cook for five more minutes or so.

Add the veggie broth and let it all come to a boil.

Turn down the heat and let simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes.

Add the coconut milk, stir and allow to simmer for 15 more minutes

Whisk the arrowroot with the water and add to the pot along with salt and pepper.

Strain *


* Many of the recipes I found called for grating the corn off the cob with a grater so it turns into a puree rather than starting with kernels cut off the cob. After the frustration I experienced with straining I recommend this method. Maybe 90% of the people posting recipes for this online knew what they were talking about or maybe I had a really sad strainer that kept getting clogged. Either way - totally your call.

Happy Eats!

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