Week Reflections + Tone it Up Arms Workout

This has been a heck of a week.

Pete came down with some sort of bacterial infection…we think. He is on the mend now, but I missed my other half. ;(  His chores around this place are hard, heavy lifting kind of chores. Like hauling 5 gallon buckets of water up the stairs to the bathroom to flush the toilet…ain’t no thang. But, I’d rather do dishes…and that’s saying something.

Let’s just say, I’m exhausted and I’m glad it’s the weekend.

While I was planning to do a post on all kinds of Pushup variations for you today…it just didn’t happen. And you know what, it’s okay. But, I didn’t want to leave you guys completely hangin’, so I wrote up an arm workout for you to try this weekend as some of you enjoy the last “tank top days” of summer. Hope you love the burn!

Tone it Up Arms

Looking forward to next week, I have some fun “fall-ish” recipes on the horizon to share. I had to wait until at least September.

Have an amazing Labor Day weekend! Three days of vacay for many of you, woot woot!!

What are your Labor Day plans? What is your favorite fall tradition?

Liesl

Superfood Bites + Link-ables

It’s Wednesday, how’s your week been going?

Pete picked up a nasty stomach bug + fever Monday night, which meant I was outside emptying and cleaning buckets at 1am. (We don’t have running water inside) Since then I’ve been washing my hands like a fiend in hopes that I don’t come down with the same thing. Okay, I know TMI.

Actually an interesting fact about me is that I hardly ever get fevers. I haven’t had a fever since I was a little girl, at least that I remember. Maybe my Mom can correct me on that one. I’m not sure why, it just seems that even when I’m sick my body temperature is low. Some say my heart is cold…:)

All that to say, I hope everyone is in good health in your family this week!

This past weekend I was thinking about all my friends that have kids going back to school, and how hard it can be to think of healthy quick breakfasts, lunches, and snacks that kids will eat and like.

On Saturday I threw together these easy superfood bites, that are filled with wholesome ingredients, and take about 5 minutes to make. I think they’d make a great after school snack during homework time, or for a boost of energy before soccer or dance class. And they won’t even know that they have beans in them!
If you try them let me know what your kids think!

SUPERFOOD BITES

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3/4 cup chickpeas, cooked
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup whole, unsalted almonds
1/2 cup dates
1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/8 cup hemp seed

Put the almonds in your food processor and process until finely ground. Next add the flax, coconut, and hemp seed and pulse 2 or 3 times to mix. Then add the chickpeas and dates. Pulse the mixture until it comes together into a ball like dough. If the dough is too crumbly add a touch of water.
Remove the superfood dough from the food processor and roll into balls. Makes about 14 “normal” size bites.

Nutritional Info per bite:
Calories/85  Fat/5g Carbs/8g Protein/3g Sugar/4g

**Tip– I have also used dried cranberries in place of the dates, but needed to add 1 tsp. of honey to help the dough come together and add a little more sweetness. These also freeze well, if you make a double batch. 

Looking for some links to lurk over lunch (say that 10 times fast) check these out!

STYLE – I don’t really know what my “style” is anymore, but these mason jar finds are totally cute and vintage

GLUTEN FREE – love almond flour, can’t wait to try these! They look like they would be yummy with a veggie burger.

FOOD PREP – my language helper when I was learning Spanish used to do this. She would buy the peppers when they were on sale, and then have them for months to come, it was a great idea. (Mom, your poblanos, hint hint)

SEPT SUN – make your own natural sunscreen for those last days at the beach before fall hits.

ASIAN FLAVORthis salad looks fresh, and just in time for my edamame to be ready in the garden.

SHOP SMART – what you should really know about reading food labels.

CHOCAHOLIC – these raw brownie bites look like an amazing clean treat!

NEW SCENT – I’ve been wearing the same perfume since college…I know…pathetic. I’m coveting this Maddie & Sophie Essence (Christmas maybe?)

GET FIT – don’t have much time and looking for a quick cardio blast? Try this burpee challenge:

BURPEE CHALLENGE 
(*set your timer for 11 rounds of 40sec on/20sec rest)

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BURPEES – 40s go/20s rst
(Squat down, jump feet back into pushup position, jump feet forward to your hands and jump up in the air)
PLANK JACK BURPEES – 40s go/20s rst
(in pushup position jump your feet out and back in then jump forward and up into the air)
COMPETITION BURPEES – 40s go/20s rst
(squat down, jump back to pushup position, drop your body down to the floor, jump feet up to hands and into the air)
BURPEE w/PUSHUP – 40s go/20 rst
(normal burpee with a pushup completed in the pushup position before jumping)
BURPEE w/TUCK JUMP – 40s go/20 rst
(normal burpee, but when you jump in the air bring your knees to your chest in a tuck position)

*Rest 1 minute, repeat 1-2xs more.

Here’s to a good rest of the week, work hard, eat well, live life with energy!

Liesl

DIY – Homemade Almond Butter

Do you know how ridiculously easy it is to make homemade nut butter?

As easy as it is to polish off a jar in a week…which is what goes down in this house; no shame.

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My favorite of all the nut butters out there is almond butter. Roasted, creamy, almond butter to be exact. Pure, roasted almonds, nothing else. So good.

**When I buy any type of nut or seed butter, almond, peanut, sunflower, whatever it may be, I always check the labels. There are many nut butters out there that say “natural” on the label, but have added sugar, HFCS, soy lecithin, and other ingredients that turn a healthy food into something that is…well, not so healthy.

Almond butter is delicious on pancakes, sandwiches, oatmeal, with carrot sticks, apple slices, on a spoon. It also makes fabulous cookies, if you are in to that sort of thing. (Wait a minute, is someone not into cookies?)

The nutritional profile for almond butter is similar to that of it’s more known counterpart, peanut butter, however it has 4xs the amount of calcium per serving! With that nutritional boost, women should be all about almond butter to maintain bone density. Plus with almond butter you get some extra magnesium and Vitamin E all in a smooth, tasty little bite.

Also, if you can find a good price on raw, organic almonds in bulk making your own almond butter can be cost effective, as almond butter in the store can be quite expensive.

As much as I love Trader Joes Creamy Roasted Almond Butter, when I make my own, I wonder why I didn’t make it sooner. I was intimidated, I think. And my food processor was one of those $25 ones from Target, and I seriously thought it was going to explode…but I never did. It’s actually still ticking as I gave it to a friend when I was gifted my coveted Cuisinart. (love)

Alright, let’s make some ALMOND BUTTER!

CREAMY ROASTED ALMOND BUTTER

3 cups raw, unsalted almonds
Large skillet
Food processor
Patience

First, pour your three cups of almonds into a large skillet over medium to low heat. Toast them until they start to smell nutty and fragrant. Make sure to watch the almonds during this step so they don’t burn.

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Once roasted, allow the almonds to cool.

Then add the 3 cups of roasted/toasted almonds to the bowl of your food processor. Process. Keep processing. This step can take anywhere from 7 -15 minutes depending on your food processor. You will need to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl a few times with a spatula to keep everything mixing well. Here’s where you can do dishes, sweep the floor, quick clean the bathroom, whatever.

Note: If you have a Vitamix (jealous) your almond butter will be ready much sooner. 

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Here’s what your almond butter will look like as it is getting close to becoming it’s smooth, runny, self.
(If making the Cinnamon Raisin version posted below add the raisins here.)

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Ah, here we are. Fresh, homemade roasted almond butter, just like you can buy in the store, only better.

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I store my roasted almond butter in old glass jars from store bought almond butter. Three cups of roasted almonds makes a little shy of a 16oz. jar of almond butter.

**Tip: You do not need to store natural nut butters (nothing added, just nuts and salt) in the refrigerator. I keep mine in my pantry, and they are much easier to re-mix, and spread when they are room temperature. 

Ready for something a little fancier? Try this version:

CINNAMON RAISIN ALMOND BUTTER

3 cups raw, unsalted almonds
2 tsp. almond oil
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins

Follow the directions above. And when you have processed the roasted almonds for about 2 minutes add the almond oil, and cinnamon to the food processor. Keep processing until almost smooth, then add the raisins. Let the almond butter keep processing until it reaches the consistency that you like.

This almond butter is to.die.for, if you like cinnamon and raisin. It tastes like a slice of cinnamon raisin toast on a spoon, yum!

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Your Turn: What is your favorite nut/seed butter? How quickly does your household eat a jar of nut/seed butter?
My favorite as mentioned above is roasted almond butter, but sunflower seed butter comes in a close runner-up. We go through a 16oz. jar almost every week…wow, I know. We eat it on everything, and Pete loves it just as much as I do.

Let me know if you try making your own nut butter, I’d love to hear about it!

Happy Monday!!

Liesl

Eats & Fitness – 8/25

This last week was CRAZY…as in I’m still exhausted.

How was your week? I can’t believe it’s school season again already, and next weekend is Labor Day weekend!! Any special plans to celebrate?

Honestly I haven’t even thought about Labor Day…being in another country kind of does that to you. Out here in Las Moras we have a September tradition called the “Fall Fieston.” No, I really have no idea what that means, but it’s a excuse to make fall themed treats (pumpkin scones anyone?), pumpkin spice lattes, and a giant bonfire. I’m not sure when it is occurring, but I’m looking forward to it.

Pumpkins

Source

Last night, our co-workers had us over for dinner, and they made a traditional Venezuelan meal of plantain breads, a little like pancakes, topped with meat, black beans, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, garlic and chile sauces and cilantro. It was a yummy change of pace from what we usually eat, and I didn’t have to cook dinner. Woot woot!!

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I wasn’t feeling a ton of recipe inspiration while meal planning this weekend, so I’d love to hear what is on your weekly menu! Inspire me, okay?!

Meal Ideas:

Panfried Chickpeas & Cabbage w/ Herb Sauce

Sherried Wild Rice Bake

Baked Creamy Tomato & Basil Pasta

Coconut Red Lentil Soup w/Mint Yogurt

Apple, Arugula, & Cheddar Flatbreads

Black Bean Burger Salads (from the freezer)

Fitness:

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Monday –  HIIT Run + Arms & Pushups Workout (to come!)

Tuesday- Leg day

Wednesday- Run (steady 4 miles) + 10 Minute Plank Workout

Thursday- Glutes HIIT + Burpee Challenge

Friday- Run day + Chest/Back/Shoulder Blitz

Saturday- Functional Workout + Core  (45 min total)

Sunday – yoga or test a new workout

Your turn: Inspire me with your meal plans; what are you cooking this week? What is on your Labor Day menu?

Happy Sunday!

Liesl

Fit Focus: Perfect Pushup Progressions

All of us have seen fitness trends burst on the scene, and then fade away as fast as slouch socks and puff paint. Yeah, you all remember those days.  However, there are some exercises that will always be in style. Enter: The Pushup

Pushups are awesome for many reasons, but my favorite is that you can do them anywhere. I’ve literally done pushups in the bathroom while waiting for the shower water to heat up, or in the kitchen while dinner simmered away. Yep, I’m crazy. But we all know with a busy life you get exercise in when you can, am I right?

Pushups use your own bodyweight + gravity to condition and tone your muscles, and is a cheap, no equipment required movement that will tone your entire body. While most people consider the pushup as a upper body movement, because it mainly targets your chest and triceps,  your positioning in a pushup puts all your muscles to work from your toes up to your shoulders. This means you are working important abdominal and back muscles along with your legs and hips.

Also when you do pushups you are essentially doing a resistance exercise which means you are building bone density. This is essential for women, and can be as effective as lifting weights.

Tips to a perfect pushup:
– When in the “lifted” position keep a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. (use a mirror to practice your form)
– As you lower keep your movement smooth, with no hip movement back arching, or belly dropping.
– Lower only until your chest is about 2-3 inches from the floor.
– Utilize your upper back, shoulders, and arms to push yourself up to the lifted position.

Don’t think you have the strength to do a pushup, or just starting our in your exercise journey? You’re in luck! The pushup is an exercise everyone can do, and benefit from, because it can be learned in progressions.

PUSHUP PROGRESSIONS

1. Wall Pushup – Start standing in front of a wall, place you hands on the wall and make sure you body is in a straight line from your toes to your shoulders. Using your arms and shoulders lower your body until you are about 2-3 inches from the wall, and push back up to the starting position.

*Tip – to make it a little easier walk your feet closer to the wall.

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2. Incline pushup – Place your hands on a couch or low table in the “lifted” pushup position. Make sure you body is in a straight line toes to shoulders. Using your arms slowly lower until your chest is 2-3 inches from the couch or table, and then push back up to start.

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3. “Lifted position” hold – Get into the lifted pushup position on the floor. Practice keeping your body straight and holding yourself tight in this position. This will help you feel all your muscles and how your body should be as you progress into a pushup.

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4. Knee pushups – From the lifted pushup position drop to your knees. Check your form making sure you are in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Using your arms slowly lower your body until your chest is 2-3 inches from the ground, then push up to the start.

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5. The Pushup – Start in your lifted position with toes and hands on the floor and body extended in a straight line from shoulders to toes. Slowly and controlled using your arms lower your body until your chest is about 2-3 inches from the ground, then push back up to the start.

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ADVANCED PROGRESSIONS – when you want to get fancy

1. Decline Pushups – Place your feet on a chair, and hands on the floor. Get into the lifted pushup postition. Make sure your body is straight, and using your arms lower until your chest is close to the ground, and then push back up to the start.

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2. Stability Ball Pushups – These are basically the same as the decline pushups, but you are placing your feet on the top of a stability ball versus a chair. These are much harder because the stability ball is a less stable base than the chair causing you to use more of your core muscles to keep your form straight, and perform the pushup properly.

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There is a WIDE variety of pushup variations that work different muscles in your upper body, and also pose a new challenge using an old exercise.
For next Friday’s Fit Focus post I’ll be writing about those variations plus sharing a workout for you  to try hopefully incorporating some new pushup challenges to freshen up your upper body routine!

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Pete wanted to take this picture…he’s a goofer.

Something to remember: While a push-up helps tone many of the body’s muscles, it doesn’t offer much in the way of cardio benefits, and it won’t help develop the “pull” muscles in your back. So be sure to include other exercises in your regular workouts along with pushups.

Something to try: See how many pushups you can do in a row with good form. Once your form starts to go south drop to your knees and see how many you can do with good form. Then to the wall until you are fatigued. Rest 1 minute and start again, try to beat your previous numbers keeping your form strong.

**Disclaimer – Everything I write is from my personal study and experience, I am not a fitness professional. Please check with your doctor and use common sense when training and changing up your fitness routine. 

Your turn: Do pushups intimidate you, why? Where is the weirdest place you have ever done a pushup?

Weekend!!

Liesl

Link-ables + Muffin Recipe

Yesterday I went hunting for these, with some Nahuatl friends. Here we call them nanchi.

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I actually cannot stand the taste of them, and I’m not even sure how to describe it. Acidic would be putting it mildly, because they also have a sweet, but horrible taste. 🙂 I know…I’m pumping these thing up. Anyways, the goal was to spend an afternoon out with friends, and the Nahuatl people LOVE nanchis so I harvested a bag and plan to give them to a friend’s family.

What have you been up to this week?

I made some crazy delicious muffins, and they are healthy. 

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When I was in high school there was a bakery in our downtown and sometimes Mom and I would stop on our way out for a day of shopping and grab a fresh brewed cup of coffee and a muffin. They had like 10 different kinds and they were the giant ones, but I was one of those kids that had my favorites, and rather than gamble on something new I chose what I knew I loved. My favorites were the pumpkin cream cheese, and the bran muffins. Bran, honey, plump juicy raisins…I can still taste them.

Those bran muffins were probably a healthier choice than lets say, the double chocolate chip, but none the less I’m sure they were loaded with sugar, and unhealthy oils. But, man they were good.

My version of bran muffins is “oil free” not on purpose, it just turned out that way. And their sweetness comes purely from the mango, coconut, and a dash of stevia. They are delicious with coffee, and you won’t feel guilty giving these to your kids or hubby for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

P.S. We ate an entire batch in one day…but the score was more like Pete 6 – Liesl 2.

Tropical Oat Bran Muffins – makes 8 muffins

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup fresh mango, diced
1 tsp. coconut extract

Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a seperate bowl whisk together the wet ingredients.
Pour the wet in with the dry and add the diced mango. Stir until just combined.

Pour into 8 oiled muffin tins and bake @350 for around 15-18 minutes.

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Ready for some reading!! Save these links for some weekend browsing, or afternoon reading with an iced coffee.

Breakfast – this coffee cake looks yummy, quinoa and cinnamon, sign me up!

Confidence – we’ve all been the newbie at the gym before, here’s a great post on how to feel confident & less intimidated on your next trip to the weight room

Wise Words – a true reminder of the power of our words

Spread it – I LOVE nut butter, and this stuff looks AMAZING! (maybe when I’m a millionaire)

Favorites – it’s true, two of my favorite magazines, Clean Eating & Oxygen are no more 😦

Greens – I often think of my fresh herbs as leafy greens, great info and recipes!

Work it – did this cardio + strength combo yesterday morning, and it felt amazing

Dairy free – cashew & hemp milk, how creative!

Say no to Diet – aspartame is toxic. Time to kick that diet soda habit.

Morning cup – a healthier alternative to corn syrup laden coffee creamer

That’s all for today, have a wonderful Wednesday, and we’ll see you on Friday for another fitness post!

Cheers!

Liesl

Marinated Veggie & Quinoa Salad

Thought I’d pass along a yummy salad recipe that we thoroughly enjoyed on a particularly warm evening a few days ago.

This salad is tasty, quick to put together, and filled with garden goodness. Serve it alongside a grilled chicken breast to make a fast, and complete dinner. Or add a few cups of garbanzo or white beans right into the salad and have a delicious, healthy, and packable lunch to take to work all week long.  This would also make a terrific side for that Labor Day BBQ you know you’ll be invited to.

Marinated Veggie & Quinoa Salad

2  Roma tomatoes, diced
1 large handful of green beans, cut in thirds (about 2 cups)
1 Cucumber, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
30 fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
Salt & pepper to taste

1 cup quinoa (cook according to package directions)
Sprinkle of romano cheese

Wash and cut all your veggies,

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and mix together in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, balsamic, basil, salt & pepper. Stir until all the veggies are completely saturated. Set on your counter to marinate.

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I let it marinate for about 3 hours, stirring every half hour or so. But you could let it go all day if you wanted to.

Cook quinoa according to package directions. (I always cook quinoa at a 2/1 ratio water/quinoa) For example: 2 cups water/1 cup quinoa. Cook until water is absorbed.
Let quinoa cool to room temp, then put in the fridge, or put in the fridge right away to chill. About a ½ hour before you are going to eat, add the quinoa to the marinated veggies and mix well. Put back in the fridge to chill until meal time.

Serve topped with a sprinkling of romano or parmesan.

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This salad is open to interpretation, so be creative.

You could use any mixture of veggies you’d like. I think tomatoes, corn and onions would be delicious. Maybe with a hint of avocado.

Also, instead of quinoa try orzo pasta, or Israeli couscous for a different grain texture.

Your turn: What is your “go to” picnic, potluck, party recipe? 

Enjoy, and cheers to the lingering summer!
Liesl