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A Trip to the Caribbean Without the Travel

At least once a month, Josh and I go to the Caribbean….sort of. We have a favorite restaurant that can essentially transport you to the Caribbean the second you step in — Bamboo Fire Cafe. It’s owned by a husband and wife team, and family supports them.

The moment we walked into the restaurant for the first time, I wanted to be a regular. There was such a welcoming feeling, and luckily the food is legitimately top notch. We’ve had nearly everything on the menu at this point, and taken as many people as we possibly can to eat here.

Everything has such wonderful flavor, and the value is unbelievable. With every meal, you get meatballs, a salad of mango, cucumber, tomatoes, and when you order a main entree you get rice and sweet plantains. IMG_4101 IMG_4102 IMG_4099 IMG_4098

We typically start with these amazing chickpeas. They are sauteed and have flavor that you can’t really describe…but I think there is cumin, pepper, salt & pepper. IMG_4097

I’ve had the oxtail before, which just falls off the bone. They always ask us if we want it spicy “American-style” or “truly spicy.” I’ve had it truly spicy before, and it is honestly mouth on fire.

The last time we were there, I had the seabass in a banana leaf. It was so flaky and just cooked perfectly. IMG_4100

I hesitate to tell more people about this place, because I don’t like not having our table…but if you are ever in Delray Beach on from Wednesday through Saturday…I will consider taking you there.

July Goals

Ok, so maybe I am a little late to the July goal party…but it’s been a very busy start to the month. There’s a project at work that has been incredibly challenging, but should hopefully have big payoffs for my client….I kinda can’t wait to share it with everyone. Anyway….

June came and went…and I sort of stuck to my goals. I got my yoga in every day, I was certainly waking up early, and I did pretty well on the new funtivity schedule (Fat Rooster, Fitness Golf, SLT). The cutting back on sugar though…could still use some work.

This month’s goals include:

1. Eating clean (at least until we go on our cruise). Maybe it’s a little vain, but leading up to July 19th, I plan to eat as clean as humanly possible. I’m traveling a whole bunch and of course July 4th sort of through a wrench in that plan (I CAN’T SAY NO TO HOT DOGS), but I am focusing on one cheat meal a weekend right now and it is working. Eat-Clean

2. Limiting sugar intake. I am separating this out from the above, because it is seriously a challenge for me, especially when I am stressed with work. I can’t help it…gummy bears and Swedish Fish are my comfort food.

3. Relaxation. We have a fabulous cruise planned, with funtivities galore. You’d think this will be an easy goal, but my big work project is going live on Day One of the cruise (was supposed to happen the week before we left, but the timeline shifted) and it is going to be hard for me not to log on and check everything. IMG_4152

4. Abs plus yoga everyday. It’s so easy, yet somehow it slips my mind to just take 10 minutes and do abs. Adding on to my little daily yoga flow should be pretty simple.

June Goals

It is very rare that you get a new month on the first day of the week. It seems right that you should wake up feeling refreshed and excited about what could be possible this month. For whatever reason, that made me feel like it might be a good idea to make some goals for the month. I mean why not?

1. Practice yoga at least 10 minutes daily. I’ve been doing yoga challenges, but not really focusing on my yoga practice. I need to get back into that.image (10)

2. Get up early every morning. It’s summer! This means I have more daylight in the evenings, which means if I get up earlier and get more things done sooner I can take advantage of it.image_4

3. Try a new funtivity every week. I love funtivities, and right now is the perfect time to integrate them into our plans. They can be an active activity, or just a new adventure (e.g., a new restaurant).

4. Cut back on sugar. I’ve been really bad about the extra dose of sugar. I am going to try my darndest to limit my “sugary” snack intake to twice a week…I am talking candy and ice cream here. Maybe next month I’ll cut my fruit (but let’s be honest).SourPatchKids

Healthy Eating: Stuffed Peppers

I’ve been eating stuffed peppers for as long as I can remember. My mom used to make them when we were younger. I am pretty sure I used to take them for lunch sometimes. They are just such a good Sunday meal prep option, that are also good for lunch leftovers.

I’ve stuffed them with pretty much everything at this point….they’ve been vegetarian (with Morningstar Crumbles), they’ve had rice or quinoa, and then of course other ground meat…turkey, chicken, buffalo. You can really stuff them with almost anything.

I used to have to get creative in how I positioned the peppers to bake. Then I got a fantastic pan for our wedding, literally designed for peppers. It’s awesome.

 

Below is a recipe I’ve been using recently, it’s clean, simple and tasty.

Italian-Style Stuffed Bell Peppers

What you need:

4 bell peppers

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/2 large onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1/2 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned

1 pound ground beef, bison, turkey, or chicken

Go ahead and preheat the oven to 375 F. While that is preheating, let’s get to chopping.

Peppers 002

 

In a large skillet heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until they are translucent and slightly brown. You can lightly season the onions with salt and pepper. I also like to add a little more pepper and saute those.

Peppers 004

Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and tomatoes, and cook for about two minutes.

Peppers 005

 

Now we add the meat and cook until fully done. I usually add a little heat here with some red pepper.

Peppers 006

 

Fill the peppers and pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes. This will leave the peppers soft, but still a little crunchy.

Peppers 008

 

Peppers 007

News That Makes You Think: Obesity Risk, Lunch Shaming, Double Chin

The last two days has been filled with some interesting news items that has led me to shake my head, and go hmmmm.

A test that can gauge your obesity risk?

I come from a family that has often struggled with weight — we have one of those really unhealthy relationships where we eat our feelings. It’s a learned response….and while that has a significant impact on our waistlines it is a habit that in theory can be broken.

On the other hand, researchers have now said they can successfully link certain byproducts of digestion to the risk of excess body fat. Something we can’t change…yet. It’s possible that these findings might lead to more personalized interventions for people who are identified as “at-risk” for obesity, including diet, exercise or supplements.

In a study published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine, researchers note that obesity risk is driven by many factors. They include, “amino acids and muscle metabolism, energy metabolism, and [the] involvement of gut metabolism.”

In a not so shocking finding, the researchers say that obesity is complex and one magic bullet isn’t going to fix the situation. Read more here. Do you think having this information would make a difference?

Lunch Shaming

On my ride back from pilates this morning, I heard the story of the teacher’s letter to a parent regarding her child’s lunch. Then I got home and saw that it was on GMA. Is this really a thing? I know and appreciate the hard work that has gone into revamping school lunches, but being uber judgey about what is packed from home is ridiculous. Also, since when is peanut butter NOT a healthy snack? I’m pretty sure it is one of those “in moderation” snacks that is good for you. And another thing, how are you suppose to keep milk cool for lunch?

I'm pretty sure this lunch wouldn't make the cut
I’m pretty sure this lunch wouldn’t make the cut

Double Chin Remedy

Forget contouring like a Kardashian, and don’t you fret about bad angles anymore. The FDA approved a new treatment for adults with “moderate-to-severe fat” below the chin. The treatment, Kybella, apparently naturally absorbs fat, and has the potential to be a big seller. That is IF, patients are ok with the potential side effects including trouble swallowing or nerve damage to the jaw that an result in an uneven smile or muscle weakness in the face.

I can't tell if I qualify for "moderate-to-severe" here
I can’t tell if I qualify for “moderate-to-severe” here

WIAW: Sur La Table Cooking Class

Last night we had the opportunity to attend a cooking class at Sur la Table. It was the first time I had ever been to a formal cooking class, and I was so excited. I made sure we were front and center…because I wanted to take everything in.10647398_10105641241079471_1033180862_o

Aaron, Jenna, Josh and I took turns making everything for our dishes. We should have waited for instructions (my bad on over dressing the salad), but overall I think we learned at least three things.

Our menu was surf and turf and included scallops, steak and a banana pudding. Since you wanted the dessert to set, we started off with that first.

Bourban-Banana Pudding with Candied Pecans

Double teaming the candied pecans
Double teaming the candied pecans
It took a lot to caramelize that bourbon
It took a lot to caramelize that bourbon
Assembling the pudding
Assembling the pudding

 

Pan-Seared Scallops with Oranges in a Ginger Vinaigrette

In addition to learning how to properly cook scallops (something I have always wanted to make at home but was just too darn scared), I also learned the trick to chopping shallots and onions…and using a paring knife on oranges to create a garnish. That last one needs a little more work.

You have to remove the membranes before you cook. Sometimes that makes for a not so round scallop.
You have to remove the membranes before you cook. Sometimes that makes for a not so round scallop.
Learning to chop
Learning to chop
Making the ginger vinaigrette
Making the ginger vinaigrette

Herb-Crusted New York Steak with a Red Wine-Peppercorn Sauce 

I feel like I am still a newbie to steak. It certainly isn’t something I feel comfortable cooking. Last night I learned that you should let the steak come to room temperature to cook (same apparently goes for fish). Also, and this was a big learning for us…we need to be using vegetable oil instead of olive oil.

I jumped at the chance to learn how to make the sauce. I want to be a better sauce maker…and last night I got my chance.

You place the steak away from you
You place the steak away from you

 

Making sauce
Making sauce
There is serious concentration here
There is serious concentration here

We also made green beans to accompany our steak. They were roasted and were delicious.

Seasoning the green beans
Seasoning the green beans

Our finished products

Which we actually ate and didn’t die from…

Scallops
Scallops
Steak and green beans
Steak and green beans
Banana pudding
Banana pudding

 

I believe this was a success…and of course am now addicted. Private pasta making class anyone?

The chefs!
The chefs!

 

On My Healthy Lifestyle Radar

Every January I make a promise with myself to stay out of the gym, and workout at home or by running outside (polar vortex obviously has that on the sideline). I just can’t handle the crowds, fighting for machines, my favorite spin bike or these people. So I pull out my trusty DVDs, or go to our apartment gym at odd times when I know no one will steal my treadmill as I do my sprint/weight lifting intervals.

So here is what’s on my radar/keeping me in check this month.

P90x3

One of the things that kept me from fully dedicating myself to P90x when Josh first got it last year, was that they required a significant amount of time. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good 60 min+ workout, but that usually involved cardio and weights, with a few breaks in between, and those workouts are usually reserved for weekends. images

The 30 minute workouts do not disappoint. I have decided to do the “lean” program, which means a lot more cardio and less weight lifting (though that is in there too). I’ve done one full week, which reminded me why I hate plyos and Tony Horton (in a good and bad way) and decided to alternate my P90x and yoga days so that my back didn’t tense up.

Ultimate Yogi 

I am deep into my second set of 36 days for Ultimate Yogi. We had a minor set back with vacation, but are back full stream. The second 36 days include a focus on balance and flexibility. These routines are no joke. I think I was more sore after balance than I was after strength. And I don’t think I have seen my abs as flat as they are right now in a very long, long time.

This is Irene...look how impressive she is
This is Irene…look how impressive she is

Trying New Yoga 

Speaking of yoga, I took my first class with Irene last Saturday. Aside from being right next to Carson (are you serious? this was like the most intimidating thing ever) it made me remember how desperately I want to become a pro at headstands and tick tocks and all those other fancy yoga moves. (Also, Carson was really encouraging, so now I think I caught the bug, and will likely be attending more classes with those two). I also really want to try aerial yoga, and just found out there is a studio not far from me that has it!

Food Prep

I don’t make resolutions, I am just too Type A to handle failing at resolutions. Instead let’s just say I make healthy goals…one of those is to take our menu planning a step further and actually do food prep on Sundays. We’ve made it two weeks in a row (hazah!), and so far it has actually helped decrease stress after work and allowed more time for us to hang out at night. It’s been nice, and certainly takes a lot of pressure off us when it comes to making dinner and cleaning up after since most of the hard work is done.

Bringing Back Running 

And finally, after a year of retirement, I am contemplating returning to the racing world. Last year, I didn’t really train that great and didn’t really run aside from a few treadmill sprints and terrible 5M outings. This year is my last to use my guaranteed entry for NYC Marathon. I am still trying to decide if it is worth it. Deep down I know I will regret NOT doing it. We are also going to try to register for Lululemon’s Sea Wheeze race. Yes, I did say we.

I’m In Need of a Detox

This isn’t the first time I’ve contemplated a detox, but lately I’ve just really been feeling like I need it. I’m cranky, sluggish and feeling a little bloated…like all the time. Maybe it is the stress. Maybe it is all the travel. Whatever it is I need a swift kick in the butt to start feeling like myself again.

The last time I cut refined sugar out of my diet it went pretty well. So I think I will start there. Otherwise, my diet is pretty focused on non-processed foods.  I don’t do white flour and surprisingly have been able to cut rice out too. Dairy (aside from my ice cream) is plain, nonfat yogurt and even my milk is almond-base.

Juice cleanses intrigue me, and I’ve always wanted to try them because they sound so simple and people rave about them. Here are your juices. Drink them every 2 hours, drink lots of water and go forth and be energized. The problem is all the work that you have to do BEFORE you start…cutting out the meat and what not. I would essentially be zapped of energy before I even start.  (TRUTH: I have filled out forms and then closed out of the browser window more than once on some of these.)

This month’s SELF featured a 7-Day Detox that includes a meal plan with real food AND a workout plan.

The Plan
The Plan

The meals are a little intensive and the workout plan includes AM and PM sessions, which is a little daunting, but I think this might be the right thing for me. Plus, since it includes real meals, I can possibly get Josh on board for at least the dinner plan.

Cardio in the AM, plus these in the PM
Cardio in the AM, plus these in the PM

So that’s the plan beginning this weekend. Hopefully, come October I will feel back on track.

 

 

 

Can’t Resist: Spring Runs, Chobani and More

I can’t resist running in this weather. I am literally exhausted with tight quads and an aching back and the mid-60 weather and clear blue skies call to me.

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When you see that, you have to run

I am still getting used to running in my Kinvara 4 from Saucony and because the weather was super perfect I ran a bit longer in them than I had before.  My first run this week had me out for almost six miles and I swear I was running faster than I have in years, despite the tightness in my legs.

These shoes are miracle workers. Even today when I went out for my four miler that I was only doing because it was too pretty to be inside, I was cruising.

This week also marked the first time I tasted Chobani’s new key lime flip. I don’t know how I survived without these delightful little snacks for so long. (Side Note: Even though I have been a yogurt eater for a long time I never knew that those types of yogurt containers were made so that you can flip the topping…stop I know.) Key lime is my ultimate summer flavor, and these glorious little 170 calorie fun pack is going to help me keep my summer sweet tooth in check.

mmm key lime, white chocolate and graham cracker (can't resist)
mmm key lime, white chocolate and graham cracker (can’t resist)

I am a fruit lover. And lately I have been craving fruit in my salads. It can be pretty much anything, but mostly I have been dropping apples in there. The combination of apples and chicken has become my absolute favorite, but now that strawberries and blueberries are on sale I am buying them in spades to add to salads.

Some of my favorite spring salads are:

  • Shrimp, green apple, avocado with lemon juice (easiest thing you’ll ever make)
  • Berry Delicious Summer Salad (blueberries & walnuts, amazing)
  • Watermelon, feta and basil with lemon juice
  • Strawberries, walnuts, goat cheese and spinach (balsamic vinegar)
Watermelon and feta = amazing combo
Watermelon and feta = amazing combo

Basically lemon and balsamic vinegar become staples in my house during the spring and summer.

Finally, our current go-to treat comes courtesy of Skinny Cow. It is their limited edition ice cream sandwich in Snickerdoodle flavor. If you haven’t had them, run now to your grocery store.  I don’t feel guilty indulging in these at all since they are only 140 calories. We are talking low-fat cinnamon ice cream between two oatmeal cookies. You can’t go wrong.

Deliciousness
Deliciousness

 

Exercise As A Threat?

Over the last few years we have acclimated to seeing calories next to our favorite food items. At first it seemed to deter some people, but eventually you just shrugged it off and ate it because you wanted that personal-size Uno pizza that is like a  1,400 calories. (Not me, because I just can’t, but I know there are people out there that do.)

Fries are my weakness
Fries are my weakness

So if this doesn’t deter people like everyone hoped, what’s next? Displaying how much exercise would be required to burn it off. A new study tested this idea and found that when restaurant menus listed the amount of brisk walking required to work off each dish diners we less likely to overeat.

Personally, I don’t like to think about what is required to burn it off after I eat. I think that just makes eating less enjoyable and more guilt ridden. Yes, there are times when I over indulge and think “I am so going to need to run an extra mile tomorrow,” or I might switch a yoga day for something more intense, but I don’t like to think about it until after I am completely satisfied with myself.

It is important to me to overindulge from time to time
It is important to me to overindulge from time to time

I know I am a rare breed who enjoys exercising for the endorphins I feel during and after, but come on no one is going to learn to enjoy a healthy lifestyle if we keep making it a chore or a punishment.

You have to separate the guilt from eating. That is the only way you overcome food demons or avoid creating new ones.