Thursday, September 30, 2010

Playing favorites.

So yesterday, I took myself through the total body workout shown above. I had every intention of running a 5K, but time just didn't allow it, so I cut things short and did 20 minutes of intervals instead. Then I worked through the major muscle groups. And as I did, I wondered—what is my favorite muscle group to train?

Legs? Wide-leg squats make me feel like a ballet dancer, but no... Abs? A strong core supports everything, and ab exercises make my middle feel whittled, but no... It's arms! Particularly biceps. I love being able to see the definition I've worked so hard to create. Now, I'm in no way trying to brag and I'm sure I don't have the best biceps on the planet—but I enjoy the fact that my biceps make my arms look strong in my favorite tank tops. And when I take the time to really push my biceps to their limit, it feels good. Plain as that.

But when it comes down to it, no reason for loving one muscle group over the other is really necessary at all. It's OK to play favorites in this case, purely for playing favorites' sake. Just remember that in the end, you have to love your entire body. Not just one part of it. But we already talked about that earlier this week, so I'll end this post right here with a

Question: What is your favorite muscle group to train?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Calories and Cool Mail

Yesterday was good. The client I typically train at 5:45AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays is out of town for two weeks, which means this girl got to sleep in until 7:00AM. Hey, hey! I woke up anxious to try my first-ever pot of apple butter, and I must say, it was pretty delicious slapped on some toast with a few banana slices. And since I didn't have to be at the gym until 8:00AM, I was able to read a few pages of this month's Marie Claire (the only magazine that trumps Oxygen when I'm in the mood for a glossy). Usually I'm running out the door grabbing this, that and the other thing as I race against the timeclock—so it was nice to wake up to a casual, relaxing first hour. And the breakfast above, in case you were wondering, clocked in at about 150 calories. Which reminds me of an article I read in another one of my favorite magazines (yes, I'm addicted).

The September issue of SELF featured  20 ways to burn 200 calories. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm always open to suggestions in that department. Especially if those suggestions don't involve fitness equipment. Clearly I love working out, but it's nice to know that some really fun activities can produce good burn. My top three from the list:

3) Car wash, 60 minutes. (Why pay when you can do it yourself?)
2) Cartwheels and somersaults, 10 minutes + swinging, 21 minutes + tag, 5 minutes. (= another excuse
    to act like a kid again. And I'm always looking for those excuses.)
1) Dance like Beyonce, 29 minutes. (Specifically speaking, they say to perfect your "Single Ladies"
    moves. Single lady I am not, but that doesn't stop me from getting my groove on.)

Crazy antics aside (because we do still need to burn good calorie at the gym), you'll want to pay attention to things like speed and incline on the cardio equipment. Incorporate exercises that involve multiple muscle groups. Use supersets, and finally—watch how long you break in between things. It's always a good idea to keep that heart rate up, which promotes greater calorie burn in and of itself.

I must confess that I took yesterday off. Well, I did teach my Fit Over 50 class which probably counts for something. It was just one of those days where all I could think about was taking it easy. (Maybe it goes back to that sleeping in thing I did.) My body was just in relaxation mode, though it got a bit excited when the mail came.

Check it out—a package from SOYJOY!

I was tipped off to their giveaway by HungryGirl, so I signed up for a free bar figuring I'd just get a coupon in the mail. (Who doesn't love coupons?) Apparently SOYJOY revamped their products—and they actually sent me one in the envelope you see at right in an effort to prove it. How super deluxe and fun! Beats getting a bill. Or junk.

They sent the banana flavor, and we all know how I feel about bananas.
But I was, however, a bit skeptical.

I've eaten SOYJOY bars before and they've always felt a bit cardboardy to me. And sometimes soy foods give me a belly ache, which I didn't want to cause on such a good day. But, in the name of free things and guinea pigs, I gave it a whirl. You'll be happy to know that it tasted pleasant. The texture was still a bit cardboardy, though marked improvements in the moisture department were evident. And just in case you were wondering:

They surely did send me a coupon!

Question: Do you have a favorite way to burn 200 calories? What's the last great thing you got in the mail? Leave a comment for all to see!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On jealousy.

There is a trap that we all fall into. It isn't a hole in the ground or a monetary scam. It isn't an open candy jar or a "gotcha" type of joke. This trap I speak of is a way of thinking. Specifically, a way of thinking about our very own body in relationship to someone else's. Let's call it body image with a heavy emphasis on jealousy, which leads to a surplus of self-judgement. And if you work out at a gym, wear a bathing suit at a public beach or pay attention to advertisements that feature "perfectly" beautiful people—you know exactly what I'm talking about.

I work out every day of the week and that means I have muscles. Those muscles give me the power to lift heavy objects (think dumbbells and boxes full of magazines), and they support my cardiovascular system which helps me run multiple miles without passing out—or stay on the dance floor for hours on end. Essentially speaking, I am strong. On the inside and out. But when I see the girl at my gym with the six-pack abs and the tightly toned tush, I get jealous. I'm instantly reminded that only two of my six show through, and that my lower half sports a bit of cellulite. The image of her sticks with me and, in other words, jealousy gets the best of me. It sucks, but I am human. And I'm far from perfect—but I am strong, which is what I need to be focusing on.

For the longest time, I hated the picture at right. It was taken almost a year ago on a beach in Hawaii. I couldn't focus on the beauty literally surrounding me because I was too distracted by the imperfections I was seeing in my body. It's stupid really, and I've since taken off the bad body image goggles.

Once again, I'm far from perfect—but I am strong. And I am me, totally and originally.

To repeat that mantra is to believe it, which brings me to your daily dose: don't be jealous. Be proud of yourself. Your body is yours and yours alone. Love it with all of your heart and it will love you back ferociously. Life is way too short for everyday comparisons to perfect people. They're really not perfect, and even they succumb to jealousy. Maybe even of you.

Love yourself. Treat yourself right. Eat well and exercise. Smile continuously, and don't leave any room for jealousy. But leave a little bit of room for apple butter. Well, at least that's what I'm telling myself right now. I currently have an entire Crockpot of it cooking in my kitchen. I'm sure you can imagine what that smells like. And if you're wondering, I already ate one apple today.

Just a small guy before lunch, complete with some fresh peanut butter from Whole Foods. It was the perfect appetizer to my peach/pepper jack panini lunch. I will be sad when the peach supply at my local grocery store runs dry, but at least I've got apples. Oh, lawdy do I have me some apples to eat!

Question: What makes you proud of your body? Leave a comment so we can share in each others' accomplishments.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Jollay Good Time

We came, we saw and we picked apples all over the Jollay Orchard yesterday. The weather was more than beautiful and the crop itself was plentiful. We filled our baskets...sorry, our bushels with Red and Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Cortland apples.

Ever eat a Cortland apple? They're super tart with just a hint of sweetness. And they're surprisingly delicious in every which way. I don't think they'll replace Fujis and Galas in the favorites department, but they're worthy of eating if you get the opportunity.

Goldens are nice, too. (As I'm sure you already know.) All the good ones were at the top of the trees, so I had Jason test out his climbing skills while I continued to scout out the lower limbs. You never know when (or where) you'll find the perfect apple. To be honest, I think we found an entire orchard of perfect apples. And perfect memories. Visual proof:

In the end, I picked about $23 worth of apples. Never have I ever had this many apples in my kitchen, and I fully intend to use every single one of them before they go bad. I've already baked a pie, and I have plans for apple butter and caramel apple cookies. And afternoon snacks that involve an apple and some nut butter. Jason? Well, he just likes to eat them plain which surprises no one. My husband, the traditionalist. Perhaps my baking will change his mind.

The apple pie I spoke of. First piece, which looks more like apple crumble. Why can't the first piece of a pie come out nicely? It always looks like a gigantic mash of mess. Maybe it's just the nature of the almond-based crust. Regardless, it was delicious. Not runny at all, which never happens when I make a pie. Only thing missing? Some vanilla ice cream. (I know, I'm a personal trainer. I shouldn't be suggesting such a thing.)

Question: How do you like your apples?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I want to ElliptiGo get one of these:

I mean, seriously. Is the ElliptiGo not the coolest thing you've ever seen? As an avid fan of my bike and an occasional user of the elliptical machine at the gym—I'm in love. This cross between the two not only looks sweet, but surely provides an amazing workout. Best part? No diaper-like padded shorts required. (Hate 'em.) Downfall? The price tag. But at $2,199—I bet it's worth every penny. Perhaps I should play the lottery.

Or maybe I should take an HTML class. By now you've noticed something different up above. There might be more changes coming (if I can figure out how to make them without creating a big mess), so bear with me as play around a bit. But first, I must go apple picking. 'Tis the season! Look for pictures in tomorrow's post.

Question: If you had all the money in the world, would you buy an ElliptiGo? Leave a comment!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chia, flax and flexing your inner thigh muscles.

It's currently dark and gloomy outside my humble abode, and I can only assume that it means fall is officially here to stay. Fingers crossed for an "Indian" summer, but for today at least, it seems we're stuck with cold winds that threaten rain. I may have mentioned this before,  but I have an incredible love/hate relationship with this particular time of year. Warm sweaters and tall leather boots are calling my name, but summertime—I seem to have not gotten enough of you and your sweet berries and sunshine temperatures. Thus my hope for an "Indian" summer.

So I apologize if I'm acting a bit two-faced today. I'm thinking to myself, "clouds...I hate you, you're making me cold." And then I'm loving my long pants and three-quarter length sleeves. I'm also loving all things pumpkin again. (Dear God: Thank you for making pumpkins. Love, Tara) I try to hold out until October, which is the month I usually whip out my collection of pumpkin decor (still in boxes), but the little can of pumpkin jumped out at me on my last trip to the grocery store. So I brought it home and made a smoothie.

And it was DIVINE. Though admittedly, I forgot to add my usual small spoonfuls of Chia and flax. Remembered the good stuff, like pumpkin pie spices and cinnamon, but not the healthy stuff. *SIGH* That's what happens when you get super excited about something. But anyways—Chia and flax.

I'm sure you are all vastly familiar with the benefits of flaxseed, so I won't bore you. But when it comes to Chia seeds, perhaps you have much to learn (as I did). So let's start with omega-3 fatty acids. According to Wikipedia, a single Chia seed is roughly 30% oil. That oil is almost entirely comprised of omega-3 fatty acids. As for the rest of the Chia seed, think antioxidants and protein and fiber, oh my! And yes, you're right in thinking they might be connected to the following:

I'm not sure if my Chia seeds will grow into an animal, but I'm positive they taste delicious in a smoothie. On top of oatmeal, too. Particularly when said oatmeal contains bananas, pumpkin, flax and almonds. (Told you I'm loving all things pumpkin right now.)


But that's enough about Chia and flax, let's talk about flexing. The following question was recently submitted to Daily Dose: How the heck do you strengthen your inner thighs?! 

Try the following.

1) If you work out at a gym, find the hip add/abduction machine. You'll want to set it up so that you're
    pushing your legs together (hip adduction).
2) Find a body bar and lie down on your side, resting the end of the body bar on your bottom foot. Lift
    and lower your bottom foot to contract your inner thigh muscles. Repeat on the other side.
3) Attach your ankle to a low cable machine, or tie an exercise band around it and slam the other end
    in a door jam (or wrap it around a post). Step away from the machine or door (or post), and pull
    your ankle toward your outside leg to contract your inner thigh muscles. Repeat on the other side.
4) Act like a sumo and squat, toes pointed out. Of course, pretty much any squat contracts the inner
    thigh, but this one hits it specifically.

Question: What's your relationship with this time of year? Do you have a pumpkin dish I should know about? And finally, do you eat Chia seeds?

Oh, PS—I found my Chia seeds at Whole Foods last weekend. They can be hard to find, so I'd suggest starting at your local natural foods store. Or just Froogle them and place an order. That's always easy. And just in case you're wondering, since the day is still a bit gloomy, I decided it was time to eat the last peach in my produce drawer. So glad I did. It was juicy perfection that made such a day feel like summer again.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The High Heel-a-Thon

This week, hundreds of stilettos descended upon New York City for the Second Annual High Heel-a-Thon in Central Park. Have you heard of this event? All participants wear stilettos, rather than running shoes, as they make a mad dash for a finish line that's 150 yards from the starting line. The High Heel-a-Thon raises money for The National Institute of Health's The Heart Truth Campaign, which aims to inform women about the risk of heart disease. This event is the brainchild of Kelly Ripa, and yes—LIVE! with Regis and Kelly sponsors it. In case you missed this Wednesday's show, here is a complete recap.

Gotta love that finish! The entire concept is crazy, but I think it sounds like a tremendous amount of fun! If you know anything about me, you know that shoes are a big part of my life. At last count, I had over 60 pairs in my closet. (Ridiculous.) Had I entered the race, I would have had plenty of options. Like these bad boys. They are, quite possibly my favorite shoes. Despite the platforms and spikey heels, my feet stay snug like bugs inside a rug.

But I think I'll save these for special occasions, as my Adidas sneaks continue to keep me super comfortable during runs long and short.

Question: Would you participate in the Heel-a-Thon? What shoes would you wear?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

On mindless eating.

Whenever I catch a new flick at the theater, I absolutely always get a craving for Twizzlers. And really, this craving has been coming and going since "An American Tail" made its debut in 1986. (I was six.) Sometimes I give in, but usually I just fight my craving with everything I've got. You see, if I buy that (overpriced) bag of Twizzlers (or sneak in a cheaper one)—it's over. One serving size is equal to three pieces, and I will absolutely eat more than that. They are just that good, and I'd be just not paying attention to my hand-to-mouth frequency. In other words, one single bag of Twizzlers would prompt me to eat mindlessly. To overindulge, in fact. And that would, it goes without saying, set me up for some potential weight gain.

So, how do I fight my craving...that which causes mindless eating? I offer the following words of advice:

1) Don't eat in front of the big screen. Or the little screen. In fact, just eliminate all distractions. (Your
    computer, a book...whatever, really.)
2) If you absolutely must eat in front of the screen, make it a snack. Put an appropriate serving on a
    small plate and forget about seconds.
3) Forget about seconds when you're at the table, too. Serve yourself appropriately and make it last.
4) Take small bites and chew everything completely. It will take you longer to eat, which means you
    might actually hear your body communicate fullness before it's too late.
5) Stay focused on your food. Pay attention to the various tastes and smells in front of you. Actually
    enjoy your meal or snack for what it is.
6) If you feel as though you need to eat—ask yourself why. Is it time for a meal? Are you truly
    hungry? Better yet—are you bored? Mindless eating is often the result of boredom, so distract
    yourself when the urge to eat something hits.
7) Stay out of the kitchen at parties. We so often gather there because that's where all the food is
    displayed. If you must, make a small plate of the healthiest options and consume your choices
    slowly. That way, you won't eat mindlessly as you gab about this, that and the other thing.

Remember, mindless eating is a diet trap. The tips above will help you avoid it, but since we aren't perfect, I make my 8th and final tip about the moment after you realize that you might have just eaten mindlessly.

8) Move on. It happens, but it isn't the end of the world. The moment you realize that you've
    overindulged is the moment you should hit your healthy switch again. Erase what you've done by
    returning to your smartest ways of eating. And maybe hit the gym when you can. That never hurts.

Question: Are you prone to mindless eating? When and where?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Old Favorite, New Twist

Tired of walking lunges? Don't be. They should be a staple in your exercise routine. I know, I know. But they're not fun. And they hurt. Small price to pay, really. Walking lunges tone just about every muscle below the belt, and even a few above it. Your core kicks in with every step in order to keep you balanced. And you can kick that core into high gear with an added twist—literally! Grab an exercise ball and hold it with straight arms right in front of your chest. As you step forward, twist the ball to the side of your forward leg as you complete the lunge. Return to standing, then repeat with your other leg. Continue like this until you've finished all of your repetitions.

See...old favorite, new twist! I make my clients do walking lunges all the time, and they always moan about them. Until they complete the repetitions I've prescribed. Only then do the realize that a few seconds of hard work can really pay off.

In the words of Lance Armstrong: "Pain is temporary, but quitting is forever."

Question: Are you a fan of walking lunges? Better yet, are you a fan of "Dancing with the Stars?" What I'd give to be on that show! Not only is it great fun, but dancing is an amazing workout. I'm  particularly excited to see that Baby is outside of her corner again! And dancing to a song from the movie itself. Good luck Jennifer Grey. You're an old favorite, and I'm excited to watch you perform new twists.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Would you eat corn sugar?

According to the Corn Refiner's Association (CRA), you already are. It's called high fructose corn syrup. But they believe that "corn sugar" is a much better name for it, which is why the CRA has petitioned the United States Food & Drug Administration for permission to change this controversial ingredient's name. They say, as do some nutrition experts, that high fructose corn syrup is nothing more than fructose and glucose—the same two ingredients found in table sugar and honey. And we all know that table sugar and honey are widely used and accepted without question. So the CRA argues that high fructose corn syrup shouldn't have the bad reputation that it does, and they think changing the name will redefine our understanding of it.

To prove their point, the Corn Refiner's Association is making a big marketing push that drives home what I mentioned above. Check out SweetSurprise and CornSugar (two websites dedicated to the name change), and watch the following:

According to a New York Times blog, the Food & Drug Administration has six months to respond to a name change petition. It also stated that high fructose corn syrup is "one of the biggest sources of calories in the American diet." And when you're trying to burn calories at the gym on a regular basis, it just makes sense to stay away from high fructose corn syrup (corn sugar, or whatever) whenever possible.

I know I will. I prefer natural ingredients, like those found in the salsa I bought at Whole Foods this weekend. Gala Red Apple Salsa, to be specific. I love apples, and I can't get enough salsa in my stomach—seeing the two in one place fried my brain. I couldn't resist you, Frontera! And thanks for not adding sugar to the mix. There is a gram of it per serving, but the all-natural kind. Straight from the apples. If you see this salsa in a store near you, do buy it. It's delightful.

And if you have an apple salsa recipe, send it my way. I'm picking apples this weekend, which means I need to get my shoulder muscles ready for all that reaching.

Question: Would you buy products that list corn sugar as an ingredient? Did the CRA change your opinion of high fructose corn syrup?

Monday, September 20, 2010

A "Whole" Day in the City

The skies on Saturday morning didn't shine as brightly as I had hoped for, but it didn't stop Aly, Angie and I from having fun in the city this weekend. From the skyscrapers to the shopping, eating and walking—good times were had by all. Our trip centered around the Dave Matthews Band concert at Wrigley Field, and though we've all seen him in concert before, we've never seen him (or anyone else) play at the Cubs' house.

Neither Dave nor the stadium disappointed. (Jason Mraz was pretty good, too.) Dave played old and new songs (including "Crash," all of which sounded twice as nice with city lights as the backdrop.

Our seats were behind home plate. A bit far, but that didn't matter. We heard him, and we sang along as if we were in the front row. But before all that, we did some shopping! I snagged a few articles of clothing (all purchased at discounted prices, thank you) including this adorable Aerie F.I.T. tank. Ladies, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the Aerie F.I.T. brand! Everything is super comfortable and completely affordable. Especially when it goes on sale. At just $11, this empire waist (love it) tank was definitely a sweet score. (No Aerie F.I.T. in your mall? Check out Target for a tank just like this.) Clothes aside, you'll have to look inside my new Whole Foods shopping bag for the sweetest of all scores.

Can you tell what everything is? And don't say, "Yeah...I see peanuts." Do you see the small bag of trail mix I made from all the deliciousness in the bulk bins? It's right next to the—oh wait. I ate it. LOVE BULK BINS. Cut me a break, I was hungry after the concert (and again on the last leg of my drive home)! But anyways, I think I shall reveal the contents of this bag periodically over the next few posts. Stay tuned!

Question: Do you like to shop natural food stores? I know they're expensive, but the food they carry is always so much fun! What's your favorite thing to buy?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Eating enough? Four signs you might not be.

If you're like me, you are probably prone to eating for pleasure on occasion. Think cookies, cupcakes and chocolate. A good glass of wine or a perfect piece of seasoned chicken breast. Even veggies roasted to perfection. Whatever your favorites may be, food can have this way of taking over your senses. But it can also have a way of taking over your body if you aren't careful. And that's why the diet industry is so incredibly successful. Don't eat this! Restrict that! Lose weight, food is the enemy! They scream at us from every angle, and as a result, we forget about eating for pleasure. Heck, we even forget about eating for fuel. Instead, we focus on not eating. Or eating the bare minimum. And that's what gets us into trouble.

Your body needs a certain amount of fuel every day simply to exist. This is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Click here to calculate yours, then follow the instructions to figure out how many calories you really need to be taking in. (It will go up based on your level of physical activity.) Remember, if you want to lose weight you'll need to burn more than you take in. And that brings us back to the topic at hand—if you don't take in enough fuel, you'll hinder rather than help your body in every way.

Not sure if you're taking in the right amount?
Keep a food journal, and watch for these four signs:

1) You are constantly tired.  
2) Your muscles are shrinking.
3) You can't seem to lose weight.
4) Your bones are weak.

Sounds pretty general, and these signs are, so keep in mind that the above can also represent other issues. It's always best to speak with your doctor if you aren't feeling your 100% best.

Question: How do you balance healthy eating with eating for pleasure?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What is a balance disc?

First and foremost: Happy weekend! Doing anything exciting? I'm headed to Chicago today with Aly (sister) and Angie (friend) to catch a Dave Matthews concert at Wrigley Field. Super stoked, even more so because I'll have some time beforehand to swing by Whole Foods. Seriously, I die for Whole Foods every time I'm in the city. I'll be sure to take some pics of my visit, and I'll report back on all the yummy goods that will surely be purchased. In the meantime, let's talk about balance discs. If you recall, I mentioned these lovely little fitness toys in a previous post and one of my best readers asked me to explain exactly what they were. Drum roll, please...

The balance disc is a little pocket of fitness fun that looks very much like a sea urchin. One side has spikes (but they aren't sharp), while the other is somewhat smoother. There's nothing but air inside it, and most balance discs are usually about a foot wide.

Just like the BOSU, the balance disc can up the ante of just about any standing exercise as it challenges your core muscles. Your core, after all, is what keeps you balanced. Try standing on one when you do bicep curls or triceps presses. Even if you're doing them at a cable machine. And if you're doing stationary squats and/or lunges, place one foot on a balance disc and discover the difference. Just remember to alternate feet—one set right, one set left—in order to keep both sides of your body equal. If you have access to two balance discs, put one under each foot do sumo squats.

It's OK upper body, you can play, too! Put one hand on a balance disc when you do pushups. Or rest your forearms on it when you're in a plank. I know I say this a lot, but your options are endless! Oh, AND—I almost forgot. You can put one in the small of your back when you do crunches. A great option if you can't quite master the exercise ball crunch.

Seriously, make sure your gym has a few of these on hand. At least two, but more if at all possible. Once you display your core strength at the hands of a balance disc, others will surely want in on the secret. I'd hate for you to miss out on precious balance disc time. Ha!

Question: Does your gym have balance discs? If so, how do you use them?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yes, you can eat pizza.

Every town has at least one gem of a pizza place. Mine happens to be located just off the city beach, situated next to an active train stop and within walking distance of a newly renovated carousel. The sights and sounds alone overwhelm the senses, but the pizza itself really takes on your taste buds. It might possibly be the best pizza I've ever had. For real, it's that good. The crust is thin, the veggies are perfectly chopped and the sauce...oh, the sauce. It's delightful in the exact way a pizza sauce should be. And then some. But in the end, it's still just another pizza that must be consumed cautiously. Despite the veggies, one slice can pack a pretty serious amount of calories. But that's not to say that pizza can't be healthy.

I made the tasty guy below for lunch yesterday. The crust is a combination of ground turkey (protein) and oats (carbs), and I used cottage cheese instead of mozzarella. Sounds weird, but that's what makes it a bit healthier. The whole thing measured about five inches in diameter, so it was the perfect serving size. I found the original recipe in the September issue of Oxygen, but I tweaked it slightly to accommodate my taste buds. I also doubled the ingredients (reflected below) so that I could make a pizza for Jason, too.

1 cup oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground flaxseed
1/4 lb ground turkey
1 cup spinach, chopped
5 basil leaves, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup low-sodium tomato paste
1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese
2 tbsp red onion, chopped
2 tbsp red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
Italian seasoning

Preheat your oven to 350F. Mix the oats, baking powder, flaxseed and turkey in a bowl. Separate the dough into two portions, then flatten each on a single pizza pan. Bake for five minutes, flip and bake another five minutes, then remove the pan from the oven.

Spread the minced garlic across the two crusts, then add the tomato paste. Follow with the spinach and basil, then the mushrooms, pepper and onion. Top your creation with dabs of cottage cheese and a few dashes of Italian seasoning. Bake the entire thing for another five minutes, or at least until the cheese melts a bit.

Eat it slowly, and savor every last bite. For some zing, splash a bite or two with Frank's Red Hot sauce. If you like hot things, you'll love Frank's Red Hot sauce. I promise.

Question: What's the one pizza ingredient you can't live without? And what's the craziest pizza you've ever consumed? Don't tell me it involves anchovies, I just might puke.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Try out my new favorite move.

I'm four days into my new schedule at work, and I've managed to complete one strength training session. I skipped Monday because I taught Circuit Sculpt, ran four miles on Tuesday afternoon, and since I didn't have any early morning clients on Wednesday—I became my own client! Hopefully I can snag another run this afternoon, and then another strength training session tomorrow morning to round out my week.

On top of getting my schedule organized, I am happy to report that I discovered a new exercise. New to me, at least. Perhaps you've heard of it—the side plank with a single-arm row? LOVE IT! This exercise incorporates multiple muscle groups (core, shoulders and back), which shaves time off your workout while burning a few extra calories. How to? Find a low cable machine and adjust the weight, or loop an exercise band with handles around a sturdy post. Then do the following:

1) Position yourself on the floor, making sure that your body is perpendicular to the machine/band.
2) Stack your hips, legs and feet.
3) Grab the handle with your free hand, then scoot back to create some tension.
4) Prop yourself up on your bottom elbow to start your plank, keeping that elbow joint below your
    shoulder while maintaining a straight line with the rest of your body.
5) Pull the handle toward your armpit. This will engage your back and shoulder muscles.
6) Release the weight and repeat until all of your repetitions are complete.
7) Relax and repeat on the other side of your body. (Gotta stay even!)

I typically do two sets of 12 repetitions per side, but you'll need to do whatever is appropriate for your fitness level. And remember, follow up your strength training session with a carb- and protein-based snack or meal. Your muscles will need some help recuperating. Yesterday, I drank a banana smoothie that incorporated some of the chocolate protein powder I picked up in Jackson Hole.

I'm not typically a fan of protein powders, as I think you can get enough protein without them, but this particular one—NutriBiotic Rice Protein in Chocolate—seemed pretty straightforward. Meaning, it's Vegan and natural. No crazy chemicals! One packet is a single serving, but I played it safe and only added a spoonful. There wasn't anything funky or chalky about it, but it gave my smoothie a nice chocolate edge.

I don't think I'll make a habit out of adding this or any other protein powders to my smoothies, but you know me—I'm always up for trying out new healthy food options. I bought a packet of the Plain and Vanilla flavors, too. We'll see how they taste.

Question: Are you a fan of protein powders? Why or why not? And if you are, which one do you consume?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Teen Bootcamp

Well, I survived my first Teen Bootcamp class and will teach it again today. Only this time, I'll have my awesome music. We have two fitness studios at the gym, and only one has an iPod hookup. This I did not know, which forced me to use a backup disc of (not so cool) music. Total bummer, but not a complete buzz kill. I had two girls in my class (they were friends), and they were great. Well motivated, and ready for anything. We started off with some active stretching, a bit of cardio in the form of knee-ups and crab walks and running, then a short strength training routine before ending with a medicine ball game and some static stretching. 45 minutes of fun, and as I get to know the kids a little better, I can only hope it gets even more fun. And more fun.

If you recall, I signed up for an at-home Youth Strength Training course last month. I'm happy to report that the studying is almost complete. I have but one video to watch before I take the test, but check this out:

Behold the answers, which are conveniently located upside down in the back of the book. Psha! Can you believe it? Why did I take all those notes?! Oh, yeah—because I actually wanted to learn something. Cheater, I am not. Heck no. To prove it, I'll share some bits of what I learned.

Bit #1: It's perfectly safe for children to strength train, provided they have the emotional maturity to accept rules and follow direction. Many parents believe that it stunts the growth process, but there isn't any proof to support that theory. As with any strength training routine, it facilitates bone growth and muscle development. It also teaches control which, of course, prevents injury.

Bit #2: They make strength training machines for children. Who knew?! Machines built for adults don't always fit a child's smaller frame, though a child would be fine on adult machines that require pushing and pulling. Like the leg press or the seated row machines. For everything else, strength training machines made specifically for children work best. If they aren't available, dumbbells and other fitness "toys" are also appropriate.

Bit #3: Endurance activities don't necessarily enhance a child's aerobic capacity. They typically respond better to interval training. That's why strength training should be combined with stop-and-go activities like relay races and short laps around a track.

Bit #4: Youth strength training programs should be fun. Not competitive. It's all about building self-esteem, more so than strength. Especially when said youth are, in fact, teens. You remember that stage, don't you? Awkward.

If I learn anything else on the video, I will certainly let you know. I'm hoping to watch it soon. In between "The West Wing" and "Sex and the City," both of which are currently on rotation in my house.

Question: Does your gym have equipment made specifically for children? How would you convince a parent to sign their child up for strength training activities? And, if you are a parent, does your child get enough physical activity at school or after it? I get worried when I hear about gym classes being pulled from the curriculum. Also, did you watch "The West Wing" when it aired a few years ago? SO GOOD.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Eat 'em like junk food."

Picture a snack based on the following description: orange and crunchy, shaped like a 2-inch torpedo, with a certain flavor that can't be denied. Cheetos, right? Wrong. More like baby carrots. And just so you know, there's nothing "baby" about them. They are, in fact, pared down versions of standard-sized carrots. And as a former advertising professional and current supporter of health and wellness, I can't help but get excited about the baby carrot industry's new ad campaign.

A recent article posted on the USA TODAY website states that the baby carrot industry is spending over $25 million on their new advertising campaign, which aims to take on the world of sweet and salty snacks. We'll collectively refer to this world as "junk food." The campaign has already gone viral, thanks to a website dedicated to "the original orange doodles." It highlights new packaging, a crunch-powered iPhone game and, well...even a sexy commercial. (They always have to go there, don't they?!) Take a look:

This ad and the entire baby carrot campaign will challenge snackers to make better choices at vending machines and in grocery aisles across the country. It's no small task, but it makes complete sense. While Chester Cheetah is quite the entertaining cat, his delectable goods do nothing for your health. Ingredients like enriched corn meal, partially hydrogenated soybean oil and monosodium glutamate curb your efforts to be healthy and fit, which means junk food should be avoided whenever possible. Carrots are nothing more, nothing less than carrots—a perfect example of clean eating, really. One carrot snack gives you loads of vitamins and minerals, not industry formulated additives and artificial brouhaha.

Personally speaking, I love dipping baby carrots in hummus. They're good on top of a salad, and can be easily chopped for homemade soups. (Is it time for Tortellini Soup yet? We're close. I already made chili.) I also enjoy them plain. Sounds boring, but it's a pure and good snack that can be taken anywhere. Must get some when I hit the grocery store.

Maybe on my way home from the gym. On top of a client, I'll be teaching my first Fit over 50 class today. I've already met some of the ladies. They seem nice, though I think they gravitate toward the exercise machines. This is the type of class that turns me into more of a supervisor than an instructor, but I'd like to do more instructing that supervising. I think machines are great, but not the most beneficial in a group setting. I'll let you know what happens.

Question: How do you eat your carrots? Do you think this campaign will make you choose carrots over cookies if you're standing at a vending machine that offers both?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bike Michiana for Hospice

My alarm went off yesterday morning and I so desperately wanted to throw it across the room. The air coming through my window was cold, but the blanket on top of me was incredibly warm. So warm that I curled up a bit tighter beneath it. But I had to get up. 40 miles were calling my name and I had to answer, even though I wasn't sure if I could. Just as I was about to hit snooze, I remembered that Dad was riding in the same race. The 101.5-mile route. If he could do that, I could do 40 miles. Right?

Angie joined me and together we tackled all the hills and valleys, and the bumps and bad drivers.

There were two SAG stops along the way, which we stayed at for about ten minutes each. What does "SAG" stand for? We didn't know. But thanks to the Internet, I can report that it stands for "support and gear." Which now makes complete sense, given the finger foods that greeted us.

When you go such great distances on a bike or your own two feet, you can't rely on water alone to fuel your efforts. Your body needs extra support, and in our case that support came in the form of some Gatorade, half a banana and a few bites of a turkey wrap. That might sound like a lot of food, but when you're only taking a few bites here and there across 40 miles, it's really the perfect amount.

In the end, it was a tough ride. We finished in three hours and 30 minutes. Dad finished in five hours and 40 minutes. Lots of hills...and I mean LOTS of hills that we hadn't really planned for. But the views were gorgeous. Every road was out in the country, which gave us glimpses of horses and cows, corn and grass fields. We even heard a rooster. And if you're wondering about that cold air from earlier, it lingered. Think runny noses, frozen fingertips and goosebumps. Really, there's only one thing it could possibly mean—fall weather is upon us. I can't decide if I like that or not. I guess I do in a way, only because it means that pumpkins are growing. And I do love pumpkins in my food and on my porch.

Did I mention that we ate the cutest little cupcakes at the very end of the race?

I wish all cupcakes were this size. They were practically perfect in every way.

In other news, I'm teaching my first Circuit Sculpt and Teen Bootcamp classes today. Should be interesting. I tweaked my Tabata class a bit to cover the plans for Circuit Sculpt, and I planned an introductory strength training course for Teen Bootcamp. I already had a disc of music for Circuit Sculpt, but I had to plan something for the teenyboppers. Now, on my iPod, is a playlist that contains 30 minutes of tunes from the likes of Avril Lavigne, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Taylor Swift and more. They better think I'm cool. They better NOT think I'm old.

Question: What's the furthest you've ever gone on your bike? Do you have padded shorts? (Love 'em, but they make me feel like I'm wearing a diaper. And those days are super long gone.) Also, any suggestions for popular teenybopper music? I could use some help as I'm probably not as cool as I like to think.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Schedules: What they mean to us, and what happens when they change.

Life is a never-ending series of events. From work to play, exercise to sleep and everything in between—it all happens and we like it to happen according to the schedule we've established. But, it doesn't. Life likes to throw us curve balls on occasion, which force us to change our schedules whether we really want to or not. And it's those schedule changes that throw everything else out of whack. Particularly when it comes to exercise.

My mom and I discuss this topic quite frequently. She used to take a Body Pump class at her local YMCA, but they nixed it for some inexplicable reason. Her whole week revolved around that one class, and then suddenly it couldn't. And when she finally managed to replace it with another class, they nixed that one as well. She had just gotten back into her schedule, and then it changed again. To this day, my mom is still trying to figure out how to replace that Body Pump class.

I bring this up because my own schedule is about to change, and I had just gotten myself into a routine that accurately combined my work and workout schedules. Plus everything in between. But on Monday, everything gets slightly upended as I take on three fitness classes. Two of which meet twice a week. And since it's my job to lead the class by example, I'll have to figure this additional exertion into my workout schedule so that I don't completely exhaust myself. But first, the Bike Michiana for Hospice ride.

40 miles, and I really haven't taken the bike out lately. The furthest I've ever gone is 25 miles, so I might be in trouble. Especially since I spent all of yesterday on my feet. My boys, they gave it their best but the Irish just couldn't squeeze past the Wolverines. It was a close, yet imperfect game and I almost lost my voice. And my cool.

To the crazy man who sat behind us, keep your hands off my husband. He wasn't the only one standing in your way, fool!

You can be sure I'll report on the ride at some point. Until then, make sure your schedule is packed, but spacious enough to catch a few curve balls. Workouts, too. Remember that when you schedule in advance, it makes everything else a bit easier to accommodate.

Question: Do you find it easy to squeeze workouts into your schedule? How do you react when your scheduled training session is disrupted? I tend to get annoyed. I mean, really annoyed.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Exercise Ball Stretch

I concluded yesterday's post by querying you about your favorite stretch, and I thought it only fitting that I make today's post about MY favorite stretch. It's a static stretch that involves the use of an exercise ball. I don't know where you keep your exercise ball (if you have one), but mine tends to roll between rooms as we consistently kick it out of the way. As a result, I'm prone to pulling an exercise ball stretch for absolutely no reason whatsoever. It releases tension in the chest and abdominal area, and generally just relaxes me. As you can tell, the picture below was taken when I hadn't been working out. (Unless you consider last night's adventure in my little beach town a workout, which it sometimes can be if dancing is involved. In this case, it was not. Just good conversation over great food with excellent people.) By now, the ball had been kicked into the living room, in case you were wondering. And yes, the picture is somewhat goofy.

Give it a try: Take a seat on your exercise ball, then walk your feet forward until your neck, chest and hips are fully supported by the ball. Relax and breathe deeply, letting your arms fall to the side.

Question: Do you ever stretch for no reason at all? What is it about stretching that calls your name even when you aren't pre- or post-workout?

Oh, and—big game today. Notre Dame plays Michigan and my husband happens to be a huge fan of the Wolverines. Clearly, I am not. We have tickets and it's the first time we will attend this huge match together. I type in green to support the Irish. Have at 'em, boys. Get the win!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Do you stretch dynamically?

Fitness professionals and enthusiasts like to debate the appropriate time for a decent stretch. Whether it be before or after you exercise, both groups will agree that a proper warm-up is essential. And many fitness professionals will tell you that dynamic stretching (rather than static stretching) is an appropriate way to get warmed up. According to Webster, to be "dynamic" is to display "energy or effective action," or to be "vigorously active or forceful." And that's exactly what dynamic stretching is. It produces muscle contractions throughout a specific range of motion. In other words, when you stretch dynamically, you move the muscles that you intend to use in order to get them ready for whatever action lies ahead.

Let's take a look at how this works by discussing it in relationship to running. Instead of propping your leg up on a bench and leaning forward or grabbing your foot and pulling it back toward your glutes (both of which are static stretches), you might consider executing a few walking lunges instead. Jogging in place, rear glute kicks and forward leg lifts would also be good dynamic stretches. And let's not forget about your upper body—consider rolling your shoulders a bit and swinging your arms toward the front and back of your body as you would during your run. Not only will these dynamic movements loosen up your muscles, they'll also loosen up your joints. And that's never a bad thing.

Dynamic stretches, as you've probably noticed from the above examples, mimic your intended activity. Ever see golfers or baseball players take practice swings? Dynamic stretching. Ever see basketball players bounce a ball between their legs before a game? Dynamic stretching. Going back to running for a minute, if you've ever participated in a race, you've probably seen the "overachievers" running before the real run begins. That's dynamic stretching, too.

Give it a try next time you need to warm up for something, but don't forget about all of those static stretches you've been doing. Keep those in your back pocket, you'll need them after your workout to create a nice cool-down routine.

Question: How do you stretch dynamically? Do you have a favorite static stretch?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Muffins and Muffin Tops

When baked appropriately, muffins can be a relatively healthy addition to almost any diet. But if you eat too many, you might develop a muffin top. Otherwise known as excess fat around your waist, particularly at your hips. And while excess fat of any kind isn't the best addition to your physique, it can be particularly taxing when it sits around the waist and on the hips. Multiple studies indicate that it can increase your risk for developing heart disease and/or diabetes (among other things).

That alone means you should do everything possible to keep your waist-to-hip circumference ratio (WHR) in the low-risk bracket. To calculate:

1) Find a tape measure that records inches.
2) Measure your waist, starting at your belly button.
3) Measure your hips, including the fullest part of your butt.
4) Divide the circumference of your waist by the circumference of your hips.
5) The resulting number should be below 0.9 for men and 0.8 for women.

If you don't fall in the low-risk bracket, please do not despair. Let your WHR motivate you. Assess your current diet and exercise plan and decipher what the problem is. Then, adjust accordingly. To help you, I've included a list of abdominal exercises that specifically target that so-called muffin top area (internal and external obliques).

1) SIDE LEG LIFTS: Lie on your side with your hips and shoulders stacked, legs straight and feet slightly forward. Prop yourself up on your bottom elbow, slightly roll off your hips, then lift and lower your legs about a foot off the ground until your desired number of repetitions are complete. Repeat on your other side.

2) DUMBBELL SIDE BENDS: Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and place your left hand behind your head. Keeping your shoulders to the front so as not to twist your spine, bend toward the dumbbell. Return to start, performing all reps on one side before switching to the other.

3) CABLE TWISTS: Set a cable machine at chest height, then attach a single handle. Choose an appropriate weight, then position yourself with one hip toward the machine. Grab the handle with both hands, then pull until it is positioned in front of your chest. This will create tension, and will be your starting/stopping point. With straight arms, continue to twist the handle away from the machine until it is line with your outside hip. Return to start, perform all repetitions, then switch to the other side. (If you're working out with a friend, simulate the cable machine using an elastic band. Sit on an exercise ball to increase the difficulty.)

4) OBLIQUE CRUNCH: Lie down in crunch position, crossing your right ankle over your left knee. With your hands behind your head, rest your right elbow on the ground and crunch toward your right knee—but don't let your left elbow fold across your face! The movement is in your abs, not your shoulders or arms. Do all repetitions on one side before switching to the next.

5) MEDICINE BALL CHOPS: If you don't have a medicine ball, a weight will do. Stand in with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Hold the medicine ball above your head and slightly to the right so that your arms are at an angle. Squat while bringing the ball across your body and down to the floor by your left ankle. Keep your abs tight throughout, and really control the movement so that you don't hurt your back. Bring the ball back across your body and repeat. Complete desired repetitions, then switch the movement to the other side of your body.

6) SIDE PLANKS: Get into a plank position, elbows bent at 90 degrees. (If this is too difficult, start with straight arms.) Keep your hips, shoulders and head in line as you shift your weight onto one arm. Your hips will be perpendicular to the floor, and you'll be balancing on the outside of your bottom foot. Keep your obliques tight to prevent your hips from sagging. Hold, then switch to the other side of your body.

These exercises can be added to your current abdominal routine—even if your WHR is already in the low-risk bracket. Choose two, and start with two sets of 12 repetitions per exercise.

Question: Lemon Poppy Seed muffins will always be my favorite, however the Peanut Butter Banana muffins shown above were quite delicious. I'm curious—what is your favorite muffin?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Let's work your biceps and triceps.

Have you been using (and tweaking) the sample leg workout I posted on Saturday? I know it's only been a few days (one of which was a holiday), but I hope—at the very least—it's instilling some new inspiration below the belt. So as not to ignore the area above your belt, I thought I'd give you another sample workout. Something simple that hits your biceps and triceps. Tweak the following to create an arm workout that meets your needs:

1) Wide-Grip Bicep Cable Curls (2x12) (35 lbs.)
2) Triceps Dips with Feet on BOSU or Bench (2x12) 
3) Close-Grip Bicep Cable Curls with V-Bar (2x12) 35 lbs.)
4) Overhead Triceps Dumbbell Presses (2x12) (20 lbs.)

Question: What's your favorite bicep move? Triceps move?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Quantum Scale

Many of us fall victim to an obsessive relationship with the scale, while others understand that the resulting number isn't a definition. I've discussed this concept before, and I bring it up again in light
of the following product:

On one hand, I think the Quantum Scale is a great tool for people who are interested in dropping serious poundage as it puts the focus on weight gains and losses. But on the other hand, will it stop those same people from doing the math that determines their total weight? And at that point—is there a point? To use a typical scale is to figure out the last time/this time difference anyway, which then defines gains and losses. Follow?

Question: What is your opinion? Would you prefer this scale over one that gives your weight each and every time? Tell me why or why not.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day!

Today is the day we get to stay home from work, and often we celebrate with an end-of-summer cookout. But, really—is that all there is to Labor Day? I decided to investigate. According to the United States Department of Labor:

"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

Well, OK. Yeah. I knew that. But...why? Why do we celebrate this? Who decided to start such a tradition?

"Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was the first in suggesting a day to honor those 'who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold'."

Huh. But what's with all the parades and brouhaha?

"The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday—a street parade to exhibit to the public 'the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations' of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families."

So there you have it. That's the true meaning of Labor Day. And I do believe, and I think Mr. McGuire would agree with me, that all of this also means you don't have to hit the gym today. 

Question: Are there any Labor Day traditions in your family? How are you celebrating? 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Onward to victory.

Ladies and gentlemen, get excited—football season is here! It's time for tailgates and team colors, fight songs and first downs. It's time for cheerleaders and cheap beer, Vienna beef hot dogs and victory marches. But most importantly, it's time for the boys on our favorite teams to display all of the hard work they've put into their sport. I respect their athleticism and their dedication, and I thank them for giving me something to cheer, cheer for every Saturday—and I most certainly cheer, cheered my heart out yesterday! While my husband traveled to Ann Arbor for the Michigan (ew) game, I went to South Bend to support the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Check out the highlights:

Whether or not you're a football fan, it can be hard to deny the fact that a football player is a great example of someone who is fairly fit. (I mean, could your body handle getting tackled? I didn't think so.) And having been a cheerleader for twelve years myself, I can say for certain that they, too are excellent examples of fit individuals. Let them both inspire you to work harder this season. Do wide-leg squats and touch the ground below to feel like you're part of the line. Lift weights in a side shoulder abduction and imagine they're pompoms. And most importantly, do some sprints and pretend you're moments away from scoring the game-winning touchdown.

Question: Did you watch a football game this weekend? Who are you cheering for this season?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sample Workouts

If you read fitness magazines for exercise advice, or if you consult the internet for workouts, you've probably been inundated with an overabundance of information. To be specific, sample workouts that promise this, that or the other result if completed (insert number) times a week. Not to discredit fitness magazines, the internet or even myself—I want you to realize that some of the workouts you come across are what industry professionals call "cookie-cutter" workouts. Anyone can do them, and so can you, but they might not be precisely what you need and/or love. In essence, it is essential that you try these workouts before you buy into their promises. And that you tweak them accordingly.

Realize that small tweaks and adjustments, substitutions or simplifications will be essential if you want to make strides and experience results. You should consider these workouts excellent starting points onto which you can build truly effective workouts of your very own. I myself have taken a number of great sample workouts from fitness magazines. But after one run, I typically find some way to make them my own. And I'd like to challenge you to do the same.

The following lower body workout is something I do quite frequently, and I'm almost certain some of the elements have appeared in the likes of Oxygen and Women's Health. But at this point, the sets and repetitions, frequency and order are my own. I'm sharing this workout with you today in an effort to inspire variety in your own lower body workouts, so give it a try and see what you think. Remember, what works for me might not necessarily work for you.

1) Stationary Lunges on Balance Disc (1x12/Side)
2) Front Squat Machine (3x10) (50 lbs.)
3) Dead Lifts on BOSU (3x10) (50 lbs.)
4) Box Steps with Exercise Band (x2)
6) Hip Adduction Machine (2x12) (45 lbs.)
7) 3-Way Calf Raises (3x15)

Question: How would you tweak the above to accommodate your needs?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Protein Bombs

I'm obsessed with Whole Foods, as you probably already know. There isn't one around here, so I've taken to reading their blog to get my fix. Quite recently, it linked me to a recipe for something they call Chocolate Earth Balls. I call them Protein Bombs because, well...they contain a lot of protein. Whatever you end up calling them, they're quite possibly the best snack I've consumed in a very, very long time. On top of that, they are extremely easy to make and almost completely adaptable to individual tastes. Check out the original recipe, then take a look at my version.

1/2 cup natural peanut butter
2-1/2 tbsp honey
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup dried cranberries
6 tbsp old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp finely ground almonds
1 tbsp finely ground hazelnuts

Stir peanut butter if necessary, then measure and mix it with the honey and cocoa powder. Add the oats, cranberries and chocolate chips. Mix completely, then cover and chill the bowl for about an hour (give or take). In the meantime, mix the sesame seeds, almonds and hazelnuts in a cereal-size bowl. Once the original bowl is chilled, roll the dough into golf-size balls (you'll get about 9). Then roll each ball in the seed/nut mix until completely coated. Place coated balls on a dinner plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.

See? Told ya it was easy. And totally customizable, right? I opted for peanut butter, but will definitely try almond butter at some point. In fact, I'm pretty sure any nut butter would suffice it. As for the chocolate chips, they're definitely not the healthiest addition. I just couldn't resist, and perhaps next time I'll replace them with coarsely chopped nuts of some sort. Or some additional oatmeal. The options are endless. And endlessly delicious, I'm sure. Now, go make some for yourself!

Question: Will you tweak the recipe above to accommodate your own personal tastes? If so, how?


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