September 2012


I have to mention that I took a lot of breaks this week. I hurt my elbow from the increase in push-ups, then I wasn’t feeling well so was extremely tired another day. I also took the weekend off to just enjoy some time with my husband, and that’s always a good thing!

I didn’t take notes on my workout for the first 3 days, but here is what I did:

Monday:

image source: extremely-fit.com

(Tuesday, Wed. off)

Thursday:

image source: avaxhome.ws

Friday:

(Saturday, Sunday off)

Monday: Max Cardio Conditioning & Cardio Abs
Max Cardio Conditioning was pretty good, I’m getting better at the warm ups (high knees w/arms extended, S-S hops) and Cardio Abs is the same workout from Month 1.

Tuesday: Max Recovery
Like before, the Max Recovery doesn’t include any cardio so you do a lot of stretching before beginning the muscle building segments. Since stretches are always hard for me if my body isn’t warmed up nice and good, I did this in the afternoon rather than morning or lunch time. The exercises were just as difficult but I wasn’t as sore the day after like I was the first time.

Wednesday: Core Cardio & Balance (hooray!)
I was so glad to be doing this routine! It’s from Recovery Week, so it’s not as intense as the new stuff in Month 2, and I felt like a more experienced person because it’s not as tough (but you still get a good workout.)

You know what’s coming up tomorrow? FIT TEST! I’m excited and nervous and just hope I do better than the last time.

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When was my last WIAW post, two weeks ago? And it’s Wednesday AGAIN?? My how time flies!

Jenn at Peas and Crayons continues to show us how great it can be to Fall into Good Habits this month, and the habit of trying new things (such as a delicious Chicken Enchilada recipe I’ll be talking about) can be habitual, especially when you know how much fun it is not only learn something new, but to EAT something new!

But before we hit dinner, let’s start off with a look at my early morning meal. Breakfast is sometimes peanut butter toast but this morning I nibbled on some peanut butter-chocolate chip rice krispies treats I made over the weekend. I used a couple tablespoons of powdered peanut butter, but the flavor wasn’t too strong. I still enjoyed it, though, especially with all those chocolate chips:

A small heart-shaped dish was the mold for these crispy treats.

Lunch was my usual favorite: yogurt bowl mixed with vanilla protein powder, a rib’s worth of finely chopped celery, 1/4 apple, 1/3 mushy banana, and fresh pineapple:

I keep the pineapple stored in a plastic bag and slice off what I need. Stays nice, fresh, and neat!

Experimenting with new recipes can be a good way to break up your usual cooking repertoire, and I enjoy checking out what’s new at REM Cooks. His recipes are delicious and versatile, often making sauces that can be used in two or more recipes. He recently posted a recipe for a deliciously spicy salsa verde, but it was the photos of his chicken enchiladas that won me over. The next day I got all the ingredients I needed and made one of the most delicious and easily scarfed chicken dishes I’ve made in a long time.

Mexican food isn’t something I’ve experimented much with, but this is an easy recipe even if you are not an avid cook. “Some assembly required” is the key here, but all you have to do is read his easy-to-follow directions and you’ll be sitting down to a delicious Mexican dinner in no time. NOTE: the salsa verde recipe is SPICY, so if your’e like me and will grab anything within reach to quench the fire, stick with two serrano chiles for a medium heat (Richard also suggests using the milder jalapeno chile). Or, make it full-strength and have some ice cold cervesas ready and waiting!

These chicken enchiladas are amaaazzzziing!!!

If you are hungry for delicious Mexican food, please try this Chicken Enchilada with Salsa Verde recipe. You can also turn them into tacos:

My two tacos with shredded chicken, refried beans & cheese with salsa verde on the side.

My husband seemed to love it twice as much as I did:

FOUR tacos topped with a medium-spicy salsa verde.

In addition to these four tasty tacos, he also ate one cold leftover enchilada, which I was hoping to save for lunch the next day. Oh, well. :(

With the chilly autumn weather we’ve been having recently (low 30s this morning!) these heat-packing enchiladas and tacos will definitely be on my regular menu rotation. What are some of your favorite spicy comfort foods? (We also love  pho, and miss eating at Ha Long in Kalihi!)

Welcome to this month’s 23 Paws, brought to you by Cinnamon of Eat, Pray, Tri!

Every 23rd of the month pet lovers everywhere are welcome to link up their blogs to share stories about their pet. Don’t have a pet but love animals? No problem! All animal lovers are welcome, so come on and link up!

We have three cats and I love them all, but you can’t really feel true love for your pet unless you experience the frustrations that come with animal ownership…even more so with cat ownership. And our cats have been a bit buggy lately.

Wolfie has been waking up extra-early to make sure we get up in time to feed him. About 5:30 am he starts racing in and out of the bedroom, tearing up the carpet and chasing imaginary chipmunks back and forth, back and forth. When I finally come down to the kitchen and settle down in front of my laptop, he’s in my face reminding me about his breakfast:

feed meee…..

But despite their regular meals and occasional snacks, we’ve been finding some “leftover dinner” on the kitchen floor, living room floor, and in our bedroom. I don’t know if it’s because they’re more antsy and fighty lately, or if they are not liking the food as much as they used to. The only difference in their diet has been the addition of tuna fish cat food, but I swear they love the stuff!

They call that stuff tuna?! Bleeechh!!!

But most of the time they’re nice and quiet, and just hang around doing cat stuff, like napping:

Trixie getting comfy

Hiding in the flowers:

You don’t see me!

Making shadow puppets:

You don’t see me–again!

And ignoring potentially dangerous pests:

Sorry, I don’t do rubber roaches!

But no matter how independent they are, we will always find a way to have fun with them:

How to embarrass your cat: wear him as a hat.

See you at the next 23 Paws!

This month’s Recipe Redux theme is something pretty interesting, it’s all about fermented foods!

Have you grown up eating something that you didn’t know was good for you? Sure there are healthy dishes like baked potatoes with steamed broccoli & cheese, roasted chicken and veggies, or a nice chef’s salad. One of my favorite Japanese foods was a simple soup made with miso paste and garnished with green onion and tofu. Japanese restaurants always serve this with your meal, but homemade versions of miso soup can have dried shrimp, pieces of chicken or beef, a raw egg stirred into the steaming broth (like Chinese egg flower soup) or it can be made into a hearty meal with pearl barley, carrots, and konbu (see my recipe here). It’s also eaten for breakfast! Better than a bowl of cereal, miso soup is gluten-free, vegan, contains probiotics to keep your gut healthy, is low in fat and calories, and even contains protein, vitamins and minerals. (The ingredients of Shirakiku brand shiro miso contains water, soybeans, rice, salt, and alcohol.)

Turkey and Vegetable Seaweed Soup uses chicken broth and white miso.

After doing some reading, I now know a little more about the benefits behind this savory soy-based paste. Probiotics are the gut-friendly bacteria that help maintain the integrity of the stomach lining, break down food, and boost our immune systems. These little critters are found in fermented foods like miso, kimchee (Korean pickled cabbage), tsukemono (Japanese pickles), sauerkraut, dill pickles, and yogurt. Though bacteria might seem indestructible when you’re trying to get rid of it, they can be destroyed with antibiotics, a poor diet, or stress, and this leads to an increase in the unfriendly bacteria that causes gas, bloating, cramps, and…well, you probably know what I’m talking about! But as long as we have a good amount of probiotics in our gut, it will be easier to stay healthy and function like the happy humans we were born to be.

Another way to ensure a good supply of gut-friendly bacteria is to eat yogurt. Check the label to be sure it contains live active cultures.

Here is an easy recipe for chicken that is marinated overnight and cooked in just minutes. For an easy clean-up, use a foil lined pan or do what I do and improvise!

Easy Miso Chicken (serves 2)

1/2 cup shiro (white) miso paste
1/2 cup sake (Japanese rice wine)
1 teaspoon white or brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 chicken breasts or 4 chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
sesame oil
several pieces green onion (about 1/4 cup chopped)

Directions:

Combine miso, sake, sugar, and pepper flakes in a bowl, mix with a wire whisk until combined. Reserve half of marinade and store in tightly sealed container in refrigerator. Add chicken, coat well. Cover with plastic wrap or store in a plastic container with lid, refrigerate overnight.

Pan-fry Method: Heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade, letting excess drip off. Fry chicken pieces for 3 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Top with reserved marinade and let simmer for a minute or two before serving. Garnish with chopped green onion.

No pan? Use heavy-duty foil or double-up regular foil, fold the edges up to form a shallow dish and pinch the edges. Place on a pizza pan or cookie sheet when baking. Use foil to store leftover chicken or toss when done.

Oven Method: Drizzle sesame oil in a shallow baking dish lined with foil, add chicken and marinade, making sure chicken is in one layer. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 7 minutes or until top is starting to brown. Remove and set oven to broil. Top with reserved marinade, return to oven and broil for 3-5 minutes or until top begins to scorch (but don’t let the whole thing scorch!) Garnish with chopped green onion.

Serve on a bed of fresh spinach with steamed brown rice and kimchee or tsukemono.

Easy miso chicken

Here are more recipes using miso:

Panko Crusted Chicken Strips
Miso-Lemon Dressing
Miso Quinoa Salad (use Miso-Lemon Dressing above)
Turkey and Vegetable Seaweed Soup (shown above and featured in May’s Recipe Redux)
For more information on the health benefits of miso, check out this great article at The World’s Healthiest Foods : http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=114.

Want to know more on probiotics and Asian fermented foods?

Kimchi and probiotics: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/grace-suh-coscia-lac-diplom/fermented-foods_b_1220756.html
A mouth-watering guide to Japanese pickleshttp://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2349.html
7 Benefits of probiotics: http://www.3fatchicks.com/7-benefits-of-probiotics/
Facts on my yogurt of choicehttp://chobani.com/products/faq/



Monday: Fit Test, Max Interval Plyo – Whipped, Tired

I forgot what it felt like on the first day of Insanity. Today was a very, VERY good reminder. But before I talk about the first workout…Fit Test Results!!!

Good…good…ooh, really good!…what the heck?!

Power Jumps seem to be my kryptonite, I just get weaker and weaker.

A gradual improvement, but low plank obliques were the same.

I was hoping I’d kick butt with the Fit Test, but it seemed more like a friendly pat of encouragement you give to someone who did less than ‘wow’. And look how I got progressively worse with Power Jumps…what gives??

The Fit Text is exhausting enough, adding the one hour Max Interval Plyo on top of it will kick, whip, and hand your butt right back to you! I definitely felt like it was the first day of Insanity. I couldn’t keep up with a LOT of the routines, my quads were super tired from the Fit Text and I felt like I couldn’t get a deep enough breath after doing switch kicks so had to rest, stretch and massage my midsection.

Tuesday: Max Interval Circuit – Body Aches & Watching Your Form

My body is aching like crazy today. My lats, my hips, my obliques…I couldn’t believe how tired I was after yesterday’s workout. And how hungry! Even after dinner I snacked on some chocolate candy my in-laws brought, corn chips, half a Snickers bar, and more chips (sweet-salty-sweet-salty.)

The warm-ups for Max Interval Circuit is what some of the regular exercises in Month 1. Shaun T is right when he says:

Shaun T and his gang are incredible, and since this month’s workout is even more intense they are using the “buddy system” to motivate each other by keeping pace with each other and offering more encouragement, which is super helpful even though I’m alone in my living room.

There are a lot more push-up exercises in this DVD and it’s just like starting all over. And just like the first few days of month 1, I need to be careful of maintaining proper form because it’s so easy to get an injury if you’re not careful. What Shaun T says about keeping your abs contracted goes far in preventing injuries. And in addition to more push-ups and squats, Shaun T also introduces more balancing exercises.

I know I’m doing better. I  And I could even put on a pair of pants I couldn’t fit into since last November. Now that’s the REAL test of progressing toward your goal!

Wednesday: Max Cardio
This isn’t like the nonstop cardio from Month 1 because there’s breaks in between each set.

Thursday: Max Recovery – more like max strength training!
I don’t know why this is called Max Recovery. There’s no cardio, you start off doing some deep stretching, then do some serious strength training. It hurts like hell because I don’t have a good warm-up to get the blood flowing. Next time I’ll do this towards the afternoon so my body won’t have to do a cold start.

Friday: Max Interval Circuit
I could hardly sleep. My hip flexors were incredibly sore from yesterday’s workout. I took aspirin before sleeping, but that didn’t help. I stretched my quads & massage the hip area, but I was so uncomfortable. This morning I woke up with a back ache and hip aches, but after a while they went away.

Today’s workout went much better than Monday’s because I didn’t have to do the fit test first! But this whole week my appetite has increased and I am craving savory stuff like meats and lot of carbs, like chocolate, crackers, and chips. It’s about that time of the month, and I’m glad the workouts are longer to at least offset some of the extra calories I’m scarfing.

Saturday: Max Interval Plyo – Second Attempt
I forgot to write about this the day I did it and am actually writing my comment a week later! All I can say is that it feels much better doing this exercise when you don’t have to do the Fit Test first. :)

Recovery Week is all about doing the exercises at a slightly slower pace. “Core Cardio and Balance” allows you to focus on your abs on routines that are more about strength than cardio. You still get a good sweat and your heart rate gets going, but as Shaun T points out, you’re not supposed to be burnt out by the end of the workout.

With my in-laws visiting, my Recovery Week actually lasted ten days because I took more breaks than usual. I did 2 consecutive days of workouts, followed by workouts every other day. I also snuck in one day of Cardio Power and Resistance in the middle of my recovery week because I felt like I had to get some excess energy out of my system!

There is not much variation from one day to the next for me, but it was a wonderful change from the challenge of the past four weeks…with the slowed-down pace, I almost felt like I could match my pace with everyone on the DVD. There are still some challenging exercises depending on your level of strength and flexibility (like the one below was for me):

Your leg stays up and you bend at the knee…less cardio but just as tough! Image source: http://www.fitbomb.com.

My favorite move was the last one, because for me it was the “easiest” to do. With Hip Flexor Burners you are in a low pliet, arms extended straight out, and you move your arms up and down slowly (like slo mo flapping,) but keep your shoulders still. You then move your arms forward so they’re straight out in front of you, then straight out to the side, maintaining a low pliet. There are more arm movements, and this really work your shoulders AND your quads, but Leah Sarago’s Ballet Body workouts as well as Jazzercise’s Ballet Body helped with these moves:

For two minutes you maintain this pliet position while doing various straight arm movements. Great for the shoulders, quads, abs, and lower back. Image source: http://www.buildahardbody.com.

Anticipating Month 2 of Insanity…pretty nervous & excited! And the next Fit Test is coming up, wish me luck! :)

Happy WIAW!!! My apologies for the lack of food posts, I only had time to post my Insanity workouts (which are actually written 2 weeks in advance) and my husband’s parents are visiting from Germany! Our first official house guests in our new home, and it’s pretty fun and exciting. But in addition to receiving guests, we were also able to meet up with some newlywed friends from Hawaii, who moved to Germany, who were visiting family in Boston.

This month’s WIAW theme is making us Fall into Good Habits. Jenn at Peas and Crayons kicked it off with some incredibly delicious-looking photos of her healthy eating, and be sure to check out what other bloggers have to share as they take the fall, all in the name of habitual goodness!

I’m going to be sharing some stuff I did the past couple of weeks, and one good habit to have is to have FUN! We met up with friends at Catamount Adventure Park, located an hour’s drive south of Albany. We spent a good 4 hours testing our physical prowess and conquering our fear of heights (or should I say our fear of falling!) as we enjoyed traversing swinging bridges, pinky-thin cables and zooming across the forest on zippy zip lines!

View of the main platform where you start.

My friend balancing on the high wire!

My husband coming up the swing-like steps.

Zip lining!

We would definitely do this all over again so for any of our Hawaii friends that wanna visit Upstate NY during the summer, be prepared to be dragged to Catamount Adventure Park!

Later on we enjoyed some much anticipated and long awaited Vietnamese food at Vans in downtown Albany:

I had the Vietnamese pancake filled with veggies, my husband had beef pho (I couldn’t finish it.)

On Saturday we picked up my husband’s parents who are visiting from Germany. Since the airport was 3 hours away, we took advantage of this special trip to Newark and stopped at Ikea, The Wine Library, Costco (just to cash in on our reward$) and Sephora. We came home about 1am…and look at all the goodies they brought us!

Chocolates…..

28 bars of chocolate, 1 huge bar of Ritter Sport, two bags of daim chocolate clusters.

…and beer!

12 bottles of Augustiner…matches the glasses we brought back on our last visit.

Indulging in chocolates and beer may not be the best for this month’s theme of “Falling into Good Habits,” but gift-giving certainly can!

Another good habit you can fall into is to share a favorite recipe with friends and family. My in-laws cooked some dinner for us last week. This one is a rich, creamy, delicious avocado sauce with pieces of pork served with rice. My mother-in-law made this with chicken a couple of times, but the pork tastes much better:

Here is a dish I call “Quark Cakes” because I keep forgetting the German name, Quarkkäulchen. My father-in-law enjoyed it as a child and it’s one of those comfort foods that will sure to bring back cozy memories.

Some of us may be familiar with this kind of Quark:

Or even this kind:

But it’s actually made with this delicious creamy stuff:

Quark is a type of soft cheese, almost like cream cheese in texture as well as flavor. Here is the recipe for Quark Pancakes, or Quarkkäulchen. It’s rich and filling, and can be enjoyed with fruits for breakfast or with a green salad for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Quarkkäulchen have a soft, tender texture dotted with sweet raisins and a lightly sweetened batter, all contained within the crispness of the golden fried dough. Topped with a light sprinkling of sugar, Quarkkäulchen is an indulgent comfort food.

Quarkkäulchen, with and without sugar.

Quarkkäulchen
This recipe is courtesy of my father-in-law, who had the pleasure of enjoying his mother prepare it for him as a child…with lots of sugar and love. :)

Ingredients:
250 g yellow potatoes or red potatoes, boiled, peeled & cooled overnight
90 g flour, more if needed
1/2 tablespoon salt
50g sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top
250 g quark
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup raisins
vegetable oil for frying

Directions (I have to make this up, since it wasn’t included in the hand-written recipe!)
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and sugar. With a potato ricer, process potatoes into bowl (alternatively you could probably use a pastry cutter to break apart potatoes into very small pieces.) Stir well. Add quark and eggs and stir to combine. Dough will be really sticky, like thick pancake batter. Add raisins and stir gently to combine.

Heat about 1/4″ vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. On a large cookie sheet, sprinkle flour and keep about 1/2 cup flour in a dish nearby. Flour hands and begin to form dough into small cakes (or patties) about the size of your palm and the thickness of your thumb. Place on floured cookie sheet.

When oil is hot, carefully add patties to the skillet using a large wooden or metal spatula. Cook on one side for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or until golden brown. Using two spatulas, carefully turn patties over, being careful not to splash oil (I actually splashed myself on the neck and arm!) Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes more or until golden brown. Transfer to paper towel-lined rack or plate and repeat with remaining cakes. Change oil if it gets too dirty.

Sprinkle patties with more sugar and serve hot. Bon Appetit!

Soft, tender Quarkkäulchen dotted with raisins.

Most of us think of healthy eating and exercise when asked about having good habits. But what else can be a good habit? How about randomly picking up trash and disposing it properly? Spontaneously doing jumping jacks when you feel lethargic? Brushing your hairy cats so they don’t make tumbleweed-hairballs all over the living room? That sounds like a good habit to pick up. Will I stick to it? Only if it becomes a habit. ;)

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