After two months of doing a lot of lounging and no exercising, I decided to get some prenatal DVDs to help get me back into shape. I know I couldn’t go back to “Insanity!” and could do a little bit of Jazzercise, but it’s best to get something specifically for expectant mothers.

Here are three prenatal DVDs I got through Amazon. I looked for reviews that said they got a good workout, had fun, and felt the exercises were safe. I also wanted something good for beginners,  and (though this may not come to mind when selecting an exercise DVD,) choosing DVDs that had good quality camera work can make a BIG difference in how you enjoy your workout. You want to clearly see and hear the instructor as well as music in the background. I also wanted something affordable, so weeded out the ones that were too pricey. (Like a good wine, you CAN find something good for under twenty bucks! ;))

What to Expect When You're Expecting - Workout

What to Expect When You’re Expecting
$12.46 on Amazon.com

Why I got it: cardio

The Good: easy cardio for 2nd trimester that gives you a good workout without leaving you exhausted. Strength portion is easy to follow for beginners and intermediate levels (you’ll need a pair of 2lb-3lb weights.) Stretching is easy and relaxing. Instructors remind you to watch your form, breathe, and don’t overdo anything.

The Bad: Cardio portion: some of the cues are not early enough, a couple times the instructor starts off on the left rather than right or misses a step. Strength portion:  Switching between moves too quick, and I think she could hold the poses for a few seconds longer. There are three ladies exercising, one instructor and two mommies, and they all have headset mikes. During the cardio section the mommies get kinda giggly, and it gets distracting after a while. But, I guess it’s good that they’re having fun. :)

The Awesome: customizable workout! You can select which segment you want to do in any order. The first day I chose all 3 cardio workouts and the cool-down. There’s a brief 30-second narration in-between by the author of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” a good time to get a drink of water or get out your yoga mat for the cool-down segment.

Amira's Belly Dance & Yoga For Pregnancy Prenatal Exercise

Amira’s Prenatal Belly Dancing and Yoga
$15.89 on Amazon.com

Why I got it: for fun (belly dancing moves)

The Good: Workout consists of: 5 segments: yoga stretching, strengthening, belly dancing, labor exercises, yoga cool-down stretch. In addition, there is also some narration and brief cutaways on belly dancing and yoga before and during the segments, which I found helpful in learning more about the importance of what yoga and belly dancing is all about, as well as the important role it plays in easing your pregnancy.I love her gentle demeanor! She does a voice-over during the routines, so it’s easier to  follow along with her movements. She shows you alternative moves and cautions against certain moves if you are 30 weeks or more into pregnancy (I forgot how far along she is, but she also looks about 30 weeks pregnant, maybe even more.)

The Bad: The only bad thing I have to say is that skipping to the next section takes a few seconds too long…I think I was just too anxious to get to the routines!

The Awesome: I really like the music she uses in the background. Bonus features include an intro to yoga and belly dancing by Amira, so you get to learn a little about what you’re doing and why. There’s also a short clip with her “spoofs”, kinda cute! She also changes clothes for each segment, and during the belly dancing routine she wears some nice jewelry and a sash that makes it more like a belly dancing outfit (wish I had one!)

Results: after 2 workouts focusing on just warm-up, strengthening and cool-down, I had NO problems with having tight hip flexors at night! Sometimes I’d wake up and massage my hips or back until the muscles relaxed and I could fall asleep again. Her stretches were so incredibly helpful, I wish I knew about this years ago.

Jane Austin Prenatal Yoga DVD

Jane Austin’s Prenatal Yoga
$17.95 on amazon.com

Why I got it: focus on yoga

The Good: Jane is not pregnant in this video but has 4 mamas working out with her. She has a very pleasant and calming voice, is friendly and does a good job of explaining the moves both in technical terms and in fun terms (in reference to doing hip circles she says, “Babies don’t like ‘Buns of Steel’, they like juicy hips!”)

The Bad: It’s a 63-minute yoga session, and it would be great if there were a 30-minute option.

The Awesome: Results, of course! It really helps with back aches and improving flexibility.

 

Any expectant mamas out there with a favorite workout? How about a pre- or post-workout snack?

ahhh...heavenly!

ahhh…heavenly!

A few days ago I got one of those warehouse-sized 4-flavor packs of cupcakes–and I had no problem putting them in my pregnant belly. There were coconut, red velvet, carrot and double-chocolate cakes, all deliciously moist, but topped with incredibly sugary frostings. Though they look almost too pretty to eat (almost) and I love variety packs of anything, making my own cakes give me the option of using more of the healthy ingredients and less of the not-so-healthy ones. I already have a delicious recipe for carrot apple ginger cake, so all I needed was a nice frosting to go with it.

Lemons to enhance and balance
I love using lemons in a lot of dishes, sweet or savory. Store bought cream cheese frosting is pretty sweet, so I used only a tablespoon of powdered sugar, left out the butter and relied on vanilla soy milk to add some flavor. The lemon juice rounded out that sugar and gave it a nice tarty sweetness. Adding lemon zest or orange zest made it fragrant and just about perfect!

My internet was down all day Tuesday, so what better time than to try this out? Enjoy!

Carrot apple ginger cake topped with creame cheese frosting and orange zest

Carrot apple ginger cake topped with creame cheese frosting and orange zest


Cream Cheese Frosting with Lemon or Orange Zest
You can also substitute goat cheese for the cream cheese.

Ingredients:
8oz block 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened (about 20 min at room temp.)
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla soy or almond milk
juice of 1 lemon, about 2-3 tablespoons
zest of 2 lemons or oranges, reserving 1 tablespoon

Directions:
In a small bowl, use a fork and mash cheese with powdered sugar. Stir in soy or almond milk and lemon juice, combine until smooth. If still lumpy, let sit for 5 minutes and stir again. Stir in lemon or orange zest. Spread frosting over cakes, top with reserved fresh lemon or orange zest.

At 17 weeks pregnant I’m trying to be more conscious of choosing foods that have more nutritional bang for your buck. Of course, not everything that goes down my gut is 100% good-for-you food (I like Burger King’s breakfast combo: bacon & egg muffin sammies with those golden hash brown coins…yummm!) but I do try and make the extra effort when it comes to home-prepped meals, particularly with breakfast.

Why Shimmy When You Can Shake?
During my second month of pregnancy I started eating tons of fruit high in Vitamin C (pineapple, oranges, strawberries, kiwi) and drinking lots of ice water, which I never really enjoyed (it had to be hot or room temp with lemon. For some reason, my stomach didn’t like plain/cold water.) Seeing how I needed more water and a lot of nutrients for the growing baby, I figured the best way would be to introduce shakes into my diet. They’re easy to prepare, you can make a big batch to last several days, and the flavors are delicious!

Natural (Ingredient) Selection
First off, I know dairy is not my friend. Milk bloats me up and makes me tired, so I use either soy or almond milk or both  (NOTE: almond milk has no protein, so consider adding a protein boost of some kind when making your breakfast shakes.)

Next, I like the versatility tofu. After doing the “How to Tofu” challenge in October, I learned quite a bit about this food, and learning that it contained plant estrogens that may help with hot flashes was what I needed to combat my night sweats. (waking up at 2 a.m. in a 55 degree bedroom drenched in sweat is no fun, because as soon as that cold air hits you–brrr!)

Of course, shakes have to be nice and thick. Lots of you may have enjoyed Overnight Oats where you soak your oatmeal in milk in the fridge overnight and eat it for breakfast the next morning. Adding a bit of oatmeal to your shake will do a nice job of thickening it up, especially if you let it sit for a day or two.

Finally, I needed some flavor. Chocolate? You bet! Orange? Of course! Berries? Fiber- and vitamin-rich, how can you go wrong? But don’t stop there, you got peanut butter, banana, peach, coconut, pineapple, vanilla, apple, passion fruit, pumpkin…just think of those delicious frozen yogurt flavors and you’ll come up with something creative and delicious!

The Results?
Thick, creamy, flavorful, and filled with lots of good stuff for you and your baby (if you got one in there!) These shakes are around 300 calories each and I try to make it so you get 10 grams of protein in per serving.

Basic Tofu Shake Mix
Incredibly easy!

1 box Mori-Nu Silken Lite Tofu
2 tablespoons light agave syrup
3 tablespoons (1/4 cup) oatmeal
12-16 oz light vanilla soy milk
4 oz coconut milk (or use more soy milk)

Directions: Add everything to a blender and mix on medium speed until combined. Use one of the flavor variations below or make your own. Refrigerate unused portion for up to 5 days.

Now this shake says, "Good morning!"

Now this shake says “Good morning!”

Orange Bang Protein Shake
Reminiscent of those whipped fruit drinks served at gas stations and Orange Julius’s everywhere!

Ingredients:
Half recipe of tofu shake mix (recipe above)
2-3 tablespoons frozen concentrated orange juice
½ scoop vanilla protein powder (I use Vitacost Soy Protein Powder, vanilla flavor)
zest from 1 orange (eat the orange after zesting, it’s good for you!)
Crushed ice
additional water to thin

Directions: Mix everything in blender on medium speed until combined, adding additional water to thin, if necessary. Pour into glass and enjoy.

Mixed Berry Shake
Fresh and fruity, but watch out for seeds if you’re using raspberries or blackberries!

Ingredients:
¾ cup frozen mixed berries
Half recipe of Tofu shake mix (recipe above)
additional water or vanilla almond or soy milk
additional agave syrup or stevia

Directions: Add frozen strawberries or mixed berries to blender FIRST and blend on medium speed until chopped finely, turning off motor and scraping down sides as necessary. Add tofu shake mix and blend until combined, thinning with water or almond or soy milk. Pour into glass and enjoy.

This shake gets its thickness from tofu and oatmeal!

Orange zest is perfect to brighten up the heavier chocolate flavor.

Chocolate Orange Protein Shake (my favorite!)
I love letting this sit in the fridge for a day or two because it gets extra thick

Ingredients:
Half recipe of tofu shake mix
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
Zest of 1 orange (eat the orange after zesting, it’s good for you!)
additional vanilla almond or soy milk
additional agave syrup or stevia

Directions: add tofu shake mix to blender and start on low speed. Open chute and add cocoa powder through zest. Add almond or soy milk to thin out and sweeten with additional agave syrup or stevia, if necessary. Pour into glass and enjoy.

So what’s your favorite way to shake up your breakfast and snacks?

The last couple of months has been a little difficult to come up with new recipes to share, or to even post about anything food-related. I’ve been feeling incredibly tired, my appetite has changed drastically, I haven’t been able to maintain my regular exercise schedule, and even walking up the stairs would send my heart racing like I just did a one-minute sprint.

I am told that all this will change and I’ll start feeling better…

…at least for a few months until I hit my third trimester!

Yep, as of today I am 12 weeks pregnant! My husband and I will be expecting our first child in August!

Here’s the little wonder that’s been making me so uncomfortable, yet so happy:

1-22-13_11_weeks_4_daysb

Crazy Cravings!

I went through several phases of food cravings, the longest lasting being vitamin C-packed fruits like strawberries, pineapple, kiwis and oranges. I also had a sudden craving for hamburgers (and I normally avoid red meats since it sits in my stomach like a lump of…well, meat!) and even had a sudden hunger (or thirst?) for vinegar.

I did make some recipes to satisfy my taste buds, though:

Strawberry_Pie_1

Fresh Strawberry Pie – ooh, this hit the spot! Sweet, slightly tart, and juicy!

Apple Fennel Salad with Raisins – One day I had a strong craving for vinegar. I sliced up some Granny Smiths, drizzled it with a bit of agave syrup and drowned it with apple cider vinegar. I don’t know what it is about vinegar, it’s sour and salty but refreshing! Strangely enough, I started sweating like I just ate a jalapeno (any clues as to why this happened?) but it really hit the spot.

Kal Bi

Kal-Bi (Korean BBQ Short Ribs) – This was one of the few meat dishes I really enjoyed, pre-preggers. Sweet, salty, garlicky, and with bits of burnt fat…yum!!! Sure it’s not on the top ten list of healthiest foods, but a couple pieces were enough to make me a happy camper.

Spicy Rice Noodle Soup_1

Vietnamese-Style Rice Noodle Soup with Fish – My husband and I have been homesick for foods commonly found in Hawaii (like Kal-Bi.) So when we discovered the only Vietnamese restaurant in town (Pho Nhu-Y) we’ve been eating there every weekend. I made this soup the day after we had pho, partly because I was still hungry for pho, and also because I needed something for this month’s Recipe Redux. :)

Have any of you had weird cravings, pregnant or not? Got a recipe to share?

This month’s Recipe Redux theme couldn’t come at a better time. With temperatures dropping to the teens and snow still on the ground, a nice, hot batch of savory homemade soup is perfect to ward off the bitter chill. The challenge is to use a ‘new’ food trend in a soup or one-dish meal, so after looking at a few lists online, I decided to include a couple ingredients from the 2013 food trends from Bon Appetit and Fox News.

Spice is Nice
Soup is good food, but soup with some red hot chili peppers will warm you up a lot quicker! Adding gochujang, a Korean red chili paste to soups not only turns up the heat but adds a rich and savory flavor thanks to fermented soybeans. Use this paste sparingly in place of tabasco or Sriracha, and you’ll find the flavors of your dishes have taken on a whole new level.

Vegged Out
Kale is one of my favorite veggies for its neutral taste, high nutrition and low calories. From smoothies to soups, add kale to your dishes for extra helpings of fiber, vitamins and minerals (see the quick-reference nutrient chart at The World’s Healthiest Foods.) Serve water-sauteed kale with your bacon and eggs, add a handful to your favorite protein smoothie, or massage it with some salt and serve it as a raw side dish. Any way you serve it up, you’ll benefit from this nutritious powerhouse.

Soup’s On!
I have to admit, this soup changed directions as I was making it, and it was mostly influenced by my recent cravings for Vietnamese pho (rice noodle soup.) Fresh parsley and lime help balance the savory saltiness from the gochujang and a little bit of fish sauce. (My husband says it reminds him of Tom Yum Goong, a spicy Thai soup.)

This soup will take less than 30 minutes from prep time to meal time. If you can’t find the Japanese radish daikon, you can use thinly-sliced jicama, which is fairly neutral-tasting. If you don’t have Napa cabbage use all kale.

Spicy Rice Noodle Soup_1

Vietnamese-Style Rice Noodle Soup with Fish, serves 2
If you like pho or tom yum goong, you’ll enjoy making this quick soup at home.

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon (I used Saigon cinnamon—potent stuff!)
1″ ginger, peeled and sliced
6 ounces white fish cut into chunks
32 oz. chicken broth
2 servings (4 oz.) dry rice noodles (feel free to use either thin rice vermicelli or thicker pad thai noodles)
1 cup sliced daikon
1 ½ cups chopped kale
1 cup chopped Napa cabbage
1/3 – 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, stems and all
2 teaspoons Gochujang (NOTE: use 1 teaspoon if you’re not into spice, more if you are!)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as Three Crabs)

Garnish:

Fresh parsley leaves
Fresh tofu, cut into ½” cubes
Lime wedges

Directions:

Over medium heat in a large stock pot, stir sesame oil, 5 spice and ginger, heat for 1 minute. Add  fish, stirring to help cook evenly, about 4-5 minutes. Add half of chicken broth, increase heat and bring to a boil. Add remaining broth and dry rice noodles. Add daikon, kale, Napa cabbage and parsley. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in gochujang and fish sauce, heat for 1 more minute.

Divide soup between two large bowls. Top with thinly sliced onion, parsley, tofu and lime wedge. Serve immediately.

Some of these “new” food trends may already be familiar in your kitchen, but it’s also a good way to learn more about foods you may not have tried before, or even heard of.

Speaking of which, check out what other Reduxers have made with their own food trend choices.

Do you have a favorite trendy (or just popular) food at a restaurant? Have you ever tried making it at home? How’d it turn out?



Apple_Cake_2

Topped with fresh apples and tart lemon sauce that soaks into the not-too-sweet cake.

This is a modified version of an apple cake recipe from the book, Cook Right 4 Your Type, a book that teaches about eating according to your blood type. It’s filled with a lot of great recipes and lists of foods that you should eat or avoid according to your blood type (A, B, AB, or O). I’ve tried this diet a few years ago and it certainly has helped reduce my fatigue, get rid of the constant bloated feeling I always had (even after eating only half the food on my plate), and drop a few pounds without having to count calories.

This version of the Blood Type Diet’s apple cake has a blend of flours, the addition of yogurt, and brown sugar instead of white  in the batter. I made a few other tweaks to enhance the flavor and texture without making it too sweet. This cake would be a wonderful alternative to a breakfast muffin and is terrific with afternoon tea. The fresh apples and tart lemon flavor are perfect with a touch of cinnamon and tastes great while still piping hot from the oven.

Apple_Cake_1

Invert the cake onto a plate and serve while still steaming.

Upside Down Apple Cake, serves 9
If you don’t have oat or buckwheat flour you can just use spelt or all-purpose flour

Ingredients:

1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided (make sure it’s nice and fragrant!)
1/2 cup nonfat Greek-style yogurt (like Chobani)
1/2 cup vanilla almond or soy milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
zest from 1 lemon
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a square 9″x9″ baking dish or round cake pan, melt butter in oven.

While butter is melting, combine dry flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Remove baking dish from oven, pour in 1/4 cup melted butter and leave the rest in dish. Combine with a wire whisk.

Make a well in center of dry ingredients, pour in wet ingredients, fold with a spatula to combine, do not over mix.

Arrange sliced apples on bottom of buttered baking dish in overlapping pattern. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Drizzle lemon juice over apples.

Gently pour cake batter into pan, ensuring all apple slices are covered. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted halfway in center of cake comes out clean. Enjoy immediately.

Happy New Year, and Happy WIAW!

It’s the first WIAW of the new year, be sure to check out what Jenn at Peas and Crayons and other bloggers are featuring today, you just might find some inspiration in their delicious foodie features!

I’m not really great at making New Year’s resolutions. I do like to make short-term goals (particularly with exercising) which seem to be more attainable for me. If I had to make one for the whole year, I’d say my resolution will be what I strive to do most days of the week: eat healthy and exercise!

My daily meals have been a bit mediocre and sporadic, but I finally have a couple of recipes that I felt were a change from the norm and a great way to share a couple of Hawaii-style comfort foods. But before we get to that, here’s what I’ve been ingesting for breakfast and lunch the past few days:

Yogurt_Smoothie_Strawberry_Orange_Banana

Yep, yogurt smoothies! My digestion has been a bit off, so I needed something that would be easy on the stomach but still be nutritious. This morning’s concoction consisted of frozen OJ, fresh strawberries, half a frozen banana, unsweetened almond milk and protein powder. I get about 20-25 grams of protein, half of my calcium requirements, and a fair amount of fiber from the fruits. Plus, it tastes like a strawberry-orange bang!

Now, on to New Year’s Eve dinner!

We went over to my brother-in-law’s parents’ house and brought some Hawaii-style food with us. My sister made somen salad (cold Japanese noodles topped with shredded lettuce, kamaboko (fishcake) thin slices of egg, and sauce),  shu mai (pork dumplings), sushi rice (sushi ingredients in a layered casserole form), potato-macaroni salad, manapua (char siu bao or meat buns), and suman or bud-bud, a Filipino sticky rice dessert cooked with coconut milk and palm sugar. My brother-in-law made a HUGE venison neck roast that was incredibly tender and just fell of the bone like nobody’s business! I made egg rolls, kal bi (Korean bbq short ribs), and potato macaroni salad (this plus rice is a staple in Hawaii plate lunches).

Me, grilling in the New Year!

Me, grilling in the New Year!

Somen Salad Sushi Rice

Front to back: somen salad, sushi rice, potato mac salads, egg rolls.

Manapua

Manapua (char siu bao or meat buns). Tastes pretty close to the ones you can get in downtown Honolulu!

Venison neck roast

Super tender venison neck roast.

Kal Bi

Kal Bi short ribs!

I don’t know how familiar you guys are with beef short ribs, but here is the cut that you want to use to make the kal bi:

Wegman’s didn’t have them, but Sam’s Club did here in Upstate New York. Other places might have a chunk of short rib meat the size of your fist, but that’s better for braising, not barbecuing! Be sure to get this cut. If you can’t find it, that’s okay. The marinade will work for whatever cut of meat you have for grilling, even for seasoning and basting burgers!

Kal Bi (Korean style barbecue)
Marinade great for bone-in chicken thighs, too

3 lbs short ribs, 1/2″ thick, thinner if you can get ’em
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup sugar
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes

Directions:

In a large pan, soak ribs in water for 15 minutes. In a 2 cup measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, sugar, garlic, onion, sesame oil and chili pepper flakes.

Rinse ribs and place in a clean baking dish, no more than 2 layers high. Stir marinade and pour over ribs. Refrigerate overnight, flipping ribs around so all pieces get their fair share of marinade.

Cook ribs over a grill until medium, about 3-4 minutes each side for 1/2″ thick slices. Top with chopped green onion, serve with steamed white rice and potato mac salad.

This recipe is for the one in the back (w/out olives).

This recipe is for the one in the back (w/out olives) but you can top it however you like.

Potato Mac Salad
this version has a tangy flavor thanks to mustard, dill, and vinegar

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon salt
2 lbs white or red potatoes
1/2 cup elbow macaroni or pasta shells
2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 cup frozen peas
3 hard-boiled eggs*

Directions:

Boil potatoes in salted water, skin-on, for 30 minutes. Remove from water and let cool. Add macaroni to water and boil according to package directions. Drain, rinse in cool water and set aside. When potatoes have cooled down, remove skins and dice into 1/2″ chunks.

In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, celery salt, vinegar, and dill. Add potatoes and macaroni, stirring well to coat. Give it a taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Add frozen peas and stir to combine. Top with sliced egg and serve. Can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

*To get nice, yellow yolks for hard-boiled eggs: put eggs in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat immediately, cover and let sit for 12 minutes. Rinse in cool water, remove shells and slice.

So…what are you New Year’s resolutions? Did you stick to the ones you made last year?

Be sure to check out what other foodies are featuring on Jen’s WIAW right here!