Curry Chicken Salad (including dairy free option)

During our time living in Mexico City, we happened upon this little French bistro that had this AMAZING curried chicken salad with a cranberry chutney. Words can’t express my love for this salad; It became my pregnancy craving for munchkin #1. When we moved back to the states a few months later and I was pregnant with munchkin #2, I started with the crazy cravings again. After much fiddling with the recipe, I came up with my own version that satisfied my craving but also was a bit healthier. It has since become a client and family favorite! 

This salad has no mayonnaise, is packed with veggies and can be simplified by using a rotisserie chicken… because honestly who can resist those $5 gems. I get one every week at the store. Every week. I even know what time our local stores finish roasting them so I don’t do my weekly shopping too early. #embarrassing 😉 

I digress… onto the purpose of this post, THE RECIPE:


Curry Chicken Salad

  • 1 rotisserie Chicken picked and chopped or 4 chopped and cooked chicken breasts
  • 1/2 zucchini cubed 
  • 1/4 red onion chopped
  • 3 TBSP plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup craisins or dried cherries
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Add all ingredients except yogurt and curry powder to a large mixing bowl. 
  2. Add Greek yogurt and sprinkle the curry powder only on top of the yogurt
  3. Mix curry powder into yogurt and then mix all contents of bowl until well distributed. (You can also mix the yogurt and curry powder in a small bowl first. It helps to evenly distribute the powder and absorb faster) Add more yogurt if you like a creamier texture.
  4. Serve anyway you want 🙂 I usually add some chopped spinach and eat it as a salad or on toasted whole grain pita bread. 

*This will make approximately 6-8 servings. It lasts in the fridge for about 3 days so we use it all of the time for lunches for the week. Prep it on Sunday and you have lunch until Thursday! 

*Dairy Free Option: You can also use 1/2 of an avocado instead of the yogurt to make this dairy free. Smash the avocado in a separate bowl and add curry powder before mixing together with other ingredients. 

Dark Chocolate Coconut Oil Brownies

There are few things that I like more than some good dark chocolate. I’d be lying if I said S and I didn’t split a bar of dark chocolate almost every night after dinner. But, we do, and this all goes back to my thoughts on a sustainable lifestyle. We LOVE chocolate and to do a “diet” that didn’t include it, would be unrealistic. Now I’m not saying to go out and eat all the chocolate, but having a small amount every night is less then terrible. 

Through my cooking and baking journey, I have fumbled and tested through a bunch of recipes to find the balance between yummy chocolate goodness and not terrible for your health. I’m not going to call this brownie recipe “healthy” per say because I don’t want to mislead anyone, but it’s a heck of a lot more healthy your average run of the mill brownie. And it’s stuffed with some gooey dark chocolate, whole wheat flour, natural honey and coconut oil so I call it a win. And it’s my staple for all office parties, pot lucks etc. I’ve never met a person who didn’t like them 🙂 Without futher adieu… 

Dark Chocolate Coconut Oil Brownies

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups melted coconut oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped dark chocolate 
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a 17×9 glass baking dish 
  2. Whisk all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Once mixed add all wet ingredients and stir until just incorporated.
  3. Add chopped chocolate and stir until well mixed. 
  4. Add batter to prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth surface. 
  5. Bake approximate 30 minutes until the center is mostly cooked. I would stick to around 28 minutes if you like them a little more gooey at the center. Enjoy!! 


Check out ththe gooey dark chocolate 🙂 Is your mouth watering yet?? 

*A lot of people ask why I use both sugar and honey… I have found that using all honey makes the brownies not rise as well and they are a little more dense. Baking with honey changes the consistency and texture of your baked goods.  I don’t like using all sugar because the honey is natural and is lower on the glycemic index. 

Traveling: The dos and donts of staying on track

Ok, Ok… I realize I have COMPLETELY dropped the ball on posting lately. Life got a little crazy and I had to do a bit of “life reorganization”. B&C completely blew up thanks to all of my wonderful clients and patients, the kids had end of school year activities and we were planning for a 1 month vacation back to the states, so I had to prioritize. But, new year means new goals and staying on top of my blog is one of them!

So, on to my soapbox. We just returned from a 3.5 week vacation back to the states over the holidays and it was absolutely fantastic. This time, we were able to stay with my amazing SIL who has a basement apartment and it was an absolute deal breaker. We had our own space, including our own kitchen, and that was priceless when it came to keeping some sort of routine. Because of the set-up, we were able to cook most of our own meals and maintain some sort of workout schedule, which to me, made the vacation a complete success. While we were there, I realized that traveling can be hard on many, especially if you are just starting down this new road of healthy living. I wanted to share some of my secrets in hopes of helping others “stay on track”.

  1. If possible, Airbnb it. Having our own kitchen and cooking our own meals was a huge part of our vacation happiness. Also, in a lot of cases, Airbnb works out to be cheaper than staying in a hotel and when you have a family with little munchkins that need to nap and go to bed early, having space for them was important too! During their nap times, we were able to get workouts in and have our own space to relax and decompress. We were able to grocery shop and basically stay on our normal eating routine, only eating out minimally. Of course, we did enjoy the plethora of American restaurants more than our normal 1x/week allowance, but knowing that for the other meals we were eating normally, it made it that much sweeter. I have to squeeze this in here… Zoe’s Kitchen, where have you been all of my life. Hummus and pitas galore 😉
  2. Be realistic with your goals. Our first day back, S and I talked about what we would ideally like to set as our workout goals. Me, being a little overzealous, said I was going to shoot for 5 workouts a week, close to my normal routine. S laughed at me and simply said “Be realistic or else you’re setting yourself up for failure”. Man were those the words I needed to hear. We decided on 3-4 times per week to allow for things to popup in our schedule and some extra relaxation time. I think it’s important to not only try to stick to some sort of schedule, but to allow yourself to relax and decompress. Had I stuck with my 5x/week goal, I would have felt guilty if I didn’t hit my goal and my vacation would have ended up ALOT more stressful. Instead, some weeks I hit 4 workouts and another only 3 and yet, because I was within my goals, I wasn’t feeling one bit stressed or guilty. We also discussed that our general goal was to maintain rather than build. I think this is an important delineation. Vacations are temporary, so if you simply say you are going to maintain your fitness level during your time, it creates a much more conducive environment for planning a balanced vacation.
  3. Pack snacks! I can remember a time a few years ago out running errands with my MIL when she joked at the fact that S and I always have snacks. Bringing healthy snacks and lunches when we are out and about is key because we aren’t tempted to “grab something quick”and waste money and calories. This allows us to eat out at better restaurants other times. Several times over this vacation, we picnicked in the car (the 3 degree weather wasn’t conducive to outside) between our errands or activities. It saved us money, hassle and calories. And it ended up being a game for the kids. They LOVED it.
  4. No gym? No worries. We have our go-to travel workout gear that we always pack in our suitcases. I am not paid to indorse any of these products, they are just what I have found work for us. We always travel with our TRX, Insanity and Jumprope. We didn’t need a gym while we were there because we could turn any space into one. With the stuff we brought, and using what was in the house, we were able to get some good WODs in. One in particular sparks my memory where we used bags of rock salt, jugs of laundry detergent and cases of water. Who says you need weights?!?! Think outside of the box and be creative. Don’t let your workout be defined only by what you have in a gym.
  5. Have fun! This is probably the most important… Allow yourself to have fun and relax. This is after all the point of traveling and vacationing, right?! Don’t get so consumed with forcing workouts in and not allowing yourself to splurge on a meal or desert every once in a while. The end game of this vacation is to have fun, relax and decompress from the daily grind. Allow yourself to do so.

The ‘Skinny’ on Body Weight

So I have to be honest, I got on the scale today and saw a number I didn’t like… I was a whopping 158 pounds. Now according to my height, 5’6″, I am on the verge of being overweight by today’s BMI calculations. What those numbers don’t tell you is that I am in the best shape of my life. I can do a pull-up for the first time EVER, I can do an entire workout with real push-ups, I can run 5 miles without really fatiguing… but still, I can’t get that darn number out of my head. What the heck? I think it is a stigma we have put on ourselves, especially as women, and we are entirely too obsessed with the number we see staring back at us. Now I’m not saying that our weight isn’t a good general indicator of “health”, but I feel like as a society, we put too much power in the number. What the number doesn’t tell us is our indicator of fitness; it doesn’t differentiate between muscle mass and body fat. I know, I know, I could get one of the fancy scales or have my body fat tested… but honestly, it’s not that big of a deal to me. So my solution… stop looking at the number and go by how you feel, how your clothes are fitting and how you are performing.

When I start with new clients, I try not to make body weight goals for them. This is definitely hard because most of them WANT body weight goals. Sure, a general number is a good idea to have when you are starting a healthy life change, but I think we are doing ourselves a disservice by having a finite number in our heads. I think that is a huge part of my “issue”. So my number, if I am going to be honest is always 150. That was my goal weight after college when I started this healthy lifestyle and my goal weight after both of my pregnancies. I am proud to say that I reached those weights and even got down to 148 at the beginning of this year. Then I started doing more Crossfit and HIIT and the wheels came off of the wagon. Since January, I have gained 10 lbs…. 10 freaking pounds in 7 months. BUT I have lost 2 inches in my waist and gained 4 inches of muscle bulk in my Quads, Biceps and Gastrocs. For the most part, all of my clothes still fit, they might be a little tighter in the legs but who’s looking haha. So why, with all of the gains, did that number irk me? When you get to a certain point, weight doesn’t matter!! We have to figure out how to let it go. Seriously… as my daughter would sing, “Let it go, let it go, can’t hold me back anymore”. We have to stop putting the number stigma on ourselves. “You are not defined by the number on the scale” was one of my favorite lines from a group devotional I did back in March called ‘Made to Crave’ by Lysa Terkeurst. It’s a great read if anyone is interested 🙂 But seriously, we are worth way more than the number on the scale. And I’ll take my 158 lb self any day. S warned me about the possible weight gain when we started doing Crossfit together. I brushed him off and thought, “I’m not going to gain any weight, I am already in good shape and even if I do, that wouldn’t bother me” and yet, I was on the verge of a toddler meltdown this AM. Honestly, how silly.

I think the number stigma is where a lot of people get into trouble. The weight game is what a lot of the fad diets and quick fixes play on. They are trying to appeal to the urge we all have to decrease the number. Then we fall into traps of diets that are actually decreasing our health to decrease our weight. They are not sustainable, nor are they natural. They aren’t fueling our bodies with a well balanced diet filled with whole and natural foods.

So what do we do? We suck it up and take the long road. We take the journey and decide to enjoy the experience. And we stop looking at the dang scale and start focusing on our fitness levels and how we are feeling. Ciao scale, I’m packing you up because I certainly don’t need your negative energy in my life. *End Rant 😉
Photo credit fitnessbin.com

The real deal with HIIT and Crossfit and why I’ll never turn back

I was catching up with an old friend the other night and we were talking about life, husbands, food, workouts etc. J made the comment that she’s been doing HIIT workouts with weightlifting and “has never felt better”.  I followed with “I don’t know what I thought I was doing before, but it definitely wasn’t working out”… All of this is so true. Both of us are in our thirties, insert gasp here, and have never been in better shape. Now, I didn’t say the “skinniest”, I said better shape. While yes, I am slimmer than I used to be, I am by far the strongest me. I am also sure we are also the busiest we have been in our lives, managing families, jobs and other adult responsibilities. So what gives? What’s all the hype about HIIT and Crossfit type of workouts? I am going to break it down into a few simple points. I will try to stay away from all of the medical jargon and keep in simple.

  1. High intensity high effort intervals burn more calories during the workout. Why? There are several reasons but I will keep to the basics here. The body is fueled by energy in the form of a molecule called ATP. ATP can be made by three main systems that use carbs in the form of glucose and glucagon, or fat. The anaerobic systems, think high intensity short duration, use mostly carbs to fuel the energy transfer and the aerobic system uses mostly fat to fuel the energy transfer into ATP. The aerobic system needs oxygen to function. With interval workouts, you are recruiting all systems at the same time. Basically, you are constantly burning both fat and excess carbs. As these molecules are burned, more energy is created and this represents the “calorie burn” you get in a workout. So yes, while you can burn calories doing a low intensity workout for an hour, you can burn the same amount of calories in half the time doing a HIIT/Crossfit type of workout.
  2. High intensity exercises burn more calories after the workout is finished. This has to do with the EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Simply put, the body has to replenish the oxygen and energy stores it used during your workout. The oxygen debt after a high intensity workout can last for up to 48 hours. That’s 48 hours of extra “calorie burn” after you’ve finished your workout. Holy cow! In a low intensity aerobic workout, the body doesn’t build up an oxygen debt because it is using the same amount of oxygen that you are breathing. Because there is no oxygen debt, the body stops burning calories when the activity or workout stops.
  3. HIIT and Crossfit type of exercises are functional and typically recruit several muscle groups for one exercise. I am half-way through the book “Learning to Breathe Fire” about the start of Crossfit, the mentality of it and the problems with traditional gyms and machines. One of the main points the book has made several times is that using traditional gym machines that isolate individual muscles is not truly effective for strengthening. In the real world, we don’t only use one individual muscle, we use several muscles co-contracting to create a functional movement pattern. This was 100% ingrained in all of us PTs in graduate school…. Function, function, FUNCTION! Our professors would constantly ask us if our treatment plan was functional for our patients. So if we are treating our patients based on functional activity, why wouldn’t we plan our workouts the same way? Sure you can go to the gym and do a few reps on a Quad machine (knee extension) and a few reps on a Hamstring machine (knee flexion) but are those helping you learn the co-contraction to perform a proper squat? Squatting is one of the most functional and most used exercises in daily life. And yet, how many people have you seen do terrible squats? This is why I LOVE HIIT/Crossfit  workouts. They are typically a serious of functional push and pull movements for the whole body. And the carryover is ridiculous. Honestly. I can swing, lift, throw and carry my kids around like they are feathers. The other day, on the way to school, my 2.5 year old fell and I had to carry her, her book bag and lunch all the while, pushing the stroller with my 1.5 year old over a 1/2 mile rocky city street. And you know what, I wasn’t even phased. No racing heart rate, no muscle fatigue and no heavy breathing. I doubt I would have been able to do that before.
  4. All of the workouts are scalable for every body and fitness type. That’s the beauty of functional exercise. Everyone can benefit from doing squats, push-ups, lunges, pull-ups and you can ultimately scale all of these exercises in a way that will equally challenge a pro athlete and a 70 year old grandmother. Take push-ups for example. Can’t do a real one? Cool… lets try them on your knees or against a wall. You are still getting the same muscle activation and the same intensity as a pro athlete banging them out in a pike or a handstand. This enables us to workout together, with people of all fitness levels and still get the same benefit.
  5. The workouts are usually under 30-45 minutes. In a world where time is money and we all have too little time, I want to get as much bang for my buck as possible. And with HIIT/Crossfit, I might as well be a millionaire. I can remember slaving away on the treadmill and elliptical for hours before feeling fatigued and feeling like a got a good workout. Now, in 30 minutes, I am smoked. And smoked in the way that my entire body feels like it got a good workout, I feel great and have a major endorphin rush. I am usually also smoked in the way that I know I put in 100% and probably couldn’t do more if I tried. And man, does that feel good.
  6. And the most important point: THEY ARE FUN! I can honestly say that I look forward to my workouts and truly enjoy them. Yes, I do have days when I am tired and don’t want to go, but once I’m there and in it, I’m IN it. Because of the nature of the intervals, you are always moving and always pushing yourself. Much better than mindlessly spinning away on an elliptical while staring at a TV screen. You are engaged in the process and the intensity of the exercise awakens an entirely different mentality. Another friend and I call it BeastMode. There really is no other way to explain it. And man, is it addictive. The adrenaline rush and motivation you get from putting your body in these crazy situations and intervals is exhilarating. And those of you who haven’t tried it, probably think I am literally nuts. But I promise, I am mostly sane 🙂 Those of you that are fellow HIITers and Crossfitters, you get it. And it’s one of the best feelings in the world.

So what was my point here? Being fit and strong doesn’t necessarily mean hours at the gym. We all have a million and one things on our plates and it’s hard to fit in extra time. But, take the 45 minutes and go for it, I promise it will be worth it.

“The sweat, the time, the dedication, It pays off”

Fall= Boots, Sweaters and SOUPS, oh my!

Fall is upon us here in Lima and to me that means one thing: IT’S SOUP TIME! For me, not much is better than a good soup. For S, EVERYTHING is better than a good soup. JK, well not really… he often says “soup isn’t really my thing”. Soups can be deceiving though, as many pre-made and prepackaged versions are loaded with extra sodium. Being that I love soups so much, it was super important for me to come up with a few recipes in my wheel-house that could curb that soup craving in a much healthier way. For S that means a few hearty flavorful soups that will even have a burly man asking for more 🙂 Today’s culprit: Coconut Lentil Curry Stew. This stew is packed with veggies and flavor and has both a vegan and chicken option. You can’t really go wrong. I am usually not much of a measurer when I cook, as I tend to throw ingredients into a pot until things “taste right”. However, for today, I measured everything so I could share!

One of the big things for my busy life is to prep everything in advance. If you know you will be short on time, you can even prep all the veggies in the morning or the night before and leave them in the refrigerator until needed. Your vocab for the day: Mise en place (pronounced Mi zen plas). It means “putting in place” or getting everything set up. I learned this from Anne Burrell on Worst Cooks in America. Need I say though, I would not be a candidate on that show… I PROMISE. Anyways, here is the recipe! Enjoy 🙂

 

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Coconut Lentil Curry Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 TBSP coconut oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped (You can use another type but red has more flavor)
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 TBSP finely grated ginger (fresh or dried, both are fine)
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
  • 2 cans of coconut milk, 400 mL each
  • 2 cups diced zucchini
  • *Optional* 4 diced chicken breasts
  • 2 cups cooked lentils, any color
  • Fresh cilantro and sea salt to taste

Heat coconut oil in a dutch oven or large pan on medium heat. Add onion and carrots and cook until slightly browned, approximately 5-7 minutes. I like the carrot a bit al dente.

Stir in garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander and cayenne and cook for another 2 minutes. The smell is amazing!! Add in tomatoes and coconut milk, making sure to shake cans well before adding. Stir well.

If you want chicken, add and simmer for approximately 15 minutes stirring occasionally. If you don’t want chicken, move on to zucchini. Add in the zucchini and simmer for an additional 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Add cooked lentils and stir well. Cook 5 more minutes on low heat until all is warm.

Add salt and more cumin or cayenne to taste. Serve in a bowl with fresh cilantro sprinkled on top. Hint- We like to use Pita bread to soak up the extra broth, It’s that good.  Enjoy!

What am I doing?

Anyone who has ever followed a dream, started new or changed a habit can identify with me here… What am I doing? Cue nerves, self-doubt and anxiety. I have always been a slightly anxious person. Always scared of change, scared of new beginnings and honestly, if we are going to get to the nitty-gritty, scared of failure. Aren’t we all to a point? Isn’t that part of being human? The problem surfaces when we don’t pursue our dreams and don’t allow ourselves to become great because of that fear and anxiety. We stay stagnant because it is what’s comfortable and known. Well, I have been blessed with an amazing other-half, who pushes me and challenges me. If I am going to be honest, B&C is mostly his doing. I have had this dream and brain-child for years and he finally called me out and said “Why don’t you just do it? What have you got to lose?”… And so here we are.

I have also been blessed with the circumstances to be able to go after this dream. Due to S’s job, we have found ourselves in Lima, Peru for the next few years. I am unable to practice PT on the local market due to a myriad of issues; licensure, time, money etc. I thought I would be happy with just a normal job, which I am and feel blessed to have a way to help provide for my family, BUT when you have a calling, you have a calling right? My fellow PTs, medical professionals, teachers and any public service profession really, feel me, right? It takes a special type of person to provide care to others. It’s ingrained in your being. And for me, I had to figure out a way to act on that. I love my profession and I truly miss working with patients. The impact that you can have on that person’s life, and they on yours, is immeasurable. On average, a patient spends 2-3 times a week at PT, for anywhere from 1-2 hours… That’s a grand total of possibly up to 6 hours a week! And considering, especially with me, most of that time is spent talking, that is a lot of information that can be passed back and forth. Learning for both my patients, and myself.

So what is B&C then? First and foremost, it is a way for me to practice boutique style (pay of out pocket and not be ruled by Insurance companies) Physical Therapy, but also a way to coach people on living healthier lives. Lately, I feel like the whole “coaching” thing has become popular… You can literally find a coach for everything.  I liked the idea of being able to meet one on one with people and figure out ways to help them enjoy a healthier, and potentially more fulfilling, lifestyle. Everywhere today, people are pushing “quick fixes” or life saving products and while those may work for some, I feel like those are the few and far between. My big problem with them… they are not individualized nor sustainable. I think this is where failure occurs. Every person has different preferences, different schedules and different lifestyles, and it’s important to plan a program specific to them. They need recipe ideas, cooking tips, organization tips, exercise plans and anything in between to help them succeed. Cue COACHING. My vision is to work together to look at your life and help you figure out what should change and set reasonable expectations for results. So, you only have 30 minutes a day to devote to exercise? Cool… here are some great ideas for some 30 minute interval plans and let’s help you learn along the way so you can make your own without me. So, you love eating pastas, pizzas and anything with carbs? Cool… let’s come up with some healthier ways to incorporate different ingredients to get you your craving fix but not send you into a blood sugar rush. And these individual programs are all about teaching and learning. The sustainability part is when the patient/client can continue the lifestyle and succeed WITHOUT the help of the coach/therapist i.e. ME! That is our ultimate goal. And I am absolutely cool with that.

So here goes. I’m jumping in head first and leaving my anxiety, fears and self-doubting by the wayside. If I can impact one person through B&C, then it’s all worth it.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” -1 Peter 5:7