Archive by Author

Cauliflower Fried Rice

image1
Ingredients
  • 1 head cauliflower, grated or chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, diced
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/4c low sodium soy sauce
Instructions
  1. Heat a large skillet to high heat. Add the coconut oil. Saute the mushrooms and ginger for ~3 min or until they begin to soften, stirring often.
  2. Add the cauliflower, green onions, and soy sauce. Saute for 5 min.
  3. Push the veggies to the side of the skillet and create a well. Crack the eggs into the well and scramble. Stir everything to combine.
  4. Add a drizzle of sesame oil and mix.

 

Original recipe: http://stupideasypaleo.com/2011/10/28/paleo-cauliflower-fried-rice/

Spaghetti Squash Chicken Chow Mein

image1(2)

Ingredients

  • 1 large spaghetti squash (or 2 small)
  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced diagonally
  • 2 cups cole slaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)

Directions

Cut a spaghetti squash in half length wise and scoop out seeds. Lay skin side up in a pan or on a sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until flesh is very tender. Scoop out flesh with a fork so it breaks apart into strings, set aside.

Heat olive oil in a skillet and thoroughly cook chicken chunks over medium heat; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, garlic, ginger; set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and celery, and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in cabbage until heated through, about 1 minute.

Stir in spaghetti squash, chicken, and soy sauce mixture until well combined, about 2 minutes.

Original recipe: http://littlebitsof.com/2014/10/spaghetti-squash-chow-mein/

Sausage, Kale, and Spaghetti Squash

image1(1)

Ingredients:
  1. 1 medium spaghetti squash or 2 small spaghetti squash
  2. 2 packages Italian chicken sausage
  3. 1 yellow onion, diced
  4. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 bunch kale
  6. 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  7. Salt and pepper
  8. 2 tbsp pine nuts
Instructions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a sharp knife cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Place the halves, with the cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until you can poke the squash easily with a fork. Let cool until you can handle it safely.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the kale by removing the center stems and either tearing or cutting up the leaves. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add the chicken sausage chopped in chunks. Cook for 5-10 minutes. Add the kale in handfuls and stir until it wilts into the mix. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Once cooled, scrape the insides of the spaghetti squash with a fork to shred the squash into strands. Transfer the strands into the skillet with the sausage and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with pine nuts to serve.

Notes:

The original recipe calls for raw sausage. I am not that fancy, so I used this from Big Y:

image1

– I almost skipped the pine nuts, but they really made the dish! They’re supposed to be roasted but I’m not that motivated. If you put in the extra effort to roast, more power to you!

Original recipe: http://paleogrubs.com/stuffed-spaghetti-squash-recipe

Variety vs Muscle Confusion

muscleconfusionMuscle confusion suggests that by constantly changing the exercises and structure of your workouts, you will build muscle and lose fat.  Let me start with a brief explanation of the motor programming in our brain.  Our brain functions much like a computer.  A computer programmer will design a program to execute different functions, and those functions are always executed the same way.  For instance, if you double click on an icon on your desktop, it will always open your “finder” window because that’s the way the program is designed.  When we teach children to walk, we teach one foot in front of the other.  We help them to develop the “program” in their brains for walking.  As they continue to repeat the action of one foot in front of the other every time, the program becomes solidified and then they can build on that foundation with running, dancing, jumping, etc.  But what if we applied the concept of “muscle confusion” to teaching our children how to walk?  And instead of one foot in front of the other every time, we tried to teach them to run one day, dance another, and jump the third, expecting that this scattered “training program” will result in the child walking.  I’m guessing this would not only be a frustrating experience for both parent and child, but it would take the child much longer than necessary to learn how to walk.  This is because repetition builds the programming and muscle response necessary to optimally perform an action.

We are like children as adults except that we have developed more motor programs.  This doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t have to go through the same steps as children to develop new programs.  Think of how you first learned to do push ups.  Did you learn how to do them by doing shoulder presses and back rows?  Probably not, because only the repetitive motion of push ups with minor corrections over a period of time helped to develop the “push up programming” in your mind and muscle.  In summary, the concept of “confusing” your muscles does nothing to improve motor programming and, thus, muscle strength.

Please do not confuse the concept of muscle confusion with variety, however.  Shoulder presses and back rows will help to strengthen the muscles of your upper body which, in turn, will improve your push up form and strength.  But if that is all you do for your workouts, your strength development will plateau quickly.  You should not continue the same workout program with the same exercises for longer than 6-8 weeks.  At this point, your body has adapted and a change is needed.

Variety supports your strength in functional movement and basic fitness movements (such as squats, push ups, etc).  Variety also adds new challenges and keeps your workouts interesting.  I can find holes in any popular workout program where you are missing an important piece of training.  In other words, if you are only doing one type of exercise such as barre, yoga, CrossFit, cycling, running, etc, you are missing something that your body needs to stay balanced and strong!

Good fitness programming will have a combination of variety and repetitive exercises.  Do what you like as your core workout program and keep building strength in those movements, but don’t forget to add variety to keep your body balanced and strong.  And, variety is not confusion – confusion is just confusing!

Cajun Chicken and Quinoa

image1(1)

Ingredients
  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 3 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 chopped sweet onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 C cooked quinoa
Instructions
  1. Toss chicken and 2 tsp Cajun seasoning together and cook in a skillet with 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat, then set aside.
  2. Toss the tomatoes and peppers with 1 tbsp olive oil and 2 tsp Cajun seasoning, set aside.
  3. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a large skillet with the onion and garlic. Cook until onion becomes translucent.
  4. Add quinoa, tomato paste, 1 tsp Cajun seasoning, chicken, and tomato chunks. Mix thoroughly.

Notes

– If you’re not a spicy food fan (I love spicy!), cut the Cajun seasoning in half.

– I used a lot of chicken in this recipe.  You could easily get away with 2-3 chicken breasts, but I like my protein!

– You may want to use a casserole dish for the final mix (the skillet becomes very full) but I was able to pull it off in the skillet.

My Thesis Story

As I finish up my final semester of grad school, I’m also finishing up my thesis study to complete the Master of Science program in Exercise Physiology at Springfield College.  My topic is, “The Effect of Barre Fitness Training on Hip Strength, Hip Range of Motion, Heart Rate, Body Composition, and Functional Movement.”  I know, it’s a mouth full!  Any time you ask a researcher what the topic of their study is, though, it never comes without a story.  Here is mine…

I’ve been certified as a fitness trainer since 2002.  I go through “fitness phases.”  I like to experiment on myself because I do not believe in judging something without experiencing it personally.  I find exercise fascinating.  I’ve dabbled in bodybuilding, powerlifting, running, yoga, Pilates, CrossFit, etc, all in the name of personal education.  I considered my body to be pretty balanced and strong by the time I got to my barre instructor training course.  On a side note, I will be honest, I had no interest in teaching this at my studio.  I went because I knew it would be popular and I am a control freak.  If we are going to introduce a new program at the studio, I want it to be done the way I think it should be done, and it’s going to be executed to perfection.  But my control issues are another story for another time…

As we finished our introductions, I realized the room was full of dance instructors, yoga/Pilates instructors, and only 2 other fitness instructors.  When we hit the barre, our differences became evident.  I clearly was not as balanced as I thought I was.  These women had beautiful core stabilization with incredible hip range of motion.  It took a lot of effort for me to abduct my leg to get even a quarter of their range of motion.  All of these years I spent training my body, and I can’t lift my leg out to the side???  Embarrassing.

After a weekend beating (these Master Trainers are no joke), I left more sore than I had been in a long time because the small muscles in my hips had never been isolated and attacked like that.  I started with teaching a few classes at the studio and the program instantly became a hit.  For several months, I was teaching up to 13 barre classes per week!  My hip range of motion and hip strength improved dramatically, but more importantly, my members were seeing instant results as well.

Several runners noted a10338699_784108331681147_3492024351306454149_nn improvement in their running time and also a decrease in leg/hip pain that occurred over long distances.  Runners have notoriously weak glutes.  Several members reported a decrease in lower back and knee pain that had resulted from various causes.  I felt that there was something to this program that I had never seen before in any of my “fitness phases” and that it should be examined further.  There is a lot of research on the effect of Pilates on various pathologies, but barre training is new territory, and I believe may offer even more benefits than a Pilates program.

If we are friends on Facebook, you may think that I am obsessed with barre.  While I believe barre has many benefits, and I hope to demonstrate this with the results of my study, I do not believe it should be your only form of exercise.  In fact, I do not believe any one form of exercise should be your only form of exercise.  In my next blog post, I will share with you the benefits of exercise variety, and why it is essential to build a balanced body!