Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Happy Accident "Cheesy" Sauce

I was trying to make a squash lasagna and it did not work out . . . at all . . . BUT, what I ended up with was a thick, creamy, "cheesy" tomato sauce with squash and mushrooms. I've eaten it plain (like a super-indulgent soup). I've eaten it over rice, and I've eaten it over spaghetti squash. I think my favorite was actually over the spaghetti squash because I liked the al dente "bite" of it in contrast to the creamy sauce and the other softer vegetables. Plus, spaghetti squash is super-healthy and weight-management friendly!

2 small/medium zucchini
2 small/medium yellow squash
1 1/2 jars of spaghetti sauce (I like the Mezzetta brand because they use quality ingredients with no added sugar)
2 bags of Daiya Mozzarella shreds (vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free)
1-2 small cartons of sliced mushrooms
16 oz ground turkey (optional)

I browned the turkey with salt, pepper, oregano, thyme and some basil (I didn't measure the herbs, probably a teaspoonish of each and a couple turn of the salt grinder). If you want to keep it vegan you can omit the turkey. 

I sliced the zucchini and squash with a mandolin. They didn't stay in layers but the more uniform size probably helped things cook evenly.

I rubbed a little olive oil on the large glass casserole dish and then started layering:
a little sauce
Daiya shreds
yellow squash
Daiya shreds
Daiya shreds

I covered the pan with aluminum foil and baked it in the oven for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Cook time may vary depending on your oven. I let it sit for about 30 minutes to cool before I scooped it out into mason jars. It freezes really well. My son LOVES it ~ and big shocker ~ my very-particular-foodie-daughter likes it too!

Please let me know how you like it and share any "tweaks" you come up with!

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fall Harvest Slow Cooker Oatmeal ~ Gluten and Dairy Free

I was hesitant to make slow cooker oatmeal in the past because I was the only one in my family who ate oatmeal. My Crockpot is big enough that I figured I wouldn't be able to eat as much as I'd have to make for the recipe to turn out right. As luck would have it, my kids recently decided that they DO like oatmeal and proceeded to eat all of my single-serve packets. So I finally decided to a try a slow cooker oatmeal hoping it would actually get eaten. Boy am I glad I did! I prepped everything Sunday night and turned on the Crockpot before I went to bed. I came home from a Crossfit workout the next morning and was delighted! It smelled wonderful, was cooked perfectly, and the kids LOVED it! I've made it now 4 times, tweaking as I went, and finally found my perfect version.

4 medium Granny Smith apples peeled and cubed

1 TBS Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread (you can use any butter or butter 

1 cup Steel Cut Oats (if gluten is an issue look for oats marked gluten-free)

2 Tbs Xylitol (you can use any sweetener you like here, granular or liquid)

2 Tbs Hulled Hemp seeds (totally optional~ I had them and decided on this        
   last batch to throw them in for the added nutritional value)

2 tsp Cinnamon (or to taste~ I like a lot of Cinnamon!)

1/2 cups Dream Blends rice/quinoa drink (unsweetened)  (You can use any 
   dairy or non-dairy drink, but if it's sweetened you might want to ease up on 
   the other sweetener you use)

1 cup water 

Zest of 1/2 an orange

A few twists of a salt grinder

Place all of the ingredients and mix well. I cooked it for 6.5 hours on low and then it sat on warm for a couple of hours. The texture was good (I like some "bite" left). Everyone's slow cookers are different though. You may want to think about how your slow cooker has behaved in previous recipes and how firm you like your oatmeal before deciding how long you cook it. 

I did not add any liquid when I reheated it in the microwave on subsequent mornings, but if you like your oatmeal less firm, then you might add a few Tbs of "milk" or water.

An added bonus is that my daughter, who would rather sing in the morning than get herself ready for school, has something easy to eat for breakfast. A delicious, healthy breakfast with less mess and time spent in the morning is definitely a clear winner in my book!

I hope you enjoy it! If you change things up and like the results, please share in the comments. It's always nice to have more options!

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why I'm Staying Out of the Crossfit Box

I've been wanting to try Crossfit for a while. I like intense workouts. I like group workouts. I like lifting heavier weights. I was interested in trying box jumps and Olympic style lifting. Bob Harper is a big fan of Crossfit and I'm a big fan of his. I figured Crossfit and I would fit like a hand in glove. I read about the criticisms but I wanted to experience it myself and come to my own conclusions. So when I saw a great Groupon deal for 20 classes and had a friend who wanted to try it with me, I figured I had the perfect opportunity.

I will preface my judgement by saying that just like most fitness experiences, every Crossfit "box" is going to be a little different. I only have experience with the one I tried and the four instructors I took classes from there. My experience is by no means universal and should not be taken as an evaluation of Crossfit on the whole; however, my experience did reinforce some of the main criticisms I've been hearing about Crossfit for years.

Here's my take-away:

1. Crossfit Instructors can be bullies. There is a fine line between encouraging participants and bullying them. As a fitness professional, my approach to working with new clients is to assess them and figure out what they are already capable of BEFORE I tell them they can do more, faster. It seemed that because I look relatively fit, the instructors assumed I could do heavy weights (I exercise a lot but haven't been doing any strength training for months). When I listened to them the first few classes, I ended up so sore I could barely move for days. In the last two classes I took (#7 & #8), I explained to the instructor that I would not do the weight he was suggesting because I had to be able to teach my own classes and couldn't be THAT sore. He pushed until I got irritated and then finally he backed off. It's one thing to encourage people to push their limits, it's another to make them feel like lazy-losers if they are not performing to your expectations.

2. Crossfit is all about doing it fast, heavy, and A LOT. I strongly believe that form HAS to come before reps or speed. While the instructors gave that idea lip service, they certainly seemed to care more about speed and completion than safety. As much as I know about proper form and tried to be careful, even I ended up overdoing it and having sore muscles which should not have been active during certain exercises (my low back after doing dead lifts). I cringe to think how many people are injuring themselves because they are finishing with poor form due to fatigue.

3. The instructors contradicted each other about form. I had a really hard time figuring out the Olympic power lifting exercises, moves like the "wall ball", and even a basic squat because all 4 of the instructors demonstrated and taught the moves differently. I didn't feel confident that I was performing the exercises correctly and while the instructors tried to give corrections, I didn't feel like they could, or did, spend enough time teaching the moves thoroughly or consistently.

4. Crossfit puts you on stage at your most vulnerable. This is totally personal to me and is obviously not a feeling shared by everyone, but I only like being watched when I am good at something. At the end of one of the workouts, one participant was finishing his WOD, a descending ladder of wall balls and dead lifts. He had 3 rounds to go when participants started gathering around him to cheer him on. I realize that everyone had the best intentions, but all I could think about was that if I were him ~ exhausted, shaky, overwhelmed ~ and I had a crowd of people telling me to "finish strong", "keep pushing", "do it again, faster", I would want to punch each of them in the throat. I am ready to look foolish and take risks in life, but if I'm being singled out in a workout, I don't want it to be because I'm the last one to finish.

5. The workouts are not Functional Fitness. I get the idea behind keeping the WODs simple, however, basic fitness principles tell us that we need to work ALL of the muscles in our body. Every workout doesn't need to hit every muscle, but you have to hit them all at some point. I don't recall a single upper body "pull" exercise in the 8 classes I took. We had one workout which was essentially an hour of squats. Even with complex or hybrid movements, you will miss major muscle groups if you only do 2 or 3 of them in a workout.

The individual workouts were unbalanced and the WODs throughout the week didn't correct for it. The last class I took was a lot of deadlifts. My friend continued to take classes that week and out of the 5 days she looked at the WODs, 4 were primarily dead lifts! Where is the recovery period for those muscles? What about all of the other muscles you aren't working when you're doing 150 deadlifts every day? Maybe other Crossfit boxes are better at balancing the workouts, but based on most of the WODs I've viewed online, I doubt it. And for most of the classes, we barely warmed up. A couple of times, we were instructed to go straight into a 400 meter run in the freezing cold as our "warm-up". There was also typically no cool-down or stretching at the end of class. Again, the workouts seemed to lack the balance we are taught is necessary for a body that functions well in real life, rather than a body that just performs well in a specific workout.

For me, Crossfit was a learning experience.  I learned that as a participant, I don't like the military, bootcampy feel. I learned that while I like to strive for a high level of performance, if the expectations are unrealistic, I just feel like a loser. I learned that I get bored with a workout that consists of just a few movements. I learned that I don't like Olympic power lifting. I learned that I do like box jumps and wall balls. I learned that as an instructor, I always want to balance motivating my clients and pushing them to improve, with taking care of them and putting their safety first. I learned that any workout that leaves my muscles so sore and bruised feeling that I can't sit on the toilet without pain days after the workout is not okay for me. Finally, I learned not to wear a lace thong to Crossfit because when you do a gazillion Crossfit style sit-ups, you will wear away three layers of skin at the top of your butt-crack and will be in agony for weeks.

What's your opinion on Crossfit?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chair Exercise Video

Florence, one of my awesome students at TASC
I know I've mentioned before how much I love my job. Every week I get to hang out with the coolest people on the planet, helping them improve their physical and mental health. The classes at the Tustin Area Senior Center in Orange County, California are all low cost or FREE! In our efforts to keep it this way, we've produced a video of our Basic Chair Exercise Class which we are selling as a fundraiser. The video is $10 ($11 if you'd like it shipped to you) and all proceeds go directly to the Tustin Area Senior Center Fund. To purchase, please contact me at brooke@hbwbrooke.com.

The workout in the video is designed to be appropriate for most exercisers. Participants can use the chair as much or as little as needed and should modify movements as they see fit. Please consult your physician before performing any exercise program.

Here are a couple of clips from the hour-long workout video:

Basic Chair Exercise Warm-up: New York, New York

Basic Chair Exercise Strength Work: Fever

Pepperjack Bacon Waffles ~ Dairy-free and Gluten-free

I'm always on the lookout for new recipes that I think my kids will like. I recently saw a recipe for a savory waffle and immediately thought what a great side it would make for soups or chili and maybe as a "bread" for sandwiches. I really wanted to be able to eat them too, so I made some substitutions and they turned out GREAT! I made these for the kids last week and I got the typical reaction ~ my son and I loved them, my daughter asked if I'd just make plain waffles next time (she's a purist). I packed one the next day in my son's lunch but he said it was no good ~ dry and chewy. Next time, I'll make the amount I think we will eat at dinner fully cooked, and then cook the others a little less brown so that they can be frozen and then popped in the toaster to reheat.

This recipe is exciting to me because it seems decadent and is something I definitely wouldn't allow myself to eat every day. Even though it feels "forbidden" I'm able to make it without ingredients that would make me sick. Yay for us gluten-free, dairy-free -ers! These are definitely a bit denser than your typical waffle but for me, it just made them feel more hearty and dinnerish.

**Note** I don't normally eat eggs as I do have a reaction to them. This recipe only has one egg though, and I've not found a good egg replacer for a recipe like this that needs the rise in addition to the bind the egg provides. The fact that I might get sick if I eat too many helps me to eat just one or two instead of devouring the entire batch myself!

1 large egg
1 cup "milk" (I used Dream Blends Unsweetened Rice/Quinoa Drink)
1 Tbs oil

1 + 1/2  cups Bob's Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour
1 Tbs sugar (I used Xylitol but any granular sugar should work)
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup Daiya Pepperjack Shreds (dairy and soy free!)
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
1/2 cup crispy bacon (I use Applegate Farms Sunday Bacon ~uncured)

Cook the bacon and then chop or crumble into bits. Preheat your waffle iron. Mix the wet ingredients and then whisk in the dry ingredients until fully incorporated. Gently fold in the add-ins. Let the batter sit for 5 minutes. Everyone's waffle irons will be a little different so you may or may not need oil on your iron. The amount of batter you need to put in will also vary as well as the cooking time. The general process should be the same for this recipe as for any other waffles you make specific to your waffle iron.

Please let me know how you like them! And if you change it up at all, please share your results :)

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