Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pound Purries and Homemade Pesto

THREE DAYS UNTIL THE SPARTAN RACE!

Our team, the Mud Angels, made our team t-shirts last week. We'll be blingin in the mud.

Daisy, photo ninja of the year.

Last year, I had nightmares about the race. This year, no nightmares, but I'm just praying that I don't get injured! That course is extreme and now that Reebok has bought out the Spartan, I'm nervous to see if there are any "new" (and overly extreme) obstacles. I've been sticking to my clean eating and had not a drop of booze in two weeks. We'll see if it makes a difference.

I'm a week late to announce this, but we have a new kitteh! His name is Remington Thugnacious. Which is fitting given the meaning of "thugnacious" and also the fact that he is a total bada** sweetheart.




Rems is three years old and we got him at the Humane Society of Central Illinois. I would say that we "saved" him but this place is really well-kept, clean, stocked with volunteers, and adequately funded. But I still like to think of him as our very own Pound Purry (anyone remember these!?). After having dogs for five years, I'm re-learning the quirks of cats.

On the way home. Rems LOVES him some Wesley. I think his previous owner was male.

Remi is kind of a hermit by day and a total party animal at night. Seems like Wes is going to have a new late-night gaming partner.

Also, Rems hates collars.

This is a "Calming Kitty" collar the vet put on Remi. I left for two hours and came home to find it laying in shreds under the bed. Remi said, "EFF YO COLLAR!"

And being transported to the vet.

Even trying to get Remi to the vet was like a scene from Jurassic Park. He was trying to velociraptor his way out of the cardboard crate. Nobody puts Remi in a corner. Or a box.

He's adjusting to our pups pretty well. After a few whaps to the face, our dogs know better to leave Remi the eff alone. Most of the time, they just stare at each other. Though, last night I caught Rems and Daisy having a late-night "chase me" disco party. Cray cat.

Anywhoorah...

Given the abundance of the basil in my herb garden and the fact that it was about to go bad, I decided to harvest all of it to make some homemade pesto!

Is pesto healthy?

Yes and no.

Yes, because it's loaded with 15% of your daily vitamin A and six grams of protein. And most of the fat is unsaturated (olive oil and pinenuts) so it's good for your heart. The basil itself if high in phytochemical nutrients, which act like antioxidants. Pesto has minimal ingredients, so it will fit into a "clean eating" diet well.

No, because it's calorie dense (Parmesan cheese and pine nuts are not exactly low-fat).

Overall, a little goes a long way and it's better than other sauces (vodka and alfredo), but stick to about a heaping tablespoon per serving. If you want to cut the fat even more, just half the cheese.

Here's the recipe. Please note that you can half all of it. I used 6 cups of basil leaves because I had that much. I mean, I went all Fern Gully on my basil and chopped the basil forest down to the ground. So, if you are buying basil, just half the recipe. Basil = mega$$$$ in grocery stores!



Homemade Pesto
6 cups packed fresh basil leaves
8 cloves garlic
1-1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Rinse and dry basil well.

2. Toast the pine nuts by placing in dry non-stick pan on med-high heat. Cook, stirring continuously to prevent burning, until light brown on all sides, about 4 minutes.

3. Combine basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice and nuts in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend to a smooth paste.

4. Toss with pasta or store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When storing, top with a little extra olive oil to keep it fresh and from turning brown.



WEEKLY MUST WATCH: The Crash Reel


The Crash Reel on HBO. Directed by Lucy Walker, it's a documentary about Kevin Pearce, a pro-snowboarder, whose skill rivaled Shaun White. Pearce was a rising star and on his way to the 2009 Olympics when he was injured with a Traumatic Brain Injury (just days before the Olympics). The documentary chronicles his life and recovery, and issues a cautionary tale about brain injury in extreme sports. It's a breathtaking, heartbreaking and inspiring narrative. I thought it would just be a sports movie, but it's much much more than that--it's a movie about life. Check it out!




Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Back on the Clean Eating Wagon

Day 2 of subbing 5:30am classes. The fatigue is setting in. I enjoy helping out my fellow fitness instructors, but DAMN NO if I ever will take over an early morning class. It's a struggle to haul a** out of bed at 4am to make it across town to the gym on time!

I had my 4am coffee companion though:


Since it's apparently confession time, I may or may not have purchased the entire Fast and The Furious 6 album on iTunes. And I think I love every song. At first I thought, "Why does such a terrible movie have to have such a crazy good soundtrack?!?" Then I remembered Twilight's soundtrack had the same problem :) Wanting to add these two FATF6 songs to my Zumba class ASAP:

Los Bandaleros by Don Omar

Con Locura by Sua ft. Jiggy Drama




A redeeming quality: after a week of peanut butter pie and potato chips, I am back on the clean diet wagon.

What is clean eating?

Well, it means something different to everyone, depending on which nutritional/health/fitness professional you ask. Essentially, clean eating means cutting out artificial and refined foods. Sticking to nuts, fruits, veggies, and "naturally occurring" foods.

Author and expert, Anthony Colpo, explains it thus:
Around 150 years ago, our diet underwent another radical change. New technologies allowed for the wide-scale production of sugar, refined flours and extracted vegetable fats. This led to the proliferation of highly processed, calorie-rich but nutrient-poor “convenience” foods.

To top it all off, perfectly healthy animal foods such as meats and eggs were denounced by health “experts.” Cereal grains and other low-fat foods were promoted as the epitome of healthy eating.

The end result is that we humans now get the bulk of our calories from foods that were alien to the human digestive tract for 99.7 percent of its evolutionary history. The Food and Agriculture Organization has found that Americans now get over three-quarters of their calories from staples that were non-existent during the Paleolithic age. Cereal grains now account for 22 percent of calories. Potatoes make up 3 percent. The others: Sugar and other sweeteners (18 percent), vegetable oils (17 percent), dairy products (11 percent) and alcoholic beverages (4 percent). Nutrient-dense staples like meats, eggs, nuts, fruits, vegetables and seafood once furnished nearly all of our calories. They now provide a mere 20 percent of our daily energy intake.

In a peanut shell, we need to run our body on the right fuel by minimizing processed foods and sugar.

NOW, that being said...it's 2013 people. We are busy. We are on the go. We don't have time to make a beautiful quinoa salad for every meal. And sometimes, we just crave a Caramel Pretzel Klondike bar.

(Source)

Deprivation isn't necessary...the key words are minimize and maximize. Minimize processed foods, maximize whole, nutritious foods. Here's six easy ways to "clean up" your diet:

1. Load up on fresh fruits and veggies
Aim for a fruit AND veggie at every meal. Reach for fruits and veggies as snacks. Fresh is best, in order to avoid added sugars and salt (e.g. fruit cups, canned veggies). It's summer, so you can find a lot of in-season stuff for good prices. Fresh F&V are often cheaper than frozen...as long as you eat them before they go bad.

2. Cut back on the saturated fats
That means, cut back on that butter, ice cream, and cheese (*tear*sniff*...I love cheese so cutting back means no more cheese and crackers). You can still have it in moderation, but stick to olive oil for flavoring and sauteing.

3. Tank up
Drink water like it's going out of style. All day. When your bottle/glass is empty refill it and continue sipping. You will have to pee like a racehorse every 30 minutes, but it's good for your body to flush out those toxins and lubricate your cells. Don't like regular water? Try naturally flavored water. Cut back on soda. I limit myself to one Diet Coke a day. There's no way in hell I'm giving it up because Diet Coke is my homie and yeah, I'm addicted. But I stick to ONE. And water.

4. Booze mindfully
Careful about alcohol. Wine is a good option, but it can be loaded with sugar. If you're gonna booze, stick to 1-2 drinks a day. Also, alcohol is tough on your liver, so if you are trying to detox your body, a toxic chemical is probably a bad choice. Make good choices :) I'm giving up my vino until after the Spartan Race (read: two weeks away), which is going to MAJORLY SUCK, but will hopefully help my performance.

5. If it comes in a box or can, is there a way to make it from scratch?
If it's in a box or can, it's probably processed. For soups and pastas--find a great recipe on Pinterest and make it from scratch.

6. WHOLE grains
Whole wheat bread, pasta, rice, cereal. Check the box carefully to make sure it's whole grain. Look at the ingredient list to make sure that it is whole grain, not just whole wheat. For pasta, semolina should not be the first ingredient. I adore this Cooking Light guide to whole wheat breads/crackers/cereals.


Here's some stuff I've been nomming during my clean-ish regime:

Stir fry veggies with sesame seeds on brown rice. I made a big batch of of this--fried in olive oil, soy sauce, red pepper and a dash of teryaki sauce. You can eat the leftover veggies as a snack!

Agave Lemonade--Sliced some lemons and muddled them with agave nectar in a pitcher. Added water and let it sit for 6 hours. It made a light, refreshing lemonade alternative. Tart and subtly sweet. 

Southwest breakfast sandwich. Scrambled egg whites, a slice of colby jack cheese, avocado, and salsa on whole wheat bread.

Egg whites scrambled with broccoli. Topped with a bit of triple cheddar. Side of of Bagel Thins (heart them!) 

Mixed greens topped with tomato, avocado, black bean burger, and triple cheddar. For the dressing, I mixed two tablespoons light sour cream, one table spoon ranch and three tablespoons salsa--Voila! Southwest Ranch Dressing!


If you're looking for clean eating inspiration, check out the blog Oh She Glows. Lots of amazing, clean-eating (and vegan) recipes on Angela's blog.

My garden flamingos say "Happy Wednesday!"


Question of the day: Are you a morning person? What have you cleaned up in your diet recently?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Adventures in Ewing, Nebraska!

If drinking and driving was legal, the Nebraska drinking and driving game would go like this:

Take a shot if you see...

Cows

A tractor

Pro-life or Pro-gun sign

You'd be drunk after 30 miles! I kid, but Nebraska is very beautiful in it's own midwestern way. And the people are extremely kind.

Here's some highlights from our trip to Ewing (pronounced you-wing) for the 4th of July!

Pam got me some 90s tunes for the trip. Too bad, that some where one-hit wonders that I never heard of :*( THIS JAM was kickin' kickin' though...slide, slide, slipity slide.

Beaufort claimed a seat ON Pam.

We had a little malfunction. Wes hit a tire and it ripped my front bumper open. We gave it a colorful bandage to hold the bumper up. It looks like a true road warrior now!

Sun beams.

The clouds were doing some amazing things at sunset.

We were driving between a sunset and a rainstorm. It made the most beautiful and ominous pinks. This photo doesn't do it justice.

COWS.

The lake we went fishing on. Complete with outhouse/port-a-potty :)

Beaufort's first time on a boat. He isn't so sure of this.

Me and my friendy, Pam.

This is the face of a happy boating pup!

I caught a fish and proceeded to freak out. What in the heck do I do with this thing!?!? I can't stand the thought of dying animals (part of the reason I am a vegetarian), so I didn't know what to do with it!

Wes won the fish-catching contest. He caught six!


Watching fireworks from Pam's dad's house.

Caught one through the trees.

Another tree-thru pic.
We ate at this preposterously adorable restaurant, Green Gables. It's a little gem in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska. I want to live in this restaurant. That's how cute it is.

When you walk in the restaurant they have a map where you leave a flag where you are from. Wes is trying to locate us.

Cuteness overload #1: Mini dollhouse of the restaurant as you walk in.

Cuteness overload #2: a boutique with vintage wares and knick-knacks. Can my kitchen please look like this?

Cuteness overload #3: Homemade pie and vintage dishes. So twee that I can't handle it!

It was a tough decision, but I settled for Peanut Butter Pie. This one is a diet-buster for sure, but whatevs...it was worth it!


After lunch, we went to the Ashfall Fossil Beds, aka, the most depressing state park ever. Essentially, a giant volcano in Idaho erupted millions of year ago and suffocated all wildlife within thousands of miles. So the animals died a slow, suffocating death. This is no Disney world that's for sure. The only thing that kept me going were these awesome signs. DIRE WOLVES?! Game of Thones, anyone?

Ancient rhino and horse bones.

We hiked down a trail to see the open prairie.

That night, we went to the drive-in. My first time at a drive in ever! We saw Despicable Me 2. Loved the whole deal. Drive-ins are magical.

TANKING TIME! I told you guys about tanking last post, but here's some more evidence. You float down the river. You drink and swim and play games. That's it!

This guy had the right idea--he brought his pooch.


Rollin on the river.

Lovely views.

That's all, ladies and gents! Love, Mannequin Laura.

Overall, the trip was too much good company, fun, sun and booze. I also never want to see another potato chip in my life. With two weeks to go till the Spartan Race, it's hardcore clean eating and training time! Stay tuned!

Question of the day: Have you ever heard of tanking? I've been tubing and rafting before, but I didn't know about tanking until Pam told me about it! How was your fourth?