Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fitness: Circuit Training

Since I'm getting back into teaching group exercise again, I'm always looking to not only find new ideas for class, but to continually challenge myself physically.  Here are a few of the workouts I've been doing these last couple of weeks...all from different websites.  I do something different everyday to keep my body guessing.  Hope you enjoy them and, as always, consult with your physician befor beginning a new exercise routine.  Have fun!

Happy Fitness!
For a Total-body Circuit try
or this one (both from the same site)

Although Tabata would be considered a HIIT workout, it is definitely in a circuit style when you are doing more than one exercise per Tabata round.  Check these out for an all over, totally challenging workout:

Now get off the couch and start moving!!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Abs like a freshman

Yup, that's what I did today - I taught a fitness class to a group of incoming freshmen that were all part of a special interest pre-orientation group on health and fitness.  I was all geared up to teach an hour long high intensity cardio interval class when they (my boss and the orientation leaders) informed me that nobody signed up to take the course - they were all afraid, or too tired from the last few days.  Oh please!  I remember when I was in college and thought I knew what "being tired" meant...but you grow and your learn. 

So back to my story...I was asked to teach the Ab class instead.  Okay - I'll do it!  I was so disappointment to hear that I wouldn't get the chance to teach that i was willing to do anything...even teach something I've never done before.  I've never taught a class exclusively on ab exercises.  And not only that, I hate teaching off-the-cuff.  My personality type really struggles with it.  I'm a planner with every thread of my being.  I create lesson plans and follow them for every class, so now I had to step out of my comfort zone and deliver.  And boy did I deliver!  I'm so happy to report that even with some cramped space, minimal equipment, and no plans to seen or anytime to even think about what I would do, I was able to pull off a 45-50 minute class exclusively on ab work!  Not only did it feel great to get back into the saddle and share my passion for fitness, but it was a great feeling to know that I could do it on a whim and be sucessful.  Plus, after having two kids, I'm in as good of or better shape than these 18 year olds! (both the women and men...there was about an even split).  Now that's an awesome feeling.

So I share all of this with you because I'm inspired now to post some ab exercises for you.  The links below, along with the list of exercises I have included, make up the class I taught today.  I did between 2-3 sets of each exercise.  Proper form is very important.  It's also important to warm up, cool down, and stretch.  Plus, always consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.  One more tip - faster is not better.  Take your time, breathe, and drink water.  I hope you enjoy!

Happy Fitness!
Abs like a freshman

warm up:
3 sets of 8 each - jumping jacks, high knees, jump rope

standing ab work:
 - do 3 sets of 8 of each of these exercises
and same with the 3 standing exercises in this link:

floor work:
complete 3 sets of 8 each
 - crunches
 - reverse crunch with a leg lift
 - leg dip (single or double)
 - single leg lift side crunch (do on each side)
 - double leg lift side crunch  (do on each side)
 - v-sit ups
 - double crunch
 - bicycle crunches
 - supermans
 - planks (hold for 30 sec, rest for 10, do it again)
 - side planks (hold for 30 sec each side)

cool down and stretch all major muscle groups please!!!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Week 34 - a new normal

My husband works at Tufts University and we live very close to campus.  As we get ready for another school year to start up again, I am preparing for our "new normal".  Each semester seems to get busier and busier for my husband.  He often works evenings (events with students) and he/I sometimes don't even know till the last minute.  It's always a HUGE adjustment for everyone going from summer time to the fall semester, especially with daddy's schedule.  So here is my plan for the week, knowing that it may change as freshman orientation and pre-orientation events begin. 

Good luck to all students and parents out there starting up another school year! 
And as always, happy cooking!

Week 34 - August 25, 2013

Sunday - grilled chicken breasts with lentil salad and broccoli

Monday - black bean, sweet potato, and quinoa burgers with mixed greens and summer veggies

Tuesday - crockpot shredded beef enchiladas

Wednesday - leftovers (hubby working really late)

Thursday -buffalo chicken quinoa with broccoli and a mixed green salad

Friday - freshmen event on campus (taking the family)

Saturday - Greek Shrimp Couscous

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Week 33 - on the move again

I've been out of town again and made no plans for meals over the past week.  We just got back today, and I swear, every time I have the best intentions of posted lots of ideas before I leave town and EVERY TIME it never happens.  Oh well!  I had a great time visiting with my family in upstate New York while enjoying locally grown produce, including freshly picked corn.  There is nothing like freshly picked sweet corn!  Delicious!  Pair that with a BLT made with homegrown tomatoes and you have summer on a plate.  And that's pretty much how I ate over the last few days.  Looking for other meal inspiration?  Check out the links below.  And stay tuned for some new recipes and next week's meal plan.

Happy Cooking!

15 summer crockpot meal ideas (not certain these are all healthy):

And for all that summer zucchini:  Wheatberry Salad with Zucchini and Fresh Mozzerella:

20 salads hearty enough for dinner:

And for a healthy meal that can be done almost entirely on the grill: warm pasta with grilled turkey sausage and grilled vegetables:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake

This coffee cake is everything you are ever looking for in a coffee cake - moist and delicious, plus easy to make at home.  And this one has that great flavor combination of blueberries and a hint of lemon.  YUMMY!

The first time I made this cake was for Thanksgiving weekend, as we were hosting my entire family and looking for breakfast foods I could make ahead and have ready for them to eat.  (Don't want to cook breakfast on Thanksgiving day, or even the day after for that matter).  It was a huge hit!  I've made it for any brunch or special occasion with company ever since.  It may not be in line with the Healthy Home Revolution as an "everyday breakfast", but it is definitely a "sometime treat".  Hope you enjoy it as much as my family and friends have!

Happy Baking!

Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake
recipe found at
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp lemon zest or more — zest from 1 large lemon
1 scant cup of granulated sugar, (this means just 1-2 T shy of 1 full cup), plus 1-2 T to sprinkle on the top
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour (set aside 1/4 cup of this to toss with the blueberries)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups fresh blueberries
½ cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Cream butter with lemon zest and the sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour.  Then, in a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk.   Lastly, fold in the blueberries. (At this point, if you are using a mixer to create the batter, stop and fold the blueberries using a spatula).

Grease a 8 or 9-inch square baking pan (or something similar) with non-stick spray.   Spread batter into pan and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon or 2 of sugar (your choice, depending on how crunchy you want the top).  
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes.  Check with a toothpick and cook until it comes out clean.  Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.   Enjoy!

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Crema and Salsa Verde

I love tacos and I love shrimp, so why not a shrimp taco?  I've seen them on the menus of a few Mexican restaurants so I decided to try making my own at home. 

Mondays are meatless for us, but that doesn't necessarily mean strictly vegetarian.  It means we try to eat something beside beef, chicken, or pork and its a way we eat more fish/seafood at home too.  This week, shrimp was on sale at my grocery store so it was perfect.  Shrimp are so versatile and we love them - plus they were perfect in this dish.  The cabbage provided the crunchy texture I was looking for, the salsa verde (green salsa) was refreshing and provided a brightness to the dish.  The avocado crema added the creaminess you might expect when eating a taco (like from sour cream if you like that sort of thing - which we REALLY do).  Plus, everything was cooked completely on the grill.  Great for a hot summer day!

Everything about this recipe was delicious!  I get so excited when I create my own recipe and it comes out even better than I imagined.  I'm taking this one to my parents next week to make it for them.  I just know they are gonna love it!  And I hope you love it too!

Happy Cooking!
 Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Cream and Salsa Verde
original recipe inspired by the following:
Salsa Verde:
1 small onion, quartered
1/2 jalapeno, seeded
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 large tomatillos, (about 8 ounces) husked, rinsed, and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt
Avocado Crema:
1 Hass avocado, peeled, seeded, and mashed
1/2 cup greek yogurt (I used 2%)
juice of 1/2 of a lime (or more if you prefer)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

For the shrimp:
1 T olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced (I used my garlic press)
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 pound medium sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
8-10 corn tortillas  (we definitely got 10 tacos based on the size of our shrimp)
more chopped cilantro and lime wedges for serving
The first thing I did was make the green salsa so that the flavors would be able to meld as I prepared the rest of the meal. 

If you've never worked with a tomatillo before, here is what one looks like after you remove the husk:

In a food processor (I only have a small one that attaches to my blender), add the onion, garlic, and jalepeno.
Pulse until finely chopped.

Roughly cut the tomatillos, then add them to the food processor too.

At this time, add the cilantro and salt also. 
Continue to pulse until the consistency you prefer.  I like mine to be pretty smooth with no large chunks. 
Set aside on the countertop or in the fridge until its time to compose the tacos.

Now time to get the shrimp marinading.  Combine the shrimp, salt, olive oil, chipotle pepper powder, and garlic in a large bowl.  Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.  Smells good already!

Last step - to make the avocado crema.  First mash the avocado in a small bowl. 

Add the greek yogurt, cilantro, salt, and lime juice until well combined.  Set aside in the fridge until ready to serve.

Just another yummy!  I love my avocados!!!  And I will always welcome a chance to substitute greek yogurt for sour cream while hiding the flavor difference. 

The toppings:  coleslaw mix (just plain, as is, for crunch - shredded cabbage is fine too), salsa verde and avocado crema.
Now to grill the shrimp.  Pre-heat your grill of medium high heat.  I used a grill pan designed to cook seafood and vegetables, lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  Cook your shrimp for about 2 min on each side or until they turn pink.  Be careful not to overcook your shrimp - they can become tough and chewy and you don't want that.

While I was cooking my shrimp, I also warmed up my corn tortillas. 

Looking good!  Almost ready...

And here's the finished shrimp...these are so flavorful I would eat them as is...probably the entire bowl because they were just that good.

To build a taco, place 3-4 shrimp on each tortilla (depending on size of shrimp) then layer your toppings in any order. 

So delicious!!!  Fresh, flavorful and even better the next day.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Week 32

So its a little crazy around her with my mother-in-law and niece visiting from Alabama.  We are doing a lot of sight-seeing and running around, leaving little room for the usual routines around here.  The kids sleep and eating schedules are totally out of whack and I'm doing all I can to keep the house in order.  So here's a quick peek at what I plan to cook this week - nothing special, mostly trying to keep it REALLY simple with things I can prepare quickly.  Have a great week!  Gotta run!!!

Happy Cooking,

Week 32 - August 11, 2013

Sunday - updated version of Aunt Bernice's Garlic Chicken, rice pilaf, roasted broccoli

Monday - grilled salmon, tzaziki, salad, couscous, asparagus

Tuesday - zweigels hotdogs (a local upstate NY delicacy we have my parents bring us), grilled summer veggie medley

Wednesday - date night

Thursday - leftovers

Friday - pizza night

Saturday - heading out of town (going to see family in Rochester, NY)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Berry Frozen Yogurt Popsicles

As you will see from the many, many photos, this recipe was so easy that the kids actually did most of the work.  Lots of fun making this one!  A delicious and refreshing summertime treat that is healthy for your family!!!  Enjoy!

Happy Cooking,

Berry Frozen Yogurt Popsicles
recipe from Jamie Oliver,,20700875,00.html
2 small ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
1½ cups frozen berries (I used mixed berries)
2 cups non-fat plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
2 T honey

Ready to get started!
Combine everything in the blender until well combined and smooth.  Pour into your popsicle molds and freeze.  For best results, freeze overnight. 

Excited to help mommy in the kitchen!
Owen cut up all the bananas with a plastic knife.  He can't wait to get "bigger" so he can use a "sharp knife" like mommy.
Placing the bananas in the blender.
All the ingredients ready to go!
Blended until smooth.
Just another view...its essentially a smoothie.

Poured into the molds and placing the popsicle sticks inside.
Nina wants to help too.
Drinking the leftovers as smoothies for snack (we had more than enough for our 6 popsicles).
After your popsicles have set up, run them under hot water until they slide easily from the molds.  Enjoy!  My kids couldn't get enough of this "Dessert" and I couldn't be happier.  I can't get Owen to eat yogurt so smoothies and these popsicles are the way to go!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Week 31 - back to reality

So here we are, back in Boston and getting back to reality.  Not only that, but my mother-in-law comes into town this Thursday and we haven't seen her since the fall!  Lots to do before then, so trying to keep our meals on the simpler side.

Below you'll find my plan for the week based on what I'm in the mood to eat and what I have in the freezer.  I've included any links to recipes that inspired this weeks menu.  I hope you have a fabulous week!

Happy Cooking!

Week 31 - August 4, 2013 
(updated Monday - sorry for any inconvenience!  I forgot about my anniversary when menu planning...oops!)
Sunday - grilled skirt steak, tomato & mozzarella salad, sautéed Swiss chard

Monday - Our 6th Wedding Anniversary (not cooking tonight, so I hope my hubby surprises me with something amazing!)

Tuesday - date night out to celebrate our anniversary

Wednesday - summer grilled chicken chopped salad

Thursday - grilled brats & hotdogs, grilled veggies, salad

Friday - pizza night

Saturday - Taking my Mother-in-law out for dinner
Just another salad for your recipe inspiration - a bed of mixed greens with roasted veggies, feta, simple vinaigrette, hummus, and pita chips.  Yummy!!!!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Week 30 - I'm on vacation! (or at least I was)

So my intention was to post this before leaving for vacation last Saturday, but that never happened.  You know how it is...too much packing and organizing and this just wasn't high on the priority list.  But I'm here now, giving you some ideas inspired by my week on the ocean.  Staying near Cape Cod in New England meant we had our fair share of seafood...scallops, shrimp, mussels, oysters, haddock, clam strips, etc.  So here are a few links to ideas for some healthier seafood dinners - none of that deep fried stuff.  Hope it inspires you to try something new this week!

Happy Cooking!
Yummy lobster roll!
From Food Network - Healthy Fish and Seafood Recipes

From Fitness Magazine - The Best Healthy Seafood Recipes

From Better Homes and Garden - 22 Quick and Easy Seafood Recipes (some healthier than others)

From Cooking Light - 25 Best Healthy Seafood Recipes

From Eating Well - Healthy Seafood Recipes