Friday, December 28, 2012

Thrive Forward - launching next week!

Hi friends! I'm participating in Thrive Forward as one of my New Years Resolutions, starting next week. I've really been slacking in my healthy diet lately, especially since Thanksgiving. (Cookies are my enemy.) Thrive Forward is a new personalized program formulated by Vega founder Brendan Brazier to help you eat a more nutritious plant-based diet to feel better and have more energy. I've read Brendan Brazier's books on plant-based nutrition and have learned how to eat healthy plant-based diet from them. I strongly believe in the power of plants for nutrition and I'm excited learn even more through this program. I encourage all of you to at least try it! Even if you don't want give up eating animals, you can still learn a lot from a plant-based diet. It's free and you have nothing to lose!

Like I said, I already follow a mostly plant-based diet based on what I've learned from Brendan Brazier and Vega. He is a triathlete that figured out, through research and trail and error, that a plant-based diet is the best diet for sustained energy and generally feeling good. I strongly agree with this through my own experiences. He also proves that even athletes can eat a plant-based diet and still build muscle and be successful.

So, the Thrive Forward program doesn't launch until January 1st, but you can pre-register today and get  a Clean Eating 101 e-book. Watch the introduction video below to learn more about the program.

You don't know how bad crappy food makes you feel until you stop eating it. If you have headaches, digestive issues, trouble sleeping, always feel tired, etc, plant-based nutrition will likely make you feel much better (it worked for me). Plus, you will reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and many other diseases.

Are you going to Thrive Forward with in 2013?? Comment below!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays! Time to splurge!

Happy Holidays everyone! I'm in Florida now visiting my family for the week. My workplace is closed  until January 2nd so I'm excited to get some much-needed rest and time off...I haven't taken a vacation since I started working! 

My favorite thing about coming to Florida in the winter is the weather and opportunity to be outdoors without freezing. I grew up in Florida so I am definitely a warm-weather type of person, although I also like the change of seasons up north. It was a little cold here when I arrive but it's warming up tomorrow and I'm excited to go for a run with an old friend and then hopefully hit the beach.

It's definitely easy to splurge over the holidays, and I have to admit that my diet has been less than healthy since about Thanksgiving. I've been eating sugar and other unhealthy things, which I plan to stop next week. For now, I think it's OK to splurge. Giving in to delicious unhealthy foods (like cookies and pie) once in a while makes me realize why I don't like to eat them often. I honestly feel less healthy because I've been eating unhealthy foods. Things like sugar, white rice, and wheat have been making me feel bloated and sluggish. I'm actually really looking forward to eating healthy again just so I can feel better! But I'm going to leave that til next week, because cookies and pie are calling my name this week :)

These are traditional Slovak "moon cookies" that my Mom makes for Christmas.

What's your favorite holiday treat?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Raw kale tastes better with a massage!

I know that you don't believe the title of this post, but it's true! It's taken me a long time to discover how to eat raw kale without pain. I usually eat kale in the form of kale chips or cheezy kale chips, but any leafy green is best eaten raw to get the most nutrients. Kale is a type of cabbage and contains loads of pretty much every vitamin, especially A, C, and K. It also contains antioxidants that reduce your risk for certain types of cancer. In my mind, kale is a "hearty" leafy green and therefore I like to eat it more in the winter, rather than baby spinach or romaine. I think kale goes better with squash, sweet potato, and other fall/winter foods.

So kale looks pretty unappetizing and dry in it's raw form, right? I've made a few kale salads in the past that I didn't even finish eating because I hated the kale. Well, I did some blog research and raw kale is much more appetizing and easier to eat/chew when you massage it first! I never thought of massaging my vegetables but it worked! Massaging the kale with an oil-based dressing adds some moisture and breaks down the fibers to make it much softer. I actually like raw kale now that I've figured this out, so I suggest you give it a try!

Raw kale before and after massaging with oil

How to Massage Kale
First, rip your kale leaves into bite-size pieces. Leave the stems out because they are tough to chew. (They can be used for juicing!) Places the kale into a large bowl. For the dressing part, you have to do some estimation. You don't want to use too much oil because it's high in calories. Try to estimate how many servings of kale you have. For 1 big serving to be used in a salad base, I added 1/2 Tbs. of olive oil, 1 tsp. of vinegar, and juice of 1/4 lemon. Drizzle the dressing mixture over the kale. Now, simply massage the dressing into the kale, for about 2 minutes. You will notice the kale turn dark in color and become softer (see picture above). Once all of the kale looks like this, you're done massaging. Since the kale won't wilt like lettuce or spinach would, you can do this massaging a long time before actually serving. This also lets the dressing marinate the kale more. For example, for lunch the next day, simply massage the kale the morning or night before and keep refrigerated. Then, just add more ingredients to make a salad!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Years Resolutions

Many people make New Years resolutions, but how many actually keep them? Gyms are always packed in early January, but come February, back to normal. I actually found out from a gym owner that 80% of his monthly members don't even come to the gym after the first month! I think that the problem with New Years resolutions is that people tend to make generic goals like "I'm going to eat healthier" or "I'm going to workout more." These are really difficult resolutions to keep because they involve immeasurable goals. Your resolutions have to be something specific, like "I'm going to run a 5K" or "I'm going to cut sugar out of my diet." These goals are specific and measurable and therefore easier to keep.

I've actually had some pretty big New Years resolutions work out in the past because they were specific enough for me to actually measure if I reached them. In 2010, I decided to drastically change my diet and eat vegan. Going "cold turkey" like this worked for me, but it might not work for everyone. I threw out all of my non-vegan food (including a huge stash of Cheez-Its that my friend compiled for me from the dorms haha) and started the difficult process of learning how to eat healthy vegan food. While I'm not strictly vegan anymore, I do still eat a plant-based diet, so this resolution was a huge success! In 2011, my resolution was "to eat healthier and work out more." I have no idea if I actually attained this goal because it was so vague. In 2012, I decided to start this blog, read my first post here. I'm still writing so this resolution was definitely a success! I also wanted to do unassisted pull-ups; it's the end of the year but I finally got them! See picture below, I am not using the band hanging there :)

Me doing an unassisted kipping pull-up (on the right)

I've been thinking about some New Years resolutions for 2013 and here are some of my ideas:

  • Learn double unders
  • Do regular push-ups (means practicing every day)
  • Do all pull-up workouts without a band (unassisted kipping pull-ups)
  • Beat half-marathon PR of 1:55 in the Indy 500 Mini Marathon
  • Be active every single day
  • Go gluten-free

What are your past successful resolutions/goals?

What are some of your New Years resolution ideas?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Fitness Log: 12/10 - 12/16

Monday - 12/10: CrossFit
PRE-WOD:  Max Snatch: 60 lbs.
10 Overhead Squat (45)
20 Pull-Up (red band)
5 burpees
Time: 13:08
Mondays morning workouts are always really blah for me. I couldn't even do my previous max snatch at 65 lbs. I also started doing unassisted pull-ups but ended up using the small red band. Well, I'm hoping tomorrow's workout will feel better.

Tuesday - 12/11: CrossFit
Pre-WOD: 5-3-3-2-2-1-1 Shoulder Press (up to 60 lbs.)
WOD: 30-20-10
Kettlebell swings (35 lbs.)
The shoulder press is so hard! It's amazing how much better I am at the push press when I can use my legs.

Wednesday - 12/12: CrossFit
Pre-WOD: "Annie" 50-40-30-20-10
Double unders (I did singles)
WOD: 15 minute AMRAP
10 push press (45 lbs.)
10 front squat (45 lbs.)
20 box jumps
Time: around 13 minutes
The pre-wod was hard enough today!

Thursday - 12/13: CrossFit
Pre-WOD: Max effort pull-up. I did 7 in a rown without a band! New PR!
WOD: 10 rounds:
250 m row
2-minute rest
Lowest time: 1:03, Highest time: 1:05
I didn't think I would but I actually really liked this rowing workout. I was also proud of myself for 7 pull ups. I even practiced double unders afterward and got about 5-10 in a row. I just got my own jump rope so hopefully I can get much better at these!

Rowing in a circle at RNCF, I'm on the right!

Friday - 12/14: Rest Day
I didn't sleep well so I decided to take a rest day. Probably needed it after 4 straight days of crossfit.

Saturday - 12/15 CrossFit Track WOD
3 rounds:
400 m run
30 burpees
20 toes to bar
30 squats
20 body rows
30 lunges
This workout was kind of miserable because it was cold and raining but I'm glad I got up to do it!

Sunday - 12/15: Rest Day

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Karyn's Raw in Chicago

I went to Karyn's Raw with a couple of friends (one of them is also vegetarian) about a month ago and I've finally gotten the chance to post about it! Karyn Calabrese is a vegan chef that has three restaurant/market locations in Chicago. She offers wellness seminars and even weekly meals that you can take home. I was definitely excited to try some of her food and it was even better than I expected!

Karyn's Raw Cafe on Halsted offers gourmet raw vegan food. Raw food can be cooked up to 118 F, so it retains all of its nutrients. I definitely agree that a raw diet is very good for you and I try to eat raw vegetables every day. However, I prefer soups and hot food in the winter so it's more difficult for me this time of the year. Eating at Karyn's made me realized that raw food doesn't have to be a salad. There are many creative things you can do with soaked nuts and sprouted grains. During the whole meal, my friends and I were trying to figure out what everything was made out of because it tasted so amazing! We were saying..."how is this raw?!" Even the meat-eating friend thought it was amazing :)

This tasty and filling meal definitely inspired me to try more creative raw recipes. I actually have Carol Alt's recipe book Easy Sexy Raw. Carol Alt is a famous supermodel that was big in the 80s and she looks amazing for 52! I'm sure that's party due to her supermodel genes but I'm sure that it also has a lot to do with her healthy lifestyle. Karyn's on Green is actually offering a free seminar on Tuesday so maybe I'll try to attend!

Here are pictures of the wonderful meal we had. The quality is not great because they were taken with my iPhone and the lighting was pretty dark. I think the appetizer and dessert were my favorite, I need to learn how to make them!

Appetizer: Sea Dim Sum
Avocado meat puree with wakame and kalamata olives wrapped in nori
Served with Pacific dipping sauce
Flax and corn masa pastry dough stuffed with three pepper chorizo and house blend chili spice
Served with a side of authentic raw chocolate mole and a salsa verde

Portobello Napoleon
Thinly sliced Portobellos layered with scented vegetables, fresh herbs and a cashew blue cheese
Drizzled with homemade primavera sauce

Basil Scented Ravioli
Half moon shells filled with macadamia whipped crème dressed with an Italian olive marinara sauce

Tiramisu Cheesecake
Macafe infused cream layered with date lady fingers and whipped marscarpone

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thai Curry Soup

I went to Noodles last week and was surprised at how many vegetarian options they have. However, they're not all that healthy because of the noodles, ironically. I had the pad thai and thai curry soup, and I really like the soup. I haven't had soup that good at actually thai places so I'm not sure what their secret ingredients are, but it is really good. Anyway, it inspired me to make my own thai curry soup. The spices in curry, like turmeric, have unique health properties, including anti-aging properties. Curry is not usually spicy-hot so I added cayenne pepper. I looked up some recipes online and combined them more or less to make the following:

Taking good pictures of soup is so hard...
2 oz brown rice noodles (linguine or pad thai, find in Asian or gluten free section)
32 oz. carton of veggie broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp lemon grass, minced (my grocery store didn't have lemon grass so I used 2 tbsp. of lemon juice instead)
1 tsp. grated or ground ginger
3 tsp. red curry paste
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. agave nectar
1 can reduced fat coconut milk
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 tbsp. fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup cilantro
6-oz baby spinach leaves

Cook the noodles separately according to package directions. Meanwhile, add about 1/2 cup of the veggie broth to a large saucepan. There should be about a 1/2-inch layer of the broth covering the whole bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer on low heat. Add the garlic, lemon grass (if using), and ginger and saute for about 1 minute. Stir in the rest of the broth and the curry paste. Once, the paste is dissolved, add the soy sauce, agave nectar, and lemon juice (instead of the lemon grass). Let simmer for 20 minutes, covered. Add the coconut milk, mushrooms, and cayenne pepper and bring back to a simmer. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the cooked noodles, and simmer for about 5 more minutes. Serve warm!

What is your favorite Thai recipe?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Daily Habits of Healthy People

The easiest way to be healthy is to make it a habit or a way of life. I hate the phrase "I'm on a diet" but do use the word "diet" a lot because it's actual definition is the types of foods that someone eats daily. A lot of people will say that I'm on a diet because I avoid certain foods, but really, your diet is how you eat normally and not during some 2 weeks that you're trying to lose 5 pounds. Therefore, I think that it's important to constantly say the phrase and remind myself that I "eat a healthy diet" or "lead a healthy lifestyle" so it's something that's constant. Rather than, "I'm on a healthy diet" which implies that it's temporary. Getting into the mindset of leading a healthy lifestyle will help you make it a habit.

I've listed some healthy habits that I try to do everyday. Our bodies really are habitual and I don't feel as well when I don't do even one of these things in my day. I miss working out and eating fresh (uncooked) vegetables more than I'd like to admit, but this is a really good list to strive for daily.

1. Be Active. Being active is the single best thing that you can do for your health according to the video below. (I would argue that sleep is just as or even more important.) Being active doesn't have to be running or crossfit everyday. A 30-minute brisk walk is all that doctors recommend to significantly reduce your risk of preventable diseases.

2. Drink Lemon Water. There are countless benefits to drinking lemon water daily, including acting as a cleanse and getting a dose of natural vitamin C. The best way to do this is to squeeze a wedge of lemon into a glass of room-temperature water in the morning and drink it on an empty stomach, before breakfast.

3. Eat Fresh Fruits and Veggies. Unprocessed fruits and vegetables are the only foods that are 100% healthy and beneficial. Cooking gets rid of some of the nutrients so eating fresh fruits and veggies should be a daily habit. By the way, if you're eating the recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies, then you shouldn't need a multi-vitamin.

4. Drink Tea. I know a lot of people that don't like tea, it probably is an acquired taste that you grow up with. That's too bad because tea is an excellent way to hydrate yourself and get antioxidants. Antioxidants in green tea especially have been proven to reduce the risk of cancer. If you don't like tea, try drinking fruit teas first with honey as sweetener. Plus, tea is a much better alternative to coffee.

5. Get 7-8 Hours of Sleep. I think that this habit is the most important for leading a healthy lifestyle. Even if you think you're getting enough sleep on 5-6 hours, you're not. Your body is not properly recovering and you are increasing your risk of disease. If you have trouble sleeping, try drinking chamomile tea before you go to bed and drinking less caffeine. Also, spend the hour before bed in the dark and made sure that your bedroom is as dark as possible. Any light, even from your alarm clock, affects your body's ability to produce melatonin and thus sleep deeply. Speaking of melatonin, tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin and will help you stay asleep and sleep more deeply. They are also anti-inflammatory, thus helping your muscles recover and reducing your risk of cancer. Drink tart cherry juice about 1.5 hours before bed.

Do you already follow any of these habits?

Do you have any healthy habits to add to the list?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fitness Log: 12/3 - 12/9

Monday - 12/3: Rest Day
I was lazy and slept in so I just walked a couple miles at lunch because it was so nice outside!

Tuesday - 12/4: Crossfit
Pre-WOD: Max Shankle Complex (3 hang clean shrugs, 1 hang squat clean, 2 jerks) - 80 lbs.
Power Clean 7,000 lbs in 10 minutes
I did 128 reps of 45-lb. Cleans, total: 5,760 lbs.
I wasn't sure that I wanted to do the WOD today after checking the website the night before because it seemed really technical. This was my first time doing the "Shankle Complex" and I basically was able to do my clean and jerk max. The WOD was actually kind of a neat workout because you realize how much weight you can lift in 10 minutes. I didn't quite reach the 7,000 lbs goal for 5,760 lbs. is pretty good!

Wednesday - 12/5: Crossfit
Pre-WOD: 3 rounds:
1 minute hand-stand hold, 1 minute rowing, 1 minute plank
Benchmark WOD "Diane"
21 – 15 – 9 of:
Deadlift (225/155)
Handstand Push Up (from box)
Time: 3:51
My lower back was really hurting from the cleans yesterday (this is not supposed to happen so I need to work on my form) so the deadlifts didn't feel that good. Regardless, a good workout day!

Thursday - 12/6: Rest Day
I stayed up too late because a friend was staying over at our house so I didn't go to sleep early enough to get up early to work out. Oops!

Friday -  12/7: CrossFit and Run
Pre-WOD: Push Press 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 (55-60-65-70-75)
WOD: 10 Minute AMRAP
1 Curtis P (55)
2 Kettlebell Swings (35)
2 Curtis P (55)
4 Kettebell Swing (35)
3 Curtis P (55)
6 Kettlebell Swing (35)
I got up to 5 Curtis P/10 KB swings
Then: 4-mile run to Navy Pier!
Today was my flex day off from work so I decided to also go for a run after CrossFit. It was a bit chilly but I made it to the end of Navy Pier and back, which is about 4 miles. My legs were deifnitely tired later in the day! The Curtis P is a barbell move where you clean the barbell, then do 2 lunges (1 on each leg), and then a push press. The lunges plus running made my glutes really sore!

Chicago skyline from Navy Pier

Saturday - 12/8: CrossFit
Partner 25 Minute AMRAP
10 Power Clean (55)
10 Wall Ball (10)
10 Toes to Bar
My partner, Alvin, and I completed 12 rounds plus 7 cleans (I completed 6 rounds).
This was a good workout and having a partner really made you push through each round quickly. The toes to bar were the hardest pat for me. My abs are never sore from toes to bar so I'm not sure if I'm doing it right?

Sunday - 12/9: Rest Day
My friends and I went to TBOX (a huge Christmas-themed bar crawl in Chicago) all day Saturday so Sunday was spent on the couch haha, but I'm refreshed for a good week of workouts next week!

Crossfit workouts provided by River North Crossfit in Chicago.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fitness Log 11/18 - 12/2

I've been bad at keeping track of my workouts for the month of November...but I'm going to start again!

Sunday - 11/18: Run
4.6 mile run
Ryan and I went for a leisurly (slow) run downtown. The weather was nice so it felt great! Ryan is getting back into running (he's really good) after a back injury so hopefully we can do a race "together" soon.

Monday - 11/19: Crossfit
WOD: Crossfit Total
1 rep-max back squat (140 lbs.)
1 rep-max shoulder press (55 lbs.)
1 rep-max deadlift (155 lbs.)
Total score: 350 lbs.
We did this same WOD on October 1 and then proceeded to do a back squat progam, so the back squat should have been the most improved. However I only improved by 5 lbs on the back squat and 10 lbs on the dead lift. I couldn't even get my previous max for the shoulder press at 60 lbs. I was a little frustrated today at not improving much but I think it just wasn't a good day for me to PR. I went on a trip last week and didn't work out much and didn't eat the healthiest, not to mention the 8 hour time change and jet lag. I also didn't do the back squat program fully because I had a race this month and didn't want to be sore. So, I'm not trying to make excuses but I think that there are some valid reasons that I didn't PR today as much as I wanted to. Maybe next time!

Tuesday - 11/20: Crossfit
WOD: “Kelly”
5 Rounds:
400 meter Run
30 Box Jumps
30 Wall Balls (10#)
Time: don't remember...

Wednesday - 11/21: Crossfit
Find max snatch: 65 PR!
WOD: “Randy”
75 Snatches (35)
2 Minutes Rest, then:
1 minute Pull-Ups
1 minute Push-Press (35) or same bar you used for “Randy”
1 minute Kettlebell Swing (35)
1 minute Burpees

Thursday - Sunday: Thanksgiving!
I got a mild sinus infection on Thanksgiving so I didn't work out at all :( Unless you count Black Friday shopping as a work out...

Monday - 11/26: Crossfit
Clean Technique then Hang Clean 2-2-2-2-2 max: 70 lbs.
WOD: "Fran"
21 – 15 – 9
Thruster (45#)
Pull-Up (red band)
Time: 7:50
This was very close to my fastest Fran time but I used a thinner band for the pull-ups, which made it a lot harder so I think I did good. A very mean workout to have after Thanksgiving weekend...

Tuesday - 11/27: Crossfit
Max front squat: 125 PR!
WOD: 30-20-10
Toes to Bar
Push Up (hand release)
Box Jumps (24/20)
Time: 11:45
A good workout, although I can't quite get my toes to the bar that many times in a row.

Wednesday - 11/28: Crossfit
WOD: 7 rounds:
7 Hang Power Clean (45 lbs)
14 Burpee
2 minute Rest
Total Time: 20:42
I shared a barbell with Katie for this workout and we decided that we could have used a heavier weight for this workout, probably at least 55 lbs. The burpees were actually the hard part of this workout!

Thursday - 11/29: Crossfit
20 Minute AMRAP:
5 Pull Up
10 Push Up
15 Squat
Total: 10 rounds
I did this work out without a band for the pull-ups!! Although it wasn't completely Rx because I still did the push-ups from my knees. The pull ups were definitely a limiting factor for me in this workout because I had to pause often within the set. I always wasn't getting my chin up all the way for the last few sets. Regardless...I'm glad I'm finally moving on to real kipping pull ups! (Also, a blister on my left hand ripped open and it hurts and is gross.)

Friday - 11/30: Rest Day
My upper body was so sore from Thursday so I didn't work out

Saturday - 12/1: Real Ryder Revolution
45-minute spinning class on R3 bikes
Since I plan on not running outside this winter I decided to do spinning class about once a week for endurance cardio work. I tried Real Ryder Revolution earlier this year because one of my sorority sisters teaches classes there (plus there was a groupon). I haven't done other spinning classes before but what's different about the bikes at R3 is that they are suspended in their frame so you feel more like you're on a real bike because you can actually "turn." I think it's much more of a whole body work out than regular stationary bikes and also more exciting!

Sunday - 12/2: Rest Day
Another rest day, oops! Ryan and I went to a wedding at Purdue on Saturday (congrats Mitch and Lauren!) so I was too tired to work out by the time we got back in town. Sitting on the couch and watching TV sounded like a much better idea...

Friday, November 30, 2012

100th Post and Indy 500 Mini Marathon!

This is my 100th post! I was trying to think of something special to write about and then I decided, why not sign up for a race? The 500 Festival Mini Marathon in Indianapolis is a half marathon that I've been wanting to do for a while. Many of my friends run it yearly and it's also the biggest half in the country. The coolest part is that you get to run a loop around the Indy 500 track. Today is the last day before the race fee goes up so of course that enticed me to sign up.

The race is on May 4, 2013, so I still have a while to train. I probably won't start doing long runs outside until the end of February because I'm a little bit afraid of Chicago winter (this is my first year actually living here during the winter). For extra cardio fitness besides CrossFit, I'm planning on going to spinning sessions at Real Ryder Revolution about once a week this winter. I tried it out earlier this year in the spring and really liked it but decided to focus on running and CrossFit. Now that it's cold, indoor spinning will be a great alternative to running. Plus, they are having a great special of 10 rydes for $99 that ends today! (Notice how deals and saving money always get me to buy things...I still have that grad student mentality haha.)

Emily and I at the Indy 500 in 2008! She's also doing the mini in the spring!

Have you signed up for any races next year yet?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Red Velvet Vega Smoothie

I caved in at the grocery store this past weekend and got some red velvet cupcakes...ooops! I normally don't eat sugar because it is toxic, but it's the holiday season, so I can't resist splurging a little bit. It turns out, the store-bought cupcakes weren't very good so I probably won't buy them again. However, the red velvet cupcakes did inspire me to make a red velvet smoothie! The secret ingredient is Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate! You should have a bottle of this at home already because tart cherries are good for sleep since they are a natural source of melatonin (tart cherries don't necessarily help you fall asleep but the melatonin helps you stay asleep, so you can drink it any time of the day). I'm surprised that I haven't thought of putting tart cherry juice in my morning smoothie before. Tart cherries are also good for after working out since they reduce inflammation and therefore help your muscles repair.

Ingredients (feel free to alter to your taste)
4-6 frozen strawberries
1/2 banana
1 scoop Vega One (I used natural flavor)
1/2 tbsp. cocoa powder (unless you are using chocolate Vega One)
2 tbsp. tart cherry juice concentrate
1 cup or more of almond milk

Directions: Mix in a blender! I love my handy dandy 1-serving/travel cup Hamilton Beach Blender :)

Also check out my other smoothie recipes: Vega One French Vanilla Smoothie and Vega One Pumpkin Smoothie.

What's your weakness during the holidays?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Working out for 365 days?!

I just came accross this blog about a girl who worked out every day for a year. Is it an impossible goal or one that's totally feasible. I've always tried to break a sweat once a day but I let life get in the way and really only work out 3-5 days a week. Rest days are important, but you should still move on a rest day with a short run, long walk, or a calmer workout like yoga. I tend to slack off the most on days that I'm tired or lazy because I think that I won't get a great workout so I might as well just put it off until  tomorrow. Perhaps a seemingly intimidating goal like working out every single day would not let me give myself excuses for not being active.

I'm tempted for this to be my New Years' resoultion and to use my blog to hold myself accountable. However, I'm really afraid that I'll fail like 10 days in! What do you guys think? Should I work out every single day in 2013?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sweet Potato Mash for Thanksgiving!

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving! What are you doing for the holiday weekend? I'm spending it with my boyfriend's family in the suburbs of Chicago. I offered to bring a healthy side dish this year and so I experimented with a mashed sweet potato recipe last night and tested it with Ryan. The first try was kind of bland so I added more spices and it came out really good! This recipe only takes minutes to make and can feed plenty! Again, the picture below doesn't look that good because my plates are green but I promise it looks more appetizing than in the picture!

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 tbsp. Earth Balance butter
3 tbsp. pure maple syrup or agave nectar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add chopped sweet potato. Boil for about 5 minutes, or until sweet potato is tender (test with a fork). Drain the sweet potato and add the rest of the ingredients. Mash by hand or use a food processor until the mixture is smooth. Taste and add more butter, syrup, or spices as necessary. I recommend adding a smaller amount of the other ingredients at first and then adding more as necessary, especially if you are making a bigger batch. I'm hoping people like my side dish tomorrow!
What are you making for Thanksgiving tomorrow?
Is any of it healthy? haha

Monday, November 19, 2012

Airplane food upgraded!

As you know I went on a trip to Ukraine last week and I was actually pleasantly suprised by the airplane food! This was my first long internaitonal trip since I've changed my diet to more plant based so I requested vegan/vegetarian food for the meal when I booked my ticket. Airplane food is notorious for being bad so I really didn't know what to expect but I must say that the veggie option was better than some "vegetarian" options that I've been served at banquets at conferences!

Above is a picture of the main meal on my way back from Europe. It was a rice and bean dish with a slight curry flavor. I'd prefer brown rice but I thought it was excellent! The salad was also good with herbs and some other veggies, and even a vegan dressing. The dessert was tropical fruit, my favorite! I already feel like crap on long flights (dehydrated and tired) so eating healthy food made me feel a little better. Fruits and veggies contain a lot of water to help dehydration.

I was also suprised that the snack at the end of the flight was also vegetarian (made special for me). It was a sandwich with veggies and cheese (which I attempted to remove). The best part was the banana!

I would suggest ordering a vegetarian meal (you have to do it when you book the flight) even if you're not vegetarian because it definitely looked healthier than the regular options. Your body is already stressed and prone to getting sick when you're travelling so eating the right food can really help.
What's the best/worst airplane food you've ever had?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hello from Ukraine!

I'm in Kiev right now! It's difficult to stay in shape on the road and I don't have any tips for you so I'm just going to write about some of the good food that I've eaten. My co-workers have been here many times before so they've taken me to some good Ukrainian restaurants, although tonight we are headed to an Irish pub. My family is from Slovakia, which borders the Ukraine, so I'm actually pretty familiar with the culture and food here, and I can even understand quite a few words (unless they're written because I don't know the cyrillic alphabet). The architecture (especially Soviet-era) is also pretty familiar. Below is a picture of a cathedral that I saw while taking a walk.

Below is a picture of a traditional Ukrainian dish called deruny. They are basically just potato pancakes, and these came with mushrooms inside of them. There haven't been a lot of vegetarian options so I've eaten these at almost every meal, plus they are delicious!

Rus Borshch (pictured below) is a type of beet stew that is also a traditional and very popular Ukrainian dish. It's probably not vegetarian because most soups here are made with chicken broth (I know that from my grandma's cooking), but still delicious! The basis of the soup is beets, and it's often served with sour cream, which gives it a pink color. I tried to stay away from the sour cream because dairy makes my stomach hurt! I might try to make this soup at home.

Being in Kiev has really made me miss Slovakia. I haven't visited in almost four years, and I used to go every year! Grad school and internships have really interfered with my travel. I haven't seen most of my extended family in forever and I haven't even met some of my cousin's new kids. But my family is planning to go next summer so I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sweet Potato Soup

I've been experimenting with a lot of soups this fall and this one is another hit! Sweet potatoes are very healthy and make a nice hearty fall soup. This is a very quick and easy recipe that I got from the Happy Herbivore Cookbook -- definitely a good purchase! Check out my other fall soup recipes: Butternut Squash Soup and Creamy Curry Pumpkin Soup. Coincidentally, all of these soups are very orange but they don't photograph well with my light green bowls haha. I also only use my iPhone camera...

Ingredients (about 1 serving)
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups diced sweet potato, no skin (about 1 medium sweet potato)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp ginger
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne (optional)

Add all ingredients to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 5-10 minutes, until the sweet potato is soft. Blend the soup using a hand or regular blender, be careful of the hot liquid! Add more broth or water to adjust the thickness of the soup. You can add cooked wild rice or quinoa to the soup for a fuller meal. You can easily double or triple this recipe by adding more broth/water and sweet potato, but be careful with the spices. Also, if you don't have vegetable broth, you can just use water and then add some onion powder, bay leaves, celery salt, and other spices for more taste.

What's your favorite fall soup?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chicago Hot Chocolate 15K!

The Chicago Hot Chocolate 5K/15K was yesterday and it was so much fun and I did great! I beat my goal of 1:20 by finishing in 1:18:52, that's 8:28/mile pace! I was 215 out of 2862 in my age group and 890 out of 11,258 for females, not bad! The weather was pretty good for November, it was a chilly 40 degrees but thankfully not windy. The course was along the lake so the wind could have been bad. I felt pretty good during the race and I'm glad that I prepared adequately. I didn't really start getting tired until mile 8-9, but then I saw Ryan at the end and sprinted to the finish! He was a great boyfriend coming early with me and carrying my stuff so I could wear my jacket until the start. Although, even though I warmed up, I was pretty cold by the time we started because my corral had a half hour delay. I was even in one of the beginning corrals so other people had to wait out there even longer! The course was a little bit crowded, especially before the 5k split. There were already people walking in the first mile, they should have done a slower corral! A race I ran in DC a couple years ago was very crowded and I've learned that it's good to try to get in a fast corral. But it was a good race and I'll probably do it next year again!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Why the Marathon Should Go On

There is a lot of controversy today about whether or not the NYC Marathon on Sunday should go on. Many people, both NYC residents and not, strongly disagree with Mayor Bloomberg's decision to not cancel the marathon despite the widespread destruction from Hurricane Sandy. While I'm not in New York, I have seen the aftermath of many hurricanes since I grew up in Florida. The one thing that seems to help hurricane recovery the most is the community coming together. This race will not only bring the community together, but also bring outsiders into the community to help.

If this was any other event, like a concert, I wouldn't agree with holding it in the wake of a disaster. However, runners are kind, compassionate, and fundraising people. A good portion of the NYC marathon runners are already running it to raise money for a good cause. Runners are determined and willing to go the extra mile (pun intended). Marathoners put in a lot of hard work for little or no reward. Runners are good people and they help each other out. Wouldn't you want 50,000 determined and compassionate people coming to your city after a disaster?

I heard that many runners are using social media to meet up to help the community this weekend. The organization running the marathon is donating $1 million to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund and asking each runner to donate $26.20. Major sponsors of the event are also donating money. Plus, the marathon weekend brings in over $300 million in revenue to the city. These donations and revenues wouldn't happen if the race were cancelled.

While Mayor Bloomberg says that no resources will be diverted from disaster help to the marathon, I think this is untrue in some sense, which is what most people are complaining about. The extra city employees (e.g. police officers) and race volunteers could spend their time instead to help hurricane victims. However, New Yorkers should think of the marathon as a fund raising event rather than a resource-draining event. The small investment of time from city employees and volunteers will yield a much bigger reward in donations and revenue. NYC can't afford not to have the Marathon this weekend.

Race Prep - the right way

If you follow my blog, you know that I completely bombed the Chicago Half Marathon due to poor pre-race prep, even after month of training. So I'm making it a point to prepare well for this Sunday's Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago. I've been eating (clean) carb-heavy meals all week consisting mainly of brown rice and sweet potato. Loading up on wheat products is never a good idea, in my opinion. (Gluten is difficult on your digestive system, even if you're not intolerant.) I made some easy vegetable paella and added soy sausage to make it more of a meal (pictured below). A simple paella is pretty much just risotto, add a bunch of rice and vegetables together and cook on a pan with broth. I also made a healthy tempeh stir fry with brown rice. I'm also going to make some sweet potato soup!

For my last race, I ate toast with peanut butter before the race and I think it made my stomach hurt. I've actually been eating pumpkin pudding/pie before my runs for the past month and it works really well! I'm not kidding! The main ingredients are pumpkin, agave nectar, and silken tofu. They are easy on your stomach and provide lots of natural carbs to sustain energy. So, I made another batch this week and am going to eat pumpkin pie before my race! Along with Vega's Pre-Workout Energizer and probably a banana immediately before the race. I'm also going to take along 1 packet of Vega Sport Endurance Gel to eat at the water station right before mile 5. Here's the course in case you're interested. I've used all of these products before/during long runs. It is essential to not try new things before/during a race. This includes gear, clothes, shoes, food, gels, drinks, etc.

I've mentioned this before, but a lot of runners make the mistake of not practicing running at the time of day that the race is at. For example, if you're an an evening runner and your race is early in the morning, your body will have a harder time adjusting and ramping up the adrenaline to run during the race. I run/workout in the mornings, which has many benefits (read my post), so this is not an issue for me. Waking up at 5 am may also be difficult and leave you sluggish. I would suggest that the 1-2 weeks before the race (if it is a morning race), that you wake up early and go running. Our bodies like habits and it really doesn't take that long to transition your sleep/workout schedule to align with your race time. If you keep a regular workout schedule, your body actually starts ramping up the adrenaline when it's time to workout everyday. (I think this is why it's impossible for me to sleep in.)

I'm hoping I can redeem myself and do well in this race, wish me luck!

Do you have any race advice?

Pumpkin Pie/Pudding

I LOVE PUMPKIN. I actually stock up on canned pumpkin in the fall so I can eat it all year round. I already posted some pumpkin recipes this fall: Vega Pumpkin Smoothie and Creamy Curry Pumpkin Soup. I love that you can make pumpkin sweet or salty. Pumpkin is actually very healthy! It contains fiber and lots of minerals and vitamins. It is especially high in beta-carotene (vitamin A) which is the same thing that makes carrots orange. Often, pumpkin is made unhealthy in the form of pumpkin pie with lots of sugar and cream. So, here's an easy pumpkin pudding/pie-filling recipe that's vegan and low in sugar. You can use cashews or tofu as the base (cashews are somewhat healthier). You can also just use the spices you probably already have instead of buying "pumpkin pie spice."
16 oz. silken tofu OR 1 cup soaked raw cashews
15 oz. can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
2/3 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice OR:
          1 tsp. cinnamon
          1/2 tsp. nutmeg
          1/2 tsp. ginger
          1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
Pie crust (optional)

If using cashews, soak for a few hours in the fridge before preparing. They get a light purple hue, this is normal. Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth. You can just eat the pumpkin pie pudding like this, but place in the fridge for an hour or so to chill. If you want to make pie, just use this as the filling for a pre-made pie crust and cook for about an hour at 350 degrees. Chill the pie for a few hours before eating.
I love this recipe because it is easy to make and tastes delicious and is a much healthier version of pumpkin pie. I like it in both pudding and pie form. My boyfriend requested whipped cream on his pie because he doesn't like "sugar-free desserts." One day I will convince him that sugar is toxic. I've also been eating this recipe before running all month and it's worked out really well! The agave and pumpkin contain great carbs for sustained running and its easy on your stomach. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fitness Log 10/22-10/28

It's the week before the Hot Chocolate 15k!! I think I'm ready!

Monday - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: Max double power snatch (60 lbs.)
10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 hang power snatch (35 lbs.)
1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 burpees
Time: ~9 minutes
Hang power snatches are really hard, my shoulders were certainly sore!

Tuesday - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: Back Squat 6 Reps at 60, 65, 70, 75, 80% of 1 Rep Max (135 lbs.)
WOD: 6-minute AMRAP
6 lunges (45 lbs.)
8 push press (45 lbs.)
Time: ~11 minutes
This workout was much harder than it looked! I'm writing this on Friday and my gluts are still sore! Also, I'm glad we're doing the back squat progression to increase our max.

Wednesday - CrossFit
WOD: “Eva”
5 Rounds:
800 meter Run
30 Kettlebell Swings (26 lbs.)
30 Pull-Ups (blue and red band)
Time: 39.42
This was a loooong workout, but great for running training. I think the 30 pull-ups were the hardest part, I had to use two bands rather than my usual one. Plus, my legs were tired from Tuesday.

Thursday - Rest Day
I had not taken a break since running 8 miles on Sunday so today was a much-needed rest day. I also got 9 solid hours of sleep which was great.

Friday - Long Run
Distance: 9.3 miles (race distance!)
Time: 1:20:42
Pace: 8:41/mile

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lentil Lettuce Wraps

I had some left over veggies this week and was trying to think of something I could put together for dinner without having to go to the store. Luckily, I keep my dry beans and grains stocked in my mason jars, so I came up with this recipe! Lentils are a great substitute for ground beef because they're easy to use to make the "meat" of a meal, like a veggie burger or lettuce wrap. These are the ingredients I used, but lentils are really versatile so you can mix them with any vegetables and spices that you desire. I always like to add tomato sauce or paste because it adds some "mushiness." Here's another lentil "meat" recipe to check out.

3/4 cup dry lentils
1.5 cups water
1 stalk celery
1 large carrot
1/2 cup of tomato sauce (I used marinara)
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
2 tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp. Worchestire sauce (optional)
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
large lettuce or swiss chard leaves.

In a medium-sized pot, combine the lentils and water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until all of the water is absorbed by the lentils, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the carrot and celery in to small pieces (it's easier to use a food processor). Once the lentils are cooked, take about half of them and place in the food processor and puree until smushed. Then, take all of your ingredients and add them back into the pot. Stir the mixture and cook for about 5-10 minutes, depending on how soft you want your veggies (I like them crunchy).

Serve the lentil "meat" inside of the large lettuce leaves. I used a huge swiss chard leaf and wrapped it up like a burrito (below), but I think it would be better in a few smaller lettuce leaves because it got messy.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fitness Log 10/15 - 10/21

Just 3 weeks until the Chicago Hot Chocolate 15K, but I think I'm ready already! My 7-mile run went well last week so I'll just do 8 miles this weekend and 9 miles the weekend before the race.

Monday - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: max clean and jerk: 80 lbs - new PR!
WOD: 5 rounds:
5 cleans (65 lbs.)
5 jerks (65 lbs.)
10 pull ups (blue band)
Time: 9:23
I was feeling quite tired today, as is always the case on Mondays. I need to have a more consistent sleeping schedule on the weekends. Still a good workout though and I'm glad I didn't sleep in.

Tuesday - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: Back Squat 8 Reps at 60%, 65%, 70% and 75% of your 1 Rep Max
1 rep max is 135 lbs: 8 x 81-88-95-101
WOD: 30-20-10
Wall balls (10 lbs)
Time: 9:24 (? I forgot exactly)
My arms/shoulders/back were really sore from Monday's workout. This made the push ups really hard. Another girl in my class and I were talking about how hard push ups are. We've both gotten a lot better with pull-ups (she does them unassisted) but not really shown much progress in push ups. Are any of you girls out there really good at push-ups and how did you get so good at them?

Wednesday - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: 3 minute AMRAP: 10 push-ups, 10 squats, 20 skaters, 100 m run (completed 2 rounds)
WOD: 5 rounds:
10 pull-ups (blue band)
20 box jumps
30 double unders (90 single unders)
400 m run
Time: 25:25
This was a great endurance workout but I am really sore everywhere from the past three days. Tommorrow will be a rest day!

Thursday - Rest Day
My muscles were pretty sore from the past three days so I just ran 1.5 miles on the treadmill and then streched out and did some foam rolling.

Friday - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: Front Squat: 5 reps of 60%, 65%, 70%, and 75% of 1-rep max (115 lbs.)
WOD: 21-15-9 of:
Squat Cleans (53 lbs.)
Ring dips (blue band to assist)
Time: 9:27
My legs were still pretty sore from Tuesday/Wednesday so the front squats and squat cleans hurt. The girls also practiced pull-ups after the WOD, which was fun. I stayed too late and then was late to work! I could seriously spend all morning at crossfit haha.

Sunday - LSD Run
Distance: 8 miles
Total Time: 1:07:42
Pace: 8:28 per mile
Had a good run, I hope I can keep up this pace for the race!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

I attempted to make some butternut squash/kale/quinoa salad but it didn't turn out very good. So I had some left over butternut squash and I decided to make a simple butternut squash soup. It was super easy to make, the hardest part was chopping up the squash! The consistency and color of this soup is very similar to the Creamy Curry Pumpkin Soup I made last week, which if you haven't tried, you need to! I would suggest just getting frozen, already chopped, butternut squash since it was difficult to chop (maybe I need better knives).
4 cups water
3-4 cups cubed butternut squash

1 celery stalk, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion or 1 tsp. onion powder
1 clove garlic, chopped or 1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne (optional)
Put the water into a large pan and turn on high heat to bring to a boil. Meanwhile, chop up your vegetables. Add all of the ingredients into the boiling water and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, use a blender to puree the soup until it looks like the picture above. This is easiest with an immersion/hand blender in the pan but you can also use a regular blender or food processor, just be very careful with the hot liquid. If the soup is too thick, just add more water. Serve immediately or save for later! Soups are very easy to refrigerate or freeze and reheat later.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

HFG is on BlogLovin!

BlogLovin is a website/app that alerts you when a blog that you follow is updated with a new post. This way you don't have to check blogs constantly or keep them in your bookmarks!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Recipe: Scallop Ceviche

Ceviche is a popular dish in Central and South America and is made by "cooking" fish or seafood by marinating it with lemon and/or lime juice. The citrus juice not only adds flavor to the fish, but the citric acid also denatures the proteins, thus "cooking" it. Ceviche kind of reminds me of sushi because the seafood still tastes raw, but with a great citrus flavor. I'm seeing ceviche served more and more in Mexican restaurants. I had some great ceviche at Agave in Naples (read my post) made out of a variety of seafood. However, the shrimp ceviche at Blue Agave in Chicago that I had a couple of weeks ago was not the best. The salsa was too sweet and the shrimp had actually been cooked before marinated, so it wasn't even really ceviche.

This recipe uses scallops, which are one of my favorite seafoods! And they are served in the form of a salsa. I've also seen ceviche served plain on a chip, with the salsa on the side. I adapted this recipe from one that my boyfriend's dad, Jim, gave me!

1 pound fresh scallops (about 8 scallops)
1 cup fresh lime juice (about 6-8 limes)
2 large tomatoes, cored and diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (about 1/4 of a bunch)
1 jalapeno, cored and diced
2 avocados, diced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne

Chop the scallops into bite site pieces and place into a bowl with the lime juice. Marinate in the refrigerator until the scallops are opaque, about 3 hours. The picture above shows what they should look like after marinating (basically not pink). I marinated mine overnight because it was easier. Place the scallops in a large clean bowl and reserve the lime juice. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix well. Add some of the lime juice, to taste. You should also wait to add the avocado until just before serving so it doesn't brown. (The picture below doesn't have the avocado yet).

Serve this ceviche plain in martini glasses, as a salsa with tortilla chips, or inside of tacos. You can also save leftovers for a couple of days. Enjoy!

What's your favorite scallop dish?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fitness Log 10/8-10/14

Less than a month until the Hot Chocolate 15K so my goal this week was to crossfit and run 7 miles.

Monday, 10/8/12 - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: 1-rep max Snatch: 60 lbs. new PR!
WOD: AMRAP 8 min
2 pull-ups, 2 box jumps
4 pull-ups, 4 box jumps
6 pull-ups, 6 box jumps
...increase by 2 reps until time is up
Score: 14 plus 3 pull-ups (using blue band)
Post-WOD: 150 sit ups and 50 hip-extensions
I felt so tired today and barely woke up to work out. The snatch was hard because I just wasn't feeling powerful enough. But, I still PRed because I hadn't done it in a while. Hopefully I am more awake tomorrow.

Tuesday, 10/9/12 - Gym workout
1.5 mile run on treadmill
21-15-9 of KB swings (35 lbs), push-ups, and sit-ups
I went to sleep early on Monday and was totally planning on waking up for crossfit but I forgot to set my alarm! I was dissapointed when my boyfriend's alarm went off and I realized it was too late for crossfit so I just did a quick workout in the gym in my building.

Wednesday, 10/10/12 - CrossFit
Pre-WOD: 1 Rep Max Push Press, 75 lbs.
 WOD: "Helen" - 3 rounds:
400 meter Run
21 KB Swings (35 lbs.)
12 Pull Ups (red band)
Time: 12:55
I felt really energized today so this workout felt good. Although, I know my arms and shoulders will be sore later! Kettlebell (KB) swings are really a great workout for your entire body and something you can do easily at the gym if you have kettbells. Check out the video below for proper form.

Thursday, 10/11/12 - Rest Day
Resting up for my run tomorrow!

Friday, 10/12/12 - LSD run
7 miles in 59:35, Pace: 8:30/mile
Although it was quite windy and started raining, I did really well on this run! I beat my pace time from my 6.8-mile run a couple of weeks ago. I hope I can keep up this pace for the race! I'll be traveling a lot this weekend so I won't have time to workout but it was a good week overall.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Birchbox - sample beauty products!

When I first started this blog, I meant to write posts on beauty along with health and fitness, hence the "goddess" part of the name. However, I don't really use a lot of beauty products and I'm often too lazy to do the DIY beauty things that I find on Pinterest. So in an effort to make myself more "beautiful" I signed up for Birchbox to try sample beauty products. Birchbox is a great service that sends you samples of beauty products once a month for $10. You can then buy products you like right off the website.

Here's my first box with the product descriptions! First of all, I think the $10 is defnitely a good value because nail polish alone can cost $5-$8. The color is a very pretty indigo and I loved it on my nails. The Twistband is a decorative hair tie and I would like it except that it's red (which is my least favorite color and I never wear it). I really like the Kate Spade perfume smells really good and I like having small perfume samples to travel with. I didn't care much for the two creams. Finally, I was suprised to see tea in the box! I guess you could call tea a beauty product. I've had this brand before so I know it's good.
Are you a Birchbox member?
What's your favorite perfume?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Foam Rolling for Runners and Crossfitters

I've been getting sore muscles quite a bit lately from lots of crossfit and running so I decided to purchase a foam roller on Amazon. Foam rolling is basically like getting a sports or deep tissue massage.  Massaging your soft tissue breaks down adhesions and scar tissue and soothes tight  connective tissue. Foam rolling also increases blood flow and circulation to your muscles, so its beneficial before and after a workout. I primarily use my foam roller after a workout to recover and to massage sore muscles at any point in the day. Unfortunatly, I'm often rushed after my morning workout and don't spend as much time on the foam roller as I should. However, I have plenty of time to foam roll in the evening while I'm watching TV, for example.

Once you buy the foam roller (try to get 18 inches or more), it's really easy to use. Basically, just roll your body over the roller, focusing on different muscle groups. Just roll back and forth over the muscle, using your body weight for resistance. Check out this Runner's World article that has some good videos of foam rolling movements for your leg muscles.

In CrossFit, you use your legs muscles as well as your upper body. Foam rolling your chest, back, shoulders, and arms is a little trickier than your legs. You kind of have to get into some weird positions. I scoured youtube for some videos of foam rolling your upper body. I've never tried some of the arm and chest movements so I'm definitely going to do those in the future after hard upper body workouts!

Foam Rolling for Upper Back
Foam Rolling for Arms
Foam Rolling for Chest and Shoulders

Monday, October 8, 2012

Creamy Curry Pumpkin Soup

The temperature is in the 30s here in Chicago which means that it's officially soup season! (By the way, I am not liking this early onset winter, what happened to fall?)

I mentioned how healthy pumpkin is in my post on the Vega Pumpkin Smoothie. Well this recipe also has some good Indian spices to add to the healthiness. Curry powder is a mixture of spices usually used in Indian cooking and has been found to have many health benefits. The turmeric in curry powder (I also added some extra in this recipe) has been found to prevent cancer and Alzheimer's.

I found many pumpkin soup recipes on Pinterest that were sweet but I decided to go with this spicier recipe instead. You can just get sweet curry powder if you like it hot. Also, while cumin is used in a lot of hot/spicy recipes, it is not spicy itself but adds great flavor.

3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
1 can pumpkin
1 can coconut milk, or other milk substitute
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
Heat 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened (about 4 minutes). Stir in the curry, cumin, and turmeric and cook for 1 minute. Add the rest of the broth and the pumpkin. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the coconut milk and cook for 4 more minutes. Transfer soup to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth (be careful of the hot liquid - blend in two batches if necessary).

It's hard to take pictures of soup, but this is the best I could do. It really has a nice bright orange color. The recipe makes about 4 bowls of soup, you can refrigerate or freeze the leftovers for later!
I'd love for you to share you favorite soup recipe in the comments!