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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Maple Balsamic Brussels Sprouts


Unfortunately, I could not even get the girls to try these...which drives me nuts.  I gave them the whole how-can-you-know-you-don't-like-it-if-you-won't-even-try-it lecture, but to no avail.  In the end, its not so bad as I love these and if there are more for me, well so be it!

They go great with things like...sweet potato fries, like the ones that snuck into the photo, ha ha!

Maple Balsamic Brussels Sprouts
2 lb fresh Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
Pinch of salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Toss sprouts with all the other ingredients and then spread on parchment lined baking sheet.  Roast at 400F for 20-25 minutes. Eat.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Triple D French Toast Sandwiches


I call these 'Triple D' French Toast Sandwiches because they are inspired by some of the crazy-ass nutritional monstrosities you see on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  The stuff on that show makes my jaw drop.  It's like how many calories can someone squeeze onto one plate.  It's nuts!  But I actually like watching it occasionally to give me ideas for recipes I can healthify, like this one.

It made a yummy breakfast for dinner the other night ;)

Triple D French Toast Sandwiches

6 whole grain flat breads

1/2 cup egg whites
1/4 cup skim milk (or non-dairy milk)
1/2 tsp maple or vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
A few drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid (to taste)

6 slices cooked turkey or veggie bacon
Natural peanut butter

Pure maple syrup for dipping (optional)

Whisk together eggs, milk, extract, cinnamon and stevia in a flat pan or container.  Separate tops and bottoms of breads and dip into mixture, making sure both sides are saturated.  Place on greased skillet or fry pan and cook on both sides until golden.  Spread insides of bread with peanut butter.  Place a slice of bacon on one half of each and top with other half.  Makes 6 sandwiches.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Vegan Beans from Around the World: Book Review



Good morning!  It is a beautiful Monday.  We had a fabulous weekend except for me dropping my smart phone in the toilet.  Oh yes I did.  It's toast.  I am trying not to dwell on it.  It totally sucks, but in the grand scheme of things, it could be worse.  Still shitty though.

I'll use the toilet talk to segue into talking about farts...I mean beans!

I love the musical fruits.  All of them.  I think beans are awesome.  Not only are they absolutely delicious, but they are also incredibly healthy, versatile and inexpensive.  How can you beat that?  Frankly, I think they are probably one of the healthiest protein sources (one of the many reasons I think the Paleo diet is silly).

So I was happy to review Vegan Beans from Around the World. The subtitle is Adventurous Recipes for the Most Delicious, Nutritious and Flavorful Bean Dishes Ever.  That sounded like just my kind of thing!

This is definitely a good book for someone new to cooking beans as it explains how to soak them, cook them, etc.  The recipes, however, are not necessarily for a new cook or someone with a timid palate as they are highly spiced and seasoned (which I love!). 

The soup, stew and salad chapter is definitely the best.  I think I want to try making almost all the soup and stew recipes!  There is a section dedicated to garnishes, sides and snacks that also includes recipes ford making vegan cashew sour cream and tofu sour cream.  This section also has a recipe for chickpea chips, crunchy roasted chickpeas, and green bean fries, that I would love to try.

The chapter on main dishes is good too, but less interesting, and its in this chapter that my excitement started to fade.  To these supposedly most nutritious bean dishes ever there is a whole heck of a lot of refined flour bread crumbs, white rice, and added sugars.  Some of the curries look very yummy though...I would love to try the green bean curry as that is one of my favorite dishes from the Indian restaurant we order from.

The final chapter is drinks and desserts.  The black bean brownie recipe looks good, although I would swap out the sugars for a healthier sweetener.  There are several soy milk recipes but that doesn't interest me much.  None of the others are really appealing to me but are interesting none-the-less.

Overall, its got some very interesting, yummy sounding recipes, I would just make healthier substitutions in the recipes calling for refined grains and sugars.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Harness the Sun


Its been chilly for this time of year the past few days, but at least the sun has been shining bright.  It makes such a difference to your mood when the sun's out.  I don't mind this weather though, for me its a whole heck of a lot better than the raging heat and humidity we'll have soon. 

I don't know about you, but I feel like I am constantly charging my phone and iPad.  This means things constantly being plugged in and using electricity.  So imagine how much energy you could save by using solar power to charge your devices!

I encourage you to check out the Green Living Show this weekend if you want to get one just like this from BMS Trading:


There are lots of other ecofriendly and healthy living products, you should definitely go.  And don't forget that you can get $2 off your tickets if you buy through my blog.

We have a super busy weekend coming up.  I work Friday night and Saturday morning, and we also have my niece's birthday party.  Along with the Green Living Show, we are hoping to get to the Wychwood Barns' 100th birthday party.

What are you doing...besides going to the Green Living Show??

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Support for those with PTSD: i Run & Rock


 

 
You have probably heard of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but when you think of it, you probably associate it with soldiers involved in combat or first responders (police, paramedics, fire fighters, etc.).  Certainly, those are populations most at risk for PTSD simply because of what they do every day, but others can experience it too.  Victims of crime or accidents, those who have experienced or witnessed abuse, or individuals who have had near death experiences or medical emergencies can all develop PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD include depression, anger, flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and insomnia.  Many people with chronic PTSD attempt to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. 

I had the privilege, when I was doing my counselling training, to work with a client who had PTSD from serving in the Canadian Armed Forces in Bosnia.  He had struggled with it for 12 years before finally being diagnosed!

Even those who do not meet the criteria for PTSD struggle with the effects of trauma.  I see so many people - too many - in my counselling practice, who have trauma from sexual or physical abuse, accidents or life threatening illnesses.  It is far, far too common, and often goes undiagnosed and untreated.

Consequently, when I was asked to share information about the i Run & Rock event in honour of those with PTSD, I was happy to comply.  Of course, I also love anything that promotes physical activity too!

Event date: May 31, 2014

 Location: Ray Twinney Arena in Newmarket, Ontario.
 *All proceeds raised during the event will directly support the emergency responder outreach programs within the York Region and Newmarket area.

 i Run And Rock is a one day, annual event designed to raise awareness about first responders, emergency workers and military employees living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is a great way to get the whole family involved in a great cause.  It involves a 1, 5, and 10 km run along with an evening concert where JUNO Award winners Glass Tiger will perform.
 
United By Trauma are also organizing and participating in the following initiatives:
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 – In celebration of First Responders Day (May 1) a benefit and silent auction to raise funds for emergency workers at 7:00 p.m. at The Jazz Bistro in Toronto.

Thursday, May 1, 2014 – First Responders Day, first responders, medical professionals and military members will gather at Queens Park to raise awareness for PTSD sufferers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Green Living Show: Contest and Discount!!


Well hello and good morning to you!

I wanted to share some news with you about the 2014 Green Living Show.

This is an awesome event running from April 25-27 in Toronto where you can sample and buy a myriad of fabulous ecofriendly and healthy products.  There is information, activities and events for the whole family!

Anyone who decides to follow me on Twitter, or becomes a blog follower by April 24th, will have the chance to win one of two pairs of free tickets to the show.  Or, if you purchase tickets through this link, you will get $2.00 of each ticket. Just plug in the code: BLOGGLS at point of purchase.

I encourage you to attend this fabulous event!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Post-Vacation Reality Check


It's Little A's actual birthday today...I can't believe she is 5 already!  But we had a pretty awesome long weekend.

Normally I work Saturdays, which kind of sucks, but is a necessity for now.  This weekend, I didn't work at all, and it was glorious!  If you have kids, you know that holidays and long weekends are not always a vacation, but this 4-day weekend was actually pretty great.

Friday we took the girls to Artistic Way to paint mugs, and we had an amazing time.  Our pieces should be ready next week, and we are very excited to see the fruits of our labour.

Saturday was Little A's birthday and, honestly, it was the best ever!  I have no regrets or guilt about letting the party planners at this place do all the work because they did an amazing job and the kids had a fabulous time!  I highly recommend Amazon Indoor Playground in Etobicoke, if you live in the GTA and are looking for a venue.  I am thrilled that we already booked Big A's party there in a few weeks.  It was the most stress-free birthday we have ever hosted and no more expensive than anything else we have tried.  Loved it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday morning we spent time with my family at my brother's house and in the afternoon, we took the girls to Downey's Farm for their Easter Egg Scramble.  It was gorgeous weather and lots of fun.

Yesterday, we spent some time at my brothers again in the early morning and then had a park playdate with friends.  Then Adam took the girls swimming at the JCC and we played with neighbours in the later afternoon.  It was a really fun weekend.

Unfortunately, it makes it that much harder to get back to real life.  I love my job, but I definitely don't love the usual stresses of getting the girls out the door to school in the morning and running them to their weekly activities, etc.  But it was worth it, I think it was a little break we all needed.

At least it's only a 4-day week!  Have a wonderful Tuesday.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Biocore's Microgreens: Product Review


Well happy Easter Monday!  Its a beautiful day and the last one of our 4 day weekend.  We've been having a great time, how about you? 

Or are you feeling a bit sluggish after too much ham, chocolate and other Easter indulgences this weekend...or Passover indulgences?  Maybe its time to ramp up your nutrition?

Well, do you eat your greens?  Or do you drink them?  I eat them.  All the time.  So much, that people make fun of me.

But I realize not everyone loves green veggies as much as I do.  I guess that's why greens supplements are so popular.  Personally, I am not a smoothie or juice person, so I am not a big user of these, so when I was recently sent a sample of Biocore's Microgreens, I shared them with my friend J, who just started chemo for ovarian cancer.  She has been struggling with her appetite, and, in particular, with having an appetite  for veggies.  She is a long time user of various greens supplements, so I knew she'd be open to trying them.

Hello!  She gave this product a rave review.  Within a few days of using it, she felt a noticeable improvement in her energy levels.  She also said it was by far the best tasting one she has ever tried, and it is much less gritty or thick than the others on the market.  She absolutely loved the taste and said all she needed to do was mix it with about 3 parts water and 1 part orange juice.  She felt any more juice made it too sweet, so some people might even prefer to just mix it with water.

Her comments were also that it was easier to understand exactly what is in the product compared with other brands, and she liked the ingredient list feeling it was even a higher quality product than others.

Here is a list of the core ingredients, by the way:

Barley Grass Juice Powder: Barley grass is the most nutrient dense out of all the cereal grasses. Barley grass juice contains significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and other beneficial nutrients. Contains carotene, vitamin B1, vitamin C, calcium, iron.
Parsley Powder:
Contains high levels of beta carotene, vitamin B12, folate, chlorophyll,
calcium, more vitamin C than citrus fruits. Has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal plant.
Sweet Potato Powder:
Very rich in carotenes (helps in the production of vitamin A). Also an excellent source of vitamins C, B2, B6, E and biotin (B7). Is also a good source of manganese, folate (folic acid), copper and iron, pantothenic acid and is rich in dietary fiber.
Kale Powder:
Significant amounts of vitamins B6 and C, carotenes, and manganese. It is also a very good source of vitamins B1, B2, and E, fiber, iron, copper, and calcium.
Broccoli Powder:
Very nutrient-dense. It's an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, folic acid, and fiber. Also contains potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins B6 and E, carotenoid lutein, glucosinolates, and phytochemicals.
Cranberry (6% Quinic Acid):Outstanding source of vitamin C, soluble fiber, and insoluble fiber. They also
provide a good source of manganese and copper. Cranberries are a rich source of anthocyanidins, which are antioxidant pigments that give fruits and vegetables their blue, purple, and red pigments.
Milk Thistle (80% Silymarin):
Silymarin, an active ingredient in the milk thistle, is a powerful antioxidant. Milk Thistle extracts have been used for thousands of years to help improve liver function and detoxification.
Green Tea (50% Polyphenol, Decaff):
Green Tea is rich in a group of chemicals, called Catechin Polyphenols (Commonly known as Tannins which contribute to bitter taste and astringency) like Catechin, Epicatechin, Epicatechin Gallate (ECG), Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), Pro-Anthocyanidins etc. They are also known as Flavonoids and are very powerful anti oxidants.
Polygonum Cuspidatum Extract (20% Resveratrol):
Polygonum Cuspidatum is an antipyretic and analgesic and has antimicrobial, antioxidant and antimutagenic properties.
Cinnamon Extract:
Is very rich in antioxidants, cinnamon also contains polyphenols. Polyphenols seem to imitate insulin in your body and may help regulate blood sugar levels.
Carrot Juice Powder:
High in beta carotene and fiber content and is a good source of antioxidant agents as well. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and potassium.
Apple Powder:
Good source of flavonoids and polyphenols both are powerful antioxidants. Apples contain a large amount of minerals and vitamins that can strengthen the blood.
Peach Powder:
Peaches are extremely rich in vitamin A and potassium and are very nutrient dense thus boasting a high nutritional value.
Chlorella:
Chlorella is a potent source of B-12, a vitamin commonly found in proteins. It also contains B-1, B-2, folic acid, and vitamins C and K and is also a significant source of antioxidants.
Spinach Powder:Like other dark greens, spinach is an excellent source of beta-carotene, a powerful disease-fighting antioxidant . Possesses several important phytochemicals, including lutein and lipoic acid, which helps antioxidant vitamins C and E regenerate.
Leek Powder:
Combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients also very dense in vitamins and minerals.
Lycopene 10%:
Lycopene is a carotenoid, a potent antioxidant, found in high concentrations in vegetables such as tomato. Lycopene is a pigment created by plants.
Lutein 5%:
Found in Carrots, squash and other orange and yellow fruits and vegetables as well as marigold blossoms. Also a very rich antioxidant. Has been proven to help with macular degeneration.
Quercetin:
Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant. It is also a natural anti-histamine, and anti-inflammatory. Quercetin can be found in onions, apples, green and black tea and in leafy green vegetables and beans. Olive oil, grapes, dark cherries, and dark berries (blueberries, blackberries, and bilberries are also high in flavonoids).
Rutin:
Rutin is classified as a bioflavonoid. Rich rutin sources include fruits and fruit rinds (most especially grapefruit, lemon, orange and lime) and in buckwheat seeds. It is also found in black tea and apple peelings.
Digestive Enzymes:
The main health benefit of general digestive enzyme is in the support of a healthy digestive process. Aiding in intestinal function and elimination.
Kelp Powder:
Kelp is high in iodine, potassium, calcium, and other minerals as well as vitamins, especially the B vitamins. Has been used for centuries to maintain healthy Thyroid function.
Oat Beta Glucan:Beta-glucan is a soluble fiber. Soluble dietary fiber is believed to have a valuable effect in the decrease of high cholesterol levels. Foods high in beta glucan’s are known to improve regularity.
Aloe Vera Extract:
Used as a medicinal plant for centuries all around the world. Used internally it is said that aloe vera can ease digestive irregularities, combat high blood pressure levels as well as being used as an analgesic and an antimicrobial.
Acerola Powder (Cherry):Nutrient dense and is a powerful supplier of vitamin C. Is also a potent antioxidant.
Mango Powder:
Excellent source of carotenes, vitamin C, and copper. Good source of vitamin B and E, potassium, and magnesium
Dunaliella Sulina (Betatene):
Unique algae containing rich concentrations of carotenoids (mainly Beta-Carotene), antioxidants and essential vitamins.
Lemon Juice Powder:
A powerful antibacterial, also contains some vitamin A and a large amount of natural vitamin C. The vitamin C found in lemons is also considered a bioflavanoid. Lemon also contains niacin and thiamin in small amounts.
Hawaiian Spirulina:
Spirulina is highly nutritious, it is among the most nutritious, concentrated
whole food sources found in nature.
Grape Seed Extract:
Contains protein, lipids, carbohydrates and polyphenols (which come mainly in the form of flavonoids, also known as bioflavonoids). Flavonoids describe a class of plant chemicals known for their activity as highly potent antioxidants.
Wild Blueberry:
blueberries are high in vitamin C, a strong antioxidant offering support for the immune system. Blueberries also contain fibre, folate, iron, manganese, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, copper, B vitamins, vitamin E and silicon. Blueberries also top any antioxidant potency list available.
Wild Bilberry:A super potent antioxidant high in flavonoids. Billberry has been used to treat ocular ailments and has been said to better vision.
Prune:
Extremley rich in antioxidants, prunes also contain potassium, iron, vitamin A and C, chromium and Lutein. Very rich in fibre.
Raspberry Seed:
One of the most powerful known antioxidants. Ellagatannins which are converted into ellagic acid in the body. Many fruits contain ellagatannins. However, raspberry ellagatannins are one of very few fruits that have been clinically shown to be transformed into beneficial levels of ellagic acid in the body.
Strawberry:Contain significant levels of phytonutrients and antioxidants, In addition to vitamin C, strawberries also provide an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese, folic acid, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, copper, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

You can purchase the product on their website, and it should soon be showing up in stores across Canada.  If you like greens supplements, I highly recommend you check this one out!!!

Friday, April 18, 2014


Happy Easter to those celebrating this weekend.

I think we are all happy to have a 4 day weekend happening here, especially since the weather has improved.  There have been so many incidents of misbehaviour around here lately, that the girls have lost almost all of their privileges, and I've lost my sanity.  Although really I lost that years ago.

Little A still seems to be in some sort of phase that is, well, miserable.  I think it was exhaustion a few days this week because the girls got to bed much later than usual due to the Passover sedars.  But yesterday morning she was so irrational that I can't even explain it. Adam and I suspect it might have been nerves about having to do this presentation in French at school, but it's hard to say.  She is very social, but definitely doesn't like being put in the spotlight.  She was too shy to sing the 4 questions at the sedar, for example, even though it was just family.

I am very excited because today we are taking the girls to a ceramics place where you can paint mugs, plates, etc.  They have been wanting to do this for a while and I enjoy it too.  I took pottery lessons for a few years in my early 20s and absolutely loved it.

Saturday is Little A's 5th birthday.  Man, I hope she is in a good mood!  Sunday we have a family get-together, and Monday some playdates.  Not everyone has Monday off as a holiday, but the daycare and school are closed, so Adam and I booked it off as well.

Have a lovely weekend and enjoy some (stevia-sweetened) chocolate!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sesame Ginger Shirataki Noodle Salad for Passover


Finally, after several days of indulgent Passover treats, here is a savoury recipe for you.

This one basically adapts one I make all the time to be for Passover.  Having to avoid wheat and other grains isn't even the hardest part of Passover for me, it's actually having to also avoid legumes.  This means I can't even use soy sauce!  Thankfully, most health food stores now offer alternatives to soy sauce like coconut aminos.  I subbed coconut vinegar in for the rice vinegar I would usually use, but Adam wasn't overly impressed with that.  I agree, it's definitely better with soy sauce and rice vinegar, but for 8 days of the year, this will do.  It's still very tasty.

For all you not celebrating Passover, this is still a yummy recipe that is great for people eating gluten-free, low-carb, etc.

This is a big recipe, because it was served at our family sedar, so feel free to half it if you don't want to make as much.

Sesame Ginger Shirataki Noodle Salad for Passover

Salad

2-1lb shirataki noodles (the soy-free kind), cut with scissors
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 340g bags broccoli or rainbow slaw
1 bunch green onions, sliced

Dressing

1/2 cup tahini/sesame butter
1/4 cup coconut aminos
1/4 cup coconut vinegar
2 tbls grated fresh ginger
1 tbls toasted sesame oil
Salt and crushed red chili flakes, to taste

Whisk together ingredients for dressing and set aside.

Place noodles and garlic in hot fry pan for 3-4 minutes.  Toss into a large bowl with slaw and onions.  Pour in dressing and mix well.  If there is any excess moisture from noodles in the salad, sprinkle in 2 tsp of konjac flour and mix well.  Serve at room temperature.

I have shared this recipe with the Plant-Based Pot-Luck Link-Up Party.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Death-by-Chocolate Passover Chocolate Torte (aka Nigella Lawson's olive oil chocolate cake)




Most folks who know food, know that the best Passover desserts, are those that never had flour in the recipe to begin with.  So when I found Nigella  Lawson's Olive Oil Chocolate Cake, I knew I had to make it for this year's sedar.

It was definitely the show-stopper.  My picky father-in-law had multiple servings and there were nothing but accolades from everyone else (including the kids).

Unfortunately, its not super healthy.  I thought about using something other than white sugar, and might do that next time I'm making it for us, but since I was making it for a crowd not always keen on healthy substitutions, I left the recipe as is.

Actually, I kind of gilded-the-lily on this one and used almond milk instead of water to make it even richer, and instead of just dusting the top with icing sugar, as Lawson does in her recipe, I poured a chocolate fondant over the top.

I also did the lazy woman's version and skipped all the sifting, electric beating, etc.  It still turned out amazing!

While there might be a heck of a lot of sugar in this, it is gluten-free and dairy free for those with allergies or sensitivities.

Death-by-Chocolate Passover Chocolate Torte (aka Nigella Lawson's olive oil chocolate cake)

Cake
  • cup regular olive oil
  • tablespoons good-quality unsweetened cocoa
  • ½ cup boiling water or unsweetened chocolate or vanilla almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons best vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups almond meal 
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs

This recipe has been submitted to this week's Gluten-Free (Good) Friday.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Passover Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten-Free)



I saw this recipe on The Detoxinista blog and instantly thought it looked perfect for a Passover dessert.

I didn't think baking soda was okay at Passover, but when I did a bit of research, a lot of sources claim it is.  I guess you can decide for yourself.  I kept it in because I am not that experienced baking with almond flour, so I didn't want to mess these up.

The original recipe uses maple syrup, but I don't like baking with maple syrup unless I want the flavour to be the focus (otherwise it's a waste of liquid gold!), so I opted for agave, and it worked perfectly.  These are super yummy even if you aren't celebrating Passover.  Adam described them as tasting like a cross between a macaroon and a cookie.  The kids love them too!

Passover Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten-Free) (Adapted from this one)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of blmond flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons coconut oil, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave syrup
1 whole egg, or flax egg
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda and salt and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the coconut oil, vanilla, syrup and egg, and mix well. Add the wet mixture into the dry mixture, and mix well until a uniform batter is achieved, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Using a tablespoon, drop the batter onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, or until golden around the edges, turning the pan half-way through baking time.  Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 24 cookies.  Keep in air tight container for 3-4 days or freeze.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (for Passover)


Happy Passover, and happy birthday to my dad!

Since I invented this recipe for Passover about a dozen years ago, they've been a favorite of Adam's.  The original isn't very healthy, using 2 full cups of brown sugar, but several of my attempts at making them with substitutions failed.  The recipe I posted last year is the original, but the photo is actually of the ones using coconut sugar, which ended up too crumbly.  This year, I finally mastered it!  Just a very small change in proportions and they turned out perfectly: sweet, caramel-y, crispy, chewy and amazing.

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (for Passover)

2 large eggs
4 tbls egg whites (or whites of 2 large eggs)
2 cups coconut sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat matzo meal
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until combined.  Scrape batter into greased 8x8 square pan and bake at 350F for 22 minutes.  Let cool and then cut into squares.  Makes 16 cookie bars.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Know When to Fold Em

Funny Birthday Ecard: I find it strange that we celebrate you on the anniversary of a day when your mom did all of the work.

Little A's birthday is coming up, with Big A's a few weeks later.  Ugh!  Why is it that kids birthdays have turned into such a big deal?  When I was a kid, we had people over for cake and ice cream and we played pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.  My mom would make me a cat shaped cake every year (remember, I used to be a crazy cat lady), with the face being made out of jelly beans and licorice (no professionally made fondant covered masterpieces). 

Last year, we got away with doing a joint party for them at a local community centre, but just to prepare all the healthy (ish) cupcakes, cake balls, etc. that they requested, and set up all the entertainment, and make the music CDs for the lootbags, almost left me a drooling idiot.  I think I needed several days to recover from all the stress and excitement.

This year, I am subcontracting much of the work out.  I just can't do it.  Things are busy and it's too much right now.  It's also all so darn expensive.  I hate that.  Not just because its a ridiculous amount to spend, but because, I can't imagine how horrible it must be for kids whose parents cannot afford all the usual frills (venue, loot bags, decorations, etc., etc.).

Initially, the girls each chose a different venue, but just the basics for the combined parties (not including loot bags, cake, etc.) was going to cost $1,000.  My neighbour mentioned that Amazon Indoor Playground has better rates so I checked it out.  At first I was reluctant because it's really far from our neighbourhood, but when I discussed it with the girls, they loved the themed parties on offer.  Unfortunately (and predictably), Little A chose the Princess theme, while big A chose Rock Star.  I love that the snacks and cake are included (I am going to pretend it's not made with white flour and sugar), and for a reasonable price, we could add pizza (which I requested with whole wheat crust).  I thought I would deal with loot bags myself, but at the last minute, broke down out of sheer desperation and ordered them from The Loot Lady.  At least they are mostly toys and only one small sugary treat.  Sigh!

Part of me feels like a failure because I can't be more of a Pinterest-Obsessed-Make-Everything-Beautiful-All-By-Myself type mother, but at the end of the day, I realized its about making the kids happy and they are very excited for their parties.

With Passover starting Monday, it will be a busy weekend.  I am bringing several dishes to my mother-in-law's sedar, and there are still a few things I promised to make for Adam.  I also have to work this evening and tomorrow morning, and we have dinner plans with friends on Saturday night.  Hence, I tried to avoid booking any clients on Monday so I can cook, in case it doesn't all get done this weekend but I ended up having to squeeze in one appointment.

Well I am glad that it's Friday anyways.  It was another tough week.  Adam got the bug Big A and I had last week and he had to stay home Wednesday.  When he stays home from work, you know he is super, super sick!  But the weather is getting better and there is lots to be grateful for.  The fact that my top-of-mind complaint is organizing the girls' birthday parties makes it obvious how fortunate I am...I will try to remind myself of that over the next few weeks...

Have a happy, healthy weekend and enjoy this gorgeous weather!!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Red Thai Curry


I really love the complex flavours of Thai food, so I don't know why I don't make it more often.  It's actually quite simple.  If you have the time, you can add your meat raw and simmer in the sauce, or you can just use leftover meat or tofu and throw it in later, whatever.  As long as you don't overcook the meat or seafood, it's really quite hard to screw this up.

This could even be a Passover dish if you serve it over cauliflower rice!  If you want to thicken up the sauce a bit (which you definitely would want to do if using cauliflower rice), add a tablespoon or two of coconut flour.

Red Thai Curry (Vegan Option)

1 lb boneless cooked chicken, pork, beef, seafood or tofu

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch chunk of fresh ginger, minced
2-4 tbls red curry paste*
2 tbls fish sauce (or Ume plum vinegar for vegan)
1 can light coconut milk
1 broccoli, cut into florets
4 cups mushrooms, cut in half
2 red or yellow bell peppers, cut into strips
3 Japanese eggplants, cubed
2 cups diced fresh pineapple
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1 handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Salt and/or crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)

In a large skillet or pot over medium heat, whisk together ginger, garlic, curry paste, fish sauce, and coconut milk.  Toss in broccoli and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms, peppers, and eggplant and simmer until vegetables reach desired doneness.  Add meat or tofu and remaining ingredients, season to taste and serve over brown jasmine rice.  Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 3 days or freeze.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Vanilla Blueberry Passover Breakfast Cereal (Gluten-Free & Sugar-Free)


Happy Hump Day!  So what if it's only Wednesday, today is probably the nicest day weather-wise of 2014 so far! 

I have another yummy, healthy Passover recipe for you.

I know I say this every year, but I think it's worth repeating: Please do not buy any of those processed Passover foods at the grocery store!  They are full of total crap.  I read the ingredients on a box of the 'cereal' and it was basically nothing but potato starch and sugar.  Mmm!  If you think that can power you through your day, I think you'll be disappointed.

This, on the other hand, is not only delicious, but sugar-free, gluten-free and high in protein. I hope it will help ease Adam's suffering over the 8 days of the holiday this year.  I'll just watch.  While I am contemplating fasting for Yom Kippur next year, I have no desire...probably ever...to keep Kosher for Passover anytime soon.

Even if you're not part of the tribe, if you need to avoid gluten, this is a good breakfast or snack option.  With some milk or yogurt, its a delicious, satisfying meal to help get you through the day.

Vanilla Blueberry Passover Breakfast Cereal (Gluten-Free & Sugar-Free)

12 cups plain, puffed quinoa
2 tbls chia seeds
4 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated stevia (or you can try xylitol or coconut sugar)
1 scoop 100% whey protein powder (28g), plain or vanilla
2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup dried blueberries, preferably unsweetened
1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)

Place quinoa and chia seeds in a large bowl.  Whisk together egg whites, stevia, protein powder and vanilla extract.  Pour over quinoa and stir until evenly coated.  Spread on 2 large parchment-lined baking sheets and bake at 350F for 10 minutes.  Stir and rotate sheets, then bake for an additional 5 minutes.  Let cool and then crumble larger clumps.  Mix with blueberries, and nuts, if using.  Keep in air tight container for up to 2 weeks.

This recipe has been shared with the Gluten-Free Friday Link Up.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Strength Training for Fat-Loss: Book Review


I often have women come up to me at the gym and ask me how I have managed to get so much muscle definition.  My answer is: consistent strength training.  I often share how important it is, particularly for women.  The benefits include:

  • Increases muscle strength and endurance
  • Improves body composition (% of body fat)
  • Strengthens bones and tendons
  • Improves mobility and posture
  • Decreases chance of injury
  • Improves sport performance
  • Reduces/reverses age-related loss of muscle tissue
  • Improves confidence, self-esteem and gives a sense of empowerment
Most women listen intently and then hop on the elliptical trainer.

Sigh!

I don't know why strength training continues to be so intimidating for most women.  Once you get started, you will wonder why it took you so long!

Since I have almost completely shifted to a strength-based fitness program, I have never felt better nor enjoyed my workouts more.  But I still struggle to get many of my weight-loss clients to commit.  This is unfortunate, because those that do, eventually see huge results.  Eventually, however is the key word.  In terms of actual weight on the scale, you will probably see a faster change if you do cardio, but believe me, over the long term, strength training is even more important for improving body composition and keeping excess body fat off for good. 

So I was thrilled when a copy of Strength Training for Fat-Loss, by Nick Tumminello, arrived at our door for me to review.  Although there are many physical and psychological benefits to strength training, I think the reality is, that I have to start emphasizing to most women the point about strength training helping with fat-loss (weight-loss).  Unfortunately, most folks, unless faced with an imminent health issue, are not swayed by information about health risks.  What does motivate people, is the desire to improve their appearance.  Of course, this makes sense, as we are, in fact, judged by our appearance.  This is often voiced as the biggest concern among my clients seeking support for weight loss. 

A growing proportion of North Americans are overweight or obese and losing weight is practically a cultural obsession.  The truth is, few people think about strength training as a key component of weight loss, but it is, and Tumminello does a great job of explaining why.

I like that Tumminello distinguishes fat loss from weight-loss.  This is important, because it is really body composition, not absolute weight, that matters.  Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you are muscular, you may weigh a lot, but you will have a lower proportion of body fat.

In Chapter 1, the first thing Tumminello does is explain the benefits of fat loss, ranging from better sport performance, healthier joints, increased energy, better sleep, to less stress, anxiety and depression.

In Chapter 2, he explains exactly how strength training can help you achieve fat loss.  Most people, particularly women, think they must do cardiovascular activities if they want to lose fat.  But strength training is also key.  Why?  Muscle is more metabolically active than fat tissue, meaning it requires more energy to function.  While cardiovascular activities burn calories while they are being performed, strength training increases muscle mass, which means your body can burn more calories, even at rest.  In other words, increasing your muscle mass is one of the few ways you can actually increase your metabolism. 

Tumminello explains why women, as well as men, need to lift heavy weight to see results.  I don't like, however, that he refers to women as 'ladies'.  Personally, I find that term rather condescending, and prefer the word 'women.'  But that's a whole other story.

The author explains the significance of sets and reps here too:

1-6 Reps - Best for increasing muscle strength
8-15 Reps - Best for increasing muscle size
Between 6-8 Reps - Provides some middle ground between the two

He points out that you should ideally do a bit of everything.

Metabolic strength training, which Tumminello defines as, strength training aimed as helping you lose body fat while building muscle, is based on 3 training concepts, which he calls the "3 Cs":

1. Circuits
2. Complexes
3. Combinations

All of these concepts are high intensity, involve the whole body, and demand extended repetitive effort in order to get you working in an anaerobic state.

The third chapter covers nutrition for fat loss.  Most people who need to lose weight will have to make changes to their diet in order to do so because exercise alone cannot make up for excessive consumption of calories.  Why?  As I've pointed out many times before, while it can take an hour of intense exercise to burn 500 calories, for example, it can take just 5 minutes to consume them (maple bacon donuts, anyone?).

Tumminello warns against diets that severely cut calories, fat or carbohydrates, or cut out whole foods groups or types of food.  Thumbs up!  So what do you change about your diet if you need to lose weight?  He calls it "Complementary Eating" which is based on 4 components:

1. Lean protein
2. Fibrous carbs (fruits and veggies)
3. Starchy carbs (oatmeal, sweet potatoes, etc.)
4. Health fats (avocado, nuts, olive oil, etc.)

He specifies that at each meal, the protein and fibrous veggies should make up the biggest portion on your plate followed by the starchy carbs and fruits, and then the healthy fats.

Hmm, sounds pretty common sense to me!

One of the reasons strength training is really key if your goal is to lose fat, is that when you restrict your calories at all, you tend to lose muscle.  This is why your metabolism decreases when you diet, and why it is often harder to maintain the weight loss than it was to lose it.  Strength training can offset this phenomenon.  In addition, we all lose muscle mass as we age, which means our proportion of body fat increases, putting us at increased risk of injury and chronic illness.  You may not see a change on the scale as you get older, but you will see it in your physique and your clothes may start to fit differently.  Strength training can prevent this as well.

Chapters 4-6 explain the principles of the "3Cs" and include a number of sample routines.  Most of these require weights or equipment.  Chapter 7 is all body weight exercises, most of which can be performed at home.  Although most do not require equipment, some utilize suspension systems like TRX or resistance band tubing.  This section also includes a lot of high intensity plyometric exercises.

Chapter 8 provides warm-up and cool-down options for your workouts.   Unfortunately, the cool-down stretches all require a foam roller, which might be annoying if you want to do the workout at home but don't have one.  That being said, foam rollers are awesome, and, in my opinion, definitely worth the investment.

Chapter 9 has an array of 4-week workout programs starting off from basic to very advanced allowing you to progress over time.  The one thing I would say, is that if you are a real newbie to strength training, and do not have great kinesthetic awareness (i.e. the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement), it is worth going through the core exercises with a certified personal trainer before you get started in order to minimize your chance of injury.

Honestly, there are so many benefits of strength training, I think it is something absolutely everyone should do.  If you are interested in getting started, and fat loss is a goal, this book is an excellent resource.





Monday, April 7, 2014

Gooey Caramel Apple Slice (for Passover)


So the count down to Passover 2014 begins!  Our big sedar is at my mother-in-law's next Monday.  So I have for you a yummy Kosher for Passover recipe!

The only time I ever hear Adam complain about too much chocolate is Passover.  In order to make up for all that he is missing out on for 8 days, I usually bake up a whole slew of rich, chocolate-based desserts.  Although he is usually enthusiastic at the beginning, eventually it all becomes too much for him.

I will be making some chocolate Passover recipes, but I decided to make one that includes one of his other favorite dessert flavours: apple!  It also contains no quinoa.  Adam is not a huge quinoa fan, but because its been deemed kosher for Passover, I tend to make it a lot every year. 

Don't worry, I will still be posting some chocolate and quinoa recipes for Passover, but this one is first on the list.

Gooey Caramel Apple Slice (for Passover)

1/2 cup melted coconut oil, cooled a bit
1 cup coconut sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups almond flour
1/4 tsp salt

1.25 lbs apples, peeled and sliced*
1 dropper full of vanilla stevia (optional)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp konjac flour or arrowroot starch**

Whisk together the oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs.  Mix in almond flour and salt.  Spread evenly into a square 9x9 parchment-lined baking dish.  Toss apples with remaining ingredients and spread over almond mixture.  Bake in the oven at 350F for 35-40 minutes.  Let cool.  Using parchment paper, lift out of baking dish.    Serve plain or with vanilla yogurt or ice cream.  Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days or freeze.

*I managed to find a bag of already peeled, frozen apples at the grocery store, which cut down the time required dramatically.
**If you can't find konjac flour at your health food store, you can buy it online or use the arrowroot starch.

This recipe has been submitted to this week's Gluten-Free Friday linkup.

Friday, April 4, 2014

I did it!


What did I do?  I made it through a tough week.  Nothing serious...I am trying to count my blessings, but truthfully I feel a little beaten down.

Monday the school called to say Big A had a fever, so I ended up at home with her until Tuesday.    Monday night I came down with whatever she had.  Tuesday morning I took her to the drop-in at her doctor's office and arrived 30 minutes early only to find there was already a line up.  It was the craziest I've ever seen it, clearly there are currently some nasty bugs going around!  The good news is the quick strep test was negative, but I still filled her antibiotic script just in case because the long test takes days to get results back.  By Tuesday afternoon, I was feeling as crappy as she was. 

Tuesday Little A fell in the playground at school and got a massive shiner.  Wednesday morning Big A was well enough to go back to school, but Little A was nice enough to treat me to an epic meltdown as I tried to get everyone out the door.  She screamed and hollered the whole way and made quite a scene.  Again.  I can't imagine what people must have been thinking as Big A and I walked with Little A, sporting a black eye, followed us screaming. 

Thursday there was so much bickering between the girls as we were trying to get out the door that I didn't notice until I got home from dropping them off, that we'd left Little A's back pack and lunch at home.  Adam had the car and I was still feeling like crap.  Lucky for me, I was able to run across the street to our neighbours' who had not yet dropped off their boys at the daycare and ask them to bring it with them when they did.  Believe me, its not the first time I've asked them for such favours.  They are moving at the end of the summer.  That's going to suck.  Thursday at daycare, Little A somehow managed to injure her vagina (!?!).  No one's quite sure how she managed that, but now every time she pees it stings.

Oh, and how did the Consequence Jars system go?  Complete failure.  In fact, the girls started competing to be the first one to do something naughty so they could get a consequence.  Clearly I am raising sociopaths.  In any case, Adam admitted he doesn't like the system because consequences are not linked to the action, and many parenting experts feel they should be.  This strategy WAS an experts' idea, but this is just one example of how 'experts' conflicting advice can create confusion for us common folk.  So Adam and I are going to sit down and try to hammer out consistent/logical consequences for each type of action.  Unfortunately, since my children have no fear of me, respect for me or for my authority, I am not too optimistic that I will ever get a handle on things.  Frankly, just being a parent should qualify a person for medical marijuana use.

At least it's Friday.  I have a crazy work day seeing clients today, and tomorrow, but hopefully the rest of the weekend will be relatively relaxed, quiet time.  Ha!  Tomorrow I hope to get some of our Passover shopping done (lots of new recipes to come!), and Little A has a playdate.  Having just sent out the invitations for Little A's birthday in a few weeks, we also need to get started on the ones for Big A's party.

It's so ironic...there are some (many) days I don't think I will survive parenting, yet even if I knew what it would be like before I had children, I would still have them.   In fact, I would stop at nothing to get them.  Funny isn't it?  But as I always tell my infertility clients, we are animals, after all, the drive to reproduce is innate and biological.  If you want children, you want them, even if it lacks all reason. But that bond you feel with your children really is like nothing else.  Sometimes I am shocked, hurt and offended by how my children treat me.  Sometimes I really don't like them.  But I always love them and I would always, without question, die for them.    So here's to parenting, which, as my mom always said, is both the hardest and most rewarding job!

Have a happy, healthy weekend!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chinese Style Not-Fried Not-Rice



Nice recipe name eh?

Heh!  As I've said many times, rice is a favorite food of mine.  And I love all kinds.  Brown rice has lots of nutrition, but it can also contain higher-than-ideal levels of, naturally occurring arsenic.  Since discovering that, I've cut down on my consumption.  I can easily hoover back several cups worth in one sitting.  And that's the problem with even whole grains: eat is easy to eat too much because they are so yummy and comforting, but, unfortunately, not as filling as protein.

I could never go low-carb, but I do try to get too much carbs relative to fats and proteins.  I don't track my macros at all, I just try not to get too much of a good thing.  Most carb substitutes - like spiralized veggies or spaghetti squash - don't work as a satisfying replacement for grains for me.  Even kelp noodles leave me wanting.  So far, only shirataki noodles satisfy my craving for carbs. 

But I have seen so many amazing recipes using cauliflower as a replacement for rice, that I was inspired to give this idea a try.  After all, I was sceptical about baking with plantains and I discovered they really DO work to make grain-free products.

A number of people on Facebook have been posting recipes from www.skinnytaste.com so I decided to check it out.  The first recipe I saw was a great one for fried rice using cauliflower.  It looked and sounded so delicious, I decided to make it this week...putting, of course, my own spin on it.

I have to say, I had my doubts, but honestly, I LOVE IT!  And it was extremely satisfying.  Not exactly like rice, but pretty close!   Now, admittedly the entire recipe was one lunch for me, but I according to the regular recipe, it's 4 servings.  Ha!  I should become a professional eater, I'd make a fortune.  I will definitely be making this again...and I'm thinking that, with a few tweaks, it could be an amazing Passover dish too!  To make it vegan, just swap out the eggs for some tofu.

Chinese Style Not-Fried Not-Rice (Adapted from this recipe)

1 medium cauliflower, rinsed
1 chunk ginger, peeled

2 egg whites + 1 large egg
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 small onion, diced 
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch green onions, diced
2 tbsp soy sauce, tamari or coconut aminos
2 tbls rice vinegar
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
Crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)

Wash and carefully dry cauliflower. Coarsely chop into florets, then place half of the cauliflower and the ginger in a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower is small and has the texture of rice or couscous. Set aside and repeat with the remaining cauliflower.
Whisk eggs in a small bowl and season with a little of the salt.

Heat a non-stick pan set over medium heat and spray with oil or cooking spray. Add the eggs and cook, turning a few times until set.

Pour oil into a large skillet over medium high heat and saute onions, peas and carrots and garlic about 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft.  Add the cauliflower "rice" along with rice vinegar, soy sauce. Mix, cover and cook approximately 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cauliflower is slightly crispy on the outside but tender on the inside. Add the eggs and season to taste with salt, and chili, if you want a bit of heat.

I have contributed this recipe to this week's Gluten-Free Friday on Vegetarian Mamma.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tapout XT: My New Fitness Obsession



Back in September, I radically changed my workouts, cutting down on cardio and upping my weights.  I have been feeling great ever since.  But after a few months of my new program I noticed something: I was loving doing my strength training, but even the reduced amount of time I was spending doing cardio, I was loathing.  I was rarely using the treadmill to avoid injury, but I was beginning to despise the Stairmaster.  Even with my favorite TV shows playing, I was counting down the minutes.  It suddenly hit me that I couldn't spend another minute on a cardio machine.  Keep in mind, by the way, that I'm limited to activities I can do in our workout room, since I do my workouts early in the morning when Adam has already left for work and I'm home with the kids.  That being said, even the idea of going for a run or bicycle ride outside wasn't appealing to me.

Fortunately, a few months earlier, I purchased the Tapout XT Fitness DVD set and it offered me the perfect solution to shake up my routine again.

I was inspired to buy it because I have loved the little martial arts I have tried (doing fitness reviews for BlogTO).  The Tapout XT set comes with 12 DVDs, and depending on the package you buy, various accessories.  This program KICKS ASS!  I can't tell you how much I love it.  I have done every workout and they all rock.  They are high intensity enough that I don't feel I need to do any extra cardio, but more importantly, they are so much fun! 

Here is what you get:

 
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1. STRENGTH & FORCE UPPER
Get ready to bring the power as you sculpt lean muscle and upper body definition with extra focus on your chest, shoulders and triceps.

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2. PLYO XT™
Burn fat and improve athletic performance with this sweat drenching explosive plyometric lower body workout.

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3. CROSS CORE COMBAT
Melt away fat MMA style as you punch and kick your way to a shredded core in this hard twisting crack of the skull core workout.
 
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4. COMPETITION CORE
Want TapouT® Abs? Do this work out! Carve your upper, middle, lower abs, and love handles at the same time.

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5. BUNS & GUNS XT™
Just what it says. Get that firm, toned and lifted butt along with beach-ready toned biceps, triceps and more.
 
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6. YOGA XT™
You will look forward to this stretch-based, yoga workout each week. But remember, this is TapouT® XT™, so don't expect any free passes here! You're gonna feel it!

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7. SPRAWL & BRAWL
Melt away fat and carve a lean, chiseled body as you train like a MMA fighter with this signature TapouT® XT™ workout.
 
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8. MUAY THAI
Based on the MMA combat technique developed in Thailand, this workout uses stand-up striking along with knock-out kicks that will reshape your entire body and burn fat XT™ style!

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9. RIPPED CONDITIONING
No weights. No pull ups. Pure muscle. This extreme conditioning workout will get you that ripped up TapouT® XT™ body you want.
 
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10. ULTIMATE ABS XT™
Good bye spare tire. Hello six-pack! This 15 minute ab blitzing workout is the key to getting rock hard TapouT® Abs.

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11. CARDIO XT™
When we say this workout is extreme, we mean it. High pac, intense and fun cardio workout that will make you earn it with sweat!
 
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12. LEGS & BACK
You will be turning heads after a few sessions of this leg burning, booty lifting, back sculpting workout.

 The biggest surprise to me, is how much I am enjoying the strength based workouts using the bands.  I used to poo poo this type of thing, feeling I could get a much more effective workout on my own lifting heavy weights, but I love doing these routines and now use them in combination with my heavy lifting.  Now, admittedly, the band that was included is not challenging enough for me for a lot of exercises, but Adam and I already had a whole bunch of heavier bands, so when this is the case, I just switch to using those.

I also love the plyo and Muai Thai ones, which make me feel powerful.  Punching and kicking is both cathartic and completely energizing, which is why I love martial arts.

The one I like least is the yoga one because its not really yoga.  I might go so far as to say it is yoga for people who don't like yoga.  But because I love yoga, that ones not really for me.

The two full length core DVDs are amazing, and the 15-minute Ultimate Abs workout it killer.

Mike Karpenko, the instructor and developer of the program, is goofy in a rather appealing way.  The participants in the DVDs are a mix of real MMA fighters and ordinary people who are success stories from the program's test group.

Unfortunately, my leg band has a small tear in it, but I think I can probably buy something similar at any fitness store.  It also has a tendency to stick to itself, but I found dusting it with cornstarch fixes that.  I didn't get a package that includes the gloves.  Instead, I've been using the gloves I got when I tried Krav Maga a few months ago, but they aren't really the appropriate kind.  I might go looking for something closer to the Tapout gloves.

I so love this program.  Honestly, I can't wait to wake up in the morning and do these workouts.  Even though there are tons of plank and push-up variations...and really, who likes those?...Karpenko provides so many creative and challenging variations, it's just a blast!

The other thing that's amazing about this program is it requires no bulky equipment or weights, and you need very little space.  When I was in New York, I brought them along.  When I saw my wee Manhattan hotel room, I didn't think it was enough space, but, in fact, it was, even without moving any furniture (which wasn't possible anyways), and the bands fit easily into a small suitcase.

I am so glad I found this program...When I turn 40 in September, look out, I'm going to be in fighting form!