Archive | February, 2012

Breathing

29 Feb

Sounds easy, right?  Breathing is something we all do every day without thinking about.  We’ve been doing it since we were babies.  What’s so hard about breathing?

As any yogi, or karate student, runner, or PT client will tell you, there’s a lot more to proper breathing than just “in and out”.  Oxygen is converted by your body into energy; it fuels your muscles to help get them through your activity; it calms your nervous system; it aids in digestion and metabolism; and of course as all brain function is dependent on oxygen, it helps relieve fatigue, drowsiness, and (some) memory loss.  Aside from hydration, nothing will affect the quality of your workout more than proper oxygenation.

So how does one properly oxygenate oneself?

Before you work out: take 10 deep breaths, filling your lungs entirely and then emptying them completely.  Breathe slowly.  Take this time to get focussed and geared up.

During cardio: the typical “in through the nose, out through the mouth” does not apply here, as you’ll need more oxygen than that’ll allow.  Breathe through both nose and mouth simultaneously, drawing your breath from the diaphragm rather than the chest, as chest breathing is too shallow for this activity.

During weight training: breathe in during the eccentric part of your movement (lowering the weight), and breathe out during the concentric part (lifting the weight).  Sending oxygen to your muscle as it’s lengthening (eccentric) will provide it with the energy it needs to carry out the following concentric movement.  It will also help to relax the muscle, and therefore increase your range of motion.

While stretching: a great yoga technique is to “send your breath” to the body part you’re stretching.  It actually works!  Take at least 5 deep breaths for each stretch, focussing on sending the oxygen to that specific muscle.  It may help to visualize the oxygen particles actually traveling through the air to your nose, down your neck, into your lungs, then to the muscle.  The oxygen will help your muscles to relax, and you’ll be able to get a little deeper into the pose with every breath.

In everyday: how are you breathing right now?  You’re probably taking quick, shallow breaths through your chest, aren’t you?  I am.  Bad Tess!!  Any time you’re stressed, or tired, or any time you can think of it, change your breaths to long, slow, deep, and controlled inhales and exhales.  Try holding your breath for a second when your lungs are filled, then pausing again when they’re completely empty.  Or, try taking multiple short, quick inhales until your lungs are filled, then exhale the same way.

 

Here’s a good video:

 

-Tess

New Project!

28 Feb

Hey guys- sorry we’ve been MIA recently.  I had every intention of posting this on Sunday, but then I didn’t get back to Montreal until um 11:30pm and by that time my bed was just looking wayyyy too comfortable.

I blame Dustin for getting home so late. Blame him!

Anyway, I’m excited to announce that in addition to this lovely blog, I’ve been asked to contribute on a weekly basis to the Whistler Half Marathon blog.  I really encourage you to check it out as they have some amazing runners posting inspirational stories and awesome training tips.

Oh yeah, and you can check me out as well 😉

My first post recaps a -er interesting run I had to endure. It just goes to show how stubborn we runners can be.

So head on over to the Whistler Half Marathon blog for a look.

-Jess

 

 

Moving Day

25 Feb

Well the day has finally arrived and it’s time for this country girl to move into a house.  Not in the country… still in the city.  But this place will have yard and trees, so that’s close enough.

And no, for those of you wondering: I’m not counting moving as a workout!  Still going to hit the gym Sunday afternoon.

Zuhri's been watching us pack boxes all week, but has stayed very calm. As long as he has food and his pillow, he's fine!

-Tess

One Dish, Two Spoons: Savoury Sweet Potatoes

24 Feb

This will not be our first time mentioning sweet potatoes on our blog, nor will it be the last.  They’re a healthy alternative to the regular white potatoes, and open up a whole new world of flavor pairings.  Most people associate sweet potatoes with sweet flavours and/or top them with sugars such as maple syrup, brown sugar, or even (deep breath) marshmallows.  So today we’re going to present you with a less common, but equally viable option: savoury sweet potatoes.

Tess’ Take

Of course the most popular savoury sweet potato dish right now is Sweet Potato Fries.  That just seemed too obvious though, so I went searching for something a little more unique. What I found was a recipe for Coconut-Cardamom Sweet Potatoes.  The last time I had cardamom was when Jess made her Squash Risotto.  Now, this is not a flavor I’m used to cooking with, so I was excited to try it in another dish.  At first I thought it would actually be a sweet dish because of the coconut milk and vanilla, but the spices definitely helped balance it out.

Coconut-Cardamom Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

-6 medium sweet potatoes

-3/4 cup light coconut milk

-2 tsp ground cardamom

-1 tsp vanilla

-S&P to taste

-1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

-1/3 cup unsalted pecans, chopped

**Note: This recipe serves 10.  In reality, I cut the recipe to less than half, but that kind of math just doesn’t translate well to a recipe, so I kept the instructions as I found them on the website.

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 3/4″ cubes.  Add to boiling water, and cook until tender (about 10 minutes).  Drain potatoes.

3. Place potatoes in a mixer or food processor.  Add coconut milk, cardamom, S&P, vanilla, and cayenne.  Blend until smooth.

4. Transfer mixture to a 9×9 baking dish, and sprinkle with chopped pecans.  Bake 45-50 minutes until edges are slightly browned.

Served with pork and steamed bok choy (with ginger and orange rind)

Serve, and enjoy!

-Tess

***************

Jess’ Take

I’ve moved on from Ice Climbing in Quebec City to hanging out in Toronto for the weekend.  After a long 5 hour turned 6 1/2 drive due to crappy weather, to say I was not in the mood to cook is an understatement.  So when Tess proposed a sweet potato edition of 1 Dish 2 Spoons, I remembered this recipe I made a month or so back.  Forgive me for repurposing but I hope you’ll like it just the same!

Savoury Sweet Potato Pancakes

1 ¼ c. whole wheat flour (or flour of choice)

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

½ tsp garlic powder

S&P

1 c. unsweetened non-dairy milk

2/3 c. pureed sweet potato

Canola Oil for frying

 DirectionsMix Dry Ingredients together, set asideCombine milk and sweet potatoes and add into dry ingredients, mix until just combined.  Let rest for 5 minutes.Heat oil in skillet over medium heat, pour in your batter and wait for it to set; flip and cook until heated through.

This batter made me 8 medium-sized pancakes.

Once you’ve used up all your batter you can start on the sauce.

Brown Butter Marjoram Sauce

½ cup vegan butter (or regular)

3 tbsp fresh marjoram (sage would actually be better but marjoram was all I could find)

Heat butter in your pancake skillet until the foam subsides and then add in your marjoram. Once the butter is nicely browned and the marjoram is fragrant and pour over your pancakes.

Bon Appetit!

-Jess

Gone Climbing

23 Feb

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Back soon!
-Jess

Published!

22 Feb

It’s official – Jess and I are now published writers!  FAJO (fashion journalism) Magazine approached us a little while ago and asked if we’d be willing to contribute an article on healthy living.  Of course we replied with an enthusiastic “YES”!!!

Check out the article we wrote for this month’s issue: Fit, healthy, and sexy – in 12 weeks


-Tess

Just For Fun: Jess

21 Feb

Tess recently did a post with this survey so I thought I’d give it a shot too.

Enjoy!

I am: a 26 year old quirky, type-A, young professional trying to make sense of this thing called “mid-to-late 20s”

I think: far too much at times

I know: enough to know I don’t much at all

I want: to continue to avoid studying for my GMAT. Eventually, I will have to give in.

I have: a lot on my plate and that’s just the way I like it.

I dislike: meat, incompetence, ignorance, rudeness, “firsts” on facebook posts- get a life, please.

I miss: Dustin (yeah, yeah, I know “aww”)

I fear: failure

I feel: overwhelmed at times

I hear: selectively.  Cubicle-working has allowed me to develop a knack for blocking people out when necessary.

I smell: the half-drunk cup of coffee sitting on my desk

I crave: carbs, and Lays Old Fashioned BBQ chips. They are the ultimate junk food for me.

I cry: when I am really, really, (like really) stressed

I usually: hit snooze at least twice before actually dragging my sorry self out of bed in the morning. Me <— Not a morning person.

I search: for information.  People really need to stop asking me a question they can answer themselves. I’d like to introduce you to a search engine called “google”, perhaps you’ve heard of it? (cc: Liz)

I wonder: what my life will look like in 5 years time

I regret: only 1 thing in my life.  After that experience, I’ve learned that we must live with the choices we make as we are the only ones who can make the final decision. If you are unhappy with the choices you’ve made it’s okay to be unhappy about them, but take that experience and learn from it. No, I’m not referring to the Gold Boots.

I love: my family and friends. Living away from home, my friends have become like my extended family in many ways.

I care: too much about little, inconsequential details at times

I always: call my parents every Sunday to see how they’re doing.

 I worry: about deadlines, blog posts to be written, and my never-ending “to-do” lists.

I am not: afraid to speak my mind.

I believe: everything happens for a reason.

I sing: horribly off-key

I don’t always: admit my true feelings

I argue: when I feel it’s worth fighting for. Or when I know I’m right 😉

I write: words.  Sometimes I’ll even make sense of them.

I win: at multitasking.

I lose: my mind during the spring and fall months at work

I wish: I had more time to get more things done.  I have too many goals I’d like to achieve at the moment.

I listen: when someone is speaking to me

I can usually be found: at work, in my kitchen, or out and about the beautiful city of Montreal.

I am scared: of letting people down

I forget: how many cups of coffee I’ve had today.

I am happy: when things go how I planned them to.

-Jess

 

Glute Bridges

20 Feb

Who doesn’t want perky, round, firm glutes?  (For those of you who are wondering, glutes = butt)  I know I sure do.  We do lots of exercises for our abs, arms, thighs, and chest, but how many glute-specific exercises have you done lately?

The best way to target that sometimes-hard-to-reach region is through bent leg hip hyperextension exercises, such as Bridges and Hip Extensions (kneeling or standing).  Today I’ll cover the former.

Even people who already have nice glutes can benefit from the following exercise.  It targets your hamstrings, adductors (inside thighs), core, erector spinae (back muscles), and of course your glutes.

Setup

Lay face-up on a mat with your knees bent and feet on the floor, toes pointing away from you.  Your feet should be hip-width apart and close to your bum.

Set-up

Execution

Press through your heels and drive your hips up towards the ceiling.  Keep your knees still, abs tight, neck relaxed, and your shoulders flat on the mat.  Press up at high as you can, but don’t hyperextend your back.  Squeeze your glutes HARD at the top of the motion.  Gently lower your hips, then, as soon as they touch the floor again pop back up.  Glutes are mostly slow-twitch muscle fibres, so they’ll benefit from a high rep range – try for 3 sets of 20 reps.

Execution

If you find you can do all 20 of these pretty easily, you can make this exercise harder by a) putting your feet on a bosu ball, b) doing it one leg at a time (rest your ankle on the opposing thigh in a triangle position), or c) resting a medicine ball or barbell on your hips to add some resistance.

Incorporate these puppies into your workout routine for the next couple months, and you may just find yourself filling out your jeans a little better this summer 😉

-Tess

Mini Mushroom Sliders

19 Feb

Once a month two of my good friends, Tania and Willy, and I try and get together for dinner.  Faced with busy schedules of travelling, work, and life in general, we figure if we book one night a month that’s one time we’re guaranteed to see each other and catch up.  This month was my turn to host dinner, and it was also Willy’s birthday.

In order to properly celebrate, we extended the invitation beyond the three of us to a few more of our friends for a night of good food, good wine and good company.  Since I got to host I got to take care of the food portion and boy did I come up with a killer appetizer style menu featuring these bad boys:

Jumping on the “sliders” bandwagon, I put a vegetarian spin on them using cremini mushrooms.  Taking the concept one step further, I decided to offer two different flavours.

The first one featured Friday’s pesto along with a red pepper aioli and mushrooms marinated with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

The second one took a more traditional burger approach with smoky bbq sauce, balsamic-caramelized onions and sharp white cheddar.

When on the hunt for “slider buns”, in which they were nowhere to be found in two bakeries and a grocery store, I found these mini pita breads and they turned out to be the perfect solution.   If you do manage to find slider buns feel free to use those, but I found the pita’s to give the perfect bread : mushroom ratio.

Let’s just say these did not last very long and Dustin has since requested I make them again. The next time you host a party, I recommend you make these.  They are quite the showstoppers.

Mini Mushroom Sliders

16 medium cremini mushrooms

¼ c. olive oil

2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2-3 tbsp bbq sauce

¼ c. pesto

¼ c. red pepper aioli (recipe below)

16 thin slices of sharp white cheddar

¼ c. caramelized onions (recipe below)

16 mini pitas

Directions

Preheat your broiler

Clean and stem mushrooms and place on a rack over a cookie sheet.  Brush tops and bottoms of mushrooms with olive oil and then coat 8 of the mushrooms with balsamic vinegar and the other 8 with bbq sauce.

Place mushrooms into broiler and broil for 5 minutes, flip, and then broil for another 3-5 minutes until tender.

Open up the pitas and spread 8 halves with pesto, the other halves with red pepper aioli.  Divide the caramelized onions among the remaining 8 halves.

Place the bbq glazed mushrooms on the halves with the onions, top with sharp cheddar.  Place the balsamic glazed mushrooms on the pesto/aioli pita halves.

Serve and enjoy

Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

½ roasted red pepper

1 egg yolk

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 clove of garlic

½ c. olive oil

In a blender, combine egg yolk, garlic, and vinegar, blend until smooth.  With the blender still running, slowly pour in olive oil and allow mixture to emulsify.  Once it has reached a thick mayonnaise consistency, pop in the red pepper.

Balsamic Caramelized Onions

1 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced

1 tbsp olive oil

¼ tsp sea salt

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat oil to medium heat in a large skillet, add in onions and salt.  Stir until softened then lower heat and continue to cook until the onions have reduced to more than half and are a caramel colour, approx 15-20 minutes.  Pour in balsamic vinegar and cook for another 5 minutes.

One Dish Two Spoons: Boys’ Choice

18 Feb

One Dish Two Spoons: Boys Choice

Rather than fret over what to do for this edition of One Dish Two Spoons, we put the pressure onto Dustin and John to select a dish for each of us to make.

Jess’ Take

Since Dustin was once again making the trek up to Montreal from Toronto for the weekend, I figured the least I could do is make a nice healthy dinner for him when he arrived.  When I asked what sort of dish he’d like me to make, telling him it was the theme for this week’s 1D2S segment, he immediately began to think of all kinds of dishes I could make. He then presented me with two options: Tex Mex Salad or Pesto Pasta.

At first, I was drawn to the idea of the Tex Mex salad (anything involving guacamole is immediately in my good books).  That was until I spotted the delicious and fragrant basil in my grocery store, I then quickly switched over to pesto. Dustin didn’t seem to mind either.

The key to pesto is to keep it simple and keep it fresh.  You don’t want to mess with a good thing by adding in too much stuff and drowning out the basil.  We served ours with some sautéed cremini mushrooms and sundried tomatoes served over a bed of whole wheat spaghettini pasta.  Perfection, alongside a glass of red wine, of course. 😉

Pretty Pesto with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Mushrooms

30-40 fresh basil leaves

¼ c. extra virgin olive oil

100g grated asiago cheese

1 clove of garlic

¼ tsp sea salt

2-3 cremini mushrooms, sliced

½ c. sun-dried tomatoes, sliced

2 handful sized bunches of spaghettini pasta

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add in pasta and cook until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile combine basil, olive oil, asiago, garlic and seat salt into a food processor and process until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high-heat and add in mushrooms, cook until softened and moisture has been released ~2-3 minutes.  Add in your sun-dried tomatoes, 2/3 c. pesto and stir well to combine, cook until heated through.  Serve over pasta with grated asiago cheese.

Serves 2

-Jess

Tess’ Take

“What would you like for dinner on Saturday, hun?” “Pork” “Why?” “We haven’t eaten it in a while”.  Seems like a good enough reason to me.

Having a very wide array of options for dishes that include pork, I went straight to my tried and true cooking bible to help narrow my search: Clean Eating Magazine.  You know what I love about this magazine?  The index!  They list all of the dishes by theme “appetizer, poultry, dessert, salad” at the back and list all the recipes and corresponding pages for easy navigation.  Organization…. I need more of that in my life.

Pork Chops with Peppers, Onions, & Olives

Ingredients:

-4 boneless pork loin chops

-S&P

-1 tbs olive oil

-1/2 each green, red, and yellow bell pepper, and red onion.  All cut into 1/4 inch slices

-1 tbs *tomato paste

-8-12 Kalamata olive, pitted

-1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

*I forgot to buy tomato paste, so instead I used ketchup.  A good substitute would have been a thick, plain pasta sauce, but we didn’t have any on-hand.  Ketchup seemed to work fine though.

Directions:

1.  In a large skillet, heat oil over medium.  Season both sides of pork and add chops to pan, cooking 5 minutes per side until cooked through.  Meanwhile, cut up your veggies.

2.  Transfer chops to serving plates and cover with tin foil to keep warm.

3.  Add the peppers to the same skillet and cook for 2 minutes.  Add onion and cook 3 minutes until both peppers and onion are tender.  Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.

4. Add olives and broth and cook about 2 minutes until broth is reduced to a thin glaze.

5.  To serve, top pork with vegetables and glaze.  I also served this dish with a side of wild rice.

Serves: 2-4 (depending on how many pork chops you want!)

Calories: 204, Fat: 9g, Carbs: 6g, Protein: 31g (according to the magazine)

John’s verdict: “really good”.  Gotta love males’ simplicity, eh?  In a more elaborate recap, I really liked the flavor of the glaze.  For those of you who aren’t keen on olives, you’ll be happy to know that they weren’t overpowering at all, though they really did make the dish so don’t skip them!  You could also change up the pork by using chicken or a white fish (such as halibut) instead.  The glaze is flavorful enough that you’ll want a mild meat so as not to compete with it.