Monday, May 19, 2014

Brownie Cookie Bites

After searching long and hard for a good recipe for what could pass for relatively healthy cookies that could also be solid enough to travel with me on long runs or turn into a post workout snack but also tasty enough to just eat as a part of breakfast or an afternoon snack I finally came across this recipe in the book "Veganomicon - The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook."

This recipe is extremely simple and is soy free, dairy free, and technically gluten free (depending on how deep you go into ensuring your oats are clearly marked as being such or less concerned but trying to reduce gluten intake). Sugars have been reduced to allow only a small bit of brown sugar with all other sweeteners being agave or maple syrup depending on the type of cookie you are making.

Here is the original recipe with notes (jump past this list to the next for the method I used) for alternative methods that work great from the Veganomicon for Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip cookies:

1 3/4 cups oat flour (can be bought or grind your own out of old fashioned oats)
- To make these chocolate cut out 1/4 C flour and add in cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I swap this out for 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp agave/maple syrup)
1/3 cup canola oil (sunflower can be used but leaves seed flavor and coconut oil will cause the cookie to dry out a bit)
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
1/4 cup soy milk (have tried this with coconut and almond milk, almond is the best so far)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cups chocolate chips (interchangeable with whatever else you would like to use such as walnuts, extra oats to get oatmeal cookie texture, raisins, etc.)
Another optional addition is 1 teaspoon instant coffee to create a mild extra kick for your cookie.

Now that the notes have been shown here is the actual recipe for what I did to make the Brownie Cookie Bites:

1 1/2 cup oat flour + 1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons agave
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
1/4 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cups chopped walnuts
1/3 cups coconut
1 teaspoon instant coffee

Preheat Oven to 375 F

In small bowl mix together oat flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In medium mixing bowl whisk flaxseeds and almond milk. Add brown sugar and agave or maple syrup, stir. Add the oil and vanilla then whisk until ingredients are emulsified which should take about a minute.

Slowly pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and stir until evenly blended, the mixture will become very thick. Fold in the remaining ingredients, for this purpose (pictured above) it was coconut, coffee, and walnuts.

Drop the batter by the tablespoon onto a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet leaving about 1 1/2 inches between them. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack to finish cooling. Enjoy (and don't forget to let your kids lick the batter off the spoons, no eggs make this a fun recipe for them too!)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tracking at the Track

    A tried and true method for increasing your workout performance can come from an extremely simple method. Journaling. Yeah, it seems like such a simple, and maybe even silly idea to keep a little journal chronicling your workouts and feelings during them. You know what though? It works.

     It is easy to think that after a workout you will easily remember what you did and how you felt and change it up a little the next time. But what do you do three or four workouts down the road after you have tried many different things and are forgetting the experiences from the first workout now? I tried that for a while and it kept on seeming as if my training sessions were stagnating. It was so easy to think that I was above that little black book to remind me about my body. Now I hate to think of any exercise session without it.

     You may be asking yourself, or even shaking your head thinking you too could not possibly benefit from it. Maybe you think it is just too much work, but it doesn't have to be. The book in the picture above is my own, bought at Wal-Mart for $3 and it is in the top ten list of the best investments to my workout regimen.

    So for those whose interest may be slightly piqued at the very least, you may be wondering where to begin? That is completely up to you! The best part is that you can decide what is important to your advancement and adapt as you go along until you find what helps you achieve your goals and establish stronger baselines.

For example, here is what I like to track although to some it may be considered overkill:

  • Type of Exercise (Running, Boxing, Weight Lifting)
  • Total Time - Mostly for running, but useful for tracking calories too.
  • Average Pace (Completely Running)
  • What I ate before exercise. Useful for finding what works.
  • How I felt during exercise - (Upset Stomach, Excellent, Unstoppable, Slow, etc.)
  • Erroneous. This is the simplest one, it is where I include anything extra, did I take a new supplement? Am I trying a different brand of vitamins? How about a new energy bar or an extra cup of coffee? 
As you can see, mine is taking it pretty far but it also helps keep me focused on my performance and where it can use changes. It only took a few sessions to start seeing patterns and where things could be tweaked, it continues to help me as I track what I used to think of as tiny differences that are turning out to be game changers.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start looking at where you can make a difference! Every step helps and who knows, it may even turn into a motivator for you when seeing too many blank days turns into a scream for getting out and filling them up! 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

It is time to get back into the blogging groove again and with some new information as well as a few recipes I have been dabbling with straight out of my own kitchen the blog is going to be getting a bit of a boost and updates as I go along!

There have been some pretty exciting changes happening around my home these past few months, a few of which are having taken the time to work on a just more than 70 day running streak, working towards a Bachelors of Nutrition degree and even plans for getting registered as a dietician to expand on the information I can help share to you my readers and anyone else looking for knowledge! These are just some of the steps I have been working on taking to make the full jump into the nutrition/fitness field at last.

Keep an eye out for some new tips on exercise, running anything from a few blocks to marathon distances, healthy eating and of course delicious vegan recipes that taste like they shouldn't be!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Too few and too much!

When things get crazy... get crazy with them, they never see it coming!

   Sorry to all who check in regularly for the few and far between posts lately. Work and family can make devising posts and especially writing them out a challenge. Tack on my insatiable need to constantly be finding some way to keep moving and digging though books to learn new information to take in and test out while exercising and you get the idea.

   If you are a regular (or just passing through and find yourself curious) please feel free to comment with a question or even send an email to

   Curious about veganism? Excellent. Just want to know some fun ways to use your body for exercise? Superb! Just beginning or even experienced and looking for a fresh view? Bring it on! Chances are most of your questions will be ones I like and will help in creating a few new posts as I have no doubt others likely have the same questions somewhere out there and will hopefully stumble across them here!
   Everyone is important and I certainly want to continue sharing any knowledge I can to hopefully help someone and preferably everyone lead a healthier happy life.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall Recipe to warm and charge you- Butternut Squash Soup

   This recipe will take some preparation time but is well worth it for the ability to satisfy your hunger, give you a healthy mix of delicious fall vegetables and is so good you won't even notice it is a vegan meal (after a couple simple substitutions).

   It has become a huge hit in our home and never lasts long, no links to other sites today however, it is a recipe my wife had pulled from Racheal Ray magazine a few years ago and the clipping always resurfaces at this time of year to the delight of our taste buds! The mix of sweet and smooth roasted flavors of the vegetables finely blended with a piece of bread to dip in it is excellent for warming up on a cool evening and helping to prepare you for a nice long workout (after which you could eat some more of this should you choose to).

Here is how to make this fall wonder dish:

Butternut Squash Soup

1 peeled, seeded, and chopped butternut squash
1 peeled and quartered onion
1 peeled and quartered baking potato (can sub out for sweet potato)
1 quart vegetable broth (original recipe called for chicken broth)
1/2 to 1 cup original almond or soy milk, unsweetened (original recipe calls for same measurement of whole milk)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

   Preheat the oven to 400 degree. In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, toss the butternut squash, onion, and baking potato with extra virgin olive oil to coat; season with salt and pepper to taste(don't go too heavy, you can add more later).

   Bake until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour - vegetables should be easy for fork to penetrate through without much effort. After baked, transfer the vegetables and any juices to a large soup pot, add the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and, using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Stir in your milk choice according to your desired soup thickness then finish seasoning with salt and pepper.

Nutritional facts for 1 serving (about 2 cups) using vegan options (vegetable broth and almond milk):

Calories: 220
Carbs: 41
Fat: 6
Protein: 4
Sodium 755 - This is due to using a store bought vegetable broth, if you can make your own or have a better source it can be made significantly lower.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Never out train recovery time.

One step at a time is all it takes!

   To stay along the lines of the recent theme of continuing exercise with an injured body part, it seemed good to throw out some tips for the recovery portion where you are doing better but may still be in the danger zone.

   Your injury is probably feeling better. The pain is likely subsiding and you are itching to get up and run around. The transition period of returning to your normal exercise period can be a slippery slope. How much exercise is too much? Is the strain or sprain fully healed? Have your tendons or possibly even a fracture become strong enough to tolerate normal load again?

   All of these questions are good to ask yourself before hopping out the door and going for a regular run or putting the usual strain on the previously injured limb. On average you can be putting up to and even beyond 6 times your body weight on your legs and feet while running. Because of the danger, it is good to ensure you are always following doctor instructions for when it is ok to get back to your regular fitness regimen.

   Once you are finding yourself in that zone which can vary from "If it doesn't hurt, you should be fine," to "Take it easy and no extra activity until you can come in for a check up to ensure it is healed," it is likely going to be time to take those first steps back to normal you have been craving for some time. Not to mention your family will likely be happy to have a less grumpy person hanging out around the house missing their regular exercise!

   Whatever you do, don't allow yourself to become overexcited and risk injury by going too hard too soon. By my original training plan I would have been running 20 miles today. By the new plan (and surprisingly a certain amount of relief to just be free of a confined space) I walked 2 miles and did a few light jogs of about 50 feet at a time during the walk. There was pain involved afterwards which didn't lend any surprise to my day. After so much rest and downtime allowing for thorough healing there comes a small issue that is only a temporary setback. My foot had become "rusty" and needs some tune-up work!

   Muscles, tendons and bone need to be reminded of what they can do. All the rest has allowed for tightening and softening of muscles and ligaments. They haven't been put through the average rigors for what is assumed to be 2+ weeks of rest and recovery. Some pain is to be expected while things stretch and rebuild, take time and allow things to settle back. A little at a time now along with listening to your body and sensations will go a long way in the long run towards coming back stronger and healthier than before. Not to mention a little smarter about what not to do next time!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Weight Vest Workout

Getting creative with your workout tools can be half the fun!

   As promised here is a simple workout that allows you to exercise without needing your feet and even allows for some leg work (assuming your legs are still good). Always ensure that workout you start is approved by your doctor to prevent potential for further damage if you are currently injured. Once you begin, if you are unsure, find the help of a qualified trainer or physical therapist to help you properly execute your workout.

   That said, this workout is quick (about 20 minutes to half an hour should be enough) and requires only a weight vest - or even a backpack - with your desired amount of weight added. Please bear in mind that unless you have done all the exercises below it is a good idea to start light and add weight as needed once you are comfortable with the movements and can go through each rep safely. It is designed for a basic whole body run to help exercise all your muscles with little time to risk higher potential for further injury to already sensitive areas due to fatigue.

   Make sure you are stretched and avoid stretches that will aggravate your injury.

   Exercise 1 - Weight Vest Knee Raise : Hook your feet through the shoulder straps of your vest or pack while seated on a chair from your dining room (or equivalent, you want something sturdy but padded for some comfort). Hold the sides of the chair and pull your knees up towards your chest trying to keep the bag hanging from your ankles and your back straight.
A variation depending on your current predicament - an example being a tender sprained ankle - would be to hang the bag higher up towards your knees and find a place to hang from (such as a pull up bar) and perform hanging leg raises.

   This exercise can be tricky, so again make sure you have someone available to help out if you need a second set of hands (including holding the straps in place).

   Exercise 2 - Vest Chest Pull/Press: For pull portion lay face down on a bench and pull your bag or vest up towards your chest as far as you can. The press portion is executed similar to a bench press (lay on your back and press the vest out until your arms nearly lockout then lower and repeat.
For an alternate chest pull method wear the bag or vest and find a strong table you can lay underneath and grip two sides comfortably. Pull yourself up as far as you can, lower and repeat.

   Exercise 3 - Vest Dips: Set yourself up between two chairs on a solid non slip surface. Place your hands on the top of the chair backs, lift your feet and perform a dip, lowering yourself until your elbows form a 90° angle and push back up. For this you want to make sure the chairs will not flip back or slide around so test for security before.attempting. Once more, someone to help spot is highly recommended especially when exercising and injured.

   Alternatively you can use paralletes or parallel bars if available. They are usually far more safe and secure than a chair but not usually a common household object. Also, two shorter stools may be used if you are having trouble holding up your body weight. Extend your legs out and rest your feet on a pillow or over a bar. Whatever provides comfort and does not hurt you or aggravate your injury.

Workout plan:

   Try to fit into at least twenty minutes with a goal of around half an hour. If you are unable to complete a set in one shot, do as much as you can, rest a moment but no longer than absolutely necessary (5 to 10 seconds should work) and try to push out a couple more reps until worked through all reps for each exercise. Once through round, start over and repeat through rounds until half an hour is up.

   A good starter setup will be 5 to 8 reps per exercise. Try this and see where you are at end of the round, then adjust up or down from there and try to complete same number of reps from then on throughout the workout.

   Enjoy your workout and remember that if at any point the workout is affecting a sore spot for your injury you should stop and reassess your workout, adjusting as needed.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lesson learned...

   Well, the doctor today informed me after some waiting, painful prodding and X-rays of my foot that I have an overused tendon and it needs rest to avoid further damage or irritation. Running too hard and too fast on top of an unlikely hole in the ground added up to an unwanted guest on top of this, a mildly sprained ankle. All said, I got lucky, but still need to rest my feet to give them time to recover. As it is, sitting still for me is like a semi in hurricane winds. It just won't work.

   This injury seems to be coming at a decent time however as I want to ensure all of my readers know it is easy to have a mistake take away a passion. You can then either choose to find a suitable alternative or sit around depressed and moody about it (a little of the latter is understandable of course - driving past your favorite running spot can be alarmingly discouraging). It is your choice as always whether you then simply give up and wait or take control and find a way to pass the time while maintaining your sanity (and fitness level to boot!)

   So I have decided to venture into other new exercising plans in order to compensate for this injury while attempting to maintain a roughly similar amount of strength in my legs and core to be ready for when I can begin running again. Keep an eye out, I will be testing out some of my ideas and seeing if they will pull through over the next few weeks! If nothing else, they should at least keep my mind and body entertained.

   Hopefully they will turn beneficial for someone out there with the same fate or just looking for a new and interesting way to stay fit! And if anyone out there would like to share tricks they have come across to deal with unwanted injuries and extra exercise free time please share below!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Earn your workout!

Earning a treat always makes it more sweet than just eating it for fun!
   Not in the sense of doing something to allow yourself a workout, more like finding that something you enjoy to drive you through a workout. Everyone has that something, that little thing they really never want unless they have earned it for some reason. A workout is a great opportunity to create a positive out of a craving.

   Maybe it could be something where every time you exercise you can throw some change or a dollar to the side for a well earned [enter whatever it is you are saving for here]. For some who are lovers of chocolate but are working on trying to get more fit and eventually lose weight as well it could be a few M&M's. Keep that one reasonable of course. Five or six of them is all you would really need and limiting in that way makes them all the more valuable at the end of a workout when you have earned them and aren't just throwing them down for the heck of it.

   My own personal earnable is the Saturday wearing of my Hard Charge shirt after a long run (pictured above). It seems silly to some but for my own psyche it is a huge boost since Hard Charge had been my breaking point in running fitness. That day was a challenge and although it now appears fairly easy, at the time it had been something I really had not been sure I could even finish. Running across the line at the end had created a fire in me that I had never known existed and a new interest in pushing boundaries that now has me setting my sights on things like the Western States 100, Tough Mudder and someday (assuming my insanity holds out) the Badwater 135.

   Having a target not only helps you reach a goal, but having something to earn at the end will also help you to focus and likely come to a conclusion that you need to work hard enough each time for that earnable to be worthwhile. Victory over self tastes so much better when you break your own limits only to then discover a small pot of gold you left for yourself at the end.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Primal Fudge Bars

This may become your new favorite snack! Try with Coconut Crack Bars for an extra delicious treat!

   Getting into the time of year when there are sweets in abundance and the urge to get some sugary treats can be one of the tougher things you will do while working on your fitness and practicing a more controlled way of eating. It becomes tough watching so many people snacking on those sorts of snacks that they, and you, know are something that really should be moderated a little.

   Fear not, this treat will hit your sweet tooth, deliver some fats that are healthier than those you would normally get and believe it or not it is also free of additonal sugars that are mixed into so many snacks on top of other ingredients without tasting like it! That is to say it is sugar free! Primal Fudge bars contain only simple natural ingredients that all have a part in helping your health and can be a great treat for after a workout (especially running or other vigorous cardio that has a strong fat burning affinity - and remember, although you may be trying to lose weight at some point, you need to fuel your body to keep it from going towards a catabolic state, eating certain fats will actually help your metabolism).

   The recipe can be found here: Practical Paleo. We used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder and then in place of using an almond butter or peanut butter my wife and I made our own walnut butter that although higher in fat than most nut butters also adds Omega 3's and helpful antioxidants that have an anti-inflammatory property (again, good for after long runs when your body has taken a pretty good beating). Being home made it also means we can nix the addition of sugar. The natural sweetness of the walnut plus the other ingredients in the recipe add enough sweetness on their own.

How we made walnut butter:

1 cup walnuts
1 Tbsp refined coconut oil

Put walnuts and coconut oil in food processor and blend until mostly smooth.

Then you can just mix the remainder of the Primal Fudge recipe in with your butter and complete the recipe. Easy and no extra dishes to be made either!

Nutritional Facts for 1 small bar of Primal Fudge (at 20 servings instead of 10) using walnut butter and Dark Chocolate cocoa powder the Maple Syrup option:

Calories: 105
Carbs: 5 (there are the natural sugars in maple syrup)
Fat: 10
Protein: 1
Sodium: 26