Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cuban Thanksgiving

Despite being born in the US, I could honestly say that I have never experienced a true American Thanksgiving. We do however, celebrate this time-cherished holiday with a Caribbean flare. This is what our special menu will consist of:


Pan Cubano
Cuban Bread



Arroz Blanco
White Rice



Frijoles Negros
Black Beans



Tostones
Fried Plantain Slices


Yuca
Boiled Yucca with Garlic


Lechon 
Pig Roast


Flan 
Caramel Custard


Turron
Nougat


Cafe Cubano
Cuban Espresso


And for the adults...

Havana Club Ron
Havana Club Rum


This isn't quite the healthiest meal, but it's a special Cuban tradition. My philosophy is to let loose for one day and eat in moderation. Here are some tips on avoiding weight gain during the holidays. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!!!

---------------------------
I am thankful for the abundant life that 
I have. I am surrounded by an amazing family and 
friends. I have the best husband in the world and God
is blessing me with a sweet baby boy.








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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Healthy Turkey Chili

Being that it's Thanksgiving week, I figured you guys would be in the mood for some turkey. I made this dish two nights ago and it was a total hit. It was quick, simple and very savory. It also made for a delicious lunch the next day.


Ingredients:

Coconut oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tbs minced garlic
1 onion
1lb ground turkey
1 tsp ground cumin
1 can low sodium organic kidney beans (15 oz can), drained
1 can (16 oz) organic tomato sauce
1/4 cup shredded cheese (optional)
1 avocado, chopped

Directions:
 
1. Heat coconut oil in medium pot over medium heat. Stir in peppers, garlic and onions and cook until tender (about 5-7 minutes).
 
2. Add the turkey and the cumin. Cook until browned.
 
3. Stir in the beans and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer until the chili thickens (about 10 minutes).
 
4. Once cooked, sprinkle the cheese and avocado.
 
*You can eat this with a side salad or on its own.
 
Enjoy!!
 
 
What will you be cooking for Thanksgiving?
 
-------------------------------
I am grateful to have special
people around me. 
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

10 Tips to Maintain Your Weight During the Holidays

Hello friends and Happy Tuesday! How was your weekend? I had a pretty relaxing weekend minus the last minute errands I have been running to prepare for my birth. Anyway, somehow I managed to get in a few workout sessions, which consisted of brisk walking and the elliptical machine.

As I was exercising today, I began thinking about an issue that plagues most Americans during this time of year. Can you guess what it is? That's right, weight gain during the holidays. I'm sure we all know someone who's New Year's Resolution is to lose weight, but let me offer you another idea. Why wait until the New Year to lose weight? Why not maintain your weight during the holidays so that you don't have to lose it later? In my opinion, it's easier to maintain weight than to lose weight.

There's no doubt that you will have to have an immense amount of will power to avoid bad foods during the holidays, but you don't have to say "No" to all foods. Want to know the secret? Portion control! That's right, you could have your cake and eat too! When you attend holiday parties just be cognizant of the portions you're eating. Don't over-flow your plate with food, but rather grab a little bit of everything. Make it a point to "cheat" only when you attend a party and not everyday.



Here are some other tips to use to avoid weight gain during the holidays:

1. Avoid foods that increase your appetite. Starchy foods like white rice, breads and sweets, actually make you hungrier. Foods like brown rice and sweet potatoes make you feel fuller longer.

2. Don't drink your calories. Liquid calories, such as sodas, alcoholic beverages, fruit juices and mixers tend to be very fattening. Make sure to limit the amount of alcoholic beverages you have at parties.

3. Eat protein at every meal. Protein makes you feel fuller longer and it regulates your insulin levels, which avoids a spike in your blood glucose levels.

4. Eat fruits and veggies first. These types of foods make you feel full and will suppress your appetite.

5. Don't let yourself get hungry. When our bodies go into starvation mode, we tend to binge eat in order to feel satiated. The rule of thumb is to eat a little something before going to a party. This way, you won't binge eat on all the bad foods they are offering.

6. Exercise. I know it's the holidays, but always make room for a little exercise. This will maintain your weight and it will alleviate your holiday anxieties.

7. Don't deny your sweet tooth. If you feel like eating something sweet, eat it! But make sure you pick something healthy, such as fresh fruits or a piece of dark chocolate.

8. Don't engage in mindless eating. I like to call this "Anxiety Eating." This is when you eat because you're either stressed out or simply because you're bored. Be cognizant of when you're doing this. You could avoid a lot of calories by avoiding this phenomenon.

9. Sleep. Make sure to get your beauty sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to higher cortisol levels, which makes you hungry and it makes you crave naughty foods like sweets, starches and fats.

10. Don't be so strict. Allow yourself to indulge every now and then, but don't be so lenient where you'll end up sabotaging your weight.


What are your Thanksgiving plans?
 
--------------------------
I am grateful for all the
comforts I have. 
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Stability Ball Exercises During Pregnancy

Hello everyone!! I'm sure you're all familiar with a stability ball or a gym ball:

 
This is a great tool to use to strengthen your core however, it could also be used to strengthen your arm and legs muscles. The stability ball requires a lot of coordination and balance, which is what helps you strengthen your muscles.
 
I became (especially) familiar with this ball when I was told that I shouldn't lie on my back after four months of pregnancy. Pregnant women have a vein on their backs that may compress when they lie on it. The compression may shorten the blood flow to the placenta, which may affect the baby. As a result of this, we are told to use a stability ball to do core workouts.
 
Having a strong core during pregnancy may help you push during childbirth, maintain a good posture and alleviate backaches.
 
Here are some exercises you can do with this amazing ball:
 
Wall squat (thighs and buttocks)
 


1. Place your exercise ball between the wall and the small of your back. Make sure you can just see the tips of your toes when you look down.

2. Slowly sit down into a squat. As you squat, remember that you should be able to wiggle your toes because all your weight should be in your heels.

3. Slowly stand up again. (Repeat eight to 10 times.)

Shoulder Blade Squeeze (upper back and shoulders)



1. Sit on your exercise ball and lean forward so that your forearms rest on your legs.

2. As you sit up, bring your hands in front of you to chest level and turn your fists (or hand weights) to the side.

3. Slowly extend the arms out to the sides, squeezing your shoulder blades together.

4. Bring your fists (or hand weights) back in front of you at chest level.

5. As you lean forward again, turn your fists (or hand weights) and rest your forearms on your thighs.
(Repeat eight to 10 times.)


Pregnant Push-Up (chest)

 
1. Stand in front of a wall and hold your exercise ball out arms’ length away from you at chest level. Press the ball against the wall.

2. Keeping your body straight and your feet planted firmly on the ground, slowly bend your elbows and press your chest into the ball.

3. Slowly press away from the ball by straightening your elbows. (Repeat eight to 10 times.)

You can also try this...

1. Sit on the ball and rock your pelvis from side to side and front to back.

2. Sit on the ball and rotate your hips clockwise and counter clockwise.

3. Lean over your ball from a kneeling position, then rock your hips forward and back.

So, whether your pregnant or not, there are many exercises that one can do to strengthen one's core, arms, chest, buttocks and leg muscles. Go ahead, have a ball!
 
 
Have you ever used a stability ball?
 
-----------------------
I'm grateful that I am
feeling better from a cold.
 
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I'm still waiting...

Hello friends! It's been a few days since I've written, but as you can imagine I have been exhausted beyond belief. As I near my due date, all I'm pining over is a nice and big comfortable bed where I can rest my body. I came down with a cold over the weekend, so my body feels all discombobulated.
Anywho, I thought I'd drop in to let you all know what I've been up to.

Besides waiting anxiously for my baby boy, I did some fun stuff over the weekend. On Saturday I celebrated the baptism of my friend's daughter, Brianna. I had a wonderful time with my girlfriends and much needed quality time with them.

 
 
After the baptism, we went to Cafe Avanti for a delicious Italian meal.
 
On Sunday, my Little Miss Runner friends gave me a beautiful baby shower. In case you don't know who the Little Miss Runners are, they are my running girlfriends. Every year we run the Keys 100 relay as a team.
 

Keys 100 in 2011
 
Keys 100 in 2012
 
Baby Shower 2013
 
They gave me a bunch of gifts, including a money tree! I guess money could grow on trees ;)
 
 
So, in the meantime, I will wait anxiously for the birth of baby Myles. Stay tuned to find out how I am giving birth....
 
 
---------------------
I'm grateful for the fulfillment
that my friends give me. 
 
 

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Paleo Chicken Apple Stuffed Butternut Squash

Howdy friends! On today's "Tasty Thursday" edition, I want to share a delicious recipe that my friend sent me. First of all, Paleo is a great diet and secondly, I love butternut squash, so I just had to give it a try myself. Check it out:

Ingredients:

1 medium sized butternut squash
Some fat, yes, FAT, such as bacon fat or butter
1 onion, diced
6oz of mushrooms, chopped
1lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into pieces
1 medium apple, cut into pieces
Hint of salt
Hint of pepper
2-3 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp dried thyme
5 breakfast sausages, cut into pieces (I used Applegate Farms Chicken Apple Sausages- they are free of nitrates!)

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Split the butternut squash long ways down the middle. Scoop out the guts and seeds.

3. Place them face down in a baking dish and fill the pan with about 1/4-1/2 inch of water. Place it in the oven and bake for about 30-45 minutes or until it's tender.

4. Meanwhile, heat a big skillet with the fat and add in the onions and mushrooms. Let that cook for a while and then add the apples and chicken.

5. When it's almost fully cooked, add in the salt and pepper, apple cider vinegar and the sausages.

6. When the squash is done, take it out of the oven and flip it. Scoop out the insides, leaving only about an inch of squash in the skin.

7. Fill up the squash with the chicken, apple and sausage and place it back in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.




Enjoy!!
 
-------------------------
I am grateful for all
the yummy Paleo recipes that friends
share with me. 
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Power of an Athlete's Brain

Hello my friends! Have you missed me? I know I know, it's been a few days, but there aren't enough hours in my days. I've been really busy juggling work, baby planning, working out and getting ready to have this baby. Leave it up to the procrastinator (ME!) to get everything done during the last weeks of pregnancy. It's been hectic, but quite interesting.

Let's see, what eventful things have occurred since I last wrote on my blog? Well, lots of baby shopping and house cleaning and of course, my 2nd year wedding anniversary. I celebrated two amazing years of being married to my wonderful husband Milo on November 11th. We had a nice and quiet dinner and I ate what I most love: Salmon with veggies- it was delightful.

 
 
Today I want to talk about the power of our brain when we race. Have you ever felt so fatigued during a race that you thought you were going to collapse? And despite feeling exhausted beyond belief something kept you moving? This is the power of your mind to continue running even though you think you have nothing left.
 
According to Gretchen Reynolds from the New York Times, she stated that scientists have proposed a new theory on exercise-related fatigue called the psychobiological model. Basically, this theory states that our brains, rather than our muscles, determine when we are exhausted. The wonderful element of this theory is that if we believe we can do it, then we will!

 
 
Researchers believe that "self-talk" may help athletes during intense workouts and during races. "Self-talk has to be consistent and systematic." Self-talk is a very personal experience with yourself. I always create a mantra during races in order to help me get through the pain. My mantras have been as simple as "You can do this!" to "It's do or die. Get it done!" I can attest to the fact that self-talk works. It's interesting how no one taught me how to talk to myself during a race, but innately my body responded this way when I experienced pain.
 
I want to bring this topic full circle by relating racing pains with labor pains. In my preparations to have a natural and drug-free birth, I have discovered that labor is much like an athletic event. In my opinion, God intended for women to be capable of bearing a child- birthing was never meant to be a medical procedure unless complications arise. With that being said, I have prepared my mind to endure labor pains. I have developed a mantra that I will repeat when I feel those grueling contractions. I am determined to believe that pain is good (in this situation) and a means to an end. I truly believe that if I accept labor pains as a friendly experience in order to meet my son, I will get through it. This concept of motivating and encouraging yourself to get through extreme fatigue and pain is quite enigmatic- it reminds us that our body and mind intertwine in ways we could probably never understand.
 
Give self-talk a shot next time you're training or racing- you'll thank me later =).
 
How do you cope with pain when you race?
 
 
--------------------
I am grateful for my religious foundation-
I am relying on Him to get through labor and delivery.
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

What's Your Fitness Age?

Hello friends! I've been feeling kind of tired these days, but somehow I managed to do 40 minutes on the elliptical machine today. For some reason, it just makes me feel so good and refreshed. Even when I'm feeling tired and fatigued, exercise can always make me feel new again. Do you get the same feeling?

I want to show you guys an interesting "fitness age" calculator that determines your VO2 Max level and estimated fitness age. The fitness calculator is based on simple calculations, such as how much you exercise, your waist measurement and resting heart rate.

Once you plug in the numbers, the calculator will determine how well your body delivers oxygen to your cells and it will tell you what your fitness age is.

I gave it a try (pre-pregnancy waist measurement and resting heart rate) and the calculator told me I was at a VO2 Max of 49 and my fitness age is younger than 20 (maybe that's why I feel so young?!). Not too shabby!

Here's a chart of what your VO2 Max level should be based on your gender and age:

 
In case you're wondering what VO2 Max stands for, it's basically the volume of oxygen you can consume while exercising at your maximum capacity. People who are really fit have higher VO2 Max levels because they can exercise more intensely for longer periods of time than those who are not well conditioned. A person's VO2 Max level is a good measurement of their fitness level because it's based on their heart rate while exercising.
 
Here's the website: http://www.ntnu.edu/cerg/vo2max. Give it a try!!! You might be shocked by the results!
 
----------------------------------
I'm grateful for the little
surprises I get every now and then.

 
 


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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wellness Wednesday: 10 foods that soothe stress

Hello friends! I came across a really interesting article in NaturalNews.com about super foods that soothe stress. I immediately opened it because I was expecting yucky foods to be on that list. To my surprise, the listed foods were actually quite tasty and totally bearable to eat.

Some people don't eat at all when they're stressed, but others ravage through the refrigerator like raccoons (I'm guilty of this!). Either way, both situations are bad. It's not healthy not to eat because you need nutrients to combat stress and it's not healthy to over-eat because you may actually make yourself sick.

You see, the body is a very interesting masterpiece. When we are stressed, we crave inflammatory foods (a.k.a junk food). Junk food sends a signal to our brain which causes pleasure in our body. This in turn, suppresses our stress for a short while. That's why we call junk food "comfort food." We tend to eat based on our emotions, which leads to self-sabotage. I'm not saying you can't splurge every now and then, but it's imperative to distinguish when you're eating bad foods because of a negative emotion, such as stress.

Take a look at this list of healthy foods that may help fight off stress:



1. Dark chocolate. This contains magnesium and bromine, which eases emotional tension and elevates one's mood. Who would of thought!

2. Almonds. Almonds are filled with B12 and vitamin E, which boosts the immune system during stressful situations.

3. Spinach. This is high in magnesium, which regulates cortisol levels (cortisol regulates your weight). Popeye didn't eat this for no reason!

4. Turkey. Turkey contains tryptophan, which releases serotonin. This promotes calmness and even sleepiness. Gobble gooble!

5. Oatmeal. Oatmeal also releases serotonin in your brain, which promotes peace of mind. Make sure to choose the steel cut oats or the old-fashioned kind- they are way healthier than instant oatmeal.

6. Sweet potatoes. These suckers are loaded with fiber, antioxidants and beta-carotene. This enhances your immune system and helps with inflammation in the body.

7. Yogurt. This is rich in calcium and probiotics, which may help with digestion. Make sure to grab the organic kind!

8. Asparagus. This long, green and smelly veggie is filled with folic acid, which helps fight depression and stress. Just ignore the smell when you go to the bathroom!

9. Avocado. Avocados contain potassium and vitamin B, which helps with energy levels and may lower blood pressure.

10. Blueberries. These little fruits contain antioxidants and calcium, which protect your cells from damage.

Not too shabby huh?

What's your comfort food?
 
------------------------
I'm grateful for all the healthy
comfort foods that are available to us. 
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Whole Organic Chicken in a Crock Pot

Hello everyone! Here's what I did as a workout today:

Cardio:
40 minutes on the elliptical machine
 
Weights:
Smith machine squats 3x15
Kettle bell upright row 3x15
Smith machine plie squats 3x15
Dumbbell bicep curls 3x15
Front raise followed by a lateral raise 3x15
 
 
So, I finally decided to cook a whole chicken in my Crock Pot. I was a bit skeptical because it just looked so big and I couldn't imagine that it would cook all the way through. Boy was I wrong! Here's how I set it up:
 
Whole Organic Chicken on the Crock Pot
 
Ingredients:
 
Whole organic chicken, remove the giblets and the skin
1 onion
1-2 cups low sodium organic chicken broth
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp Celtic sea salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
 
Directions:
 
1. Combine the spices in a bowl.
 
2. Chop the onion and place it in the bottom of the Crock Pot.
 
3. Remove the giblets and the skin (optional) from the chicken and rub the spices on it.
 
4. Place the whole chicken on top of the onions and pour the chicken broth over the chicken. Cover the pot. Turn the pot on low. Cook the chicken on low for about 9 hours or until the chicken is falling off the bone.
 
And voila.. Enjoy!
 
I couldn't believe how tasty and tender the chicken came out. What was even more shocking was the fact that I didn't need to cook anything when I arrived home from work. I <3 Crock Pot!
 
You can enjoy this meal with a side of seasonal veggies or a salad. 
 
 
Do you own a Crock Pot? What's your favorite recipe?
 
------------------------------
I am grateful for unique
cooking inventions. 

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Some Monday Motivation

Hello everyone! Happy Monday to all!! How was your weekend? I had a fantabulous weekend getaway with the hubs. We went to Naples, FL and visited one of our friends. The weather was spectacular and doing nothing never made me happier. We lounged all the day by the beach and we had dinner with our friends at night.

Catching some rays
 
 
After a few days of round ligament pain,  I was able to get on the elliptical machine today for 45 minutes. Thanks to my chiropractor, Jodie Espinet, she massaged me for one hour and adjusted my body and the pain slowly went away. Thank God for her hands!
 
Anyway, when I returned from Naples, I received a letter in the mail from my pen pal Melissa. Melissa and I have been corresponding for about 4 years now and she always sends me the coolest things through the mail. In this letter she sent me an article from the Boston Gazette (she's from Massachusetts) about Kathrine Switzer. 
 
For those of you who don't know Switzer, she was the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon. She fearlessly broke the "no woman allowed to run" rule and signed up as K.V. Switzer. Needless to say, she was assaulted during the race and literally pushed off to leave the course. She boldly said no and continued running that day.
 
Switzer has always been an inspiration for me because she's a no-nonsense kind-of-gal. Not only did she pave the way for other women marathoners, but she also continues to empower women to run. Even when Switzer was told she couldn't run, she continued doing what she wanted to do. There was nothing that could stop her. Her valiant and stubborn attitude transformed her into the great runner she is and into the bad a$$ woman she became.
 

The Boston Gazette article
 
 
This article piece has inspired me today to inspire YOU to run. There will be no excuses allowed! According to US News, these are the top 10 excuses that people give for not wanting to exercise:
 
1. "I'm too busy." Solution: Find time.
 
2. "I'm too old." Solution: No you're not. You're never too old to exercise and, as a matter of fact, it's recommended that you exercise in order to live longer.
 
3. "I hate going it alone." Solution: Get over yourself. It's not a big deal. If you really need someone, then ask a friend, a family member or join a running group.
 
4. "It's so boring." Solution: Then find something you like.
 
5. "My kids get in the way." Solution: Exercise before or after they wake up or have them exercise with you.
 
6. "My back hurts." Solution: Exercise might actually relieve the pain, but simply ask your doctor what type of exercise you can do.
 
7. "I'm too fat." Solution: Even more of a reason to exercise. The key is to start gradually.
 
8. "I'm thin already." Solution: Just because you're skinny doesn't mean you're healthy. They are not the same thing. Have you ever heard of the term "skinny cow?"
 
9. "I'm not a gym rat." Solution: That's ok, then exercise outside.
 
10. "I have arthritis." Solution: Exercise might actually help you feel better. Ask your doctor what type of exercise suits you.
 
You've got an excuse? I've got a solution!!!
 
What's your excuse?
 
----------------------------
I am thankful that I have the
ability to exercise despite having
a big 'ole belly =).


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