My Summer Fitness Plan

Last Thursday was the last day of school for Reese, and on Friday we booked it up north for a couple of days of R&R in a 100+ year old lodge where we binge watched Anne With An E and puttered around looking at pretty stuff and eating banana splits and blueberry pie. So today starts the first full week of summer break. It was also the first day of my Summer Fitness Plan®. You see, a few weeks ago I approached my next door neighbor and good friend Catherine and asked if she’d like to work out with me three times a week in the wee hours of the morning before our kids were awake. She immediately said yes, and we both agreed that it was going to be amazing and awesome.

Fast forward to this morning when I woke up at 4:00, 4:50, and 5:00 (excitement) and then for real at 6:00 to begin our Summer Fitness Plan®. This is the gist: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we will meet in our shared driveway at 6:15 and run/walk a couple of miles. Then we will use the Aaptiv app I’ve told you about before to do a strength workout. This morning we did our workout at the park in the wet grass while being feasted on by our state bird, the mosquito. There was also a for real boot camp happening and I felt like we were acting out that scene in Bridesmaids. We decided next time we will throw down yoga mats in the driveway instead.

Catherine proclaimed that by the end of the summer we will be bosses in every sense of the word (she didn’t really say it this way but it’s what I inferred so…). The first day was a success, in my book.

A couple of notes: I was worried that I would bonk if I didn’t eat anything beforehand, so I choked down a half of a banana. It’s almost two hours later and I’m still not hungry, so maybe working out on an empty stomach will work for me. Read about the research here. Also, next time I will spritz myself with bug spray. Thirdly, I have to say that if I’m awake everyday at 6:00 anyway, I might as well be exercising instead of laying in bed reading Twitter and stressing about the state of affairs. Who needs all that cortisol? I’m still 100% going to read the news, but an hour away from it isn’t a bad thing. Lastly, I will also be playing golf quite a bit, walking the dog, and doing some yoga and/or barre, but I think the bulk of my actual structured exercise will be from this plan.

What are your fitness plans for the summer?  Please comment and tell me!

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Run, jog, slog

Last night, after dinner, I admitted that I had put off my training run all day.  I had gotten caught up in fun summer activities with my 10 year old and her friend. So, instead of putting on my pajamas and sitting on the couch with my husband for an episode of Orange Is The New Black, I had to put on my running clothes and get out there.  The positives: it was a nice, cool night.  There’s a beautiful lake nearby. I would be inspired by everyone else who would inevitably also be out there running.  The negatives: RUNNING.   I’m not a natural runner.  Even at my most fit, as a high school athlete, I hated running.  I do it now because it keeps me challenged. I love that even after months of not running, I can revisit it anytime I want. It’s free.  It’s empowering. I’m never alone out there.

Three years ago I heard about a new race series called Esprit De She.  It’s a series just for women and it’s open to ALL women, runners, joggers, sloggers and walkers alike.  I say that I run but really it’s a mix between jogging and slogging.  It’s not pretty and it’s not fast. Anyway, I became a “founding finisher” of the two races in my area that summer, and I haven’t missed one since.  In fact, this year they made me an Ambassador because of my enthusiasm for this race.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit that a good portion of my enthusiasm comes from the free wine and dinner provided after each race.

esprit de she 4
You get two free glasses of wine and a keepsake glass after each race!

Also there is so much swag it’s insane.  I love all the samples. I love the cute tank I get every year.  I’m serious, but also I really love that it’s such an empowering event for women.  I see ladies of all ages, shapes, sizes and ability out there, and they are all proud of their accomplishments.  They are smiling and hugging and high-fiving each other.  It gives me all the feelings.

 I’ve made brand new running friends at the Esprit de She events, and I’ve brought along lots of good pals too.

Esprit de she 8
Good friends sweat together.
esprit de she 2
One of these ladies is a good friend and one is a brand new one! Yay for friends.

I love that I’m showing my 10 year old daughter that I care about staying healthy, engaged in the community, and that friendships are important.

esprit de she 7

Esprit de She events are held all over the country.  And they really are so much fun.  Click on the link if you want to find one near you.  If you want a discount of 10% you can enter my code which is EDS074.  If you haven’t run or it’s been a long time and you need some structure and a training schedule, I really like Hal Higdon’s plans. They are easy to follow and will help you stay motivated.

Badge_200X200 copy

If you are in the Twin Cities area, please let me know that you are registered and we will meet up and start together! And have a glass of wine after! There is a Maple Grove race on September 17! 

Whatever you choose to do, I guess I would just like to say GET OUT THERE.  STAY ACTIVE. FIND SOMETHING YOU LOVE.  MAKE TIME FOR IT. As someone once said to me, “You don’t have to exercise, you get to exercise”.  And they were right.

Vegetable Dumplings — The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

veggie dumplings

Remember those beauties?  Vegan Dumplings were the big winners in the poll for the first recipe I would test from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good cookbook.  You’ll remember from a previous post that I received the book as a birthday gift, and that Gwyneth and I have a long, complicated history.  Mostly it’s me not being sure if I should love her or loathe her.  It’s so hard to decide.  Regardless, I love the look of many of the recipes in her cookbook and so I decided I would cook my way through it and report back. What I want to find out are:  Are her recipes approachable?  Can a middle aged busy mom without a nanny, a cook, a housecleaner and other household help actually find the time to make the creations within?  The only way to find out is to try.

I accumulated the ingredients for the dumplings pretty easily (you know what, I like to say potstickers better, and I think the way I made them are more like potstickers, so let’s go with that from now on).  It wasn’t a crazy list with lots of expensive, hard-to-find ingredients. 

My kiddo has been in camp all week and I really wanted her help with this one, so I waited until today to make these.  You’ll notice in the photos she’s wearing her Angry Birds pajamas.  In this house, we cook in our pajamas.

The end result is that they turned out amazing.  They were really delicious and perfect and we couldn’t stop eating them.  They might not be as beautiful as the stock photo I used above.  I’m thinking I should invest in a food styling course.

finished potstickers

The downside is that they are really messy to make, including a lot of splattering if you choose to pan fry them (which we did, because PAN FRYING IS AWESOME). The cleanup wasn’t fun, but then again it never is.  My best piece of advice is to always try to clean up as you go so it isn’t so overwhelming at the end.  Here is my kitchen at the end of everything.  SO. MUCH. MESS.

dirty kitchen

So here’s the recipe, adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Vegan Veggie Dumplings (I can’t legally reprint the whole recipe here without her permission, and even though I emailed last week to ask for it, I’m guessing her people have better things to do, which may or may not include sourcing local and organic tomatillos for her kids’ lunches.)

Vegan Potstickers Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups green cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 small red or yellow onion, or even two or three green onions, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled firm tofu (I haven’t tested this but I bet you could use ground chicken, turkey or other animal protein in place of the tofu.  You know it wouldn’t be vegan anymore, though, right?)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (I love adding a bit of vegetable Better Than Bouillon to my quinoa when it’s cooking.  It adds flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil (I used olive oil which technically isn’t a neutral oil but it worked out fine.  You could also use canola)
  • Pinch of coarse sea salt
  • 48 square wonton wrappers found in the refrigerated section, typically near the tofu
  • Dipping sauce for serving (see below for recipe)

Vegan Potstickers Directions:

  • Pulse the cabbage, onion and garlic in the bowl of a food processor until finely chopped.

potsticker filling in food processor

  • In a large non-stick skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the cabbage mixture with a hefty pinch of sea salt.
  • Cook and stir occasionally until the veggies have softened, about 5 to 6 minutes.

potsticker filling on stove

  • Add in the tofu, peas and quinoa and continue cooking until the peas are soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the soy sauce and sesame oil. Use a potato masher to smush up the mixture until it sticks together.  We allowed some of the peas to stay whole because we wanted a bit more texture.

mashing poststicker filling

  • Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  • Make an assembly line of several wonton wrappers and put 1 teaspoon of the filling mixture in the center of each wrapper. Wet your finger in a small bowl of water and use it to moisten the edges of each dumpling. Carefully fold the corners over making a triangle, making sure you press all the edges to form a good seal.

filling potstickers

  • Heat a bit of the neutral oil (like canola) in a large nonstick skillet set at high heat. Cook the dumplings for 2 minutes, or until they are golden brown on the bottom.

potstickers in pan

  • When the potstickers are browned to your liking on the bottom, add 1/2 cup of water to the skillet, putting the lid on and allowing the dumplings to steam until the wrappers are completely soft, about 2 minutes. Serve with the dipping sauce recipe below. ***Make sure if you are using a skillet that isn’t non-stick that you pay close attention to the potstickers because they will cook a lot more quickly than in a non-stick skillet. (See the photo below for what happens when you don’t pay close enough attention.)

burnt potstickers

  • Vegan Potsticker Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (I use lower sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Combine all ingredients with a fork or a whisk and serve alongside the potstickers.

EAT WELL!

Let’s Take Back Our Health and Vitality!

My name is Melanie.  I am a mom and nutrition enthusiast who gets excited about exploring new ways to nurture my (and my family’s) health, well-being and happiness.  I believe that we can assist our bodies and minds in being their healthiest through the use of:

  • Healthful and nutritious food
  • Exercise
  • Nurturing activities that make us feel good and reduce stress (massage, meditation, yoga and acupuncture are some of my favorites)

This DOESN’T mean I eschew going to the doctor or taking western medications when needed.  I am a firm believer in using knowledge and expertise from both sides.  I am forever on a journey to find a healthy and balanced mix of these two disciplines.

I’m increasingly worried about the state of our health in this country.  Although information and knowledge about the causes of obesity and ill health abounds, the rates of obesity and its accompanying diseases like diabetes and cancer continue to rise.  I love a good juicy burger like the next person, and I don’t believe in full-on deprivation of “fun” foods, but I also firmly believe it’s time to take the reins of control into our own hands and do what’s right for our and our families’ health and our wellness I believe we can cultivate a healthy balance in our lives, one which allows us to enjoy delicious tastes and textures but also guides us in the direction of balance and vitality.

Let’s do this together! I recently embarked on a Nutrition Consultant program through Bauman College.  I cannot wait to share all I learn with you!  We will focus on eating for our overall health, and there will be lots of information on disease prevention, chronic disease management through nutrition, mental health and more.  I will post recipes, ideas, inspiration, studies, articles and anything else I think will help you on your journey towards better health.  Join me, won’t you?