Healthy Banana-Chocolate Milkshake

This recipe is one of my best-kept secrets. It tastes like a decadent milkshake, but it’s no-sugar-added and high in protein. It’s so good, I just have to let the secret out!

I make it single-serving style in my Magic Bullet.

Ingredients

  • Milk
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Chocolate Protein Powder
  • Frozen bananas

Instructions

  • Make “milk-cubes” by pouring milk into an ice cube tray. Let freeze. This is the most important part of the recipe; if you try to use regular water ice cubes, the milkshake tastes watered down and not as creamy!
  • Use lactose-free milk for a sweeter shake (the disaccharide lactose is already broken down into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose by the enzyme lactase, which taste sweeter), and for a lower-carb option, choose almond milk.
  • Peel and slice bananas into ~1 inch pieces and freeze.
  • Take 4-5 milk-cubes and place in magic-bullet along with ~4 pieces of  frozen banana
  • Pour milk up to the level of the icy ingredients (I’ve never measured it, but I’d say ~1/2 cup)
  • Add 1 tbs cocoa powder
  • Add 1/2 to 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder (depending on how much protein you want to have)
  • Blend and enjoy!

I love having this as a recovery shake after a workout. I served it to my dad once, and soon after, he went out and bought a Magic Bullet just so he could make them himself. They’re that good!

If you’re in the market for a Magic Bullet, Costco is the cheapest place we’ve found to buy one. They’re awesome because they come with a bunch of dish-washable cups, so you don’t have to clean an entire big blender every time you want to make a single serving smoothie or shake.

An Invigorating Mocktail: Mint Limeade

Inspired by Kitchen Kick’s Homemade Lemonade, I whipped up my own festive drink using ingredients from this week’s Bountiful Basket: limes & fresh mint!  The aroma of fresh mint and the flavor of this zesty drink was invigorating! 

Ingredients

  • 1.5 qts water (= 6 cups)
  • ~ 8 small & juicy limes
  • 1/2 cup Splenda or Stevia
  • ~ 2 handfuls mint leaves, chopped

Instructions

  • Combine ingredients in large pitcher and let stand for about an hour; the longer it sits, the more pronounced the mint flavor becomes
  • Serve over ice, letting only a few pieces of mint leaves pour into the drink (for color)
  • Garnish with a mint leaf
  • Enjoy!

I’m An Italian Chef at Heart!: Spaghetti and Pizza Recipes

Two of my favorite things to eat are pasta and pizza! The rest of my family is on the same page; these are perhaps the two most-requested menu items that I make.

I like a tasty, convient take-out pizza as much as the next person, but I like my health much more! That’s why both of these recipes are 100% whole-wheat, low on sugar, and low on saturated fat! The marinara sauce is my own original concoction, and the pizza recipe is from The Eat-Clean Diet for Family & Kids.

Perfect Homemade Pizza Everytime!

Ingredients for crust

  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 pkg or 2 1/4 tsp fast-rising yeast
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water

Topping suggestions

  • 3-chess blend of: mozarella, romano, and feta
  • Prego for the sauce (or any jarred marinara sauce)
  • onions
  • bell peppers
  • portabello mushrooms
  • Jenny-O italian turkey sausage
  • ham
  • fresh basil
  • pepperonchinis
  • whatever else sounds good to you!

Instructions

  • Add sugar and yeast to the 3/4 cup of warm water, and let stand for 5 minutes until mixture becomes foamy
  • Meanwhile, add flour and salt to bowl of food processor (if you have a dough blade, use that), and pulse to combine (If you don’t have a food processor, you can just knead the dough by hand; I’ve made it both ways many times, and they both turn out great!)
  • Add foamy mixture to food processor while it is running. It should form a cohesive ball. If it is crumbly, slowly add more water. Let food processor knead the dough for about 5 minutes.
  • With oiled hands, remove dough from food processor and place in oiled bowl. Let the dough rise for one hour.
  • Preheat oven to 500 degreees Fahrenheit
  • Thoroughly oil the pizza pan!
  • Assemble your pizza
  • Bake until crust is golden brown (15-17 minutes, depending on how many toppings it has).

Notes

  • This can be a little messy and time consuming, so I recommend tackling it on a weekend. It’s especially great if you can get help with the dishes.
  • When I make pizza, I make a minimum of two pizzas, and up to four or five. It is great leftover, and you can even freeze it and re-heat it in the microwave!

World-Class Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • handful parsley
  • handful basil
  • lb mushrooms
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 30 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • ~2-3 cups pre-made sauce (optional, I use prego)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • spicy red pepper to taste
  • Italian seasoning blend
  • olive oil
  • 1 lb extra lean ground beef (OR Italian-seasoned Jenny-O ground turkey)

Instructions

  • Add a little olive oil to a nonstick skillet (don’t fear this source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids!). Sauté the onions, zucchini, mushrooms, and bell peppers until softened.
  • Meanwhile in another nonstick skillet, brown the meat. At the last minute, before it is cooked through, added in your freshly chopped basil & parsley
  • Combine veggies and meat into 1 extra-large skillet or sauce pan.
  • Add tomato paste and diced tomatoes
  • Add salt, pepper, spicy red pepper, and italian seasoning blend to taste
  • At this point the sauce should be delicious, but a bit runny. At this point you have 2 options. 1) Let it simmer on low for a few hours until it thickens, OR 2) Add 2 cups or so of pre-made sauce (I usually do this when I’m in a hurry).

Notes

  • I find this hearty, chunky sauce is best served over whole-wheat rotini, but you can use any type of noodle that you like. And sometimes I just eat a big bowl of the sauce as if it were a stew! Also delicious served over steamed veggies if you’re trying to cut down on starch.
  • The fresh herbs are what really send this sauce over the edge! I don’t recommend skipping them.
  • Tip when searching for 100% whole-wheat noodles: some noodle packages say “whole wheat,” but that doesn’t mean that they are 100% whole wheat. Most “whole wheat” noodles found at stores like Wal-Mart are only about 50% whole wheat. Check you labels, and shop around until you find 100%; once you do, stock up, because dry noodles keep for a long time! In a pinch, even 50% whole wheat is better than white flour! 🙂
  • For gluten-intolerance: I find that brown-rice noodles are nearly indistinguishable from whole wheat noodles! I often use brown-rice noodles in my lasagna, because around here 100% whole-wheat lasagna noodles are especially hard to find.
  • This recipe was born by chopping up every type of sauce-friendly veggie I had in my refrigerator at the time, so be creative! Substitute to fit your family’s preference and what you have on hand — you can’t go wrong with veggies!
  • Speaking of veggies, both of these recipes are excellent paired with roasted veggies!

Damn DOMS

Yesterday I went out to dinner with my cousin and her friends, celebrating her acceptance into nursing school. I ordered a spicy tomato noodle dish, and ate a few bites more than I should have, considering my workout plans immediately after. Because of my fullness and lingering gastro-intestinal troubles, I didn’t think an hour on the stair stepper sounded very appealing at all. Instead, I decided to take my standard leg workout, back/bicep workout, and shoulder workout and do them all in one night with some plyometric moves in between to sneak in some cardio. Sounded like a great idea at the time.

Fast-forward 24 hours and the only two places I can bear to be are in bed or in the hot bath. I literally spent all morning in class fantasizing about coming home and taking a long, hot bath. Even sitting on the sofa is just too painful on my glutes. Delayed-onset-muscle-soreness (DOMS), that soreness that attacks a day or two after a highly strenuous workout, has set it. And hey! I just got over a bout of this after my road race last Sunday…

It’s not unusual for me to do a few high-intensity cardio moves in between sets of weight training; several variations of a jumping squat, lunges with leg lifts, step-ups, and repeater lunges are on my repertoire and haven’t made me sore in some time. All I added to last night’s workout was one new move– a jumping lunge. I am surprised and humbled that this single addition caused my quads and glutes debilitating soreness.

Now my question is where do I go from here? I have a 7.4 mile road race in 9 days that I’m supposed to be training and peaking for. This soreness was not on the agenda! From what I’ve read, stretching is good. Maybe I can stretch in the bath so it won’t hurt as bad? Ha! If only I could toughen up enough to make my way to the gym to do a bit of moderate cardio to help work out the soreness, find a foam roller for to self-massage, and really stretch out in the giant hot tub afterwards. At the bare minimum I should walk the ten steps or so to the bottle of ibuprofen and take three…

When I’m over the pain, I’m sure I will appreciate the silver lining of the situation — even though I’ve been working-out hard and lifting heavy, adding even just a single new move can challenge me in new ways, allowing me to continue sculpting my physique.

No-Sugar-Added Treats For My Class

Today we had a last-day-of-class party in each of my two Honors writing classes. Everyday I sit in those classes eating my homemade lunches, unintentionally making the rest of the class envious. Today, I was excited to share with them some healthy and yummy treats! I wanted to bring a nice fresh fruit and vegetable tray, because one of the things I snack on nearly everyday in class in my 11-cup pyrex full of various vegetables, but a lack of extra cash directed me to my pantry stocked full of nonperishable baking goods. For my Writing The Short Story class, I brought no-bake chocolate peanut butter/almond butter cookie dough bites, and for my Writing Your Heritage class, I brought my trusty oatmeal chocolate chip muffins.

I meant to bake everything last night, but I was exhausted and still not in a great mood. I set my alarm this morning for earlier than usual to bake; when I woke up with a headache, I almost  said “To hell with it,” but I’m glad that instead I popped some Midol and pulled out the baking supplies.

Last night I actually had a nightmare that my food processor shattered into tiny pieces, and I have a vague memory of waking up teary-eyed after this dream…. I was very happy to find it in-tact and ready for use this morning!

The chocolate-chip oatmeal muffin recipe was my first ever blog post, and the class devoured them!
I found the no-bake chocolate nut-butter cookie dough recipe on one of my favorite dessert blogs, Chocolate Covered Katie. The recipe is insanely quick and easy, but you do need a food processor to make it. I quadrupled the recipe on Katie’s blog, which made about 30 cookie balls (just enough to feed my class).

The ONE muffin that exploded while taking them out of the pan; obviously I had to eat it!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Adam’s peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh-ground almond butter
  • 1 cup raisins
  • She added a pinch of salt (I forgot this, but I suspect it would be good!)
  • 8 tbs walnuts
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 tbs cocoa powder
  • As many white chocolate chips (or dark chocolate chips) as you like!

Instructions

  • Throw everything in the food processor and watch it do it’s magic!
  • Roll into ping-pong sized balls
  • Pop into the refrigerator or freezer until ready to serve
  • Ask your husband to clean up your kitchen mess!

Just for laughs, my embarrassing moment-of-the-day: The whole class was eating their treats & chatting away, when my friend (who is also in my anatomy class) leaned over and asked me about the pelvic diaphragm. She was confusing it with the diaphragm that is right below the thorax, so I stood up and said “No, you PELVIC diaphragm” while pointing to my crotch. The entire class looked at me a little horrified. We then proceeded to explain that we were just discussing reproductive anatomy for class.. which in hindsight probably didn’t help matters. My friend and I just about died of embarrassment and I almost peed my pants laughing!

This, Too, Shall Pass

Today has been one hard day. I had diarrhea this morning (sorry if that’s TMI), and I felt 100+ eyes bore into me as I walked into class 10 minutes late. Also, I had an interview for a $1,700 leadership scholarship that could have gone way better. And the magnitude of these hardships was amplified 10-fold by PMS (again, really sorry if that is TMI!).

I got home from my interview feeling pretty darn defeated. I tried having my favorite snack. I tried watching my favorite TV show. I tried taking a hot bath. I still felt crappy. Finally, I got on my computer and stumbled across an uplifting quote on Pinterest; this uplifting quote led me to find another, and another, and before I knew it my mood was uplifted! Just goes to show the power of positive thinking!

Below are a few of the quotes that lifted me up, hopefully they will lift you up, too 🙂

“This, too, shall pass. When things are bad remember: it won’t always be this way. Take one day at a time. When things are good, remember: it won’t always bet his way. Enjoy every great moment”.

“Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”

“Your body hears everything your mind says. Stay positive.”

“Never regret. If its good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.”

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

“There is really no way we can know the heart, intentions, or the circumstances of someone who might say or do something we find reason to citicize. Thus, judge not.”

“In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance.”

“People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have it it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.”

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

“The happiest people do not have the best of everything. They make the best of everything they have.”

“Live in such a way that if anyone should speak badly of you, no one would believe it.”

“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

“Before you speak, THINK. T = is it true? H= is it helpful? I= is it inspiring? N = is it necessary? K= is it kind?”

“An old cherokee told his grandson: ‘My son, there’s a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It’s anger, jealously, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is good. It’s joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, and truth.’ The boy thought about it and asked: ‘Grandfather, which wolf wins?’ The old man quietly replied: ‘The one you feed.'”

Now that these inspirations have put an end to my pity-party, I’m going to go work off all of the cortisol in my system at the gym!

 

High on Life: Shopping Marathon & 100K Relay

My dad came to visit over the weekend, and we had a wonderful time! The purpose of the trip was to compete in a 100 km relay race on Sunday, but we made a whole weekend out of it! He arrived Friday afternoon, and we hit the gym for Ab weights and an hour on the elliptical; I was ready to quit at 30 minutes, but he inspired me to complete the hour! Just one of the reason why I love workout buddies! We came home to the aroma of meatball stew that I had prepared earlier that day, and it was just what the doctor ordered after a workout! Just another one of the reasons why I love advanced meal preparation!

We slept hard, and then set out Saturday morning for a 12-hour day (including the 3 hour round trip) of shopping! Most fathers don’t like shopping, but we are quite the dynamic duo at TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack; every time we shop together, we somehow manage to crack up the shop assistants, and we are repeatedly told “you too are so cute together!” My dad was proud of my bargain hunting, and I was proud of his fashion growth even at age 52 (sorry, Dad, for revealing your true age — we all know you look 40!). Although I might be a shopaholic, I really did have a need for clothes — I lost the last bit of weight at the end of last summer, so my size 12 spring/summer clothes needed to be replaced by size 6! 🙂

Shopping was a blast, but I was exhausted by the time we got home at 10pm. We snagged a few hours of sleep before we had to get up at 6am for the start of the relay. I had the first leg, which started at 7:30am. I traversed 6.5 miles, including one monstrous hill in 58 minutes. I’ll take that! My dad had the second leg, 7.9 miles of unrelenting downhill, and he finished it a few minutes under his projected time with the blisters and sore calves to prove it. Finally, Zach brought it home for the team, finishing his 4.1 miles in 80+ degree weather!

While I was running (okay, powerwalking) up that hill, I honestly wanted to quit… or at least walk the rest of the way. The next few miles after the hill were painful as my muscles tried to recover from the assault. By the time I came to the finish, however, I was riding on the adrenaline high & brought it home in a full-on sprint. I’m still feeling that natural high (and soreness!) two days later — I think I’m becoming addicted to the adrenaline of the race. We’re registered for a 7.4 miles race in two weeks, and a 6.2 mile race the following weekend. Bring it on! Just more motivation to train 🙂

This week we’ve had wild thunderstorms at night, but sunny days. I find it is so easy to be happy when I’m bathed in sunlight! I look forward to the coming months of warmths and vitamin D!

This afternoon I had the pleasure of working out with my cousin. Afterwards she came over and we made my special spaghetti sauce (blog post & recipe to come!).

Life is good!

Hearty Healthy Meatball Stew, Pumpkin Protein Muffins … And Sore Legs!

This quote can sum up my day “One should not watch the food network if one is not prepared to spend the day in the kitchen!”

Lately I haven’t been a regular food network watcher mostly because I’ve been busy, and also because sometimes it gives me the urge to make not-so-healthy food. I especially try to avoid the channel when I’m hungry (for obvious reasons). But on Friday I got home from class, and Giada at Home was on — Giada is my favorite food network host. She had me salivating with a Meatball stew, among other sinful delights. Although the desserts looked great, I decided to keep it clean with the stew.

I didn’t have time to cook on Saturday, although I was dreaming about this stew all day. Today, however, was the perfect opportunity to make it — I had a free day and my hubby had a friend over that could enjoy it, too. In my opinion, cooking and baking is the best way to spend a Sunday, and its even better when you can share the results!

The stew was an extremely easy one-pot recipe, and it turned out even more delicious that it looked on TV. The true test of a dish is 1) Did we eat it all & will I make it again?, and 2) Do I actually make it again & eat all of the leftovers. This dish passed round one, and I suspect it will pass round two as well! Below is the recipe with my minor tweaks to Giada’s version.

My photography skills don't even begin to do this dish justice, but at least the photo will give you an idea.

Hearty, Healthy Meatball Stew

Ingredients for Meatballs

  • 1 slice of Dave’s Killer Bread
  • 8 oz lean ground beef
  • 8 oz Jenny-O Sweet Italian Turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
Ingredients for Stew
  • 1 tbs whole-wheat flour
  • 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 lb white mushrooms, quartered
  • One russet potato, sliced into “disks”
  • 4 oz green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on your affinity for spicy food)
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Instructions (Quoted from The Food Network)

“For the meatballs: Place the bread and 3 tablespoons water into a medium bowl. Mash to a paste with a spatula. Add the beef, sausage, egg, parsley, salt and pepper. Blend the mixture thoroughly with your hands or a flexible spatula. Form the mixture into 10 to 16 meatballs. Arrange the meatballs on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet until ready to use.

For the hearty meatball stew: Sprinkle the meatballs with the flour and turn to coat with any flour still on the foil. Heat a large heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Drop the meatballs into the skillet, spaced apart. Cook until the bottoms are set and brown, about 2 minutes. Using a flexible thin spatula, turn each meatball onto an uncooked side and cook until the bottoms are set and brown, about 2 minutes longer. Turn and cook a third side, until set and brown, about another 2 minutes, so the meatballs are browned and set all over. Transfer the meatballs to a large plate.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, peppers, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Cook until soft, 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the remaining salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, beans, tomatoes, red pepper flakes and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook until the potatoes are tender and the meatballs are cooked through, about 20 minutes.”

My vegetable concoction

 I also made roasted veggies again, this time using an even wider array of vegetables from my Bountiful Basket and the grocery store. I baked the following ingredients 400 degrees for ~30 min
  • Russet potatoes (microwave for 4 minutes in advance)
  • Sweet potatoes (microwave for 4 minutes in advance)
  • Green beans
  • Asparagus
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow zucchini (I’m not sure what it’s actually called)
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Topped with feta, parmesan, and olive oil (the more cheese you add, the better it tastes, but also the higher in fat it is… Oh decisions!)

Because I couldn’t find oat flour (to make my trusty protein brownies and protein cinnamon bread) at the two stores I went to this weekend, I decided to try a new pumpkin protein muffin recipe that I found on Pinterest. I followed the recipe exactly from here (except I mixed walnuts throughout, and sprinkled white chocolate chips on top). They were delish! I’m looking forward to having them for breakfast this week! 🙂 I love that because they’re made with pumpkin puree, they are actually lower in carbs and higher in fiber than other muffins I’ve made in the past. I think these muffins have definitely earned a spot on my baking rotation! But all the white chocolate chips that I ate while decorating were certainly not low-cal… oops 🙂

Pumpkin protein muffins with walnuts and white chocolate chips!

Before I started my culinary adventure this morning, my hubby joined me for a fun 4 mile run in the sun. It was a nice change-up to run with a buddy, and he kept it fun by cracking me up with jokes and silly made-up songs the entire time. Just another one of the reasons why I love him 🙂

After I finished baking this evening I hit the gym for an enjoyable 30 minutes on the elliptical. After the elliptical, I met up with my cousin and my friend for about an hour of leg weights. Maybe I shouldn’t have terrorized them with the 3-lunge variation routine that I do… they might not want to workout with me again, and it was fun having workout buddies. If you’re brave, you can find a breakdown of the lunge routine here. My legs are already a little sore for the killer leg workouts I did today, but its a satisfying kind of sore!

I’ve been re-reading Tosca Reno’s Eat-Clean Diet Workout, which has been re-engergizing my weight-training spirit. I also really enjoyed doing cardio today — I think the 10 hours of sleep I got last night also played a role in my high motivation and energy levels today! Another contributing factor could be that I got a new pair of headphones today — no more listening to one crackly earbud while on the elliptical! 🙂

Overall it was a really wonderful weekend! Now I’m going to go finish it off right by cuddling up with my hubby for part of a movie before bed! This reminds me of a quote I saw on Pinterest: “Being married is like having a sleep-over with your best friend every night.” So true! 🙂

My Week In Review and A Short Story

Last week I told you guys that I had an interview, and I am happy to say that I got the job! 🙂 I will be working part-time as a challenge facilitator. Meaning, I will be working at an outdoor ropes course. I am very excited!

I also interviewed for another part-time job as a caregiver at an assisted living facility. I really hope I get this job as well, because it would be perfect for building up my nursing resume!

As far as cooking goes this week, I’ve really stuck to the basics. As the semester (and financial aid) draws to an end, and because we haven’t started our summer jobs yet, there isn’t much of a budget for food lately. I do, however, have a sizable stockpile of non-perishables in my pantry, so I’ve really been trying to eat through that. Now don’t worry, my stock-pile isn’t extreme-couponer status, but it does take up an entire shelving unit. Why do I feel the need to stockpile food? I think I do it for the security and convenience. Growing up, my dad always had whatever we wanted to eat, and it never seemed to run out; it was very comforting. My my mom, on the other hand, just bought groceries as we needed them; we certainly didn’t go hungry, but we did run out of things that we wanted before she went to the grocery store again. Reading a memoir about my dad’s mom, I learned that she did the same thing that my dad and I do — I guess it’s a family trait! I also love being able to start a spur-of-the-moment baking project and not have to run out to the store for odd ingredients.

School went well this week. The main event was on Thursday, when my entire class read my short-story and gave me feedback. It seemed like all of the athletes in the class loved it, and the non-athletes found it completely unrelatable. I will include a copy of my story at the end of this post so you can judge for yourself. I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback!

After having my story brutally critiqued, I needed to get rid of some stress hormones, so I did what I do best: prepped a hearty dinner (for when the hubby got home) and got some exercise. I took advantage of the 54 degree weather, and set out for a 60 minute run in the sun. A few minutes into my run, however, I noticed steely-gray clouds looming, and quickly realized I may be chasing the rain. I only endured a few drops, and finished my run just before the rain really started coming down. I do up to 90 minutes of high-intensity, low-impact cardio regularly, but I haven’t actually run that far in awhile (lately I’ve only been running about 4 miles), so it was a welcome challenge. My joints were aching by 50 minutes, and I had to mentally push through the last 10. I was prepared to be sore today, but surprisingly I feel pretty good. I am training for a 100K relay in 1 week (my leg is about 6.5 miles), and a 7 mile race in a few weeks.

Hope your week was great! And here’s hoping this sunny trend continues!

Below is my short story (I will go through eventually and spell out all the numbers)

“Please welcome Brooke Boothroyd to the stage.” Oh shit, am I really going out there?  Here I am teetering in four-inch clear plastic heels, donning a hot pink rhinestone-encrusted bikini that just barely covers my naughty bits.  No, I’m not about to go out there and dance on a pole. But I am going to go out there with my body on display to be judged by the world. Why would I do such a thing? Well if you really want to psycho-analyze it, it all goes back to when I was 16…

For a good eight years of my adolescent life, I lived and breathed competitive swimming.  Practice from four to seven am. (It is now my belief that no person should have to hear an alarm blaring at the ungodly hour of 3:45 am.) After practice ended at seven, I’d throw my hair into a sloppy bun, and speed to school as I devoured several breakfast bars. School ‘til 3. Then a quick nap before evening practice from six to nine pm. Then more food, lots more food and sleep. Repeat. Homework? I didn’t do it. Fun? What, you don’t consider this fun? Fun or not it really didn’t matter to me; this kind of routine made Champions. By the age of 16, I qualified for the Olympic trials in the 100m backstroke. My only goal in life was to be an Olympian. Then, just a few months before the Trials, it happened.

It was almost seven am. Just one more set and then we got to cool down. “Five one hundreds on the 1:30. All out. And Brooke, dammit, you better be within 90% of your best time or everyone is doing it again,” our coach demanded. Everyone looked at me, but no one was worried. They knew I would perform.

The long arm on the big round clock hit :58, and I inhaled. At :59, I submerged underwater. By :00, I was exploding off the wall. Six dolphin kicks, and I prepared to surface with a powerful stroke. But with that stroke came horrendous pain. Pain in my shoulder, pain radiating down my arm. I barely finished the length to the other side of the pool, and I could hardly breath through the tears. My coach had to know something was seriously wrong, but he didn’t budge from his seat on the bleachers at the other side of the pool. He just yelled, “What the hell, Brooke? Quit your crying and get moving.” I couldn’t even respond. The rest of the team finished their 100s and then my coach said. “Everyone, thanks to Brooke, you’re all doing that again.”  My best friend, Kate looked for me in the lane next to her, and when she didn’t find me she searched the rest of the pool. When her eyes met mine, she recognized my pain and her face reflected concern. “Coach, I, I, think something is wrong with Brooke…”

“Brooke is fine. She’s just throwing herself a little pity party.” Everyone looked at me. “Brooke, get your ass down here and finish the set.” I still couldn’t move or talk. I just hung there desperately grasping at the wall and for air as I cried. “That’s it, everyone out. We’re going to have a little team chat.” We only had “team chats” when he was seriously pissed off. My coach stood his lardy-ass up –something he never did—and angry-waddled over to my side of the pool. The rest of the team followed. Kate took the opportunity to come over and see what was wrong. “It’s my shoulder” I managed between sobs. Kate relayed the message to our coach, and recognition and anger and humiliation flashed across his face. He knew as well as I did that this was the end of both of our Olympic dreams.

In the months that followed, the doctors tried to fix my shoulder. Surgery, rehab exercises, but it wasn’t the same. At least I could get dressed without assistance and pain, but I couldn’t swim. At first, I thought my life would be empty without swimming. I thought that being a champion was the essence of me, and that without swimming, I would no longer be me. Swimming was the only exercise I knew, and I was too depressed to try anything else. Slowly my swimming lifestyle and lean physique faded away.

Fifteen years, one husband, and four kids later, my swimming life was barely an echo. My new life revolved around diapers and feeding and laundry. The one thing that didn’t change was stealing precious sleep whenever I could.  Like every new mom, I put my kids’ needs in front of my own. That is, until the day it was brought to my attention that I was fat.

I remember it as clearly as my wedding day and each of my children’s births. It was a hot day in August, and my kids were having a water balloon fight in the backyard at a neighbor-kid’s birthday party. Meanwhile all of us moms were sitting under a tree in the shade. Mark, my 5-year-old son, wanted to invite his friend over for a play date after the party. “Let me just ask my mommy,” Mark told his friend, James.

“Which one is your mommy?” James asked.

“The one right there, in the black pants and the white shirt.” Mark replied.

“The fat one?” James blurted, like the tactlessly honest 5-year-old he was.

I looked around for the woman this boy mistakenly took me for, but young, trendy, skinny moms exclusively surrounded me. Then I looked down at myself; I was wearing yoga pants and the T-shirt my kids made me for mother’s day. Reality check. I was the fat mom.

Well I’m not that fat, I reasoned. It’s not like I’m actually overweight or anything. I’ll just weigh myself when I get home to prove it.

When I got home I turned on a Disney movie for the kids and headed to the dusty garage to fish out the scale. I wiped it down and placed it on the bathroom linoleum, and then I stripped down.

Okay, let’s see. What did I weigh before? It had been a very long time since I willfully stepped on a scale, and when I went to the doctor, I didn’t look at the scale on purpose; I had lost touch with any concept of my weight. I did remember my driver’s license said 150, but that was back when I was 21, and I might have fudged the number a little bit even then. Add 10 pounds for exaggeration, so 160. And let’s not forget I pushed out 4 babies since then – that really ought to earn me a 15-pound allowance. Alrighty then, anything close to 170 and I won’t freak out.

I tapped the scaled and waited for 0.0 to appear, indicating it was time for the moment of truth. I stepped on. 197. Well that can’t be right, I must have been standing weird. I tried it again. 197. Again. 197. Shit. ShitShitShit. I’ve gained nearly 40 pounds since college? Well okay, at least I’m tall. That means I carry weight better, right? And everyone knows the scale isn’t necessarily a determinant of size. I mean, muscley people weigh a ton and look great. I stormed to the closet to dig out my skinny jeans. I didn’t exactly expect them to fit, but I was surprised when I couldn’t even get my calves into them. Still determined to prove I wasn’t fat, I tried my ‘normal’ jeans. Still no good. My resolve began to shake. Could I handle it if my fat jeans were too tight? Before I could think about it too much, I tried them on. Oh. My. God. I am officially fat. When did this happen?  I leaned against the bathroom wall, and sunk to the floor.

“Brookey Baby?” My husband called when he got home. I didn’t answer. I didn’t want him to see me like this. But of course he found me still sitting there, looking puffy-eyed and dejected.

“Brooke, what’s wrong?!”

“Calm down, I’m fine.”

“Obviously you’re not.” He sat down on the floor beside me, and put his arm around me. “Brooke, let’s talk.”

“It’s embarrassing.”

“Not to burst your bubble, but I hear you fart in your sleep. I doubt it’s more embarrassing than that.” We both giggled. He always knows how to lighten a mood and make me comfortable. That’s a big reason why I married him.

“It’s just that…. Well, it’s just that I’m fat.”

“And where did you get that idea, you beautiful woman?” I knew he adored me. Maybe I was too comfortable with him, because in the sweet comfort of our marriage I had let myself go.

“Sean, stop it. I don’t want to feel better. Nothing will make me feel better except being skinny.”

“Get up, let me show you something.” He pulled me to my feet, and turned me around. “I want you to see what I see.” He stood behind me, tracing my body from top to bottom with both of his hands. “Look at these curves.” To him they were curves, but to me they were unsightly bulges.

He then proceeded to put the moves on me. “Stop it.” I exclaimed. Me and my fat rolls were not into it, “I’m too fat. Why would you even want me?”

Even for a patient man, this topic had become tiresome. When he realized consoling me wasn’t working and that there definitely wasn’t going to be a happy ending to this discussion for him, he switched to trying to fix my problem, “Sweetie, you know I will always love you, but… if you don’t like your body, do something about it.” Why do men think saying things like this will ‘fix’ our problems?

“Well there’s a genius thought. Why don’t I just do something about it while I’m cooking your dinner and washing your clothes and raising your kids? Goddamn it, why don’t I just do something about it?” I replied shamelessly. I wanted to be mad. I really wanted to be mad. It would have been easier than facing myself, but he was right. We each went our separate ways for the rest of the evening, but before bed I told him that I was going on a diet, a real diet.

“Good for you, honey,” he replied.

I woke up the next morning with my stomach grumbling. I automatically started pouring myself a bowl of my children’s Captain Crunch until I remembered my diet. Ugh, my diet. No more Captain Crunch for mommy. No more fun for mommy. The thought of deprivation made me cynical and cranky. What the hell am I supposed to eat, then? And what kind of ‘diet’ and I supposed to be on, anyways? Low-carb diets are supposed to be really great, but who on God’s Green Earth wants to eat a steak for breakfast? Staring at the Captain Crunch, my hunger pangs intensified. I’ll just have this one last cheat meal, and later today I’ll buy a diet book.

Lunchtime rolled around, but I still hadn’t had time to make it to the book store. Feeling guilty about the sugar-cereal breakfast, I only had celery sticks for lunch. By mid-afternoon I was angry hungry. When my daughter, Belle, came home from school sucking on a lollipop, I wanted to pry it out of her little fingers and devour it. I yelled at my kids for not finishing the chores I had forgotten to assign. Finally, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I stormed into the kitchen and ate half a batch of brownies, barely coming up for air.

This attempt at dieting continued for a few weeks– starving myself then gorging on everything in sight.  I was still fat, only now I was painfully aware of it and unhappy too. I was ready to give up, to just accept my fate as a fatty.

A few weeks later, I took my two girls to the mall – I promised them each a build-a-bear if they went to the dentist without protest. The boys were too cool for teddy bears, so their prize was a trip to Chucky Cheese’s with daddy. We wandered around the mall looking for Build-a-Bear – having not done much clothes shopping for myself lately, the mall layout was a little hazy. As we approached our fuzzy-friend destination, a sign in front of Barnes and Noble’s caught my eye, “Book signing with famous author and fitness model, Jessica Easton at 3 o’clock.” On the cover of said book was a woman in spandex and a sports bra with a body unlike any I had ever seen; she had chiseled abs, popping shoulders, and lean thighs. At first I was amazed, but then I scoffed, wonder what would happen to those abs if you had a baby and were forced to eat more than rice cakes and diet drugs…

“Mommy, come on!” Belle, my older daughter, pulled me out of my trance.

“Ya momma, buildabear,” Sophia, my youngest chimed in.

I smiled – Sophia had just started forming coherent sentences, and it never failed to amuse me when she spoke. “Okay, my girlies. Let’s go. Now Sophia, what are you going to name your bear…..”

On our way out, 2 bears richer, and $150 poorer, we walked by Barnes and Nobles again. It was two o’clock, one hour until the book signing. Why not just stop by?  “Belle, Sophia, do you girls want to pick out a new storybook to read before bed?”

Belle shrieked and replied, “Yes. I already know what I want!” She then proceeded to race off toward The Magic Tree House series. I picked up Sophia and pursued Belle past the discount books to the Children’s section. Belle had her book in no time.

“Get two. You can read one now while we’re in the bookstore, because mommy needs you to be extra good and patient while she does a little something for herself.” Normally Belle would ask a million questions, but she was too distracted by the magic world that awaited her in the pages of her book. While Belle chose her second book, I perused the toddler books for Sophia. Her and I decided on a book with a sparkly unicorn on the cover; there’s nothing wrong with a little fantasy while it lasts.

I led the girls over to a reading area next to the book-signing table. On the way, I picked up a copy of Eat Clean, Train Mean, Live Lean to see what all the fuss was about. All three of us plopped down onto the plush chairs to read until the book signing began. I had Sophia sit with Belle, as Belle practiced reading aloud to her.

I opened my book and read, “The first step to achieving the body you desire is to Eat Clean…” Sooo, the way I eat now is dirty? I had never heard the phrase, “Clean Eating” before. I read on, “Clean Eating, in a nutshell, involves eating 5-6 portion-controlled meals a day.” Well I can do that part – I already eat at least five times a day. At least this isn’t another juice-cleanse starvation diet. “When you Eat Clean, you eat fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and healthy starches, like whole grain bread or pasta.” Bread? Pasta? “Because you’re eating portion-controlled meals, you don’t have to count calories or carbs or points.” Maybe this isn’t just a scam. I think maybe I can do this…

I tried to keep my excitation to a reasonable level while I poured over the book. This is exactly what I need. Thirty minutes before the book signing, people started to line up. I gently pulled Belle and Sophia out of their fantasy, “Its time to check out girls. Then we’re going to wait in this line to meet someone. You can keep reading while we wait in line.”

“Mom! I’ve already read 37 pages!” Belle was still disinterested in why we needed to wait in line. She just wanted to read more.

“That’s great, sweetheart. I bet you have the book finished by the time we get home.”

“Read more!” Sophia demanded.

Belle kept reading aloud as we made our way to the checkout. “Belle, baby, this nice lady needs your book so she can scan it.”

“Here you go! Guess how many pages I’ve read?”

“How many?” The clerk obliged.

“38. I can read a whole book a day.”

“Wow, keep it up.” The clerk replied. She smiled as she scanned the rest of the books. “Oh, are you here for the book signing?” She asked when she got to my book.

“Well yeah. But I’ve never heard of the book before today. I saw the sign, and the book looks good, so why not?”

“Oh it is good! I normally don’t go for diet books, but this one helped me lose 50 pounds last year. And I’m the one who pushed to have Jessica Easton come for a book signing.”

“Wow. Congratulations!”

“Thank you. And you better hurry up and go get in line – looks like its getting longer by the minutes.”

I paid, and then I led my girls over to the line. A few moments later, Jessica Easton made her way over to her seat wearing spandex and a sporty tank top. She look just as good as the picture. This woman didn’t need Photoshop.

I found myself getting excited as we got closer and closer to the front of the line. I could hear her conversations with the people before me. She sounded so friendly, so real.

“Hi there.” She said with a smile when it was our turn.

“Hi, so nice to meet you.” I replied as I handed her the book to be signed.

Belle snapped up from her book. “Hi, I’m Belle, who are you?”

Jessica laughed. “I’m Jessica.” Then she turned to me, “I have 3 little ones at home, too.”

Three? But you look so great. And you have abs.” My shock temporarily overrode my tact.

She laughed again, clearly used to gawkers like myself. “I won’t tell you that it’s easy to get your body back after babies. But I will tell you that it’s possible. I gained 40 pounds with my last pregnancy, but here I am now.”

“What an inspiration. As you can see, I’m still trying to lose the weight. I just didn’t know where to start… but after looking through your book earlier, I think I have a pretty good idea.”

“Well, make sure you let me know how it all turns out for you. My email address is on my website. Who should I make the book out to?”

“Brooke. My name is Brooke.”

She handed the book back to me, and it read, “Best of luck, Brooke. From one mom to another.” I am so ready to do this.

Over the next couple of days, I read the book cover to cover and learned more about nutrition that I had in my previous 31 years. Saturated fats, trans fats, tempeh, quinoa? I also learned about weight training – something that was completely foreign to me. Sure, I was an athlete in my youth, but somehow I managed to completely escape the weight room. Then I went out and bought the sequel, Clean Eating for Families, which gave me ideas on how to get my kids to accept healthy food. I knew how to cook and even enjoyed it; I was just cooking the wrong things.

The first step to my new lifestyle was to get rid of all of the junk food in the house. All. Of. It. When Sean came home to find his Red Baron pepperoni pizza, Dove ice cream bars, and Doritos in the trash, he was pretty irritated. That is, until he tasted what I made for dinner – whole wheat spaghetti noodles with turkey meatballs and grilled vegetables topped with parmesan and feta.

“This is healthy?” Sean asked under his breath so the kids wouldn’t catch on.

“Yep. Amazing, huh?”

“You’re amazing. I’m really proud of you for doing this.” He kissed me and then made his way to the table. “Mommy made a delicious meal for us tonight.” He told the kiddos.

We all enjoyed the healthy meal, and the kids didn’t even notice the difference. Being kids, they still expected an occasional treat. I was prepared with an arsenal of healthy brownies and 100% fruit smoothies.

Soon, this way of eating became routine and the scaled proved it. After I got a handle on food, I tackled exercise. I bought a gym membership and actually went for the first time in nearly 10 years.

I started with the basic routine from the book: 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise four times a week, and a full-body weight routine three times a week. The first day I resolved to do a simple 30 minutes on the elliptical. Five minutes in, at a mere resistance of one, I was huffing and puffing. Ten minutes in I was drenched. When 20 minutes rolled around I was hunched over the machine and could not stand it any longer. The former national-level swimmer can’t even make it 30 minutes on the elliptical… I felt a little humiliated, but I came back the next day, and the next, and the next.

Within weeks I was able to keep up with the routine, but I grew bored. Swimming was never boring… maybe it was because I had the team to workout with? Or maybe it was the competition aspect and the goals to work toward?

A few weeks later, I felt like I needed to mix it up a bit. I began to search online for more ideas. One of the websites had a “competition” tab. I clicked it. That’s when I first came across figure and bikini competitions. These women had physiques like Jessica Easton. Lean and amazing. Oh my goodness, there are more of her. The competitor in me was roused, but I tried to stifle it out of fear. It would be so amazing to be one of these women. But I’m never going to look like that… Just forget it Brooke. Just be happy to not be fat anymore.

That night, I had a dream that I was on stage with rippling muscles and radiating confidence. It felt so good and so real that I was sad when I woke up. I had the dream the next night, too. And the next. After the dream haunted me for over a week, I realized it might be more that just a sleeping dream. This was a real dream.  I researched the competitions more and then I told my husband about it.

“Whoa, those women almost look like men.”

“Well they don’t look like that all the time. They just get super lean for a few days for the competition. During the off-season they weight 10-15 pounds more.”

“Hmmm.”

“I really want to do it. I need the motivation of working towards this goal.”

“Okay. I’ll support you then.”

“Well, it’s going to be a little bit expensive… I’ll need a trainer, and a nutritionist, and a competition outfit.”

“Ouch. But baby, I accepted that you would be expensive when I married you. I want you to be happy.”

I started with the trainer. He suggested a competition that was 20 weeks away. He said I still needed to lose about 30 pounds to be competitive. He set me up with a workout plan – a much more revved-up version than the one I was doing. Weights 6 days a week, and 60 minutes of cardio every day to really lean out.

I also met with a nutritionist. She set me up with a diet that consisted of about 1,200 calories a day to get lean, but with plenty of protein to make sure all my weight training would not be in vain.

Finally, I met with a stage coach who taught me how to walk in clear 4-inch heels while simultaneously flexing by quads, sucking in my abs, sticking out my ass, and displaying by arms. This feels so bizarre, how can this possible be sexy? I wondered. But I got used to it.

I read online that contest preparation was grueling and draining. And, yes, at first it was hard to adjust to eating less than my elementary school children, but I thrived on it just like I thrived on my long lost swimming lifestyle. The competitor in me was allowed to run the show again. And yes, the training was grueling, but I actually had more energy in everyday life that I had 30 pounds ago. My kids loved their new sporty mommy.

Eight weeks out from the competition, I ordered my stage outfit. $400 dollars bought me just enough sparkly pink material to prevent me from being charged with public indecency. I had never even worn a bikini on the beach with my just my husband, let along in front of strangers ready to judge the cut of my abs and the perkiness of my ass.

I wasn’t nervous until it was time to step on stage. But that’s how I always was when I was a swimmer – no nerves until the moment of truth – but then once I hit the water I was in my element and I performed.

“Please welcome Brooke Boothroyd to the stage,” the announcer’s voice boomed. I stepped out and I performed again after all those years.

After the competition, I sent Jessica Easton an email:

Dear Jessica,

I want to thank you for doing nothing less than changing my life. Because of you, I found a part of myself that I thought was lost for good. I lost over 50 pounds, and more importantly, I regained my confidence and vitality. Last weekend, I placed 2nd in a bikini competition. I hope to continue to compete and earn my pro-card to compete at the Olympia and The Arnold, like you do. Again, I cannot thank you enough!

See you on the stage,

Brooke

Roasted Veggie Revolution and Cinnamon Bread

I cannot tell you enough how much I love Bountiful Baskets! For $16.50 I get a huge (and I mean huge!) basket full of fresh produce — half fruit, half vegetable. Each week it’s a surprise what we will get, and I love that! It motivates me to try different things and get a greater variety of nutrients than I would normally choose at the grocery store. As far as veggies go, this week we got mushrooms, sweet potatoes, asparagus, zucchini, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and lettuce. It is my personal goal each week to not waste any of it! If I don’t like anything (for example, I cannot tolerate the bitterness of most citrus fruit), I share it with friends.

I normally just steam most veggies, but such a variety prompted me to try something new — roasted veggies. I tried searching for a roasted veggie recipe, but I couldn’t find one that matched all the ingredients that I wanted to use, and I didn’t want any spices to clash (I am not that knowledgable about mixing spices, but I’m learning!). In my search, I did learn that you should at least coat them in olive oil and then roast them at 400 degrees, checking them after the first 15 minutes.

So, armed with bare minimum knowledge and no experience, I started my experiment. What’s the worst that could happen? We have steamed broccoli with dinner yet again. In this “recipe” I used:

  • 1 pkg mushrooms
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus
  • 2 zuccini
  • (I wanted to use brussel sprouts, and I suspect they’d be good, but I forgot them)

First, I microwaved the sweet potato for 4 minutes (because I figured they would take longer than the rest to cook). Then I coarsely chopped all the veggies and laid them out in a large baking dish. I sprayed them with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and tossed them around a bit. At the last minute, I decided to add a little bit of parmesan and feta on top (and I’m glad I did!).

I checked them and stirred them at 15 minutes, and they were done after 25 minutes. They were THE BEST VEGGIES OF MY LIFE! The sweetness of the potatoes permeated into the other veggies while the cheese added a welcomed savory dimension. They were so good that the hubby and I nearly polished off the entire pan. Roasted veggies will be a new staple in my home!

Next on my list to try (and to use up my brussel sprouts) is this recipe, stolen from my dad’s facebook status update:

How do I know I’m unusual? Brussels sprouts, coated in olive oil, dusted with garlic powder and salt, baked @ 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Yum!

Thanks for the idea, Dad!

This weekend I also made another favorite, Protein Cinnamon Bread. I love it because it gives me the feel of eating a cinnamon roll without the guilt! I follow the recipe almost exactly from here. But I’ll reproduce it below with my small adjustments for convenience.

Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup Xylitol (a sugar alcohol — it doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar, but it does have calories)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups oat flower
  • 2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup Xylitol
  • 2 egg whites OR 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (Almond Breeze)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix together the 1/3 cup of xylitol and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
  • The actual recipe calls for for mixing the rest of the dry and wet ingredients separately, but I almost always skip this step — I just pour everything into a large bowl and let my hand mixer do the work. As far as I can tell, it turns out the same only with less mess
  • Spray loaf pan or cake pan and add batter — I’ve made it in both but I strongly recommend a loaf pan, because they turn out much more moist
  • Evenly pour xylitol-cinnamon mixture on top and swirl around with a fork.
  • Bake for 24-28 minutes
It yields 8 servings at ~100 calories each, with ~half the calories from protein!
I meant to take a picture right away, but as soon as it came out of the oven I ate several bites before I even realized what was happening, so the picture is missing a few bites. What can I say? It smelled that good.
Also, today was the first day this year that I actually felt warm running outside! I felt so alive running in the sun in a sports bra and feeling the just the right amount of wind cool me. I also did my abs routine (at home) for the 3rd time this week! 🙂 I am determined to keep doing abs every other day!
Oh, and HAPPY EASTER!