Ellipse Fitness

Holiday Survival Guide!

Your health account, your bank account, they’re the same thing. The more you put in, the more you can take out. Exercise is king and nutrition is queen. Together you have a kingdom”

– Jack LaLanne

Holiday lights, party invites, cookies, and recipes abound. Ready or not, the holidays are here! Tips for good health and nutrition need to become part of your holiday schedule, unless you plan to spend another January playing catch-up. Time is one commodity where everyone holds equal shares. To suggest that one is too busy to plan is, at best, an easy excuse to use this time of year. We like to say, “a failure to plan, is a plan to fail.”

Start with eating breakfast. Studies show those who eat breakfast, compared to those who don’t, can lose 27% more fat just by eating breakfast all other things equal (don’t forget the protein!).

Make exercise a priority! No duh, right? Here is a concrete way to take action on this front: Make appointments on the calendar at least 3 times each week. These appointments should be treated as a top priority – non-negotiable. Do not reschedule any of these 3 workouts. There are four other days of the week to allow more flexibility. Thanksgiving Day is the greatest day of the year to exercise. Do NOT skip it. Run a 5k or come kickbox at Ellipse Fitness! It is something of a tradition worth experiencing!

Snack…smart! Saving your appetite and caloric intake for that one large meal only leads to a painful, bloated trip to the couch or throne of another kind! Eat two small meals/snacks throughout the day. Suggestions: veggies and Greek yogurt with seasoning mix to use as your dip; cottage cheese with tomatoes or berries; protein shake; a piece of fruit and almonds.

Choose wisely. Make appropriate meal selections. Turkey, veggies, and sweet potatoes (skip the marshmallow and brown sugar-they are sweet all by themselves. HINT: cinnamon with a little butter). Ask yourself: How bad do I really want _______ (i.e. crescent rolls, green bean casserole, etc.)? Is it worth it? Start filling your plate with turkey and veggies FIRST, then choose one small serving of your favorite guilty pleasure side.

Eat dessert! That’s right. Not “just a little piece” or the infamous “bite of his” either. Eat a full serving of dessert. Do not eat a whole pie, but indulge in a piece of the very best available. If your grandma makes the greatest apple pie in the whole world, savor every piece of that apple pie. Pass on the so-so cookies bought at the store because everyone ‘had to bring something.’ Those end-of-the-aisle sales are not special order for a reason. There is nothing special about it. If dessert isn’t your favorite, then of course don’t eat it just because…but if you spend the entire meal dreaming of what comes next, then make choices on the front end so you can indulge in what you love most. Healthy eating is not about recusing yourself from every pleasure, but about being smart and savoring what you value!

Charged with bringing a dish to pass? Bring the veggie tray with a healthy option you can munch with confidence!

Fiesta Ranch Dip
2 c plain Greek yogurt (or 1 ¾ c of cottage cheese + ¼ c of water-pureed)
1 package Fiesta Ranch salad dressing mix

Or make this delicious version of the sweet potato casserole and skip the tired ol’ marshmallow topped canned yams

Sweet Potato Crunch
Cut, boil, and mash 4-6 sweet potatoes. Place potatoes in a casserole dish.
Melt 4-6 tablespoons of real butter and stir in 2 tablespoons of cinnamon (apple pie spice or pumpkin spice makes for a nice twist as well) to coat 3 cups of plain corn flakes.
Top mashed sweet potatoes with corn flakes and bake for an additional 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Rock Thanksgiving With These Drinks and Apps!

Well Thanksgiving is nearly here, and if yours is anything like most friends and family will descend upon an agreed upon location, all hauling heavy, over-the-top dishes that almost universally contain extra sweetness and a higher-than-usual volume of carbohydrates!

It’s a celebration meal designed for giving thanks, but instead we often find ourselves crying, “uncle!” at the hands of a feast low in quality nutrition and very high in sugar and calories. Either that, or you find yourself getting inquisitive stares from across the table as they notice your plate isn’t piled high enough to block your view!

BUT NOT THIS YEAR WE SAY! Start planning now to freshen up the variety and the quality of the meal, and most at the table will probably thank you for it!

Appetizers!

Time to get your appetizer vocabulary up to speed! Crudites (kroo-dee-tay) is a French word that means a vegetable that can be cut into sticks, thin slices, or bite size pieces and served with a cold dip. Try this easy, healthy, avocado hummus dip! Blend 2 avocados, 1 can drained chickpeas, ¼ c lemon juice and olive oil, and 1.5 TBSP tahini (optional). Salt/Pepper to taste.

Prep double the veggies and double down on another dip with this excellent version of spinach dip! No Mayo, no cream cheese or sour cream!

Check out the recipe here!

Baked Blooming Onion! Who can resist snagging a piece of a blooming onion?? Try a healthier version by baking and plating with a greek yogurt based dip. Cut the base off an onion, cutting into 12-16 sections (not cutting all the way through) and “flower” the petals, dredge in 2 egg white wash, and coat with ¼ c panko + ¼ c ground almonds + 1/8 c parmesan and spices. Bake 40-45 minutes at 375.
Find the recipe here!

Want a dip with a kick? Combine 8oz plain greek yogurt + 1 tsp sriracha sauce + 1 tbsp parsley.

Drinks!

Add 1 shot of vodka over ice, mix 16 oz water with an “on-the-go” packet of Crystal Light or Similar powder. Pour half the mix over the vodka/ice and add a splash of lemon-lime or ginger ale soda. Toss in a blender for a blended drink! Get creative with your favorite flavors. Only about 110 calories: Cheers!

Combine a packet of Swiss Miss 25 Calorie hot chocolate mix, 3/4 Cup Hot Water and 1 Peppermint Stick. Ready to kick back with something a little more? Add a quick shot of vodka, but keep in mind that will set you back an additional 100 calories. You decide what it’s worth!

Leftovers!

Are you hosting Thanksgiving? This year, buy a BIGGER turkey and rock those leftovers (or snag unwanted leftovers from the host)! Check out these great Ellipse Fitness recipes to use that leftover turkey!

Turkey Enchiladas

Turkey Tortilla Soup

Attitude, Grattitude and What It Means For Your Happiness

At Ellipse Fitness Training Center we focus on giving you the tools to not only build a healthy body, but a healthy mind as well because we know that the two are unbelievably interconnected! So let’s talk about your attitude…

Not like that! We mean your approach to life, the way you respond to situations, and the way you are affected by things you have absolutely no control over.

Let’s face it though – just reading this post will not make you happy. There is no magic happy pill (at least none that doesn’t come with a laundry list of horrifying side-effects). BUT these suggestions will help you to live a life filled with more gratitude, awareness, and joy – and those are foundational building blocks of happiness and fulfilment!

RESPOND

You have probably heard the old saying that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond. Two different people can go through the exact same experience and respond completely differently! Although the future is unpredictable we can work on responding to uncertainty in a healthy way. Pay attention today to how you respond to different situations, and reflect on what is at the root of your anger, disappointment, or fear. Reactions often emanate from the fear of something being taken away. Which leads to our next point…

YOU'RE NOT ALONE!

Always remember this! When going through challenging times or unfamiliar situations it is easy to feel alone and outnumbered. Working in the fitness industry, we often hear others tell us how they are afraid to workout because they are self-conscious, do not believe they can perform certain moves, or think they are not “fit enough”. Remember that everyone started somewhere. No one was born with six-pack abs, coming out of the womb doing perfect push-ups… We are all in this together!

SMILE!

Yes, you! It sounds cliche, but smiling legitimately helps improve our moods and attitudes throughout the day! Going grocery shopping? Try making eye contact and giving a warm smile as you pass a stranger. What have you got to lose? Really? You might even make a new friend! Did you know smiling naturally releases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin into your body? All good chemicals that make you relax and feel happy!

CONTROL

LET GO! You have none – or at least very little – over most of the situations presented to you on a day-to-day basis. We stress ourselves out by worrying how things will turn out, or trying to change the people around us. Then the moment something does not go our way? We lose it. Whether you prefer to subscribe to the belief that everything happens for a reason or not, recognizing that you have much more control over your reactions than anything else is not only liberating but will greatly impact your mental health.

CONNECT

500 friends on Facebook, but you’ve never felt more isolated… With social media on the rise, feelings of loneliness and isolation are also increasing. In 2004, a study showed that over 25% of Americans said that they had no one to share a personal problem with. 13 years ago! Although real friendships are not born overnight, when nurtured they can grow into something you wonder how you ever lived without! Here at Ellipse Fitness we love that our membership is a close community! Those who feel connected to others on a personal level are much more likely to have higher self-esteem, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of anxiety.

Now, this next one may be the most important…

PRACTICE GRATITUDE DAILY

Let’s break that down

• Practice
– performing an activity repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency. You’ve got to put it to work! And do so in REAL TIME! Not quietly at home in the evening. Is it cold out? Get in your car before leaving your home for work and take a moment to say to yourself, “It is incredibly fortunate that I do not have to walk to work today.”

• Gratitude – readiness to show appreciation. Not just the act of showing appreciation, but the state of being prepared to show appreciation. Expect nothing, and just observe as fortunate situations present themselves to you. Then actively show your appreciation. Smile and say thanks to a co-worker who held the door for you. Did your spouse over-cook your favorite dish at dinner? Someone just made you a meal, a hot one at that. Few things are as deserving of gratitude.

• Daily – hopefully you don’t need a definition here, but this is the operative word. Daily put into practice the action of appreciation, and try to always remain prepared to show appreciation at any moment. This one small shift in perspective can and has changed the lives of many!

Health Education Week: Heart Health

In honor of Health Education Week we are bringing you some discussion on tips, reminders and education on heart health and diet! Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among all adult populations in this country, and although there is a genetic element to it, it’s been demonstrated that lifestyle is far more significant!

Below we will talk about some of the most common dietary choices out there that lead to cardiovascular disease:

Trans Fats

The vast majority of us have heard one way or another that Trans Fats are bad. Consuming them tends to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol AND lower HDL (good) cholesterol – a double whammy! Honestly though, you may have to scour the grocery store to find any products that list it on the label. So why are we still talking about it?

Deep Fried Foods are one common source of trans fats for many people out there. We get it: it is tough to beat french fries! And over here in Wisconsin you may be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t occasionally drooled over some deep fried cheese curds.

IMPORTANT: Pay attention to the temperature suggestion on your cooking oil! Over-heating oil (generally it will start smoking when this occurs) actually turns it into Trans Fat! Many are unaware of this, and it is a large part of the reason that deep fried foods is particularly culpable.

Margarine is another common Trans Fat consumed by many people out there. It was once thought that because margarine is plant-derived and lower in saturated fat than butter that it was a preferable substitute, but research shows that the partially-hydrogenated oils that make up margarine are significantly more detrimental to your health!

Baked Goods such as donuts, cakes, cookies, pies, etc. tend to contain high volumes of Saturated and Trans Fat.

What Can I Do About It?

Craving Deep Fried Food?

Try making your own by cutting up potatoes or sweet potatoes, adding olive oil and bake away! Haven’t tried Delicata Squash yet? Here’s another chance to try! Slice in 1/3” moon shaped pieces, toss with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for a French fry feel!

Too Deeply Biased Against Butter?

Moderation and a natural choice would be my go-to suggestion, BUT I know that many people have taken butter out of their diet for so long that there is no going back. Or perhaps you are intolerant of dairy or have chosen to go 100% plant based? Find a spread that does NOT contain partially-hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils, and little saturated fat.

Snack Time?

Choose a healthier option by making your own healthy “treats” at home or eating fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth! Try a simple granola bar recipe and make it your own. Click here for an EASY and KID-TESTED Grab-and-Go Granola Bar recipe.

Processed Meat

Bacon, sausage, pepperoni, salami, cold cuts and cured meats. These processed meats tend to include a lot of added salt and preservatives. In addition, the n-nitroso, formed from sodium nitrite, in processed meat are linked to various forms of cancer. (Why do they add this to processed meat? To preserve the red/pink color of the meat, to improve flavor by inhibiting fat oxidation, and prevent the growth of bacteria). Try limiting processed meats to once a week or less as well as choosing fish, poultry, or lean red meat as an alternative.

The daily recommendation for sodium intake is 2,300mg max. The average U.S. adult consumes over 4,000mg PER DAY! Added salt can be found in packaged foods including chips, crackers, breads, canned products, condiments, and almost anything you see that is packaged in the stores. Try to avoid too many processed foods (whole foods have 0 added salt for the record!) and/or try to use other flavor enhancing techniques such as using natural spices, lemon juice, herbs, and more!

If processed meats are a staple in your home? Seek out nitrate/nitrite free lunch meats, bacon, sausage etc and keep an eye the sodium levels!

Added Sugar

When you “drink your calories” with sugar sweetened drinks your brain is not able to process the sugar intake as quickly, limiting the brain’s ability to say “You’re full – please stop!”

A high-sugar diet may also stimulate the liver to dump more harmful fats into the bloodstream. This leads to over-consumption, increased risk of inflammation, elevated blood glucose levels, and increased risk of heart disease.

Choose water whenever possible or at least an unsweetened beverage. You can also add fruit, cucumber, or herbs like mint to your water to change up the flavor if you struggle with plain ol’ life-giving, magical H20

Cut Down on Harsh Chemical Use and Waste with Castile Soap

Castile soap is an olive oil based hard soap made with pure, all natural/organic, chemical-free plant based ingredients that is also biodegradable AND doesn’t expire. The most common brand you’ll find is Dr. Bronner’s castile soap made both as original and with numerous scents from various essential oils. Castile soap can make at home kitchen, bath, and body products! Use it as a dish soap with just a few drops! You can find it at most big-box stores or natural foods stores, and all of our recipes below use it in dilution which means not only are they good ways to cut down the use of chemicals in your home and waste products in the garbage can, but it will save you MONEY!

Why should I make my own cleaning products?

The EPA indicates artificial fragrances in cleaning products as an indoor irritant and pollutant. Why? A single fragrance (simply labeled “fragrance” on the ingredient list) can include as many as 600 petrochemicals! (Petrochemical = chemicals derived from petroleum. Probably not what you want to inhale, put on your skin, etc.)

DIY Pine Sol Substitute

Throw the following in a spray bottle:

– 32 oz warm water
– 1.5 tsp castile soap
– 6 drops fir needle essential oil
– 4 drops rosemary essential oil

Simple Shampoo

– 1/4 cup coconut milk
– 1/4 cup castile soap
– 20 drops essential oil of choice (optional)
*If you have really dry hair consider adding a few drops of olive oil or almond oil*

Seal in a jar, or use an old pump soap bottle. If it is a foaming dispenser add 1/4 cup distilled water.

https://wellnessmama.com/3701/homemade-shampoo/

Natural Wet Wipes

– 1 cup warm water
– 1/8 cup castile soap
– 5-10 drops of an essential oil (optional)

Combine in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid (another canning jar opportunity!). Cut squares from a plain cotton T-Shirt and submerge in the jar with the liquid and flip the jar upside down until all is soaked. After use, wash the cloth out in the sink and return to the jar to reuse.

DIY Laundry Detergent

– 1 cup castile soap
– 3/4 cup baking soda
– 1/4 cup fine sea salt

Dissolve baking soda and sea salt in 2 cups warm water, then add all ingredients to a one-gallon container and fill with water. Use 1/4 cup per load of laundry. This makes enough for 60 loads of laundry! Talk about saving money!

Mop Water

So easy! Just add 2-3 TBSP of castile soap to your bucket of water and clean your floors naturally!

Body Wash/Hand Soap

Even easier! For body wash just slightly dilute your castile soap with a little water (2:1 ratio soap:water).

Love your foamy hand soap? Refill a foam dispenser with a 1:4 ratio of soap:water and you won’t even notice the difference!

Still using traditional products? Learn more about them at www.epa.gov/saferchoice

Want to know even more ways to use castile soap? Find more recipes here!

An Apple A Day!

Get ready to go apple picking! Fresh apples boast a higher antioxidant content than supermarket apples that have often been in cold storage for months. Fun facts: There are more than 7500 varieties of apples and it takes the energy of 50 apple tree leaves to produce just ONE apple!

Apples contain pectin which acts as a prebiotic and can improve gut health; our microbiome. Apples are loaded with vitamin C, K and potassium which is mostly concentrated in the SKIN! An average apple has 5 grams of soluble fiber which can reduce intestinal disorder, improve cholesterol, and control insulin levels. Even better, the fiber makes apples filling. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in apples are linked to reduced risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Some studies have shown regular apple consumption can reduce symptoms of respiratory diseases like asthma. However, not all apples are created equal! Granny Smith is one of the most nutritious with its extra high-level of disease fighting phytonutrients. Unforuntalye, according to EWG (The Environmental Working Group) apples are found to be the most pesticide laden fruit. The skin of an apple contains 90% of the pesticides, but also 50% of the nutrients. Aim to buy organic. If not organic, be sure to wash well with a vinegar water solution.
*Purchasing tip: Braeburn apples are reddish-green in color. Try to find the ones that are most red which means they were exposed to sun and thus an extra supply of phytonutrients!

You know, I’ve never really been a fan of the saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat”…always felt that was a bit cruel. There’s more than one way to prepare your apples! That sounds better now doesn’t it…

Try eating fresh cut apples with a tasty apple dip! Mix plain Greek yogurt (1 cup) with peanut butter (1 TBSP), and a little Stevia if you need it sweeter, for a protein packed addition to make a more balanced snack. Out of peanut butter? This recipe works well with a powdered peanut butter too!

For a softer option chop it up, sprinkle on some cinnamon and microwaving for 1.5 minutes for cooked apple to eat or use as a topping.

A waldorf salad makes for a quick, healthy lunch! Combine chopped chicken, apples, celery, grapes, and walnuts with some greek yogurt, honey, and lemon juice & zest to serve over lettuce greens. Get the recipe here!

When apples are no longer in season, check out the Vacaville dried granny smith apples! At certain times of the year they can be found at Costco, otherwise you can check out their website. The ingredient list follows: granny smith apples. BAM! Perfect. Wouldn’t it be awesome if all foods just contained the food you wanted?

Last but CERTAINLY not least, is our very own recipe for Oatmeal Apple Pie! You’re definitely going to want to try this one out as it is perfect for fall

Oatmeal Apple Pie
Prep Time – 45 minutes
Servings – 4

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup oat bran
2 large apples, cored &chopped
2 cups unsweetened applesauce
4 scoops vanilla protein powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
4 cups water
1 tsp vanilla extract
Stevia (optional) to taste
Skim milk (1 cup per serving)

Instructions:
In a large bowl combine oats, oat bran, protein powder, salt, vanilla extract and water. In a separate bowl, mix the apples, applesauce, cinnamon, and Stevia (optional). There are two ways to proceed. You can either combine the applesauce mixture and oat mixture together and bake, or for a layered effect you can pour the applesauce mixture into the baking dish first, then pour the oat mixture on top. In both cases, bake in an 8×8-inch dish coated with olive oil cooking spray for 35 minutes at 350 degrees F. Serve in a bowl with 1 cup skim milk poured over top!

Just Breathe…

Draw air in through your nose on a slow two-count. Blow air out of your mouth like you’re blowing out birthday candles twice as long, to a count of four.
Now in for 3 seconds, out for 6. Can you get to 4 seconds in, 8 seconds out? Repeat a few more times.

You have just successfully calmed your Central Nervous System and reduced the circulation of excitatory neurotransmitters and stress hormones. Sound like some hippie-dippy BS? Well according to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is directly linked to ALL of the top 6 leading causes of death in the United States:
– heart disease
– cancer
– lung ailments (i.e. pneumonia)
– accidents (car accidents, falls, etc)
– cirrhosis of the liver
– suicide

This is going to sound like one of those ridiculous promise-you-the-world prescription drug commercials…”Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could greatly reduce your risk of mortality from the 6 leading causes of death, improve your energy and performance, and reduce chronic pain due to inflammation in just a few minutes a day – well you can!”

And you don’t even need to pop a pill. Just breathe. Intentionally and actively for a couple minutes a few different times per day.

Here’s a test. Lie on your back and place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. If only one or the other hand rises you are significantly under-utilizing the volume of your lungs. For those already aware of “belly breathing”: try hooking a finger under the rib cage and then take a breath. If it doesn’t get pushed out you may just be pushing out your belly artificially instead of effectively breathing with the diaphragm. Respected strength training mogul Mike Boyle recently discovered that essentially ALL of his clients with chronic back pain could NOT breathe into their belly when instructed to. While this doesn’t prove necessarily that low back pain is caused by shallow breath, it does show a strong correlation that the two are related which is well worth paying attention to.

Types of Breath and When to Use Them

• Forceful Breath

This is the type of breath many of us in the strength training world are familiar with: a forceful exhale to lock down the abdominal muscles and protect the spine during powerful movements or heavy lifting. Forcing an exhale, making a “shhh!” sound, is an effective way to produce more force and protect the body during moves like Kettlebell swings, push-ups, ball slams, etc.

• Pursed Lip Breathing

In through the nose as if you’re sniffing up snot that keeps running out of your nose during your worst cold. Blow air out of pursed lips and using the abdominals to squeeze the last bit of air out of your lungs. This type of breathing has been demonstrated in medical settings to very quickly raise patient’s’ blood oxygen levels several percentage points within just a few breaths. This type of breath should be used during your warmup to better prepare your body for intense activity, and during breaks to help you adequately recover. Maintaining a high blood oxygen during exercise can reduce feelings of fatigue, dizziness or light-headedness, and even reduce your perceived exertion! (How difficult an exercise “feels”)

• Deep Breathing

Similar to pursed lip breathing we’ll breath in through the nose and blow out through the mouth, except you insert a pause into the mix. Breath in through the nose about four seconds, hold your breath about six or seven seconds, exhale for eight. Start with just 4 breaths at a time, twice a day – working up to a maximum of 8 breaths twice a day. The focus and the pause are what set this breathing technique apart, and after just your first cycle through you can almost rest assure that you will be more relaxed, less anxious and experience a pleasant type of euphoria. Make use of this breath when dealing with excess stress, experiencing anxiety over a difficult decision, worrying, etc.

Now there are many different types of breathing out there, but we have chosen just to highlight these 3 as we think they are the most relevant and beneficial for the people we work with. The most important thing to take note is that your breath is a tool and while you generally do it unconsciously (thank goodness, or else sleeping would sure be interesting!) there are certain times when it will greatly benefit you to breathe intentionally.

Fall Harvest Breakdown! (read before Fall Farmer’s Markets!)

Fall is starting to show its face and so is the fall vegetable harvest!

“Winter Squash” is designated by a hard outer skin, unlike summer squashes like zucchini and yellow squash. Winter squash varieties include spaghetti, butternut, kabocha, delicata, acorn and more! Boost your immunity and health with winter squashes because they are high in fiber and vitamin C content! Just 1 cup of squash provides about half the daily recommendation! This week we’re hooking you up with some of the easiest ways to include squash into your weekly cooking regimen and prep.

Spaghetti squash can be prepared as simply as slicing it in half, cleaning out the seeds, and placing it face down on a lined baking sheet in the oven. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes. It’s done when you can poke a fork into the skin. Allow to cool slightly, fork your spaghetti like strands right out and chow down! You may not even need to dirty a dish 😊 Get a little fancy by brushing on some olive oil and sprinkling salt/pepper on before baking or serve your spaghetti strands with a little marinara, parmesan, or this writer’s favorite – chili!

Delicata squash (del-eh-ca-ta) is a little less intimidating in size compared with other squash, and these are known for making delicious baked squash “rings”. There are many who have missed out on this delicious squash because it is not widely carried in supermarkets and they just don’t recognize it at the farmer’s market. Simply cut the squash into 1/2” rings (the skin is edible!) and scoop the seedy center out. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay rings on a metal (lined is ok) pan and bake at 425 for approximately 10 minutes per side. Keep flipping as needed. You’ll finish with browned/caramelized rings that are reminiscent of sweet potato fries but even better! If you haven’t seen, heard, or tried delicata squash yet, definitely ask at your local farmer’s market!

Butternut squash is known for its creamy roasted taste and variable use as a puree. Since the aim this week is to make eating winter squash as simple as possible, toss your whole butternut squash into the slow cooker and cook for 4-5 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. When done, you’ll be able to cut right through the skin, scoop out the seeded middle, and have cooked squash ready to puree, add to soup, or incorporated into a pasta dish! If you are a little more adventurous, peel the squash with a vegetable peeler, core the center, and cube it up (toss with olive oil and salt/pepper) for roasting in the oven at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes. So delicious even on it’s own! Butternut squash lends well to a variety of flavors from cinnamon and nutmeg to cardamom and/or curry spices to Mexican spices!

Kabocha squash. Wait, kombucha now kabocha? Green kabocha have a nutty, earthy flavor while the red kabocha tend to be a bit sweeter. Cut the squash in 1” wedges like you might do for a cantaloupe (the skin is edible when cooked), toss with olive oil/salt/pepper and roast 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Jazz up your roast with infused olive oils if you like! Once roasted the squash can be eaten as is or used for purees. If your kabocha is a little too tough to cut raw? Try this method: http://sweetsimplevegan.com/2017/02/how-to-roast-kabocha-squash/
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Now if you are part of a CSA or just prefer to grab whatever type of produce is on sale that week, it’s important to note that these different types of squash are often interchangeable in recipes! The main differences in squash come down to water content, sweetness, and texture. Don’t fret, just do a quick online search. One easy way to incorporate squash, for even the pickiest of eaters, is to find muffin, pancake, and quickbread recipes that use squash! Nobody will be any the wiser 😉

Identify your squash here! http://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/a-visual-guide-to-winter-squash-varieties-article

How are your New Year’s Resolutions Going?

Revisit your goals!

We say it often. Write them down. Cross them out. Highlight them. Whatever you can do to make them more tangible – more real. Because that is the secret…there is no magic, there is no trick (not one that works anyways) to realizing your goals. Write down attainable goals somewhere that you will walk past them several times a day, interact with your list when progress is made – or when you feel stagnant! Write little sub-goals under your major goals that will help point you in the direction of them, for instance:

Goal: Run a marathon
a.) buy proper footwear
b.) run 1/2 mile today
c.) run total of 2 miles this week
d.) run 5 out of 7 days next week
etc.

Or get creative with something like this!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

The reason we are urging you to revisit your resolutions this week is because this is the time of year when your life gets back to normal. You settle back into a routine after Summer insanity, and that is a great time to implement new habits, to set goals, to re-focus.

There is one thing in particular that we are asking you to focus in on right now, and that is to take care of YOU! So in case you have surpassed all your New Year’s Resolutions – or maybe you have just forgotten them altogether – we’ve got a whole set of resolutions for you to adopt into your routine!

1. Workout
Make your workout a priority! This one is a little bit obvious, but being consistent with your workout routine will increase your overall energy and lead to better food choices as well as better sleep.

2. Sleep
Speaking of sleep – this too should be a priority! Plan for 7-8 hours of shut eye each night, and start winding down one hour before you intend to be asleep in order to avoid sleeplessness. TV before bed is one common mistake a lot of people make, but that intense stimulation actually makes it more difficult for your mind to relax – especially those crime shows! Cut it out!

3. Floss
This is an easy way to start taking care of yourself in a big way! Have trouble remembering to work it into your routine? Try keeping floss in the shower to make it part of your bathing routine.

4. Hydrate
One of the most important things we can do to take care of ourselves is to drink enough water. Being dehydrated affects your cognitive ability, your performance, and even your skin! Feel AND look better just by drinking adequate water. Spread it out throughout the day though! Trying to catch up on all your fluids for the day at once can lead to discomfort or in rare cases hyponatremia.

5. Take a multivitamin
If your diet throughout the day does not consist of a wide variety of foods in all colors of the rainbow, most likely you could benefit from a good multivitamin supplement. Place them somewhere you will see them every day and pop one as your insurance policy that you are getting everything your body needs to function optimally.

Make yourself a priority! Remember: if your cup is empty, you cannot fill anyone else’s. If you don’t take care of yourself regularly, you won’t be able to provide adequate care for anyone else.

Kombucha Brewing At Home

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Kombucha tea is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, probiotic bacteria and yeast and has quickly become a probiotic sweetheart.  Many have found the tangy and fizzy taste to be a nice alternative to harsh sodas and other carbonated beverages. Kombucha contains B vitamins and the probiotics/living bacteria can be a good bacteria boost for gut health (replacing intestinal microflora and breaking undigested carbohydrates into smaller molecules).  Some have said that the healing properties, from various disorders, are a result of the acid in kombucha binding with various toxins for elimination.

Kombucha uses the fermentation process, which has been used for centuries to produce things like wine, beer, sourdough, sour cream, yogurt, kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, and more!  Did you know vanilla is produced by the fermentation of vanilla beans?

WHAT HAPPENS DURING FERMENTATION?

To ferment kombucha, the yeast in a SCOBY (an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”) breaks down the sugar in a sweetened tea which undergo fermentation.  This in turn produces alcohol.  Some of the alcohol is converted to acetic acid which gives it the vinegar smell and also the proper acidic level to prevent “bad” bacteria from forming. (Kombucha on average is less than half a percent alcohol by volume so don’t be alarmed!)

According to wikipedia, the process for creating kombucha relies on “anaerobic ethanol fermentation (by yeast), anaerobic organic acid fermentation (by bacteria), and aerobic ethanol oxidation to acetate (by bacteria) all take place concurrently along an oxygen gradient.”  Now you know.

HOW DO I BREW MY OWN KOMBUCHA?

What you’ll need:

– 2 cups kombucha (purchased, use from a prior batch, or get some from a friend!)

– 1 SCOBY (purchased or get one from a friend!)

– 3.5 Liters of water

– GLASS container to hold 4 Liters, or more (be careful of non-glass containers as they can leach toxins into your brew.)

– 1 cup of white sugar

– 8 bags of black tea (steer clear of flavored teas like Early Grey that contain oils which will disrupt the brewing process)

Let’s brew:

1. Bring 3.5 liters of water to a boil

2.  Stir in 1 cup of sugar until dissolved

3.  Add 8 tea bags and pull pot from heat

4.  Allow to fully cool.  You now have sweetened tea.

5.  Remove tea bags and pour sweet tea into your brewing jar.

6.  Add SCOBY to your brewing jar and cover with t-shirt or paper towel material and secure with a rubber band.

7.  Brew for 7-30 days.  Many find 7-14 days to be the right strength for tastes before it becomes too vinegary.

8.  After brewing period, pour into serving jars, growlers, etc.  You can either place directly into the refrigerator or you can leave in a warm and dark place for 1-3 days to add more fizz to your drink.  After the 1-3 days, put in the refrigerator.

Congratulations, you have kombucha!

WATCH THE HOW-TO-WITH-HEATHER HERE:

Want to store your SCOBY?  Cover your SCOBY with brewed kombucha and store in a sealed glass container in your cupboard for up to 30 days.

Want to share a SCOBY with a friend?  Peel away a layer of a thicker formed SCOBY or after fermenting your tea, leave some in an open glass container and a new SCOBY will form!