Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Flex Friday!

Happy Flex Friday everyone! How are you feeling going into the weekend--- strong?! Or ready for some much needed R&R?! I want to know!!

And--- of course--- my fur baby, Clover, wanted to get in on the selfie action! I wasn't anticipating the puppy kisses, but, hey, I'll take 'em anyway! Sluuuuuuurp!

Food for Thought Friday: Artificial Sweeteners--- Too Good to be True?

Today's Food for Thought Friday discusses artificial sweeteners. When you're eating clean, your goal is to avoid anything artificial. Yet a lot of people still consume artificial sweeteners while claiming to eat clean--- justifying that choice by claiming that the low calorie benefits in the short term outweigh the potential health risks in the long term. Today, I'll discuss some of the benefits, research, alternatives, and my opinions in regards to artificial sweeteners!

Artificial Sweeteners: Possible Benefits
- Weight control
- Diabetes control

Sucrose (AKA Sugar)
- Empty calories (high in calories--- but no real nutrients)
- Bad for your teeth
- CSPI labels "cut back"
- Avoid/Eliminate if attempting to eat clean!

Aspartame (AKA Equal/Nutrasweet)
- A 1970s study linked aspartame to brain cancer, but FDA approved aspartame anyway, viewing the study as inconsequential
- A 2005 study by Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center of the European Ramazzini Foundation of Oncology and Environmental Sciences linked aspartame to lymphomas, leukemias, and various tumors, such as kidney tumors
- 2007, again by the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center, studied the effects of aspartame on rats in utero, and linked aspartame to leukemias, lymphomas, and breast cancer
- 2010, the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center studied the effects of aspartame on mice in utero this time, linking the artificial sweetener to liver and lung cancer
- Aspartame has also been linked to weight gain, headaches, and dizziness
- CSPI labels "avoid"
- CSPI has given aspartame the lowest food additive ranking!

Saccharin (AKA Sweet N Low)
- A 1970s study linked saccharin to bladder cancer in rats
- Further studies showed saccharin caused cancer of the uterus, ovaries, skin, blood, and other organs
- Saccharin was banned in Canada
- The FDA considered banning it and placed a warning label on it
- The FDA ultimately decided not to ban it due to "lack of evidence" in human subjects
- Is lack of evidence of evidence of safety?
- CSPI labels "avoid"

Sucralose (AKA Splenda)
- Pre-FDA study showed shrinkage of the thymus gland, leading to immune system problems, yet it was approved by FDA anyway
- A 2002 study showed (in high amounts) it caused DNA damage in mice
- A 2008 study showed it reduced the amount of good bacteria in the GI tract
- A 2012 study, similarly, linked it to IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)
  - A 2012 study by Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center studied the effects of sucralose on mice in utero, and found links to leukemia
- CSPI labels "caution"

High Fructose Corn Syrup (AKA HFCS)
- It has been linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and fatty liver disease
- Is HFCS worse than sugar though? Researchers are still undecided
- CSPI labels "cut back"
- If you're eating clean, then avoid/eliminate this as you would sugar!

Sugar alcohols (AKA Sortbitol, Xylitol, Mannitol)
- Sugar alcohols are not actual alcohol, just molecularly closely related to alcohol
- They're often used in sugar free foods marketed towards diabetics
- However diabetics should be careful, as they do contain carbohydrates, and can cause an increase in blood sugar
- Proven to cause bloating, GI distress, and diarrhea when consumed in large quantities
- Labels state "do not consume in large quantities"
- CSPI labels "cut back"

Clean Sweetener Alternatives
- Agave Nectar
- Honey
- Maple Syrup
- Molasses

Artificial Sweeteners and Weight Gain
- Artificial sweeteners have been linked to weight gain, even though they are relatively low in calories
- Why is this? Researchers believe that artificial sweeteners interfere with natural digestive pathways, since they send sweet signals to the brain during digestion, yet no sugar is actually being ingested
- This leads to a decrease in satiety (feeling satisfied), causing a person to eat more as a result. Basically, your body tastes what it thinks is sugar, and keeps waiting for that sugar to arrive--- only it's artificial sweetener, so the sugar never arrives. 
- As a result, you're more likely to eat more, ultimately gaining weight over time with the use of artificial sweeteners

Make Informed Food Choices!
- Whatever you choose to put in your body, make sure that you're educated about it!
- Artificial sweeteners may or may not be safe--- it's up to you to decide where you stand on it!
- Me personally? I choose to err on the side of caution! I won't sacrifice my long term health for my short term goals!

What's Your Take on Artificial Sweeteners?
- I'd love to hear your thoughts, opinions, comments, and feedback!

Muddy Melissa

Clean Spaghetti Sauce! Crockpot Recipe!

Tonight's clean eats recipe is a cleaned-up version of spaghetti sauce. As a bonus to being clean and healthy eats, this sauce also adds in some shredded zucchini for a nutritional boost, and I defy any zucchini-hater out there to taste the zucchini in this sauce! It can be so tempting to reach for a jar of Ragu after a long day of work, but you're compromising your health for the sake of convenience. This crockpot recipe makes a huge batch of 100% clean spaghetti sauce that's great to freeze for you to use later! So you can eat clean and be convenient! Read on for the details guys!

Clean Spaghetti Sauce (Crockpot Recipe!)

4 Large tomatoes, diced
2 Cups shredded zucchini (About 1-2 zucchinis--- I popped mine into the food processor to shred quickly)
1/2 of a red onion, chopped
6 Ounces chopped mushrooms
5 Garlic cloves, chopped
1 Bay leaf
2 Tablespoons parsley
1/2 Teaspoon pepper
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon oregano
1 Teaspoon basil
2 8 Ounce cans of tomato sauce (the only ingredient should be tomato!)
2 Tablespoons instant tapioca

Optional: lean ground turkey, lean ground beef, lean ground chicken

Combine all ingredients except for the meat in the slow cooker, ensuring that everything is mixed thoroughly. Cook on high for 4 hours. Remove the bay leaf before serving. Serve meatless (Meatless Monday, maybe?!), or serve with cooked ground turkey, beef, or chicken. Use this as you would traditional spaghetti sauce--- I served mine with spaghetti squash for a delicious yet low carb dish! Yum!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chicken Stroganoff! Crockpot Recipe!

Tonight's clean eats dinner is a cleaned-up version of an oldie but goodie: chicken stroganoff. While traditional stroganoff uses sour cream, this version subs nonfat plain Greek yogurt--- reducing the fat but retaining the flavor! Check out the recipe:

Chicken Stroganoff (Serves 4)

1 pound of chicken breast (about 4 chicken breasts)
1 Can of cream of mushroom soup (a clean variety--- I used Amy's)
1 Cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 Cup chopped red onion
2 Chopped garlic cloves
1/2 Cup chicken broth
1 Cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 Cup whole wheat flour

Place chicken on the bottom of the slow cooker, then mix together the remaining ingredients, except for the whole wheat flour, and pour over the chicken. Cook on low for 5 hours. Then, add in the whole wheat flour, and cook on high for another hour. Once done, remove the chicken breasts, and blend the remaining liquid in a blender to remove any lumps. Serve the chicken stroganoff over veggies, whole wheat pasta, rice, couscous, or whatever else you'd like. Enjoy!

See? Simple as that. You can still have your favorite foods and eat clean!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Limey Green & Morning Run!

So--- this week I'm trying out some juices from a business local to Pittsburgh--- Fresh From the Farm Juices. Indeed, these juices are made fresh; as I was picking up my juices, an apple delivery was being made. So far, it shows in their juices. I'm absolutely loving "Limey Green," which is, hands down, my favorite juice thus far. The first thing out of my mouth was: "I like that this is more limey and less green." The ingredients are apple, spinach, kale, carrot, lime, and cilantro (really, how much cleaner can you get?!); of course, that bright green color might initially scare some people off. Thankfully, however, "Limey Green" doesn't taste like liquified spinach--- the apple and lime are enough to make this juice bright, crisp, and citrusy--- yum!

I tossed a bottle of this in my gym bag today before heading to the gym, and I was a happy camper as I busted out one of my longer runs--- 15.1 miles. I did a half marathon with a mile for a warm up, a mile for a cool down, plus some slow/fast speed intervals toward the end for cardiac reserve training. I'm feeling good! How about the rest of you out there--- feeling good or feeling that mid-week sluggishness set in?!

French Toast Power Casserole! Crockpot Recipe!

Today's clean eats breakfast: French Toast Power Casserole! What makes it "power" casserole? Well, it's packed with protein to help you power your way through your day! Not to mention that this recipe is delicious--- apples, walnuts, cinnamon, and just a hint of honey and vanilla. You can't go wrong with that, can you?! Who said eating clean meant eating bland?! Not me!

French Toast Power Casserole (Serves 2; Crockpot Recipe!)

4 slices whole grain bread (I use Ezekiel's brand)

French Toast Mixture:
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1 Cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
4 Truvia/Stevia packets
1 Scoop vanilla whey protein powder (I used About Time/SDC Nutrition in Birthday Cake)
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract (not imitation!)
1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon

Apple Mixture:
1 Cup apples, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon honey
1/2 Teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Cut bread slices into bite-size squares. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients for the French toast mixture. In a separate bowl, mix together all ingredients for the apple mixture. Once prepared, spread a layer of the bread cubes on the bottom of the crockpot, followed by a layer of the apple mixture, then another layer of the bread cubes, and finally a layer of the apple mixture again. Lastly, pour the French toast mixture evenly over everything, ensuring that everything gets thoroughly coated. Cook on high for 2 hours, or until the edges of the French toast casserole become golden brown.

This is, hands down, a delicious recipe that I dare you to resist! Yum!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My February Challenge!

As I train for my next marathon, I'm hoping all of you out there will help keep me accountable for my training! How can you guys do that? Well, it's simple--- for every +1 on Google, every like on Facebook, and every like on Instagram, I will run 1 mile in February! This is my challenge to myself & my promise to you guys! I'm possibly crazy for doing this, but I'm hoping you'll all follow me along here as I complete my challenge throughout February!

P.S. No doubles, guys! That's cheating!

W8Fit Review & New Workout Duds!

I recently purchased a set of weighted wrist cuffs from W8Fit, along with a couple other snazzy-looking workout shirts. These weighted wrist cuffs have 4 pockets, each holding 1/4 lbs of weight, to create 1 lbs of weight on each wrist--- 2 lbs total. Now, as someone who can squat upwards of 150 lbs & deadlift upwards of 200 lbs, those measly extra 2 lbs certainly didn't seem like they'd do much of anything for me. But--- these cuffs were on sale for $34, so I figured... what the heck, I'll give 'em a try!

And try I did! First of all, inserting the weights into the cuffs and putting the cuffs on is a breeze. Once on, the weight certainly didn't seem intimidating to me by any means, as I flailed my arms about to see how they felt. However, always the intrepid scientist, I really wanted to put these babies to the test. So, in preparation for receiving these in the mail, I used my Body Media monitoring device (tested for accuracy!) to calculate my caloric burn during various activities--- a P90X3 MMX (mixed martial arts) workout, an hour long run at a steady pace, and a yoga routine. So how did these cuffs fare?

Well, on the P90X3 MMX workout, I saw a whopping total of an additional 20.5% in caloric burn. On the hour long run (again at a set pace--- I used a treadmill for this), I saw a 25.8% increase in caloric burn. As for the yoga? Well, I saw virtually no change in caloric burn for that. My assumption is that, in regards to the MMX and running, the cuffs increased the caloric burn substantially due to the vigorous arm motions; whereas, in my yoga routine, which was fairly tame and did not involve extensive arm movement--- the cuffs had only minimal effect.

If you're looking to up your caloric burn during cardio activities involving a lot of arm movement, I think these weighted wrist cuffs work great to accomplish that. I obviously have no way to test, with certainty, if these aided in muscle development at all, but I will say that my arms were not sore whatsoever afterward, so I personally don't believe so. But that might just be because I am personally used to lifting heavy weights regularly. But in terms of caloric burn, these cuffs definitely increased the difficulty and, as such, increased the caloric burn. A simple way to add to your cardio workouts, in my opinion!

I also snagged some cute workout shirts from wW8Fit! Of course I needed to rep my marathon training, so I got a shirt emblazoned with 26.2 on the back! I also got a yoga workout shirt and a cardio workout shirt--- both are super cute, and I couldn't wait to try them out during a workout! You know how it is, girls out there... nothing gives you more motivation to work out than super cute new 
workout duds! Am I right or am I right?! 

Peanut Butter Power Pudding!

Today's clean eats breakfast recipe is a tasty treat for all you peanut butter fanatics (such as myself!) out there--- a delicious bowl of warm peanut butter power pudding for breakfast!

Peanut Butter Power Pudding (Serves 1)

1/2 Cup oats
1 Cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 Banana
2 Tablespoons PB2 powder
2 Packets Truvia/Stevia
1 Scoop peanut butter whey protein (I used About Time/SDC Nutrition)
1/4 Teaspoon vanilla extract (not imitation!)
Optional: carob chips for garnish

Note: if you do not have peanut butter whey protein, then you can subsititute for vanilla whey protein, but I would increase the PB2 powder by 1 tablespoon, and eliminate the vanilla extract.

In a pan over the stove, simmer the oats in the unsweetened almond milk until the majority of the liquid is gone. Then, pour the oats in a blender along with the rest of the ingredients. Blend thoroughly, then pour in a bowl to serve, garnishing with carob chips if you desire. Eat and enjoy! You can also store this in the fridge, then eat your pudding cold if you'd like. Yum!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Whole Wheat Banana Protein Bread

Today's clean eats breakfast is a running staple for me! The eggs are full of much-needed protein, the whole wheat flour provides healthy complex carbohydrates, while the banana is rich in potassium and aids in hydration. As a whole, this is one of my favorite pre-run meals, offering complete nutrition to enhance your running--- all with a truly indulgent taste!

Whole Wheat Banana Protein Bread

6 eggs
1 Cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 Cup whole wheat flour
1 Very ripe banana
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract (not imitation!)
6 Packets Truvia/Stevia

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor (or a blender), combine all ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased bread pan, and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until a fork comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the bread.

I served this with the pumpkin butter I whipped up the other day, resulting in a fantastically delicious combination! Enjoy!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hot Cocoa Power Oatmeal with a Mug of Hot Cocoa! All Clean!

Yet another snowy day here in Pittsburgh! The roads are too bad to go anywhere yet again; my husband barely made it home safe and sound from work this morning. He even saw cars backsliding down the hill we live on! Our door is frozen solid--- even the lock is coated in ice! Brrrrrrrrr... I'm keeping my booty parked in front of the fireplace today!

And what is better on a freezing winter day than a mug of steaming hot cocoa? Nothing! So, in honor of today's blizzard, I present: clean hot cocoa power oatmeal and clean hot cocoa! YUM!

Hot Cocoa Power Oatmeal (Serves 1)

1/2 Cup oats
1 Cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 Scoop chocolate whey protein powder (I used About Time/SDC Nutrition)
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 Teaspoon cinnamon
2 Packets Truvia/Stevia
Optional: carob chips or baking chocolate

In a pot over the stove, simmer the oats in the unsweetened almond milk until the majority of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat, and stir in the remaining ingredients. Garnish with carob chips or baking chocolate if desired just before serving!

Clean Hot Cocoa (Serves 1--- Only 40 calories!)

1 Cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 Teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 Teaspoon cinnamon
4 Packets Truvia/Stevia

In a pot over the stove, simmer the unsweetened almond milk over low heat. Whisk in the remaining ingredients until throughly combined. Once the hot cocoa is thoroughly mixed and heated, pour into a mug to serve and enjoy your chocolatey goodness!

What a delicious way to start the day off when it's so cold that you just can't seem to get going! But, of course, get going I will! I'm working out with the hubs today, since he's home from work. How about all of you guys out there--- keeping warm, hibernating, what? I want to know!

Pepper Ranch Roast (Crockpot Recipe!) & Homemade Ranch Mix!

So tonight's clean eats dinner recipe is a tasty yet clean twist on a classic dish: roast beef! In keeping with the recent theme, this is also a slow cooker recipe. The great thing about that is that you can get away with using a leaner cut of roast, and it'll still come out juicy and tender due to the slow cooking! Ready for the recipe deets guys?

Pepper Ranch Roast (Serves 2)

8 Ounces lean beef roast (eye of round, bottom round, top round, etc.)
1/4 Teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon ranch mix
1/2 Cup diced pepperoncinis
1/4 Cup pepperoncini juice
2 Cups beef broth (be careful--- make sure it's just beef broth/beef stock--- they like to sneak "caramel coloring" in there on this one!)
2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/2 Cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

Sprinkle roast with salt. Over high heat, sear roast on all sides on a lightly oiled pan. Remove from heat, and place in the crockpot. Add in the pepperoncinis, along with their juice. Cook on low for 4 hours. Remove the roast, and set aside. Pour the remaining juice into a pot over the stove. Add in the beef broth, along with the whole wheat flour, and bring the mixture to a boil while whisking. Once the mixture becomes thick, reduce the heat to low, and stir in the yogurt. Simmer for several additional minutes. Lastly, pour the broth into a blender and blend thoroughly (you could also use an immersion blender). Spoon the sauce over the roast just before serving. I served this roast with lemon-parsley roasted baby potatoes for that full "homestyle meal" effect. It came out absolutely delicious!

Homemade Ranch Mix

3/4 Cup dried parsley
2 Tablespoons pepper
1/4 Cup garlic salt
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons garlic powder
1/3 Cup onion powder
1/2 Cup dill weed

Combine all seasonings evenly. This mix can be used as a substitution in any recipe calling for ranch mix. Store remaining ranch mix in a mason jar to be used later!

Please note: I made this recipe for 2 people. I had to go to the butcher counter to get a small enough cut of roast. They looked at me like I was freaking insane--- as if people only buy, cook, and eat 5 lb roasts! My suggestion is to go to the butcher counter to get the amount you need (roughly 4-6 ounces per person), as opposed to buying a crazy large roast. Face it--- with all of that roast staring at you, you WILL be tempted to eat more of it. My personal opinion is save yourself some money, cut some calories out while you're at it, and just buy and cook what you plan to eat. If, however, you have a large family or you're cooking for guests, and you do plan to cook a larger roast--- please note that you'll need to adjust the cooking time in the crockpot!

This recipe was a huge hit--- especially with my carnivore husband! He said that the roast was so tender, it was practically falling off his fork! If you're in need of a healthy, clean, and delicious roast recipe--- this is it guys! Yum!

We also got in our workouts today. We opted for P90X3 MMX. I have to say--- this might just be, along with The Challenge, one of my favorite P90X3 workouts! Its tons of fun, and it'll be great for when I really need to get out some aggression--- you know, when I just want to kick or punch something! Hehehehe. Of course, I got in my usual run--- y'all know I can't skip that!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Fresh Cranberry Sauce (Crockpot Recipe!) with Pan Seared Turkey and Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes

Tonight's dinner recipe is a clean twist on the oh-so-classic Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes. Only this meal gets its deliciousness from fresh ingredients and unique flavors. No need for butter-slathered turkey, brown sugar-coated sweet potatoes, or that gelatinous gunk known as gravy here! 

Cranberry Sauce (Crockpot!)

1 12 Ounce bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 Cup of apple juice (no sugar added!)
1/2 Cup maple syrup
1 Large cinnamon stick

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker, and mix the ingredients thoroughly. Cook on low for 4 hours, stirring regularly. Spoon over turkey breast (or whatever else you'd like!) to serve. 

Pan-Seared Turkey (Serves 2)

2 Turkey breast cutlets (about 4 ounces each)
1/2 Teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 Teaspoon rosemary
1/2 Teaspoon thyme
1/4 Teaspoon pepper
1/4 Teaspoon salt

In a bowl, combine all of the seasonings. Sprinkle the seasonings over each side of the turkey breasts. Sear each side of the turkey breast on a VERY hot lightly oiled pan. Sear for 2-3 minutes on each side. The turkey will be done when it's no longer pink in the middle.

Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes (Serves 2)

2 Sweet potatoes, cubed (you can peel them if you'd like, but I personally like the skin)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, sprinkle sweet potato cubes liberally with cinnamon and stevia. I don't bother measuring--- just make sure they are good and coated! Place the coated sweet potato cubes on a foiled baking sheet, then bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes util tender. 

Enjoy guys!

I got some awesome swagmail today, so I'll be reviewing that in the next few days, and I'll be sharing the details with you! Excited? I know I am! No run today--- it's a blizzard here! But I lifted this morning and I did some agility training. What about you guys out there? Are you killing your workouts? Or are you losing your motivation? Let me know!

Pumpkin Butter! (Crockpot Recipe!) 100% Clean!

Today's clean eats breakfast recipe is a tasty treat that feels oh-so-naughty for your tongue but is oh-so-nice for your body: pumpkin butter! I know, I know--- "Melissa, butter? healthy? poppycock!" Well guys, there's no actual butter in this recipe--- just deliciousness! And, in keeping with the recent crockpot-a-palooza theme, this recipe also utilizes a crockpot as well!

Sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon and stevia... tasty clean eats!
Pumpkin Butter (Crockpot Recipe! Makes 1 Batch)

1 16 Ounce can of pumpkin (the ONLY ingredient should be pumpkin!)
1/2 Cup apple juice (NO sugar added... the ONLY ingredient should be apples and/or apple juice!)
20 Packets of Truvia/Stevia
1 1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 Teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon ground clove

In a crockpot, combine all of the ingredients. Cook the pumpkin butter on low for 8 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure the pumpkin butter doesn't burn. When it's done, it should be thick enough to cling to a spoon! Spread over your favorite clean variety of whole wheat bread (I use Ezekiel's brand), Engligh muffins, bagels, or crackers. It's also great spread over pancakes or waffles. Delicious! Enjoy this one guys--- I know I do!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Food for Thought Friday: Workout Fuel--- What to Eat Before, After, & During!

Today's Food for Thought Friday installment focuses on food to fuel your workout. We've all heard the pre/post/during workout recommendations, but maybe you haven't been able to make sense of it, or you've heard conflicting things. My hope is that this short video will clear everything up for you! Enjoy!

Take away points:

3 Macronutrients
      1. Carbohydrates
           Simple vs. Complex
      2. Protein
      3. Fats

Pre-Workout Consumption (1-2 Hours Before):
      Complex Carbohydrates
           sweet potatoes
           brown rice
           whole grain bread
           whole grain pasta
      2 8-Ounce glasses of water

Post-Workout Consumption (Within 1 Hour After):
      Lean Protein
           whey protein powder
           egg whites
      1 8-Ounce glass of water per 1 lb weight loss

*** Ideally, both pre and post workout you should aim to consume complex carbohydrates AND lean protein. However, if that's not possible (due to time, travel, etc.)--- the focus pre wokout should be on complex carbohydrates and the focus post workout should be on lean protein!

During Workout Consumption (ONLY for extreme cardio and extended workouts!):
      Simple Carbohydrates
           Fruits such as bananas, apples, etc.
      Electrolyte Replacements (Use with CAUTION--- I use NUUN!)
      Water, water, water!

Well guys, I hope you've found this informative. Questions, comments, life musings--- whatever, I want to hear your thoughts!

Coconutter Protein Pancakes

Okay, so my coconutter no-bake protein cookies have been such a hit, that I really wanted to translate that coconutter love into a tasty stack o' pancakes. I attempted that today, and (if I do say so myself) the results were mighty delicious!

Coconutter Protein Pancakes (Serves 2)

Peanut Butter Protein Pancakes:
1/2 Cup Big Train Low Carb Pancake/Waffle Mix
1 Scoop About Time/SDC Nutrition in peanut butter flavor
1 Tablespoon unsweetened applesauce (substitution for the oil recommended on the box)
2 Egg whites (substitution for the whole egg recommended on the box)
1/2 Cup Water

Coconut Filling:
1/2 Cup vanilla Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons light coconut milk
2 Tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Packets Truvia/Stevia
1/2 Teaspoon coconut extract (not imitation!)

Whisk all of the ingredients together. Pour batter in 1/4 cup increments onto a very hot pan on the stove. As soon as the edges start to become cooked, flip the pancake on the other side to cook. At the same time, mix together the coconut filling ingredients in a bowl. Once thoroughly combined, spread a layer of the coconut filling between the peanut butter pancakes. Garnish with an additional dollop of the coconut filling, or sprinkle with some unsweetened shredded coconut on top.

Well guys, I hope you enjoy this recipe! I have a future tweak on it planned--- but I'll save that as a surprise for y'all. Stay tuned for another Food for Thought Friday segment today! This week I'll be discussing how to fuel yourself, nutritionally, through your workouts! See you then guys!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sesame Chicken (Crockpot Recipe!) and Physical Therapy Continues

More physical therapy today. My physical therapist (also named Steve coincidentally!) is a real hoot! I keep going back to him for my physical therapy, because he's a real advocate of trying to get his patients back to doing what they love to do as soon as possible. Most physical therapists are full of "don't do this, don't do that," whereas he's all about doing what you can while modifying what you can't. He's the perfect match for someone, such as myself, who simply can't eliminate the things I love doing altogether!

My physical therapist stretching my hip flexor... He says "make a wish!" Hahaha!
Tonight's clean eats dinner recipe is a twist on a takeout classic: sesame chicken. This version, however, is not only clean, healthy, and delicious, but it's also super easy. In response to all of the requests for crockpot recipes, this recipe is also made in the crockpot!

Sesame Chicken (Serves 2--- Crockpot Recipe!)

8 Ounces chicken breast, cubed
1/4 Red onion, chopped
1 Clove garlic, chopped
1/4 Cup honey
1/4 Cup low sodium soy sauce
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 Cup water
1 Tablespoon whole wheat flour
Sesame seeds for garnishing

Place the chicken breast, red onion, garlic, honey, soy sauce, and tomato paste in a crockpot. Ensure that the mixture is thoroughly combined, then cook on low for four hours. At this point, the chicken should be tender enough to shred with two forks. Then, in a bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour and the water. Add this to the crockpot mixture, then cook on high for another 30 minutes. Serve over quinoa, brown rice, couscous, or vegetables--- I personally served this over some tri-blend quinoa with steamed vegetables on the side. It came out scrumptious! Enjoy guys!

"Good Morning, Pumpkin!" Power Oatmeal! (Crockpot Recipe!)

Wouldn't we all love to wake up every morning, and have a healthy, warm, delicious breakfast waiting for us already? Well--- you can! With this recipe, all you have to do is put some ingredients in a crockpot before heading to bed, and you'll have a tasty treat waiting for you first thing in the morning! Who says that eating clean has to be complicated? It really is THAT SIMPLE! Ready for the recipe guys?

"Good Morning, Pumpkin!" Power Oatmeal (Serves 2--- Crockpot Recipe!)

1/2 Cup oats
1/2 Cup pumpkin (canned is fine, but make sure the only ingredient is pumpkin!)
1 Cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 Cup water
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon ginger
1/4 Teaspoon ground clove
4 Packets of Truvia/Stevia
Sprinkling of salt
2 Scoops vanilla or pumpkin whey protein (I used About Time/SDC Nutrition's Pumpkin Spice Whey Protein Powder)
Optional as garnish: walnuts, pecans, raisins, etc.

Place all of the ingredients (except the protein powder) in a slow cooker. Mix the ingredients thoroughly, then cook on low for 8 hours. Just before serving, stir in the whey protein, and garnish with chopped nuts or dried fruit if desired (I used some walnuts and craisins! Yum!). Please note, I like my oatmeal super thick (you know--- the kind that clings to the spoon!). If you prefer a runnier oatmeal, then add more liquid to your crockpot.

Enjoy guys! I absolutely ADORE this recipe, because it's a great treat to wake up to--- and even better because it's one that requires almost no morning prep work! Awesome!

Your Legs are a Gift... USE THEM!

Our bodies are a gift. Yet for those of us who are fortunate enough to have functioning bodies--- this is a gift we all too often overlook. I mean, really, when was the last time you looked at your legs? No, I mean really looked at them--- looked at them with wonder, joy, and amazement for all of the things they can do. Walk, run, dance, jump, skip, leap, frolic, stretch, squat, kick, lunge, tiptoe... and so much more! It's astonishing when you stop to think about it... these mechanical powerhouses that move us about in this world. I know, I know... you're probably sitting there thinking "they're just legs, Melissa. everyone's got a pair."

But the truth is--- not everyone does. Not everyone has been gifted with a pair of functional legs. I know this hard truth firsthand, because my own grandmother was wheelchair-ridden far too early in her life. She struggled with illness the majority of her life, and she spent more years in a wheelchair than years out of one. She was, however, a remarkable woman, and while she was not blessed with the ability to use her legs for much of her life--- instead, she was blessed with an innate inner strength, a pure heart filled with love, and many people around her to support her.

My grandmother... I love her and miss her more than anything!
She has been an inspiration for me, and she's motivated me throughout my life. Today, I wanted to share that same inspiration and motivation with you all as well. When she was young, my grandmother loved to dance--- and when she no longer could, she never complained about it. She didn't bitch or moan or whine. Rather, she learned to dance with her spirit, her heart, and her soul instead. And I know, in my heart of hearts, that she is in heaven right now--- looking down on me. So I dance for her (yes, that video is of me!), and I run for her. I live for her, and I love for her. I do all of these things for her--- because of her.

My challenge to you today is this: use your legs. They are a precious gift to you, so do not allow yourself to take them for granted one more day. Use them. To walk. To dance. To run. Something, anything, everything. And feel grateful for it--- because no matter what you choose to do, no matter how big or how small, you are doing something that not everyone out there can do.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cajun Shrimp Stew (Crockpot Recipe!)

I had (just about) the perfect afternoon. I spent a relaxing afternoon at the spa, and afterwards I felt so refreshed that I hit up the gym. I got in an AMAZING run on the treadmill, then I came home to get in another workout. I'm feeling great!

So tonight's clean eats dinner recipe is another cajun dish; this one, however, utilizes a slow cooker. If you recall, of course, I got several requests for slow cooker recipes, so this is one of the dishes I dreamed up--- cajun shrimp stew!

Cajun Shrimp Stew (Serves 2)

8 Ounces shrimp
1/2 Red onion, roughly sliced
1 Garlic clove, chopped
1 Celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 Bell pepper (red or green), coarsely chopped
1 Large tomato (or 2 small tomatoes), coarsely chopped
1/4 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 Teaspoon cumin

In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients except the shrimp. Cook on high for 3 hours. Add in the shrimp, and continue to cook on high for an 30 additional minutes. Serve the cajun shrimp stew over brown rice, whole wheat pasta, or over spaghetti squash or with vegetables for low carb options. I served mine over corn grits cakes (I just whipped up some corn grits, then baked them in a ramekin for 10 minutes in the oven--- they came out nice and crispy!). Delicious!

I hope you guys enjoy!

Chocolate Stuffed Peanut Butter Protein Pancakes... Sinfully Good--- Yet Clean!

A long time ago someone had the ingenious idea to combine chocolate and peanut butter. This, of course, resulted in one of the tastiest combinations known to man--- so sinfully good that I'm convinced this idea was somehow influenced by the work of the devil! I've always had a raging sweet tooth, and the chocolate and peanut butter combo has always had its seductive allure. So what is a clean eater like myself to do? Bury myself in a bag of Reese's Cups? No thanks! Instead, I choose clean alternatives like these delicious pancakes... chocolate stuffed peanut butter protein pancakes! Yummylicious, right?! You know the drill--- keep scrolling for the recipe!

Chocolate Stuffed Peanut Butter Protein Pancakes (Serves 1)

Peanut Butter Pancakes:
1/2 Cup Big Train Low Carb Pancake/Waffle Mix
1 Scoop Peanut Butter whey protein powder (I used About Time/SDC Nutrition)
1 Tablespoon unsweetened applesauce
2 Egg Whites
1/2 Cup water

Chocolate Filling:
1/2 Cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt (a clean variety, please!)
4 Packets of Truvia/Stevia
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Optional: carob chips as garnish

In a bowl, mix together pancake ingredients. Spoon batter by 1/4 cup increments onto a pan over high heat, cooking the pancakes on both sides--- until all of the batter is used. Set the pancakes aside, and, in another bowl, mix together the chocolate filling ingredients. Coat each peanut butter pancake with a layer of chocolate filling, alternating until all of the pancakes have been used. Garnish with a final dollop of the chocolate filling or with a sprinkling of carob chips if desired. Yum!

I'm off to the spa again today. I know, I know... I was just there last week! But the hydrotherapy felt so good on my aching hip, I just had to make another appointment! Of course, I got in my workout, as usual, bright and early this morning--- shoulders today! I blasted those babies to hell and back. Tell me guys, what's on your clean eats menu and your workout schedule for today? Muddy Melissa wants to know!
My fur baby making a cameo in today's pic!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sweet Vanilla Cinnamon Brown Rice Breakfast Bowl... with Protein! (Crockpot Recipe!)

It's a blizzard here today, so NO GYM FOR ME! I'm not risking life and limb for it! But does that mean no workout? No freakin' way! It's my favorite day... LEG DAY! And you know what they say, right? You can't spell legendary without leg day! So there is no way this girl is skipping her leg day. I did my leg weightlifting routine in my home gym bright and early this morning! Now... onto the breakfast recipe for the day!

We all know the wonders of brown rice--- it's high in fiber which helps you feel fuller longer, and its a whole grain which means it hasn't been processed to heck and back. As people start eating healthy, brown rice quickly becomes a staple for most. But the old chicken, veggies, and brown rice meal can get very old very fast. So what to do? Chuck the brown rice out the window in frustration because you can't fathom eating plain old brown rice one more time? No way! Here's an alternative way to incorporate this healthy carb, high in selenium, manganese, and antioxidants, into your diet--- brown rice breakfast bowls!

Move over savory brown rice... here comes sweet brown rice!
Okay, okay... I know what you're thinking: "brown rice? for breakfast? Muddy Melissa, I had my suspicions, but you've just confirmed it--- you're crazy!" No denying that, guys! But I have to say, this dish is delicious! You've had savory brown rice before, now give sweet brown rice a chance too. This brown rice breakfast bowl is sweet, cinnamon-y, with a hint of vanilla. And, of course, it incorporates protein powder for a balanced meal. Oh, and the best part? It's a snap to make--- just an hour in the slow cooker! Perfect to pop in the slow cooker before you hop in the shower to start your day off! Onto the details now!

Sweet Vanilla Cinnamon Brown Rice Breakfast Bowl With Protein (Serves 2)

1/3 Cup brown rice
2 Scoops vanilla whey protein (I used About Time/SDC Nutrition's protein powder in Birthday Cake)
1/2 13.66 Ounce can of light coconut milk
2/3 Cup Unsweetened vanilla almond milk
3 Truvia/Stevia packets
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon

In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients, except for the vanilla whey protein powder. Cook on high for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The brown rice is ready once the majority of the liquid has been absorbed. Just before serving, stir in the vanilla whey protein powder Serve with some additional cinnamon and stevia sprinkled on top as garnish. Eat and enjoy!

Nutrition information calculated using the SparkPeople recipe calculator
See? It couldn't be simpler! This breakfast bowl is a sweet way to start your day off with a healthy balance of carbs and protein--- perfect for a pre-workout breakfast! I hope you guys enjoy this recipe!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Cajun Seared Salmon

Tonight's dinner recipe incorporates one of my favorite sources of protein: salmon. Salmon is delicious, filled with body-fueling goodies such as iron, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and more! Not to mention that salmon is a great source of essential omega-3 fatty acids--- you know, those healthy fats our body needs that have been linked to lowering blood pressure and bad cholesterol, promoting heart health as a whole, as well as reducing the risk of diabetes, osteoporosis, and arthritis. Oh, and it's yummy to boot! Score, right?! Now, into the recipe guys!

Cajun Seared Salmon (Serves 2)

2 Salmon Fillets (Roughly 8 ounces)
1/3 Cup onion, chopped
1/3 Cup sweet peppers, chopped
1 Cup tomatoes, chopped
1 Garlic clove, chopped
1/2 Tablespoon cajun seasoning
Additional cajun seasoning to taste

In a lightly oiled pan over the stove, cook the onions, peppers, and garlic over high heat until tender. Add in the tomatoes and cajun seasoning, and continue to cook until the tomatoes are soft. Meanwhile, sprinkle the salmon fillets with additional cajun seasoning as desired (I like mine basically coated with cajun seasoning!). In a separate lightly oiled (and very hot) pan, sear the salmon fillets briefly on both sides. Remove the salmon fillets from the pan, and place the salmon fillets in the cajun sauce. Cover the pan, and allow the fish to cook over low heat. After about 10 minutes, the salmon should become flakey. Serve the salmon with the cajun sauce. This would be great served over a bit of quinoa, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta! Yum!
I used SparkPeople's recipe calculator to calculate this recipe's nutritional info!
I personally didn't add any carbs to my dish; I enjoyed it as is--- no carbs needed! I'm pretty carb-sensitive, so I almost always opt for low carb options. But this dish was super tasty, and the salmon came out perfect--- crispy seared on the outside, flakey moist on the inside. And the cajun sauce? The perfect match! I hope you guys enjoy this recipe!

I had physical therapy this afternoon--- more heat and ultrasound treatments! I've got another appointment tomorrow morning too. But you know this girl, and nothing stops me! I had a blast with some hurricane training outdoors (yup, in the 20 degree weather!) today. I absolutely love hurricane training, and its, hands down, one of my favorite workouts I've come up with over the years. I also hit the weights, and worked out my chest and triceps today! I'm feeling awesome--- how about all of you guys out there?

I'm Taking Recipe Requests!

Alright guys, I know what I love to eat, but I want to know what YOU love to eat too! I don't run this blog just for myself; I do it for all of you guys out there, and I want to make sure I'm providing you with clean recipes for foods you actually WANT to eat! You know, food that you look forward to--- that doesn't make you feel deprived just because you're eating "health food."  So I'm taking requests for recipes... Yup, that's right, I want to hear what recipes YOU want! You can suggest a dish you'd like to see a healthier version of (no promises though, guys... I'm a clean eats wizard, but not even I can make deep fried ice cream healthy!), you can name an ingredient you'd like to see used in a recipe, or you can make whatever other suggestions you see fit!

Some recipe inquiries I've gotten thus far include:

- Crock Pot Recipes
- Kid Friendly Recipes (I'm not gonna lie--- this will be a doozy for me! As someone who is CFBC, I don't know what kids will/won't eat! I might have to round up my niece and nephews as taste testers for this one, methinks!)
- More Desserts

So, come on guys, let's hear it--- what meals would you like to see on Muddy Melissa's menu? I'm looking forward to hearing what you guys cook up for me to cook up!