Friday, October 12, 2012

Crave-worthy: Product review {+giveaway}

Mark isn't proud to admit it but he's dependent on processed foods. He takes frozen dinners for lunch, cookies and Nutrigrain for the afternoon and lived on Zatarains and frozen pizza before we got married.

As for breakfast? He's happy to make a Jimmy Dean sandwich and content to pop in a few frozen waffles.

This morning, though, he found himself out of the breakfast sandwiches he bought when he went grocery shopping and there were no backup waffles to be consumed. I am sure he was probably dreaming up a trip to McDonald's for breakfast burritos and coffee but I decided to be nice.

adjective, nic·er, nic·est. 
1. pleasing; agreeable; delightful: a nice visit.
2. amiably pleasant; kind: They are always nice to strangers.
3. characterized by, showing, or requiring great accuracy, precision, skill, tact, care, or delicacy: nice workmanship; a nice shot; a nice handling of a crisis.
4. showing or indicating very small differences; minutely accurate, as instruments: a job that requires nice measurements.
5. Making Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes for your husband and son before having a cup of coffee.

I seriously love these pancakes - they are easy to make, don't require any eggs and are a great way to use up the funkalicious banana that's hanging on the edge.

Oh, and they taste great. They taste even greater when you swap out traditional peanut butter for a half-cup of PB Crave's Cocoa Bananas Peanut Butter. Because, again, I'm nice.

I recently got the chance to try the PB Crave varieties - Razzle Dazzle, Cookie Nookie, Choco Choco and, of course, Cocoa Bananas.

About PB Crave

PB Crave is an all-natural, premium peanut butter that is "amazingly" addictive. There are no artificial preservatives, hydrogenated oils, syrups or high fructose corn syrup. It is also gluten and cholesterol free. PB Crave is a subsidiary of Sweet Harvest Foods, a nearly-90 year-old company located in Minnesota. A new and separate plant was built to craft the dizzying blends of premium peanut butters using cutting edge technology and innovation to insure that top quality ingredients reach the package and the consumer in the form they were blended. When you open a jar, you’ll see the pure Belgium chips, yet when you spread the product on bread, it will spread deliciously smooth with little to zero chunks. This craft has been perfected and consumers have given the product rave reviews for taste, quality, and price, especially when you factor in, no jelly needed.

What we thought

I say we because, again, I'm nice and I shared. To say this peanut butter was a hit in our house would be the understatement of the century. The PB Crave seriously elevated the pancakes this morning, and I'm down to a half jar of Razzle Dazzle because it is sublime on a piece of Ezekiel 4:9. Flax Sprouted Whole Grain Bread with blackberry all-fruit spread. (Yes, jelly might not be required but don't take away my blackberry preserves.) Confession: I eat at least one of these combos a day, whether I'm hungry or not.

The Cookie Nookie didn't lend itself to sandwiches in my mind but I loved it in a simple oatmeal breakfast: 1/3 banana and 1/3 cup oats cooked with 2/3 cup water, 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk, cinnamon and pinch of salt. Once it's to the desired consistency, add sweetener of choice and 1/2 teaspoon maple extract. Top with Cookie Nookie and, if you feel sassy, some chocolate chips (or sprinkles leftover from your son's first birthday party in July).

Some of my favorite things about PB Crave, though, aren't even about the flavor. My favorite things are what's in the jar and where I can get it. It isn't any more caloric than traditional peanut butters, and I can pronounce all of the ingredients. While so many of the fancy flavored nut butters are only available online or at stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, PB Crave is available in northeast Indiana. I spotted it at Fresh Market. (It is available, too, at Whole Foods and Earth Fare if you live somewhere cool.)

If my opinion isn't good enough,check out Celebrity Chef Andrew Zimmern's OpenSky Page and video review

Remember how I said I was nice? Well, PB Crave is, too. The company is giving one lucky reader a CoCo Banana Variety Pack. (Value $20.97)

To enter

Mandatory: Visit the PB Crave website and, in a comment, tell me which variety you would most like to try.

Additional entries (leave a comment for each of the following, up to 4): Like PB Crave on Facebook; follow PB Crave on Twitter; follow me on Twitter; tweet about this giveaway, being sure to mention @PBCrave and @healthy_strides.

Nitty gritty: Giveaway is open to U.S. residents living in the lower 48 states and ends Friday, Oct. 19, at midnight. The winner will be selected via random number generator and announced on Monday, Oct. 22. The winner will have 72 hours to email me shipping information or a new winner will be chosen. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Void where prohibited by law.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Step up in 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1

I showed up at the gym tonight ready to teach.

Just one thing: BODYPUMP is Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays.

But my name was still on the schedule, and I was still teaching :)

The gym owner had to do some shuffling as one tumbling instructor is injured and another was going on her honeymoon, and she asked whether I'd be interested in putting together a specialty class. The classes improve strength, endurance and cardiovascular health in addition to burning fat. They are often taught in an interval/boot camp style.

My answer? Well, yes, of course.

While I'm not a certified personal trainer (again, an idea), I felt confident teaching a class with the knowledge I've gained going through BODYPUMP training, taking classes and studying fitness in my spare time. My goal was to keep the heart rate elevated while working on strength. I considered doing tabata-style workout but as we have a lot of fitness levels, I didn't think that the style would allow me to adequately demonstrate proper technique. Instead, I went with a circuit workout that allowed participants to learn a move in a modified format then repeat it up to speed later in the circuit.

Note No. 1: I had the regular teacher, a certified PT, look over the workout before leading it.

As one of them said, the workout made her feel her muscles and got her sweating.

Start with a 5-minute warmup - we did a march, heel digs, toe touches, arm circles and front kicks - and then begin the circuit. I did a lot of this on the bench to channel my inner Jane Fonda and maybe have a reason to pick up the clearance leg warmers I saw at Target. Because those would be hot.

Note No. 2: For the arm exercises, repeat as time allows. Feel free to repeat the circuit twice for time or just once for a quick workout. And don't forget to cool down stretch!

I'll be subbing again next week, and I'm excited to tweak this even more, adding some compound movements.

Do you have any favorite circuit exercises?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Soup's on: Slow Cooker Smoky Potato Chowder

There's a fire in my belly, and it feels so warm and comforting on these decidedly fall days.

Once the temperatures start to dip and the days grow shorter, there's nothing I crave more than soup. Hot, hearty, satisfying soup. Paired with a sandwich or salad, it's the perfect weeknight dinner and the leftovers offer quick and healthy lunches for the week.

I've had a bag of potatoes in the pantry that were getting close to shriveling up and sprouting eyes, and I figured that there would be no better way to save them than to put them in a soup.

Potato soup, obviously.

We all know, though, that potato soup has a reputation for being rich and calorie-laden but a few tweaks - and a lot of flavor - bring it down to size. Cumin, garlic, fire-roasted corn and diced tomatoes with green chiles offer an unexpected twist on what I'm calling Slow Cooker Smoky Potato Chowder.

I served it up to one hungry boy and one hungry girl (soup is too much effort on my part to give to Miles) and both of us would have been ready for seconds had it not been so filling.

We enjoyed the chowder with sandwiches. Turkey and tomatoes on white with mustard for him; turkey, tomato, mixed greens, broccoli sprouts and a smear of light mayonnaise on Ezekiel 4:9 Spouted Whole Grain Flax Bread.

Now tell me - whose sandwich looks better?

I normally eat a light wheat bread that has 35 calories per slice but I had a chance to try the Ezekiel bread. I have to say the chewy texture and nutty flavor was a welcome departure for me. It was hearty enough that I just needed one slice and, at 80 calories, it wasn't a diet buster.

Good thing, too, because I am OBSESSED with this blood orange sorbet from Kroger's Private Selection line. It might be cool enough for soup but it's never to cold for ice cream.

Slow Cooker Smoky Potato Chowder

2 pounds Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf
2 cups broth, vegetarian or chicken
1 (12-ounce) can fat-free evaporated milk or equal amount non-dairy cream
1 cup frozen fire-roasted corn, thawed
1 can diced tomatoes with chiles, drained

In the slow cooker, add chopped potatoes and chopped onion. Sprinkle with cumin and garlic powder. Toss in bay leaf and pour broth over top of everything. The broth will not cover the potatoes. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until the potatoes are soft. Add evaporated milk to slow cooker. Puree the potato-milk mixture with stick blender or in batches in a traditional blender. Add corn and drained tomatoes. Cook for 20 minutes on high or until the flavors meld and everything is hot. Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 235 calories, 0 grams fat, 49 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein

Monday, October 8, 2012

Marathon Monday: Time - it's of the essence

I am training for the Columbus Marathon and following a schedule based on the "Train Like A Mother" finish it plan. These posts document my training. 

The week, in running:

Monday: 5.1 miles, easy (+stroller)
Wednesday: 6 miles, easy (+stroller)
Thursday: 12 miles, long run (+stroller for 4 miles)
Friday: 4 miles, negative splits
Sunday: 4.27 miles, hilly (+stroller)

◊ ◊ ◊ 

I'm feeling cranky pants today.

I slept for crap this weekend; my legs are still insanely sore from Saturday's BODYPUMP class; I threw a big pity party last night that I never get to go out to the movies; my hands smell like onions from prepping dinner this morning; and I discovered I left my wallet at work during a lunch-time shopping trip to Target but only after I decided to be irresponsible and put two new outfits on the credit card.

And, I discovered that cookies have calories. Seriously the world is not with me lately. I might as well go hide in a cave and wait for spring.

Of course, that doesn't make for good blogging - and neither does this mood. However, with Columbus just 13 days out and the "Train Like a Mother" plan in the thick of tapering, I thought it would be a good idea to bring you into the darkness while I set some goals for the marathon.

Goal No. 1: Don't die. Fairly self-explanatory but my main objective is to get over the line healthy and preferably happy without pooping my pants.

Goal No. 2: Same as the first but with the addition of a time element. I'll be satisfied if I can do this thing in less than 4 hours, 30 minutes. It seems like a fairly conservative goal - it's a 10:18 pace, and I've been running long runs about 30 seconds faster - but I feel like I've had a long taper (drawback to TLAM) and don't want to put unreasonable expectations on myself.

Goal No. 3: If I did want to put unreasonable expectations on myself, I'd shoot for the 4:03:48 McMillan says I can do with my recent Fort4Fitness time but again long taper and I'm a cranky pants. I think a challenging yet reasonable time will be 4:15 - a 9:44 pace.

Of course, a 4:14:53 would best P. Diddy's time by a second and therefore earn me all of his fame and fortune. Obviously.

Then I wouldn't have to worry about leaving my wallet at home and not splurging on two Target outfits. I'd probably still be cranky but at least I'd have some rockin' duds and a killer marathon time.