For the last several years I’ve been delving further and further into living a healthy lifestyle, one that encompasses wellness through physical fitness and a healthy diet. I do a wide range of physical exercise, everything from P90X to running and hiking, with yoga really moving into the forefront as of late. Over the past six months I’ve been practicing 3 to 5 times a week and have actually set a long-term goal for myself of one day becoming a yoga instructor. As most of my yoga learning has been through DVDs and YouTube videos, the need for a good local instructor seems like the next logical step.

Recently, I took a ViCrownyasa yoga class at a local facility and, unfortunately, it was a disaster! My wife and I walked into a fairly full class, maybe 25 people, of which I was one of only two men. After a couple of moments of being seated on our mats, the instructor had us come to our feet, perform a forward bend into downward dog, plank, chaturanga, and then….cobra pose? From cobra pose she instructed us to “fold forward”, at which point I looked up to see what she meant which was apparently to lay face down, nose pressed into mat. I was a bit thrown off, this was my fourth yoga class and the first time I had ever encountered anything like this, I had never even seen this done in any of the dozens of videos I have tried. Okay, maybe she has a few variations. I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, but by the third and fourth consecutive time we did this I was beginning to grow a little concerned.

Several times early on in this calss we came to our feet and did several standing back bends, which she didn’t always call by name, sometimes only instructing us to “open and lift the heart”. Between all the cobras and standing back bends in such a short period of time, I was beginning to have a difficult time trusting her. About halfway through the class the really awkward moments began to happen. We had just done warrior one into a twist with our left leg forward, when she instructed us to do the same exact side, again. She caught herself and asked the class “did we just do this side”? Several people in the class spoke up and informed her of this error; she half apologized with a little lighthearted laughter and made the correction. After the second time she made a mistake like this I turned and looked at my wife who gave me a look of “WTF?”. Within the next 10 minutes, she made three of four more mistakes similar to this one, basically forgetting which side of a pose we had just done.

Okay, I can understand making a mistake like this, maybe once in a class, I suppose, even twice. But after the third and fourth time it’s obvious that this instructor is either: a.) very new to yoga instruction, b.) having a very bad day, c.) on drugs, or d.) all of the above.

Moving a little further into this quickly evolving yogic nightmare the instructor asked us to do a standing forward bend, grab our ankles, and then take four baby steps backwards, and then forward. Again, WTF?! A couple of moments later she instructed us to do a forward bend, grab the left ankle with the right hand, right angle with the left hand, and then twist to the left side looking under the left shoulder. This felt very unnatural to me, until the girl next to me spoke up notifying the class (and instructor) that “this only works if the left arm is over the right arm”, to which the teacher agreed. Again, WTF?

A little while later, she instructed us to do crow. A few minutes later, the music stopped playing, and she told us that we could “just do crow again if you’d like”, while she changed the music. Nearing an hour into this “guess which confusing pose we’re going to do next” Yoga disaster, I noticed a couple of students rolling up their mats and leaving, and my wife and I used this opportunity to leave, as well.

After the class, we started dissecting all the problems with this class, which went far beyond just a couple of mistakes about which side of the pose we had just done. With only a few exceptions the class was halfway into a pose before she would actually call it by name, many times not even putting a title with the pose. Because of this, many participants of the class had to keep looking up to see what to do, myself included. She didn’t recommend any modifications, either. Her breathing instructions – inhale, now exhale seemed too close together, didn’t flow well with the movements of the class, and sometimes conflicted with the poses. For instance, when we did tabletop to cat pose she told us to inhale while we were pushing our backs towards the ceiling.

I know that every yoga instructor is going to have their own style, but for a basic Vinyasa flow class we didn’t even do some of the most basic poses like warrior two or three or chair pose, let alone a single balance pose. Because of the way she gave instructions (or lack thereof), proper body alignment was very difficult throughout much of this class. There was no “stack the shoulders”, “square the hips”, “lengthen both sides of the torso”, “press your lower back into the mat”.

While I am fairly new to yoga and have learned primarily through instructional videos, I do have a good understanding of the basics and consider myself a beginning intermediate. This was my fourth yoga class with an actual instructor. My first yoga class was last summer, and a great one. The instructor was spot on, exceptional. Two of the other classes I took, all at different studios, were okay, not as good as my first class, but not terrible. This class was frighteningly bad! I left the class frustrated and feeling like I didn’t even get in a good workout, even though the back of my head and neck ached. I am convinced that I could have walked to the front of that class at any point and done a better job just winging it than this “instructor”.

At one point midway through the class I remember turning to my wife and softly saying “do you want to go?” She shook her head no, let’s stay. Looking back, I realized that if we had left only a short way into this class it would’ve disrupted the energy in the room, it could have thrown the teacher even further off balance and made it even more difficult for those who stayed. But by staying, we did some temporary damage to our bodies, as my wife also had neck and back pain after this class. Aside from the overall lack of flow and commonsense poses, this was no doubt due to the constant looking up required to figure out what the hell was going on. I wonder how many other people at this class had some unnecessary pain and discomfort because of this bad instruction.

How does this happen? Out of my four yoga class experiences I’ve witnessed a wide range in the quality of instruction – one top-notch instructor, two middle of the road instructors (one who was actually reading many of his instructions verbatim from a notebook), and one instructor who had no business leading a class. Although I left this class with a bad taste in my mouth, I did learn some things and was eventually inspired and empowered. I learned that a yoga class can actually be dangerous and can cause injury to its participants. I learned the importance of finding a great instructor, and that; perhaps one should do some research before jumping into a class, cold. The absence of some obvious essentials reinforced the need for instructors to provide great attention to detail in a yoga class. And through this difficult experience I now feel even more inspired to continue my search for a great instructor.

 

Today is Super Bowl Sunday! After much discussion over the past few weeks we settled on a slightly less than traditional Super Bowl feast — a Chinese Buffet :) I’ll be making (all as healthy as possible…but this is a special occasion so….):

Chicken Fingers – Steak Teriyaki – Teriyaki Chicken Wings – Veggie Fried Rice – Egg Rolls – Duck Sauce – Chinese Gravy

I’ll be posting more photos and recipes later, but for now here is my Duck Sauce recipe. Eric loves duck sauce, but the store bought varieties are basically nothing but high-fructose corn syrup so he challenged me to make a healthy one. It passed the first taste test as I was preparing it and it’s now cooling in the fridge awaiting kick off.

Chinese Duck Sauce

Duck Sauce

1 cup apricot jam (I used All Fruit)
1 Tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ginger poweder
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon honey (I used Agave)
1/3 cup water (approximately – add slowly until you get a slightly thinner sauce than you want – it will thicken again when it’s cool)

Whisk the ingredients together well in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil on low heat; stirring almost constantly. Cool the sauce and store in the refrigerator.

Salmon Scampi

Salmon Scampi

Salmon Scampi

 

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons margarine (I use Smart Balance Light)
2 – 6 oz. Salmon filets
1/2 cup onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 leaves fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup white wine (or you can eliminate the wine and use 2 cups of chicken broth)
1-1/2 cups fat free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti, cooked according to package directions (no salt)

Heat the olive oil over medium in a skillet, melt in the butter. Add Salmon; season with a little cracked black pepper and  a sprinkle of  garlic powder. Saute over medium heat and break up the filets as they cook. When the Salmon  is about half cooked add onions and continue sauteing until the salmon is almost done and the onions are soft. Now add the garlic, pepper flakes, basil; continue sauteing for another minute or two. Add the wine to deglaze the pan and then add the broth and simmer for 3 – 4 minutes. Pour entire mixture over cooked pasta; mix well. Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan!

I just recently started making some recipes in my crock pot and I can’t believe I went without it for so long! I love putting it together in the morning and then having a delicious meal at the end of the day. I can work later in the day, still get in a great workout (I just started P90X3…more about that in another post), shower or a hot bath, and then sit down to a yummy hot meal. I’ve always loved baked beans, but I haven’t owned a bean pot in years so I haven’t made them. Give this recipe a try and let me know how you like it.

Baked Beans

Baked Beans

1 pound navy beans

The first thing you’ll need to do is soak your beans. I never remember to do this the night before, so I use the “quick soak” method. Rinse your beans in a strainer; looking for bad beans, rocks, dirt, etc. Dump the beans into a large stockpot and cover with about 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then let them continue to boil for 2 minutes; then take off the heat, cover, and let them sit for 1 hour. After the hour, drain and rinse the beans and they are ready for the recipe.

Navy beans, prepared as instructed
6 oz. can tomato paste, no salt added
1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Chicken or Vegetable Stock, low sodium

Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray. Combine all ingredients into cooker; mix well. Add enough stock to cover to about 1/2″ above beans. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 – 9 hours or HIGH for 4 to 5 hours. That’s it :)

This is a really easy and yummy variation of traditional Shepherd’s Pie using ground turkey, jalapenos, Mexican spices, beans, and corn; topped off with cheesy cornbread instead of mashed potatoes! When I serve it, I like to top it with plain Greek yogurt and avocado slices  ;)

Mexican Shepherd’s Pie

Mexican Shepherds Pie

Mexican Shepherds Pie

1-1/2 lbs. ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small jalapenos, minced
1 Tablespoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1 – 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 – 15 oz. can black beans, drained
1 – 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 – 13 oz. can creamed corn, no salt added
1 cup frozen corn
1 – 8 oz. can tomato sauce, no salt added

Cheesy Corn Bread:

1 cup whole grain cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup skim milk
2 eggs (or 1/2 cup of egg substitute)
1/2 cup canola oil
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 450° Spray a 9″ x 13″ pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Brown ground turkey over medium heat, when it’s about 3/4 done; add onion and continue cooking until the turkey is cooked through and the onions are soft. Add garlic and jalapenos to the pan and saute for a few minutes; until the garlic is slightly soft (be careful not to burn the garlic). Add the spices and mix well. Add the beans, corn (both types), tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Mix well.

Combine all cornbread ingredients in a bowl and stir until mostly smooth ( a few lumps are ok).

Pour turkey mixture into prepared pan, top with cornbread. Spread the cornbread evenly over the turkey mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cornbread is golden brown.

 

My sister, Debbie, makes the best potato salad on the planet…..ask anyone who’s ever tasted it. Since we live about 1,200 miles away right now – I’ve had to adapt and learn to make my own. I won’t even pretend that I can compete with hers…but I think this is pretty tasty…and it even has a “kick”. I like to serve it on a bed of mixed greens to give it some extra goodness, but that’s just me ;)

Potato Salad

Potato Salad with Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Potato Salad with Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

 

5 or 6 medium red potatoes, cut into bite size pieces – big bites :)
4 large eggs, boiled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion (I used sweet, but red is awesome also)
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I use  Trader Joe’s vegan mayo)
3 Tablespoons plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1 – 1/2 teaspoons Wasabi mayonnaise (more if you dare)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
Place the potatoes in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander and rinse with cold water.Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, Wasabi mayo, garlic powder, pepper, and salt. Set aside.Place the potatoes in a large bowl,  add eggs, celery, onion, and garlic; toss well. Add the dressing and mix very well. Cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.

 

This is the recipe that Eric calls “The Best Tilapia Ever”! It’s easy to make and tastes awesome. I posted this photo on my Facebook page last night and I’ve had a ton of people message me for the recipe…so here it is:

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia with Homemade Potato Salad

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia with Homemade Potato Salad

4 Tilapia Fillets
1/4 cup egg substitute (or 1 egg)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon each of:

  • oregeno
  • basil
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°, place a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet, spay with cooking spray.

Place egg substitute in a shallow bowl. Mix cheese, cornmeal and spices and place onto a large plate. Dip filets in egg, then dredge in cheese mixture. Place fillets onto prepared rack. Bake for 10 -15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. That’s it!! Enjoy :)

 

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted! Life and work just keep getting in my way! A few weeks ago it was one of those nights when I’d stayed too late in my office and I had very little time to make a yummy, healthy dinner. I peered into the frig hoping for some inspiration and it hit me! I had a bunch of leftover taco mixture (check out his delicious and healthy recipes for tacos) :) Taco Pie! So simple – so tasty – so quick! Just what I needed!

 

Taco Pie

1 – 100% whole wheat pie crust (I use Wholly Wholesome from Whole Foods
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 – 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 – 8 oz. can tomato sauce, no salt added
3 -4 cups left over taco mixture (recipe here – trust me, unless you fed an army, you will have left overs from this recipe!)
2/3 cup low fat Mexican cheese blend- divided (I use Trader Joe’s Shredded Lite Mexican Blend)
3 -4 left over taco shells, coarsely crushed (I use Trader Joe’s Shells – only 3 ingredients!)

Preheat oven to 375°

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add black beans saute for 3 – 4 minutes; as they start to get warm you want to mush them up a bit. Add the tomato sauce, taco mixture, and 1/3 cup of cheese. Blend well and heat through. Pour everything into your pie crust. Spread crushed taco shells over the top and then sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup of cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Serve with your favorite salsa and plain fat free yogurt (or sour cream). :)

This is a delicious – meatless soup full of protein, fiber, and flavor! Just throw it together into a slow cooker and at the end of the day you have an amazing meal…fair warning….if you are going to be home all day, the smell is going to drive you crazy!!

Curried Lentil Soup

2 cups lentils rinsed
1 can – 15 1/2 oz. diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3 bay leaves

Place all ingredients into a 4-quart (or larger) slow cooker. Stir really well to combine. Cover. Cook on low 8 to 10 hours or high for 4 to 5 hours or until lentils are tender. Yum :)

I found the idea for this recipe a few weeks ago and it took me this long to find “Chipotle” peppers in my supermarket!  I’ve been making my “Kelly’s Famous Chili” for many years and loving it; so I was  a little hesitant to try something completely different. I’m so glad I did :) Eric and I only eat poultry and fish, but my son is a big red meat fan; I wasn’t sure how a vegetarian chili would fare – well it was a hit. It has a great texture (you don’t miss the meat at all), it’s very thick and creamy, and it’s got an awesome slow burn that will have you slightly sweating after a few bites. I hope some of you will give it try and let me know what you think. You will notice that there is no photo, this is because it was so delicious that we all dug in and ate it all before we realized we’d forgotten to photograph it. I’ll be making it again soon and I’ll add photos ;-)

**UPDATE** new photo :)

Chipotle Chili

1 pound sweet potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder
2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
2 – 14-1/2 oz cans diced tomatoes, no salt added
2 whole chipotle peppers, chopped
1 – 8oz. can tomato sauce, no salt added
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 cup frozen corn
1 – 14oz. can creamed corn, no salt added
1 – 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 – 16 oz. can chick peas, rinsed and drained

Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil. Saute the onions until lightly caramelized. Add the garlic and sweet potato and cook for an additional 3 -4 minutes or until the sweet potatoes get lightly browned (be careful not to burn the garlic). Add the chili powder, cumin and chipotle powder and cook for an additional 2 -3 minutes (stir frequently). Add the chicken broth (scrape up any little browned bits on the bottom of the pan – I just learned that these are called “fond” and they are full of flavor). Turn up the heat to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the sweet potatoes are just getting soft (you don’t want them to be completely cooked). Add the tomatoes, chipotle peppers, tomato sauce Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce. Simmer for 10 – 12 minutes or until it begins to thicken slightly. Add the corn an beans. Mix well and let cook for an additional 5 minutes or so.

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