Thug Kitchen Cookbook Review

The best &$(%&# cookbook in the *%&#)$ #&%)#*&$ world!

Please excuse the profanity, but in this case I feel it is appropriate to describe my new favorite cookbooks. If the profanity didn’t give it away, I am talking about the Thug Kitchen series of cookbooks. At best I am a reluctant cook, forced into duty by my family, making basic meals commonly found in 1950 kitchens. For a number of reasons (there are some very compelling reasons that I won’t get into here, just google it), we have been trying to cut out meat for about half our dinners. Reducing meat consumption sounds easy, but it’s definitely not just not omitting the meat portion of the meal and serving as usual, but substituting alternate protein sources in place of the meat.

When it comes to these vegetarian meals I started out with a standard repertoire meals: stir fry related (mixed sautéed veggies over rice/quinoa/potatoes), burrito related (this can be anything wrapped in a tortilla), and omelets. Searching the internet for inspiration generally left me feeling inadequate; most of the recipes I found were complicated and had hard to find ingredients. But, the internet came through in the end and I saw the Thug Kitchen series mentioned on a fitness trainers fb page I frequent. The premise sounded intriguing, but to avoid jumping in and buying them outright, I cheated and checked them out of the library to make sure they would work for my family and cooking style.

The books are called Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F$@k; TK-Party Grub and TK 101-Fast as F&-K. As you can tell by the F bomb blurred out in the title, these books have a lot of swearing (I mean a lot, like every third word) so if you are cooking with children who can read, probably not the best source for vegan recipes.

Another nice part of each of the books is the “how to” aspect, they discuss how to cook basic beans, rice, quinoa, millet, barley separately from the recipes that use each grain. There are recipes for drinks, breakfast, appetizers, soups, main meals and of course dessert! The recipes are easy to follow, and even somebody with marginal kitchen skills can make a presentable and tasty vegan meal (I can say that because that is me). What I love is even though some recipes have a lot of ingredients and take some time, almost all the ingredients can be found at our normal grocery store. So far, I have only had to go to Whole Foods for two ingredients, and that’s over the course of making at least a dozen meals.

Besides trying to avoid meat, we are also trying to avoid fake food (like margarine, fake cheese etc.), and these books are great for that too. Since vegans don’t eat real cheese, I was wondering how they would deal with the missing dairy products. I am happy to report that they don’t use that weird fake cheese, but nutritional yeast (which I had never heard of), but have since learned has a ton of nutritional value (Google for more info). Most of the egg recipes substitute olive or grape seed oil for eggs, and there’s even a recipe for whipped cream which uses coconut milk. One substitution I haven’t made yet is using non-dairy milk (like almond) since we always have cow’s milk on hand. The recipes substituting cow’s milk for almond have turned out fine.

Did I mention the swearing? Well, the swearing combined with a spunky, yet helpful writing style makes this the first cookbook I have ever read from beginning to end. When choosing a recipe, or putting the book away, I catch myself reading the next page, either because the picture of a yummy new dish catches my eye, or the swearing looks extra intense….
After multiple renewals from the library, my husband the hunter/fisherman and all around carnivore bought all three books for me as a Christmas present, which I consider a pretty good endorsement.

In summary, just because I can’t choose a favorite, all three books are highly recommended as an addition to any cookbook library!


All Access Pass

What if I told you that you could have access to EVERY SINGLE BeachBody program ever created? Probably you would laugh, snort empahtically and mutter something about “next time I win the lottery”. Up until recently, I would totally agree, after all, it has taken me years, and I don’t know how much money to fill a shelf on our DVD rack with just a small portion of the BeachBody workouts. But, something magical happened, and BeachBody has decided to offer streaming access to their workouts. If access to your workout from anywhere isn’t good enough, they took it a step further and opened up streaming access every workout ever published! Wow!
This wonderful new program is called the All Access Pass and includes my old favorites like P90X, Insanity: Max 30, Piyo, Body Beast, Country Heat as well as ones I would like to try like Chalene Extreme and TurboJam.  All Access also includes the just released Core de Force (a mixed martial arts that uses no equipment) and other new release workouts!
At this point, I bet you are still standing by the “win the lottery” comment because access to all workouts sounds really expensive and only really there for the upper 1%, but the best part is one year of access to the All Access Pass is only $100 for a whole year! Plus, add a month of shakeology, and it is just $199!
No lottery winning required!

A quick breakdown of the math shows that by a (cough *conservative*) average, I buy two workouts per year, totaling well over $100. So subscribing to All Access will simultaneously allow me to spend less money, access more workouts, and keep my workouts fresh. Plus having a DVD rack is so 2000’s…..what’s not to like?
Hit me up if you have any questions about the service, how it works or how to get the most out of your subscription!image

Dehydrator Review

Rewind a year to a summer with no fruit on any local trees and boy were we annoyed. A fancy new dehydrator sitting there, and paying $5/pound for organic apples at Whole Foods in order to give it a test drive. This year is quite the opposite in terms of fruit; more free, organic fruit than we can possibly pick, so our dehydrator that runs every few days. Mainly we have been dehydrating apples, which are very easy and turn out to be a great snack, for both big and small people.
They are so easy, there really isn’t a recipe, but two tricks we have learned are to make sure the apples are cut a consistent thickness and soak them in a lemon juice/water mix to avoid having them turn brown. To make sure the slices are all the same thickness we have been peeling them (I know peels are healthy, but they don’t dry consistently along the skin if they aren’t peeled. Plus we compost the peels!). After peeling, use a coring tool that cuts the core out of the apple, leaving cylindrical core. Then slice the apples about 1/8″ thick perpendicular to the core, leaving an “O” shaped slice. Dunking them in lemon juice/water is pretty self-explanatory, not even sure how much juice to water to use, but a couple glugs of juice per medium sized bowl seems to work well. No matter how hard I try to keep the slices the same thickness, they are always dry at slightly different rates, so check them periodically and remove the dry slices before they get crispy. I think these apples taste as good as the store-bought variety, but I know where they came from, and the price is right too!
Once dry, keep the bulk of the dried fruit in the refrigerator to maximize shelf life. This simple workflow applies to most fruits, just ask Google whether the lemon juice bath is necessary.
Another fun (or boring depending on age) product that can be easily produced in a dehydrator is fruit leather. It involves a bit more work, as it requires making applesauce from the apples, then drying. It is another tasty, healthy snack, but is also the subject of another blog post.

22 Minute Hard Corps Review



Please indulge a moment of extreme de-motivational energy, but here goes:
I hate push-ups and burpees.
Whenever one of these two exercises pops up on part of my current workout, I tell myself, “burpees aren’t that bad…”, until I do a couple, and yup, sure enough, I was right, full on hate. Same with push-ups. I’m not sure why I hate them so much more than any other moves (some of which are more painful or harder), but that’s just the way it is.
That is all, now onto some positive workout related info….

Anyway, I am currently working out with a Tony Horton workout called 22 Minute Hard Corps. I decided to start this new program because for the past few weeks I’ve been feeling very unmotivated to commit myself to another 60 or 90 day workout with a program I have completed several times in the past couple years. I was randomly mixing up workout between P90X3, Piyo or a quick TurboFire HIIT, and (big surprise) I wasn’t feeling like the workouts were beneficial. I guess following a program is better than doing random workouts, who knew…

I have found that the best solution to solving low motivation is spending money on a new workout program, so I was looking around on the website and found a new boot camp/military style workout called 22 Minute Hard Corps. I really like it so far, and the best part is that it’s only 22 minutes long! Don’t think that because the workouts are only 22 minutes long this workout is easy, it’s not.
While each workout is only 22 minutes, they definitely get the job done! 22MHC includes as a lot of basic moves we all remember from gym class like pull ups, squats, lunges, some plyometrics, bear crawls, gorilla crawls (a killer leg workout) as well as the afore mentioned push-ups and burpees.
I also really like the fact that all the people on the DVD are from differently military branches (nothing but support for our men and women in uniform!), and they do all the workouts wearing a 22 Min Hard Corps shirt, camo pants and combat boots. The workouts are done in a cadence reminiscent of military drills (at least the ones I have seen on TV), with everyone counting plus a little drumming music in the background. The cadence is something I had to get use to as I’m not use to doing a workout by this style. Tony goes around counting and motivating the others. There are three rounds with 5-7 moves and a 22 second break. During the first round, there is someone to show a demo of the move including a modified version. There’s also a killer ab workout that’s done on the cardio days.
I highly recommend this workout for its intensity and relatively quick time table – it’s quick and gets the job done! The change I made that helps me get through it is turning on upbeat music in the background because I don’t like hearing the cadences. If you’re someone who is short on time or has a toddler running around, this is a great workout. Another plus is the required equipment is very basic, just a pull up bar, jump mat, and weights (or a sandbag), plus water and a towel…..

Here’s a preview of the workouts!


What is Bok Choy?

I must confess, leafy greens are my nemesis; I know they are among the healthiest foods available (superfoods anybody??), easy to find at the store and keep well in the fridge, but I just can’t get excited about kale (even fresh from our garden), spinach is only edible when cooked into a lasagna, and chard is just fancy spinach. With these unfounded biases firmly in my head as I perused this week’s box list, I saw bok Choy and immediately lumped it in with these other leafy greens. It took some coaxing and ridicule, but I was persuaded not to remove it from the list. Now, after using it for several different recipes this week, my initial apprehension has been upgraded to ‘this is pretty good…for a leafy green vegetable’ (just have to remember to say that last part).

I found it to be mild in flavor, although I don’t foresee myself eating it raw, as well as meaty enough to stand up to cooking while retaining some texture and flavor (unlike spinach, it is easy to pick out even when cooked along with other veggies). We got a single plant, which grows in a bunch, kind of like celery, but leafy, with stems wider than chard. Because the stems are wide and close together, a lot of dirt was caught on the inside of the lower stems, and definitely took some washing to avoid an extra crunchy meal.
Last week I made a sort of stir fry thing, combining it with other vegetables, then heaping over quinoa. I also added it to a tomato sauce used in an eggplant lasagna. Both dishes were well received at my house, so I am excited to add it to other dishes!


Along with my recipe research, I have uncovered some other fun facts about this exotic vegetable:

1. Bok choy is in the Chinese cabbage family, which also includes Napa cabbage. It is sometimes referred to as white cabbage, but be sure not to be confused it with Napa cabbage (a serious faux pas in vegetarian circles I am sure).
2. There are many kinds of bok choy that vary in color, taste, and size, including tah tsai and joi choi. Bok choy can also be spelled pak choi, bok choi, or pak choy.
3. The Chinese have been cultivating it for more than 5,000 years.
4. Although the veggie hails from China and is still grown there, it is now also harvested in California and parts of Canada.
5. Just like for most fresh vegetables, don’t wash until you’re ready to use it (don’t ask me why, but my thoroughly unscientific testing has shown it to be true). Unused parts can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 6 days.
6. Bok choi is packed with vitamins A and C. One cup of cooked bok choy provides more than 100% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of A, and close to two-thirds the RDA of C. This is a huge natural boost to the immune system, and I am a firm believer that consuming vitamins directly from vegetables are superior to taking a multi-vitamin, but that’s another blog post….
7. If you are thinking of growing your own, it takes about 2 months from planting to harvest, and thrives best in milder weather (shucks, not suited for the Reno climate).
8. Finally…..Bok choy is sometimes called a “soup spoon” because of the shape of its leaves.

The bottom line is I foresee more bok Choy on my families dinner table in the future, and recommend giving it a try as an alternative to the more common leafy greens.

Please share any bok choi recipes that I should try!

BeachBody on Demand

It happens to the best of us, just dont feel up to doing same workout from the same DVD. Probably tomorrow I will be back in the groove, but this morning I decided to try out one of Beachbody’s new workouts I have been reading about called Master’s Hammer and Chisel. But h
ow am I going to do that you ask? It wont be available until December you say…I say quit living in the past and check out Beachbody’s new streaming service-BeachBody on Demand (BOD)! Just in case you skipped my last post, BOD is a great perk available to anybody who opts to save money by buying a challenge pack!

I think of BOD like my most favorite 21st invention: Netflix, except for workouts. It’s great because it allows me to try out different workouts without any waiting or commitment required. Just be quick because Hammer and Chisel is only available for a limited time.

Two workouts are available-Iso Speed Hammer (taught by Sagi Kalev, known for Body Beast) and Total Body Chisel (taught by Autumn Calbrese, known for 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme). After trying it, I think Hammer and Chisel will live up to its name and be an amazing program. It is more intense than P90X/X3, and it is certainly enjoyable in a massochistic, slightly twisted way.

I’m also excited about BOD so I can try other workouts like Body Beast, Asylum, Tony Horton’s One on One, Turbo Jam by Chalene Johnson, even one of Tony’s newer workouts P90. So many variations, so little time. Of course I will still use my DVDs, but plan on streaming the workouts I don’t have, especially when a one day change up is what I need to add some pep to my workout.


Other workouts available by the trainers.

Other workouts available by the trainers.

Where I set up my BOD workouts.

Where I set up my BOD workouts.

Insanity: Max 30 Review

Just when I thought my workouts couldn’t get any more intense, I welcome Insanity: Max 30 to the mix. This is my first Shaun T (creator of Insanity, Rockin Body, Hip Hop Abs, Insanity: Asylum Volume 1 and 2) workout and I must say, this is the hardest cardio workout I’ve ever attempted. In the past I have cursed Tony and Chalene between labored breaths, but Shaun T has topped them all (it is very hard to cuss Shaun T-there just isn’t enough time between breaths!) Looking back, their workouts seem like a walk in the park and I feel like a sissy for even thinking those old workouts were tough.

So, to date I finished my first two weeks of Max 30, however, I took off the second week due to a horrible cough that left me hacking up a lung when not doing cardio, so I thought it would be best for my body to rest. Note to self: when you feel even the slightest bit sick, take some time off; this workout will make you full on sick very quickly.

Max out [maks-out] verb, to stop or fail for the first time in the workout“.
The point of this workout is to “max out” then record the time where you have to stop and rest (it doesn’t mean quit). I see how long I can take a beating from Shaun T-this means I go as hard as I can for as long as I can from the starting point. I’m sure my spectators (dogs, baby and cat) wonder why I keep putting myself through this agony. Part of the reason I like this system is that the workouts are all different and include plyo, lots and lots of squats (I thought there were a lot of squats in PiYo, but boy was I wrong), burpees (different variations), push ups, ab work (three times a week is a 10 min ab routine) tabata (workout for 20 seconds rest 10 seconds), and tons more moves. Even the warm up which crazy hard-I always feel like I will max out early. Take a breath, then onto the actual workout. Each set lasts a few minutes, including repeats of 4-5 of the moves three times and then a quick break (20 seconds, just enough time to flop on the floor like a gasping fish) then there’s another beating. There is a two minute cool down at the very end, so the workout last 32 minutes. Remember to always cool down!

Take away after a few weeks:

-Shaun T is always right there, in my face, talking me through the pain, even when I don’t want to hear it! Most of the time, I’m waiting-either for that long 30 min to end, or for those precious 20 second breaks to start.
-Did I mention the workout is only 30 min? Perfect for me with a 17 month old baby who thinks being cooped up in her pack and play while mom works her butt off is totally ruining her life! At least she can’t talk yet and tell me exactly how she feels. She does find it entertaining to see me huffing and puffing during a “water break” (she probably would call it lying on the floor whimpering, but what does she know).
-There is a modifier in every workout to accomodate all intensity levels. Sometimes I choose to focus only on the modifier throughout the whole workout, much more manageable for days when I am feeling lazy.

Do you have a favorite cardio workout?

My Max times for the first two weeks...not too bad!

My Max times for the first two weeks…not too bad!