How to do a Chin-Up [VIDEO] – Progression Exercises & Cat Lady Problems

If you haven’t checked out my sister site yet, please do so at CatLadyFitness.com – there you can find the health transformation story of Puppy the Cat, the popular Raw Cat Food Recipe (and  highly-viewed video on YouTube), cat lady and dad tips, very stylish apparel and accessories for any cat lover in your life, and much more.


This year has been a crazy one for sure.

Not only have I been busy training my amazing online clients, meeting new ones during nutrition consultations, and growing my Cat Lady Fitness YouTube Channel; but I have published two more books, am currently working on another two, and am less than a month away from launching the True Health Trifecta Private Client Portal – which will offer over 200 exercise examples, ready-made workouts, and much more…

All of this while getting the amazing experience to house- and pet-sit around the world while finally learning fluent Spanish.

Calle Calzada at dusk in Granada, Nicaragua

This doesn’t even include exciting news about my FIRST book, The Holistic Fitness Starter Guide, and additional non-fitness related projects and creations that will come into light soon. (If you want to be up-to-date on the reg, I highly suggest following me on Instagram or liking the THT Facebook page.)

What can I say? I truly love being able to share my learning experiences and creative outlets with each and every one of you (and am obsessed with the productivity factor in doing so)!

SO, moving onto this post: a common question I’ve gotten over the years – ESPECIALLY from my female clients – is “why can’t I do even one chin-up? WHY are they so hard?“

In the quick video below I am going to show you some of the most effective exercises and exercise progressions towards Chin-ups and Pull-Ups that I personally used and have suggested to a number of clients over the years who can now also successfully do all kinds of chin-ups and pull-ups.

 

So what’s the difference in a Chinup or a Pullup? In order from least to most difficult:

Chin ups (reverse grip)    Parallel Grip    Pull-Ups (Narrow or Wide Grip)

 

Technically, this makes Chin-Ups the “easiest” BUT that certainly doesn’t mean they are easy… especially for someone who has never been able to do one before. Pull-ups isolate your Lats (aka: batwing muscles) making them more difficult to do, while Chin-Ups utilize the biceps more – which is why Chin-Ups of all kinds are my #1 suggestion and favorite personal exercise when it comes to building big, strong biceps.

So if you’ve been slaving away doing a million different versions of the bicep curl… whether they’re machine-assisted bicep exercises or the free weight variety… and you have been seeing little to no progress in those guns: STOP NOW and start doing these progressions.

What I will be going over and showing you today will help not only with building bicep strength and Chin-Up capability, but will help you activate and strengthen the right muscles to progress to full Pull-Ups, too.

 

LET’S START WITH SOME IMPORTANT FACTORS IN HOW TO PROGRESS WITH ANY EXERCISE:

  1. Activating the correct muscles. Especially if you are new to working out or exercise in general, this is always an important step to make sure you’re training your body to progress in the best way AND avoid injury. Body weight exercises, static holds, and slow/controlled movement activities like yoga or Tai Chi are great ways to get started, especially if you come from a super sedentary place. This also helps you build the mind-muscle connection which is a key factor in strength progression and physical and mental control.
  2. Strengthening these said muscles. Women actually tend to build strength a little quicker than men, but we also have it plateau more quickly. This is solely due to hormones seeing as women cannot naturally, comparatively put on as much muscle mass as men in general. Men, on the other hand, may see their lifts progress at a slower pace but can far surpass the weight that women can lift. So even though any capable female can and will progress in their Chin-ups by following these tips, that doesn’t mean you will be able to do it with an additional 25 or 50 pounds in plates hanging from your waist.
  3. CONSISTENCY IS KEY. PATIENCE PATIENCE PATIENCE – not only in your overall progress, but when you are completing these exercises… don’t rush through them. Practice focusing on the mind muscle connection and being present in what you are ACTUALLY doing. Same thing goes for overall progress – as long as you focus on the daily or whatever routine HABITS and consistent practices that ALIGN with your goal, in this case – getting better at Chin-ups or simply being able to do one at all – it will happen. It’s about trusting the process and focusing on the most PRESENT steps you can take to get there.
  4. The less you weigh, the easier it will be. It’s simple physics. The less weight you have to lift, whether it’s groceries or books (or your body in this case), the easier it’s going to be… of course, considering you have no physical injuries making you less capable. This is true in general whether your body is composed of muscle OR fat – but remember, the more MUSCLE mass you have, the stronger you will be and the more weight you will be able to lift. So that ideal “healthy” standard of having low body fat and moderate muscle still stands true.

 

FUN FACT:

Chin-Ups are actually a go-to active tool I use to gauge my weight. I have a 10 pound standard comfy weight range (if 10 pounds seems generous for some of you, I’m also very tall)! If I can do 5 or more slow and controlled chin-ups, I know I’m at a very lean low-end of this range – if not a pound or two below it. If I can do 1 or 2 chin-ups, I know I’m within a certain 3-5 pounds. If I can’t even do 1 – and this does happen – I’m either at the higher end of my comfy weight range AND/OR I haven’t been able to do my regular daily routine for over two weeks, usually due to traveling and not having access to a pull-up bar.

If scales aren’t your thing, this is a great way to measure your progress and keep things in check along with paying attention to the fit of your clothing. I talk more about the benefit of NOT weight yourself in this blog post.

 

SO, WHAT IS INVOLVED WHEN DOING A CHIN-UP?

  1. Grip Strength (all exercises will involve grip and I am showing one of my favorite grip strength exercises in this video that is very effective – Monkey Hangs. However, if you are interested in more grip-specific exercises, let me know in the comments below the video!)
  2. Mobility (full range of motion is super important to activate and strengthen the necessary muscles, ligaments, and tendons for any exercise. Unless an exercise is designated as a semi-repetition exercise, always take your time in completing the full range of extension and flexion to get the most benefit.)
  3. Slow and Controlled movement (NOT the typical momentum-based “kipping” style you see in CrossFit type activities) – slow and controlled movements build adequate strength, are better for joints and tendons, and are safer to avoid any injury which should always be a priority.

 

Now, let’s see what these progression exercises look like! Check out this video:

(Exercise Examples start at 2:20)

 

Exercises are shown in out-of-the-norm circumstances (using a bench press station and the back of a leg press)… Proof that there is never an excuse, only a reason to get creative! You can also use the underside of step-stairs, any stable bar at a proper height, the underside of some treadmills, and a stable/heavy table.

That said, the best option if available is a Smith Machine as the bar can be adjusted to multiple heights for multiple strength levels. A squat rack is a comparable option in most cases.

EXERCISES IN ORDER SHOWN:

  1. Flat Horizontal Rows (do not press through legs, focus on using arms and back only – while keeping your body straight. This is my favorite and VERY effective along with #10 and #12!)
  2. Reverse Grip Short-Range Static Hold with Slow Negative (great activation exercise to practice before attempting Full Chin-Up Static Holds)
  3. Beginner Seated Horizontal Row (complete SLOWLY and focus on muscles in arms and back, keeping good posture and holding when chest is at bar)
  4. Intermediate Seated Horizontal Row (a little bit more of a decline in the positioning increases the difficulty)
  5. Reserve Grip, Seated Slow Negatives (partial rep – if done properly, should really be felt in the biceps and front delts)
  6. Shallow Horizontal Rows (begin with more vertical positioning until you can comfortable complete 20 slow, controlled repetitions. Then move onto…)
  7. Intermediate Horizontal Rows (once you can complete 20 slow, controlled repetitions of this comfortably with good form, move onto…)
  8. Horizontal Rows (the bar is at somewhat of an awkward height and should be closer to the ground, but hitting muscles from new angles like this can also benefit new activation!)
  9. Reverse Grip Standing Rows (a different grip helps to activate different muscles. Just make sure the bar is at an appropriate height to get a comfortable, full range of motion)
  10. Monkey hangs (shown in wide overhand grip – thumbs can be over the bar or wrapped around. Hold on and hang for as long as possible – making sure that your lats are engaged and there is no swinging. If you look like your loose and shrugging, your lats are NOT engaged properly!)
  11. Full Chin-Up Static Holds (step or jump up into position – you want all your strength to go into holding, not pulling. Make sure your elbows are locked down and lats/mid-back are engaged. Avoid any swinging and hold as long as possible).
  12. Slow Negatives from Chin-Up Hold (again, step or jump into position – strength should be kept for the negative portion, not used for any active pull-up portion. Aim for a 10-second drop from the hold to full range straight arm, completing the movement evenly with no jerking or uneven demounting speed. A helpful tip is to aim for halfway – or upper arm parallel to the ground – at 5 seconds. This, #11 and #8, are especially helpful and effective in increasing Chin-Up Strength!)

If you want more PERSONALIZED coaching or insight, you can choose the best option for you here to schedule a Skype, Google Hangouts, or WhatsApp session: ONLINE FITNESS & NUTRITION COACHING

That all said, I hope this post and video were helpful for you in your Chin-Up journey! Try some of these exercises out whether you want to get your FIRST Chin-Up or simply want to strengthen and condition the right muscle groups in order to do more. And of course, remember to SUBSCRIBE to Cat Lady Fitness on YouTube for weekly videos!

RECIPE: Cilantro Lime Rice & Beans (better than Chipotle!) – Easy, Plant-based dish!

Everyone loves Chipotle (right?) and their simple yet delicious spread of Tex-Mex goodness.

But… let’s be honest. Cost-wise, they make a killing charging what they do for some of the most affordable types of food around. Namely, rice ‘n beans (or arroz y frijoles).

Even if you do skimp on the guac (which, if so, who ARE you?) eating at places like Chipotle often can definitely put a dent in your finances.

So, allow me to bring to you my HOMEMADE CILANTRO LIME RICE & BEANS (that are better than Chipotle).

I love me some rice ‘n beans, as do most people I know. Especially while traveling through Latin America, where gallos pinto – the traditional rice ‘n beans dish – is typically served with breakfast.. AND lunch.. AND dinner at times… I grew to love them even more rather than get tired of them.

I love this dish so much that there are at least 5 different, flavorful rice ‘n beans recipes I plan to share here on the blog (as well as helpful tips and advice for anyone who plans on traveling or living in places like Costa Rica).

It all starts with the two [obvious] key ingredients…

Arroz.

Y frijoles.

Now, if you don’t have the kitchen blessing that is a rice cooker, you’re still good to go. You can use a saucepan on the stove top. Yes, this may be the easiest, better-tasting, restaurant-replica recipe you have ever made.

What kind of rice do you need? Whatever you have on hand. I had a blend of brown and white.

What kind of beans? Well, for this recipe, classic black beans. And yes, canned is just fine (though I’d recommend low or no-salt added to have better control of the sodium in your recipe).

Grab a handful of other ingredients – like fresh cilantro, onion, extra virgin olive oil, and lime – and you’re basically good to go.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm yas.

The bigger plus? This recipe makes at least 6-12 Chipotle portions if you get their rice bowl… and it costs less than one or two orders.

By the way, you can find an amazing tex-mex bowl recipe (along with tons of helpful info) in one of my best-selling books, the grocery store tour guide, which is also available as an ebook!

Without further ado – here it is! Try it out, share, and let me know what you think :)


CILANTRO LIME RICE & BEANS (makes around 6 cooked cups)

  • 2 cups brown and/or white rice (before cooking) *cook according to packaging or using leftover rice is fine!
  • Half a large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 (~8 oz.) can of Black Beans (preferably organic and low or no sodium to better control salt content), drained and rinsed
  • 1 small bushel of fresh cilantro, leaves picked and chopped (about 1/3 cup chopped)
  • The juice from one lime
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt (or more, to taste preference)
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper (or according to taste)

Directions

  1. Cook rice according to package or use leftover rice. Two uncooked cups yields 4.5 to 6 cooked cups.
  2. In a fairly large saute pan heated at medium to high, saute onions in olive oil until fragrant and softened (about 2-3 minutes). Add rice and stir, letting cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add black beans, cumin, salt, and pepper. Stir to all incorporate. Lower heat to higher “low” spectrum, cover the pan, and let flavors marry for 3-4 minutes. You can also add 1/4 cup or so of water before covering, especially if the rice was leftover. This will add more moisture while cooking.
  4. Uncover and remove from heat. Stir in lime juice and cilantro, then taste and add more salt if necessary. Stir again and then ENJOY! :)

RECIPE: Homemade Coconut Milk (or Coconut Creamer) – Easy, Fast, GREAT for Dairy-Free Travelers!

This summer, I have been doing quite a bit of traveling. Starting off in beautiful Italy and then making my way to Latin America, I currently find myself in the middle of a legit jungle – monkeys howling and all – in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica.

Just hanging out off my balcony in Positano, Italy. Totally casual.

This tropical rainforest is amazing and refreshing, but also makes me miss a few small foodie preferences that have been a part of my daily routine for years.

Especially through the most recent experience living off-grid in an isolated, glorified tree house (thankfully with pretty impressive internet to benefit my online clients and me), I learned how to do without a number of American luxuries. These include everything from transportation (no car), no paved roads, no 24-hour convenience stores (or any stores within two miles), and no access to anything from supplements to electronics to mail being reliably being delivered…

Cuddly kittens and warm weather make everything better.

It also includes not being able to find carton-style coconut milk – never mind coconut creamer for coffee. And if you didn’t know, Costa Rica is known for its amazing coffee.

Needless to say, I’m not a milk drinker and never really have been. Anytime I’ve needed a “milk” for something, I’ve opted for the almond or coconut substitution. (If you have my book The Grocery Store Tour Guide, you’re probably familiar with this suggestion.)

Considering the fact that mango, banana, papaya, AND coconut trees are everywhere in this tropical part of the world, I was somewhat surprised that I couldn’t find any carton coconut (or almond) milk near the home I am currently living in. There is one market down the mountain (over 2 miles away and a 90-minute steady walk thanks to the incline) that has one small almond milk carton option, which was unsurprisingly overpriced… and expired by six months.

Luckily, there is also a decently stocked chain supermercado in the nearest town that is accessible by a 20-minute bus ride (in addition to the nearly three mile walk to the bus stop) where I did find a higher quality carton of pure organic coconut cream… but still no sign of a reasonably priced carton coconut OR almond milk.

Did I mention I’m in the [captivating, relaxing, sometimes boring, always magical, yet very remote] jungle?

Here is what I did manage to find in the local market: canned coconut cream (and canned coconut milk).

And the good news for my fellow dairy-free, non-leche drinking people out there? To make homemade Coconut Milk (a comparable version to Silk or Almond Breeze brands that you can use for shakes, cereal, or to simply drink as is) AND/OR Coconut Creamer for coffee or tea, all you need is a can or carton of coconut cream (a second option could be canned coconut milk), water, and a pour-able container to keep it in.

That’s it.

Fun fact: if you read the ingredients on a carton of the aforementioned popular American brands of coconut milk, you will see that they are mainly filtered water and coconut cream (with some added preservatives and vitamins)… which is exactly what’s happening here!

Of course I tend to get a little fancy and doctor things up, so I added a little bit of vanilla extract and a few stevia drops (which I obviously brought with me from the States) to make it taste just like slightly sweetened, cartoned vanilla coconut milk.

Whisking in a small amount of natural thickener such as xantham gum, guar gum, or gellan gum (if you can access it where you are) will lend a slightly thicker consistency that mimics store-bought Coconut Creamer even more – but the thinner, milkier version that results from this recipe suits my needs just fine. :)

And cost wise? One can of coconut cream cost me about 1500 colones (around $3 USD) and is enough for TWO to THREE GALLONS of drinkable coconut milk or creamer. One HALF gallon of Silk brand coconut milk typically costs $3-5 USD anywhere in the world that I’ve been, so this recipe is a very budget-friendly one that is well worth trying no matter where you are!

To prepare, you can whisk everything together or blend it in a blender. Then just pour into your chosen container like this perfect one I found on Amazon. It’s important to remember to keep it refrigerated and shake it up well before using each time since it does slightly separate (adding the thickening gum does help keep it more consistently smooth).

I mainly use this as a “creamer” for my coffee, but it would also make a great milk replacement for any of your milky needs.

Here’s the crazy simple recipe :) Enjoy!

Homemade Coconut Milk or Coffee Creamer

  • 14 C. coconut cream (ingredients should be only 100% coconut cream, if possible) OR 12 C. canned coconut milk (full fat, not “light”)  – shake cans well before opening
  • Slightly less than a 12 gallon of chilled, filtered water
  • Small pinch of sea salt
  • Optional (for vanilla flavor): 12 to 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Optional (for sweetness): Stevia drops to taste OR 1 Tbsp. cane sugar liquified in a small amount of warm water OR 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • Optional (for chocolate flavored): 1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Optional (for coffee flavored): 2 Tbsp. instant coffee granules liquified in a small amount of hot water
  • Optional (for thickness): 12 tsp. guar gum, xanthan gum, or gellan gum

Directions

  1. Put coconut cream or milk, chilled water, sea salt, and your optional ingredients of choice in a blender and blend on low until all incorporated, about 1-2 minutes (you can also whisk very well in a large bowl).
  2. Carefully pour into your milk jug or container.
  3. Refrigerate (shaking well before each use) and enjoy as a milk or creamer! It should be good for about two weeks, though mine never lasts that long. Yum!

*If it doesn’t turn out “milky” enough for you, simply add more coconut cream by the teaspoon (or coconut milk by the tablespoon) until your desired flavor and consistency is reached. To make it thicker and creamier, add in more thickening gum by the one-eighth of a teaspoon and blend well after each addition.

*You can freeze your remaining coconut cream/milk in a separate container for future use.

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RECIPE: The BEST Cranberry Sauce (with a twist!) – Healthy, Vegan, Gluten Free

The holidays are upon us! A time for festive decoration, plenty of social events with coworkers, friends, and family, and a plethora of seasonal food favorites to enjoy.

If you’ve visited this blog before (or are subscribed to my YouTube channel), you have already gotten a taste for some of my go-to recipes for this time of year like:

I recently realized that the popular side dish and condiment, Cranberry Sauce, was missing from my growing arsenal of holiday recipes! So, now is the time to fix that.

Not only is the following recipe incredibly easy and with minimal ingredients, but it has an extra twist of flavor thanks to the mango juice, spices, and alternate sugar (like coconut). Plus, including apples and pears bumps up the nutritional value by increasing the vitamins, fiber, and flavonols to make your body one happy machine.

 

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Whatever you do – I beg you – never, ever choose those processed tin jars filled with a solid cylinder of cranberry jam. Then again, I can assure you that once you make this recipe you will never want to go back.

Without further ado, here’s this simple and amazing recipe! Try it out and let me know what you think… and feel free to share the link with others, too :)

 


The BEST Cranberry Sauce… with a twist!

Ingredients

  • 1¼ cups coconut sugar, light brown sugar, and/or cane sugar (I will usually use a third of each or whatever I have on hand)
  • 16 oz fresh cranberries (two 8-oz bags)
  • One Fuji apple, peeled and chopped
  • One Bartlett pear (slightly ripe), peeled and chopped
  • One cup mango nectar or juice
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg or allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Rinse and drain cranberries. Measure out the mango juice.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring cranberries, sugar, and mango nectar to a boil on high heat. Cranberries should begin to pop and coagulate with the liquid.
  3. Lower heat and let simmer for 10 minutes before adding chopped apple and pear. Also add spices.
  4. Let simmer together another 5 minutes or so, until all incorporated (but apple and pear should maintain their form and not mush up).
  5. Serve warm or let cool and refrigerate overnight if you prefer serving cold cranberry jam… It’s delicious both ways! This will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for a week, though I’ve never had it last longer than a few days :)

Steps in Photos

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ENJOY!

 

RECIPE: How to Make HIGH PROTEIN PLANT BASED ICE CREAM – Vegan / Gluten Free / Nice Cream / Chocolate Lovers

I absolutely love this rich, chocolate “nice” cream and make it on the regular. It is not only easy and delicious, but the extra love from the legit hard chocolate shell topping really make it over the top.

ICE CREAM

This filling and flavorful dessert also happens to be a completely plant-based source of HIGH protein with over 30 grams in this recipe!  Plus, it’s great for any time of day: pre-workout, post-workout, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Shoot, even dessert after a big ol’ salad.

Watch the video here, recipe is below:

EASY, RICH, CHOCOLATE “NICE” CREAM

Ingredients:

1 cup Frozen Blueberries

2 Ripe Bananas, sliced and frozen solid

1-2 Tbsp High-Quality Cocoa Powder (like my favorite: Pernigotti Cocoa)

1 Scoop Plant Based Protein Powder (recommend: RawFusion Plant-Based Protein)

Generous Sprinkle of Ground Cinnamon

Small splash of Balsamic Vinegar

About a quarter to a third cup of Unsweetened Almond Milk (for desired consistency)

Directions:

  • Put the ingredients, in the order shown, into a high powder blender or food processor. Blend until all incorporated. Add more almond milk for desired consistency. Blend until smooth. Pour into bowl and set in freezer for 15-20 minutes.

To make the HARD CHOCOLATE SHELL COATING:

In a small bowl, mix: ½ Tbsp. melted coconut oil, 4-5 drops Liquid Stevia, a scant teaspoon high-quality cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt. Mix until smooth.

  • Take the bowl of ice cream out of the freezer and pour the chocolate shell coating mixture all over the top, using a spatula to get every last bit. It will harden in seconds.
  • Top your “nice” cream with something crunchy, like hemp hearts, chopped nuts, or sesame seeds.
  • Enjoy! :)

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Find more recipes and smart food-shopping tips in my Grocery Store Tour Guide!

RECIPE: How to Make the BEST Banana Pancakes – Vegan / Easy / Single-Serving / Gluten Free

This is one of my GO-TO recipes for the easiest, most delicious, minimal-ingredient Banana Pancakes ever…

Banana Pancakes thumbnail

I have this almost every morning with my “moon egg” (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this video: https://youtu.be/pNkGUw9HPNE).

These Banana Pancakes are not only moist and delicious, but also happen to be vegan, gluten free, and sugar free (for you fans of the “free’s” out there) while being very fiber- and nutrient-rich. Not to mention, crazy flavorful!

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE, FULL RECIPE IS BELOW:

 
SINGLE-SERVING BANANA PANCAKES

Ingredients:

A Splash of Apple Cider Vinegar (about 2 tsp.)

½ cup Unsweetened Almond Milk to start (have more on hand to get batter consistency)

A small splash of Pure Vanilla Extract (about ½ tsp.)

4-5 drops of Liquid Stevia (to taste)

½ of One Large, Ripe Banana (make sure it is spotty with brown and NOT green or all yellow)

1 Tbsp. Chia or Flaxseeds (or one packet of this Flax Chia Blend by Carrington Farms)

½ cup Quick Cooking Oats, pulsed in a blender or food processor to be semi-ground

½ tsp. Baking Powder

Generous sprinkle of Ground Cinnamon

A pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

  • Get out a 2-cup Liquid measuring cup, like this one I use in the video and a mini-spatula or fork. Put all of the liquid ingredients in the measuring cup (measuring as you go), stir, and let sit for a few minutes.
  • Take half of the banana and break it apart with your fingers as you add to the liquid ingredients. Then take a fork and mash/mix it in until larger chunks are gone.
  • Add in all dry ingredients, mixing well. Add more almond milk (typically ¼ to of a cup) until it is more of a moderate batter consistency – not too thin, but not thick. Allow the batter to thicken by letting it sit ~5-10 minutes.
  • Preheat stove top to medium heat (I typically go to level 4). Once pan is heated, spray pan with coconut oil spray. Give batter a quick stir and pour in about ¼ cup per pancake.
  • Set a timer for 3 minutes, then flip. Pancakes should be a light golden brown. Let other side cook another 3 minutes.
  • This makes 4-6 pancakes depending on your size. I like to pour a little maple syrup on the side and dip them, but you can also stack ’em up pretty and pour maple syrup on top! Feel free to slice up the other half of your banana to top them off, too!
  • ENJOY (I know you will… they’re amazing) :)

bananapancakes


Find more recipes and smart food-shopping tips in my Grocery Store Tour Guide!

 

The BEST Tapioca Pudding with Mangoes – sweet, amazing, gluten/dairy free dessert! (RECIPE)

Does this look nostalgic to anyone?

k2-_66aae989-09e8-45c4-8d64-0b5773c3dd42.v1I may be in the minority here, but I never had tapioca pudding as a kid. I never even knew what tapioca was and remember wondering if it was just a different name for rice (since rice pudding was actually familiar). I was never a fan of milk or milky things growing up, either, so I never made an effort to try it. Regardless, it was easy to see many a lunch box contained these little sugar-packed and highly processed snacks.

Fast forward twenty-or-so years and tapioca entered my life again. I’ve used tapioca starch as a thickener in recipes for a while and noticed it within the ingredients to many packaged foods, but was still yet to make my own version of this renowned dessert known as Tapioca Pudding.

I don’t know what took me so long… because it is absolutely amazing.

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Though I don’t exactly have anything to compare it to – my prime taste tester did happen to love those school-time snacks back in the day. And I am happy to report he said this isn’t even comparable since it’s the best tapioca pudding he’s ever had (and, possibly, the best pudding dessert he’s ever had). Yet another win!

So, what is tapioca anyway? Tapioca is a starch extracted from the cassava root (which is becoming more commonly found in grocery stores these days – probably next to the potatoes or yucca).  Similar to other starches, it can be processed into sticks, powder/flour, flakes, or fun little pudding-worthy pearls. The pearls are commonly used in Asian desserts where they lend a chewy, satisfying texture to whatever it may be. Oh, and for those wondering, it is indeed gluten free and vegan.

Fun fact: Have you ever had Boba tea? Those boba are actually giant tapioca pearls.

Personally, I absolutely love the texture of tapioca pudding – even more than rice pudding. It’s like eating spoonfuls of simultaneously creamy and chewy surprises with every bite. Plus, by adding sweet, buttery mango, this dairy-free version is also both rich but light at the same time. It can be eaten hot or cold, making it perfect as a summer or holiday dessert.

It’s easy to make, doesn’t dirty many dishes, and has a handful of quality ingredients that are easy to find and much better for you compared to the original kid’s snack.

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Just looking at these pictures reminds me I need to make this again, like tonight. It’s that delicious and that easy to put together. Did I mention that it tastes even better after a couple of days in the fridge?

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I really, really hope you try this recipe. You will be so glad you did (and will impress anyone who tries it!)


THE BEST TAPIOCA PUDDING with mangoes

Ingredients

½ cup tapioca pearls

½ of a 14 oz. can of Coconut Milk (~200ml)

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ tsp salt

3 Tbsp stevia-for-baking or xylitol (or sugar of choice)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

¾ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

½ cup + ½ cup water

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

~2 cups chopped mangoes (frozen or fresh)

Optional, for thickness: 1 egg, separated (yolk and white)

Directions (with photos below)

  • Place coconut milk, almond milk, maple syrup, salt, ½ cup of water, tapioca pearls, and egg yolk (if using) in a medium saucepan. Mix to incorporate ingredients and let sit on stove top – no heat or cooking yet – for 20 minutes.
  • Turn burner to medium-high heat to bring pudding mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  • Once it boils, turn burner down to low heat and allow to simmer for about ten minutes or so, until it thickens and the tapioca pearls become translucent. Add more water from the remaining ½ cup if it gets too thick.
  • Add mangoes and cook until mixture begins to simmer again, about 3-5 minutes.
  • If using egg, whip egg white in a small bowl (or the measuring cup) with the sugar/sweetener. Temper this mixture into the saucepan by folding 1-2 tbsp of the hot pudding mixture into the egg white/sugar mixture. Do this at least three times before pouring the egg white/sugar bowl mixture into the saucepan. Then allow pudding to cook another 2-3 minutes in saucepan.
  • If not using egg, simply mix the sugar into pudding on stove and cook 2-3 minutes.
  • Pour into a serving bowl and add vanilla and cinnamon. Mix well.
  • You can serve this warm from the oven or cover it and refrigerate up to 5 days for a cool dessert. It’s really delicious both ways (and thickens even more as it sits). It’s really presentable when served with cinnamon sticks (as shown in pics).
  • Enjoy! :)

 

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Healing Magic Panda Soup – Delicious & Satisfying Hug in a Bowl (RECIPE)

*This recipe is featured as a BONUS RECIPE in The Grocery Store Tour Guide & Nutritional Workbook, available HERE

Are you a soup person? Me neither. Or, at least I wasn’t before coming up with this amazingly magical and ridiculously simple recipe this a few winter ago.

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There is something so wonderful, comforting, filling, and peaceful about this soup. It is the perfect amount of sweet and savory, not too broth-y with a touch of bite, and completely enjoyable regardless to which diet or lifestyle you are following (unless you are allergic to any of the minimal ingredients, of course).

It proves to be the perfect side dish- complementing any salad, sandwich, main course, crusty bread, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It can even suffice as its own full-meal show. Additionally, it can act an amazing base recipe for whatever additions your heart desires; from greens to corn, veggies to grains, and meat to tofu.

Whether you are Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, counting points, raw ‘til 4, or have never particularly liked soup before, I am confident that you will love this Sweet Panda Soup as much my family, friends, and I do. Winter has long past as we now experience scorching summer days, yet this is still a staple in my kitchen for winding down in the evenings (and is surprisingly delicious cold, too)!

Not to mention, Healing Magic Panda Soup packs a punch in maintaining or improving your health by providing nutrient-rich hydration, anti-inflammatory compounds, natural fiber, and vitamin B-12. If you are hypoglycemic, it may even help to balance blood sugar levels.

Another bonus that others have found and that I can vouch for myself? It not only fills you up, but can also help keep any late-night cravings at bay.

With no further ado, here is my recipe for Healing Magic Panda Soup.

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HEALING MAGIC PANDA SOUP

Single-Serving Ingredients *use organic, if possible

1 (medium to large) Sweet Vidalia Onion, chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp. Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

1 ½ Cups (or about two-thirds of your favorite bowl-full) of Organic, Low-Sodium Vegetable or Chicken Stock

A large pinch of Freshly Ground Sea Salt (I use Pink Himalayan)

A large pinch of Freshly Ground Black Pepper

2 tsp. Dried Thyme (or 1 tsp. fresh Thyme leaves, chopped)

¼ tsp. (or a modest sprinkle) All Spice

1 heaping tsp. sugar of choice (coconut, organic cane, honey) or 2 drops of liquid stevia

Optional, but recommended: 1 Tbsp. Nutritional Yeast flakes

Optional: 1 tsp. Dried (or chopped fresh) Parsley

Directions (Photos Below CROCK-POT VERSION)

  • Preheat a medium to large pan on stove at medium-high.
  • Put in coconut oil, chopped onions, and salt. Cover and let cook, stirring around every 5 minutes or so, until onions are translucent and beginning to caramelize into a light brown (about 20 minutes).
  • Add in garlic and let saute with onions for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. *Always avoid burning or browning garlic, as it may cause bitterness in the dish.
  • Add in balsamic vinegar, pepper, thyme, all spice, sugar/stevia, and stock. Bring to a simmer before turning heat down to medium-low. Cover and let cook another 5-10 minutes until flavors marry.
  • Pour in your favorite bowl; sprinkle the top with Nutritional Yeast flakes and parsley… Enjoy!
CROCK-POT VERSION

Ingredients (makes 8-12 servings) *use organic, if possible

6-8 (medium to large) Sweet Vidalia Onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1-2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

¼ Cup Balsamic Vinegar

2 ½ to 3 (32 oz) Cartons of Organic, Low-Sodium Vegetable or Chicken Stock

3 good pinches of Freshly Ground Sea Salt

3 good pinches of Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1 heaping Tbsp. Dried Thyme

½ tsp. (or a good sprinkle) All Spice

1 Tbsp. sugar of choice (coconut, organic cane, honey) or 4 drops of liquid stevia

1 Tbsp. Nutritional Yeast flakes (per bowl)

1 tsp. Dried (or chopped fresh) Parsley (per bowl)

Directions

  • Set Crock-Pot to HIGH and drizzle half of your coconut oil at the bottom.
  • Put in half the onions and sprinkle salt. Drizzle the rest of your coconut oil and put in the remaining onions, garlic, thyme, pepper, all spice, and salt. Stir around and cover.
  • Let onions cook and caramelize until they begin to sweat and turn a light brown (about 5-6 hours), opening to stir around once or twice in that time.
  • Add in stock, balsamic vinegar, and sugar/stevia. Stir well and cover again. Let cook for another 1-2 hours (up to 4) before serving it up in your favorite bowl with Nutritional Yeast flakes and a bit of parsley. Enjoy!

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Oh, and don’t worry. No pandas were harmed in the making of this glorious dish. I just happen to love pandas, and it only seemed fit that this amazing soup be named after something I adore just as much!

Easy, Homemade Oat Waffles (or pancakes) – gluten-free, vegan, low-fat, delicious! (RECIPE)

If you’re looking for a twist on getting healthy oats in for breakfast, but want to venture from the typical (delicious) bowl of warm oatmeal as your only vehicle – this recipe is exactly what you need.

EASY, Homemade Oat Waffles (or pancakes, if you don’t have a waffle maker).

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This recipe takes less than ten minutes to put together, twelve total minutes to cook, and the result is two giant waffles (which can yield 2-4 servings depending on your size and satiation) or 6-8 medium pancakes. It also utilizes ingredients that can all be found on the grocery list within The Grocery Store Tour Guide & Nutritional Workbook.

And if you’re worried about the overt denseness that a lot of oat-based recipes are guilty of producing? You’ll see that these waffles – though seemingly more dense than those made with a typical store-bought batter at first – turn out perfectly crispy on the outside while staying soft and fluffy on the inside.

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Plus, these high-fiber waffles will help satiate you and keep you full much longer than processed or store-bought mix versions. You can enjoy them with a touch of maple syrup or honey, eat them aside a scramble, or even use two pieces as your bread for an almond butter and banana sandwich.

You can even make these in bulk and freeze them. Just pull your serving out of the freezer and heat up in the toaster oven whenever a waffle-urge hits!

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As for the waffle maker I use, it is the Presto FlipSide Waffle Maker and it is amazing. I got it off of Amazon over two years ago and use it once a week on average, if not more. It not only makes the perfect waffles every time, but can be used as a sandwich press, scramble cooker, hash browns, and for tons of other sweet or savory concoctions. It’s easy to clean, takes up no kitchen space to store, and is virtually fail-proof.

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Basically, don’t be surprised if I organize a compilation of recipes utilizing this thing for a special eBook in the future… because it’s that awesome.

Once you bite into one of these crisp and fluffy waffles, you will taste their mild sweetness and hint of vanilla with cinnamon. They have just the right amount of whole-grain flavor while keeping the traditional feel of a classic Belgian waffle.

Now, enough talk. Onto this delicious recipe!


HOMEMADE OAT WAFFLES (or pancakes) *photos below

  • 1 cup of quick-minute or old fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup flour (I use a gluten-free flour blend, like Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1 Tbsp. xylitol (or sweetener of choice, like stevia for baking, turbinado, regular sugar, or coconut sugar)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • tsp salt
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup almond milk (I use unsweetened vanilla flavored)
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ~8 drops liquid stevia (if you do not have this, use 2 Tbsp of your above sugar/sweetener instead of one)
  • 1 whole egg or a flax substitute (using a 1:3 ratio of ground flaxseed to water)
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil
  • Non-stick cooking spray (like Trader Joe’s Coconut Oil Spray) for the waffle maker or pan
  1. Get out a large bowl, a liquid measuring cup (at least 16 oz large), your blender/food processor, and your waffle maker.
  2. Pour almond milk and apple cider vinegar into the measuring cup. Whisk and let sit as you do the following steps.
  3. Put oats into your blender or food processor and blend for about ten seconds, or until they are ground to about half the consistency that they were beforehand (see photos below).
  4. Into your large bowl, put oats, flour, baking powder, xylitol/sweetener, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk altogether to incorporate.
  5. Into the measuring cup with liquids, add vanilla extract, liquid stevia, and egg (if using). Whisk to blend well and make sure egg is mixed, then add liquids to dry ingredients in bowl. Whisk well.
  6. Add flax-egg substitute, if using, and coconut oil into bowl. Whisk well (making sure coconut oil blends since it may be more solid due to the cold batter). Let batter sit for at least ten minutes to thicken.
  7. Plug in waffle maker to let it preheat (or begin heating pan, if making pancakes, on medium-high heat).
  8. After batter has rested for at least ten minutes, give a quick stir and pour it all into the liquid measuring cup. Scrape the bowl with a spatula to ensure you get all of the waffly-pancaky batter goodness into the cup (photo below).
  9. Once waffle maker is heated, open and spray lightly with non-stick spray on both sides. Give batter a quick stir and pour exactly half (or 1 cup) of your batter into the center of the waffle maker. Close, set timer for 6 minutes, and flip to other side (if you are using the same Presto FlipSide waffle maker I own).
  10. Once the timer goes off, check your waffles. They should be light and slightly golden in color (see photos). Feel free to let them cook an additional 1-2 minutes if you like a really well-done and crispy waffle.
  11. Enjoy however you like! *To maintain crispness if you do not plan on eating immediately, set your oven to about 200 degrees F and place cooked waffles directly on the racks. This will keep them from getting soft as it keeps them warm. If you plan on freezing them, make sure they are cooled completely on a rack before freezing.

Remember to tag #truehealthtrifecta and share how you like this recipe on the True Health Trifecta Facebook page!

Step-by-step photos:

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Sautéed Cabbage & Carrots: my UNIVERSAL side dish! (RECIPE)

This dish has been a legit staple in my household for a long time now and, even still, I find myself craving it almost daily.

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I even included this as a bonus recipe in my latest book, The Grocery Store Tour Guide & Nutritional Workbook (which will be available in just one week… and I am super excited about sharing with you all)!

Before I get into this insanely easy and flavorful recipe, here’s a little bit more about the 70-page Grocery Store Tour Guide & Nutritional Workbook. This beautifully designed, visual book contains a plethora of useful information, including:

  • Shopping preparation tips
  • Explanations about supermarket psychology
  • How to identify and define misleading label claims
  • Tidbits about nutritional lingo and regulated terms, such as GMO, Certified Organic, Gluten Free, etc.
  • Food storage and safety tips
  • A thorough seasonal produce chart
  • Aisle-by-aisle tips to navigate the supermarket like a health-conscious pro
  • A list of ingredients to avoid
  • My personal kitchen essentials
  • Easy Meal and snack recipes
  • A post-tour quiz (if you are a trainer or nutrition coach, this e-book is great to use with clients!)
  • Much, much more…

Plus, unlike my print-only book – The Holistic Fitness Starter Guide – which will be available at the end of the month, I decided to publish The Grocery Store Tour Guide in print and as a quickly accessible e-book. This means that as soon as you buy it here, you will be able to download it to your PC, laptop, or tablet immediately and begin reading while you wait for the printed copy to arrive!

How cool is that?!

Now, as exciting as this new book is, back to the deliciousness that is My Universal Side Dish. First of all, it’s crazy simple to make since we are using pre-shredded cabbage and carrots. The only chopping involves the fresh herbs, ginger, and garlic (unless you have minced ginger and garlic in jars, in which case, this may be the easiest recipe ever).

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This is also so incredibly flavorful thanks to the fresh Rosemary and Thyme. Sometimes, I’ll add in fresh basil or sage and it becomes a bigger explosion of flavor in your mouth.

As I mention in The Grocery Store Tour Guide & Nutritional Workbook, this side dish goes well with nearly everything. On salads, sandwiches, in wraps, or by itself. It’s fast to whip up and perfect to keep ready-handed in the fridge. One of my favorite ways is wrapped up in rice paper wraps with some thin rice noodles.

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Give this recipe a try. I promise you will be happy you did!


 

MY UNIVERSAL SIDE DISH: SAUTéED CABBAGE AND CARROTS

Ingredients:

2 (10-16 oz.) bags of Shredded Cabbage

½ of one (10-12 oz.) bag of Shredded Carrots

1 Tbsp. fresh Rosemary (leaves from about three 4” sprigs), chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh Thyme (leaves from about 5 4” sprigs), chopped

1-2 inches of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. Coconut Oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Directions (photos below):

  • Heat a large sauté pan or wok on the stove at medium to medium-high heat and place coconut oil in the pan.
  • Once the coconut oil is melted, add ½ bag of carrots and two bags of cabbage. Sprinkle minced ginger on top and season the surface with salt and pepper. Cover to let cook down about 5-7 minutes. (The pan may seem really full, but the veggies cook down quite a bit.)
  • Remove lid and toss the cabbage and carrots to encourage even wilting/cooking. Cover and let continue softening for another 3-5 minutes.
  • Remove lid and add rosemary, thyme, and minced garlic. Toss well until all the herbs are well incorporated into the mix. (If the veggies seem to be browning from the bottom of the pan, lower the heat a little bit.)
  • Continue cooking, tossing occasionally, until veggies are softened and cooked down to a little less than half of the original volume. Add more salt to taste, if needed.

Enjoy in any which way!

 

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