Braised Veggies

Coming up with new ways to cook veggies is always fun. Today I tried braised kale with leeks. Braising and roasting are great ways to cook leftover veggies, or when you have bits left over that you don't want to spoil but don't quite know what to do with them. You can braise any types of greens, or pretty much any veggies you have on hand. Asparagus, carrots and green beans are all great braising veggies.

What you'll need...
-Veggies...lots of 'em (remember, greens will shrink down in size)
-A solid fat ...1 or 2 tbsp depending on how many veggies you have (butter, ghee, coconut oil, bacon drippings)
-Liquid ...1 or 2 cups (wine, chicken stock, vegetable stock)
-Acidic liquid...a few tablespoons to 1/4 cup (vinegar, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice)
-Allium...(onion or leeks or shallots or scallions, and garlic)

Itsoweasy!

  • In a large heavy bottom deep pan melt your fat over medium heat.

  • When the fat is nice and liquid and hot, add the allium until browned.

  • Then add in your veggies and toss them around in the fat/allium mixture.

  • When the veggies are all coated and beginning to smell up your kitchen (just a minute or two), add your liquid and turn to med/high heat.

  • Cover the pot but leave a crack open so that some steam can escape.

  • Mission...high simmer the veggies in the liquid for about 10 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated. If the liquid won't evaporate, make sure the heat is high enough or that you didn't add too much liquid.

  • Stir occasionally and add in your acidic liquid and salt and pepper to taste near the end of the cooking or when there's only a little bit of liquid left to evaporate.


The flavors all melt together creating a complex depth that is reminiscent of slow cooked meals made from scratch. But this little recipe only takes about 5 minutes of prep and 10 minutes of cook time.

In my recipe i used goat's milk butter, leeks, kale, garlic, chicken stock and a little lemon juice. I served the kale with baked lemon and rosemary salmon (another simple recipe I should share with you guys!)

From Tiny to Nick

Tiny and I were inseparable. He was my camera assist for two years. I took him on every show with me, partly because he was a reliable A.C. and partly because he was the most hysterical 360 pound man I'd ever met.  He always knew how to cheer me out of a foul mood. But after those two years, a shift began to happen. Tiny was getting frustrated with not getting shooting jobs, and the mask he wore of the "fat jolly guy" was wearing off. He was beginning to realize that the chances of a production company hiring a 300 plus pound shooter was slim.  This began affecting his work, which in turn, affected our relationship.

I told Tiny it was time for us to part ways. It wasn't until this interview that he told me that the things I told him on that day were the worst things anyone had ever said to him. We were shooting Breaking Bonaduce in Boston. I told him that I had always hoped that our relationship would end with him shooting beside me, but it was going to end with a clean separation right there. "Find another operator, your'e not learning anything from me anymore," I said. We were both pretty upset.

After this, Tiny started getting his life under control. Opportunities started coming his way and he realized that he was going to have to take himself seriously for others to do the same. He buckled down and made a goal to lose 100 pounds in one year. I remember when the shift happened.

Tiny was trained not to care about his image. Size 50 Dickies and 4XL white hanes shirts were his uniform. In the beginning, the weight came off pretty quickly. Tiny knew he had a long way to go so he didn't even bother buying new clothes. They'd just be too big pretty soon. A piece of cut rope from art dept. would work just fine as a belt for now.

After some time, Tiny and I started working for different companies and didn't see each other as regularly. I heard through the grapevine that he was getting shooting gigs and was looking great. It wasn't until I saw him in person that it took my breath away. Tiny had transformed himself completely. He was unrecognizable. He wasn't Tiny anymore...now, he was Nick.




The most interesting thing to me is that he changed his life while working in reality tv.  He now hovers at a healthy weight of around 200lbs...a far cry from the 365lbs that he once reached at his heaviest.  As soon as he started being accountable and taking himself seriously, the jobs started coming...the ones he wanted. Tiny is a representation for me of the fact that you CAN change your life while working on set or in post. You just have to want it bad enough.

Nick's Tips: How'd he do it?



Crafty:

  • Look for the things with the fewest ingredients or for whole foods like fruit.

  • Keep snacks under 200 calories

  • Bring canned tuna for a protein snack

  • If you're eating because you're bored, slug a WATER instead; know the difference between boredom and real hunger

  • Drink green tea or kombucha

  • Make requests. Production wants an alert crew, they'll oblige more often than not.

  • If you're overly tired, it's because of what you're putting into your body.


Crew Meals:

  • Avoid white starches/carbs like pasta,white rice or potatoes

  • Ask for dressing and sauces on the side

  • Start looking at meals as FUEL instead of food. Ask yourself, what is going to make the next 6 to 8 hours of my shift easier versus what is going to put me to sleep?

  • Throw a fruit carb in a few hours post lunch to energize you for the last few hours till wrap time.

  • Get off the sugar roller coaster. You want coffee post lunch because your lunch made you sleepy!


Working out:


  • There's always time for at least 30 minutes of cardio.

  • Quick runs or intervals take no time, do them pre or post shift. If you're eating right, you'll have energy for this.

  • "Condition yourself to do more!" The time spent in the gym makes lugging around a camera easier.  The camera doesn't feel as heavy and he doesn't get out of breath while shooting because he's physically conditioned himself for it.

  • Working out helps you sleep better.  Better sleep equals a sharper mind at work.

  • Find a workout partner, especially if you're on the road. Nick used to play minor league baseball; competition drives him, and he uses that as a tool for fitness.

  • You don't have to be a gym rat...just do something physical! Nick says to use guys like Jesse Fleiss as inspiration..."that dude is always doing something active!"


Strategy:

  • Work out on shift days. Take a day off from the gym on your day off. That way you get one complete day of rest from work and fitness before the work week starts again.

  • Tackle one thing at a time. Pick one thing you KNOW you're doing wrong and go after it. Once you've made that change, tackle the next thing.




The hardest thing to do is get out the door. But once you do, you'll be so glad you did. Some of us need to lose a few pounds, some of us need a lifestyle overhaul. Every person needs their own wake up call. Nick's best advice is to be honest with yourself and your situation. "The more you do, the better you'll feel," Nick says. And I couldn't agree more.

She's Crafty

Stop snacking on junk. It's the reason why you feel like junk.

Okay. I know how lame most crafty tables can be. Mealy apples, a bag of cheezits and some red vines. Add a paper clip and it sounds like ingredients that Macgyver could have made a bomb out of.

First....let's talk about what constitutes a healthy snack. Anything mother nature made herself is a good start. Carbohydrates like fruits and veggies have vitamins and minerals to keep you going strong. Proteins like chicken and eggs help muscle repair and are essential to any balanced meal. Fats like nuts and avocados are necessary for brain function as well as keeping you feeling satisfied and fuller longer.

Add combinations of carbs, proteins and fats together for a more well balanced and long lasting snack. For example....Beef jerky paired with an orange. Almonds paired with an apple. String cheese and grapes. Baby carrots and peanut butter. Proteins and fats slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, keeping you feeling more satisfied. 6 hours is a long time to go between meals, you need hearty healthy snacks.

My thoughts on processed foods. I really don't care what the front of the bag/box says. If the ingredient list on the back looks like a paragraph full of words I could have found in my Jr. High Chemistry book - I stay away. It's all stuff created in some lab somewhere that will only make you feel worse after eating it. Your job is hard. You don't need to make it harder by having less energy.

So...armed with this new information, you will now look at that crafty table with a new eye. Start reading the labels, you'll be shocked. Everything has high fructose corn junk in it. Everything. How much sodium is in that cute little baggie? Educate yourself and be aware of what you're putting into your mouth.

So now, the big question. What if the entire crafty table is ONLY filled with junk? What if NOTHING passes your test for what's acceptable food? I'm going to offer up a solution that some of you will not like. This is going to piss some of you off.

I don't know of any other job that gives it's employees snacks for free. Production doesn't HAVE to do this for us. They just do. So then, first, make suggestions to production as to what you'd like to see on that table. Second, bring your own crafty. (insert sound of car crash here.)

If you really want to take your own health into your own hands, bring food. It's not that hard. Carry a "crew igloo" with icepacks in it. Pack some stuff in your backpack. Be prepared, just incase that table looks like a Macgyver bomb, you have an out. Because if you don't have backup in your backpack, you WILL get hungry and you WILL grab the doritos.

If you eat a meal right before your shift, and you get lunch halfway through, you should bring 2 or 3 snacks. And you can always grab whatever's healthy from the crafty table to supplement what you brought yourself. Here are my picks for some of my favorite backpack crafty items.

CARBS:

Apples, Bananas, Pears, Tangerines, Grapes, Berries, Trader Joes' dried fruits (unsulfured and unsweetened)

Baby carrots, Celery sticks, Sugar snap peas, Cucumber slices

Hummus dip (try with radish "chips")

Mary's Gone Crackers (whole foods...healthy wheat & gluten free crackers, they're yummy)

PROTEINS:

Turkey or beef jerky (just be careful of the salt content..TJ's or Whole foods brands are better)

Boiled Eggs

Deli Turkey slices (try to find nitrate free)

String Cheese

Cottage cheese single serving cups

Yogurt single serving cups (plain...the ingredients on the flavored ones can get scary)

Canned tuna

Powdered whey protein (bring a mixer cup)

FATS:

Nuts and seeds (raw and unsalted is best)

Avocados

Trail mix (TJ's has awesome selections)

Peanut butter

Full fat cheeses

EXTRA GOODIES:

Larabars (any health bar with 2 or 3 ingredients rules!)

Jay Robb Whey Protein Bars (Whole foods)

Perfect foods bar lite (fridge section of whole foods)

ZBars (contain very little soy)

Trader Joe's brand unsweetened Green Tea (antioxidants plus caffeine)

Kombucha teas (tastes yummy and aids in digestion)

Dark chocolate (70% or higher for a little mood boosting sweet treat)

Rawnola (Whole Foods)

Staring at your crafty table and totally confused? Hit me up at mariaabarca@mac.com. Or leave a comment below.

If you don't have your health, then what DO you have?

We're all busy. There's not a person I know who isn't. We lead fast paced lives and work INSANE hours. However, this is no excuse to let your health fall by the wayside. If you don't have your health, then what DO you have? I'm talking longevity here people.

If you

make physical activity a priority

, you're never too busy. Here's how:

1. Do more exercise when you're between jobs. Some of you nutcases go from job to job with no time to rest. Those of you who take a little time to "reset" can take advantage of this time to be more active.

2. Just MOVE! Walks, jogs, bike rides, hiking, bowling, volleyball at the beach, or even going to the gym if that suits you. If you do something you enjoy, you're more likely to stick with it. If you hate going to the gym, do something else. Try an outdoor bootcamp or swim at the YMCA, you'll even get a healthy dose of vitamin D spending more time outdoors. You'll burn more calories doing something rather than nothing.

3. Working on the road? On your days off explore new cities by foot or bike. Reality folks are so lucky they get to see the world while earning a living...take advantage of new locations. Some of the cities you get to see have some of the coolest activities to partake in, especially the tropical locales! Surf, sightsee, explore. Being active doesn't always mean pumping iron at the gym.

4. Hire a trainer. You'll be more likely to show up if someone is expecting you to. A trainer should understand your schedule and try their best to fit you in at times most convenient for you. I understand that sometimes my clients are "MIA" for a while with busy shows, or on the road, or just doing mad OT. Believe me, I get plenty of late night texts saying, "I just found out I have tomorrow off...what time can I come in to see you?" It works out because my clients want it to. You CAN be in the industry and have a trainer, just make sure you're on the same page and that they understand how your schedule works.

5. Download BODYFATE for your iphone. Bodyfate is the best fitness app out there. Enter your fitness level, how long you have to work out, and check off what equipment you have nearby (a CHAIR is even one of the options!) The app then generates a workout tailored for you, with fitness models who show you how to do the exercises safely and with proper form! It's the PERFECT thing for you travelers and those of you who don't have enough time to hit the gym before work. AND, I'll be demonstrating some of the exercises in the next version of the app...so it'll be just like having me on the road with you!

6. Short intense workouts rule! You DON'T have to spend an hour at the gym. Cut your time in half by increasing the intensity of your workout. Get on that treadmill and do intervals of

sprints and walking. Sprint for one minute and walk for 1 or 2. 20 minutes and you're done. Or choose 3 exercises at the gym and do them in fast succession, only resting after you've completed all three. Then repeat the cycle once or twice more. Studies show that people who practice shorter workouts tend to stick with their program longer, resulting in greater fat loss over time.

I know the hours of working in reality tv can be grueling. But if you choose to make your health a priority, it CAN be done. Just choose you...plain and simple.

*COMING SOON: The MariaFIT hotel room workout video...the best way to take me along with you on your next road gig!

Fish...It's easy!

Lot's of you guys say you enjoy eating fish at restaurants but are intimidated by cooking it at home. Voila! FISH...demystified.

Always try to buy wild fish as opposed to farmed. Frozen fish is fine to use, just defrost it before cooking by leaving it in the fridge to thaw. Whole Foods has excellent fish options in both the freezer and fresh deli area.

Different fish have different tastes and textures. Mahi mahi and cod are lighter, flakier fish with a very mild taste, while salmon and tuna are fattier and more flavorful. Fish have high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids - YAY for heart health!

There are tons of ways to prepare fish. Here's my tried and true simple method that I use for all types of fish. It's super easy and foolproof.

What you need:
-butter
-fish (thawed)
-heavy bottom skillet that can be placed on stovetop AND into the oven (porcelain enamel cast iron)
-salt & pepper


How to:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Heat 1/2 to 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet over medium heat on the stovetop. Salt & pepper the fish.
-When the butter is melted, add the fish. Sear the fish on both sides using a medium to med/high heat.
-You're not cooking the fish all the way through here so just think of browning the outside of the fish.
-After both sides are seared, add the pan to the oven and cook until the fish is cooked through.
-Cook for roughly 10 minutes (flakier fish takes less time than fattier fish like salmon)
-Be careful not to overcook! You will know the fish is done when the color is the same all the way through. Overcooked fish will get tough and chewy...yuck.


*For extra yum, add veggies like asparagus or brussels sprouts to the pan when you're searing the fish. They'll roast up nice in the oven.

I like to serve my fish in a salad or over raw or steamed greens with some extra veggies and avocado on the side. A sprinkle of lemon juice tops off the flavor.

Summer Body Prep! June Special

Dreading getting into that swimsuit this summer?

Wishing that you didn't have to wear that sarong with your bikini?

Wondering if people will notice that you're wearing your t-shirt into the pool?

Take control today!

Jumpstart your metabolism with my

SUMMER BODY PREP!

Available only during the month of JUNE so act FAST!

The THREE WEEK program includes:

  • 9 personal strength and conditioning training sessions to boost your metabolism, burn calories, and gain lean muscle. (3 sessions per week)
  • 3 nutritional and lifestyle coaching sessions teaching you which foods to eat to jumpstart your body's fat burning ability, and how to plan healthy well balanced meals. Learn how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals and the importance of "little victories". Discover how to stay healthy despite having a busy schedule. It IS possible. (1 session per week, 30 to 45 minutes, phone)

Ready to START?

12 total sessions for only $650

(over $1000 value)

In one year I went from this...

To this...

All because of a healthy jumpstart with my trainer.

How long have you been telling yourself, "I'll start tomorrow."  Well, the problem with tomorrow is that it never comes.  Start TODAY.

You may not be able to afford or have the time for a trainer 12 months out of the year, so take advantage of this opportunity now with these discounted prices. Learn as much as you can in our three weeks together to carry with you year round. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Contact me.

323-854-5274

maria@chainfitness.com

Whatcha waiting for?

*

Available for new clients only, or returning MariaFit clients who have been away for 2 months or longer.

*Training times subject to my current availability. I will try my hardest to schedule you in at times convenient for you.

*Payment due in full at the start of your SUMMER BODY PREP.

Radishes


Stop hating on these little red balls of yum. It's time to give radishes a second chance.

One cup of radishes has only 20 calories. They are rich in potassium and folic acid as well as vitamin B6 and the minerals magnesium and calcium.

What to do...Ideas:
-add sliced radishes to salads
-combine chopped radishes with chicken or tuna salads for a crispy bite
-slice thinly and use as a "chip" alternative for hummus or party dips
-use instead of croutons as a soup topper
-cut them in half and roast in the oven at 375 degrees...a great roasted potato alternative!
-(finally, my favorite) sautee sliced radishes in a pan with a little butter for a wonderful side dish to go with any protein. Use REAL butter...no fake substitutes.

Pain in the neck

Somewhere on my journey to 10 pullups, I got a little wacky. I was "greasing the groove" so much that god knows what I was doing to my back and neck as far as straining the heck out of them. Not surprising that a few days before I got my PR, my back started hurting. The right side of my upper thoracic spine was burning. I know that myofasical release is key to pain management. I attacked my entire upper back with my foam roller and tennis balls. I felt like a cat trying to scratch an itch with anything it could find to rub up against. No luck. Crap...I feel like I'm on fire.

I did some research into referred pain patterns. Sometimes the spot to rub is nowhere NEAR the spot that hurts. (read that last sentence again....just to make it sink in!)

The scalenes...or bermuda triangle of muscles...is located in the front part your neck above the clavicle. It's the weird ropey muscles that poke out when you gasp or say, "eek!" My Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Claire Davies said to investigate massaging this area for upper back pain. Huh? Massage the side of my throat for back pain? Dumb.

So, the next day, I'm dragging myself around Target, hunched over in pain, purse hanging open with its innards spilling out onto the floor, and a scarf strapped around my neck that's strangling me like a noose. Graceful? Never. Completely annoyed by this point, I grab the scarf to rip it off my neck and accidentally jab my finger into the side of my throat. THERE IT WAS! I jabbed right onto a trigger point in my neck so bad that my knees went weak. I literally saw spots. People in the kitchen appliances section must have thought I was nuts. I was standing there between the toasters and the slow cookers with my finger jammed into my neck and trying not to throw up on my shirt.

I rubbed...hard. For a good 5 minutes. The harder I rubbed, the less the burning in my back became. I'd found it.


If you hurt, RESEARCH trigger point therapy and try to implement the techniques on yourself. Ask me. Ask your trainer. The body is an amazing thing. Everything is connected to the next. Stop thinking of your body as individual muscles and bones and start thinking of it as an interconnected web. Good luck!

Nut Milk



Milk always seems to be a hot topic when discussing health. We've been told since childhood that milk does a body good, right? It's pretty clear that my stance on food is as follows: the closer it is to it's natural state, the better it is for you. So what about pasteurized homogenized milk from sick cows? Doesn't sound all that natural and healthy to me. Raw milk makes a little more sense to me. Our ancestors had their own goats or maybe even a cow and drank it's milk right then and there. But, finding raw milk can be hard these days and lots of people still have reservations about it's safety. I hear ya. It's up to you to do your research on all types of milk and weigh the benefits and risks of them ALL.

Here's a recipe to make nut milk at home. It's so EASY to make and it's DELISH! If you're going paleo or dairy free or have lactose intolerance, this recipe is right up your alley. I used hazlenuts for this recipe but almonds, brazil nuts or macadamias would work just fine also. This is a great alternative to dairy based milks and is a great post workout treat. After making your own nut milks, you'll never buy the packaged stuff in the grocery store again.

Ingredients:
1 part nuts
2 to 3 parts water
(optional stevia, cinnamon or vanilla)

How to:
Soak the nuts in water overnight. It softens them and gets them ready for blending. Don't worry about any peelings that may soften or come off of the nuts as they soak.

I prefer to blend in small batches. Add one part nuts and two parts fresh water to a blender and blend until most of the larger pieces are broken down. I blend my milk in a magic bullet with 1/4 c hazelnuts and 1/2 c water.

Set a cheesecloth over a bowl with ample cloth draped over the sides of the bowl. Pour all of the nutmilk into the cheesecloth. Raise up the sides of the cloth to make a baggie with the nut residue in the center. Then "milk" the bag. Squeeze all of the liquid into the bowl beneath and you'll be left with the chopped up nut pieces safely held together in the cheesecloth. Discard cheesecloth and nut leftovers and refrigerate the milk! If the milk needs extra pizzaz, add a little stevia, cinnamon or vanilla to flavor it. I like it plain.

Enjoy the milk with fruit or your favorite smoothie. It hits the spot after a tough workout.

(**I've seen nut milk bags for sale but cheesecloth works just as well and is cheaper. I guess if you're planning on regularly making milk at home, a bag would be a good investment at around $10)

Coconut Chicken Stir Fry



The coconut milk in this recipe adds a sweet flavor as well as some healthy fats. Make sure the coconut milk is unsweetened. You can use regular or light coconut milk. The lighter one is simply more watered down while the full fat one is thicker. Since you're only using a portion of the can, you can add a splash of the remaining milk to your next smoothie!


Ingredients:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - TBSP
Chicken Breast - 2 large breasts
Peppers (yellow/green/red) - 1/2 to 1 of each, depending on size
Asparagus - 6 stalks
Coconut Milk (in the can, found in international foods aisle) - 1/4 to 1/2 cup
Spices (paprika/cumin/ginger/salt/pepper)

How To:
In skillet, sautee peppers and asparagus in oil until lightly browned over medium heat (5 to 6 minutes). Remove from skillet and set aside. Cut chicken breasts into strips and sautee in oil until centers are almost cooked through on medium heat (another 6 to 8 minutes). When centers are still slightly pink, add the pepper mixture, coconut milk and spices and simmer on low heat for another 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink. Serve alone or over brown rice or quinoa. If you're paleo, spoon the dish over some healthy mixed greens.

Change your life in 15 minutes

We're all busy. I don't know one person who isn't. We all have demanding jobs with long hours. Almost every person I know is stressed out. We lead busy lives and live in a society where working from morning till night is the norm. But what isn't acceptable is to let your health decline because of a busy schedule.

Somewhere out there, there's a CEO of some large company who wakes up every morning and works out and eats well. He makes multimillion dollar decisions and has a stress level higher than I will ever have. How does he do it? Two things....priority and preparation.

First, you must make YOU a priority. Nothing on this earth is more valuable than your health. Without it, you're done. It's time to start loving yourself and treating your body with respect. You only have one life and one body, ya know?

Second, you must be prepared. So where does this magical 15 minutes fit in?

I'm asking one thing of you. Always be prepared for your meals of your day. When you wake up, take 15 minutes to plan and think about what you will put into your body that day. It's easy. Think about it while you're eating breakfast. Questions to ask yourself...
-what will i eat for lunch?
-what will i eat for dinner?
-how many hours will pass between those two meals?
-how many snacks must I bring to sustain myself between those meals?

If you're eating out for lunch or dinner, that's fine. Just be prepared mentally for what healthy thing you will order. If 7 hours will pass between lunch and dinner, bring one or two snacks to hold you over. Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, healthy proteins are all great options for snacks. Throw them in your bag, it's EASY. It will be the difference between a day of healthy eating and a day of bad choices. Go to the grocery store on your day off and make sure you're READY. Don't let yourself get starving.

15 minutes. That's all. Yes, I sometimes work really long days. I ALWAYS take 15 extra minutes in the morning to eat a healthy breakfast and to plan out what I'll need for the day. I pack workout clothes, toiletries, snacks, and lunches. Sometimes I feel like a bag lady with all the stuff I carry around. But I want to be prepared for my workouts, recovery, meals and snacks. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier...you won't miss any sleep that way.

"To be prepared is half the victory." -Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)

Yes, you can do this.
xoxo
M

Baja Fresh?

If Baja Fresh had existed in the year 1912, it could have saved the titanic. There's enough salt in most of their burritos to melt an iceberg.

You guys...I am totally SHOCKED at the amount of sodium in most of the ingredients in Baja Fresh. If the food is really fresh, then why do most of the menu items contain your DAILY RDA of salt. Baffled.

Let me put this into perspective. Ramen noodles is one of those foods that is notorious for being salty, right? We've all heard of the dangers of eating ramen because, "oh yeah, there's a lot of sodium in that." Well, ALL of the burritos at Baja Fresh at least double and MOST TRIPLE the amount of sodium that's in one cup o' noodles. Your recommended daily salt allowance is 2300mg. How you get plain old pico de gallo to have almost 1000mg and why the soups contain 2600mg of sodium is beyond my understanding of food. I don't even know why or much less HOW they do that. I picture some sci fi robot salting machine that just zaps all the food into little salt balls.

And if the salt is this high...you can bet that the calorie content is through the roof as well. What upsets me the most is that Baja Fresh is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Yes, they're probably healthier than other popular fast food chains, but they're not an ideal meal or even fresh by any means.

But not all is lost. This menu does contain a few items that won't expand your waistlines or slim down your artery walls. This was a tough one but here are my pics for best and worst at Baja Fresh. Sorry guys but burritos, quesadillas, fajitas and nachos are all pretty much off limits. Blame them! Not me!

BEST:
Original Baja Tacos
Grilled Mahi Mahi soft taco
Chicken/Steak/ or Shrimp Baja Ensalada

A few honorable mentions:
Americano Soft Taco
Side of chips and Pico de Gallo (or ask for the fat free salsa verde salad dressing to dip, instead of the guacamole or salsa)

WORST:
Nacho Burrito (1250 calories & 3200mg sodium)
Steak Nachos (2120 calories & 2990mg sodium)
Steak Fajitas with flour tortillas (1240calories & 3440mg sodium)
Chips & Guacamole (1340 calories...again, how is this even possible?)

So try to stick with the tacos, salads and go easy with the rice and beans and chips here. You'll feel better for the rest of the work day.

Kale Chips

I'm a chip a holic. But following a gluten free diet doesn't allow me much munch in the way of crunch. And unfortunately, most corn chips are loaded with salt, bad oils and genetically modified corn. Here's my simple solution.


Ingredients:
Kale - one bunch
Sea Salt - about 1 teaspoon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - about 1 tablespoon

Recipe:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim all the stalks off of the kale, discarding the stalks and saving the leafy greens. Put the leafy greens into a bowl and pour salt and EVOO on top. Mix well. The leaves should be lightly covered in the oil. Place leaves onto a baking sheet (i cover my baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy cleanup.) Bake for 10-15 minutes until edges of the kale begin to brown. Remove and let cool and MUNCH!

I've even brought a secret bag of these delicious treats with me to the movie theater as a slightly salty popcorn alternative. Happy eating!

Sean First Pullups

Sean, you rock. I'm sorry I cut your head off in the video of you doing your first pullup. I was so excited, I forgot to pay attention to the camera. Heh heh. It has been an absolute joy to watch you grow and conquer these goals. Keep going...keep crushing.

Sean has been greasing the groove with pullups a lot lately. We've been working on his shoulder mobility and doing plenty of strength work. We've been "greasing the groove" and slowly increasing the volume of band pullups that Sean does over time. Play the numbers game. Building the strength to do a strict pullup takes time, but once you have it, it's there and it's real. Watch the video to see what I'm talking about.

Sean First Pullup from Maria Abarca on Vimeo.

What I Eat...No Sugar.

NO SUGAR:
If you haven't discovered Stevia, go get some. Now. It's a natural sweetener that's derived from an herb from the sunflower family and has a negligible effect on blood sugar.

Get off of the sugar/starch roller coaster. You don't need 4 venti 3-shot vanilla latte's each day just to stay awake. Plan your meals so that you don't have an insulin spike followed by a "i need some toothpicks to keep my eyes open" crash.

Start reading your labels. Corn syrup, cane juice, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose - they're all SUGAR!

FACT: If I eat too much sugar or starch I GAIN WEIGHT. period.

Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Finger food. Yum.

Ingredients: (serves one...awww, one IS the lonliest number. I'll make 2 next time and invite you over.)
Ground Turkey 1/4 package
1/2 to 3/4 one large yellow squash
1/4 cup leeks or onions
Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Alfalfa Sprouts
1/4 Avocado
Iceberg or butter lettuce or cabbage leaves (whole and rinsed)
Cumin
Paprika
Salt & Pepper

Directions:
Sautee oil, onions, squash and turkey in a skillet (i use my cast iron one for this recipe). Add in spices to taste. Place mixture in lettuce leaves on a plate. Top with avocado slices and sprouts. Roll up for a yummy finger food lunch or snack.


The cool thing about this recipe is that it is super simple and can be adjusted very easily. Want a chinese version? Just use mandarin orange slices, almonds, green onions and a drizzle of hoisin sauce. Or maybe try it Thai style and add curry powder and cilantro. The possibilities are endless. Happy eating!

Broccoli Slaw

Everyone knows that they need to eat more veggies, but most people are at a loss when it comes to preparation or coming up with new and exciting ways to experience vegetables. Here's an idea for an awesome summer side dish that's the definition of EASY!

Ingredients:
1 bag broccoli slaw from Trader Joes (it's the stalks of the broccoli, shredded)
1 heaping spoonful of full fat greek yogurt
1/4 c pecans (or more to taste)
1/2 apple (diced)
salt & pepper



How to: Mix all ingredients into a bowl, keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Dude...it doesn't get easier than this



I served this yummy side with a roasted pork loin and some of my favorite sauteed veggies.