Mocha Protein Shake

Mocha Protein ShakeThis is the perfect drink to have before or after a challenging workout. It’s packed with protein, some carbs, other good-for-you-stuff (details below), and it tastes like an iced mocha coffee! Post-workout, get this into your system within 30-60 minutes after exercise to feed those hungry muscles. Sipping this shake before your workout helps fight fatigue and powers your muscles up for action…but do so an hour before to allow time for digestion.

Why this shake’s ingredients work for your workout:

  • Protein powder – Weight-lifting and vigorous exercise tear down the fibers of our muscles (we build muscle when the body repairs those fibers). Our bodies need protein to use for the repair process. There are tons of protein powders out there but many are full of weird, unnatural ingredients. Thanks to Gary Collins, I discovered Jay Robb protein powder and was really impressed with the “clean” and simple ingredients.
  • Banana – Provides the quick carbs you need after a workout to help repair your muscles. This is the best time to consume a moderate amount of natural sugars because your body will use it instead of store it. (Yep, there IS an ideal time to eat that piece of dark chocolate…)
  • Coffee – When we expend energy…we get tired! Unless your workout is at the end of the day, or you’ve penciled in some nap time, you’ve still got stuff to do! Coffee not only wakes you back up but studies show caffeine also helps reduce muscle soreness.
  • Coconut oil – After a tough workout, our muscles need extra nutrients. Coconut oil acts as a transport system, getting valuable nutrients from the food we eat afterward into our muscles by helping us secrete insulin. While working out helps our health in the long run, it can actually break down our immune system in the short-term. Plus, gyms are notoriously germy! The antiviral, antibacterial properties of the lauric acid in coconut oil give our immune systems the extra boost in protection it needs. For more explanation of why coconut oil is so good for you, check out this article by Dr. Mercola in The Huffington Post.
  • Maca powder – The magical maca root has a myriad of helpful benefits. The ones that pertain to post-workout are: Speeds up recovery; increases energy endurance and stamina; helps circulation. Want to know more? Take a look at this great article I found.
  • Raw cacao powder – This isn’t your commercial powdered chocolate! Raw cacao powder is powered up with antioxidants. It also contains magnesium, which helps relax muscles and promotes a feeling of calmness.
  • Cinnamon – This flavorful spice reduces inflammation in the body. Another plus is its sweet taste with no real sugar.
  • Sea salt – We know that sweating depletes our electrolytes, but don’t reach for the Gatorade or other “sports drinks” that add artificial colors, flavors, and sugars. Sea salt is just as effective in replacing electrolytes, without all the nasty stuff our bodies aren’t meant to ingest. Not all salt is created equal, nor is salt something we need to avoid. Read Debunking the Salt Myth for the real (salt) scoop.

For about 250 calories (based on 120-calorie protein powder), you’re got a nutrient-packed meal that will prepare you for or replenish your body after tough workouts. Have a fit summer!

Recipe for Mocha Protein Shake

Makes about 20 ounces

  • Coconut milk1 cup coffee or mixture with other liquid – I like ¾ cup coffee with ¼ cup almond or coconut milk (Get the unsweetened, no sugar variety, like pictured example)
  • 1 serving vanilla protein powder
  • ½ medium banana (whole banana if long or strenuous workout)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil (optional) – Melt the oil first before measuring if it’s solid
  • 1 teaspoon maca powder
  • 1 teaspoon raw cacao powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch sea salt (one-eighth teaspoon) – Examples of quality salt are Himalayan Crystal Salt and Real Salt
  • ice

Add ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

Green Dream Juice and Smoothie Recipe

Ingredients for Green Dream Juice

These two recipes are smooth, mild, and cooling…perfect for easy drinking on a hot day.

Recipe for Green Dream Juice

makes approximately 40 ouncesGreen Dream Juice

  • 2 large organic apples, cored and cut to fit in juicer – I recommend Golden Delicious or Fuji
  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled
  • 2 limes, peeled
  • 1 inch fresh ginger – No need to peel
  • 4 leaves green kale with stalks – Red kale won’t change the taste of the juice, but it will definitely change the color!

Recipe for Green Dream Smoothie

makes approximately 20 ouncesGreen Dream Smoothie

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled
  • 1 lime, peel cut away
  • 1 large organic apples, cored and cut – I recommend Golden Delicious or Fuji
  • ½ inch fresh ginger, peeled or 1 teaspoon ginger juice 
  • 1 green kale leaf with stalk
  • 2-3 ice cubes

Add ingredients in order listed in a powerful blender, like Vita-Mix, and blend until smooth. Add a small amount of liquid (coconut water, almond milk, etc.) if needed to help the blending process.

Primal Power Method Book Review

Gary “The Primal Guy” Collins of Gary’s Health Tips recently interviewed me about how I came to adopt a holistic lifestyle and my motivation for starting this blog. I enjoyed our chat and getting to know another Real Food advocate! [You can read our interview here.]

PPM Book 3d coverAfterwards, I had the opportunity to review Gary’s book, Primal Power Method: Unlock the Ancient Secret to Health. I’d been interested for some time in the Paleolithic (Paleo) way of eating—a popular diet purported to be best for our bodies, which haven’t changed much since prehistoric times. The subject of the book, Primal living, goes beyond the realm of Paleo in that it’s not just about eating the way our ancient ancestors did…it’s a way of life.

In a conversational, no-nonsense style, Gary explains the background, research, and the “why” of adopting a Primal lifestyle. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that knowledge is power, and knowing why you should do something makes healthy changes a permanent part of your life. And guess what? That’s Gary’s Primal Power Principle #1!

The objective of Primal Power Method is to deliver time-tested, proven information that everyone can realistically use to achieve optimal health. And it does. It’s chock-full of both scientific and first-person knowledge, and includes recaps of important points for easy reference. What you come to realize while reading this book is that Primal living isn’t about following the newest craze, it’s about giving our bodies what they biologically need and are meant to do…period.

My favorite part of the book is the lengthy section on supplements, a subject that’s always confounded me with the overwhelming number and variety of options out there. What supplements do you need? What do you look for in a product? What’s safe and what’s not? Gary, a former Special Agent for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, demystifies these points and reveals the regulation process behind dietary supplements. I was shocked by what I learned, but also relieved to finally have the straight scoop. I’ll also feel more confident in choosing supplements from now on. By the way, you can get your hands on the products Gary has found safe and effective, and uses daily, at his store.

I love the opening of Primal Power Method:

The truth is, to change your life, even a little, you’ll need to take action. It does no good to learn about your health and do nothing.

You can read all the books in the world about how to increase health, vitality, and get a lean body, but it’s up to YOU to make it a reality by acting upon what you learn. And acting upon what you learn in Primal Power Method will get you that vibrant health for which you’ve been looking.

Collins Bio PicGary Collins holds an AS degree in Exercise Science, BS in Criminal Justice and a MS in Forensic Science. After an exciting career in military intelligence Collins worked for the U.S. State Department, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a Special Agent. His career took him around the world and gave him a unique perspective on not only how the United States, but the world is affected by our food, drug and healthcare policies.

The highlights of his career took him from protecting some of the most powerful people in the world to investigations involving the biggest tainted pet food death case in the U.S. to the intricate dealings of one of the largest counterfeit prescription drug rings in the world. He has often said, “If Americans really knew what was going on in the area of healthcare and nutrition in this country, they would be appalled.” For his full bio click here…

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Butternut Squash Mash

If you’ve ever tried to peel and cut up hard winter squash, you’ll appreciate how little effort this recipe requires.  There are so many variations and adjustments you can make to suit your needs.  I listed some ideas below to get you started.  I tried the recipe as both sweet and savory versions, which were fantastic each way.  This will definitely be making its way onto the table for Thanksgiving!

While this is a simple recipe, it does take time.  The good news is you can do most of the preparation the day before.  After mashing baked squash in a baking dish, cover and refrigerate.  Baking the squash from its refrigerated state will take about 40 minutes.  It goes down way too easily, so make sure you whip up enough!  I highly recommend roasting the seeds too.  They make a great topping for soups and salads, and taste crazy good by themselves as well!

Tasty Butternut Squash Mash Twists (can combine, mix and match to suit tastes):

  • Classic – Butter, sea salt, and pepper
  • Sweet – Maple syrup and cinnamon  (Add layers of marshmallows before baking if you’ve got to have a traditional Thanksgiving side)
  • Savory – Red pepper flakes, paprika, garlic, basil, sea salt
  • Creamy – Add splashes of milk or cream
  • Crunchy – Add roasted squash seeds and/or crumbled no-nitrate bacon

Recipe for Butternut Squash Mash

1 squash makes enough mash to fill a 1.5-quart baking dish.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Place whole squash in a baking dish and bake for 1 hour.

Easy way to bake squash!

Let squash cool enough to handle, then slice skin and peel off.  The cooler the squash is, the easier the skin peels off.  Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds (set aside if want to roast them later).

After removing skin, cut in half to scoop out seeds

Place squash in baking dish and mash

Mash squash in baking dish.

Mashed squash ready to bake

Bake at 350°F until edges pull away from dish.

To roast seeds:  Pour seeds into colander (use one with bigger openings so pulp can pass through) and separate pulp from seeds with the help of very warm running water from the sink.  If possible, soak seeds in water in a jar or container for at least 6 hours (I do this overnight).  Coat baking sheet with coconut oil.  Spread seeds on sheet and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 20 minutes at 350°F (or before if you hear the seeds popping).

Baking squash and seeds (from 2 squash)

Creamy Potato and Carrot Soup

Soup topped with sautéed garlic and shallots

I love fall.  The air turns crisp.  Pumpkins pop up in windows and on porches, some al naturale while others wear dramatic expressions.  Trees dress in the latest fashions of amber, chestnut, and garnet.  This soup is perfect for transitional weather…creamy and dreamy and warms you up without weighing you down.  Even if you live in a warm weather zone, you’ll feel autumn’s spirit.

I like to chew on something when I eat soup, so I made extra of the shallot mixture as a topping.  I see this soup as an appetizer or snack because it’s so light.  But you can also use this soup as a base, adding bits of veggies and protein to make it a more filling meal.

Recipe for Creamy Potato and Carrot Soup

1 lb carrots, cubed (about 2 ½ cups)

1 lb potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 2 ½ cups)

vegetable stock/chicken stock/filtered water, enough to cover carrots and potatoes in pot – I recommend using stock because it provides more flavor.  I used homemade stock and neglected to measure how much I used (again!).  You’ll probably need one of those 32 oz boxes, I recommend Pacific Natural Foods brand.

2-3 shallot sections, thinly sliced – Or can use onions, just make sure they’re very thinly sliced so they’ll cook faster

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or chopped

1 Tablespoon butter (or olive oil)

2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary – If you use dried rosemary, only add ½ to ¾ of a teaspoon, at the same time you start sautéing the garlic and shallots

1 teaspoon sea salt

Pour cubed carrots and potatoes into a deep pot and cover with stock or water until veggies are just covered with liquid.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes until tender.  Melt butter in medium saucepan.  Add garlic and shallots on low until fragrant, then add rosemary.  Saute until shallots are translucent.  Carefully transfer carrots and potatoes (with liquid) into a Vita-mix blender or large food processor (or do in segments).  Add salt and shallot mixture.  Blend until smooth, adding more liquid if necessary.  Add freshly cracked pepper and sea salt to taste.