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Healthy Comfort Food—3 Layer Sweet Potato Casserole

casserole 2

I served this to my family at both Thanksgiving and Christmas and it was gone it no time. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Ingredients
• 3-5 large sweet potatoes
• 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
• Cinnamon (to taste)
•  5 tablespoons of butter (plus what you use to great the dish)
• ½ cup of flour
• ½ cup of Turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)
• 1 ½ cups nut mix (pecans, almonds and walnuts)

Directions

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, while oven is heating line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. This will save you a ton of time when it comes time to clean up as the juices from the potato are impossible to get off of baking pans. Wash the sweet potatoes in the sink and repeatedly poke holes in them with a knife or fork.

2. Slide them in the oven and wait, should take about 45 minutes (give or take). You know they are done when they look like this and they are soft to the touch. Be careful as they will be very hot! Don’t turn your oven off, re-set the temperature to 350 degrees as you’ll be using it in just a minute.

Sweet 1

3. Let them cool for a bit, then remove the skins, place them in a bowl with 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, sprinkle with cinnamon and top with ½ a tablespoon of butter.

Sweet 2

4. Using an electric mixer, mix until smooth like pudding.

sweet 3

 

5. Grease a large oven safe bowl or baking pan with butter. I use a circular bowl. You don’t want to use a bowl or pan that’s too big as you want the sweet potato layer to be fairly thick. After you’ve greased the pan add the sweet potato mix to it and spread evenly.

6. To make the 2nd layer, combine ½ cup of flour, 4 tablespoons of butter, ½ cup of Turbinado sugar, cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract in a bowl. Mix with a spoon. It will clump up after just a few minutes, make sure you mix it thoroughly.

sweet 4

7. Sprinkle over the top of the 1st layer.

sweet 5

8. Chop up nuts using a blender and combine them in a bowl with ½ a tablespoon of butter. Microwave for 30 seconds and mix to coat the nuts with the melted butter.

sweet 6

 

9. Spread the nuts over the 2nd layer and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

10. This next step is very important as it really maximizes the flavor. Switch your oven seting to broil (high) to brown/roast the nuts. Keep a close eye on it as it’s very easy to burn! Depending on the height of your oven racks it could take as little as 2 or 3 minutes.
The first picture below is what the casserole looks like after 35 minutes of baking in the oven. The 2nd picture is after you broil it. Broiling really takes the taste to the next level.

sweet 7

 

 

sweet 8

11. This tastes much better after it cools and is re-heated. So fix ahead of time an re-heat for best results.

This recipe makes anywhere from 6-10 servings. Give it a try, if you have any questions send me an email and as usual keep moving and keep visiting markkaelin.com!

 

 

 

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Don’t ditch exercise during the holidays HIIT it!

Wouldn’t it be great, if you could exercise less and still get the benefits? Guess what, there is! It’s called high intensity interval training or HIIT and it’s an effective way to:

  • spend less time in the gym.
  • decrease abdominal fat and body weight.
  • lower blood pressure.
  • improve insulin sensitivity and your cholesterol profile.
  • increase aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

 

HOW’S IT WORK?

Workouts range from 20-40 minutes in length. How long you exercise depends on the intensity of the workout and your current fitness level. In addition to the time aspect, the great thing about HIIT is it doesn’t require investing in a lot of equipment or a gym membership. All you need is a watch. Keep in mind that while you’re decreasing your volume (total time exercising) you are increasing your intensity (how hard you work) so limit your HIIT workouts to 2-3 times a week. HIIT is not for everyone! Before diving headfirst into one of these workouts do two things.

  1. If you have a condition that’s aggravated by exercise consult your physician. Be specific, tell them exactly what you’re going to do.

 

  1. Develop a base fitness level: This means consistently exercising 3-5 times a week for 20-60 minutes for several weeks at an intensity level that results in cardiovascular and skeletal muscle adaptations.1

 

With your physicians OK and a base fitness level, you’re ready to go. As you can see in the templates below. You warm up and cool-down just like you would during any exercise session. The difference is what you do in-between which I refer to as the MAIN SET. Performing one rep of high intensity (hard activity) followed by one rep of active rest (light activity) then repeat for the listed number (anywhere from 2-10 times). What you’re doing is decreasing your volume while increasing your intensity which results in higher calorie expenditure, fat loss, improvements in cardiac function and positive changes in lipid profile and insulin sensitivity (lowers your Type II diabetes risk).

 

HOW DO I DETERMINE HOW HARD I SHOULD WORK?

In my experience after people have established a base fitness level they become fairly adept at determining how hard they are working. So track your intensity by utilizing  your rating of perceived exertion scale (RPE) to monitor your workouts (see chart below). Your goal during the work phase of your interval is to hit an RPE of 5-8. What’s this feel like? You should be able to carry on a conversation with difficulty.

That being said if you’re new to HIIT, initially shoot for a 5. Work hard but still have some  left in the tank. After you have a few workouts under your belt then crank up your RPE to a 7 or 8.

RPE3

During the rest interval continue to move if you can, your RPE should be anywhere from a 2-3 on the scale below. You can also use the talk test. Once you catch your breath you should be able to carry on a conversation without any difficulty.

 

 HIIT TRAINING

Try one of the workouts below to maintain your exercise habit and your waistline during the holiday season.

HIIT

 

THAT’S A WRAP

Give one of these workouts a try and tell me what you think. Make sure you spend some time stretching after your workout to minimize soreness and risk of injury. Keep moving and keep visiting markkaelin.com!

SPOILER ALERT: Starting in January 2018, I’ll be posting a daily workout to help you improve your strength and cardiovascular fitness.

 

 

References

  1. https://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/high-intensity-interval-training.pdf accessed 11/29/2017
  2. Schoenfeld B and Dawes J. High Intensity Interval Training: Applications for General Fitness Training. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 31(6): 44-46, 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Cold Weather Breakfast!

Perfect Cold Breakfast 1

I’ve been waiting til it got cold to spring this recipe on yall!

It’s fast, filling and is a crowd pleaser at my house.

Ingredients: (one serving)

-1/2 cup dry old fashioned oats

-1/4 tablespoon real butter

-1 cup water

-3 brown and serve link sausage (I use the Banquet brand—for vegetarians sub an additional handful of nuts)

-large handful almonds, pecans or walnuts. Make sure you have sliced or crushed almonds and whole almonds can be hard to chew especially for small children.

-large handful of raisins

-1 teaspoon turbinado sugar (do not substitute, this gives this dish it’s rich flavor)

Directions:

  1. Add oats, water and butter to a pot bring to boil. Let boil for one minute then set aside.
  2. Microwave sausage for about 1 minute
  3. Pour oatmeal into a bowl, add sausage, nuts, raisins and top with sugar.
  4. Mix and eat

To add additional serving sizes just multiply ingredients by the number of people you want to serve. For example, to prepare this for a family of four you would need:

2 cups of oats

1 tablespoon of butter

4 cups of water

12 brown and serve link sausage

a really big handful of nuts and raisins

4 teaspoons of turbinado sugar

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

We could all use some more junk in our trunk!

Ahhh……..aging ya gotta love it! NO really, cause there’s not a lot of choices. So in addition to scheduling your colonoscopy, joining AARP and meeting with your retirement planner. You need to start working on your glutes. You know the junk in your trunk!

IMPORTANCE OF STRONG GLUTES

Moving from a sitting to a standing position, propelling yourself forward when you’re walking, climbing stairs or avoiding a fall after slipping all require hip extension. The primary muscle responsible for this movement, gluteus maximus.

As we age we lose muscle mass, strength and power. Only part of this is due to the natural aging process; the quantity of loss depends on your activity level and the exercises you incorporate into your workouts. While many exercises like squats, lunges and deadlifts work the glutes to a certain degree.  It’s not enough.

EXERCISES, SETS AND REPS  

In the video and workout below, I’ll run you through several exercises that target the glutes. To insure you improve all the facets of this muscle,  change the number of repetitions you perform and the load you use. If you have a history of low back problems or any pre-existing conditions that might be aggravated by starting an exercise program check with you physician before trying these.

Exercises Targeting The Glutes (click link to view video)

Week 1: 2 sets of 15 repetitions (2 x15) frogs, bridging (2 x a week)

Week 2:  2 sets of 20 repetitions (2 x 20) frogs, bridging (2 x a week)

Week 3: 3 x 20 frogs, bridging (2 x a week)

Week 4: 2 x 10 weighted frogs, single leg bridging (2 x a week)

Week 5 and on: Slowly work up to 3 x 20, and once you’re there increase the weight. Also add a third exercise, bird dogs, starting with 2-3 x 10 and continue performing the exercises 2 x a week.

 

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

  • Intensity beats volume, make sure you’re contracting and squeezing the glutes at the top of the movement.
  • Don’t go overboard with the weight! How much you increase the weight depends on your medical history and training level. Remember, it’s better to go too light then too heavy.
  • Utilize these lifts at the end of the workout
  • If it doesn’t feel right—STOP!

As usual, if you have any questions let me know.

REFERENCES

  1.  Tobeyis K and Mikeis J. Single Leg Glute Bridge. Strength and Conditioning Journal.  August 2017.
  2. Force Vector Training by Bret Contreras on www.nsca.com

Simple, Fast and Filling!

Simple and filling

It’s Monday what did you have for breakfast? Maybe you got up late, the kids were cranky and slow to get out of bed and pushed your schedule over the edge or you just didn’t want to fix anything and dirty up the kitchen and dishes. I get it. Here’s a breakfast that takes just a few seconds to prepare, has virtually no cleanup, is easy to transport and will stick with you while you rocket through your day

Why plain Greek yogurt? Simple, it’s higher in protein and since it’s plain you can control how much sugar you consume. Give it try and let me know what you think.

 

Ingredients

1 cup FAGE Plain Greek Yogurt (either 2% or total) topped with 1 teaspoon Turbinado Sugar

¼ cup of salted cashews

1 small handful raisins or craisins

1 large wedge of marbled Monterey Jack and Colby cheese

 

Dinner and then some!

I found this recipe on Girls Gone Strong and made a few changes. This is perfect for those nights when you’re in a hurry to get something on the table and it makes a lot which cuts down on lunch prep later in the week.

Ingredients

2 pounds ground beef (80% lean, 20% fat)

2 eggs

1 can stewed Italian tomatoes with garlic, basil and oregano

1 small can of mushrooms

½ – 1 cup of old fashioned oats (stops shrinkage)

1-yellow onion diced

Extras: diced olives, diced peppers (any type), pizza sauce

Shredded Parmesan Cheese to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450° F.
  2. Combine ground beef, eggs, ½ liquid from stewed tomatoes, oats, onions , mushrooms, and peppers, in a large bowl and mix with a hand mixer.
  3. Once you’ve got a homogeneous mixture, spread it out in an 11”x 17” baking pan that has at least a one-inch rim.Lunchleftovers1
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, until it’s cooked through.Lunchleftovers2
  5. Take it out and drain the excess grease.
  6. Sprinkle the top with tomatoes, the rest of the liquid in the can, parmesan cheese and if you want pizza sauce. I don’t use it as I feel like the stewed tomatoes and cheese is enough for me.Lunchleftovers3
  7. Place back in the oven and broil on high for 5-9 minutes until its golden brown.Lunchleftovers4
  8. Cut it up and serve over the top of my summer veggies with avocado or on a broccoli or spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette. It also works great paired with sides of green beans and carrots.Lunchleftovers9

lunchleftovers12

If you do take this for lunch, make sure you warm it up to really bring out the all the flavors of the meat, spices and veggies.

What is functional fitness?

The term functional fitness is the new, hot term in exercise. But, what is it, why do you  need it and how do you get it?

First—What is it?

Functional Fitness is the ability to perform common tasks and activities confidently and without fear of injury. For example, moving furniture; picking up luggage; lifting up a child for a hug or moving a bag of mulch from the driveway to a flower bed; all of these common activities require squatting in an unloaded position, grasping a load and then standing up. In short, they’re all examples of a deadlift. (more on this later)

 

Second-Why do I need it?

At some point in your life you’re going to want or need to move a piece of furniture, pick up some luggage, interact with a child or move something from point A to point B.

Now, think back about when you’ve asked a friend or family member how they hurt their back you probably heard something like:

“My neighbor and I were moving furniture.”

“I was playing with the grandkids.”

“Yard work”

Face it, life’s a contact sport. Meaning, at some point you’re going to come into contact with something you need to lift, scoot, shift,  relocate, transfer, reposition, move, raise (get we’re I’m going with this) and you need to be ready.

Third–How do I get it?

Performing exercises that mimic real life movements. To do this, I’d recommend incorporating dumbbell deadlifts into your current workout. As with any exercise program/recommendation, check with your physician to make sure this lift is appropriate for you.

This is a great exercise but don’t overdo it. Start with one set of fifteen repetitions (abbreviation 1 x 15). Make the weight challenging but you should be able to complete all repetitions with perfect form. Once, 15 repetitions isn’t challenging increase the weight by 5-10 lbs. When you increase the weight you are going to decrease the number of repetitions to 10. Why? More weight = more work! Slowly work up to 15 repetitions and then increase the weight again.

In addition to performing more reps you can also perform 2 or even 3 sets of this exercise. Once you can perform 1 set of 15 repetitions, add another set. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets. The first time you repeat a set you might find that you only get 10 reps—no problem! Your goal is increased strength with perfect form not completing 15 repetitions anyway, anyhow no matter what the cost.

Click on the link below to watch the video and then start utilizing deadlifts in your training. As always, if you have any questions let me know!

Dumbell Deadlifts: This video starts with a quick review of how to squat as this is a key component of successful deadlifts. So don’t worry if you hit the link your in the right place. Also, in regards to foot position some people find it more comfortable to have the feet pointing straight ahead so when you practicing if slightly pointing the toes outward feels uncomfortable try it with your feet pointing straight ahead.

References

  1. The Deadlift and Its Application to Overall Performance by NSCA Tactical Strength and Conditioning (TSAC) Report and Matt Wenning MS
  2. National Strength Training and Conditioning Association. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1994.

Bring on Breakfast!

oatmeal breakfast

I love breakfast! Eggs are great and oatmeal is the perfect side dish. It’s healthy, inexpensive and easy to fix. However, my secret ingredient in this dish is cottage cheese (12 grams of protein/serving). Don’t turn up your nose so fast! Research shows that adding protein increases thermogenesis (calorie expenditure), satiety and decreases hunger. More importantly, it tastes great!

Recently I tried this as a one bowl meal and it really hit the spot and got me out of the house in record time. The directions to prepare both of these are listed below give them a try and let me know what you think. You might have to add 2 teaspoons of sugar in the one bowl recipe depending on your sweet tooth as the eggs hide the flavor with just one. However, one teaspoon works just fine for me.

one bowl breakfast

Don’t like eggs no problem, don’t add them. However make sure to add ¼ of a tablespoon of real butter, this slows digestion insuring the meal stays with you and only adds a little bit of fat (2-3 grams).

Omelet and Oatmeal

Ingredients

-1/2 tablespoon olive oil

-2 eggs plus 3 egg whites

-1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

-lots of pepper

-fresh avocado

-1/2 cup old fashioned oats

-1 cup water

-1-2 teaspoons turbinado cane sugar

-1/2 cup 4% milk fat small curd cottage cheese

-small handful of raisins

Directions

  1. Crack eggs in bowl, remove 3 yolks and mix well so liquid has even consistency.
  2. Add oil to skillet and turn stove to medium high (let skillet warm before adding eggs).
  3. Pour eggs into skillet, if you wait for the oil and skillet to warm, the egg mix will spread thinly and evenly across the skillet, making it easier to fold and flip your omelet.
  4. Add a ¼ of a cup of shredded parmesan and lots of pepper
  5. Once the bottom of the egg mix is solid, fold ½ of it over to make your omelet.
  6. Cook for one to two minutes more and then flip and cook on 1-2 minutes on this side to insure omelet is cooked evenly throughout. When down, slide out of skillet and onto a plate, top with avocado.
  7. Add 1 cup of water and a ½ cup of old fashioned oats to a small pot.
  8. Turn stove to high and bring to a boil, turn burner to medium and simmer uncovered for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally so oats don’t stick or burn.
  9. Remove from heat and let it sit for a minute or two. Add cottage cheese, turbinado sugar and mix well.
  10. Pour oatmeal into bowl, arrange raisins in smiley face and dive in.

 

One Bowl Recipe

Ingredients

-1/2 tablespoon olive oil

-2 eggs plus 3 egg whites

-1/2 cup old fashioned oats

-1 cup water

-1-2 teaspoons turbinado cane sugar

-1/2 cup 4% milk fat small curd cottage cheese

-small handful of raisins

-1/4 tablespoon of butter if not adding eggs

Directions

  1. Crack eggs in bowl, remove 3 yolks and mix well so liquid has even consistency.
  2. Add oil to skillet and turn stove to medium high (let skillet warm before adding eggs). Wait a minute of two for oil and skillet to warm
  3.  Pour egg mix into skillet move eggs so they cook but don’t brown.
  4. Once eggs are done (solid and not watery), remove from heat and add to bowl.
  5. Add 1 cup of water and a ½ cup of old fashioned oats to a small pot. (If not adding eggs add ¼ table of butter to the mix.)
  6. Turn stove to high and bring to a boil, turn burner to medium and simmer uncovered for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally so oats don’t stick or burn.
  7. Remove from heat and let sit for a minute or two. Add cottage cheese, turbinado sugar and mix well.
  8. Pour oatmeal into bowl with eggs, arrange raisins in smiley face and dive in.

 

Summer Veggies With Pan-Seared Steak = One Great Dinner!

summer vegs and steak 2

steak and summer vegs 3

Just tried this one on the family and had the greatest compliment, no leftovers! It’s meets all my requirements—-its healthy, filling and visually appealing. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Ingredients

-3 yellow squash

-1-2 zuchinni

-1 sweet bell pepper (red, yellow or orange)

-1 yellow onion

-1 handful of grape tomatoes

-1 can of sliced mushrooms

-1 1/2 teaspoons of dried leaf organo

-3/4 teaspoon basil

-dash of black pepper

-Italian Style Blend shredded cheese  (just Parmesan would work but I like the variety in this mix)

-pure olive oil

-1/2 tablespoon of real butter (stick butter not liquid, I prefer unsalted)

-petite sirloin steak

 

Directions

  1. Rinse all veggies (this includes the canned mushrooms).
  2. Cut squash, zucchini and onion in half then slice thin, dice the red bell pepper.
  3.  Pour all veggies into a bowl, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix. Then add the oregano, basil and black pepper and mix again. Make sure you spend some time doing this so the oil and spices adhere to all the veggies.
  4. Turn stove on medium high and place a large pan on the burner, add one tablespoon of olive oil, let the oil heat and swirl it around the pan to coat.
  5. Add veggies and cook until they are tender. While the veggies are cooking, grab a cookie sheet and using the 1/2 tablespoon of butter coat baking sheet.
  6. Pour veggies onto baking sheet and sprinkle with cheese. How much? It’s up to you remember though we are trying to compliment the taste of the veggies not cover it up.
  7. Broil on high until browned.
  8. While you are browning the veggies. Take the pan you sautéed the veggies in and add an additional tablespoon of olive oil.
  9. Turn stove burner to high and swirl oil around.
  10. Do not start this step until you have a kitchen timer ready. As you will turn the steaks every minute, this way you sear the meat to lock in flavor but minimize charring. Add steaks to pan and turn every minute for a total of 8-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the steak. You might have to add a little olive oil to the top of the steaks in-between turning to minimize charring.

11. Spoon out veggies onto a plate and top with steak.

 

Adding Exercise To Your Daily Routine

We all know we need to exercise but sometimes it’s tough to fit into a schedule. I find the earlier in the day I exercise the more successful I am. So, here’s a workout that fits into a lunch hour and still leaves time to eat. Additionally, I designed the program to work multiple facets of fitness—muscle strength, endurance and power. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Before starting any exercise program, check with your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you to participate. Also, some exercises might not be suitable for everyone. If you feel pain, dizziness or something just doesn’t feel right—stop!

 WEEK 1

15 minute walk, at the end of the walk perform the exercises listed below.

Perform 1 set of 10-15 repetitions of each exercise listed below

Lunges: Click on the exercise name to go to my video library; make sure you watch the entire video to determine which of the three versions of lunges is best for you based on your current activity level and level of conditioning.

Push-ups with a plus: As with the lunges, watch the video to determine which of the three versions of push-ups is best for you based on your current activity level and level of conditioning.

 

WEEK 2

20 minute walk, at the end of the walk perform, the exercises you did in week one and add skaters (see video below).

Skaters: Watch the video to determine which of the three versions of skaters is best for you based on your current activity level and level of conditioning. For this exercise you should perform 1 set of 10-20 repetitions per leg.

 

WEEK 3

30 minute walk, halfway through stop and do one set of each exercise, adding bounding (see video below). At the end of your walk complete a second set set of each exercise.

Bounding: Watch the video to determine which of the three versions of bounding is best for you based on your current activity level and level of conditioning. For this exercise you should perform 1 set of 10-20 repetitions per leg.

 

Thirty minutes of walking is plenty. As you continue you on with this program you need to change it up to keep it challenging. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Increase your pace (walk faster)
  2. Change your route—add hills and steps
  3. Do not split up the strength exercises but perform both sets as a circuit repeating twice or even three times
  4. Change or add exercises (videos for these exercises are coming soon)
  • Work your abs by adding 1-2 sets of planks
  • Drop one of the lower extremity exercises and add 1-2 sets of burpees
  • Carry a ther-band and add a rowing exercise
  • Try performing 1-2 sets of long jumps, instead of skaters

REFERENCES

  1. National Strength Training and Conditioning Association. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human  Kinetics, 1994.
  2. The Bio-mechanics of the Push-up: Implications for Resistance Training Programs. Strength and Conditioning Journal. October 2012.