Monday, October 30, 2017

Harvest Rice Bowl with Squash and Brussels Sprouts

Harvest Rice Bowl with Squash and Brussels Sprouts

This is my FAVORITE fall dish! It has all of the best parts of fall - delicious squash, caramelized brussels sprouts, apples, cranberries! As listed below, it makes a giant amount. Feel free to cut everything in half if you don't want as much food. Also feel free to switch out any of the ingredients. Want to use chopped figs or raisins instead of the craisins? Want to use pear instead of apple? Go for it!

Harvest Rice Bowl with Squash and Brussels Sprouts
Yield: 10-12 side servings
Adapted slightly from Iowa Girl Eats

1 medium butternut or acorn squash (or 2 big sweet potatoes)
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
2 lbs brussels sprouts
salt and pepper
1 1/3 cups brown rice
3-4 oz sharp cheddar cheese (white or yellow)
½ cup slivered almonds or pine nuts
½ cup dried cranberries
1 large (or 2 small) apple

¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1 clove garlic, minced (or ½ tsp crushed garlic)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F. Peel and dice the squash into ~1/2 inch cubes. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, cinnamon, chili powder, garlic powder, and lots of salt and pepper. Spread out onto a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring a few times throughout, until soft and caramelized.

Trim brussels sprouts, and then shred (cut each one in half, and then slice the halves). Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread out onto a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through, until tender and slightly charred.

Meanwhile, cook brown rice according to package instructions. If you have it, replace some of the water with vegetable stock. (We cook brown rice in our Instant Pot and it turns out perfectly every time - for this recipe you would want 1 2/3 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth or water)

Dice the cheese. Core and dice the apple (you can leave the peel on). Toast the nuts until golden brown and fragrant (5-7 minutes at 350 F usually works well).

Mix up the dressing – it works well to add everything to a mason jar and then shake up really well. Just make sure the lid is screwed on tight. 

Using a GIANT bowl, add rice, squash, brussels, cheese, apple, nuts, and cranberries. Toss well. Drizzle over some of the dressing and toss until everything is coated. You probably won’t need all of the dressing, so don’t pour it all on at once. Store leftover dressing in the fridge – it is good on salad.

Serve warm or at room temperature. 
If you are bringing this somewhere, the rice, cranberries, brussels sprouts and butternut squash can all be made and mixed up in advance. I would then re-heat that portion, and then mix in the cheese, nuts, apple and dressing right before leaving. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Baked Coconut Shrimp

Every once in a while I'll go through my Pinterest account, and I'll look for recipes that I pinned but never tried. There are so many great recipes that are posted and shared every day, and it's impossible to try them all! I will come across something that I want to try out right away.

The original recipe
Last week I came across this recipe for baked coconut shrimp, and I knew I wanted to try it out. I have been on a big shrimp kick lately, and this sounded like a new delicious way to make them. I already had all of the ingredients on hand (shrimp, eggs, cornstarch, shredded coconut) so it was easy to try out. I made them as directed, and liked it, but immediately wanted to try and make it better. (Note - if you don't care about the changes I made and why I made them, feel free to skip straight to the recipe!)

I'm really picky with how my shrimp are cooked. If they are overcooked they end up tasting like rubber. The original recipe had said to cook them far longer than I was comfortable doing. I went with my gut and ended up with perfectly cooked shrimp, but a pale coating that wasn't uniformly cooked. I knew I would have to make some changes to get both perfectly cooked shrimp and a crispy coating.

My testing station
I wanted to make some changes to the coconut itself. When added as is (shredded, straight from the bag) you can end up with a ton of coconut on your shrimp. My husband tried some and said he liked it, but it was perhaps too much coconut. I put some in a mini food processor so the pieces were much smaller. I also tried a few different versions, with mixing the coconut with another ingredient. The original recipe is gluten-free, so I tried using almond meal with the coconut, but unfortunately it didn't work very well. The almond meal is a much finer consistency than my chopped coconut, so the two ingredients didn't stick to the shrimp uniformly. (It might work well if you use chopped almonds rather than almond meal - please let me know if you try this!)
Panko breadcrumbs were actually the perfect size to match the coconut, and helped make the coating crispier.
*Note - I have read that you can crush rice crackers to use as a substitute for panko breadcrumbs if you are looking to keep this recipe gluten-free*

Better, not perfect
I added some seasoning to multiple steps of the recipe. I added salt and pepper straight to the cornstarch, and added salt, pepper and cayenne to the coconut and panko mixture to add a little heat. I think this helped with the overall flavor. Feel free to modify the amount of cayenne added if you would prefer more or less spice. In addition, I tossed all of the shrimp with the cornstarch mixture at once, since it helped uniformly coat the shrimp better, and also saved me from an additional step in my assembly line.

The first time I made this recipe I overbeat the egg whites. It said to take them to soft peaks, but I think they ended up being too fluffy to easily stick to the eggs. You want them to still be slightly foamy, so you get a lighter coating on your shrimp. Otherwise you will end up with a lot of egg whites, which will not only affect the flavor, but will also affect how long they need to be cooked. This website has some good pictures that shows the progression of beating egg whites. The picture for Step #4 is pretty much where you want them. If you take them all the way to soft peaks (the picture in Step #7-A) they are too far. Don't fret if that's where you end up - it will just take a little more effort to coat the shrimp, and you may have to knock off some of the egg whites before coating with coconut.

Finally, this is probably the biggest improvement on the dish. I pre-toasted the coconut and panko! This way I could get away with cooking the shrimp for less time, while still having a crispy exterior. The coconut and panko get golden brown before they are used to coat the shrimp, and then they get a little extra golden in the oven. Spraying the pan as well as the coated shrimp with nonstick spray encourages some extra browning.

Recipe: Baked Coconut Shrimp
Yield 2 large servings or 4 side servings

The length of time you need to cook the shrimp is highly dependent on both the size of the shrimp and your oven. I am giving a recommended cooking time, but feel free to check a little early.

1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/3 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
1 lb shrimp; thawed, de-veined and peeled
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp pepper, divided
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (use less if you are sensitive to heat)
2 egg whites (room temperature)

If your shrimp is frozen, put it in some lukewarm water to thaw while you are getting everything else ready.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

While the oven is preheated, chop up the shredded coconut. This is really simple in a mini food processor, but you could probably chop by hand with a sharp big knife. The goal is to get small uniform pieces.

Put the chopped coconut and panko on the baking sheet, and toast for 8-10 minutes. Make sure to stir every few minutes, since everything around the edges will cook more quickly. Set aside and let cool slightly. Increase the oven temperature to 400 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (you can re-use the one from toasting) and spray well with nonstick cooking spray.

Nice and golden brown after toasting
Peel your thawed shrimp. Cut out the vein if it wasn't already removed. Pat them dry.

In a large container, preferably one with a lid, add the cornstarch and 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.

In a large bowl with high sides (or the bowl of a stand mixer), add your two egg whites.

Mix the coconut and panko with the remaining 1/4 tsp salt, the remaining 1/4 tsp pepper, and (up to) 1/8 tsp cayenne. Pour about half of it in a wide shallow container or plate. You may need all of it, but it is best to add it bit by bit so you can save any leftovers that don't come into contact with the shrimp.

Once you have everything else ready, you can beat the egg whites. They can deflate easily so you want to wait until you are ready to start. Start on low-medium speed until the egg whites become foamy, and then increase the speed to high. This can be done using a stand mixer or a hand mixer. The egg whites are ready ~15 seconds after they turn white. You want them to still have small bubbles and look slightly foamy, but be white all the way through and no longer translucent.

Still a little foamy, not quite at soft peak stage
Throw all of your shrimp into the container with cornstarch. Put the lid (make sure it is tightly closed) and shake well until all of the shrimp are coated. They don't need to have a heavy coating, so shake off excess as you go.

My assembly line (after I had finished breading all of the shrimp)
The round container at the upper right is my extra coconut and panko
Holding the shrimp by the end (where the tail was), dip it lightly in the beaten egg whites. You want a thin coating of egg white so the coconut will stick, but you don't want too much there. Tap off any excess. It really helps if you keep one hand dry (for picking up the shrimp) and the other hand as your 'dirty' hand (for dipping in egg).

Place the shrimp in the coconut mixture. Either use your dirty hand to gently flip it over, or use your clean hand to sprinkle the top with coconut. Pick it up with your dirty hand and let any excess shake off.

Place the coated shrimp on the prepared baking sheet, and continue with the rest of your shrimp. If you run low on your coconut/panko mixture, pour more into your shallow container/plate. Once you have coated all of the shrimp, spray with nonstick cooking spray. It helps if you spray from a distance (about 1 foot above) so you don't knock off any of the coating.

Coated, sprayed, ready for the oven!
Put the tray in your preheated 400 F oven. After 6 minutes, pull out the tray and flip over all of the shrimp. Spray them again. Bake for the following amount of additional time:
Shrimp that are 31-40 count/lb - bake an additional 3 minutes
Shrimp that are 21-30 count/lb - bake an additional 4 minutes
Shrimp that are 16-20 count/lb - bake an additional 5 minutes
* This time is approximate and depends on your oven - check one of the shrimp early to make sure they are not overcooked*

Serve with sweet chili sauce (I love the one from Trader Joe's).

These are delicious and so much healthier than the fried version! Even if you split it into only 2 servings, it is less than 500 calories a serving while providing you with over 50 grams of protein. (These calculations include all of the coating - if you don't end up using all of it, there are even fewer calories per serving)

Disclosure - I have included affiliate links in this post. If you buy any of the products I recommend on Amazon, I get a tiny tiny percentage of the sale, but it's still the same price for you

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Macaron Tips - Using Previously Frozen Egg Whites

I made an important discovery today!
(I feel like I need a drum roll)


Okay, maybe this isn't as important as I made it out to be. However, this is something that I had wondered about, and it wasn't all that clear to me when looking for answers online. I did so many searches asking "Can you make macarons or meringues from frozen egg whites?" There weren't many answers to my question, and any that I found were ambiguous.

I made a batch of lemon curd last month (it was so delicious), and ended up with a lot of extra egg whites. I knew I wouldn't have time to make macarons right at that moment, and I didn't want to throw them away. I knew I would be making macarons soon, and wouldn't be using the separated egg yolks. I decided right there that I was going to test out macarons with frozen egg whites, to see what happened.

Note: You CANNOT make macarons with egg whites from a carton - whether they have been frozen or refrigerated - it simply will not work.

I ended up with ~150 grams of leftover egg whites. Before I decided to freeze them, I stuck them in the refrigerator for 2 days. I labeled the top of the container so I knew how much I started with and when they were frozen, and stuck them in the freezer. Three weeks later, I moved them back to the fridge so they could slowly thaw. I left them there for 3 days, then the morning I was going to make macarons I pulled them out to warm up to room temperature. The normal 'aging' of egg whites for macarons had already taken place in both the fridge and the freezer, so I didn't leave them out at room temperature for an extended period of time.

At this point, I weighed the egg whites again. They were still roughly the same weight. I was making several small batches, so I divided them into separate bowls. Once all of my ingredients had come to room temperature and I had (triple) sifted the almond meal, I was ready to test it out! I honestly had so much on my mind with the three different batches I was making, I kind of forgot about the frozen egg whites, and that it was possible this wouldn't work. Lo and behold, they whipped up perfectly. Seriously, there was zero difference from any other time I have whipped egg whites. They formed stiff peaks without any issue, the macaron batter was perfect, and they baked up really nicely. I had some ruffling with the feet in the blue macarons, but I think that was a combination of over-mixing and an oven temperature that was a bit too high, rather than anything due to the egg whites. The red macarons were perfection. (I will be posting soon how to make these adorable Sesame Street macarons.)

So, conclusion - If you have leftover egg whites, just stick them in the freezer! Make sure that you have no trace of yolk in your whites, and that they are in an airtight container. You don't want them to pick up any weird smells from the freezer. A few days before you plan to use them, move them to the fridge to thaw. Several hours before you make macarons, pull them out and let them warm up to room temperature. After that, continue on with your recipe just like normal!

Ingredients for my 3 batches
The egg whites are in the lidded round tupperware containers
Fluffy egg whites!

Shiny and smooth, right after being piped

The sugar on top was for the particular kind of macarons I was testing out today
After the decorations have been piped on and the batter has rested - see how it is no longer shiny?
After baking - smooth tops, nice feet - Perfection!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Spartacus-Style Exercise Circuit, Version 3

Based on my procrastination from last week and a busy schedule this week, I ended up doing similar workouts only a few days apart. After doing my last workout on Sunday, I had wondered if I was getting stronger, or if my workout was easier. I can definitively say that Sunday's workout was just a bit easier, since I had a rough time getting through today's!

I took the first version of the spartacus-style workout and modified it slightly - I added a 7th exercise and reduced the total rounds from 4 to 3. Adding just one more exercise to the circuit makes it surprisingly more difficult! I'm still doing the 'easier' version, with 45 seconds of exercise.

For anyone new here, I explained this style of workout here.
Choose weights that you can comfortable work with, something you could do 15-20 reps with.
For me (and the selected exercises), light = 5 lbs, medium = 10 lbs, heavy (kbs) = 25 lbs.
Use whatever works best for you, and feel free to change up the weight if it felt too light or too heavy in the first round.

I want to point out that keeping an eye on the clock during your rest between rounds is very important. You will be tired after the end of each round, and you get a lot more out of this workout if you don't give yourself enough time to 100% recover. Keeping your rest time low will also make this workout a lot more efficient!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Spartacus-Style Exercise Circuit, Version 2

I was supposed to do this workout on Thursday, but I was tired when I came home and decided to do yoga instead. Not that my yoga class was an easy one - I just didn't have the energy to do anything that was cardio-based.

Friday and Saturday I came up with excuses as well, but on Sunday, I finally did it! I don't know if it was a slightly easier workout than my last one, or if I'm in slightly better shape, but it wasn't as strenuous. I still felt like I got a great workout, so I'm happy with it. (Note - I did the 'easy' version of 45 seconds on, 15 seconds off.)

For anyone new here, I explained this style workout in my last workout post here. Choose weights that you can comfortably work with, something you could do 15-20 reps with. For me, light = 5 lbs, medium = 10 lbs, heavy (kbs) = 25 lbs. As I get back some of my strength, this might increase. Use whatever works best for you.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Spartacus-Style Exercise Circuit

It's been a really long time, but I'm going to share with you the workout I did today!

I used to share my workouts all the time. If you look back to posts from several years ago, I basically shared every workout I did. I did it for many reasons - it held me more accountable, since I could very clearly see if there was a hiatus in activity. It logged what I did, so I could see my progress. I had actual workouts to fall back on if I were too busy to come up with something. Finally, I hoped that maybe some of the workouts I came up with would be helpful for someone else.

Once I got busy with grad school, writing up these posts began to feel like a chore. I also stopped working out as regularly, so I didn't feel like I had much to add. When I picked up yoga again this past year, there wasn't much I could post about since I was following online yoga classes from a site that requires a log-in.

For anyone who is new to the workout portion of my blog - I have a few styles of workouts I really like, and this 'Spartacus-Style Workout' is one of them. This workout originally came from Men's Health, and was based on the TV series. It is a circuit-style workout, with different 'stations' where you perform an exercise. You typically spend 40-60 seconds at each station, then you have a 15-20 second rest period to get to the next one. After you complete all of the exercises, you rest for a few minutes and then do the whole thing again, as many times as you can manage. The standard set has 10 exercises, and with the 60 sec on, 15 sec off, it takes 12.5 minutes to complete one round. With a 3 minute rest between rounds, you can go 3x through in under 45 minutes, making this a pretty efficient workout, and hard-core workout.
(See my 'workout basics' page for more info, and other workout styles)

I'm just getting back into the swing of things, so I modified this to match my current ability. I decided to do fewer exercises, with shorter 'on' intervals. I also did 4x through instead of the standard 2-3, because it only had 6 exercises total. It was hard! I really need to do these workouts more often.

I'm not listing weights for the DBs and KBs that I used, since it will depend on your strength. Generally, anything that is just shoulders will require a much lower weight. When using KBs, you can use a much higher weight than you would with DBs, especially when doing swings. For me, light = 5 lbs, medium = 10 lbs, heavy = 25 lbs.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Individual Empanada Tartas

When I first posted my recipe for Empanada Tartas, I had no idea it would be so popular! Not only is it a delicious dish, but I think a lot of people watched the episode on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and wanted to know how to make the giant empanada.

We have made the Empanada Tartas for so many different occasions. It is the perfect weeknight dinner along with a salad or side dish. It is also great for a party.

This time, we wanted to try to make individual empanadas, and we were so pleased with how they turned out! You get the same delicious flavor, but all in a neat little package. I think these would work really well at a dinner party as an appetizer.

The beauty is that you can use whatever you want in the filling. You must use cream cheese - it adds the perfect tang and creaminess. Goat cheese would work equally well. After that, you can just stuff them with your favorite cooked vegetables. Just make sure not to use anything too wet since it would make the whole thing soggy. I really like putting a slice of roasted sweet potato or butternut squash on top of the cream cheese, and then piling whatever vegetables I have in my fridge on top. Onions, mushrooms and peppers are a great combo. In the pictures below, I sauteed some onions, brussels sprouts and corn. See the original post for more ideas and instructions.

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 tbsp distilled white vinegar

~4 tbsp cream cheese (whipped or brick-style) - goat cheese could also be substituted
~ 1 1/2 cups cooked vegetables (see above)

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Cut the butter into cubes and add to the bowl. Using your hands (or a pastry blender or two knives), work the butter into the flour until you have small pieces/ribbons of butter that are no larger than the size of a pea. Put the whole bowl in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to keep it cold.

In a small bowl, mix together the egg, water and vinegar.

Pull out your bowl from the fridge/freezer and add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Use a fork or spoon to gently mix together until there are no visibly wet areas. Use your hands to help form it into a ball. It will seem like there is too much flour - that is okay!

Lay out a piece of plastic wrap onto your counter and dump the contents of the bowl on it. Use the plastic wrap to help guide the dough into a disc - it helps to act as a shield so it won't stick to your hands, and will help some of the excess flour adhere to the dough. Wrap the disc well with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 1-1.5 hours.

At this point you can roast up some veggies, if you don't have them already. Make sure you let them cool completely before adding to the dough.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Lightly flour a large work surface. (I like to use this pastry mat, since it has measurements on it.) Once the dough has been chilled, set it out and divide it into 12 equal portions. I like to use a food scale to make sure they are all equal in size, but you can definitely estimate it. The easiest way to do it by hand is to divide it in half, divide each of those portions in half, and then divide each of those into 3. Making small divisions feels a lot easier.

Keeping the rest of the dough portions covered with plastic wrap or a clean towel, roll out each one until it is a 5 inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. It doesn't have to be a perfect circle, but it does help if it is symmetrical since you will be folding it over.

Put ~1 tsp of cream cheese on one side of the dough, then top with ~1.5-2 tbsp of your veggies.

Carefully stretch the other side of the dough over it to close. Crimp the edges closed - you want to make sure it is sealed really well so nothing leaks out. Transfer to your parchment paper-lined baking tray, and repeat with the remaining 11 pieces of dough. Put 6 empanadas on each tray.

* If at any point the dough starts to feel too warm/soft, put it back in the fridge. The entire tray can even be kept in the fridge while you are working on them. You don't want the butter to melt out before baking, so keeping everything cold is essential.*

Brush the top of the empanadas with your egg wash. Bake until golden brown and flaky, for about 25 minutes. Make sure to switch positions of the baking trays halfway through. I like to swap from top to bottom racks, and to also rotate each pan 180 degrees.

Let cool for 5 minutes before eating.

These are best right out of the oven. If you are reheating them I find it works best to microwave for a short amount of time, just to warm (15-45 seconds, depending on how many you are heating at once) and then put them in the oven or toaster oven to crisp up. Keep leftovers in the refrigerator. 

Disclosure - I have included affiliate links in this post. If you buy any of the products I recommend on Amazon, I get a tiny tiny percentage of the sale, but it's still the same price for you

Friday, August 18, 2017

Date and Pecan Bars

I'm always looking for a healthy snack to get me through the afternoon slump. These bars are perfect. They are slightly sweet, full of fiber and protein, and are incredibly portable. I have traveled with these by car and by plane (and back) and they are super sturdy.

It takes a little while to cut up all of the dates, I won't lie about that. It's worth it in the end! You can also buy them pre-chopped, but they are more moist when you buy them whole. You can let them sit in the rum, stirring them occasionally, for up to 4 hours. If you don't want to use rum, feel free to use water or coffee.

Toasting the pecans is a step that I highly recommend you do. I prefer to buy my nuts raw, so I can toast them or add salt as needed. In this case, it is best to toast them prior to adding them to the bars. When making something like granola, they get toasted while everything else is cooking, so it is much better to use them while still raw.

Date and Pecan Bars
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
Yield: 16 2x2-inch bars

8 oz dates (pitted), diced
1 1/2 tbsp dark rum (or water or coffee)
1 cup chopped pecans
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp hot water (from the tap is fine)
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt

Put the dates in a medium bowl and pour the rum on top. Stirring from time to time, let them sit for at least an hour, and up to 4 hours.

Line a 8x8 or 9x9 inch pyrex baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread out pecans in an even layer on a small baking sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until slightly darker and become fragrant. Keep an eye on them - they can burn quickly! Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the eggs and sugar until well combined. Add the vanilla, butter and hot water, mixing quickly so the eggs don't cook.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Add to the egg mixture and stir together gently until mostly combined. Add in the dates (and any extra liquid) and pecans, and fold everything until it is all evenly distributed. It will seem like you have too many dates and pecans for the amount of batter. I promise it will all bake up perfectly!

Pour into the prepared pan and level it off. It is very thick and sticky, so you will have to push it into the corners.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when put in the center. Let cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan, then remove it (using the foil to help lift) and let cool completely on a cooling rack. Wait until they have cooled completely to cut into 2x2 inch squares.

Store for up to 3 days at room temperature, and for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. They can be frozen for longer storage. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

My Journey Through Exercise

For anyone who is new to the blog, or who read the blog several years ago, they might be wondering where the "working out" part of the blog is! After several long breaks from blogging I have put up several posts lately, but all have been on the "eating in" side of things. While it may be hard to imagine now, I used to post a lot of exercise posts!

I have tried doing a little bit of everything - circuits with free weights, body-weight spartacus-style workouts, tabatas, kettle bells, rock climbing, and lots and lots of running! Some of my posts were even pretty popular - I have a running graphic that has been pinned over 2,000 times and the post itself has also been read over 2,000 times.

In the several years since all of this activity, my workouts have ebbed and flowed. I spent a lot of time training for a few races, and during that time focused 100% on running. My body wasn't the biggest fan, and it led to a long period of complete stagnancy. I did not want to exercise, and I certainly did not want to run.

I spent a lot of time here

I got married last year, and spent the 8 months prior to the wedding trying to get back into a healthy routine. I was  successful, and I was proud of how I looked on my wedding day. I did a combination of jogging and high-intensity interval training. It was mostly fun, but after almost a year of working out because I felt like I had to, I gladly took a long break post-wedding.

Yoga was something I had an off and on relationship with. When I was a graduate student at the University of Virginia, I took yoga classes for the first time ever. I had an amazing instructor and from time to time I would go to her class once a week. During busy times, and once I moved to Connecticut, my yoga practice came to an abrupt halt. I was never a strong or talented yogi, and finding new classes seemed like something I didn't want to deal with.

A few months after the wedding, my husband gifted me a subscription for online yoga classes. It is probably one of the best gifts he has ever given me. I think I was at a point where I didn't want to do workouts of the intensity I had done previously. I needed something that would shape my body as well as soothe my mind. With access to over 1000 videos taught by 50 different instructors, I can find whatever it is I need at the moment I am looking. I have also found that the variety of classes and instructors has made my practice stronger. Everyone learns in a different way, and the combination of tips and suggestions that each of them give has provided a stronger connection to each of the poses, and makes me feel like I am getting more out of each individual class.

I am certainly not being paid to promote the website that I use, and I think there are a lot of different options out there that are equally great. I have been using My Yoga Works, and I know my husband got a big discount on the subscription through Living Social or Groupon. I think that it makes a great gift, either for someone you love, or better yet, for yourself! If you belong to a gym, check out their class schedule. You might find something that you love, that you never would have thought to try out.

I am also not suggesting that anyone do yoga and only yoga. This is what is making me happy right now, and I figure that is pretty important. I am also doing a lot of walking and hiking, since it's a fun way to get some exercise while also exploring and having a lot of fun.

A few of our favorite spots in Connecticut

Hiking in North Carolina

I am including some of my more popular exercise posts below, in case anyone wants to revisit them (or see them for the first time).

Happy workouts everyone! Just remember:

Popular Running Posts:

Kettle Bells: