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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

I got this recipe from a website called Vegan Magic so please go to her website and check out the actual recipe. It explains in great detail what type of ingredients to use.

This is my version of it using the tools and ingredients I had available to me in Córdoba.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

2 400ml cans coconut milk 
(The only brand here is Goya but I would recommend using a better quality one. It's the main reason I had to use 2 cans. Again, see the website above for more detailed information)
18 soft, natural dates
1/3 cup cocoa powder
a few drops vanilla extract

Before beginning the recipe place your can(s) in the fridge so that the coconut cream and the coconut milk can separate. (I placed them in overnight). Open them and save the liquid to use in another recipe. (I used it to make some strawberry smoothies!) Scrape out the thick cream and place in a bowl. Put two tablespoons of the cream and the dates in a blender and blend until smooth. Then mix in the rest of the cream, the vanilla and the cocoa powder. Place in the fridge overnight so the flavors can blend. Then enjoy!

The quality of the coconut cream really makes a difference. Mine did not have as high a fat content as the original recipe but the mousse still came out thick. I really recommend taking a look at the original recipe as she suggests ways to improve the mousse. But for my first attempt it came out really decadent. This recipe will definitely impress your non-vegan friends!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vegan Falafel Burgers

Vegan Falafel Burgers
400g bottle of chickpeas 
a handful of dried parsley
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
(I used a seasoning that has a mixture of Indian spices in it like turmeric, curry and coriander. Just use what you have in the kitchen.)
1 lime
some salt to taste
2 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. sunflower oil
1 small red onion, chopped in small pieces
1 garlic clove, minced

Put about 1/4 tsp. sunflower oil in a pan with the garlic and onion and cook until onion is soft. While that is cooking mash up the chickpeas in a bowl. Once they are mashed add the spices, lime and flour. Mix until well blended. Once the garlic and onion is done add them to the chickpeas and mix again. Shape them into about 4 patties and fry with the 2 Tbsp. sunflower oil. Fry on one side until golden brown, then flip once to brown the other side. Serve hot.

I've wanted to make falafel for awhile now and I am very happy with the results. I made this vegan dish once before using a recipe I found on Google+ but it didn't have enough flavor. So I remade them adding my own spices and changing how they are prepared. The lime is a must as well as cooking the garlic and onion separately. This recipe is so easy that you don't even need a blender!

Monday, September 16, 2013

I got a new piercing!

The silver ball is the new piercing in my right ear.
Not even sure what this piercing is called but I've been admiring other people's piercings for awhile so I figured I'd get one before the summer was over.

In case you're curious here's a run-down of my current piercings:

3 in my left ear
4 in my right ear
1 belly-button piercing
1 nose piercing

In the past I had:

1 eyebrow piercing
1 tongue piercing
2 nipple piercings

The past piercings I took out because I outgrew them. No other reason than that. Anyway, not a workout or food related post but still thought I'd share!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Vegan Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

This recipe I found on Google+, specifically from the website Carrie on Vegan so check it out. I made them last night. They were super delicious and very, very easy. The tomato sauce was so good. I plan to make it again to put on pasta.

Vegan Portobello Mushroom Pizza

1/2 red onion (or one small one), chopped
3 garlic gloves, minced
2 cups unsalted tomato sauce
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
10-15 fresh basil leaves
(I used 1 tsp. dry leaves)
1 tsp. dried oregano

4 portobello mushrooms with stems removed
pizza sauce
nutritional yeast

Place the onion in a pan with some oil and cook until soft. Add some water so it doesn't burn. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and stir in nutritional yeast, basil and oregano. Fill mushrooms with sauce and place in a 375 degree Fahrenheit (190 Celsius) preheated oven. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until the mushrooms start to shrink.

So good and a nice alternative to pizza. On the website it says this is enough for 4 people but I think you'd still be hungry. My husband and I ate them all and also had a side dish.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Achieving Six-Pack Abs: Weight Routine

Hey, if she can do it I sure can!
This weights routine in my Achieving Six-Pack Abs program is going to be broken up into, initially, 12 weeks. Once the first 12 weeks are over I will re-evaluate what I've done.

I took some advice from Google+ and looked on bodybuilding.com. They have a segment that is called "The Female Training Bible: Everything You Need To Get The Sexy Body You Desire!"

The name is kind of cheesy and infomercial-ish but the information is really interesting. I plan to do this 12-week program without a gym membership and without taking any supplements. The website recommends all these powders and things that will help burn fat quicker etc. 

However, I'm really picky about what I put into my body and I doubt most of that stuff is vegan. Plus, I don't have a gym membership and don't want to purchase one. So I will have to tweak some exercises by making them body weight/free weight friendly.

The main overview of the program is to lift heavy weights. Starting in weeks 1-4 you perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise. Meaning that if you can do more than 12 reps, you need to add more weight and alternatively if you can't do 8 reps you need to take off some weight.

In addition, there is a part of the program called "Stubborn Fat Protocol" which is just a fancy way to say HIIT (high intensity interval training). I plan to do 10-15 minutes of HIIT followed by 15-30 minutes of low-intensity cardio. During weeks 1-4 I will do HIIT twice a week.

On days that I can't run (because of weather, for example) I will incorporate some of the ZuskaLight videos or anything else I find on the web that allows me to do HIIT inside the house.

I also would like to keep up my running endurance. So once or twice a week I will do a normal long run. So anything up to an hour and more. I haven't decided whether I will focus on distance for those runs or not yet.

So here is what a typical week will look like for the month of October:

Monday -- weights upper body, abs, back exercises 
Tuesday -- weights lower body, long run
Wednesday -- HIIT, abs, back
Thursday -- weights upper body, long run
Friday -- weights lower body, abs, back, some kind of run
Saturday -- HIIT
Sunday -- REST

To give some examples of the types of exercises I will do for the upper body here's a list. 
I will be doing modified versions (again, so they are body weight/free weight friendly) of:

  • bench press
  • bent over barbell row
  • dumbbell shoulder press
  • skull crushers
  • barbell curl
  • dips
  • pull ups (reverse row instead)
  • lateral raises
  • tricep push-downs
  • cable curls
After the first week, which will be October 7th, I will post a reflection post. Then I will post after each month. The next abdominal picture for my photo diary will be on October 31st. So I hope to have some improvements!

Vegan Brownies

Vegan Brownies

2 cups flour 
(I used the white whole wheat flour, not the kind that is completely brown)
3/4 cup agave syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 Celsius). Stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Then add the agave syrup, water, oil and vanilla. Mix well until blended. Pour into a greased and floured baking pan. Bake 25-30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

This has to be one of the easiest recipes in the world!  Plus you only have to use one bowl. It's so easy that my husband has even made them a couple of times. I adapted it from a recipe online that had a lot of sugar and oil in it.Try them, you won't regret it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


This is our third (or fourth...can't remember) trip to Gibraltar. But yesterday was the first time we went and took our time. The previous trips we were just rushing around not sure what to do.

Gibraltar is technically in Spain but it is a British overseas territory. So one minute you are in Spain and then when you cross the border into Gibraltar you are in England! It's crazy. I actually have to show my passport before I'm allowed in.

Most of the tourist sites are located on el peñón or the Rock of Gibraltar. I didn't want to go up because it is famous for its wild monkeys (Barbary Macaques) that live up there. Since this is one of the reasons tourists go up there the monkeys are very "friendly".

Sometimes they jump on your back and try to open your backpack. Actually people like taking pictures with them and will let them get on their shoulders and backs and such. I am not one of those people.

Interestingly, while we were waiting for the bus there were two monkeys playing in the trees. The hubby took photos while I maintained a safe distance away from them. I was taking no chances!

The purpose of the trip was not only to get away from Córdoba for awhile, but also to purchase some things that are impossible to find in Spain. We walked around the shops and even went to our favorite British supermarket, Morrisons.

This is the outside of Morrisons

This is a vegetarian spread rich in B vitamins, which are hard for vegetarians to get as they are typically found in meat.

Blackberries! All types of berries are impossible to find in Córdoba.

Hubby's favorite beverage and the UK version of tater tots (they are called "potato crunchies")!

LOVE these things!

This is my favorite kind of nut butter.

Of course, my eating regimen for the Achieving Six-Pack Abs does not start until October. So I plan to enjoy my tater tots (we bought 3 packs) and the bread pictured above until then!

We also bought some measuring spoons with the US system of measurements (ie not the metric system) to take the guess-work out of cooking. I also got this gigantic, super cute, orange mug and a portable notebook for when I write down my lists. 

El Torcal de Antequera

This is one of the places we visited yesterday. (I will talk about the second place in another post). We left the house at 830am and didn't get back until 1030pm. It was a great trip and we were exhausted! Yesterday we walked around for a total of 5 hours and 15 minutes. It was great exercise.

In Antequera we visited el Torcal, which is a great place to go hiking. It's a nature reserve in the province of Málaga. There are different routes but we did the "ruta amarilla" (yellow route) that takes 2 hours. However, we did it in 1 hour and 15 minutes. It's 3 Km (roughly 1.86 miles) but you are trekking through some seriously precarious places.

About 150 million years ago (during the Jurassic age) this nature reserve was all submerged under water. Later erosion caused fractures and cracks, leaving the big blocks of limestone seen today. 

You have to be careful because it is very tricky walking around. Basically because there are humongous pieces of rock jutting out of the ground wherever you go. If you fall you can seriously hurt yourself.

Another cool thing is that there are tons of wild goats walking around the area. It was nice seeing them in their element.

Stay tuned to see the next place we visited!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Task #8: Read All Isabel Allende Books

In my post 3-0 is STARING me in the Face! I mentioned that I wanted to read all of Isabel Allende's books.

In case you don't know she is a Chilean writer and most of her books (if not all) have women as main characters. She is a great story-teller and so are many of her protagonists.

I just finished reading Eva Luna today and I plan on starting Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna) next since you kind of have to read them together.

Here's a list of the works of Isabel Allende (I've put the books that I've read already in bold). You can find the English titles online:

The House of the Spirits (La casa de los espíritus) -- I read this book in English as a child.  It is one of my favorite books, period.
Inés of My Soul (Inés del alma mia) -- I also read this book in English
El Zorro: comienza la leyenda
Eva Luna 
La isla bajo el mar -- I started this book awhile back but just couldn't bring myself to finish. It was just too depressing...and long. Maybe I'll try again.
Cuentos de Eva Luna
Hija de la fortuna
Retrato en sepia
La gorda de porcelana
De amor y de sombra
El plan infinito
La ciudad de las bestias
Mi país inventado
El reino del dragón de oro
El bosque de los pigmeos
La suma de los días
El cuaderno de Maya

Monday, September 9, 2013

Back Exercises

In the post Acheiving Six-Pack Abs I mentioned that I also planned on working my back more than I have done in the past. 

This is just so I maintain good posture and balance in my body. I don't remember where I read it but somewhere online I read that when working the abdominals it is also imperative to work the back. It makes sense to me!

The back is also another muscle group that I've neglected in the past. So I'm hype about finally working it out. Of course I will continue to work my legs and arm muscles as well.

These exercises focus on the lower and upper back and are pretty basic. I figure I can start out slow and then increase intensity. I definitely do NOT want to injure myself.

Please check out the She Knows website for more detailed information about the exercises.

1) Dumbbell Single-Arm Overhead Squat -- I have never done this exercise before

2) Dumbbell One-Point Row -- I've done this one and it's challenging because I'm not flexible at all in my lower body

3) Lat Pullover

4) Back Extensions -- These are fun because you can really feel the muscles in the back working

5) Dumbbell Bent-Over Row -- Oldie but goody

The rest of my weight training schedule I probably won't "plan" exactly. I don't want to get bored with the exercises. So I plan to do a bit of browsing on youtube and other fitness sites and just pick and choose as I see fit. If I find any truly interesting or super challenging ones I will share them on the blog.

However, the ab and back exercises I'm going to stick with exactly until I need to increase intensity.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Six-Pack Abs: What I'm Starting With

Okay, so I've decided to create a photo diary. I won't be starting the workout program I detailed in Achieving Six-Pack Abs until October but these will be the first official photos.

I will take photos every month but will only post on the blog every 2 months. I just don't think there will be much of a difference month-to-month and I don't want it to get boring.

So here goes...no laughing! This is the first time I have put myself out there on this blog and it's nerve-wracking.

As you can see I think I was pretty accurate in guessing my body fat percentage (24-26%) from the AthleanX website. I want to achieve 18-20% body fat in 9 months. The majority of the fat on my body is around my abs (and my arms to a much lesser extent).

My abs are the part of my body that consistently annoy me. Then again, I hardly ever (as in never) work my abs like I work my legs or my arms. So this will definitely be challenging but I'm excited to see what I can accomplish!

Achieving Six-pack Abs

I believe I have found the right mix of exercises to get me my 6-pack abs! Obviously I will be doing this in combination with:

1) Losing weight 

I don't really need to but I do need to lower my overall body fat percentage a bit so that my abs can be seen. I realize that it is impossible to target specific parts of my body to lose fat. So this will be an overall fat loss for my entire body. 

I found this website that is pretty useful if you want to roughly gauge how much body fat you have without buying those expensive fat measurement tools.

According to this website (called AthleanX.com) I have a Body Fat Percentage of : 24 – 26%

"This body fat percentage is considered the low range of average for women in many body fat charts.  At this level a woman is generally considered to look slim, but not too skinny.  Curves in the hips, thighs and buttocks will be apparent at this range."

To get my 6-pack I want to reach a Body Fat Percentage of: 18 – 20% 

"The 18 – 20% body fat range is a more reasonable target range for women who are after that ‘athletic’ look because it’s easier to maintain than the higher levels.  This body fat range is the one that’s most associated with a killer bikini body! At 18 – 20%, you can still see strong ab muscles, but the six pack may not be as defined.  While there’s a small amount of fat on the hips, thighs and bum it’s not very noticeable.  Many women reaching for higher levels of fitness prefer this look since it retains some curves."

Definitely go to the website if you want to read more about these different ranges. I chose this range because it seems like the more realistic goal for me, a normal person, who is not a professional athlete. 

 2) Lifting more weights in general. 

Weight training has always been secondary to my running. But since I'm not officially training right now I want to make weights more of a priority. I will still run. (Duh) Like I said in my last post I will run 5 days a week as my challenge. (This will also help me to lose more weight). 

There is a great youtube channel called ZuzkaLight and she has seriously hard workout programs on there. I know I've mentioned her channel before. Once I finalize my weight program I will update the blog.

3) Incorporating more back exercises

Rarely, if ever, do I focus on my back. I read somewhere online that when focusing on your abs you also need to strengthen the back. This helps to give you balance and not wreck your posture. Again, once I put together my back routine I will share it on the blog.

How to Get Six-pack Abs

Okay, now to the nitty-gritty. Here is how I will exercise my abs. I found this great fountain of information on WikiHow and I plan to follow it as exactly as I can. So check it out for more details. 

The AthleanX website also has a youtube channel where I found this really informative video on how to target all the muscle groups in the abs.

I recommend watching the video if you want more detailed explanations and examples of exercises to do. But here is what I understood from the video and from the Wiki. (You can google all these exercises and then click on images to see what they are like)

a) Bottom up including rotation --These are exercises that stabilize the upper body while the lower body is working the abs.
  • pendulum/windshield wipers
  • butt ups
  • using a stability ball get into plank position with insteps of feet resting on the ball. Bring the ball up to your chest and to the side, go back to start position. Repeat alternating sides.
b) Lower ab movement
  • leg raises (with or without a stability ball)
  • reverse crunch
c) Mid-range movement (also called both up) -- Mainly exercises that move the upper and lower body simultaneously
  • jacknife sit ups
  • V-sit up
  • medicine ball toe up
d) Top down including rotation (upper ab movement)--These exercises move the upper body while stabilizing the lower body
  • ab roller
  • crunches on stability ball (placing legs on a wall)
  • sit ups
e) Obliques--If you don't know these are the muscles that run up and down the sides of the abs
  • side crunch with leg lift
  • bicycle crunches
f) Resisted extension movement (upper body)-- Where forces want to pull you backwards but you won't let it
  • core death march
  • dead lifts
  • side plank with weights
  • hold arms out in front of you and rest them against a door frame. Try to push your arms into the frame. Obviously the door won't move and your hands shouldn't either.
g) Resist rotation movement (lower body) --Any exercise that forces you not to move your abs. This type of isometric move is a key function of the abs that is often times not trained.
  • hold plank (in normal push up position) and bring legs to chest
  • lunges with weights
The list of ab exercises that fit into these categories are endless but I figure this a good list to get me started. I plan to start this regimen (including the back exercises and weights) in October. So it should give me a bit of time to get my head right and get the rest of the exercises together.

I would like to create a photo diary but I'm not sure yet. If I do I will take the first picture in October and update it every month to track my progress. 

However, I will probably post the pictures to the blog every couple of months? Not sure yet but I feel like I do need something visual to track my progress.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

3-0 is STARING me in the Face!

So, I just turned 29 and I feel like 30 is staring me right in the face. I'm not a kid anymore! 

Okay, I haven't been a kid for a long time but you know what I mean. The 20s will officially be over! It's scary.

By the time I turn 30 next year I want to have accomplished something. I  want to feel good about these last few decades. 

So like the organized person that I am, I've made a check list.

  Said list is titled: "Things to do by the time I'm 30." 

Now, I have less than 12 months to do all these things, which means I had to make the goals reasonably achievable. There's nothing more discouraging than having those months go by with nothing to show for it because I was too unrealistic.

This is not a Hollywood movie. This is my life. As such, these are things that are important to me even if they are not earth-shattering to anyone else. So here we go.

1) Run as many races as possible (especially trail races) to prepare for my ultramarathon in 2015.

In the first version of my list I put "run an ultramarathon" but that was impossible with my time restraints. First off, the only ultras in Spain are either too long (think 100+ miles) or all completely trail (think goats climbing mountains). 

There is no way I can run 100 goat miles by next year. This is much more doable. In addition, when I started running I was always training for something. Now my motivation will stem from the pure joy of running and staying in shape. 

I figure I can run at least one race every month. In fact this month of September there are about 3 races in my local area I can run. 

I'm also setting myself another running challenge: run 5 days a week--no excuses.

2) Get a 6-pack

I want rock hard abs! I know a lot of it is genetics, and I have a really short torso...... but I want visible abdominals people. In my opinion, this is the hardest goal of them all because it will mean losing more weight and lifting more weight. Plus, I'm not really sure how much more of my diet I can change...

3) Shave my head

This speaks for itself. As for now I plan to enjoy my hair by wearing it out more instead of always putting it into twists. I will probably do a final length check before I cut it. I guess I just want to be able to say, yea, I wasn't afraid to cut my hair off!

I'm also tired of obsessing over length. My hair is healthy and will continue to be. I'm just at a point where I'm sick of doing the same thing. Hopefully this move will give me an even greater appreciation for my hair. I'll probably leave an inch of hair instead of cutting it completely off.

4) Buy a LBD (little black dress)

Turning 30 is definitely the right time to care a tinsy bit about fashion. So my goal is to scourge the Internet and shops to find a nice form-fitting dress I can use to show off my 6-pack!

5) Go to Prague

Always have wanted to go and I figure turning 30 is as good a time as any to fulfill this dream.

6) Have a full body spa experience every month

The point of this list is not to go broke. So I plan on having a spa experience at home with my own homemade, all-natural, ingredients. There are a bunch of oils I plan on getting immediately like: avocado oil, grape seed oil and almond oil. I figure I can get the essential oils little by little to not break the bank as they say. 

I need to incorporate a way to relax from daily life. I eat right and exercise but I don't take much care of my mental health. That's all about to change. Plus, who doesn't like manis and pedis?

7) Get some all-natural makeup and learn how to apply it

Again, 30 is the perfect time to at least try to create an everyday look and "party" look for when I want to go out. There are various websites out there that sell all-natural makeup products and I've been meaning to buy some for awhile now. 

I'm most excited about the nail polish! I LOVE nail colors but haven't worn them in a couple years because of the harsh chemicals. This summer I wore some on my toes only because I have runner's feet (black toe nails) and that's not cute when wearing open-toed shoes!

8) Read all the books by my favorite author: Isabel Allende

There are 14 books that I haven't read yet. Ambitious you say? Yea, you're right. But I've been meaning to read these books for so long and now I have no excuse....(except maybe time?) I'm currently reading Eva Luna. Oh, and did I mention I'm reading them ALL in Spanish?

Okay, that's the extent of my list. Maybe I'll keep adding to it? Dunno.

Nothing super extraordinary but all things that I have not done because of laziness or some other such reason. I'm still in the planning stages of all these things and I think I will go through a lot of trial and error. I'm excited though!

I plan to update the blog with all the tips, tricks (and failures) I encounter along the way. Especially websites and information I use to either purchase products or get my mind and body into gear.

Whew, it felt so good to finally write all this down...

I went to Toledo (Spain)

First off, I'm here alive and well. I haven't written in ages because NADA new has been going on in my life. I've been sticking to the same hair schedule and I haven't run any races in awhile. 

However, I'm currently on "vacation" and we're actually trying to go places this time. Usually we sit around the house watching movies. Although it's completely conducive to saving money (and hey, I like movies) you just need to DO something sometimes. Just say: "to heck with scrimping and saving!"....... Sometimes. So this was our first stop.

In case you don't already know, Toledo is the capital of Castilla La Mancha (or Castile-La Mancha for English speakers). I have, so far, seen half of the cities in this part of Spain: Ciudad Real and Toledo. The other two are Albacete and Cuenca but I have no idea what there is to see in those places.

Toledo is known for its swords and weaponry. My husband said that the swords used in the Lord of the Rings movies came from this city. Wherever you go you can see shops selling seriously scary looking weapons and armour.

We took pics of everything but my favorite ones are of the Catedral de Toledo (Cathedral) and the Puente de San Martín (Saint Martin Bridge) overlooking el río Tajo (the Tajo River).

It's a very beautiful, old-school feel city. I highly recommend it and the bonus it that you can see it all in a day. Well, obviously, you can't go into every single monument but you can walk around the entire city in a few hours.