Baked Brussel Sprouts Festive Omlette

Brussel sprouts. You either love them or you hate them. They remind me of being part of the Christmas dinner as a child, and looking back now, I am not too sure why they were there?! They always came in huge packs and you always had to put a few on your plate – and they were always the one aspect of Christmas dinner that remained on its own serving plate for leftovers! Needless to say, they were not something that any of my family readily enjoyed, but, year after year, they showed up at the table! Instead of boiling them whole, I find panfrying shavings makes these vegetables entirely different and incredibly tasty!

20171022_083753

Macros per portion (based on 2 servings): 184kcal; 26p, 18c, 0f

Ingredients

  • 350g brussel sprouts, roughly chopped
  • 200g plum/cherry tomatoes
  • handful of fresh cilantro
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 8 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder

Method

  1. Heat a large non-stick pan over a medium heat.
  2. Add in the brussel sprouts and saute for approximately 10 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure all of them soften.
  3. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to the brussel sprouts, enabling the liquid from the tomatoes to help soften the brussel sprouts further. Cook for a further 2 – 3 minutes.
  4. Add in the cilantro, black pepper, cumin, chili powder and egg whites. Cook until the omlette is cooked underneath (you will be able to tell when the edges become crispy and start to come away from the pan).
  5. Transfer the omlette to the oven and turn on the broil setting. Cook for about 3 minutes – until the top of the omlette is slightly golden and the omlette is cooked all the way through.
  6. Enjoy hot, but equally as good reheated. I ate mine with sardines, but would also be delicious with chestnuts, salsa and crusty bread.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Advertisements

Life through the Eyes of an Upholder: My Takeaways from ‘The Four Tendencies’ by Gretchen Rubin

I have been interested in human behaviour, body language and the implicit nature of communication for as long as I can remember. My parents often tell me that as a toddler, I was happy just to watch and observe a room of adults. Still, now, I often take a back seat in large group settings and observe the dynamics. As I have matured and gained more life experience, I try to ‘do’ things with my observations – I seek answers; reasons why people behave as they do. I also use these experiences to model my reactions to scenarios. I can only attribute the more proactive approach as a way of trying to assimilate to the American culture. Emigrating is more than simply moving your physical presence and belongings, it is an adjustment to a whole new way of going about life. The Floridian population conduct conversations and social situations in a drastically different way to the UK, so learning how to both respond and behave in a group is like starting from a scribble (not quite scratch, there are some definite foundations there!)

I think I am quite good at reading people and modifying the way I communicate in order to appease a wide variety of audiences. I studied Communication at university and found the subject matter fascinating. It made me a lot more self-reflective and also a lot more understanding of humankind. And when the series ‘Lie to Me’ aired, well, that was a dream come true!

There is so much material out there on emotional intelligence and personalities, and rightly so, as both shape everything we do. In my enthusiasm for human behaviours, I sought out podcasts I could listen to in the morning when getting ready for work and on my commutes. It was then that I discovered ‘Happier’ by Gretchen Rubin. I have listened to every episode since I discovered the podcast about a year ago. Gretchen and her sister have a lovely relationship and they discuss a multitude of topics in an easy to understand, light-hearted fashion. On the podcast, they constantly refer to the ‘four tendencies’ – a framework developed by Gretchen Rubin which characterizes people into four groups, based on how they respond to both inner and outer expectations. The way in which Gretchen relates situations on the podcast to characteristics of each tendency had me thirsty for more, so when her book ‘The Four Tendencies’ was released, I had to read it. I loved it – it is the kind of book that you can ‘dip in and out’ of – selecting chapters at a time, and it is also the kind of book that you read cover to cover, place on your bookshelf (the cover happens to be very pretty too) and then constantly re-read snippets when life situations happen!

Like Gretchen herself, I am without doubt an upholder – someone who meets both inner and outer expectations. I knew this before I read the book, but upon finishing it, some of my quirks and habits I can now wholly attribute to being an upholder! Here are five “Aha, I am an upholder moments!”:

  1. When people ask me ‘how do you stay motivated?’ Anyone who knows me in person and/or follows my blog, knows I am highly self-motivated. I don’t need external encouragement to complete tasks and I competed in two bodybuilding competitions this year. In fact, I even wrote a blogpost entitled ‘Seek Discipline, Not Motivation’. For me, being disciplined is easy, it isn’t something that I have to really consider or plan for. Reading the Four Tendencies book made me realize that although I may struggle to advise people on how I stay motivated (because I just do), it also made me stop and think and understand that being motivated is a very difficult task for someone else. It made me understand that I need to be more sympathetic to those individuals.
  2. I struggle to watch TV, but can watch a movie at the cinema. People despair that I am never able to discuss what has been aired on TV – I have the attention span of a gnat. I multi-task, I daydream, I surf the Internet on my phone – all the while using the TV as background noise. However, when it comes to the cinema, I can sit and watch an entire film without feeling distracted. Reading Gretchen’s book made me realize that this is the upholder in me – because the rules in the cinema are not to use your phone or talk loudly, I follow them. Having no distractions enables me to enjoy and concentrate throughout the entire film!
  3. I schedule all my time. Work time. Gym time. Sleep time. Casual time. All is scheduled. I have to-do lists at work, different notepads signify different priorities. I have a set workout plan and know exactly what exercises as well as what order, repetitions and weight I will lift before I enter the gym. I have a set time that I have to have my eyes closed by. I plan my weekends. And if anyone saw my notes section on my phone, they would see a multitude of lists, tracking all aspects of my life! As Gretchen pointed out in her book, it does mean that I can be somewhat inflexible. I do struggle with changes in routine, particularly ‘loose plans’. A tentative day out with a venue, but no times or rough idea of how the day will pan out is something which leaves me feeling extremely anxious. Understanding that this is part of ‘me’ was reassuring, but it is also something I am working on. I don’t want to be known as being rigid and an inconvenience to other people’s spontaneity!
  4. I struggle when I make a mistake or something isn’t perfect. I know I am reliable. In fact, being reliable and organized are two traits I both pride myself on and two traits that anyone would describe me would say I am. So when I make a mistake, or, even worse, when I make a mistake and it is pointed out to me, I find it devastating. A small remark about a mistake can reside with me for days, I take it as a personal criticism; an attack on my personality. Gretchen’s book made me reflect that very few people are intentionally malicious and that the best way of dealing proactively with this is to inform people of how that comment made me feel. Although some people will undoubtedly say that it is a severe over-reaction, it will initiate a conversation that could help alleviate this consequence in the future.
  5. I want to do everything myself. I don’t trust that lots of people will accomplish things to the same standard as me and I really struggle with relinquishing control and delegating. This extends beyond delegating work tasks (which I do have a hard time with!) For example, I refuse to let most people spot me in the gym as I think that they will end up doing the rep for me. Recently I have started asking certain people in the gym to spot me as I know testing one rep maxes without a spot is dangerous! Moreover, I know that it would make me very cautious and unable to execute the prescribed lift (I can’t fail a lift can I, I’m an upholder!)

As with any good book about metacognition or human behaviour, reading ‘The Four Tendencies’ made me very self-reflective and it enabled me to apply principles to some of my extreme quirks. I love that I am an upholder, but I also acknowledge that I couldn’t be much more of an upholder if I tried. With that brings the drawbacks of being an upholder, so here is my written commitment to work on those. Maybe one day I will have a day where zero is planned. And maybe one day a rebel will follow all the rules…

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Roasted Chestnut, Mushroom and Ham Pasta Sauce

Roasted chestnuts. Can you beat that festive smell? The very thought of roasted chestnuts brings a smile to my face; it conjurs up childhood memories of being all bundled up in a scarf, gloves and hat and walking the Christmas market with a hot chocolate. Although it is still pumpkin season, I am a huge Christmas lover and any excuse to start the festive season, I am all for it! Mushrooms don’t make for the most aesthetic of meals, but this sauce is so tasty and is perfect with pasta – the pasta I have used below is butternut squash zuchette pasta from Trader Joes.

20171017_150425

Macros per portion (based on 3 servings): 115kcal; 10g protein; 15g carbs, 1g fat

Ingredients

  • 150g mushrooms, sliced
  • 15 roasted chestnuts, peeled
  • 150ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 5 slices of ham
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp sage

Method

  1. In a small, non-stick pan, saute the mushrooms over a medium heat until they begin to soften. Add the rosemary and sage and cook for a couple more minutes, until soft throughout. Leave to cool.
  2. Roughly chop the ham and chestnuts.
  3. Add the ham and chestnuts to a blender along with the almond milk and mushrooms. Blend until smooth.
  4. Transfer the sauce to a small saucepan and cook over a medium/low heat until piping hot.
  5. Serve with pasta, ham, additional chestnuts and veggies for a festive dish!

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

150 Calorie Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Bananas have a very limited shelf life in my opinion, I like to eat them when they are barely yellow and as soon as they have brown spots, I turn my nose up! But, ripe bananas make the perfect basis for baking. As bananas ripen, they become sweeter, meaning that you can often use less (or in this case), no added refined sugars! This muffin recipe would be a perfect breakfast alongside some Greek yoghurt and a good cup of coffee. And at 150 calories, you can’t really go wrong…

Macros per muffin (based on 12 servings): 156kcal; 5.6g protein, 23.3g carbs, 5.1g fat

Ingredients 

  • 250g (approximately two medium) overripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 170g all purpose/plain flour
  • 60g old fashioned oats
  • 85g crunchy almond butter (can substitute for peanut butter or for a smooth consistency nut butter)
  • 85g 0% fat Greek yoghurt
  • 5ml (1tsp) vanilla essence
  • 125ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 45g honey
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 350f and line a muffin pan with 12 muffin cases.
  2. Roughly chop up the banana and add to a large bowl.
  3. Measure out the remainder of the ingredients into the bowl.
  4. Using a handheld whisk (or Kitchenaid) whisk the ingredients together on a low speed. Ensure all the mixture is combined, but don’t over whisk as it will break down the ‘crunch’ of the oats.
  5. Spoon out the mixture into the 12 cases – you can fill to the top as the muffins don’t rise too much and have quite a dense texture.
  6. Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 18 – 22 minutes. Take out when the top is slightly golden and a knife will come out clean.
  7. Enjoy warm with Greek yoghurt and sugar free syrup for a higher protein breakfast or enjoy after a savory meal for a 150kcal sweet treat.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Fiery Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

Hands up, I admit it, two years of living in the States and I am all about the pumpkin hype. Most pumpkin flavored things that crop up here are actually fairly sweet, but pumpkin on its own, is actually very savory. It has a great color and texture and this recipe brings out all the warm, cosy feelings that autumn should bring! I have eaten it with chicken and whole grain spaghetti, and I have also sautéed it with Miracle Noodle rice and egg whites. The sauce is quite strong in flavor so is probably too overpowering for fish, but it would also make a great basis for a soup too! Happy pumpkin season! 

Macros per portion (based on 4 servings): 76kcal; 3.1g protein, 14.1g carbs, 1.4g fat

Ingredients

  • 1 can pumpkin (approximately 425g)
  • 1 bag of spinach (approximately 250g)
  • 65g red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 cup (240ml) unsweetened original almond milk

Method

  1. In a large, non-stick pan, fry the onion over a medium heat until it softens.
  2. Add the spinach gradually (a large handful at a time), stirring until it wilts and there is room for more. Be careful to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the pumpkin, almond milk, cinnamon and cayenne pepper and stir until combined.
  4. Turn up the heat until the sauce starts to bubble and add more almond milk (or water) if the sauce is too thick.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 10 – 15 minutes (I find this allows the spices to really ‘knit together’ well).
  6. Serve over chicken, veggies and pasta for a hearty, autumnal meal.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Seaweed and Satay Shrimp Spring Roll Wraps

I came across spring roll wraps in an oriental supermarket whilst traveling and was instantly both fascinated and inspired. I had never used these wraps in my cooking before, and, after a lot of practice, I would offer one word of advice and one word of reassurance. The advice – don’t overfill, it will make rolling them almost impossible. The reassurance – these wraps are a lot more robust than they look. This recipe isn’t messy or difficult to prepare, but it is very wet and I recommend lining a good portion of your kitchen work tops with tea towels! These make a great appetizer or an aspect of an oriental themed spread.

Makes 16 rolls


Macros per two rolls: 192kcal; 19g protein, 22g carbs, 3g fat

Ingredients 

  • 120g cooked shrimp
  • 16 spring roll wrappers (I used Blue Dragon)
  • 1 pack roasted seaweed (I used a teriyaki flavor, but any flavor would work)
  • Vegetables of choice (I used broccoli, shredded carrots and shredded cabbage, but would also recommend bean sprouts, cauliflower rice and red peppers)
  • 12 tbsp powdered peanut butter
  • 25ml coconut aminos/soy sauce
  • 25 ml sriracha
  • Water 
  • 5 tea towels

Method

  1. In a small bowl, measure out the powdered peanut butter, coconut aminos (or soy sauce) and sriracha. Stir carefully, adding water in 25ml quantities until you have made a thick sauce (you don’t want a thick paste as it is difficult to spread and you don’t want a really runny sauce otherwise it will fall out of the wraps). Set aside.
  2. Run your tea towels under the cold tap and wring out so that the tea towels are wet throughout, but not dripping. Lay out across a clean work top. 
  3. Turn the cold tap down so that it is running in a light but steady stream. One by one, run each wrap under the cold water, until it turns translucent and pliable. Lay down flat on top of the wet tea towels. Repeat for each of the wraps in turn. You don’t need to worry about the wraps sticking as long as your tea towels are wet!
  4. Place 2-3 seaweed crackers in the center of each of the wraps. These will help guide your placement of additional ingredients to ensure you don’t over-stuff!
  5. Lay your vegetables of choice on top of the seaweed and place about five shrimp on top of the vegetables.
  6. Top each of vegetables and shrimp mixture with a spoonful of the satay sauce and spread across the shrimp with the underside of a teaspoon.
  7. Roll your wraps by folding down the top and folding up the bottom (this will hide the seams) and then fold over the left side of the wrap so that it covers the mixture in the middle. From here, roll your wrap. Repeat for the other wraps.
  8. These can be enjoyed immediately or refrigerated and eaten later. Refrigeration does cause the wraps to harden more, but it doesn’t make them any less delicious!

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

The Value of Savasana

I first tried yoga a few years ago in Cardiff when the initial ‘hot yoga’ hype was widespread and there were some yoga studios sprouting up. (Yoga in the states is a lot more prevalent and there are infinitely more yoga studios and opportunities to try different styles than there are in the rainy Welsh capital). I tried hot yoga at a little studio nestled away in an industrial park called Seren Yoga (seren means ‘star’ in Welsh). I had bought a Groupon for a few classes and sampled several different styles. My favorite, by far, was a style of yoga called ‘Budokon yoga’. Budokon yoga originates in Miami and has a martial arts influence. It resonated with me for many reasons and the instructor was knowledgeable, friendly and supportive. 

Budokon yoga follows a ‘series’ and we worked on different aspects (a bit like chapters in a book) each week, until ‘us’ (us, meaning the class members) had sufficient basic skills to be able to put the movements together to complete a version of the primary series. I enjoyed this yoga style so much because it is dynamic; it is not the type of yoga where you hold each movement for ten breaths and it is not the type of yoga where you come away having not sweated a drop. Also, the martial arts influence means that each movement is done with your toes in a ‘Demi-point’ (a combination of pointing your feet but keeping your toes flexed). I am not an elegant individual and I have the most inflexible toes (I cannot point them, something which always baffled my childhood gymnastics teachers), so alleviating the pressure of never having to point my toes was a big relief for me! By the time I left Cardiff, weekly Budokon yoga classes were engrained in my routine and I was eager to keep this up in Tampa.

A combination of yoga being a last priority, financial concerns and lack of Budokon yoga availability in the vicinity to my house led to yoga really falling off my radar for more than a year. Last winter, however, after a day of feeling particularly sore from a workout, I researched local yoga studios. I found there were an abundance of studios and decided upon trying Yoga Lotus Pond, drawn in by the idyllic pictures and exotic sounding classes. This studio is off a main road, but is situated in the most picturesque grounds, conjuring up the feeling of being on a retreat. The Hatha yoga took place on the veranda and it was just beautiful. Although the yoga didn’t hold quite the same appeal as Budokon yoga, I still really enjoyed it and attended every Sunday for several weeks. I am not sure why I stopped going, but I have recently re-started for two reasons;

  1. Until the past two months where deloading and taking it easier in the gym for a week has become part of my protocol, I was very aware of how much I neglect mobility, flexibility and recovery. When I have finished my workout, the very last thing I want to do is spend further time stretching. I am typically very hungry, tired and wanting a shower and to get home. Yoga encompasses stretching, flexibility and mobility and I always come away with my muscles feeling stretched. Moreover, the movements are deliberate and intentional, which is far more beneficial than my half-hearted and random stretches I would sort of attempt at the end of a workout.
  2. I always come away from yoga feeling relaxed and invigorated. I have a stressful job (but I realize most people do too!) and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I recently had a blood test and my cortisol (stress) levels came back high. Whilst your body cannot determine one type of stress from another (I.e. My intense workouts may have contributed to this), it did make me aware that, regardless of the cause of the cortisol being elevated, it is something I need to consider. I have no desire to reduce the intensity or frequency of my workouts and I have no desire to leave the industry I work in, therefore I realize I need to put steps in place to both get better at reducing stress and managing stress. The reason I come away from yoga feeling more relaxed is not because I have completed an hour of stretching, but because I have been led through a practice where discipline is emphasized. Yoga, from my experience, is all about being aware that you are devoting that time for you. This allocation of time to spend on yourself, therefore, should be the sole focus of your practice. Every class, the attendees are taught how to focus on breathing, be conscious of every part of your being and be mindful and deliberate with every movement. For someone who finds it difficult to compartmentalize stress and leave it at work; for someone who puts a lot of pressure on themselves to be ‘perfect’; for someone who values organization, drive and a relentless work ethic and for someone who finds it difficult to relax, the value that yoga can bring to my life is immeasurable. If you have read a lot of my blog posts, you will know how much I value metacognition. I believe that every aspect of your life can be improved if you think about your thinking. Mindfulness and yoga are synonymous. My next step, make Savasana and my ability to completely relax synonymous too. Namaste.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x