holiday favorites

Team AST’s Holiday Favorites

As we kick off the holiday season this week, we surveyed some of AST’s coaching staff to find out what the holidays mean to them, what their favorite parts are, and how they balance their fitness lives with their family and social ones.

Staff Member: Morgan

What are your favorite things about this time of year? Sweater weather, fireplaces, skiing and trying to beat my family in holiday board games.

What are you thankful for? Enjoying a happy and healthy life surrounded by interesting and supportive people.   

Do you have any fitness tips, motivators for staying on track over the Holidays? You can’t have every drink and dessert – have a plan, know where/when you are going to break the rules and stick to that. Also, don’t let your holiday obligations get in the way of your workouts – even if you do a quick bodyweight workout in your childhood bedroom.

What are your favorite Holiday recipes for the following:

buckeyes
Not these Buckeyes… we’re more partial to Hawkeyes here anyway.

 

What fitness item(s) is on your wish list this year? A folding bike & a Fitbit

What are your resolutions for next year? To complete the RAW bike ride and work some down time into my schedule every week.

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 Staff Member: Jackie

What are your favorite things about this time of year? Cooking is one of my favorite ways to spend time, so I love having an excuse to get in the kitchen and share meals with friends and family 🙂          

What are you thankful for? Having the freedom and flexibility to actively pursue the things I’m most passionate about in life             

Do you have any fitness tips, motivators for staying on track over the Holidays? Book some sessions ahead of time and plan a couple of activities that you enjoy (a hike with some friends/family or a quick jog with your pup). Get those workouts built into your schedule and keep them 30 min or less so that you feel good and set a positive tone for the day without eating into your family time.

ALLLSO…don’t forget to hit us up for some body weight routines if you’re traveling!!

What are your favorite Holiday recipes for the following:

What fitness item is on your list this year? A Camelbak annnd maybe a better foam roller

What are your resolutions for next year? Read at least 1 book per month and build in at least 10 minutes each day to meditate

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 Staff Member: Christine

What are your favorite things about this time of year? The fall leaves and holiday lights – definitely NOT the cold.

What are you thankful for? My boys – they remind me what it is like to be carefree and enjoy the little things

Do you have any fitness tips, motivators for staying on track over the Holidays? Your day to day should remain the same.  Just because you have a holiday party coming up on Saturday doesn’t mean you can start sampling treats on Thursday without seeing your waistline take a hit.

What are your favorite Holiday recipes for the following:

  • Appetizer/Hors d’oeuvre: Deviled eggs – I don’t make them, I just eat them
  • Entrée: Ham in a slow cooker.  I don’t have a recipe, but the one my mother-in-law makes is to die for!
  • Side Dish: Maple bacon pecan butternut squash I have made it without the bacon and it is still delish!
  • Dessert: Berry cobbler. I have made this with blueberries, apples, peaches, raspberries.  It really does work with almost any “pie” fruit!

What fitness item is on your list this year? A King Kong gym bag

backpack_main-1024x1024

What are your resolutions for next year? Focus more on me.  I spend so much time running around for the kids, my business, and life in general, that I don’t actually sit still and chill out.

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Staff Member: Scott

What are your favorite things about this time of year? I love wearing hoodies and sweat pants (who doesn’t?) I’m a family man and really enjoy spending time with my loved ones this time of year.

Also, most importantly: every Christmas we get a new Star Wars movie so that’s always something I look forward to.

What are you thankful for? I’m most thankful for all the loved ones in my life.

Do you have any fitness tips, motivators for staying on track over the Holidays? Keep cooking, this time of year slow cookers are a must. Coming home to a house that smells of whatever delicious foods you left in the slow cooker all day 😊

Also, don’t dwell on the foods you’ll be eating during the holidays, understand that it’s okay to have some of the holiday favorites. For me, the less I think about it the less I consume. The more pressure I put on myself I feel like the consumption turns into a feast (which I feel is all psychological).

Keep moving during the holidays and enjoy everything the season has to bring.

What are your favorite Holiday recipes for the following:

  •  Appetizer/Hors d’oeuvre: Pigs in a blanket – Just little smoked sausages wrapped in the Pillsbury crescent dough. This isn’t a healthy one by any means, but this is our family favorite ever holiday party we have.
  • Entrée: Paleo pulled pork with pineapple coleslaw
  • Side Dish: Roasted vegetable and potato side (Brussel sprouts, zucchini, carrots, butternut squash and sweet potatoes, bacon optional) This one is simple and has so much flavor! Just cut everything into cubes and make sure the ingredients are cut into the same size for even cooking. Mix them all into a big bowl with coconut oil (melted), salt pepper and an herb of choice (I like parsley or thyme). If you would like some more flavor and a way to add some savory and saltiness add some diced bacon or pancetta to the mix. Poor into a sprayed cooking pan and roast at 400 degrees for 25-25 minutes or until tender and crispy. 
  •  Dessert: If you want a brownie without unnecessary ingredients try these. They are relatively low carb and delicious.

What fitness item is on your list this year? More sweat pants that fit a 36 L

rex kwon do

What are your resolutions for next year? Start my PICP Level 2 certification and end my gut issues.

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 Staff Member: Dan

What are your favorite things about this time of year? Christmas lights! Crockpots! Snow Days! These things are my favorite. I also enjoy skiing, family time, good conversation, and long walks in the snow 😉  

What are you thankful for? I’m thankful for my health, my family and friends, and a great community of people!

 Do you have any fitness tips, motivators for staying on track over the Holidays?  MOVE! After your meal, head out for a walk around town.  Keep up your good healthy habits and course out your thanksgiving meal throughout the day. Drink LOTS of water!

What are your favorite Holiday recipes for the following:

  • Appetizer/Hors d’oeuvre: Pepperoni Bread
  • Entrée: Turkey, turkey, turkey
  • Side Dish: Cranberry Sauce
  • Dessert: Pumpkin Pie

What fitness item is on your list this year? The Plexus Wheel Trio ; I’m always adding new toys to help aid in recovery and overall well-being. Move better – live better!

What are your resolutions for next year? Sign up and run a 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon

All Strength Training Core Challenge July

July Challenge: The Core Challenge

As easy as it is to write off “core training” as just another trendy way to get personal trainers to add another certification to their wall and a few extra letters on their business cards, it’s also not enough to treat core training as another name for abdominal training.  Also, while we often hear that big exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses are great for developing core strength (and they are), that only works if you know how to use your core muscles during those types of lifts.

For our purposes, we’re going to define “the core” as anything responsible for stabilizing the lower spine, the hips, and the pelvis.  More than just the visible abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, if you’re fancy), it also includes the external obliques, the transverse abdominis (the deep abdominals that you can’t see), your erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, and the glutes – medius, minimus, and maximus.

Why Should You Do Core Training?

The primary benefits we’re going to be aiming for during the Core Challenge are going to be:

  • Improved breathing patterns, including better use of the diaphragm
  • Better posture
  • Reduction in back and hip pain or discomfort
  • Stronger glutes and abdominals
  • Better integration of the core into larger lifts such as squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses

What Is the Core Challenge?

The Core Challenge involves training these muscles 6 days per week, with one full day of rest, using short workouts and steady progressions.  Instead of doing longer workouts less often, training muscles that you struggle to use well allows you to practice more often and retain the patterns better, no differently than practicing a golf swing, playing an instrument, or learning a new language.

Want to get started? Download the Core Challenge program here.

You can find the video demonstrations for each movement on our YouTube page on our Core Challenge playlist.  Videos will be added one week at a time.

 

 

NEAT challenge

March Challenge: The NEAT Challenge

Tomorrow we will be starting a new challenge for the month of March – our NEAT Challenge! It’s free, it’s simple, and it’s open to everybody.

For this month’s challenge, we wanted to take a step back from a focus on our training.

It’s extremely easy to get wrapped up in how much we train – how often we lift weights, how often we do cardio, how much ab work we do – IT’S IN OUR NAME, for Pete’s sake.

But, particularly in the winter months, we can get so wrapped up in our training and exercise that we forget about our activity levels. It’s cold out, so you stop biking or walking to work and start taking the train, you walk your dog a little less, you don’t go to the park or get involved with a weekend rec league; instead, you replace those things with an extra half an hour on a warm couch, in front of a fireplace… why it’s not called “Netflix and warm” I will never understand.

Yet when our activity levels dip down like that, it can require other changes to offset it – maybe a little less food, or another workout each week. And with those reduced calories or increased training stress comes a reduction in your ability to recover. You ache a bit more, you get hungrier more quickly, you feel a bit more sluggish in the middle of the afternoon.

What we want to do is increase something called NEAT – short for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. What does that mean? It means, the calories we burn just by doing things that don’t require any recovery – it’s not exercise or training, it’s just activity. Neat, huh? (I AM THE BEST AT PUNS)

In fact, it’s been shown that increasing your NEAT will actually help you recover more from your training and allows you to keep your food intake higher with no loss of progress. It’s not stressful on your body, it’s just… moving.

Here is the plan:

Week 1: Using a pedometer (you can buy one to keep on your hip, or you can use one on your phone – provided your phone is always on you, which may not be the case), you’ll track the number of steps you take each day. After 7 days, you’ll find the average number of steps you take in a given day.

Each week, your goal will be to increase the number of steps you take each day by 1,000. If your average was 2,000 in Week 1, your goal is 3,000. Pretty simple step. (HA!)

By the end of the month, that should put your daily average a full 3,000 steps (or more) higher than where you started.

Note: I personally would suggest not keeping your pedometer on you when doing any of your training or existing exercise – lifting, running, cycling, etc – the things you’re already doing. We’re not trying to cram in more workouts; remember, it’s Non-Exercise Activity we’re monitoring here, and I don’t want to stack more and more onto your recovery ability.

Are you in?

The 4 Week Pullup Challenge Workout

When it comes to fitness “bucket list” goals, for many people it’s as simple as “I want to be able to do one pullup again. Just one!” So we’ve made February officially Pullup Improvement Month here at AST.

Important note: this is the technique that you SHOULD be using when you do a pullup.

So flailing, flopping, bouncing, and generally attempting to imitate a drunk seal jumping through a flaming hoop while surrounded by penguins throwing lawn darts… won’t count.

You’ll start by finding out how much weight you can lift for 1-2 strict, clean reps.  If you can’t lift your entire bodyweight for one rep, you can either use an assisted pullup machine (available at most commercial gyms), or use thick resistance bands attached to the rack or the pullup bar itself (we use resistance bands from EliteFTS here at AST).  By stepping inside the bands it creates assistance, not resistance, allowing you to reduce the size of the bands over time as you get stronger.

Your goal over the course of four weeks is to increase the number of reps you can do with that initial resistance/assistance level, and then re-test your 1-2 rep strength at the completion of the program.

You’ll be performing this workout 2-3 times per week, and it can be done either at the beginning of your workout, at the end, or as a stand-alone on days you normally wouldn’t train.  We’re using it after training sessions with our clients and we’ve removed any pullup variations from our regular programming over the course of the Pullup Challenge to avoid any overuse and fatigue issues that would hinder progress.

Download the 4 Week Pullup Challenge, and leave a comment to let us know how you did!

Eat Better Feel Better

How to Eat Out, Eat Healthy, and Eat Well

Eat Better Feel Better

It’s easily one of the biggest battles you’ll face in your efforts to change the way you eat.

“How am I supposed to eat like this when I go out?  I don’t want to just eat plain chicken at a restaurant.  Should I just not go?”

Fortunately, it is absolutely possible to be social and still hold to your goals.  Sure, you can’t throw yourself headlong into a basket of nachos every time you get an invitation to meet somebody for dinner, but you also don’t have to order “plain grilled chicken… no oil, no seasoning, no sauce, no fries, please strip away LITERALLY anything that will bring me pleasure and give me whatever is left.  And an ice water.  Hold the lemon.  I’m on a diet.”

One easy thing to do before you go would be to check out the Healthy Dining Finder online to see if the restaurant you’re visiting has their information available.  Since only larger restaurants are likely to have their nutrition information readily available, you won’t necessarily find every place you’d like to go, but it’s a good first start.

In addition, we recommend that you check out the PN Restaurant Eating Guide from our friends at Precision Nutrition.  Even when you’re not able to be perfect, every restaurant is going to have food on its menu that runs along the spectrum from Worst to Best, and you just want to find things that sit as close to the Best end of the spectrum as you can.  Bad is better than Worst, Better is better than Good… you get the idea.

And remember – even if you can’t find something on the menu that’s prepared specifically the way you’d like, 99 times out of 100, all you have to do is ask.  After all, if they have the food in house, there’s very seldom any reason that they can’t make a special combination just for you.  Just remember to be polite about it… eating well doesn’t require a dramatic performance when it’s time to give your order.

Stress Fat Loss

Stress “Buffering” for Better Health and Fat Loss

Stress Fat LossWith the bulk of AST members falling into the “busy professional” category, whether it be sales rep, CEO, accountant, stay-at-home mom, and many others, the biggest constant is always stress management.  While working on lowering the amount of stress you’re exposed to should be important, there are certain stresses that aren’t practical to eliminate – a newborn who’s only sleeping for an hour at a time, a long commute on Lake Shore Drive every day, mandatory overtime to meet project deadlines – it’s not always an option to completely rid yourself of the stresses in your life.
But one thing that we do know can help is to use different tools to help buffer your body’s stress response – getting an environment where a stress that used to feel like a 10 out of 10 now only feels like a 7 or an 8 (or less, in a perfect world).  Less adrenaline, less anxiety, less disrupted sleep… all things that when left unadressed can impact your efforts to get in shape and improve your health.

1 – Get Better (and MORE) Sleep

There are a few things at play with this one here – some that you can control, and some you can’t.  The obvious one here is, you just stay up too late.  Not for any real, time-sensitive reason, but maybe because you have been coming home from work and binge-watching old episodes of Who’s the Boss well into the evening hours.  The answer isn’t very complicated, just GO TO BED ALREADY.  Seriously.
Besides, Angela is the boss.  Everybody knows that already.
whos-the-boss-angela
She called to tell you to be in bed by 10.
If you want to do everything you can to improve your sleep quality, you may want to look into the 10-3-2-1-0 approach to your sleep routine:
10 hours before bed – no more caffeine
3 hours before bed – no more food
2 hours before bed – no more work
1 hour before bed – no more screen time (computers, cell phones, TV’s)
0 – the number of times you’ll likely hit the snooze button
Even installing applications like f.lux on your  computers can help, as it reduces the blue light glow from your screen and drops the intensity of the light coming from your screen to mimic the rise and fall of the sun.  Mobile options like Twilight are also available for Android and iPhones and work the same way.

2 – Meditation

You may not be able to crank out an hour of yoga or tai chi every day (although if you can, go for it), but you can certainly spare 10 minutes of your time that you might currently be using for Facebookery or Netflix binges, and replace it with guided meditation and deep breathing exercise.  The Headspace app takes you through an ongoing… program? I guess that’s an appropriate thing to call it… and as you work your way through and improve your proficiency, new tools are introduced to keep you challenged along the way.

hero-get-headspace_1
www.headspace.com

You can do it at any time of the day, but the most popular usage seems to be first thing in the morning or at bedtime.  If you’re an anxious sleeper (your body is exhausted but your brain is working overtime) then placing it at bedtime may have the most bang for your buck.

And yes, I know I just suggested ditching electronics for an hour before bed, but I’m willing to make an exception here if you can’t get it in early enough.  It’s better than trolling your roommate on Twitter, anyway.

3- Supplementation

Let me get this little disclaimer out of the way first – there isn’t a supplement in the world that will allow you to drop endless amounts of stresses onto your system.  Relaxitor (I call dibs on that name, by the way) won’t fix your lack of sleep, the gallon of Red Bull you drink every day, the poor planning that leaves you sprinting out the door late for work every morning… BUT… there are things that can help boost your body’s defenses against chronic stress loads that aren’t necessarily within your control.

Rhodiola rosea – I’m going to save us all time by just directly citing the benefits from Thorne Research:

“Rhodiola rosea has been extensively studied in Russia and Scandinavian countries for over 35 years and is categorized as an adaptogen because of its ability to increase resistance to chemical, biological, and physical stressors.* Rhodiola has been found to inhibit stress-induced depletion of important brain neurotransmitters.* The adaptogenic properties of Rhodiola are attributed primarily to this ability to influence the levels and activity of neurotransmitters and the amino acids that mimic the effect of opiates in the brain, such as the beta-endorphins.* Because it is an adaptogen, Rhodiola has the potential to normalize neurotransmitters in the central nervous system without causing drowsiness or fatigue. In other words, it helps maintain normal levels of brain chemicals but, when they are already normal, Rhodiola will not further affect them.*

Russian studies suggest a positive role for Rhodiola in situations characterized by a decline in work performance, poor appetite, sleep disturbances, irritability, and fatigue.* Studies have found improved mental performance in physicians on night duty who were supplemented with Rhodiola.* Medical students given Rhodiola during exam periods reported improved concentration and performance, as well as enhanced well-being, improved sleep, and greater mood stability.*

In addition to aiding sleep, Rhodiola can enhance mood and decrease occasional episodes of worry and nervousness, allowing for more efficient functioning under stressful conditions.*”

Rhodiola tends to work well as an almost “catch-all” type of stress supplement as it has benefits in improving a wide array of stress reactions.

Suggested Use: 300-400mg per day, in divided doses

Relora (Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense) – once again, I may as well turn it over to Thorne’s summary of benefits for their version of Relora:

“Individuals who are occasionally anxious, feel stressed, or eat when stressed can have trouble maintaining their optimal weight.

Relora Plus is a proprietary blend of plant extracts from Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense (two major botanicals used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 1,500 years) along with a mix of B-vitamins, including active forms of B2, B6, B12, and folate.

Studies have demonstrated that the plant extracts in Relora Plus help to lower morning cortisol (a marker of adrenal stress), increase salivary DHEA, manage stress-related eating, and help manage body weight.* Study participants felt significantly more relaxed, less anxious, and better in control of their mood and stress-related eating habits.* The B-vitamins in Relora Plus are nutritional cofactors in the creation of neurotransmitters and have been shown to support mood.*”

Suggested Use: 500mg per dose, taken 2-3 times daily

One quick note on stress supplements – a common prescription for them is to take them toward the end of the day, or after training or some other stressful event.  However, if you’re already doing a poor job of handling stress, waiting until after things have already started to accumulate before addressing it is like waiting until the dam has already broken before you try to fix it, instead of making improvements so that it never breaks in the first place.

Most people will benefit the most by dividing their intake into more than one dose and taking it throughout the day, with at least one early-day dose so that you can buffer the effect of stressful events as they happen.  For the two supplements listed above, the recommendation here at AST is:

Thorne Rhodiola Rosea – 1 cap (100mg), taken 3x/day (although I may do 2 caps earlier in the day if I’m trying to get to 400mg when stress is HIGH)

Thorne Relora Plus – 2 caps (500mg), taken 2-3x/day (again, on the high side when stress isn’t being tolerated well)

Thorne Rhodiola Relora

Supplementation is never a magic fix, but when done in conjunction with other efforts, including nutrition and lifestyle changes, it can be extremely valuable.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Cubs Fly the W

Answering “Was It Worth It?” (and a Timely Hangover Cure)

So, we’re located in Chicago, about a half mile from Wrigley Field.  And in case you haven’t set foot near a TV, a radio, Facebook, Twitter, a Goodyear blimp, or a still-drunk-but-soon-to-be-hungover stranger dressed head to toe in blue and red yet this morning, the Cubs just won the World Series, in a Game 7 with more twists and turns than your average M. Night Shyamalan movie and three decades of Days of Our Lives reruns combined.  I haven’t checked yet but I have low expectations on our 5am session attendance rate this morning.

Cubs Fly the W
There’s no way that bear is walking in a straight line this morning.

And it would be really easy for me to call up anybody who missed their workout this morning and give them a hard time for choosing to stay out late drinking and partying.  After all, I’m their trainer, so why shouldn’t I expect anything less than perfect attendance from my clients?  And a hangover?  Surely you would have had just as much fun had you been drinking diet A&W and eaten tilapia and Brussels sprouts out of a Tupperware container at 12am?

Except this wasn’t just a regular Wednesday night in Chicago, and I would be shocked if the reason anybody missed their workout this morning was because they stayed up too late drinking Leinenkugel and watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy.  It was capping off a once in a lifetime experience for literally everybody.  I don’t know that there is anybody in Chicago who was alive the last time this happened.

And if any of my clients had a few too many drinks, stayed up too late, maybe had to go to the hospital from 2nd degree fireworks burns… I don’t care.  I’m happy for them, because in the end if I asked them “was it worth it?”, I can’t see any answer except “yes.”  Because life doesn’t revolve around your body fat percentage or your MyFitnessPal consistency, and sometimes all of that day to day health stuff has to take a backseat to more important things.

It’s not unlike the advice I’ve given to clients who are planning their wedding, and want to “run the menu” by me to see if it meets my approval.  “But it’s your wedding… why would you care what I think?  It’s just one day and it only happens once.”  And like I told another client of ours earlier this week, you may as well celebrate the Cubs in the World Series while it’s happening, because even if they go back again in a year or two, the shine is off of the apple.  And not unlike a wedding, it’s just not the same the second time around.

So please… if you are trying to decide whether you made the right choice in neglecting your diet and training program, ask yourself “was it worth it?”  And if you can answer “yes,” than who really cares?

And if you happen to be dealing with an epic hangover this morning, you may want to contact these guys:

http://ivmechicago.com/mobile-therapy/

Mobile IV hangover treatment.  I highly suggest you book now because 100,000 other Cubs fans are probably calling them.

cod sauerkraut spinach

Straight From Our Kitchen: Complete Meals October 2016 (Low Carb Edition)

Sorry for the lack of a column lately- we overhauled our website in August and postponed adding any new content until we got everything imported and updated just to make sure nothing got lost in the shuffle.  Then Christine and I took our first vacation together (kid-free!) since our honeymoon… 10 years ago.  We didn’t work much.

Maybe we’ll drop an extra one this month to make up for it!

This month is a low-carb meal.  We just launched our Back to School transformation challenge at AST a few weeks ago, so we have over 25 competitors trying to figure out how to make food taste good without adding the words “and fries” to the end of all of their meals.  This was my first time prepping cod this way and it turned out fantastically, and the prep time was super-short.

Baked Lemon Herb Cod

2lbs wild-caught cod fillets
juice from 1 lemon (or 2tbsp lemon juice)
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp minced garlic
1tsp dried thyme
1tsp smoked paprika
1tsp sea salt
1tsp black pepper

fish herb seasoning

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pat the cod fillets dry with a paper towel and drizzle the lemon juice over top. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small dish and mix together, then spoon small amounts (maybe 1/2tsp or so) onto each piece of cod and use the back of a spoon or your fingertips to spread it onto the top of each piece.

Bake for around 15 minutes or until cooked all the way through.

baked lemon herb cod

For sides, I went super low-tech and did sauteed spinach and saurkraut.

Sauteed Spinach

Preheat a small skillet at medium heat.  Put a dab of olive oil or cooking spray on the skillet.  Once it’s heated, throw a handful or two of spinach in and mix often with a wooden spoon, until it starts to wilt down.  You can add some salt and pepper, maybe a squirt of lime juice, but you don’t need anything fancy with spinach.

Sauerkraut

Go to the grocery store.  Buy a jar of sauerkraut.  You can get some great stuff in the refrigerated section but the off-the-shelf kind doesn’t have to be terrible either.  Ingredients should be cabbage and salt.  No vinegar, no sugar.  Turn the lid counter-clockwise to open.  Put some on your plate.  You can saute it in the same skillet you used for the spinach if you’re feeling fancy.

sauerkraut ingredients

It should be 20 minutes or less from start to finish – you’ve got time to kill while the cod bakes and sauteing spinach and sauerkraut isn’t exactly a time-consuming process.

cod sauerkraut spinach

Share and comment if you like it!

Straight From Our Kitchen: Complete Meals July 2016

I've been exploiting the warm weather as much as possible by doing tons of grilled meals lately – besides making it easier to prep large quantities of food, be serious: doesn't everything taste a little better when it comes off of the grill?

Dry-Rubbed BBQ Chicken Breast

I know, I know, another chicken breast recipe.  But this one is quite a bit different from last month, and honestly, it never hurts to be well-equipped with options when it comes to making chicken breast.  This one is a bit more barbeque-influenced than last month's was and goes in a pretty different direction taste-wise.

  • 3lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast (we use frozen Perdue chicken breast from Costco because they're a bit thinner and cook better on the grill than thick pieces, but you could easily use thick breast and just butterfly it before you put the dry rub on)
  • 1tbsp sea salt
  • 1tbsp garlic powder
  • 1tbsp onion powder
  • 1tsp dried thyme
  • 1tsp rubbed sage
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • 1tsp black pepper

As usual, I just added all of the dry ingredients into a small Pyrex dish and mixed it by putting the lid on and shaking it.  I used paper towels to pat all of the chicken dry, then put them in a big glass dish and added about 1 1/2 tbsp of the seasoning mix and mixed it with my hands until everything was covered well.  I let it sit while I heated up the grill (I do 5 minutes on high heat).  Then I dropped the heat down to medium and did 5-6 minutes per side on the chicken breast, then let it rest for a good 10 minutes on a cutting board before trying to cut it.  Don't cut it right away or you'll let all of the juice run out of it and you'll just end up with dry chicken.  Use a food thermometer if you're not confident it's cooked through all the way and it should temp at 165 degrees.

IMG_20160625_193506

Cinnamon (Extra) Sweet Potatoes

Fair warning – we'll make up 5 or 6 sweet potatoes like this in our house and it will last maybe two days.  It's awesome

  • 5 sweet potatoes, sliced or cubed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp sea salt
  • 1 pinch of stevia powder (or 2-3 packets of Truvia)
  • 1tsp sea salt

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cut off the ends of the sweet potatoes and then cut into either 1/4" slices, or wedges.  If you want to do wedges and don't know how, I'm going to give you the same eloquent instructions I did last month:


How to Wedge Potatoes

Cut your potato in half, then cut that in half, then cut that in half.  Boom, WEDGED.


Melt coconut oil in a small dish, then add the cinnamon, stevia and salt and mix.  You can coat your sweet potatoes one of two ways:

  1.  Put your sweet potato wedges in a large bowl and pour the seasoning mix over top, then mix and coat with your hands.  Then transfer to a baking sheet (we've begun putting a sheet of parchment paper on the baking sheet first lately as it keeps the bottoms from burning and it speeds up the cleanup when you're done)
  2. Be lazy like I am and skip the bowl all together.  I just throw the slices onto the parchment paper as I'm slicing them and then pour the mix over that once I'm done, and mix with my hands.

There isn't a lot of oil called for, but it's enough to help basically bind the dry spices to the sweet potatoes and help everything cook a little faster and easier.  I'm not a big fan of a lot of oil on these as it takes away from the cinnamon/stevia combo too much.

Roast at 400 degrees for an hour.  If you're somebody who likes your sweet potatoes on the crispier side, you can turn them about halfway through.  They should pierce with a fork without being mushy (which they shouldn't be if you didn't go overboard on the oil).

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Grilled Asparagus

Asparagus is one of those veggies that 1) always tastes better on the grill, and 2) doesn't handle a lot of seasonings well.  Here is what I did:

Break the bottom stem off of each asparagus spear – if it's not past its prime you should be able to snap the bottom 2-3" off without needing any utensils.  In a large bowl or dish, put in all of your asparagus, and add 1-2tsp of olive oil depending on how much asparagus – I did 2 bunches and used 1tsp per bunch.  Sprinkle in some salt and pepper but don't go nuts – you want just a bit of extra flavor but don't drown it in salt.

Lay it all out on the grill and use medium heat for about 5 minutes, turning frequently (with tongs unless you're feeling like gambling with your fingertips).

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Now, for a complete visual aid – enjoy!

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