Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Roasted Winter Root Vegetables

I have had a life long love affair with sweet potatoes, to say the least. As a southern girl, I grew up with sweet potato casseroles topped with mounds of marshmellows which conjured up fond memories around the Thanksgiving table.

As my eating habits have changed, I still enjoy sweet potatoes but I love them roasted with cinnamon and smashed now. But do not get me wrong, I still want my sweet potato casserole and all those marshmellows when the time is appropriate LOL

A few years ago, I was watching Barefoot Contessa on Food Network and she was making a recipe that called for sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, and parsnips- called Roasted Winter Vegetables. Interesting, it looked good but I had never tried those last two items. A few days later, I went and bought the stuff to make it. Boy, I had been missing out on parsnips and butternut squash all these years!

How did I miss out on parsnips and butternut squash for so long?
 I have also tried this recipe with red potatoes in the mix just for my husband, it was excellent too. But I prefer the sweetness of the squash and sweet potatoes to shine through. This recipe turned me into a roasted vegetable addict, I will freely admit. Most veggies are just better roasted.

The weather in the Texas panhandle is unpredictable to say the least. Yesterday, it was almost 90*F, today it blowing frozen mix and 30*F. So I thought some roasted winter vegetables fit the bill to eat at lunch today. The good thing about the Texas panhandle is that if you do not like the weather, just stick around, it will change. Tomorrow is a high of 60*F...

Roasted Winter Vegetables

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa's recipe
Serves 6

2 sweet potatoes, chopped (I leave the skin on, you can peel yours if you would like)
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 pound bag of parsnips (about 5), peeled and chopped
1 pound bag of carrots (about 5 large or I buy the baby carrots), peeled and chopped
Cooking spray (I prefer canola oil spray)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp parsley

Do this:

Preheat your oven to 425 and line two cookie sheets with foil. Spray the foil with cooking spray. Divide all the chopped veggies into the two cookie sheets and spray with cooking oil lighly. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and parlsey over. Toss to coat evenly. Roast for 35 minutes, turning vegetables over halfway through cooking time. I like to turn on the broiler for the last 5 minutes or so to get the brown carmelized edges!

Nutritional info:

(Per 1 cup serving)
  • calories- 107
  • carbs- 24
  • fat- 0
  • protein- 2

Monday, April 15, 2013

Crock Pot Tex Mex Chicken

My Tex Mex chicken recipe that I shared with a friend on the Venus Index forum ended up being published in one of her articles! It just made my day that she enjoyed it enough to share. Sometimes it blows my mind how we can connect with friends across the world while doing the stuff we love- for me this is fitness and cooking. Kimberly (AKA Kimmits to me) lives in Hong Kong, and is a true everyday Venus.

Kimberly- The Every Day Venus: Holiday photos from May 2011 to July 2012
  So what is so special about this recipe? #1 it is super easy to make #2 it has a robust flavor without many extra calories above just plain old chicken breast #3 it is very versitile
I cook my Tex Mex chicken almost weekly because my whole family enjoys it, although we each fix it up in our own way. My husband likes to eat his in a shredded chicken taco with a corn tortilla preferrably with few condiments other than sour cream and some shredded cheese. My son likes his wrapped up in a flour tortilla burrito with refried beans, pickles (strange I know!), green salsa, and cheese. My daughter likes her chicken over a plate of nachos with refried beans, cheese, and sour cream. Me? I like my chicken over a huge pile of lettuce with green or red salsa and a dollop of sour cream. I have also had it over a bed of lightly sauteed zucchini and topped with fresh pineapple- which was also great tasting! Kimmits gives her ideas in the article, which sound pretty tasty too!
Continue reading here

Slow Cooked Tex Mex Chicken

Serves 6 and makes great reheated left overs for the rest of the week.
2.2lb / 1kg of chicken breast fillet
1 large jar of your favorite spicy salsa
1 diced onion (optional)
2 diced green bell peppers (optional)
Optional: 1 tsp of cumin and smoked paprika / chipotle
Step 1: Place all ingredients in a crock pot on low
Step 2: Cook for up to 12 hours until chicken is ready to be pulled apart, pour off extra liquids and shred with fork.


I have just discovered some easy variations. You will add these in at the step where you pour off the extra liquid (it can get too soupy for my preference sometimes!)....
  •  a can of red or green enchilada sauce 
  •  a jar of salsa verde.

These are two that I have tried and liked:

Nutrition Stats:

Per approx 4 oz serving

  • Calories: 147
  • Carbs: 2g
  • Fat: 3g
  • Protein: 26g
Oh and my photoshoot on Thursday went pretty well. Here is a sneak peek of the only pictures that I have gotten to see so far!
XO- Liss

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tropical Chicken Salad

So I know you probably do not need a recipe for a salad, BUT YOU MUST TRY THIS ONE! It is so seriously good!

There is this little cafe downtown called the Alley Cafe which is only open for lunch on the weekdays. Seeing as how I am a teacher, I can only go during the summers. Boo! But- I go at least once per week with the excuse of a girls' lunch! This is what I order everytime I go in. Seriously. Ha!

Isn't it so pretty???
 So I had to recreate it at home. Yup! Because I love it that much.

This is the stuff:

Tropical Chicken Salad

(for 1 serving)

1/2 head of butter leaf lettuce, torn (romaine and red leaf lettuce are also good in it!)
3 oz grilled chicken
1/4 pint strawberries, cored and sliced
1/4 pineapple, diced
0.5 oz or 10 pecan halves (I use candied pecans this day I took pics, but plain is just as amazing)
0.5 oz or 3 TBSP shredded coconut (fresh or bagged, whatever you like!)
2 TBSP Creamy Poppyseed Dressing (Kraft and Brianna's make great ones)

Toss up your salad and thank me as you savor each yummy bite. It makes a HUGE plate, hope you are hungry!

The mix of sweet and salty... creamy and crunchy is a real winner in my book.

Nutitional Stats per serving:

  • Calories: 524
  • Carbs: 41
  • Fat: 30
  • Protein: 24

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Prepping for a Photo Shoot

Photo shoots can be exciting but also a scary process. You want your pictures to come out the best that they can to show off your hard work, but you also do not want to do anything to possibly set yourself back! You have put in the work in the gym and your diet is showcasing it. Now what?

Since I am about to start my own personal countdown to getting ready for a photo shoot that is only a week away- here is my general strategy and some helpful hints you might not have otherwise thought about. Even if you are working with an experienced photographer, you need to do your part to ensure that you look your best on the big day. Most photographers actually are not experts in fitness photography (which is all about lighting), so be ready to help them out so that you are happy with your pictures.

Photo Shoot Prep Schedule:

Things you should start on before a week out-

  • Find a good photographer. Ask if they have ever done fitness photography. If you cannot not find anyone near you who specializes in fitness, look for someone who does boudoir photography- it is the next closest thing! All of my photos that you see on my blog are done by Forever Grace Photography. Erin is very talented and I highly recommend her.
  • Getting nice base tan (maybe 5-10 sessions)
  • Make a hair appointment (touch up color and trim)
  • Pick out poses that work with your body and practice them in the mirror. I like to look through pictures online to find poses that might work and then pin them to Pinterest to store them in one place.
  • Choose a flattering swimsuit and/or outfit in a solid color (It will appear less dated in the future than a print and will not distract from your body. Make sure it will stand out against the backdrop- no black bikini on a black backdrop for example. Here are some color suggestions based on your coloring.)
  • 5" heels- preferably clear like the one pictured above or nude will work. Choose a pair without a strap at the ankle (it will cut your leg line). It is okay to wear athletic shoes with fitness outfits- just know your legs will look better if you pose on your toes.
  • Book spray tan appt. Find a human being to spray you and get it as dark as possible (Preferably 24 hours before the shoot but up to 48 hours out) You will look freakishly dark, it is okay. The lighting will make you look normally colored, I promise! Get some touch up spray in case of a boo-boo!
  • Get a cheap full length mirror to take to the shoot. (Why? You can stand it up beside the photographer so you can see yourself posing and get the most flattering angle possible. You probably know how to present yourself better than the photographer, especially if you have been practicing. A friend who knows you well, and that you may have practiced your poses in front of, is also helpful to have at the shoot to help direct your movement.)

This is what a great prep and photographer can do for you

5 days before shoot 

  • Start 24H fasts (dinner-dinner), make your nightly meal high protein with lots of veggies, lower carb. I like to finish with Greek yogurt and fruit. Make sure to take a multi-vitamin.
  • drop carbonated bevs thru shoot day,
  • start wearing retainer at night for straight pearlies thru shoot day.

4 days before shoot 

  • Print out poses for shoot,
  • Start Whitestrips express (5 day type) daily thru shoot,
  • continue 24H dinner to dinner fasts as above.

3 Days before shoot

  • Start water load (as much water as possible- aim for 2X's regular intake), I also take magnesium/calcium tablets to prevent cramping. The water load and deplete is to remove any subcutaneous water which will decrease the appearance of cellulite and enhance your musculature.
  • continue Whitestrips express daily thru shoot,
  • continue 24H dinner to dinner fasts as above.
  • last day to workout (to give enough time for any DOMS to subside)

2 Days before shoot 

  • Last day of carbs,
  • continue Whitestrips express daily thru shoot,
  • make sure everything is cleaned/pressed/fits,
  • exfoliate in shower that night to prep for tan,
  • Stop any workouts until after shoot,
  • continue water load,
  • continue 24H dinner fasts.

1 Day before shoot 

  • small breakfast- then fast until shoot,
  • continue Whitestrips express daily thru shoot,
  • optional gylcogen deplete workout (light weights, high reps, full body),
  • get spray tan,
  • Start water deplete between 2-7 PM, do not drink anymore than small sips when necessary
  • pack up outfits, props, mirror

Day of the shoot

  • Buy newspaper if you are doing this for a contest (like Venus Index or Adonis Index),
  • do last whitestrip treatment,
  • touch up tan,
  • darker makeup than normal (lighting washes you out, so EVERYTHING needs to be applied in a deeper color- base, eyes, blush, lips) and simple hair (straight or lightly curled, and take an elastic to put hair up in some photos into pony)
  • little to no water until end of shoot,
  •  pump up before shoot (lunges/squats, pushups, curls, calf raises)

Other advice from people who know their stuff: 

My friend Roberta (pictured above in the white and pink bikini) wrote a 3 part series on Preparing for your Photo Shoot that was great too. She helped me prep for my first ever shoot, and without her guidance on lighting, I do not think my photographer and I could have gotten it right! We were both total noobs to fitness photography at my first ever shoot. We used halogen work lights like these on my first shoot as Ro suggested, and she showed me how to set them up. (We used aluminum foil to funnel the light though, instead of tar paper like she does.) It is funny looking back at it now, since Erin is a real pro now with the real lighting and studio equipment.

Click below to read Ro's series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Another great read is this post on photo shoot prep by Roman at Roman Fitness Systems. As a lady you need to scale down what he does, but he still covers many bases. I tried his carb loading once and it did not work for me. But I bloat like a whale (I am talking documented 8-13 pound bloat on occasion) so that is probably why.

These are my personal results from using my "Hail Mary" plan above:

1 week out from shoot
Day of shoot
VI GOAL for 5’9”

Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any questions or need more explanation as to the why on some of this.