Sunday, August 19, 2018

DIY kimchi

During the month of August, I start to panic about the end of farmers market season. Don't get me wrong, the market is at its best in August and continues strong into October with squash and apple season. However, every August I scramble to preserve the local goodies and one of my favorite ways is to make kimchi.

Kimchi is a staple Korean side dish of fermented veggies primarily cabbage, carrots, radishes and onions. Kimchi has become more trendy as the health benefits of fermented foods becomes more well-known. As the popularity has grown, kimchi is now readily available at most grocery stores including Target, Cub, Trader Joe's, Co-ops and Whole Foods (who probably has been carrying it for decades). Also, it may be considered an acquired taste as it is a little tangy and sour. I use kimchi every morning with my eggs - I cannot eat eggs by themselves (it's a texture thing), so I will throw a spoonful of kimchi on top. I also use kimchi on top of avocado toast, with a sweet potato or even on top of a salad or rice bowl.

Dee's DIY Kimchi: 
- 1 1/2 head of cabbage
- 3 whole carrots
- 1/2 red onion
- High quality salt: I prefer Himalayan pink salt
- Seasonings: I prefer to add some heat either with ginger and/or jalapeno. I used 2 poblano peppers in my batch today, because, truth be told, I accidentally planted a poblano plant this year instead of bell pepper.
**This will make 1/2 gallon of kimchi.

If you are experienced with making kimchi, you can probably just make this in a big glass or ceramic crock, but I purchased this kit off Amazon and love it! It comes with a lid that has a gasket, a regular lid for storage, and a clay weight. There are many versions available, so find what works best for you!

1. Before you chop your cabbage, I highly recommend to peel off the outer layer and save it for later. Chop 1 head of cabbage into a LARGE bowl - I prefer to chop mine so they are in skinny strips, but anything will do.
2.  Sprinkle with lots of Himalayan salt and massage the s*** out of the cabbage. Do not feel the need to measure the salt, you will continually add lots of salt throughout the process. The goal here is to break down the plant walls of the cabbage to release water, which will also release enzymes that are essential to the fermentation process.
3. Wash and peel carrots into the bowl. I just use a regular peeler and don't worry about what size the shavings are. Try to use up as much of the carrot as you can without shaving off any skin.
4. Sprinkle more salt on top and get back to massaging!
5. Chop and add the other 1/2 of the cabbage. Again, add salt and keep massaging. There is a pounder available to use to help with massaging and breakdown process. I have used a masher and that works fine, but I think using your hands work best. And yes, if you have any cuts on your hands, you will feel them!
6. Let the bowl of massaged cabbage and carrots sit for 5-10 minutes. By allowing the veggies to sit post-massage, they tend to relax a bit (who knew veggies were so much like humans?!) and release more water.
7. While the veggies are relaxing, feel free to cut up and add your flavors of choosing: onions, jalapenos, poblanos, ginger. Whatever you chose! You will see in the pictures below how I chop those veggies.
8. After allowing the veggies to sit for 5-10 minutes, here comes another round of salting and massaging. Remember, the goal of this process is to create liquid, which is called a brine, that is essential for the fermentation process.
9. Continue to cycle between massaging and letting the veggies relax until you have a puddle of brine at the bottom of the bowl. You don't need to add more salt unless you are struggling to break down the vegetables- you will know what I mean once you start making some headway on the massaging.
10. Transfer the vegetables into your fermentation vessel. Here is where your outer cabbage leaf comes into play - once the vegetables are packed into your vessel, use your hands and the cabbage leaf to press the vegetables down until the brine is covering the top of the vegetables. Cover the top layer of the vegetables with the leaf, place the clay weight on top and you are ready to cap it off. It is important for the brine to be covering the top layer as that will create less chance of mold and the kimchi from drying out. If you do not have enough brine to cover the kimchi then you should probably toss everything back into the bowl and get back to massaging as well as sweet talking your veggies.
11. After the clay weight is placed on top, screw on the lid with the gasket and place the gasket in its spot. As the kimchi processes, it will release a gas through the gasket - please note, you should not use a mason jar with a regular lid to ferment - the pressure will cause an explosion! The gasket may fill and overflow with liquid, feel free to dump it out and place it back on top. This is just a sign of more brine being created throughout the fermentation process. Allow your kimchi to sit in a safe spot for about 2 weeks. Yes, on the counter and yes, it may stink. Sometimes, I clear a cabinet to put it in to help hide the smell, but not always. The fermentation time is totally preference - feel free to taste it daily after 1 week to see if it is sour enough or not. I prefer about 2 to 2 1/2 week fermentation time. At that time, you can switch the lid and place it in the fridge.
Here is the beginning of the process with just cabbage and carrots

Thinly sliced poblano peppers for a little kick

Post-massage and mid-rest. Do you see the brine started to form at the bottom of the bowl? That is a great sign! 

Thinkly sliced onions added (as you could probably guess, onions break down faster than cabbage and carrots, so you can add them later)

Time to transfer! This doesn't look like a lot of brine, but it takes quite a bit of work to get this much and it is enough to cover the vegetables. 

The finished product! Key things to look for here: the cabbage leaf on top under the clay weight. You can also see brine all the way through to the top and the gasket on the lid. This will be ready to eat in 2-2 1/2 weeks. 

I completed this process while I was making some other meal prep items so I could do other things in between massage cycles - and yes, I am the queen of multitasking, which is good and bad. This 1/2 gallon jar cost me about $7, took me about 30 minutes (hands on time), and will last me about 6 months. Not too bad!

If you are interested in learning more about fermenting, I highly suggest this book! It provides great background on why and how to ferment and also offers endless simple recipes to try fermenting.

Let me know if you give this a shot!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Type A Meal Prep

I really felt the need to do a post on meal prepping because I want to break it down for people - while it takes time and effort, it is very doable, even for people with busy schedules. It was actually my saving grace during my busiest seasons of life (i.e. tackling my thesis or taking 3 classes while working full-time).

Essentials to meal prepping:

1. Carve out 3ish hours per week to plan and prep: This does not include grocery shopping - this is simply planning around foods you need to use up, foods you need to get and prepping said food (we will get into more details later). This may seem like a lot, but these 3 hours will save you a significant amount of time and brain energy during the work-week grind. I fit these 3 hours in whenever I can - Saturday afternoons/evenings (when we don't have plans to be social), before church (it's amazing what you can accomplish before 10:30 am), but mainly it has been Sunday afternoons usually between 1:00-4:00.

2. Get a notebook: This can be any old notebook you have lying around your house or to motivate yourself, buy a cute notebook just for meal prepping. I will talk through my template below, but I find it helpful to use 1 notebook for meal prepping. When I am feeling stuck on meal ideas, I can flip back and revisit another week's plan. Don't recreate the wheel, people.

3. Breathe and charge your laptop to binge your favorite Netflix show: Seriously, my husband is amazed at how quickly I plow through Netflix series, but honestly, I usually only watch these solo series when I am meal prepping or cooking throughout the week. I thoroughly enjoy working with food, but I feel like I am also staying current by having OITNB on in the background.

The planning phase and template: You will create 3 different lists!

List 1: Foods that need to be used. This can be meat or poultry that has been thawed for one too many days and needs to be cooked ASAP or the produce that is on its last leg, because we all have produce that gets forgotten. Force yourself to figure out a meal to use these! Roast the produce as a side with a chicken breast or throw the meat in a crockpot or in a casserole. By taking a couple minutes to sort through your fridge, this not only minimizes food waste, but also saves you time and money at the grocery store. One action item that we are trying out is setting up a small whiteboard near our fridge to list out what is in the fridge. I swear Mr. Lukas is a human garbage disposal, but if he had to find food in the fridge himself, he would starve to death. This was actually his idea to help minimize food waste (swoon!), but seriously, he gets really annoyed when we have to throw meat loaf or shredded beef simply because he didn't know it was in there.

List 2: Meal ideas. Obviously, these meal ideas should include the foods that need to be used up. Also, incorporate some favorite meals that you will want to eat as well as quick meals for the nights where you can't imagine cooking or worked late because those are going to happen. One of our favorite meals are steaks with sautéed mushrooms and onions, a roasted sweet potato and broccoli - with a glass of deep red wine. This meal will stop us from going out to eat or ordering DoorDash. Quick meals for us include spaghetti with red lentil noodles (Trader Joe's gets us), a frozen pizza (gasp!), breakfast for dinner (think over easy eggs with toast and avocado) or leftovers. Give yourself a buffer because if your week turns into a serious grind, you are ready for it. Also, be sure to plan snacks and desserts! Are you going to have apples with almond butter, a couple yogurts throughout the week, beef jerky, hardboiled eggs? I know that I am not the only one who doesn't stick to just 3 meals/day so by planning ahead, you will avoid hanger and driving through a silly drive through or gas station for an overpriced and most likely, an unhealthy tie-over snack. Also, desserts - we throughly enjoy Trader Joe's cookie ice cream sandwiches as well as Ben and Jerry's. It is what it is and I am not about to try to be someone that I am not.

List 3: What you need to get from the grocery store. Connect the dots between what you have and what meals you plan to make. Hopefully, you can minimize this list by using up what you have leftover from the week before.

Once you have your lists, on another sheet of paper (or I use the backside the lists), plan out your meals throughout the week! What nights do you know you are going to need something quick or maybe a crockpot meal that is ready to go when you get home from work or events? These nights for us are often when Drew has a soccer game or I plan to meet a friend for a workout. Are there any nights where you may be going out to dinner with friends or family? Some evenings, I have Beautycounter meet-ups or Board of Directors meetings, where I will be out for dinner, but Drew is on his own. Plan for a leftovers night or two! We often filter in leftovers as either a quick meal or solo meals because we are independent people. I can't say it enough, set yourself up for success by filtering in a couple quick meals or leftover nights.

The action phase:
1. Go grocery shopping! Hit up the farmers market, co-op, Trader Joe's or wherever you shop. This week, I happened to get groceries from 4 different places: the farmers market, Trader Joe's, Mississippi Market and Whole Foods. This is not a regular thing for me nor is this me bragging because I felt like I was losing my mind - truth be told, I was on the hunt for figs (long story). My usual weekly trips include the farmers market and Trader Joe's. Pro tip: eat before you go grocery shopping! Do not fall into that trap - you are more likely to stick to your list on a full stomach.

2. Prep! What can you do ahead of time to set yourself up for success? Most Sundays, I make a sweet potato hash to throw in with eggs for breakfast throughout the week (some weeks I tell Mr. Lukas this exists, but not all weeks because I want to hoard it for myself). Historically, I have also made 5 salads on Sunday - one for every day of the week and yes, they stay good, if you store them in glass containers. I also try to cut up and portion out fruits and vegetables as well as hummus, nuts, and other snacks - again, try to store these in glass containers as they are less likely to oxidize. I also put the meat/poultry that we will use throughout the week in a bowl. This will allow them to thaw and be ready to cook! It also makes you commit to using that meat before it goes back (aka skip going out to eat).

To help get your lists started, here are foods that are on my list every week and mainly because they are versatile staples:
- sweet potatoes: great for breakfast hash or as a side to meat for dinner
- peppers: used for the breakfast hash and snacking with hummus
- meat, mainly chicken or pork: for the past few years, we have been buying red meat in bulk, direct from a farmer, so we are usually just filling in the gaps with either chicken or pork. Typically,  I plan out something with ground beef, a roast and a lean meat throughout the week.
- butter: organic, grassfed salted butter
- milk/almond milk: organic whole milk for Drew and almond milk for me
- apples: super great snack on the go, ideally with almond butter or a cheese stick
- avocados: no explanation needed here
- shredded cheese: again, no explanation needed
- natural almond butter or peanut butter: we go through a lot of nut butters around here
- spinach: can be used for salads, in scrambled eggs or smoothies
- cruciferous veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts - all of these are great raw on salads or roasted as a side dish for dinner
- other veggies: think carrots, cucumbers,  snap peas, tomatoes - great on salads, but also great for snacking with hummus or roasting for dinner
- yogurt: I realllllly like Sigg's 4% yogurt, it is pricey, but I usually only get 3 or 4 as an optional snack throughout the week.
- Sprouted whole wheat bread: Yes, we eat bread, minimally and almost always sprouted.

Ok ya'll, do you get that I take my food very serious? When I was really stressed out during grad school, Drew tried to take over grocery shopping and meal prepping and I actually lost my mind. This dude was going to by 3 different types of bread in one week (hot dog bugs, hamburger buns and sourdough) - I almost lost my damn mind thinking of how we would never use all of that bread before it went to waste and I wasn't sure how I could have married someone so inefficient. Kidding....kinda.

Baby steps ya'll - maybe plan out your snacks and 3 meals your first week and work up from there. Do not bite off more than you can chew (is that a pun because we are talking about food?!) - truly, I would realllllly hate for you to become annoyed and discouraged after hitting it hard for 2 weeks. Practice radical self-love and flexibility.

I would love to hear how meal planning is going for you! I am also working on a downloadable template for my readers to download and use on a weekly basis for meal planning (stay tuned!).

Here is our new "What's in the fridge" whiteboard. Also pictured, is a cute notepad, found in the $1 aisle at Target that is a Monday-Friday Menu. It magnets to our fridge and is where I plan out our dinners. Easy peasy! 

I tried to make this as big as possible to make it legible. The top list says foods that need to be used, to the right of that are meals and the bottom is a checkable grocery list. Yes, I do bring my notebook with me to the grocery and yes, sometimes, I do cross it off. Also, the check items in the top right corner are reminders for me to check stock on items. There is nothing worse that assuming you don't have something and unnecessarily buying it or assuming you have it and don't buy it. 

This was my most recent list. Surprisingly. I didn't have anything that needed to be used up! Again, you see the check items in the middle to check stock.

This my friends is my meal prep station. Here I was making the vanilla date turmeric energy bites while eating come chips and guac for a snack and watching OITNB on Netflix. This is real life, people. 

Much love ya'll

Vanilla date tumeric energy bites

I was feeling motivated to make energy bites because they always came in handy while I was busy with work and grad school...and I am back to work! Big news, I know, and trust me, I am feeling it. I am thrilled to be back to work! My new job is downtown Minneapolis, which means I will be commuting either on the light rail or via bike, which also means carrying everything on my back, which brings me back to energy bites.

The way I make energy bites has drastically changed. 5 years ago, I was making them with lots of peanut butter, protein powder, oats, chocolate chips and soy nuts. Drew still prefers lots of peanut butter and protein powder, but now I try to fit as many superfoods as I can. Also, I usually make 2 kinds of energy bites now - a version for Drew (with superfoods hidden) and a version for me, usually on fire with ginger or turmeric. 

I decided to scour through a handful of energy bite recipes and pull out ingredients that I was drawn to and also, that I had on-hand. I was beyond thrilled (and very surprised) when the first recipe resulted in a winning batch!

Here is what I came up with:

- 12 Medjool dates 
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter
- 1 Tbs. maca
- 1 Tbs. chia
- 2 tsp. turmeric
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Halve and pit Medjool dates and soak in hot water for approximately 10 minutes.
2. In a food processor or blender, pulse together almonds, walnuts and oats. It truly doesn't matter if you briefly pulse it to keep it chunky, pulse it to a much finer consistency, or somewhere in between. Place in a bowl and mix in maca, chia seeds, turmeric, and cinnamon.
3. After Medjool dates have soaked and softened, place in food processor/blender with almond/peanut butter and vanilla.
4. Mix all ingredients together and roll into desired size bites. Helpful hint: it may be helpful to pop the mixture into the freezer as it can get very sticky and hard to make balls when at room temperature.
5. This step is optional, but I pulsed coconut flakes and goji berries to roll half the bites through.
6. Store in freezer.

Optional add-ins: protein powder, raisins, pistachios, hemp seeds, ginger, etc. Get creative! Also, if you prefer more heat, feel free to use more turmeric or add in ginger. Either this recipe masked the turmeric taste really well or I simply didn't use enough.

One batch lasted me 2 weeks, so I plan to make more today! They are so great for a pre-lunch or mid-afternoon snack or a post-workout bomb to avoid eating everything in sight.

Let me know what you think!
This batch made 13 energy bites - obviously, you can make them bigger or smaller to make more or less. As you can see, I only rolled some of them in 'pulsed' coconut and goji berry - my hope was that Mr. L would eat the ones that looked less 'superfoody'. No go. He is on to my tactics of hiding secret ingredients in food.... 

I may just have to frame as this was my first real recipe development! As you can see it really started with throwing ingredients down and adjusting from there. Also, please note that this says 3 Tbs. maca and the real recipe only has 1 Tbs. 3 Tbs. of maca could have been interesting...

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Market bowls: The Midwestern Buddha bowl

For those of you who know me, know that I thrive during farmers market season! Every weekend (that I am in town), you will find me at the St. Paul's market with my straw bag. Anyone who has joined me at the farmers market knows that my first stop is the Golden's bagel stand for an egg & cheese bagel sandwich and cold press coffee (basic, I know). After I am fed and caffeinated, I must do a lap around the market, survey the stands, and take inventory of the options before committing. After my initial lap, I be sure to swing by Bar 5 meats to pick up eggs, meat (always some philly cheese brats) and a dog bone (best $5 spent). Pro tip: Bar 5 offers a punch card - once you fill it up, you get a choice of 1 lb ground beef, ground pork or breakfast sausage. I then head to for some organic microgreens (great on top of eggs, salads and duh, the market bowl) and whatever produce I feel like working with for the week.

Ok, as you can tell I am in a committed relationship with the farmers market. A weekly meal around the Lukas household is a Market bowl - a meal that I coined based on my winter specialty buddha bowls, but with Midwestern farmers market finds (clever, I know). Market (and buddha) bowls are incredibly easy, versatile, cheap, nutritious and often carry leftovers into the week.

Base: Start with a grain! I usually prefer a sprouted brown rice, but quinoa or farro would also work well.

Protein: I have become a big fan of the brats provided at the farmers market (see note above about Bar 5's Philly Cheese brats). I feel like vendors take pride in the flavor of brats or hot dogs they create, so you can really switch up the flavor every week. Some flavors that we have tried include bloody mary, cherry jalapeno, and blueberry wild rice. You can also do chicken, shredded beef or pork, steak or a couple soft boiled eggs - I just highly recommend brats because what is more Midwestern than a brat cooked via stove top in beer and finished on the grill?

Veggies: Use whatever you have in the fridge or whatever they happen to have out at the market. My favorites include eggplant, green beans, peppers, carrots, red onion, garlic and/or garlic scapes, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes (sweet or regular) radishes, microgreens, sweet corn, cabbage, beets - the possibilities are seriously endless and evolve with the season. I regularly roast a large pan of vegetables on Sundays - lately, it has been for these bowls, but roasted veggies are also good for scrambled eggs throughout the week, reheating as a side for another meal or even on its own. I prefer to roast vegetables at a higher heat of 425 - not only does it cut down the cooking time (hello, hanger), but also gives the vegetables a nice crisp. I highly recommend using avocado oil because it does not denature like olive oil at a higher temp. Drizzle with your favorite oil, seasonings and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Be sure to check the tenderness of the root vegetables, like the potatoes and carrots, as they can take a little longer. Pro tip: use a combination of raw and roasted vegetables to add different flavors and textures.

Toppings: Anything! I tend to slather avocado on everything, so that is my go to. Sometimes, I will get fancy and make an avocado crema. Another favorite is hummus or plain greek yogurt, but literally the possibilities are endless, and if you ask Mr. Lukas, ketchup or BBQ is also acceptable.

Ingredients: brown rice, brats, roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, red onion, pepper and topped with micro greens and garlic scapes. 

Ingredients: brown rice, arugula, brats, roasted potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, red onion and topped with radishes, garlic scapes and avocado.

Ingredients: brown rice, brats, roasted carrots, eggplant, green beans, potatoes and topped with red onions, micro greens, peppers and avocado crema (obviously, feeling fancy here)

Ingredients: brown rice, brats, roasted carrots, potatoes, peppers, eggplant and topped with sweet corn and avocado.  Also, please notice here, that I am NOT a professional food photographer. Chances are I am trying to get a semi-decent shot before I eat my arm off. 
Here is an example of what I call the 'assembly line'. Mr. Lukas and I can go through and choose which ingredients we want and how much - Market bowls are totally customizable, which makes them great for family gatherings or with kids (I am assuming this because as you can see in the bottom left corner of this photo is the furry foot of our child).

I hope that I have almost convinced you to get out to the farmers market this weekend and every weekend through the fall! I am always looking for market buddies (Mr. Lukas doesn't always enjoy my wandering), so let me know if you need a buddy.


The Lukas home gym

I have had a few people comment on my Instagram stories (mainly pictures of Penny sleeping in the middle of my workout equipment) on our home gym as well as ask what I do for workouts. While I work at CorePower Yoga, I also workout a lot in our basement! We have slowly pieced together versatile equipment in our small, dingy, cob-web infested St. Paul basement, but it is easily one of the best investments we've made. We can get great, efficient workouts done in the comfort of our own home - this was incredibly valuable throughout graduate school as well as during Minnesota winters. Anyway, I thought I would share some of the equipment we have in our basement that we each use several times per week (heads up: anything in pink font below is a link to take you to the equipment).

Lemond RevMaster Pro spin bike: I will be honest, this was our biggest investment to date and we just purchased it last year. I was using this bike trainer during the winter for years, but honestly, I always needed Drew's help putting my road bike on and taking it off. Also, my knee didn't love the instability of the trainer and as most of you know, my knee is the BIGGEST investment I have ever made, so we are all about protecting it. We purchased our spin bike new at 2nd Wind (they didn't have a used one available) and decided to get the monitor (an extra $100 or so). I use it several times a week and I would give up everything else in our home gym to keep this baby. For guided spin classes, I use the apps Aaptiv and Peloton. They are both great and the only difference is that with Peloton, you get a video feed, where Aaptiv is all audio. Side note: I did try a Peloton bike and have a strong opinion about it (weird, I know), so if you are interested in hearing it, reach out to me.

TRX Straps: We purchased these when we first moved in together 5+ years ago. They are great for any small space and we also (sometimes) bring them with us when we travel. If you are looking for ONE piece of equipment, this is it!!! There are SO many TRX workouts available on Pinterest, on other blogs, and you can truly get an insane full body workout (think elevated lunges, pushups, planks). We have ours anchored to a support beam in the basement, but this set also comes with a strap that works with any door. I believe if you sign up for TRX emails, they do regular sales and coupons - let's be real, I am all about coupons and good deals.

Agility Ladder: I don't know why I waited so long to buy an agility ladder (maybe rehab PTSD), but I recently bought one and am so glad that I did. The agility ladder is inexpensive, travels easily and so versatile for a full body workout - think walking planks or pushups, plyometrics, lateral lunges, etc.

Resistance Bands: I used to have a plethora of resistance bands, thanks to endless physical therapy, but I purchased these resistance bands and again, am so glad that I did. Using resistance bands can help you take basic exercises to the next level - think leg lifts, squats with a resistance band around your thighs, banded plyometrics, banded lateral walks or bridges. Again, there are endless resistance band workouts available via the internet. These are a cheap investment and also travel well. Do yourself a favor and do NOT underestimate resistance bands.

BOSU ball: I highly recommend that you spend some time searching for BOSU ball trainers as the price range is drastic depending on where you look. We bought ours off of Craigslist for $40, but I know they can get pricey. Again, think of the BOSU ball trainer as a tool to take your basic exercises to the next level - squats, planks, pushups or lunges on the BOSU are all much more difficult and the instability recruits more muscle than doing the exercise on the ground.

Dumbbells: I am not even going to put a link to where to buy dumbbells because they are EVERYWHERE from Target, Amazon, Craigslist, OfferUp, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, etc. I purchased a couple sets from Marshalls. Drew recently did purchase an adjustable set from Amazon or Dick's, but for at home workouts for me, a pair of 5 lbs and 8 lbs suffice.

Exercise ball: Again, I didn't link where to purchase these from because they are everywhere. I like use an exercise ball for a variety of ab workouts and elevated pushups.

Squat rack: I was hesitant when Drew ordered this rack off Amazon (FYI, we went with the no bench option because we were able to find a cheap bench elsewhere), because I thought it wouldn't fit in our low-ceiling basement and that it would take up too much room. I am a prideful woman, but I can admit when I am wrong and I am glad we got this. Not only is it great for a variety of squats, bench press (which I no longer do), but it can also be good for pull-ups (I also do not do), hanging ab series and to tie resistance bands to for leg lifts. Well done, Mr. Lukas.

Barbell and plated weights: I believe we purchased our barbell from Dick's Sporting Goods. I HIGHLY encourage you to sign up for the coupons, wait for one to come out and load up when you get a good one. Plated weights are EXPENSIVE and while I don't need heavy ones, Mr. Lukas does. You can expect to pay around $1 per pound - like I said, get at those coupons. Another option is to look on Craigslist or OfferUp. People have abandoned weights on there all. the. time.

Alchemy365 Torpedo: Drew and I both participated in an at-home challenge through a local gym, Alchemy. We decided to purchase a Torpedo - a Torpedo is a weight proprietary to Alchemy. It can be used as a dumbbell, barbell and kettlebell. While we are not members of Alchemy, we LOVE their Torpedos. We have a 30 lb and 50 lb Torpedo and they work really well for swings, presses, RDLs, walking lunges, the list goes on! Full transparency, we have 2 kettlebells that we no longer use and are considering giving away because the Torpedos can just do it all. Also, you don't need to be a member to purchase the Torpedos off of Alchemy's website.

Jump rope: I didn't link the jump rope that we have because I couldn't find it on Amazon and also, because I don't love it. It's fine, but not life-changing and its either user error or the material of the rope, but it twists up more than it should. I did get a weighted one, but buyer beware, it will wear out your shoulders! Jump ropes are everywhere, just be sure to read the reviews because not all jump ropes are made equal.

That's it! There are also a few other items that were not approved joint household expenses, but that Mr. Lukas thought were necessary including plate racks (ironic when he doesn't rack his heavy weights ever), several variations of barbells (I still think you can get away with one), tricep dip stand and a bench. Again, I highly recommend checking out used equipment on 2nd Wind, Craigslist, OfferUp or the Facebook marketplace. There is a lot of well-intentioned, but abandoned workout equipment out there - also, reduce, reuse, recycle people! Otherwise, sign up for sporting good stores emails and keep an eye on sales and coupons. Mr. Lukas knows that my expectation is that we are not above buying used and that we rarely pay full price. While this has slowly been a substantial investment, it has saved us a lot of money on gym memberships as well as trekking to an overcrowded gym. Also, it's open 24/7 (had to throw a Dad joke in there).
1 of 3 barbells that we have (yes, I agree with you, excessive) and no, this isn't mine or Penny's weight. 

This is almost our entire gym! The ladder is best used outside and without a dog laying in the middle of it, but I made it work. Also, our spin bike and tricep dip rack are to the right of those picture. It's not a glamorous gym, but it works well for us! 
Please let me know if you have any questions on the equipment that I mentioned or if you want to chat home workouts.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Beauty should be good for you

Many of you most likely already know that I started a new venture as a BeautyCounter consultant a few months ago. While I have a mild approach to this consultant thing, this company has me feeling all sorts of red hot! Many of you most likely also know that I tend to get extremely passionate about things, and sometimes, this means against things - food corporations, liquid diets and hair clippings in our sink (looking at you, Mr. L) are at the top of my disdain list.

I knew the beauty/skin care industry was all sorts of messed up, but I felt as though I didn't have the capacity to peel back the layers. Between grad school and educating people about the importance of bee health (side note, check out Vanishing of the Bees on Netflix), I made excuses to keep the blindfold on. Then I took it off. You can't unlearn things and once you know better, you do better.

Let's pump the breaks a bit, majority of you understand the importance of eating a balanced diet as well as exercise. In fact, a lot of people I know put A LOT of energy towards what they eat as well as how often they exercise - this same amount of energy should be put towards your skin care and beauty routine as this is another way to nourish your body.

Did you know the products that you put on your body are not filtered by your liver?!? They go directly into your blood stream. Another fun fact, the United States has not passed a major law to regulate the ingredients used in personal care products since 1938. 1938!!! Here is what was going on in 1938: minimum wage was $.25, oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia and the tape recorder was invented. I may know of a few other laws that are outdated....but let's stick with personal care products. Currently, the US has only partially banned 30 ingredients. Europe has banned close to 1,400 ingredients and BeautyCounter has a prohibited list of over 1,500 ingredients (and counting). Why? Because these ingredients are hazardous and directly related to causing cancer and disrupting hormones (think infertility, weight gain and adrenal imbalances). Bottom line, it is crucial to know what is in your products (please, I will beg, if I have to).

This blog is here to increase awareness, so here are a couple resources that you can use to look into what ingredients are in the products you are using and to help you find healthier alternatives (ignorance is not bliss). Think Dirty - this is an app with over 1 million products catalogued with a rating based on a Dirty Meter. You can also scan the barcode of your products to search the catalog. Another resource is Skin Deep, a database through the Environmental Working Group. EWG conducts research and offers information to empower consumers to live healthier lives in a healthier environment by driving consumer choice and civic action.

Here are the swaps that I recently made in my own bathroom and make-up bag. The 'dirty' ratings are in the parenthesis - spoiler alert, the lower the number, the better:

Big, Sexy Hair volumizing shampoo & conditioner (8) ---> BeautyCounter Volume & Shape shampoo & conditioner (2)

Simple face wash (7) ---> BeautyCounter rejuvenating face wash (EWG top scoring product)

Method Pure Naked body wash (4) ---> BeautyCounter charcoal bar (0) or SheaMoisture Sea Kelp and Pearl Shea butter soap (3)

Aveeno Daily face moisturizer (5) ---> BeautyCounter Adaptive Moisture lotion (0)

Blistex medicated lip balm (5) ---> Burt's Bees medicated balm (1)  or BeautyCounter peppermint lip conditioner (1)

Dove Advanced Care deodorant (4) ---> Soapwalla deodorant cream (0) or Ursa Major

Olay Quench Daily Lotion (8) ---> BeautyCounter citrus mimosa body butter (0) or CounterMatch Adaptive Body Moisturizer (2)

CoverGirl Lash Clump Crusher mascara (7) and Maybelline Colossal Volume Express mascara (5) ----> BeautyCounter volumizing mascara (3) and Honest Beauty Truly Lash Mascara + Primer (3)

Coppertone Sport sunscreen spray (8) ---> BeautyCounter {reef-friendly!} mineral sunscreen mist (1)
**Related note, here is the the EWG's 12th annual guide to sunscreen.

This list could be more extensive, but my goal was to give you an idea of healthier alternatives available that perform just as well, if not better, as top brands. I am a huge fan of voting with your dollars, so please let me know if you want chat more (BeautyCounter related or not!) about how you can make small changes in your daily routine. One more thing, BeautyCounter is not just making products that are safe for us and the environment, they are putting their profits towards doing good. They are tirelessly advocating for stricter guidelines and regulatory laws to shift the personal care industry away from harmful ingredients. BeautyCounter's mission is to get safe products into the hands of everyone - everyone means everyone (notice how it doesn't state get BeautyCounter products into the hands of everyone?!). If you are interested in learning more about BeautyCounter products, their Never List and/or their advocacy work, check out this link or reach out to me.

Do the best you can until you know better. 
Then when you know better, do better 
                                  - Maya Angelou

Do better - for your health, your family's health and friend's health and Mother Earth's health. Namaste.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Green is the new black

A focus of mine (and Mr. L's, by association) is minimizing our footprint on dear Mother Earth. After one too many Netflix documentaries, I admit that it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. Some people call me a hippie, and while I will gladly answer that, I prefer considerate. Thanks to current media, including the most recent Nat Geo cover, concerns around unnecessary plastic use and disposal is in our face now more than ever. Awareness makes my hippie considerate heart swell, so let me offer some easy swaps to implement!

Plastic wrap/aluminum foil: Can we all just take a step back and acknowledge how petty plastic wrap is? I mean it doesn't even work THAT well on covering bowls and dishes. Also, aluminum foil is actually more wasteful than plastic wrap when taking into consideration the heavy manufacturing footprint that is created from making it. When I took a hard look at our refrigerator, I realized that I was using plastic wrap and aluminum foil for things that could be accomplished using containers or a reusable baggie (next on the list). Being transparent, my biggest offense was wrapping partially used produce (for example, 1/2 onion or unwrapped cheese blocks) or to cover bowls/leftovers/marinating meats with wrap/foil. I had to combat this approach with a few different solutions:

1. Bee's Wrap  /  Abeego Wrap: Full transparency, I struggled with Bee's Wrap when I first received it in my MightyFix subscription (subscription information below). I had a hard time getting it to stick to itself, especially when comparing it to aluminum foil. This does take some practice and patience, but eventually these alternative wraps do wear in and work well. Pro tip, warm the wrap with your hands for better adhesion. Bonus, these wraps do not absorb smells and are really easy to clean - be sure to hand wash them with lukewarm water (not hot, to preserve the wax). I plan to try Abeego wrap soon to see how it compares to Bee's wrap, but I have heard good things.

2. Silicone lids: I don't know what rock I have been living under to have just discovered these, but these work REALLY well. My silicone lid was a freebie from a Norwex party that I hosted, but I thoroughly love it. It suctions to bowls really nicely and can be a much quicker solution than warming a wrap. Also, it is super easy to hand wash. Again, mine is Norwex and I can vouch for the quality of it, but there are a lot of silicone lids on the market.

3. Food containers: Ok, obviously you can use any type of container, but I prefer glass (cleans better and I don't have nightmares over chemicals leaching into our leftovers). This may sound obvious, but take an honest peek into your fridge and take inventory of what you are storing in either wrap or baggies when a basic container would have sufficed. I highly recommend keeping your stash well-stocked with several sizes of containers to make your life easier, which will make you less likely to reach for the plastic wrap/aluminum foil.

4. Mason jars: If I can be honest (and slightly shameless), let me just say that I was on the mason jar train long before it became a trend. I think mason jars are SO multi-purpose, whether it is food storage, smoothie transfers, hummus preservation, fermentation vessels, or just to simply use to enjoy a glass of water/kombucha/iced coffee/beer. Mason jars are incredibly easy to find for cheap (Target is NOT the place to get them cheap), so be on the lookout for jars at Goodwill/Savers/Consignment shops. I HIGHLY recommend investing in these plastic lids - they are much easier to clean than the standard metal ones and have been life-changing (not over exaggerating).

Plastic baggies: Ugh, plastic baggies. They seem like a necessary evil and a really hard habit to break, but are incredibly detrimental to the environment. Let's cover both food storage baggies and grocery bags. For the last 8-10 months, I have paid close attention to how we have used plastic bags and here is what I came up with: human food (duh), transporting food for Penny, TSA travel baggies, poop bags (woof), groceries and buying produce at the grocery store and here how I am working to combat:

1. Reusable baggies: There are A LOT of options on the market for reusable baggies including bumkins, rezipgeneral silicone, and the Cadillac of reusable baggies, the Stasher bag. Reusable baggies are so trendy right now, they are even sold at Anthropology! I have a variety of bumkins (with bike designs) and 1 prized Stasher. The bumkins work really well, do not absorb flavor or smell, and are easy to clean. I have used our bumkins for food storage, toothbrush protector (uhm, the mouth of my tooth brush canNOT be exposed while we are traveling) and snacks on the go (popcorn, always popcorn). I have used my prized Stasher for several things including as a transparent 3:2:1 TSA liquid baggie. As soon as I am gainfully employed, I plan to increase our Stasher stock aaaaaand they may also be on my birthday list (Leo season is approaching). Reusable baggies can seem like an investment, but just imagine not having to buy plastic baggies EVER again - I see a quick financial ROI and an immediate environmental VOI (value on investment, peeps).

 2. Reusable grocery bags: I won't say much about this because I would be very surprised if every single one of you do not have a stash of these as they seem to be a consistent freebie at various events. I can tell you that I will not go grocery shopping unless I have my bags or know that the store will have a paper option (which will then be reused our house). I tend to have a stash of bags in my car (they fold up and tuck really nicely in any compartment) as well as a stash under our kitchen sink (also, neatly folded up and easy to access, mainly for Mr. L). This is BY FAR the easiest switch you can make, please do it. My hearts shimmers every time someone thanks me for bringing my bags, and yours will too. To touch on produce bags, I just don't use them. I honestly do not see the point in transporting 5 apples or 3 lemons in a plastic bag when I am going to have the wash the produce when I get home anyway. I will say that I have noticed Trader Joe's started stocking compostable produce bags - thank ya, baby Jesus!

3. #2 doggie bags: OOOOOK, this is absolutely a necessary evil, but dogs are worth it. I fell in love with Mr. L all over again when I came home to an awesome metal pooper scooper for the house, so we could stop using baggies to pick up Penny's #2s. Simple switches, people. However, we do walk Penny outside of our yard and we happen to be responsible dog owners - yes, I have lost a bag on a walk, walked home to get another one and walked back to take care of my dog's business. The bags we buy are Earth Rated, which are made out of 100% recyclable materials including the cardboard core and box. They also offer a 100% plastic-free option made out of vegetable-based materials that can be composted (fun fact: I didn't know they had this option, so we will be switching to these like yesterday).

Straws: I have been shamed for the reusable straws that I use, so if you do too, let's connect and start a support group (#millenials). I am a big fan of liquids from sparkling water to kombucha and green smoothies. A couple years ago, I was horrified when I realized that I was using a straw for my smoothies almost every morning and I instantly ordered these rubber straws. You have been warned, they are massive, but do not have a rubber taste. I recently received these straws in April's MightyFix. I believe these are much more appropriate for cocktails, but you do you.

Plastic utensils: During my reflection of how to minimize my daily plastic use, I quickly realized that while I was bringing lunch to work everyday in reusable containers (when I was employed - too soon?) that I was also using plastic utensils almost every day. I also realized that this was an easy fix by either bringing utensils from home or buying this bamboo travel set to keep at my desk. Easy to clean in a sink, whether at the office or at a state park, plus the travel carrier helps my brain deal with germ exposure. Does you keep stock of plastic utensils at home or does your workplace stock plastic utensils? See if you can switch these out with compostable/biodegradable options. Let me know if you need help building the business case.

This isn't an extensive list, but are meant to be easy switches. And let's be honest, there are just somethings that you may need to use the 'naughty' items for. For us, it's pre-making breakfast burritos in aluminum foil for camping trips to throw on the fire or using plastic baggies to disperse kombucha scobies (literally, the only thing I use baggies for!).

To help with making sustainable switches, Mighty Nest offers a monthly subscription called MightyFix. For $10/month, you get an awesome sustainable item, most are valued at more than $10. Some items that I have received include Bee's wax, glass food containers, a refillable dish wash and wool dryer balls. No, this post is not sponsored, I just really love it! I have a couple free months to share, so if you would like one, get at me! Again, I don't get anything when these are redeemed, I have actually already earned them by being a subscriber for almost 1 year.

Hippie or not hippie, there is no planet B, ya'll.