28 September 2012

Review: HotPatterns Fringe Festival Scarf-T

Unfortunately, this got dumped in the trash before I had pictures of it.  Not because I didn't like the top, but because it developed a hole in the shoulder line after two wears.

My biggest problem with this pattern was the fabric I chose, a very thin rayon knit.  I think this pattern would be much better off in a medium weight knit, especially with consideration to how the scarf hangs.

I liked the cap sleeve, it has a cute shape.  A great summer weight shirt that would be more than acceptable in some work environments.

I did shorten it a bit, as I felt it was just too long, and I had an interesting experiment with the armhole seam.  I drew flaps on the traced pattern so that I could fold in and sew the armhole seam down after sewing the side seams.  It certainly worked, but I'm sure my face was unusually animated as I tried to figure out how and where to draw the flaps for later sewing ... a great fabric manipulation puzzle.

I may or may not make this pattern again.  It did feel like a short cut when I wore it (tops should be harder to sew!), and I felt the scarf was worthlessly floppy ... probably due to fabric choice. 

But, I also dislike raw edge patterns, and the raw edge of the scarf shows as it is only a single layer.  This could be fixed by doubling it, but then you have the issue of twice as much weight on the scarf.  Hm ...

25 September 2012

I'm feeling a bit lizard-ly, snake-ish, visitor-like

This ... kept me away from running for two days.

This ... gave me the weirdest lump ever for a week.

This ... was obtained tracking down the laziest dog in the world.

This ... really did not hurt like I thought it would.

This ... is almost pretty: the color, the texture, the juxtaposition of pain and beauty! 

This ... is about 4" long teal to teal.

This ... is not longer quite so pretty, I have devolved into the jaundiced yellow phase.

I paste this, not because I like to show off bruises, but rather because I've never had one color in this pattern before.

Hence, the reason I'm feeling a bit reptilian.  Apparently, I'm dragon underneath.  I anticipate a long discussion with my mother ... this is going to be some confession.

24 September 2012

Review: Budokon Beginning Practice

Budokon Beginning Practice is a short martial arts and yoga blend fusion DVD.

I only lasted for 10 of the 15 minute opening yoga practice.  It goes very slowly, and I'm more used to Power Yoga.

The second portion of the practice is also only 15 minutes and consists of punching and kicking drills.  It is far too short.

In the 25 minutes that I exercised, I burned 76 calories.  This is not the DVD you grab when you want a burn.  This is the DVD you grab when you want to meditate.

I've kept it for years due to the martial arts aspect, but have only reached for the video a handful of times.  There is no real dread factor attributed to this workout, but an acknowledgement that I might be wasting my time. 

If I want yoga fusion, I have Iron Yoga and Yogilates DVDs.

If I want Yoga, I have most of what Shiva Rea has produced, as well as several Rodney Yea and Baron Baptiste titles.

If I want martial arts, I guess I have to be content with my kickboxing DVDs.

This would be an excellent introduction for both yoga and basic martial arts for a beginner, rank beginner.  As it is, I am placing this in the give away pile, not because the instructor annoys me, but because it simply is not the workout for me.


Review: Criss-Cross Cardio with Sherri Jacquelyn

Oh, let me count the ways I cannot stand this video.

She is ALWAYS fiddling with her hair!  This is a guaranteed distraction.

Her nails are way too long, and I think they are a novelty for her.

She counts out EVERYTHING.

Her background exercisers do not have the best of form, and her cueing is not the best.

I've tried to get used to the video, but it has such a huge dread factor for me, I'm getting rid of it.  I would never willingly choose it, so off it goes.

Adequate warmup.

She really works you out.  You will be working up a sweat, and some of her combos are truly unique.

She does screw up a couple of the combos.  If you aren't watching, it won't have an impact.  If you are watching, you're going to get lost as she changes her order. 

I do hold a lot of instructors up to Cathe Friedrich and Jari Love.  I can't imagine either of them releasing a video with this many mistakes, but nobody is perfect.

Balance/Core work
Really unique, great capoeira exercises. 

Too short.

Condensed Explanation
Great workout, horrible presentation.

Goodbye CIA-2603, go make someone else sweat.


Review: Gilad Elite Forces Fat Burning Workout DVD

Gilad is a fairly well know exercise instructor, and I have seen him on TV numerous times.  But this is the first (and I suspect last) video I've ever purchased of his.

The DVD runs 55 minutes, and is recommended for intermediate to advanced exercisers.  I'd recommend it for beginner to intermediate.  I think this is a fair introduction to kickboxing, but it is slow, stagnant, and repetitive.

I can't stand instructors who walk around the set, get in someones face, and says, ad nauseum, "How you doin'?  Ready for more?  What's next?  Who's ready to work out?"  This is not what motivates me, and it is not something I picked up on in the short video I watched before I bought the DVD.  I'm telling you, if you are advanced, leave it behind for someone else, because you will not like it.

I'm am dropping this off at the library so it can go entertain someone else.

The warm-up is fairly long, and slow.  I think it is a good start for someone new to the whole punching and kicking type routine.

Body - Cardio
A lot of slowly building combos interspersed with jumping rope and jumping jacks.

The combos did not build fast enough to satisfy me, and I was bored but determined to finish.

Body - Toning
Semi interesting toning workout that was far too short.  I think I was lifting heavier weights than he was ...

Cool Down
What?  There's a cool down?  Where?  Very short and inadequate ... as usual.

Issues -
He does not work each side evenly, completely missing a combo add on one side (he's not the first and he won't be the last instructor to do this).

He's too chatty and too walky.  Stand in front and lead the exercises!

The set is very loud as it is filmed on the deck of an amphibious assault ship.  It was nice to support and highlight our troops, but couldn't you dub over the noisiest parts?

Form is non-existent with this group.  So if you are a beginner, this is not a form improvement video.  Be careful of your back and your knees, because these people are all over the place.

The enthusiasm from the crew was lukewarm at best.  They weren't really working, just placing their punches delicately in the air.

I really punched, added in some extra work (kicks, etc) and didn't start to sweat until 30 minutes into the program.  30 minutes ... more than halfway.

I barely burned 300 calories.  I did not get tired physically, though mentally I was exhausted by the imaginary jumping rope.

Goodbye DVD, I've set you free to find a more appreciative home.


23 September 2012

Review: Bodystrikes Workout Videos by Ilaria Montagnani

Bodystrikes is a lower body focused workout put out by Ilaria Montagnani.

It has some very basic kickboxing combos: front, side, and roundhouse kicks.  No punching combos.

I have not worked out to my Bodystrikes videos in quite some time, as I prefer upper and lower body combos, rather than lower body focus.  However, my shoulder was unhappy with my weight training and kickboxing from the last two workouts, and I decided to rest the upper body.  I would typically do a yoga DVD in such a "take it easy but not too easy day," but yoga requires too much upper body when you want to make sure you are resting a muscle and not further damaging it.

So I did a nice, fairly easy lower body routine with this 1st Bodystrike DVD.  It got my hear rate up, made me sweat, and worked out my legs pretty well.

Bodystrikes are not difficult workouts.  You do not stress trying to remember combinations or what comes next.  In fact, they could be described as kind of boring as far as mental stressing goes. 

It has a nice warmup.

There are four combinations to learn that you gradually add together.  She has stretching and strengthening mixed together, probably in an attempt to get you lean and mean.  However, because it mostly ignores the upper body, I wouldn't make it a regular workout.

The cool down is not long enough.  The stretches are not held long enough and the muscles that get the greatest use are not stretched at all.  Be aware of this and add you own stretches in at the end (hold for 15 seconds or longer)

 The video is approximately 45 minutes long.

Two minor irrigations:
1)  I do get frustrated by her, "One more time" and "one more time" and "I love this, just one more time" comments on a set.  If you are aware of it, you won't put your all into the first "one more time" and fully exhaust yourself to the point you can't finish the last three rounds of the set, that are also the "last" time!  This is the main reason I like counters, 8 sets to go, perfect ... I can adjust.
2)  Ilaria had to do a bit of outfit adjusting with this video.  She has muscular legs, and kept having to pull down the shorts that were determined to ride up.  I can have a similar problem, though not from the same cause!  I'm of two minds on this: "didn't you test your outfit before the video?" and "hey, free clothes are free clothes!"  If instructor adjustments bother you, this may bother you.

I noticed my weightlifting is definitely having an impact, as I could lift my legs much higher and did not exhaust like I remember.

It does work upper body on two occasions: 16 pushups in the warmup, and a squat exercise where you choose your level (squat, floor touch squat, deep lunge squat, or burpee).  I could almost keep up with the burpees, as half of my regular videos incorporate this exercise.  Neither of these movements really involve rotator cuff muscles, so I went ahead and did them, monitoring the entire time.

There are many ways to modify these exercises if you need to adjust: push-ups on the wall or a bench, 1/4 squats.

I would recommend this routine to anyone who wants a lower body specific, low impact workout.  It does go by fairly quickly, with little to no dread factor.


The link above takes you to Collage Video's condensed example of Ilaria Montagnani's Bodystrike workout.

I do not need another berry smoothie

I have gotten very attached to my Blendtec blender.  It may not get quite as much use as when I first unpacked it, but that is more due to making 3 plus servings per use use as opposed to making only one.

I have found lots of berry and nut butter smoothies ... see any single google search for "smoothie."  I wanted something different, something with the color orange rather than purple (or brown).

I have two bundles of organic carrots slowly wasting away in the fridge, and began a search with them in mind.  Enter http://www.yummly.com/recipe/5-A-Day-Smoothie-Recipezaar, a simple recipe that required very little tweaking.

With Yummly's help, I have certainly gotten my carotenoids on today!

"The Color Orange" Smoothie
3 small sweet potatoes peeled, quartered, and cooked on high in 1 inch water for 8 minutes in microwave (approximately 225 grams)
1 frozen banana
1 peeled and de-seeded orange
2 fresh carrots sliced in 2 inch sections
1.5 scoops protein powder
1.5 tsp cinnamon powder
1.5 cups water

Dump all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.  

This is 3 servings of 189 calories each.

The omnivore did mention that my hands seemed yellow the other day ... besides the fact that my skin is fairly yellow, I wonder if I can blame my new orange obsession???

Review: Dreena Burton "let them eat vegan!"

Based on the results of my experience with Burton's last cookbook "eat, drink and be vegan", I bought "let them eat vegan!" at Barnes & Noble recently.

It has not disappointed.  In fact, I may like it even better than edbv.

Apple Spice Hemp Pancakes
These do come out dense.  So for everyone who wants light and fluffy pancakes, this is not going to cut it.  But if you want a kick with your breakfast, try them out.  Delicious.  Full checkmark.

BBQ Sunflower Tofu
Extraordinarily delicious.  I would (and plan to) happily place this before a rabid carnivore and expect him/her to devour the dish.  It could be used both as a side and as a main.  Mmmm.  Full checkmark.

Fresh Blueberry Oat Square
Lovely for dessert or for breakfast.  It reheats well, and called to me all day long from the refrigerator.  The omnivore only had a single serving, because he is not a blueberry fan - fresh, frozen, or cooked.  But he did eat the entirety of that one serving ...  Full checkmark.

Boulangerie Potatoes with Sauteed Fennel and White Beans
Does it count if you leave out one major ingredient?  I'm not a licorice fan, and, therefore, not a fennel fan.  I replaced it with broccoli instead.  Lovely dinner.  Full checkmark.

White Bean Mashed Potatoes
How to get extra veggies in your omnivore (or kids)?  Feed them this recipe.  Legumes and squash are almost completely covered up by the white potatoes.  The omnivores only comment, "Why is it kinda orange?"  He ate many servings of this, that is a winner in my book.  Um, don't put it in the food processor like I did once, you end up with more of a soup than a mashed.  Full checkmark.

Corn Chowder Quinoa Casserole
Hands down, absolutely delicious.  I loved every bite.  I've made this a second time switching out the white beans for lentils, still delicious (add twice as much water as dry lentils before cooking).  Full Checkmark.

Panfried Falafel Patties
The only issue I had with these is that they absolutely would not fry in the pan.  So I've made a note, and changed the Panfried in the title to "Baked."  Full Checkmark.

Thai Chickpea Almond Currry
This went beautifully with the Indian inspired rice, and the scent of coconut filled the house.  Recommended combination.  Full checkmark.

Winter Veg Chickpea Pot Pie
Next time I will cut out the nutmeg because the sweetness was just a little high.  Regardless, this is the best Pot Pie I think I have ever had ... ever!  Goes great with the Rustic Piecrust.  Full checkmark.

Lemon Dijon Green Beans
Another tasty recipe that saw the green beans disappear fast (which is exciting since the omnivore does not like green beans, and usually has to be forced to eat them).  Full checkmark.

Indian-Inspired Rice
I spent the hour that it cooked with my head over the rice cooker.  Smelled great and tasted good.  A wonderful accompaniment to other Indian inspired recipes.  Full checkmark.

One of the few recipes the omnivore asks for again ... and again ... and again.  I think he likes it.  I do too.  It holds great in the fridge for several days.  Full checkmark.

Rustic Piecrust
Easy to make, fairly easy to work with.  I layered it over the Pot Pie recipe and the omnivore was giddy with delight (which meant he bounced on his toes once or twice.)  For a savory recipe, I would just leave out the sugar entirely, even with a tsp it is a touch too sweet for my tastebuds.  Full checkmark.

Juicy Grilled Portobellos
Who can resist a grilled portobello?  Quick and tasty.  Toss together the marinade, let sit for a couple hours, grill or fry in pan for 5 minutes 1st side and 2 minutes on other side.  Full checkmark.

So, 14 recipes, all keepers.  100/0.  Excellent odds.  Can you guess which cookbook I reach for first?

Review: Dreena Burton "eat, drink & be vegan" cookbook

I bought Dreena Burton's "eat, drink & be vegan" several years ago, it was printed in 2007.

I made one recipe "Kids Dynamo Hummus," could not stand the results, and put the book aside.  *BIG* mistake, but I had a good reason ...

I love hummus.  My favorite hummus recipe is an about.com written by Nancy Gaifyllia, I believe it is this one Hummus with Tahini.  Every other hummus recipe I try is held up to this masterpiece, and found wanting.

I suppose I should not be surprised that this was the case with Burton's.  However, it was the first one I tried and I almost wrote the entire book off due to this experience.  Thank goodness I went back ...

I returned to the book looking for an easy soup recipe one cold winter day - enter Monkey Minestrone.  My first vegan soup recipe with lots of spices and an absolutely to die for taste.  It is, by far, my favorite soup recipe to date.  I return to it often.  I exchange the green beans for peas, and this soup does not last a day.  The omnivore in the house loves it, the dogs love it ...

Having redeemed itself, I've tried other recipes in the book:

Broccoli Cashew Teriyaki Tofu Stir-fry
My notes on this recipe are to tone down the tamari and molasses in the teriyaki sauce as they were overpowering the broccoli, pepper, and cashews.  So it gets half a checkmark.

"But Where Do You Get Your Protein?" Smoothie
This recipe grows on me the more I try it.  The mix of flavors is both complex and satisfying.  And yes, I'm tired of the question too Dreena!  This gets a full checkmark.

Lemon-Broiled Green Beans
I've only made these once, and the parchment paper caught on fire (that's what I get for not cutting down the paper to fit the pan), so some of the beans got thrown away ... but what I did get to eat was quite tasty.  I can't wait for green beans to come back in season for try 2.  This gets a full checkmark.

Pan-Fried Tempt-eh!
These never last long.  It is a simple and flavorful recipe, and the omnivore nibbles away while they are still sizzling hot.  Full checkmark.

Peanut Passion Sauce
I've made this once for soft spring roll dipping sauce.  My notes are to reduce the garlic and lime juice so that more of the peanut butter stands out.  This is a very thick sauce, and I add water as she suggested to thin out the sauce.  This gets half a checkmark.

Raspberry Cornmeal Pancakes
I usually do these with blueberries, since raspberries can be hard to find.  This recipe does not taste good if overcooked, but if cooked just right, they are very flavorful.  I don't think you can go wrong with cornmeal, that's the Southerner in me!  Full checkmark.

Seared Portobello Mushrooms
I don't think I can ruin portobellos enough to make them inedible.  Regardless, this recipe makes excellent eating - crunchy (and yet still fairly healthy) Portobello Mushroom fries.  Thumbs up from the two leggers in the house.  Full checkmark.

Sesame Lime Soba Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms & Snow Peas
This was an unexpectedly elegant and delicious dish.  Highly recommended, with the small note "cut agave nectar in half."  We tend not to like our entrees too sweet in this family.  Full checkmark.

Super-Charge Me! Cookies
Oh, I have a terrible sweet tooth.  But it has lost some of its sweet ability - whereas I used to be able to send myself into a sugar coma with a too sweet dessert, I cannot handle that these days (lunch used to be two pieces of bread spread with peanut butter mixed with honey and liberally sprinkled with a layer of chocolate chips and cheerios ... that was in my teens ... I couldn't take that sweet attack now).  So my treats have to be sweet, but not too sweet.  Enter Burton's cookie recipes.  These are hard to resist, especially when I add in dried cranberries.  I have to make a half a batch or less ... because I will eat them all in one sitting ...  Full checkmark, of course.

Sweet & Sour Chipotle Tempeh with Sweet Potatoes
I kinda knew this would be a no go recipe.  Not because it is lacking in flavor, but because (see above) I tend not to like sweet entrees.  This smells delicious, but the sweet bar is just too high for this family.  However, the four-legged beasts in the family thought this recipe was great, and the remainder was added to breakfast and dinner for a couple days (even my picky youngster cleaned his bowl).  So it gets an X for us two-legged types, 3 tail wags from the four-legged types, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to others. 

Teriyaki Quinoa
Mm, a great, tasty side dish packed with veggie protein.  Full checkmark.

White Bean Hummus with Fresh Thyme & Basil
Considering my first Burton hummus experience, I am surprised I went back for seconds.  While the omnivore in the house only halfheartedly liked it, because (and I quote) "It has spices in it;" I quite enjoyed it.  It was better than my restaurant exposure to white bean hummus, and it has a different flavor profile entirely from Gaifyllia's recipe.  It is not hot, but rather like walking through a basil garden.  An excellent spring hummus.  Full checkmark.

"You Got Peanut Butter in My Chocolate" Cookies
These could be my ultimate downfall.  Nothing goes better in my mind than Peanut Butter and Chocolate (pardon me while I go wipe my mouth ...).  I did try to cut down the fat just a bit more by switching out half the oil for applesauce, and the resulting cookies did not hold together all that well, so follow the fat recommendations as written.  However, the change had no impact on the taste, and I might have overeaten that particular batch ... well, what's another little crumb, it is sitting here all by its lonesome, might as well eat it, and that crumb, and that crumb ...
Full Checkmark!

Zucchini Spelt Muffins
So I accidentally doubled the zucchini in this for my first batch, but they still tasted wonderful.  The suckers just would not set up and it took me a while to figure out why.  ;)  Delicious.  Full checkmark.

So, 15 recipes so far 13 keepers, 2 tossers.  87/13.  Darned good odds if I say so, what am I going to make next?

Vegan Cookbooks: the bad

Uh-oh, it's about to get nasty in here!

In my opinion, there are two types of vegan cooks and, therefore, two types of vegan cookbooks.  So I lump all vegan cooks into two categories - one type developed their tastes in the 70s/80s, and have trouble leaving, their recipes can be: bland, tasteless, and tofu heavy.  The other type is the modern vegan: with tasty, spicy, and tofu light recipes.

I think a lot of my problem with tasteless 70s vegan food is that I'm a Southerner.  In my world, spicy Indian and Mexican food is king, followed shortly by Chinese (and a load of barbeque, but that's a whole other subject).

In other words, tasteless 70s vegan food does not satisfy my tastebuds.  And the omnivore I cook for can't stand some of the things that result from these recipes.

Unfortunately, I've run into three cookbook writers that regularly, or semi-regularly, fall into this trap.  They are: Post Punk Kitchen Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Veg Kitchen Nava Atlas, and Happy Herbivore Lindsey Nixon.  These ladies and my tastebuds do not align.  I have read rave reviews of their work, so I know they produce a quality product, but it is not for me (nor, apparently, my omnivore).

Now, having said that, I must point out that I own one ICM book "Vegan with a Vengeance," owned one NA book "The Vegetarian 5-ingredient Gourmet," and own no LN books.

Vegan with a Vengeance -

Scrambled Tofu
Like eating air.  No flavor what-so-ever.  An X.

Pumpkin Waffles
I love these.  I could eat them just about every day.  Full checkmark.

While my "Joy of Vegan Baking" was being spiral bound, I had a scone for breakfast request come in.  So I whipped VWAV open and baked it Isa's scones.  Quite tasty.  Full checkmark.

Maple-Mustard-Glazed Potatoes and String Beans
Ick.  No flavor, no bite.  More air food.  An X.

Balsamic-Blazed Portobello Mushrooms
This smelled bad while cooking, but tasted great going down.  Full checkmark.

Seitan-Portobello Stroganoff
The first recipe I ever made from this cookbook and the reason I will never give it up.  It is not the stroganoff my mother made when I was a child.  But it has remarkable flavor.  I have made it with TVP sausage and its turns out beautifully.  Even the omnivore likes it.  Full checkmark.

Revolutionary Spanish Omelet with Saffron and Roasted Red Pepper-Almond Sauce
I think the Omelet gets a checkmark due to the sauce.  Otherwise, the omelet is fairly flavorless.
So half a checkmark for the omelet and a full checkmark for the sauce.

8 recipes.  5 checks, 1 half, 2 Xs.  63/13/25.  Not great odds.  I'm still keeping the book though.

The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet - I haven't owned this book for years and cannot give a recipe list.  However, I tried 5 or so different recipes, and could just about finish the tasteless affairs.  Once again, my heart screamed for spices!

Maybe I was supposed to add my own spices, but then why would I need a cookbook?

5 recipes.  No keepers.  0.  Donated book so it can fly away and find someone who has those tastebuds.

Lindsey Nixon's Happy Herbivore website is where I've gotten her recipes.  I started trying them out in anticipation of buying her book(s), and now I'm real, real iffy about such a purchase.  Besides taste, another big issue I have is that I need to bake ALL of her recipes for at least twice as long as the directions indicate.  Does she have some super duper quick cooking convection oven?  Because my results are coming out way underdone and nasty!

The tasteless -
Hippie Loaf
It's got bulk going for it, but I need spicy mustard to give it flavor.  X.

Spinach & Mushroom Quiche
In a word, blech.  The omnivore described it as paint-like, you know that can't be good.  X.

Black Bean Brownies
Not horrendous.  Very banana-y.  I'd rather spend my calories on a piece of dark chocolate.  X.

Black Bean & Salsa Soup
I don't know how this can turn out to have so little taste when I used HOT Chipotle salsa, but it did.  I have half a cup left, and I'm not sure I'm going to finish it.  I'd rather eat beans, corn, and salsa plain, mixed on a whole wheat tortilla.  I ended up composting that last bit.  X.

The decent -
Tofu Scramble
Better than ICM's recipe, but I just know there is something with more flavor out there!  Half a checkmark.

The good -
Blueberry Breakfast Cake
This is an excellent dessert, especially with a dab of Cashew Cream on top, Mmmmmm.  I replaced half the sugar with date sugar.  Full checkmark.

Low Fat Vegan Nacho Cheese
I think this version is better than Dreena Burton's version, and I really enjoyed it on beans and tortilla chips.  Full checkmark.

So 7 recipes from the Happy Herbivore website.  4 tossers, 1 temporary while I look for better, and 2 keepers.  57/14/29.  I'm afraid to try any more ...

Compared this list to my favorite cookbook author, Dreena Burton, where I've made 29 recipes from two books, and found one dud ... well, maybe two ... one (and one that is not for us) ... so two official duds.

11 September 2012

Book Review: Suzanne Dunaway's "No Need to Knead"

I have a small, but ever changing collection of cookbooks. 

I've discovered that I am, by nature, very cyclical.  Some years I cook a lot, some years I cook very little (same goes for blogging).  Baking follows the very same formula.

My first breads were recipes printed off the internet or from those ubiquitous "fundraiser" cookbooks that churches, schools, and garden clubs put together every month or two.  (Shhh, I've finally donated all those books, don't tell.)  Needless to say, none of those breads came out very well.  And I was left with a distinct dislike for breadmaking (though not, of course, bread eating).

I did not have the patience for "proper" breadmaking (or should I say bread rising) as a younger woman, and ordered "No Need to Knead" due solely to its promise of "easy" breadmaking.  Lucking, I got more than that.

"No Need to Knead" was placed on my shelf and pulled down for entertainment value every once in a while.  I attempted the whole wheat bread recipe, and then ignored the title for several years.

Fast forward to this year, where I am cooking and baking up a storm ... including lots of bread items.

NNTK is a baking assortment book that covers Dunaway's bakery opening experience (slow and fast breads), family recipes (slow recipes for the most part), and little snippets she has picked up along the way.

Every recipe I've made since I actually slowed down and read the recipe, and followed-ish said recipe, has come out superbly.

This book contains most of my favorite bread recipes.

I recommend:
Anadama Bread
Pane Rustico
Skillet Corn Bread (cut down on the oil)

Hand's down, the Foccacia recipe is the hubby's favorite.  I've made it with whole (red) wheat, whole (white) wheat, and bread flour (and a mix).  I've added rosemary, mushrooms, and/or spices.  It is an amazingly simple recipe that can be made quickly (60 minutes start to finish) or refrigerated overnight for dough development.

I think the best Foccacia I made was a mix of whole wheat (red) and bread flour with pan fried fresh portabello mushrooms.  This loaf lasted less than one day.

My favorite recipe is probably the "Anadama Bread."  It is a flour based bread with just a hint of cornmeal.  Not a true southern cornbread like the "Skillet Corn Bread," but flavorful in its own way.  This loaf tends to last about half a week (this is opposed to the breads I make that no one eats, and go bad after a week and a half).

I also make it with a mix of whole wheat (red) and bread flour.

Almost guaranteed, if Suzanne writes that a recipe will make one loaf, it will make two for me.  So I cut her recipes in half automatically.

I've also enjoyed playing with baking containers, since we are a crust family and approve of any method that increases the surface area of the crust.  My most successful to date was foccacia on a pie plate, but I need more metal ware for bread purposes - I get a better bottom and side crust with metal than with porcelain.

I have found her timing pretty spot on, and my oven is usually within 5 to 10 minutes of her estimate.

Rising is the one thing I have played with continuously.  I usually leave my dough to rise 2x as long as recommended.  In the heat of our southern summers, I will let bread rise on the patio.  If there isn't enough heat in 90+ degree F weather (32 C) to get dough to rise, you know something is wrong with your yeast!

I highly recommend this book, both for the recipes and for the conversation writing tone.  If you are looking for a simple bread book that is fuss free, consider Dunaway's "No Need to Knead."

For my non-NNTK favorite bread recipes, head over to Tammy's Recipes - http://www.tammysrecipes.com/.

I've made her crackers, bagels, and cornmeal crescent rolls.  Everything I've tried has found a place in my personal keeper recipe binder.

04 September 2012

"New Rules of Lifting for Abs" Book Review

I checked all the "New Rules of Lifting" titles that I could out of the library.  I got the original book title (NROL), the "For Women" (NROLFW), and the "For Abs" (NROLFA) title, though I am still on a waiting list for the "For Life" (NROLFL)- the latest release.

After working my way through the first routine, I ordered "The New Rules of Lifting for Abs" immediately.  The original title, while interesting, is out of date now and really did not capture my attention.  The "For Women" title is interesting, but geared more for someone who has never lifted before ... which is not me.  The "For Abs" title, however, is exactly what I was seeking.

NROLFA is not a book on how to get a six pack (which, I suppose, makes the cover photo a bit misleading, doesn't it?), but rather a super core conditioning based book that includes 3 progressive training rounds of 2 workouts each, enough to keep you occupied for about half a year.

The book does follow the basic premise of push/pull compound lifts - meaning, you want to push some weights and pull other weights with the opposite muscle set.  A typical combo is bench press (the push) and rows (the pull); which, if lifting appropriate weights, works most of the upper body.

This book does not offer spot training/lifting, so there are no biceps or tricep specific movements, rather the push works triceps and the pull works biceps.

Which means???  Your workout is faster.  When you do a lot of small muscle specific lifts, it takes forever to finish a workout.  When you are doing 4 compound lifts, core specific conditioning, and a warmup ... less than 1 hour start to finish.

Thank goodness, especially since I finish my weightlifting workouts off with a short 25-30 minute run on the treadmill (I jokingly call it a dreadmill on occasion, but I don't really dread my runs, so perhaps I am doing the treadmill a disfavor). 

I am now on week 5 of the first training round, doing each of the 2 routines once a week, and finish off my week with a WL video, Ilaria Montagnani's "Athletica," and a yoga video.  So, in actuality, I am lifting 4 times per week, which is a bit much.  However, the Athletica is not heavy lifting, but endurance training, and yoga is not intense.  I would not recommend doing a NROL routine more than 3 times per week.

I did not increase weight much for those first two weeks on the NROLFA routines.  However, weeks 3 and 4 saw some interesting weight increases that I would not have believed early on.  I am about to outgrow my adjustable dumbbell set that only goes to 21 lbs (9.5 kgs), and will need to buy the set that goes to 50 lbs (22.6 kgs) - another totally justifiable expense.

I work out at home, and can just about get all the routines in as written with a weight bench, a step bench, and my adjustable dumbbells and barbell.

I've also jumped up the weights I'm swinging along with the Athletica video ... her first round of intervals used to wear me out with 10 lbs, I'm now up to 15 lbs in two weeks.  I'm pretty sure that is all due to NROLFA, and working the entire body 2 times per week.

Do I recommend NROLFA, abs-olutely!  (I could not resist!)  However, if you are just starting to lift weights, it may be too much for you, and I would recommend you start with NROLFW.

I cannot wait to see what strength gains I make in the second round which starts on week 8!

Am I seeing much physical change?  Not really.  I suppose my triceps might be a bit more defined, but that is about it as far as observable change.  No, my changes are taking place on the inside, those muscles are definitely adapting.

Why I work out ...

I've read a lot of people claiming they are exercising for their family.

Um, not me.  I'm exercising for me: to be healthy, to be happy, to be strong.

That strong portion has some body role models (drumroll please):

Sigourney Weaver in "Aliens."  What a woman.  What a character.

Photo by Sgt. Michael Connors [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASigourney_Weaver_%40_2010_Academy_Awards_(cropped).jpg

Tough, strong, and aging beautifully.

Linda Hamilton in "Terminator 2."  While I think her body fat was lower than I want to go, I admire her determination a great deal.  She had to work hard for that physicality.
"10.17.09LindaHamiltonByLuigiNovi" by Nightscream - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:10.17.09LindaHamiltonByLuigiNovi.jpg#mediaviewer/File:10.17.09LindaHamiltonByLuigiNovi.jpg

Delts, biceps, and triceps - the trifecta of perfection.

Is it just me, or are our modern day action stars a little ... anemic?  Linda and Sigourney are authentic, and I have not seen their like in many a year.

Celebrities - Jada Pinkett and Madonna.  Showing that world that you can still find physical improvement with age, you do not have to live with decline, that is a choice.

"Pinkett-Smith" by Jerry Avenaim - Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pinkett-Smith.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Pinkett-Smith.jpg

Lean and tough.

By Tony Barton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a2/Madonna_at_Coachella_2006.jpg

Those legs have a been her lifelong quest.

Athletes - The Williams' sisters and Joan Benoit and, well, all marathoners (and ultramarathoners).  I admire the drive marathoners need to possess in order to cross that finish line.  It doesn't hurt that they pretty much all have great legs.

By BrokenSphere (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bf/Venus_%26_Serena_Williams_at_Bank_of_the_West_Classic_2009-07-27.JPG

By Goyk (talk).Goyk at en.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9a/Joan_Benoit_2008.jpg

Ladies, I admire your determination and your skills.  When I want to skip a lift day or the long run, I think of you all - and drag myself off to the appropriate room.  Thanks for the inspiration.

RapidFire: Results - with Susan Chung; Kickboxing Video Review

I have a large-ish collection of kickboxing videos, and decided to write up reviews of them all.

Exercise Information - While I have never taken a martial arts class, I was a ballerina for 10+ years, and this has left me with a pretty strongly wired brain for body position (my dad did take MA, and was really disgusted that my back hook kick was ALWAYS better than his ... flexibility).

I write these reviews with my background in mind.  If you are just starting out, the videos I utilize are NOT for you.  It is not that you cannot build up to the them, but without some technique you can hurt yourself, badly.

The 7 minute warm-up is adequate, and gives you an idea of what you can see in the body of the video.

This includes a lot of oldies but goodies.  Kicks - front, side, back, and roundhouse.  Punches - jab, cross, upper, and hook.

But there's also the interesting outside circle, ax, and some jump kicks.  While these are not rare, the speed at which they take place does test your endurance.  Most especially the circle and roundhouse on opposite legs combination - I just don't think my body is meant to move that quickly!  :)  I adapt by doing the roundhouse at a bit of an angle, rather than straight on.

The punching drills are not taxing on the muscles, but are on the mind.  The combos are not even in number, so you'll do a two punch/upper combo following by a three punch/upper combo.  It is only bad when you are tired and the brain is low on the thinking sugars.  I'd say half the time my punch combos look a bit sloppy, because I'd rather do even combos - so I would prefer two 1/2/3 combos than one 1/2 and one 1/2/3 combo. 

And, the elephant in the room - Chung's cueing is all over the place.  For some combos she is spot on, for some she is silent, for some she is slow or quick, and for others she counts every single one out (or so it feels).  So you cannot settle down into her cueing method, because she does not have one for this video.

I do like her tendency to indicate direction with a hand.  In my experience, teachers can be all over the place with right/left verbal indication (is it their right/left or yours?).  With a hand signal, it is hard to get wrong.

Pretty good ab routine, not hard, but hits all the majors.

You do need a dumbbell or weighted ball to get the most out of it.

Here is a situation that I can see someone really hurting his or her back if there is not enough strength to the muscles.  For her rotational movements, I'd recommend doing them unweighted for the first month of following this workout.  After that, slowly add and then raise your weights. 

Too short, but then, most of them are too brief.

I follow her direction, but take much longer per stretch 15 to 20 second minimum, 30 seconds is better.

Also, she does not stretch the quads, back, or hip flexors.

Overall, this is going on my keeper shelf for now - it is a useful, advanced kickboxing routine that could have used some polish.