Hey there friends!
How’s your week going? Before I get started with today’s post I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to complete my Reader Feedback Survey. I’ve read each and every single one of your comments and you can certainly expect to see some changes announced around here soon. Much of what you told me confirmed some thoughts I’ve had recently and I plan to talk about them in an upcoming post, but for now I’d like to answer a couple of very quick questions that several of you had:
- Do you have a search bar? Yes I do! You might remember that in the old layout, my search tool was located at the top of the right sidebar, but it has since moved to the very top of the screen. Unless you’re on a mobile device, you should see it floating around at the top as you scroll. The search is Google-powered and although it takes a few seconds for the results to load, they’re much more accurate than the previous search tool.
- Where can I learn more about your coaching services, and do you do email coaching? The answer to the latter is yes, I certainly do! And if you’d like to read about this and the other services I offer, you’ll find them on my health coaching page.
- Some of the links to old recipes don’t work. What’s up with that? –>Insert cringe face here.<– I know, I know! It annoys me too. The reason is this: Prior to moving my blog to the faster server, I deleted a bunch of old posts that I felt weren’t a reflection of my best work. But while those posts disappeared, the majority of the recipes have not – they’re just in a different spot. If you’ve got old bookmarks that don’t take you to the recipe you’re looking for, try using my recipe search to find it. For those that have emailed me about this, the recipe search has solved the problem about 90% of the time.
Alright, speaking of recipes, it’s time to talk about a new one!
1. Recipe of the Week. When you hear the word casserole, what comes to mind? For me, the memories aren’t great. I remember an old cookbook that used to sit on a shelf in the house I grew up in as a child, and it was one I always tossed aside in search of the big red Betty Crocker cookbook I always referenced for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. This particular cookbook got zero love because it was full of non-cookies. Specifically, it was all about casseroles.
I must have flicked through the pages at some point because this book helped to shape my beliefs about casseroles. Most of the recipes called for massive quantities of cheese – typically a larger quantity than any other ingredient in the list. I guess the recipe developers figured that cheese makes everything taste better, and that people would love the recipes as long as there was enough to disguise the other ingredients.
Other common ingredients in this book included ground beef, chopped hot dogs, pasta, rice, and cans of condensed soup. Don’t get me wrong – these things can be perfectly acceptable on their own (well, maybe not the hot dogs), but what was worse than the mound of cheese to glue it all together was the final photos that the cookbook’s publishers decided to feature next to the recipes. I’m not sure what the criteria was at the time. Perhaps they were in deep cheese comas and couldn’t think straight, but it’s these memories that make me hesitant to create casseroles on the blog because photographing them can be challenging.
Over the weekend, I made this Chicken and Root Vegetable Casserole. It was a rainy day, the lighting in my condo was terrible, and I knew I’d be relying on my camera lens and Adobe Lightroom for a bit of magic. The final result not only tasted ridiculously amazing, but actually looked really tasty too! And as you may have guessed by the shot of the ingredients above, there’s no trace of any cheese, ground beef, hot dogs, pasta, rice or condensed soup to be found.
This beauty has a whole bunch of fall’s best veggies jammed into one baking dish, and it’s perfect for a clean eating lifestyle. To create a nice creamy (but not calorie-dense) consistency, I mixed a little oat flour and unsweetened Almond Breeze. This worked perfectly and the mix of fresh and dry herbs added to the mix gave the whole dish SO much flavour. I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you think!
2. A new fitness app: Evolve. This is the time of year when pretty much all of my workouts get taken into the gym because the daylight hours are disappearing fast and it’s getting chilly. (No lies here – I’m a complete wuss in the cold.) Occasionally, I’ll do some at-home fitness using videos like Insanity or TurboFire, but in the past haven’t done too many that are app-based. I know that some of you don’t have gym memberships or just don’t really care for the atmosphere, which is why I’m excited to tell you about this new-to-me find.
Recently I was introduced to Evolve, an app for iPhone, iPad and desktop. It consists of a number of workout videos organized into programs, and you don’t need any equipment for them which makes it a great option for at-home or do-anywhere fitness. Everything begins with a fit test to determine which of Evolve’s 3 programs – Basics, Evolve I or Evolve II – to start with. It consists of 6 functional equipment-free exercises which are either time- or rep-based:
- Isometric lunges
- Isometric squats
- Isometric single leg deadlift
- Forearm plank
- Modified pushups (on your knees)
- High knees
The idea is that you do the exercises with the instructor, and if you can’t hold the position without breaking form, you’d start with Evolve Basics. Once the fit test is complete, you select your program level. Here’s a quick description of each:
- Basic – Using a combination of static holds and dynamic movements, Basics introduces the seven primal movements that form the foundation of Evolve’s fitness philosophy. It’s recommended for beginners, people coming back from injury, or who haven’t exercised in a while.
- Evolve I – Building on Evolve Basics’ functional fitness principles, the Evolve 1 workouts bring increased focus to the key areas of fitness: strength, agility, core, sports and stretching. It’s recommended for people who are regularly active and healthy.
- Evolve II – An advanced program that challenges even the most accomplished athletes. Built on the same principles as previous levels, Evolve II pushes you to new heights in physical fitness. It’s recommended that people start with Evolve I, then move up to Evolve II.
I picked Evolve I at first but after a couple of days moved up to Evolve II for a bit more intensity, and because I wanted to see how hard it would get.
Within each program, there are lots of choices:
- Your trainer – Their styles vary in terms of intensity, instruction, and motivation. My favourite was Rebecca Kennedy, who’s pretty darn fit so I’m fine with taking orders from her while I work my butt off!
- Your workout type – choose from agility, strength, core, sport, and stretch
- Your workout duration – choose from 25, 45, or 60 minutes
- Music on or off – I highly recommend on
- Modification level 1, 2, or 3 – The individual doing the Mod 1 exercises does the easier versions, whereas the Mod 3 person does the tougher ones.
Each workout within the three programs has 3 modifications – beginner, intermediate or advanced so there’s plenty of room to customize the workouts based on your fitness level. Here’s a little video that shows what some of the workouts consist of:
Here’s what I liked:
- Easy to access on desktop and iPad – I’ve done the workouts both from my Macbook and from my iPhone (using wi-fi) without running into any video glitches. See below for my thoughts on the iPhone app.
- Challenging – At first I was skeptical, but there were definitely some tough moves in these workouts. The weathervane squat (known amongst many as a pistol squat) is something I definitely need to work on!
- A lot of variety – As you can see above, there are lots of options to suit all ability levels and preferences
- Downloadable travel packs – If you’re going to be travelling, you can download some of the workout videos before you go using a wi-fi connection, then do them in your hotel room or wherever you’re headed. (Just be sure you have enough space on your phone for this.)
- Good level of instruction – Form is really important when it comes to preventing injury, and the Evolve videos have tutorials that you can access at any time by tapping the screen mid-workout. The trainers show you how to do the exercises, tell you what to watch out for, and help to keep you exercising safely.
- Add music that motivates you – You’ve got the option of no music at all, the in-app music, or syncing the instructor’s voice with music from your iTunes library. This happens after you’ve started a video, and you can adjust the sound levels so the instructor’s voice isn’t drowned out by the music.
And what I didn’t like as much:
- Kinda high on the cheesy factor – (And no, I’m not talking about casserole cheese!) I’m all for encouragement and cheering each other on, but some of the commentary during the videos is a little too much for my liking. It made me laugh though, so I guess that’s an extra core workout? 😉
- Videos take up a significant amount of space on your phone and downloads seem to get stuck – I tried downloading the 45 minute agility one with music which was about 390MB. It got to about 75% but then stopped and wouldn’t download any more, even though I had more than enough space on my phone.
On the whole, I’d say this is definitely one of the better fitness apps I’ve tried and would recommend Evolve if you’re looking for a new way to shake up your fitness this fall. Even if you’re already really fit, the Evolve II program will challenge you! If you’re a beginner, don’t you worry because there’s just as much material for newbies too. A one-month subscription is $7.99, but the app itself is free and you can get a free 1-month trial here.
Now it’s over to you. Tell me…
- What are your thoughts on casseroles? Do you have any horrible childhood memories to share?
- Have you been using any great fitness apps lately?