Friday, March 13, 2020

Two Days on Maui: Haleakala & Whale Watching

Every year, mrC and I try to spend our anniversary somewhere new or doing something new.  In the past we have spent the day leaf peeping on the Kancamagus Highway, running a few races together, driving to the top of Mt. Washington and lots more.

Back in October, mrC took me over to Maui for a couple of days for our anniversary and more recently for a quick whale watching trip. Both times we stayed in Lahaina at the Pioneer Inn. The town of Lahaina reminds me so much of Newport, RI ---> right on the water, cruise ships and boats in the harbor and streets lined with shops, restaurants and pedestrians. It just has a good vibe.

The Pioneer Inn is an older but quaint large inn right in the heart of Lahiana with views of the water, an attached restaurant and the nicest people work there. I love the rocking chairs on the lanais (even though they tip back dangerously easy!).

On our first trip to Maui we had more time to explore. We found acai bowls at Baya Bowls and if you know me, this was a priority! They were very good, but the location was off the main drag and the seating was limited on shade which is a big deal on a hot day in Hawaii! We strolled under the historic Banyan Tree which is the largest in the USA. We found plenty of good food and great views at Cheeseburger in ParadiseKimo's, and Lahaina Fish Co.

One highlight was snorkeling at Baby Beach. We walked about a mile from the hotel to the secluded beach used mostly by local families. The beach is protected by a long reef creating a perfect place for spotting fish in the shallow and warm water.

Never ones to pass up an active experience, mrC booked us on a Haleakala Sunrise Bike Tour. Much like our Sunrise Trek up Mt. Batur in Bali (read about that here), we were picked up around 3am at our hotel and transported to the top of Haleakala in time to see the sun come up.

After a the stunning sunrise, we took a tour around the summit and then began our descending bike ride back down the volcano to Haiku. It was super fun!!

Last month we went back for a quick two days basically for whale watching, but we explored a bit more too. We enjoyed a light breakfast on the water and then watched some group surfing lessons. It definitely looked like  great place for newbies to get their feet wet 😉

Thanks to the early flight out of Honolulu, we were able to book the morning whale watching tour out of Lahaina and it was AMAZING!! I highly recommend visiting Maui in the winter and taking a whale watching tour. We booked with Pacific Whale Foundation and they did a great job.

The next day we hopped on local bus #28 for a ride to the nearby town of Ka'anapali which is where a lot of large hotel resorts are located, one on top of the other. It's like a mini Waikiki. 

It was nice to check out the shops and restaurants at Whaler's Village (I even got a henna tattoo), basically an outdoor mall, but the highlight was mrC spotting breaching whales during our beach front walk!

Most importantly, we enjoyed more amazing food on this trip. I think we found our favorite Lahaina acai bowl at Breakwall Shave Ice and it had lots of seating options in the courtyard of The Wharf off Front Street. It was so good, we had it both days. We were back for some delicious ono grilled fish at Lahaina Fish Co and more ono at Captain Jack's Island Grill.  

As usual, we left Maui with more items on our Maui bucket list, so we will be back!

Have questions about our trip? Drop them in the comments below!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

5 Things I Learned from Going Plant Based for a Month

For the month of February, I dipped into plant based living for the first time with the FASTer Way VIP Community (I am a member and a coach). I was looking forward to giving it a try to see what, if any effects it would have on me. Plus, both of my step daughters are plant based so I was excited to learn more about their lifestyle.

My goals going into the month were pretty simple:
  • increase my veggie consumption
  • reduce my meat and poultry intake
  • try new recipes

I really expected to eat a pescatarian diet throughout the month. Most of my life I've been pretty picky about vegetables, so I thought if I didn't at least have some fish I'd probably be starving!

Not exactly!

The great thing about this plant-based challenge, was that we had LIVE trainings in the VIP community to help us navigate our way. This was so helpful for someone like me who was brand new to all things plant based! Each online training was meant to help us learn more about the lifestyle, understand the benefits and the effects. Our training topics included:
  1. A plant based Q&A
  2. The science behind plant-based living with Dr. Stephen Cabral
  3. Why being regular is important!
  4. Review of the documentary, Game Changers with Dr. Alex 

So, how did it go? I was not plant based 100% of the time. I had eggs a couple of times, some cheese on a cauliflower crust pizza and a few meals with fish. Most of those happened when we were traveling. However, I did not have meat or poultry at all, and made it a point to eat veggies at almost every meal. 

One thing that made this easier for me was that mrC was totally on board with trying plant based month, too. We initially became curious about the benefits after watching the documentary Game Changers.  

Here are my top five takeaways:
  1. Definitely felt the benefit of more fiber! Gassy and a little bloated at the beginning but definitely regular. Regular people and happy people!
  2. My bad knee which always feels swollen, even though it doesn't look swollen, began feeling almost normal and was overall less cranky. This was a HUGE win for me.
  3. I'm a pretty good sleeper in general, but I have been sleeping through the night and skipping the early morning wake-ups to use the bathroom.
  4. I need more veggies in my life! This challenge has made me more aware of ways I can sneak more veggies into all of my meals.
  5. There are a lot of really good plant based recipes that I will keep in my recipe file!
Moving forward, neither of us are in a rush to go back to our old diet of chicken and turkey and lean beef with nearly every meal, but we will be eating fish again. Plant based month has been great for getting more veggies in our lives. There is no downside to eating more fruits and vegetables.

Are you plant based or tried it?
I'd love to know your thoughts or your favorite recipe.
Share your comments and questions below!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Recipe Find: Jennifer Garner's Go-To Smoothie

This month I have been diving into plant-based eating. I'm doing this for a couple of reasons:

1. February is heart month and it is said that eating more plants and less meat is good for your heart among many other things like cancer prevention, boosted energy, neurological disease prevention

2. My step-daughters live plant-based lifestyles, so this will give me more insight into what they are eating and what we can prepare when we are together

3. I'm taking on this challenge with the FASTer Way community, so I am not alone as I navigate my way into a new way of eating.

Most of my recipes are found online or come from the FASTer Way meal plan. I love this smoothie that Jennifer Garner shared on social media. Plant based, great for low carb days and I almost always have all of the ingredients on hand!

Now, you don't have be a plant-based eater to enjoy this smoothie. I made it plenty of times before taking the plant-based challenge. I mean, it's just packed with healthy whole foods. Plus, it is absolutely delicious!
  • 1 or 2 scoops chocolate protein (I love this one because it’s even good as a shake with just water!)
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed 
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds 
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (this one is my favorite - 1 ingredient!)
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk 
  • Handful fresh spinach
  • Small handful ice
  • Small handful blueberries

Blend and serve!

Full disclosure - it is a green smoothie, but I promise it tastes better than it looks. And that is also why I have not included a picture of it blended :) Enjoy!!

Let me know if you have any questions or if you give it a try!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Self-care Sunday: Podcast Review - How Tiny Habits Lead to Big Changes

One thing I love to do on Sundays is catch up on my favorite podcasts. This is one of my forms of self-care because I listen while I take a walk or an easy spin on my bike and I always learn something new.

I recently listened to the FASTer Way to Fat Loss podcast episode How Tiny Habits Lead to Big Changes and heard many points speaking to me. I shared this podcast when my new clients and I highly recommend it to anyone who is trying to create healthy habits or eliminate unhealthy habits.

My favorite takeaways:

  • Success momentum - small wins carry over. It's the frequency of success matters, not the size that matters. Frequency and recency. So looking for and celebrating those small victories each day will help you stay motivated. Every day I remind my clients to focus on what went well and every Friday I ask them to share their biggest wins from the week. It is truly one of my favorite days. This doesn't mean that we ignore the things that could go better. It just means that we make a point to celebrate what was good.
  • Pearl habits - take an irritation (the prompt) and turn it into positive behavior. The name of this habit comes the way pearl are made: a little piece of sand gets inside the oyster. The oyster is irritated by the sand, so it rubs it and coats it until it eventually becomes a pearl. This habit is a great way to quickly shift your mindset from something negative to something positive. For example, when my clients are upset that they are too busy at work or home to get in a full workout, I remind them of all the ways they can fit in movement throughout the day along with all the healthy eating they can focus on.

I loved this podcast because it shared tips for how to keep a positive mindset. When we are on a journey, there are going to be ups and downs. That's life. The tips that Dr. Cabral shares are practical and will help turn negatives into positives, so that we can continue to make changes and see progress. 

No matter what you do today, I hope you take a little time to do something for yourself!

What are your favorite things to do on #selfcaresunday?

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Recipe Find: General Tso Tofu

Do you love General Tso chicken, but wish there was a healthier version? I’ve been searching for a healthier alternative to the entree that we all know and love. Mostly they’re all OK, but not crispy enough. This recipe by Vegetarian Times hit the spot!

Now I'm not vegan, but I am trying to eat more plant based this month with the FASTer Way VIP community as part of a challenge. It's good for my cholesterol and the planet :) Seriously though, this tofu dish is very, very tasty!

Pic from Vegetarian Times

Crispy Tofu
1 16-oz. pkg. firm tofu, drained
2 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. mirin (rice wine)
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
2 Tbs. sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
4 tsp. mirin (rice wine)
2 tsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. sambal oelek chile paste, optional
2 tsp. vegetable oil
4 green onions, green parts chopped (1/3 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)

1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

To make Crispy Tofu: 
Cut tofu block into two broad slabs. Wrap tofu slabs in paper towels, and place between two cutting boards. Weight top cutting board with soup cans, and press 30 minutes. Unwrap tofu, and cut into 1-inch cubes.
Combine soy sauce, vinegar, mirin, oil, garlic, and ginger in resealable container. Add tofu, and toss to coat. Marinate 30 minutes, or overnight. (Tofu should absorb all liquid.)
Preheat oven to 350°F, and coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Sift cornstarch over tofu, and turn to coat evenly. Spread tofu on baking sheet. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until firm and crispy, turning several times to brown all sides.

To make Sauce: Whisk together broth, sugar, soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, sesame oil, cornstarch, tomato paste, and sambal oelek (if using) in small bowl. Set aside.
Heat vegetable oil in wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add green onions, garlic, and ginger, and stir-fry 1 minute. Add broth mixture, and cook 1 minute, or until thickened. Stir in Tofu. Serve with steamed broccoli and rice.

I served mine with quinoa and it was a really good combo.

Let me know if you try it!