Reward Based Running

First, a confession. Today I had oatmeal for breakfast.

20130426-160135.jpg
It was totally everything I hoped and dreamed it would be.

Anyway, my chosen workout today was a 4 mile trail run. I generally don’t like to do my “long” runs the day after lifting, but being tomorrow is the start of spring gobbler season, I don’t want to be running around in the woods while folks are trying to hunt. Especially opening day. So I set off for my wilderness release this morning, the weather was gorgeous, my legs felt surprisingly fresh, and I got my 4 miles in in under 50 minutes, and considering the terrain, I’m totally cool with that.

Trail running is one of the most liberating activities I’ve ever practiced. It requires full body mindfulness, no plugging in the headphones and just pounding away at pavement, no zoning off, you have to be in tune with your surroundings at all times.

This is good for me because I’m a lazy ass rewards motivated person. I don’t like to get out of bed in the morning unless I’m getting paid, be it in cash, accomplishment, or opportunity. I will admit, road running and hitting a PR is fun and all, but it is nothing like the “payment” I get when I’m running a trail.

I am motivated by interesting sights like big fucking rocks (or Pennsylvania sex stones, as we call them):

20130426-221517.jpg

and small bubbling brooks:

20130426-221639.jpg

I would rather climb giant hills to witness this, than say stick to the flat road and see drug deals on the street corner.

I am motivated by the fear and excitement elicited by being in an environment shared by animals that could actually kill me if they wanted to. I would rather outrun a bear than that homeless guy who follows me around on his bicycle and asks me for cigarettes.

20130426-221926.jpg

I like that I can trudge up a mountain slowly knowing I’m saving my strength for an instance where I might actually need it, and to regain speed I can sprint across lakes and float down hills.

20130426-222111.jpg

I like that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and if that means getting knee deep in a mud puddle, so be it.

It’s fun, it’s cathartic, and the stumps, stones, and sounds are all a constant reminder to take it one step at a time, slow down when you need to, and go fast when you feel it.

I’m definitely inspired by my new undertaking and the rewards I’ve been reaping from it, be it in awesome photo ops, newfound confidence in my strength and abilities, and something that meshes amazingly with my love to lift and gives me my coveted “outdoor time” that protects my sanity.

20130426-223224.jpg

Raising Another Bar – My ISSA Experience

When I decided to scrap my old blog (or at least seriously revamp it), I kicked around a lot of ideas as to what the new title should be. Raising those Bars seemed to be the most logical fit, because I obviously love lifting and I own a pretty young business that happens to be a bar. Plain and simple, two huge facets of my life wrapped up in a pretty package. But the more I grow personally, the more I realize how appropriate my blog title is for another arena of my life. In November, I started my journey towards becoming an ISSA personal trainer. Since I was already engulfing myself in fitness related research on a daily basis, it really seemed like the next natural step.

One thing that I seriously regret about my past is not finishing college. Don’t get me wrong, I am very comfortable with my career and I feel that I’ve derived more education in the past 3 years as a business owner than I would have studying for an advanced degree, but it still kind of chaps my ass that I didn’t have the determination or intellect to finish something I started. College was an iffy time in my life – I didn’t know what I wanted to be, or even who I was, and although I always had enough common sense to support myself and land on my own two feet, that was about it. I screwed up royally, burned a lot of bridges, and successfully dropped out weeks before I flunked out.

Now things are kind of messy. I have half of a degree in political science and pre-law, with a really shitty GPA, no universities in an hour radius of my house, and no determination to pursue a degree as a lobbyist or a legal clerk. This is why an ISSA certification seemed to me like the first logical step back into the educational groove for me.

Completely online and on a “work at your own pace” schedule (with an 8 month cap), the flexibility alone has been a lifesaver with my chaotic career. When you sign up, you are shipped a big box of goodies, including this heavy duty textbook, and access to all their online resources.

20130315-220650.jpg

So far, I am really enjoying my studies, and I have been learning a lot. I have been able to apply the things I’ve learned to my own actual training (selfish, but yay!) and I have taken on a few test clients who I have yet to kill. This can only be good.

Although I know a certification is in no way comparable to an advanced degree in exercise sciences or years of experience training clients, this is my first step towards raising my educational bar. I like that the essays you have to write require you to go beyond the book and actually think critically. I like that ISSA offers many more follow up certifications and to stay in good standings you must continue your education in the future. I like that I am actually taking the time out for myself to complete a course I feel passionately about.

Maybe I will use this one day to develop my career, or maybe this is just one of those “prove that I can do it for me” tasks, but right now, I like being student, even if it is on my own terms.

I am looking to be certified by the end of May, and I’m completely satisfied with my current pace. I’m also already itching to dig into some other certs, and I’ve started a nice little educational fund for myself in the meanwhile. So yes, this is my effort to raise another bar – this time one that will help me leave my past behind and move towards a more positive future full of less self loathing.

How do you all feel about continuing education? Is it something you make a priority in your lives?

Ripped Cream – Behind The Scenes and Giveaway!

When I first started working on this product review, I was pretty sure I was going to just be sharing my opinions on a unique quirky protein supplement, giving a bag away to you guys, and moving right along. Ripped Cream, a powder based coffee creamer containing as much protein as an egg, and featuring such delicious flavors as Lean Vanilla Bean and Chizzled Chocolate, is definitely an innovative and much needed creation for us fancy coffee lovers who put nutrition first. I know I’ve been a black coffee girl for well over a year now, so the fact that this sweet treat actually has a reasonable nutritional profile really piqued my interest.

20130315-212534.jpg
I went straight for the Lean Vanilla Bean – and it is so so good. It mixes like a dream, and isn’t overpoweringly sweet. For anyone who’s ever tried to drink protein powder in a warm beverage just to be disappointed by ruining a perfectly good cup of coffee, with Ripped Cream, you don’t have to worry about that.

20130315-212849.jpg

Ripped Cream is delicious delicious and helps us get more much needed protein in our diets, and that could be the end all be all. However, that’s not the case. There’s a whole lot more to the Ripped Cream story than just the finished product. As you all know, as an entrepreneur myself, it has become one of my mini life missions to encourage other females to do the same for themselves. Creator and CEO of Ripped Cream, Robin Dimiceli was kind enough to do an interview with me about her life as a business owner and mother and give me some behind the scenes information about Ripped Cream. I hope Robin’s story is as inspiring to you all as it is to me, because it is such a shining example as to how standing behind something you genuinely care about and feel passionately about can help turn your dreams into reality.

Robin and her family - the inspiration behind Ripped Cream.

Robin and her family – the inspiration behind Ripped Cream.

What inspired you to start your own business?
Robin: My youngest son was diagnosed with a learning disability and his doctor recommended I give him a high protein breakfast every morning. I started mixing protein powder for him in a sippy cup, and adding it to hot cocoa to increase his protein intake. I started using his concoction in my coffee as well knowing I needed protein first thing in the morning. I didn’t like the taste and did a google search for protein coffee creamer. All I could find were blogs with people looking for it.
I was on my sofa on a Saturday watching the tv show “Shark Tank,” drinking my not so tasty protein coffee creamer. I never missed an episode and was always trying to think of my own invention. In my research I found that nearly 75% of Americans drink coffee, and with so many of us searching for ways to improve our eating habits, I was motivated! I knew nothing about the food industry, but I was excited to learn!

What are some things you struggled with during the start up of your business?
Robin: Ha ha. Besides money?
I think the biggest challenge was the flavor. Keeping it healthy as well as yummy was a juggling act! Also, it wasn’t easy finding a high quality protein that could withstand the heat and acidity of coffee. We tried to come up with an unsweetened version, but we learned after months of working with some of the best chemists that the little bit of organic cane sweetener in Ripped Cream is necessary for the dissolvability of the protein and vitamins.
Chizzled Chocolate was a challenge as well – the organic cocoa for it was only being harvested when we were ready for production. It would still be 5 months before it was ready, and it wasn’t an option for us to change the ingredients on the already printed packages. We searched and found the same chocolate in France. Chizzled Chocolate is my favorite… Maybe because it was so high maintenance.

I am so in love with your packaging/design, and clever names for the different flavors of Ripped Cream! Did you come up with all that yourself?
Robin: I love angels, so I knew the logo had to have angel wings and a coffee mug. My dear friend Joe Lacono is an artist who loves retro style hot rods (he developed a stroller called a “Roddler” so dads can feel manly pushing a stroller?). I told him what I envisioned, and in a day he emailed me our logo.
The names of the flavors were really fun – I’m not really in touch with the 20 something names in the fitness world, so I had my kids and their gym friends for words like “cut,” and “chizzled”. We have a savings bank of names now – hardbody hazelnut, smoking hot cinnamon, and yoked eggnog! (Note from Martha… Dear Santa (or Robin), I want Yoked Eggnog for Christmas next year!!)

Ripped Cream was tested and granted the seal of approval by Whole Foods!

Ripped Cream was tested and granted the seal of approval by Whole Foods!

What’s the best part of owning your own business.
Robin: I love that dialysis clinics are using Ripped Cream. We ship it to them. I had no idea how important it was for those patients to get protein! We have done some really fun things like an air drop to our troops in Afghanistan. Being able to say yes to decisions I want to make from my heart feels really good.
It’s very surreal still to see Ripped Cream in a store. Kind of crazy because I’m not known for my cooking skills, but people love Ripped Cream!

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Robin: For sure I would say… Believe in your dreams and your abilities. Even if you have no experience. Doors will open, you will meet people… You can do amazing things! Oh, and you can pretty much Google anything for answers (lol.)

Anything else you want my readers to know about Ripped Cream?
Robin: I researched every ingredient before it went into Ripped Cream. Whole foods found us and put us through their 3rd party food safety audit and we scored 100%! I have to say as long as it took and as tedious of a process as it was, I gained huge respect for whole foods. They may charge more, but they themselves make sure what’s on the outside of the packaging is on the inside as well. Getting an A from them means a lot!!

Since my blog is so fitness-centric tell us what you do to keep in shape:
Robin: I am a Bikram yoga addict! I have to drive 45 minutes to the nearest studio, so I can only do it 2 times a week. It is amazing and it works every muscle as well as the inside of us.
As a single mom, I have learned to LOVE many DVD workouts. I rotate – no excuses – barefoot, hair in ponytail, still in PJs, no one can see you!! Exercise is the best way to deal with stress and always gives you a glow!

I want to thank Robin for taking the time to answer these questions, as well as for hooking me up with 2 big bags of Ripped Cream – one for me to try, and one to share with you guys!
All you have to do to enter my contest for a bag of Ripped Cream Chizzled Chocolate is –
Leave a comment below and tell me how you like your coffee!
For a bonus entry tweet about my giveaway! Make sure you tag me (@mychickenbutt) and @rippedcream – and let me know you did in the comments below so I can count that.
On Friday, I will pick a winner via random.org and contact you ASAP, so keep posted!

Update! Robin is throwing in a bag of Lean Vanilla Bean too – that means 2 winners! Get to tweeting and commenting, and best of luck to all of you!!!

Pizza Party

As owner and execute chef at Jordan’s, it is my job to keep in tune with the latest food trends and apply them to my menu. Our main focus is gigantic specialty burgers featuring locally raised and processed black angus beef, and dressed up pretty with seasonal produce (and local when available.) We also sell other bar fare – wings, pizza, deep fried pickles, sweet potato fries… But I try to keep the quality and presentation of everything to the point that you feel like you’re getting filet mignon on well… a ground beef budget.
Trends in my area of food service right now include craft beer, small plates with lots of options (think sliders or chicken skewers with a variety of dipping sauces), and wait for it…
Healthier options for very specific dietary needs (gluten free, vegetarian or vegan, Paleo even).

This is awesome for me because I love cooking like that. I love eating like that, even. Today I wanted to share with you one of our new featured specialty items that cover all of the above bases, and can be modified to be as healthy as you’d like and to suit any dietary need. Plus they’re fun to eat (and fun and easy to make, which is a blessing in a tiny restaurant kitchen on a busy night).
Enter:
20130302-182834.jpg

Let’s be honest here. Pizza is delicious. Although pizza crust is an excellent tool to get all the delicious toppings into your mouth, to me, an amazing pizza is really all about what you put on it. Cooked properly, sliced eggplant is an excellent substitute whether you’re trying to pinch some calories, avoid gluten, or in my case, just have an excuse to shovel more veggies in my mouth.

All you need to make these little pizzas are an eggplant, some pizza sauce, your favorite Italian seasonings, and toppings of your choice.

Start by slicing your eggplant into slices about 1/2 inch thick. I LOVE eggplant skin so I left it on. I’m sure you could peel it if you’d like. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil, and place your eggplant on it. Sprinkle liberally with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and oregano, and place in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes or so.

Before:

20130302-165802.jpg

After:

20130302-165834.jpg
(If you can’t resist the urge to eat this, then just do it. It’s effing delicious just as such.)

Once you remove these from the oven, smother with your favorite pizza sauce, and cheese if you so desire.

20130302-170723.jpg Side note – I know my fingernails are a hot mess. It’s just a byproduct of heavy lifting and manual labor.

You can omit cheese if your dietary needs don’t allow for it. You can also use whatever type you would like. Feta always lends well to eggplant, but I stuck to mozzarella for my test run of this recipe.

Top your mini pizzas however you’d like. This is the best part if you are as indecisive as me. Today I made a cherry tomato, onion, and basil pizza, and a super healthy pepperoni and mushroom, as well as a jalapeño bacon one (what can I say, it’s a pizza party.)

20130302-180712.jpg
Also, for a restaurant quality finished product, sprinkle dry oregano all over the top. It’s really visually appealing as well as delicious.

Pop back in your oven, only this time set it to broil for about 3 minutes or until your cheese starts bubbling. I put mine in our pizza oven for 5 minutes or so, and this was my final result:

20130302-181026.jpg
Please note, the jalapeño bacon one didn’t make the final photo because I was too busy shoving it in my mouth. And it was bomb.

I think my customers are really going to love this pizza, not only because it is highly customizable and delicious, but it is a healthier alternative to our already amazing pizza. Plus 4 of these make a nice appetizer to split, or a meal that won’t leave you with that “I ate too much pizza hangover.” Easy quick meals like this are fun projects to do with your kids, or a good date night activity. You can make these as healthy or unhealthy as you want, either way, they’re going to be good.

Anyone out there tried these pizza variations before? What are some other non crusty pizzas have you made?