AML’s Beginner Kettlebell Workout (with Update!)

UPDATE: Just a note. If you have issues with shoulder bursitis you might want to replace the windmills with a different kettlebell movement. Windmills can be very hard on the shoulders, which I’ve discovered after a mild case of bursitis. My suggestion would be to replace the windmills with a simple Kettlebell Clean. Other than that I still do all of these kettlebell moves on a regular basis and still love them!

Over the past few months I’ve been showing some of my walking group girlfriends how to use kettlebells. It’s been intermittent at best, but recently I made the suggestion that I could design a beginner workout for them, and that suggestion was met with great enthusiasm! So here’s what I came up with:

AML Beginner Kettlebell WorkoutThe Moves (link takes you to a YouTube video):

Download it in easy to read PDF Format here: BeginnerKettlebellWorkout

This past Wednesday Sharon and I went over it at the gym, and Saturday morning I tried it on my own, just to see the pacing. I used a 30-lb bell for everything but the Russian Twists, which I did with 20-lbs. You should use a kettlebell that is the right weight for you.

The warm up took me approximately 3 minutes, the workout approximately 10 minutes and the cool down approximately 4 minutes. I didn’t take many breaks during the workout, but feel free to break in between steps, just keep the break a maximum of 20 seconds. Feel free to adjust the warm up and cool down portions if you prefer, and as the workout section becomes easier, repeat it up to 3x with a 2-3 minute break in between.

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Flavor Primer Series – Bay Leaves

In my Flavor Primer series, I’m going to give a brief introduction of various herbs, spices and condiments and provide links to recipes to help you broaden your flavor horizons.

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Image © AcabashiCreative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0; Source: Wikimedia Commons

Everyone’s heard of bay leaves, right? But how many of you use them in anything other than soups? Do you even know why almost every soup uses bay leaves? Do you usually skip throwing that crunchy little leaf into your slow cooked foods because you just can’t be bothered? Well, you shouldn’t, and I’m going to tell you why.

Most people use bay leaves as a flavor enhancer in a slowly cooked soup or stew. You grab a flat, crunchy leaf that’s usually partially broken and just toss it in, then either fish it out later, or, if you’re me, you just warn people it’s in there and let them find it themselves.

When a whole bay leaf is thrown into a simmering pot of soups and stews it imparts a subtle flavor and aroma of camphor and eucalyptus, and is similar to oregano and thyme. There is a sharp and bitter back note that helps round out other flavors. In short,  bay leaves help balance other flavors and adds a little something that we can’t quite put our fingers on, but notice if it isn’t there. Have you ever cooked something without salt and discovered it tastes flat? Bay leaf works like that. I always remember to use a bay leaf when I make soups and stews.

BUT… my eyes were opened to the wonders of ground bay leaf by my Portuguese former in-laws.

Let me start at the beginning.

From Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_leaf :

Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae). Fresh or dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavor and fragrance. The leaves are often used to flavor soups, stews, braises and pâtés in Mediterranean cuisine. The fresh leaves are very mild and do not develop their full flavor until several weeks after picking and drying.

If eaten whole, bay leaves are pungent and have a sharp, bitter taste. As with many spices and flavorings, the fragrance of the bay leaf is more noticeable than its taste. When dried, the fragrance is herbal, slightly floral, and somewhat similar to oregano and thyme. Myrcene, which is a component of many essential oils used in perfumery, can be extracted from the bay leaf. They also contain the essential oil eugenol.

Many different cuisines use bay leaves. Bay leaves were used for flavoring by the ancient Greeks. It is a fixture in the cooking of many European cuisines (particularly those of the Mediterranean), as well as in the Americas. They are used in soups, stews, meat, seafood, vegetable dishes, and sauces. The leaves also flavor many classic French dishes. The leaves are most often used whole (sometimes in a bouquet garni) and removed before serving (they can be abrasive in the digestive tract). Thai cuisine employs bay leaf (Thai name bai kra wan) in a few Arab-influenced dishes, notably massaman curry. In Indian and Pakistani cuisine, bay laurel leaves are sometimes used in place of Indian bay leaf, although they have a different flavor. They are most often used in rice dishes like biryani and as an ingredient in garam masala. Bay (laurel) leaves are frequently packaged as tejpatta (the Hindi term for Indian bay leaf), creating confusion between the two herbs. In the Philippines, dried bay laurel leaves are added as a spice in the Filipino dish Adobo.

Bay is a spice that has been cultivated since recorded history. The bay tree, or bay laurel, is indigenous to Asia, and spread through the Mediterranean, where it was called laurel. Here it became a symbol of honor and glory in the form of laurel wreaths, and even the Honorific “Poet Laureate” reference this humble herb. The leaves grow on a shrub-like tree and are elongated ovals that end in a slender point.

Until I met my former husband, I was like most people: I had never used bay for anything other than tossing into soups or stews. But then I was introduced to a mouthwatering Portuguese dish called Frango Grelhado. Frango Grelhado means nothing more than “grilled chicken” in English, so the recipe itself isn’t particularly specific. But the version I make includes crushed bay leaves, red pepper flakes, black pepper, paprika, salt, fresh garlic and olive oil. All you do is toss those ingredients in with bone-in skin-on chicken breasts and marinate for a couple of hours, then grill or broil til it’s cooked through and the skin is crispy and slightly charred.

Frango Grelhado Spice Mix

  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 T paprika
  • 2 T kosher salt
  • 1 t. crushed chili flakes
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Tips
Shake onto bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs with fresh garlic and olive oil. Marinate overnight. Grill or broil thighs until juices run clear.

Directions
Crush the bay leaves in a mortar & pestle or grind them in a spice grinder.

Blend bay leaves and remaining ingredients in a bowl or a shaker jar.

Serving Size: Makes 12 servings.

 

You can also use bay leaves in another Portuguese dish, Espetadas!

Chicken Espetadas

  • 1/2 c. Madeira wine
  • 8 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 6 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
  • bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 60 minutes

Directions
Whisk together the red wine, garlic, bay leaves, and black pepper together in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add the chicken cubes, and toss to evenly coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat (or use your broiler), and lightly oil the grate. Sprinkle chicken with salt.
Remove the chicken from the marinade; shake off excess liquid. Discard the remaining marinade. Skewer the chicken onto the prepared skewers.

Cook on the preheated grill or broil until the chicken cubes are cooked through and slightly charred.

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings.

One extra tip…my former MIL uses branches of bay leaves in her house in the Azores. They do a great job of keeping cockroaches out of the house when it’s closed up most of the year!

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If you don’t want to go out and purchase ground bay leaves, you can process them in a coffee or spice grinder or you can crush them in a mortar and pestle. This will ensure a much stronger flavor than pre-ground bay.

In my search for unique recipes that use bay, I found Home Ec 101 suggests baking potatoes with a bay leave between the halves and adding a bay leaf to the water when boiling potatoes for mashed potatoes, both of which I’m totally going to try!

 

Do you use bay leaves regularly or have you eschewed them? If you aren’t using them, maybe you should!

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The Risks of Eating Too Little

I spend a lot of time here focusing on healthy eating and recipes, and I often include calorie counts for those who are interested in tracking their calories. But I don’t think I’ve ever talked about how eating too little can stall your weight loss efforts… and be downright dangerous. You might not equate the weight loss process with the possibility of eating too little: you should have the biggest deficit possible to lose the most weight, right?! WRONG.

A healthy deficit for losing weight is up to 1000 calories a day. A woman aiming to lose should never eat less than 1200 calories a day, and a man should stick to 1500 calories minimum. This is the safe recommended minimum to keep your body running well while still allowing you to lose weight. When I was actively losing, I rarely ate fewer than 1600 calories a day. And now that I’m basically in maintenance, I rarely eat fewer than 2,000 calories a day on average.

Even if you’re doing it unconsciously, eating too little can cause some serious health problems. If you’re eating fewer calories than your bare minimum, you probably aren’t getting the vitamins and minerals you need to keep your body functioning. Here are some signs you might be eating too little.

Fatigue

Are you tired all the time? Our bodies get energy from the calories in the food we eat, and we use that energy for basic and automatic bodily processes, like breathing, thinking and digestion. Eating too little can make you feel both physically and mentally exhausted, which can make each day feel harder and affect your productivity. It also affects your physical activity performance, preventing you from getting all the benefits from your workouts.

Weakened Immune System

A diet imbalance caused by eating too few calories can prevent your body from obtaining the nutrients you need to maintain a healthy immune system, which could cause you to get sick more often and cause each illness to last longer. This is especially important for those with already weakened immune systems like children and the elderly.

Constipation

When you eat too little, your body has less food to process into stool, which can cause your stool to harden and be difficult or painful to expel. Constipation is generally thought to mean having fewer than three bowel movements per week and can indicate a slowed metabolic rate.

Skin Issues

Skin can be more affected and damaged by inflammation and UV exposure if you don’t consume enough of the nutrient necessary to keep skin healthy. Vitamin E, B-3 and Niacin are all important vitamins for skin health.

Hair Loss

Have you noticed and increase of hair in the drain after you shower, or in your brush? When you eat too little, the body prioritizes its functions, and you can begin to lose hair. The body doesn’t want to waste precious calories on maintaining hair growth and follicle health, so your hair will fall out at a higher than average rate.

Reproductive Issues

The hypothalmus is in charge of telling your pituitary gland to produce reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone. The hypothalmus is very sensitive to changes in calorie intake and weight and if the balance of reproductive hormones isn’t spot on, it can cause menstruation to be thrown off or even stop, and when this happens, it can be difficult or impossible to get pregnant.

Irritability, Depression and Anxiety

Eating too few calories can seriously affect your mood in many different ways. When you don’t eat enough, your blood sugar can drop, causing hypoglycemia, the symptoms of which are irritability, sweating, anxiety and shakiness, etc. Have you seen those candy bar commercials where crabby people are handed a candy bar and told to eat? That could be you! Not eating enough can also cause you to feel more emotionally sensitive and a side effect of vitamin D deficiency is depression. Anxiety can also be caused by not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids, known to decrease anxiety.

Problems Sleeping

Having trouble falling asleep because you’re hungry, or waking up in the middle of the night hungry is a pretty obvious sign you’re not eating enough. But it can also lead to not spending enough time in deep sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to insulin resistance and weight gain, which is the opposite of what you want when you’re trying to lose weight.

Feeling Cold

Your body needs a certain number of calories to complete all of its basic functions, and that includes keeping up your core temperature. Studies have also shown that a restrictive diet can cause a decrease in T3 thyroid hormones, which helps maintain body temperature, along with other functions.Constant HungerIf you’re always hungry, it should be pretty obvious that you’re not eating enough. But many people force themselves to ignore hunger signs in order to lose weight. Being a little hungry sometimes is okay, but low calorie intake can cause a number of problems in the hunger department, like an increase in cortisol, which is the hormone that can increase belly fat. Spending too much time hungry can also increase cravings and cause you to binge, which is the opposite of what you want when you’re trying to lose weight.

Sources:

Healthline

Medical News Today

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