Meatless Monday: Roasted Parsnip, Leek, and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

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Its Monday again!

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Everyone is sort of getting back to the grind after a long holiday weekend – however with my new routine and today being the first day I officially have like 3 jobs. I have no sense of day or Monday. Everyday now is sort of an extra cup of coffee day – but I’m thrilled with the changes so far. Too many great opportunities. 

So what is marvelous today!

Elf for Health Holiday Challenge started!

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Lindsay and Elle came up with this great idea to take motivation to a whole new level this holiday season. The challenge runs through today to the first week in January. There are daily tasks, prizes, and newsletters to inspire you to set goals and live well this holiday season. The best part is you are assigned a partner, or elf if you will, to help you challenge yourself and encourage you throughout the 6 weeks. 

My own personal cheerleader for 6 weeks? Yes please!! Plus, I get to be there giving tips and inspiration for my elf in return. Taking the holiday spirit and giving it a health spin. I love it!

My elf, Maddie, is from Australia and we have already emailed and tweeted like 12 times! After her first email, I knew we were going to have a great two weeks together. She has great taste in food sending me a recipe for saag paneer. And telling me about how she recently paired halumi cheese with pumpkin – brilliant! I really enjoy these two ingredients separately – so together must be wicked. 

She also sent me this quote based on my recent life change.

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Don’t settle – that is huuuuge! I love this quote. I had the biggest smile when I was reading this. So perfect – thanks Maddie!!

We both have the same goals to use better time management to pack lunches (which we both did today!!!) and increase core strength. I know doing some light core exercises each day will help with my back pain and make my continued weight gain go better.

Maddie is also if working on her running and cardio. Last year, this was my forte so I am excited to live vicariously through her and send her some routines I loved.

I am working on mediating daily, which is a new thing for me. And remembering to take care of me with some yoga, writing, and relaxation added everyday. 

Another big thing is continuing to get Freckles & Spice back and on track, and really being the blogger/inspiration that I want to be. The elf for health challenge with its daily tasks will definitely help with that. So far – and it is only day 1 really – I am in love with this holiday challenge.

You can still join if you want and it is open to everyone – blogger or not! Your elf pairing changes every 2 weeks so there is still 2 more opportunities! 

On to more marvelous - 

A marvelous friend was going out town last week and showed up on my door step with farmer’s market produce that she did not have time to use : leeks, jerusalem artichokes, and a bunch of potatoes. The potatoes had mashed written all over them for bb. But as for the sunchokes and leeks – I knew exactly what I was going to do with them!

I tend to go farmer’s market crazy – so since my recent financial situation has changed I’ve been trying to cut back. But there had been a recipe rolling around in my head for weeks. My lovely friend has no idea how grateful I am!! All I had to do was pick up 3 parsnips, and I could get cooking today!

It was also perfect, because today’s Elf for Health task was a meatless monday recipe. And it is marvelous because this is my best soup yet

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Roasted Parsnip, Leek, and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Besides a good bowl of oats, nothing warms my heart more during winter than soup. Especially that of the vegetable puree variety. This time of year I cannot get enough root vegetables – I became obsessed with parsnips 2 years ago. And this year jerusalem artichokes are my new discovery! They remind me of jicama – crisp and kind of like a cross between a potato and an apple. Also called sunchokes because they are from the sunflower plant – they are rich in carbohydrates, potassium, and fiber. The parsnips are another great source of fiber, as well as vitamin c, k, and folate. So this fiber packed soup will help you start off meals with a big healthy kick this holiday season!

Yields – 4 cups (1 quart)

Time – 1-1.5 hours

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium to large parsnips
  • 5-6 medium sunchokes
  • 1 leek
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic; depending on preference
  • 2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups of water 
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube (or no water and 3 cups of vegetable broth)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary 
  • 1 tsp dried thyme 

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. Wash, peel, and chop parsnips. Coat in 1 T of EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, wash and peel sunchokes.Dice and place in cold water with lemon juice to keep them from yellowing.
  4. Wash and chop leek
  5. Heat the second tablespoon of olive oil in a sauce pan on medium heat. 
  6. Add the leek and sauté for a few minutes until tender.
  7. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes longer
  8. Next, add water and bouillon cube (or vegetable broth).
  9. Add parnsips and drained sun chokes
  10. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until all vegetables are tender.
  11. Season with rosemary and thyme
  12. Carefully puree to desired consistency using either a regular or immersion blender. 
  13. Optional – Pour back into sauce pan and simmer for a few more minutes.

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FInally, never forget to enjoy your creation!!

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Here’s to getting into the holiday spirit the healthy way! Good food, small indulgences, and motivating those around you to challenge themselves!

 

On a side note – I’m trying to plan a christmas party for the coffee peddlers at the shop. Any good theme ideas, or great work parties you’ve had?? I thought a pj party with snacks and a christmas movie could be cool. Or a naughty or nice theme. Maybe the traditional ugly sweater or gag gift exchange. I get too paranoid trying to make a large group of people happy. But I know good food and holiday cheer are ultimately all the matters. Still ideas are welcome!!

In happiness and health,

Ash

Homemade Nut Milk Rocks My Socks

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My first love was Blue Diamond….

Then, I discovered the creaminess of Silk Almond…

Next, I discovered some local NYC nut milk makers…

Finally, I got out my nuts and blender and crafted my own.

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Nut milk love at first sight. I’ve been enjoying my own nut milk for the past 3 weeks. And it has become part of my Sunday afternoon food prep for the week.

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There is nothing better than making something you love yourself. Also, it is hell of a lot cheaper, fresher, and you can customize the hell out it.

The basic recipe, if you can call it that, is a 1:4 ratio of soaked nuts to cold water + any type of sweetener if you want it (1-2 soaked date, stevia, honey, sugar). Blend in a good blender or food processor and strainingng the pulp if you desire. Which, I do desire. And done.

After doing a basic unsweetened with both almonds and cashews, I got fancy.

Vanilla Cardamom Cashew Nut Milk

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked overnight in the refrigerator
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 pitted,soaked date (I soaked it right with the cashews)
  • couple drops of vanilla flavoring
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom

Directions:

  1. Combine everything in blender/food processor (I use the Ninja) and blend for 1 -2 minutes
  2. Strain pulp if desired using thin wire strainer or nut milk bag
  3. Place in bottle and store in fridge. Use within 5-7 days.

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I’ve been keeping the pulp and adding it to smoothies, yogurt, cereal. I frozen a lot of it to try things like:

Taco Nut Meat

Almond Crackers

Nut Pate filling for homemade sushi rolls.

Happy drinking!

And happy friday!!

What is on the top of your cooking / to make list??? I’m feeling inspired. Recipe links are welcome!

 

Check out yesterday’s post to see why I am having the best week ever! I also forgot to mention some big work and travel news – another good things post I guess! Never a bad thing.

Tuesday Musings and Homemade Cashew Cookie Bar

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Random things from Today:

1. It is crazy how misunderstandings happen and things spin out of control. Communication is key.

2. Have you seen these 8 Superfoods You Probably Aren’t  Eating. – I eat 4 of them regular lately! Hemp seeds, adzukzi beans (my favorite bean!), kukicha tea, and grapefruit. I love looking at lists like this and counting up a good number that make appearances in my diet.

3. Homemade pizza > take out pizza. And it has been far too long. bb and I used to love to make homemade pizza together on Friday nights. Gotta get back to that before I leave.

4. I also need to make these Popeye Cakes with Curry Avocado Sauce

5. The Pure2Raw Girls make some of my favorite treats. Hello cardamom almond biscotti and kale hemp flatbread. They can cook and their bodies are banging!

6. I have always liked Reese Witherspoon, but this quote I heard from her recently makes me love her!

“There will always be someone prettier or skinnier than you, but funny never sags” – Reese Witherspoon

Right on girl! It is ultimately about your personality and skills, not looks.

7. Why are guys always clipping their nails in public or in their office?? I have never decided to clip my nails anywhere but the bathroom?

8. My homemade cashew cookie bar may taste better than it’s larabar counterpart.

Homemade Cashew Cookie Bar

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These bars are 3 ingredients (1 optional)  and take 5 minutes to make. Not to mention much cheaper and the size of the bar is customizable. All you need is a small food processor.

bb does not like larabars, but really enjoyed these. He says it may be the best thing I’ve whipped up yet. I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted them as well. I did this on a whim and was not sure what to expect from it.

Time – 5 minutes

Yield – 2 bars ( can easily increase recipe, but this was an experiment for me)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup scant, unpacked whole raw cashews (my measuring cup was barely reaching full – so not an entire 1/4 cup)
  • 2 large dates – chopped
  • sprinkle of unsweetened, shredded coconut (optional)

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients and blend into a paste
  2. Form into balls, bars, hearts, etc
  3. Store in freezer/refrigerator

The calories and size are about that of a mini larabar. I store mine in the freezer and take it out either a few minutes before I want to eat or put it in my bag for a quick energy boosting snack. Yum. Tastes like a candy bar to me :) I can’t wait to experiment with this some more.

 

Chat time!!

What is your favorite larabar flavor? Or if you made your own what would it be? I may have made a fun one for my pen pal this month, but y’all will have to wait until the reveal for deets.

Do you eat any of those super foods? I’ve had jerusalem artichokes in a restaurant and loved them, but I’ve been meaning to cook with them myself.

Any random thoughts to share??

A New Home

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Before you get too excited, I did not physically move. I am still living in my little Manhattan 10 x 10 box.

This is even better news. Freckles & Spice is now a self-hosted blog! Hooray!! Please update your readers, bookmarks, subscriptions, mental notes, etc. The new address is:

http://frecklesandspice.com

Please come visit me at my new home on the web. Leave a comment, or two, so I know everything is functioning properly. Thank you for bearing with the change. It will be better for all of us!

Lazy Labor Day

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Hope everyone had a good long weekend.

I have been enjoying it immensely, and I am sad it is over. I have balanced productivity with laziness and fun pretty well this weekend. With a lot of help from bb, the computer wiz, I am self hosted now! Look for the official change in the next day or two. What this means for you is a small address change, but all for the sake of making a better blog. I can’t wait until it is finished!

In other news, my productivity has been challenged this weekend with the addition of the four seasons on Felicity streaming on Netflix.

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I’m currently on season 1 episode 9. All just this weekend. Good, bad, I don’t know. But I sure am enjoying it.

I know Music Monday is a little late today. Here you go! In honor of my Felicity obsession, one of my favorite songs from the 90′s: Counting Crows “Mr. Jones”

It a perfect song for the weekend too. Fun and laid back.

Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la…

Enjoy the last bit of the long weekend!

Anyone have any final stages self hosting advice? Or favorite plugins I should install?

See ya!

Weekend Feature: Post from Joyful Shimmy

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This weekend feature is a particular post from the blog Joyful Shimmy.

Laura, the blogger, left a comment on my page last month which led me to her post Lessons from the Barre. Laura blogs about her spiritual and emotional journey to remove fear from her life and fill it with love and passion. I wanted to feature this particular post because it really left an impression with me. It was actually after reading this post that I decided to start the weekend feature series. I wanted to share other blogs, and posts, that have made a positive impact on me.

In this post Laura gives five lessons she learned by stepping outside of her comfort zone and attending a series of barre classes. Barre classes are strength training and toning classes based off of ballet barre training.

All five points she discusses in this post are great, but it is the fifth lesson that really touched me. Laura said prior to this she felt that:

“I am too fat, uncoordinated, weak and I need to do more cardio and lose weight before I start any strength training. “

I have talked to wayyy too many people who share this same feeling. I used to be one of them. It is really hard to mentally push this notion from your mind if you are uncomfortable with yourself. But honestly, the idea that you are too out of shape to workout is just ridiculous! Really. Everyone has to start somewhere and no one is judging you except you. This is what Laura found too. Her instructors saw something more in her than she saw in herself. They challenged her, and as a result she was doing moves she never thought she was able to do.

If you haven’t clicked on the link already go check out this wonderful post and the rest of Joyful Shimmy. The positive message and powerful transformation is really inspiring.

I actually had a groupon for barre classes that I bought back in February. I have been too nervous/scared to use it. After reading this post, I realized that as much as I have changed, I still have silly insecurities holding me back from doing the things I want to do.

I was also reminded that workouts should be challenging and you should be pushing your body to progress. So even if you feel “in shape” if something gets too easy, then it is time to step outside of that comfort zone. I guess it is time for me to take an ungraceful, clumsy step into that barre class. I might surprise myself.

Thanks for the motivation Laura!

How have you stepped outside of your comfort zone lately? Has Joy Shimmy inspired you to do something?

 

Goal Setting for September

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Morning readers! I started off TGIF with a little spinning. The ride was all hills this morning. Woof! The Friday morning instructor at nearest NYSC is really good though. Just when I was ready to sneak the resistance down a notch, she reminded us, “This is suppose to be challenging, you don’t get out of bed at 6am to take it easy. Add a touch of resistance!” Touche spin instructor, Well said.

Afterward, I enjoyed a grilled almond butter and banana sandwich with my desperately needed coffee, and went over my goals for September.

A lot of my August goals were a flop. Except the yoga one. I did good with that! I am going to blame the laid back attitude of summer and my knee injury. : ) After some reflection, here is what I came up with for my September Goals:

1. I really enjoyed Project Think Positive this month. So going off of that, I want to start making a note of at least one reason why I am grateful daily, or why I am/should be happy today. I think I might add it in a post each day too. Just something small at the bottom. A reminder for myself that I have a good life and to be happy.

2. On that note, I will be joining another one of The Chic Life’s Challenges. Project Get Organized. This is one of my biggest weaknesses. So this will be probably the most difficult. If you need an example of why I need this, here is the current state of my desk at work:

You can’t even see the pile of papers on the window sill to the left. eeek!

3. Take regularly unplugged walks with bb (Bryan). bb and I did this once last month, and it was very refreshing. We left both our phones at home and just enjoyed each others company. I’ve noticed he actually leaves his phone at home more often now. I think this is going to be really important because he is back on a crazy rotation at the hospital and we have hardly seen each other all week.

4. Challenge Ab Attack – When bb was into lifting during first year he was doing a lot of body building research. They said people who really wanted to get serious about toning should work their core everyday. Done! I am challenging myself and anyone else who wants to join me to doing some type of ab strengthening exercise everyday. You will notice in my weekly workout page, I have already up’d my ab work a lot. So whether it be a 30 min core class or as little as one plank. Let’s get set a small term goal to work towards achieving those six packs or the awesome oblique cuts on the side.

5. Last goal is a repeat from last month, Get back to meal planning/cooking at home. I think the eating out got worse as August progressed. I’m feeling inspired by the coming fall to 1) cook with my favorite fall produce 2) save money for new fall clothes! Hopefully my new found creativity and success for making my own recipes with help with this goal too!

What are your goals for this month?? And what did you achieve last month?

Also, are you down for Challenge Ab Attack?? What is your favorite core exercise?

10 Things I Learned in August

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August brought me a lot of great new experiences. Here are some things I learned last month:

1. There is no reason to be nervous about meeting other bloggers. I went to Healthy Living Summit, which was really the highlight of my month. I made a lot of great new friends, found even more great new blogs, and every single person I met was awesome in their own way.

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2. Think Positive – Thanks to the challenge set by Diana. I was able to start learning how to keep positive thoughts and mantras in mind. One of the best things I got out of this was realizing that negative things/thoughts are going to happen and you cannot control it. But what you can control is how to reactive to it. Staying positive is a beautiful thing.

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3. I learned I am worthy of having more confidence in myself. My boss said to me that I have to learn to value myself and my time. Hearing this from your employer can really only give you confidence. Self-worth is something I have always struggled with. My confidence was reaffirmed through the month by going out of my comfort zone at HLS and trying to workouts like swimming and a group lifting class.

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4. I need to get more sleep. – I’ve been going to bed around midnight and getting at or before 6. Averaging about 5 hours a night, does not a healthy Ashley make. I get grumpy, groggy, and my memory goes to crap. I also start to do weird things like put my egg whites in the cabinet instead of the fridge, and don’t find them for hours later once they’ve gone bad. Yea, that happened.

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5. I love abc family. I was really digging some prime shows on ABC family. Holla for The Nine Lives of Chloe King. This was by far my favorite. Sad when it ended. I was also watching Melissa and Joey, as well as some Pretty Littler Liars. I really like Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence together. And it reminds of the olds and the 90′s. However, I am not a fan of Secret Life of the American Teenager. And I miss Greek. Did anyone else watch that show??

6. I can run without music. I used to never be able to exercise without headphones and a playlist. A majority of my runs this summer have been sans music. Maybe it is because I spend so much time on the computer now blogging, reading bloggers, or researching. It is just relaxing to go out without any technology. However, I do tend to think about blogging. I find this is my creative time. I came up with that pistachio crusted fish recipe while running. I also think about topics I would want to write about. It is just a good time to work things out in my head.

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7. Putting off things just makes the situation worse. I got a little behind at work at one point. I had a bunch of things to do and didn’t know where to start. I just kept putting things off and it just made problem worse and harder to fix. It is better just to suck it up and do what needs to get done.

8. You should not compare yourself to others. This theme kept popping up around healthy living blogs and discussions. It is nice to hear that I am not alone in this, but also sad that everyone does it. Your should make your goals about you and things you want to achieve, not based on what other are doing. And any achievement, no matter how small, should be praised.

9. I need better posture. My physical therapist said my poor posture, sitting and standing, is part of the reason for my lower back pain. Better posture will help with my confidence too, I think.

10. Let little things go. It is really easy to let small things people do or say get on your nerves. But dwelling on it will only upset you and cause tension. Just take a deep breath and remember that in the grand scheme of things it something that does not matter.

 

What did you learn last month? I am pretty sure I learned a lot more. But I am off to work on #4. Let’s try to get to bed before midnight tonight.

 

Dynamic Stretching

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Happy September first everyone! This is my favorite month. I flew up out of bed this morning and gave Bryan a kiss. Then, I immediately sent my mom text. September makes me miss Upstate NY and my mom. Specifically, her chicken soup and apple pie. However, I share Gretchen’s sentiment that although it is September 1st, it is not yet Fall. September 1st means it is very close! I will sing my praises of Fall when the time is right. When I smell it in the air.

Moving right along -

I was very pleased with myself this morning. I got my run in, and I also did everything I was suppose to keep my injury in check. Since Tuesday was my last (hopefully) PT appointment, my wonderful therapist kept stressing that I CANNOT skip warming up and cooling down. Blaaah, fine.

I started with something I learned from playing rugby for NY: dynamic stretching. This is not the traditional form of stretching where you lengthen a muscle and hold. This type of stretching is for after a run, or whatever workout you are doing. Dynamic stretching involves range of motion movements to loosen up muscles and get the blood flowing so your body is ready for physical performance.

Some typical dynamic stretches are:

  1. Leg Swings – Hold on to a wall, or a buddy, and swing leg out to the side and then back across your body. Do 10-12 on each side.
  2. Walking lunges – No weights. I also like to add a twist to the same side as my raised knee.
  3. Straight Leg March – Walk forward by swinging leg straight out in front of you and trying to touch your opposite hand
  4. Butt Kicks
  5. Fire Hydrant – On all fours lift leg to hip height and back down. Do 10-12 on each side.
  6. Hip Circles
  7. Arm Circles

I power walked a few blocks before picking up into my jogging pace for the run. Warm up complete! Pat on the back.

After my run, it was time to power walk again, do the traditional static stretches focusing on hamstrings, piriformis (butt/hip), and calf stretches. It is important to hold these stretches for at least 20-30 seconds, otherwise it is pointless. And finally, the dreaded foam roller on my IT band.

I have to say this really made a difference. It’s awful how many things I have had to learn the hard way. It takes more time, but I know now it is definitely worth it. A proper warm-up and cool down will no longer be one of those things I will do if I can, which means I will be lazy and skip it. Dynamic stretching prior and static stretching after with foam rolling are going to become permanent fixtures to my exercise routines. It is necessary to prevent injury.

I left you guys hanging last night on What I Ate Wednesday. Oops : / So here is a look at the first half of today.

Breakfast:

Creamy oat bran cooked with water and  1/2 banana. Topped with 1/3 cup blueberries, cinnamon, and unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Lunch: I was planning to stop spending money and eat at home, but then my roommate texted. After listening to my praise Just Salad the other day he had to try it. I had to go with him, right? What choice did I have.

These chopped salads are the best! I got a repeat of the same Hudson Valley: Baby Spinach, Butternut Squash, Broccoli, Apples, Goat Cheese, Beets, Pumpkin Seeds, Multigrain Croutons. I nixed the croutons and added egg whites. This time a went with the low fat yogurt cucumber dressing. <3!

What are you enjoying in your salads lately?

Tried any new lunch spots?

Workout Wednesday: Heart Pumping, Sweaty Elliptical Routine

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Good morning friends! Happy mid-week. I had planned to run this morning, but I’m so sore after my 10 thousand squats yesterday. Instead, I decided to do something with less impact, but just as good of a work out. I went down to the gym and hoped on the elliptical.

Confession – I used to hate the elliptical. I used to think it was boring and a bit of a cop-out because it wasn’t running. However, I have found that when done correctly the elliptical can be a great tool for non-impact cardio.

It is too easy to hop on the elliptical and zone out, and not really workout. I love HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts on the treadmill for some great heart pumping, sweaty cardio. The great thing about HIIT is it can be taken to any machine, elliptical, bike, treadmill, rowing machine. Here is my routine from this morning. Pick a level that is moderate for you and that you can sustain for the 30 minutes.

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This routine takes the elliptical up a notch and the intervals keep you on your toes so you don’t get bored. Enjoy! I did.

Now it is time to hunt down breakfast!

What are you eating this morning??

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