Thursday, February 28, 2013

Zesty Parmesan Kale Chips

I don't know if you have noticed, but it seems like kale has become more popular than The Beatles were in the 60's.

My wife and I have jumped on the bandwagon as well and have been consistently trying to make good quality kale chips for the past couple weeks, and we have consistently been failing...Until this week!  

I believe I have perfected the recipe for the ultimate kale chip, and I would like to share it with you.  As with most of my recipes, it requires only 5 ingredients and roughly 10 minutes to prepare.  Here it is:

 You will start by rinsing 1 head of kale, and then ripping chunks off of the stalk and laying them out on either a sheet of foil or wax paper (or some other surface that is easy to clean/dispose of).  After you have fully dissected the head in to small, chip-like pieces, you can throw the stalks away, or make use of them in some other way that I am not yet aware of.  Next step is the seasoning process...

Using Pam Olive Oil, you will want to LIGHTLY spray the kale, just to give it a very light coating.  Now, take Mrs. Dash Original seasoning and Parmesan/Romano cheese and liberally sprinkle them all over the kale, followed by a light dusting of salt (not too much).  Time to get your hands dirty!  Toss the kale around using your hands, making sure that each piece gets a decent coat of the seasoning mixture. Next step is the dehydration process...

You will want to place the seasoned kale on the dehydration racks with enough space so that they can all dry  evenly and get crispy together.  Once this is done, allow the kale to dehydrate for about 1.5 hours or so, checking and rotating the racks every 20 minutes for quality control... (You don't NEED a dehydrator to make them, you can use a sheet pan and your oven set at about 130 degrees F or so, for about the same amount of time -- double-check this first with other recipes online though, because this is NOT the process that I use, just an idea).  Once the kale chips are crispy enough for your preference, remove them from the dehydrator and allow them to cool before packing them up to avoid moisture accumulation.

 Now, feel free to relax and have a healthy, nutrient-packed, guilt-free snack!  ENJOY!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Healthfully-Simple Cinnamon & Raisin Oatmeal

When looking for a quick, easy and energy-dense breakfast, skip the bagel with cream cheese (or any other heavy breakfast loaded with calories, but lacking in nutrients), and try one of my go-to breakfast staples: my healthfully-simple cinnamon & raisin oatmeal.  It requires only 5 ingredients, and roughly 5 minutes of your time to prepare.

You start with your favorite brand of quick oats, raisins, brown or turbinado (raw) sugar, milk (any percentage will work, I actually use fat-free Lactaid), and ground cinnamon (click here to find out the many overlooked potential health benefits of cinnamon!)

Mix 1/2 cup of quick oats, a handful of raisins, 1 tablespoon of raw (or brown) sugar, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and 1 cup of milk (or Lactaid, as I have used here) into a microwavable safe bowl.  Stir it until all of the ingredients are mixed and there are no lumps.  Microwave the mixture on high for 1 minute.  Remove from the microwave and stir the mixture well.  Return to microwave for an 1 additional minute on high, or until you achieve the desired consistency (I enjoy my oatmeal a little thicker, but play around here and find your preference).  Time to ENJOY, and get prepared to CRUSH your day!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Muscle-friendly Chicken Cutlets

As a personal trainer and wellness coordinator, I am constantly on the go and always in need of a quality meal to fuel my body and keep me strong.  Lately I've been playing around with a bunch of different ways of preparing chicken that's both healthy and convenient.  Here's my favorite recipe that I've been using a lot lately, and the best part is that it only requires 5 ingredients and less than a half hour to make!

I start by rinsing off 2 large chicken breasts, and then I slice them in half, parallel to the cutting board so that I wind up with 4 cutlets, each about a 1/2 inch thick.  I then preheat my oven to 350 degrees.  Next, I take a medium sheet pan and cover it with aluminum foil.  I take extra virgin olive oil and lightly coat the foil using a brush (you don't need much).  I then lay the cutlets on the pan and lightly brush them with extra virgin olive oil as well.  I take Adobo seasoning, onion powder and seasoned bread crumb (use whatever style you like) and lightly dust the cutlets with each of these 3 ingredients in the same order as I have just listed them.

The oven should be ready now for the seasoned cutlets.  Put the pan in the oven and set your timer for 20 minutes.  Start preparing whatever side dishes you would like to have with the cutlets (rice/potatoes/vegetable/etc.)  After 20 minutes, rotate the pan a half-turn, and continue to bake for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove the cutlets from the oven, and finish cooking your side dishes.  Now comes the best part....EATING!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Coping with Cancer

I will start this post by stating that I DO NOT have cancer.  But I know many people who have battled with this disease; some have lived to see brighter days, and some were not so fortunate...

My brother, Jason Claytor, was an amazing person who had a very promising future.  While most of my friends' brothers were busy bullying their younger siblings and making life harder for them, my brother was concerned with getting me on the "straight-and-narrow" and encouraging me to be a good son to my mother.  He was someone you could count on to listen and provide the best insight possible from his own experiences and knowledge.  He was the charismatic, handsome, goal-oriented man that I wanted to be, but struggled to emulate because I was a selfish and troubled youth.  

Unfortunately on November, 26th, 2008, my brother lost his battle to liver cancer at the age of 24...

It's hard to put into words the pain, anger and frustrations that plagued my mind for the following months after I lost him.  Months grew into years, and those feelings are all still there - although slightly diminished, because life has a way of continuing on regardless of anyone's individual situations or circumstances.  

Just recently (7-8 months ago), my uncle was diagnosed with leukemia, and it put a quick and vicious beating on him.  My family and I were devastated by the news, and I felt those same feelings coming back, only this time I had a previous experience - I had an understanding.  I knew that if we stayed positive and strong for him, and if we abolished all feelings of doubt that he would overcome it, then it would make his struggle far easier for him.  

He is now home after receiving a bone-marrow transplant, under the care of my loving aunt, and he WILL make a strong recovery because he is backed by a strong and caring family.

One month ago my grandfather was also diagnosed with leukemia, and he is now suffering in the hospital after undergoing chemotherapy at an older and weakened state.  My grandfather use to be the glue in my life, because after my mother and father divorced, he took us in to help support my mother and play the role of a father figure for my brother and myself.  Here comes those awful feelings AGAIN!  But my family and I have been here before, and we have been tested again, and guess what?  WE'RE STRONGER THAN EVER NOW!  We will be there through his fight every step of the way, and we will take the burden of negativity, and throw that shit away so that he can concentrate only on getting stronger and eradicating this disease from his body.  

I soon realized that hanging on to those feelings could only be detrimental to my life, and I would have to learn how to accept them in order to continue growing as a person.  It's what Jason would have wanted for me, and it's what I needed to do.  

Here are my 3 steps for coping with cancer:
  1. Detach from your emotions:  This may sound cold or selfish, but it's true.  You are not the only person experiencing these emotions, and dwelling on them will only weaken your mental strength.  When dealing with any fight or battle (which cancer IS, it's a fight for the person who has the disease AND the people that love and care for them) you must detach from your emotions and focus on the task at hand.  Understand that if it's not your brother/uncle/grandfather/etc., then it is another family's brother/uncle/grandfather/etc.  This is part of the cycle of life - you are born, you try to make the best of life, and then you die.  Do your best to live a positive life, and try to keep things in perspective.  BE STRONG!
  2. Talk about it:  This may be the hardest step of the 3 that I am presenting to you, especially at first.  I tried my best to avoid the thoughts, ideas and conversations about my brother after I lost him, so I'd wear the hat as the "rock" for my mother and sister-in-law, as well as the rest of my family.  I did not want them to see me crying or looking weak, because that would only compound the helpless feelings that they were trying to come to terms with at the time.  So I bottled that shit, deep down, and I cried in private.  In my car, in my room, in the bathroom on campus - you name it.  If it was a private place, and the thought of Jason crept into my head, I lost it, and lost it hard.  But I wasn't getting anywhere by breaking down in private.  It was like pressing on the gas in the snow - I was simply spinning my tires. Once I gained the courage to start speaking to other people about what I was struggling with inside, I learned that by gaining perspectives from other people I was able to look at my situation in a different way.  People shared similar stories with me, and I realized that my feelings were not special, different or unique - they were normal, and MANY people were dealing with these same feelings.  This helps tremendously, trust me.  
  3. Help others:  If you can put yourself in a position where you can help other people who are dealing with the many troubles that you dealt with, or if you can help make life easier for someone who is out of hope or near the end of their journey, DO IT!!!  The feeling of helping others not only helps to soothe your mind and give you a feeling of purpose, but it may give an individual the spark of hope that helps to bring them back into the battle and win.  It can also help soften the blow to a grieving family by taking some of the emotional or financial burden off of them.  Everyone needs support in times of turmoil and distress, so if you can be a part of that support system, no matter how small your contribution is, I am challenging you to do so.
So in reference to helping others, on April 13th, 2013, I'll be competing in the Tap Cancer Out BJJ Open, which is far more than just a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition. We're also fundraising on behalf of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  I have set my fundraising goal at $200.00, and need to meet this goal in order to compete. I will be competing with the spirit of my brother, and the strength of my uncle and grandfather.

Please help me support Tap Cancer Out and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by making a donation. If you cannot make a donation, then I thank you for taking the time to read this post, and I hope you found my tips to be useful in your challenge to cope with cancer.  I also ask that you share this with your friends and family in a hope to help them, as well as bring awareness to this awesome cause.  

Thank you and stay strong...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why Do I Train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Many of my family members and friends often ask me, "why do you do that Jiu-Jitsu stuff?"  Well, here are just a few reasons why I train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

  1. Diminishes the ego:   As a male, I have been conditioned by the pressures of society to be a victim of my pride and ego.  BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) has no place for ego, and you can either learn that the easy way or the hard way (or you can quit like many others have).  There is no lying in BJJ; it exposes all truths.  If you were out partying the night before, it will show on the mats.  If you are distracted with the bullshit that life throws at you, it will show on the mats.  If you are relying on strength rather than learning technique, it will eventually show on the mats.  There is no "chance" in BJJ, only technique, and superior technique will always be king out on the mats.   I have been dominated many times by individuals much smaller and weaker than me, and on the flip-side I have returned the favor to individuals much larger and stronger than myself.  The bottom line is that you must be dedicated, open-minded and willing to go through an enormous amount of struggle (mentally & physically) in order to excel in this beautiful art.
  2. Becomes a lifestyle:  As I said before, if you are not putting in the work it is eventually going to become apparent to yourself and the people you train with.  This is the reason why many people give up after they reach the blue belt level (the second belt in the adult system of progress).  Competition gets tougher, and as a result you must make changes in your life to accommodate for the challenges that BJJ will put you through.  If you are not willing to make these accommodations, chances are that you will quit training.  But if you are willing to change for BJJ, your quality of life will benefit from it.  When I began training at the age of 18, I was a cigarette smoker, drug abuser and notoriously known for drinking myself into blackouts almost every weekend.  Slowly though, I began to crave progress in my training and knew deep down that something had to give.  I quit using drugs, cut back on smoking and stopped drinking as much.  Now at the age of 24, I am no longer a cigarette smoker (for over 3 years now), drug free, rarely drink alcohol, married and recently graduated from college.  My life is substantially better, and it's not by "chance".  Remember what I said before, there is no "chance" in BJJ, and there is no room for deceit.
  3. It's an investment:  Training BJJ on a regular is not cheap. Period.  Between mat fees, buying Gi's (the uniform worn when training traditional BJJ), costs for competitions, doctor bills for minor/major injuries, gas to travel to the academy, time spent getting better, etc., IT ADDS UP.  However, what you gain from this cost is much greater than any dollar amount in my mind.  I have developed great mental fortitude, have built my confidence, have created a network of brothers and sisters who are just as strong-minded and dedicated as myself, and will ultimately achieve my black belt which I will be able to use to teach this art to other individuals beginning their journey in BJJ.  I will be able to give back to this art what it has given to me, and will be able to reap the financial benefits of teaching as well.  So it may be costly right now, but it's a minor investment in a major return.  

I'm sure some of you still won't understand my love and passion for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and that's alright with me.  Just know that it has made me the man that I am today, and could be beneficial to your life as well if given a chance.  For the people that do understand, see you on the mats!  OSS!!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

5 Ways to Improve Your Life...Now!

  1. Pick things up and put them down:  As a wellness coach/personal trainer, I am obviously going to encourage people to exercise.  Exercise is great, but I want to stress the importance of resistance training (weight training).  I don't care if it's using dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells or even your own body-weight, but choose one of the aforementioned tools and get to work!  Resistance training will develop/preserve muscle tissue, increase your strength, develop mental toughness and make you feel better about the way you look and feel.  These benefits are all important for longevity as well as a better quality of life overall.
  2. Eat whole foods:  I'm not going to tell you to eat all organic, because I myself cannot afford to do so at this stage in life.  If I could I would though.  However, what I will tell you to do is to start eliminating as many processed "foods" from your diet as possible.  Most processed foods are loaded with sodium, chemicals that would ruin your chances of winning a spelling bee and other preservatives that are meant to keep dollars in the pockets of the companies that manufacture these food products.  These same chemicals and preservatives will ultimately ruin your health.  Instead, opt for whole foods (leaner cuts of meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits and grains).  Basically if it has a face or grows from the ground then it's good to eat in my opinion.  
  3. Socialize with like-minded, positive people:  You don't have to go out to the bar, club or some party every weekend to get your fill of socializing for the week.  Surround yourself with people who share similar interests, hobbies or views on life.  If that is a tough task for you then confide in a positive family member or life-long friend and just talk...that's it.  Bounce ideas off of one another, laugh, share visions or dreams of the future and provide support for the decisions that you make as individuals.  This is very important, because sometimes we need other positive perspectives to help us reevaluate our own journey in life.  Also, laughter may be one of the most powerful stress relievers available.
  4. Set a goal:  Set a goal, make a plan and start taking steps towards achieving that goal as soon as possible.  No more room for excuses here, just go for it!
  5. Step out of your comfort zone:  Security is a great feeling because it rids us from feeling unnecessary stress and makes us feel comfortable.  That being stated, too much security or comfort can be extremely detrimental to our own personal growth.  I guarantee you will miss an enormous amount of life-changing opportunities if you stay within you own comfort zone.  Start small and do one thing a week that makes you feel uncomfortable, but can benefit your development (professionally, socially, physically).  I PROMISE you that you will be glad you did.

                               - +Wesley Claytor