Here we are again — another New Year! As we say hello to 2017, I’m reminded of one of the songs my husband, Jim, occasionally sings on karaoke nights — “Choices,” as sung by the late, great country singer George Jones. The opening lyrics are: “I’ve had choices since the day that I was born. There were voices that told me right from wrong. If I had listened, no, I wouldn’t be here today, living and dying with the choices I’ve made.”
It has been my tradition at the beginning of each year to write a healthy-cooking and fitness column. We all know the New Year drill. It’s about “choices.” Do I make New Year’s resolutions? Do I set goals for myself? Will this be the year that I finally _____________ (you fill in the blank)? And if I make resolutions, will this be the year that I actually succeed in keeping them?
In December 2015, I again began chemo treatments to deal with the return of my rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in both lungs. Treatments ended in April, and I’m thrilled that I am again in remission — eight months and counting.
But the treatments dumped lots of steroids and other awful drugs into my body, depleting much of my energy and adding 15 to 20 pounds to the number on the scale. I was not a happy cooker. So, now that my energy is finally returning, I am “choosing” to get professional help to work off this excess baggage.
It was my good fortune to meet Erik Schreiber, who owns and operates the Custom Fit 360 training facility at 535 Atlantic Avenue, Unit 4, in Millville, sandwiched in between Michael McCarthy Stones and Casapulla’s sub shop.
Erik has a string of acronyms following his name: NASM/IFPA/AFPA certified. They stand for National Academy of Sports Medicine, International Fitness Professionals’ Association and American Fitness Professionals’ Association.
Erik makes it very clear that Custom Fit 360 is not a gym and never will be. It is a training studio. He has worked for traditional gyms and decided to venture out on his own.
“Some people are intimidated in large, busy, noisy, crowded gyms,” he said. “For those who aren’t sure of what they are doing and without the proper guidance, they may not succeed; I want to make sure that people are comfortable and that they are learning. Typically, in big-box gyms, there are very strict guidelines that you must follow. At my studio, I can do it my way.”
When I called to schedule my first workout, Erik could not accommodate my early-morning request, but his co-trainer, Sue Steel, could. I discussed my medical history with Sue, including my lymphoma surgeries and the limitations I have following my second round of chemo, as well as the other surgeries to knees, thumbs and feet.
I was not complaining. She wanted to know all that so that she could tailor my workouts to my goals while also taking into account my limitations. At this writing, I’ve had five training sessions and I’m loving every minute of it. She really puts me through my paces for a full-body workout. I plan to continue training with her until I meet my goals. Sue is also NASM and AFPA certified, so I am in good hands.
Erik was born and raised in Falls Church, Va., but in 1974, his family bought a beach house in Middlesex, so he’s been visiting here his entire life. He and his wife, Alexis, moved here permanently to leave the hustle and bustle of city life. Erik’s mother has now permanently moved into the beach house. Erik and Alexis have a 13-month old son, Richard, with another baby on the way.
“We have a very close family,” he said.
Erik played DI football at Elon University, Elon, N.C. He’s been in the fitness industry for 12 years, beginning at Gold’s Gym in sales and then managerial positions. He does some sort of exercise seven days a week. “From heavy lifting, to conditioning exercise, to stretching and active recovery (walking on the treadmill and rowing).” Plus, he still plays semi-professional football.
“I want to stay in shape for myself and for my family,” he said, “for my son and for my new one on the way, so I can run and play with them when they are older. The new baby will be named either Charles or Emily. We do the whole surprise thing.”
Along with exercise, Erik discusses nutrition with all his clients.
“Nutrition is one of the most important parts of an exercise program,” he said. “I try to eat as cleanly as possible — lean meats, chicken, fish, turkey and occasionally red meat, and venison when it’s in season. I also eat lots of veggies — mostly broccoli, cauliflower and peppers. I eat lots of hot peppers as well — they help boost metabolism; and I drink more than a gallon of water every day and recommend 80 to 120 ounces of water daily for everyone.”
“What about sweets?” I asked.
Erik was candid with me about his craving for sweets.
“I am a recovering alcoholic, so my downfall is sweets. Without the sugar from alcohol, I have a bad craving for sugar — cookies, ice cream, cake. Whatever! Even though I’m a few years’ sober, that never changes.”
He and Alexis agreed that going public with this information could help others. So, for those of you who just read that last paragraph and suffer from addictions, or know someone who does (alcohol or sugar or others), you can feel comfortable discussing with Erik your goals and your desire to make positive changes in 2017. He has been-there-done-that, so he’ll fully understand where you’re coming from, where you need to go, and how to get you there.
Like many of us, Erik is concerned about the obesity epidemic in our country. He discusses nutrition with all his clients.
“All goals revolve around how you eat, whether you are trying to lose weight or gain it. I address their eating habits and I do actually send everyone a meal plan. I try to reinforce the importance of nutrition to folks if they are not following. However, I try not to overstep my bounds. It is ultimately their decision to change. I cannot force them, and I am not a miracle-worker. I simply offer my knowledge and eagerness to help,” he said.
Continuing along these lines, Erik added, “We are becoming more and more inactive. Our children are becoming more involved with playing sports on a game console rather than outside. It’s appalling and terrifying. Exercise doesn’t just keep you in shape; it also helps with both mental and emotional stability.”
In your first session with Erik, you’ll discuss your goals.
“I want you to feel comfortable with me and know that I am eager to help you reach those goals,” he said.
Things start out very light and basic: a few movement screens, strength and cardio tests, flexibility, etc.
“My goal is not to make you sore — absolutely not. My goal is to make you comfortable with exercise. You will definitely feel like you’ve worked out, but unlike a lot of trainers, my intentions are not to beat you up so badly that you hurt and can’t move. No, no, no. One of my mottos is: Train, don’t strain.”
Erik’s youngest client is 12 years old, and his eldest is 79.
“My clients are all types and ages, with all kinds of ailments. My training with the NASM teaches me how to address things of that nature with corrective exercise training (CET), to ensure that the body is moving efficiently. If I believe that their ailment is beyond my scope of knowledge, I would refer them to a physician or a physical therapist.”
For those of you who are really out of shape and dread the first step to change where you are, I recommend that you give the privacy of Custom Fit 360 a try. I love to work out to music, but the music at some gyms is not from or for my generation. Erik asked me what kind of music I liked, and he put on a playlist that really got me moving.
He’s a happy guy and he wants to make his clients happy, too. The studio is filled with laughter and positive energy. And Erik’s singing along with the tunes lifts everyone’s spirits (at no extra charge!). It’s a great way to start my day!
Erik doesn’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions, but he does believe in setting goals —setting daily goals instead of yearly ones.
“I never criticize anyone for setting a goal,” he said, “regardless of when they do it — New Year’s or not.” In fact, one of Erik’s goals to become the premier training facility in Sussex County. He’s already got my vote!
So, if 2017 is your year to make more right choices than wrong ones, I suggest that you schedule a training session with Erik by calling him at (703) 626-3157. You can also contact him by email at email@example.com. Hours of operation vary, depending on who needs what.
And now to Erik, Alicia and Sue’s healthy recipes.
Erik uses chicken thighs in his Autumn Harvest Chicken recipe, but you can also use chicken breasts following his advice at the end of the recipe.
Autumn Harvest Chicken
Recipe inspired by Cooking Classy.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
1 pound bone-in (skin on preferred) chicken thighs
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Coarse sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 3/4-inch pieces
1 pound Brussels sprouts, cleaned and sliced in half
2 apples (Fuji or Red Delicious preferred), cored and sliced into half-moons 3/4-inch thick
2 shallots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
6 slices turkey bacon, chopped into thick pieces (best if cooked crisp ahead of recipe preparation)
Freshly chopped herbs of choice
Method for Autumn Harvest Chicken:
Position rack in center of oven, or slightly higher. Place sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, apples and shallots onto a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; spread out in an even layer.
Rub chicken thighs with olive oil, salt and pepper and set the thighs on top of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle the turkey bacon evenly over the mixture. Roast at 450 degrees until the chicken and vegetables are golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with freshly chopped herbs and serve immediately. Yield: Approximately 4 servings.
NOTE: If using chicken breasts, pat them dry and rub with olive oil, salt and pepper. Set on a baking sheet and back for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Drop your oven temperature to 350 degrees for an additional 15 to 30 minutes and cook until juices run clear and chicken reaches a temperature of 165 degrees. Pull from the oven, tent with aluminum foil and allow to rest prior to cooking the vegetable/fruit mixture.
Glazed Salmon & Veggies
Recipe inspired by Southern Living magazine.
Preheat broiler with oven rack 6 inches from the heat.
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar (seasoned or unseasoned)
1/4 teaspoon dried, crushed red pepper
2 crowns broccoli, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces.
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
3 (5-6 ounce each) fresh salmon fillets
Method for Glazed Salmon & Veggies:
In a small bowl, whisk together honey, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, rice wine vinegar, and crushed red pepper.
In a separate large bowl, place broccoli and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper; coat evenly.
Place salmon in the center of a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Brush salmon fillets with some of the honey mixture and evenly distribute broccoli around the salmon. The broccoli florets will char in such close proximity with the heat, but that’s how we like it. Consider substituting fresh green beans or asparagus instead of broccoli, if desired.
Broil for 4 minutes; remove from the oven and brush evenly with more of the honey mixture. Return to the oven and broil for another 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and again brush with the remaining honey mixture. Return to the oven and boil for another 2 minutes. Serve immediately. Yield: 3 servings.
Pumpkin Turkey Chili
Recipe inspired by Maggie Carr and Alexis Schreiber.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium-sized white onions, chopped
1 pound ground turkey, 93% lean
1 packet low-sodium chili seasoning
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, unseasoned
2 15-ounce cans kidney beans (do not drain)
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 4.5 ounce can Old El Paso chopped green chilies
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (or 2 cans if you love pumpkin!)
Coarse sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Garnish with plain Greek yogurt, grated 2% Cheddar cheese, and chopped onion
Method for Pumpkin Turkey Chili:
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add ground turkey, breaking up pieces and cooking until no longer pink. Add the seasoning packet and stir thoroughly. Add the tomatoes and kidney beans (do not drain). Stir mixture together thoroughly. Add parsley, oregano, cumin, and chili powder. Add diced chili peppers and pumpkin puree; stir well.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to one hour, until the chili thickens and flavors come together. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Don’t forget the crusty bread for dipping! Yield: Approximately 6 servings of 1-1/2 cups each.
When Erik told me about Black Bean Brownies, I couldn’t wait to get the recipe. I love anything with black beans in it, but who knew you could pair it with cocoa and oats — two more big favorites. He and Alicia say that a food processor is the best method for mixing the dough, but if you don’t have one, a blender is an option.
Food Processor Alert: If you have a Cuisinart food processor, before using the chopping blade again, go online to Cuisinart.com/recall and find out if your blade is one of the eight million defective ones. Pieces of the blade have broken and mingled with the food and people have broken teeth and received cuts on lips and in their mouths. My blade is on the recall list (a list of a jillion different models). There’s an online form to fill out to request your new blade. I count myself among the lucky Cuisinart owners whose blade did not break.
Black Bean Brownies
Recipe inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie Dessert Blog and provided by Rebekah Tennant Shoobridge.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and well drained
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup or agave (honey can also be substituted)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar, or a pinch of uncut Stevia (You may omit the sugar and increase maple syrup to 1/2 cup or add 1/4 cup honey.)
1/4 cup coconut or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup or 2/3 cup chocolate chips — not optional! Omit at your own risk!
Optional: More chocolate chips for presentation.
Optional: Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon to mixture.
Method for Black Bean Brownies:
Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a good food processor and blend until completely smooth; really blend well. Stir in the chips and pour the mixture into a greased 8-by-8-inch pan. Optional: Sprinkle additional chocolate chips over the top.
Bake the brownies for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Allow brownies to cool completely before trying to cut them. If they still seem a bit undercooked, you can place them in the fridge overnight and they will magically firm up!
Don’t reveal the secret ingredient before your guests try them; they’ll likely never guess it’s black beans!
Pumpkin Protein Pancakes
Recipe inspired by Body for Life Cookbook and provided by Sue Steel.
6 egg whites
1 cup old fashioned uncooked rolled oats (not quick oats)
1/2 cup fat-free cottage cheese
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 packets of Splenda (or 1 tablespoon brown sugar)
If you prefer plain pancakes, increase the cottage cheese to one cup and omit the pumpkin puree.
Method for Pumpkin Protein Pancakes:
Put all ingredients into a blender container and blend until smooth. Add 1/4 cup water or milk to bring mixture to pouring consistency. Cook pancakes on a griddle. Yield: about six 3-inch pancakes (2 servings, 3 pancakes each).
(Editor’s note: If you have recipes to share, or recipes you want, contact Marie Cook, Coastal Point, P.O. Box 1324, Ocean View, DE 19970; or by email at ChefMarieCook@gmail.com. Please include your phone number. Recipes in this column are not tested by the Coastal Point.)