Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Much Needed Break…

Sometimes all it takes is a step back, a break from the grind, a breath from work to clear your mind to realize a few things. One of my best friends Kim Hughes, turned 40 this week, and we decided to take a trip down to Miami and Key Largo for some R&R and to celebrate this monumental birthday.

My eyes were opened on this little getaway…

Personally, I make myself busy constantly – writing programs, training people, new recipes, writing songs, meetings, running, catching up with friends… the list goes on and on.  It’s easy to get caught up in your life so much so that one day you open your eyes and realize that you’re not actually living.  I think sometimes I try to stay purposely busy with everything else so I don’t have to be alone with myself.  For it is in those moments, you have to look inside and accept all of you – the good, the bad, the ugly.  Sometimes it’s not pretty.  

Down in Key Largo (one of my favorite places on earth) I was out on the ocean and couldn’t hardly tell where the sky began and the ocean ended…  it was beautiful.  Incredible. Seeing things like that makes me realize that the creation of this earth and each of us has true purpose.  Every person we cross paths with in this life – there’s is a beautiful reason, and we should not take it for granted.

I have been lately, and because I put everything else above what was important, I almost lost something I love.  

 I came back from vacation with an open heart, mind, a want to start some things over.  I have a new sense of life and love.  I haven’t been loving enough, I haven’t been living enough…  It’s not about the money we make and how much we can pack into a day, but instead it’s about the time we spend with others, how we can lift each other up, how our lives can better other people’s, and trying to leave behind an imprint on this crazy world.  I don’t think you necessarily need a clear, blue ocean to have your heart changed (but it’s a good reason to get away). 🙂 You just have to be open enough to see the gifts you already have. 

“Everything needs a break.” 
― Toba Beta,

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Dear Boston

Builders build, painters paint, writers write… After witnessing the tragedy in Boston first, I came home with a fresh take on life, a new thankfulness for my blessings, and a heavy heart. Although I did not see the blood that was shed with my own two eyes on Boylston Street – I saw the smoke come out of the side of the building and felt the blasts in my belly. Coming home and realizing how close you were to such a loss – something that has affected the WORLD – is a strange feeling.

From this I asked myself what could I do to shed light on the situation? What did I take, see, hear and feel while I was up there? How can I share my heart and spread the amazing love that I witnessed? Again, builders build, painters paint, writers write. I’m a writer.

This song was written by Ben Caver and me, and is dedicated to everyone at The Boston Marathon 2013 – especially those who lost their lives and who were injured. Any money made from the download of the song Dear Boston on iTunes is sent straight to the One Fund. Thank you for listening, for your support and love.

Dear Boston – this is my love letter to you…

One Dressing…Three Salads

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I have found the dressing of all dressings!!!

I had a friend give me a bunch of broccoli recently, so I found a recipe for a salad last week and went to the store to by a few things for it.  The salad and especially the simple dressing was SO good.  I couldn’t get enough.  Because I had extra goat cheese and cranberries, over the next few days I tried a couple more salads with some of the leftover ingredients…

The first one (bottom right) I got from Love and Lemons, which is a Roasted Broccoli, Goat Cheese and Cranberry Salad.  Salad numero dos (the bottom left) is a salad I threw together inspired by a salad I had at the Silly Goose last weekend – it’s a Caramelized Butternut Squash, Apple and Quinoa Salad, and salad number 3 – on the top is a Grilled Peach and Goat Cheese Salad (inspired by the Love and Lemons blog as well).  All of these are SO good, so fresh, and the dressing is super simple and super yummy.

The Dressing – Apple Cider & Honey Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Salad #1 – Roasted Brocoli and Cranberry Salad

INGREDIENTS:

4 or so cups of lettuce (1 small head)
2 cups broccoli flourettes (plus olive oil, salt & pepper for roasting)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts – I toasted mine
*optional: a protein of your choice: shrimp, chickpeas, tofu, chicken

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 450. Place broccoli flourettes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until dark brown. (20 minutes or so).
2. Make the dressing while you wait. In a small saucepan over low heat, heat honey and vinegar until warm. Turn off heat and whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Toast pine nuts in a small skillet for just a couple of minutes until golden brown. Set aside
4. Assemble salad components. Toss salad with as much or little dressing as you like.

Salad #2 – Caramelized Butternut Squash, Apple and Quinoa Salad

INGREDIENTS

2-3 cups of lettuce or spinach
1-2 packs of Trader Joe’s butternut squash
1 cup of quinoa cooked
1/2 apple sliced
1/4 cup of goat cheese
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
Chicken (optional)

METHOD 

1. Caramelize the butternut squash.  I did this by laying out the squash on a baking pan with a bit of I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter, 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a dash of salt and pepper. Make sure the squash is covered.  Roast at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until the squash is soft and caramelized.
2. While the squash is caramelizing, cut the apple, toast the pine nuts, and prepare the quinoa. Place the lettuce in a bowl and prepare your dressing.
3. Once the squash is done, let everything cool a bit – pine nuts, squash and quinoa.  Place the quinoa on top of the lettuce followed by the squash, chicken, apple, cheese and nuts.
4. Cover with dressing and toss well.

Salad #3 – Grilled Peach and Goat Cheese Salad

INGREDIENTS:

Lettuce – any kind of greens
1/4 cup of pine nuts roasted
1/4 cup of goat cheese
4 peaches cut in fourths – make sure they are ripe!

METHOD:

1. Heat the grill.
2. Toast your pine nuts and prepare the greens in a bowl.
3. Once the grill is ready – sear the peaches just until they get a nice sear to them.
4. Place the grilled peaches on top of the greens.
5. Top with the toasted pine nuts and goat cheese.
5. Cover in dressing and mix!

 

We’re On Drugs

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That title got your attention huh?  Well I will admit that I’m one of many who have a problem with one of the strongest drugs in the world – SUGAR.  Oh yes, just the thought of sitting in bed with Netflix and a chocolate cake puts a smile on my face.  🙂  But as I also know, after I’m done indulging in that chocolate cake I feel guilty or sick or just plain terrible.  Okay, okay – 1 piece won’t do that, but for those of us who have or had sugar problems, we don’t stop at 1!!  

A friend recently sent me this article on sugar, which I think you should definitely check out – whether you’re a fan of sweets or not.  What we don’t realize is that SO much of the food we eat – the processed stuff – contains a bunch of sugar that we don’t need.   I mean, this article is on Oprah’s website, so it HAS to be good, right??  Check it out –  The One Thing We All Agree On.

Here are a couple of pointers for cutting back sugar or trying to curb your sugar binges…

1.  Find Substitutes. If you’ve ever read my blog before – you know I’m a fan of Quest bars.  Like biggest fan ever.  They should probably sponsor me.  🙂  Seriously Quest bars changed my life.  They have 20 grams of protein in each bar, 1 gram of sugar, around 190 calories per bar, and are gluten free. I eat a couple a day, so I’m praying they don’t find some strange chemical in these bars that I’m eventually going to die from, because trust me – I’ll be the first to go!!  But there are always sweet treats out there that are better for you than the processed candy bars and sheet cakes at Kroger.  You can have fun finding something that works for you that fills the need.

2.  Cut back on fruit.  Don’t eliminate!!  But cut back if you intake a lot.  Natural sugar is better than processed, but fruit is still a sugar, so cut it back if you’re trying to curb your intake. If you’re a sugar fiend, and you eat a lot of fruits, cutting back might help binging and triggers as well. Stick to veggies and low glycemic fruits like berries and cherries.  

3.  Read labels.  Know what is IN the foods that you’re buying.  Look at the “total sugars” on a label and divide that number by 4.  That’s how many teaspoons of sugar you’re ingesting.  Scary, huh?

4.  Go natural.  The more natural your food is, the better.  If you google some articles about sugar in foods or watch some of the documentaries out there, you might be shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joes more and more.  Organic veggies, bright colors, local and home grown are the best ways to go. Stay home and make dinner instead of going out.  That way you know exactly what’s going in.  Remember the saying that is so true – you are what you eat!

5.  Try a 30 day challenge.  Back before the holidays my boyfriend and I made a deal that I wouldn’t eat sweets – meaning candy, cake, cookies, ice cream, muffins and so forth, and he wouldn’t eat pizza.  This forced me to find substitutes that would satisfy my sweet tooth, and it made me crave sugar a lot less.  Again, I don’t believe in cutting things completely out unless you have an allergy – otherwise if you get back on sugar at some point, it could get ugly.  Do this with a friend if you want to try this one and have someone to be accountable to!  

6.  Everything in moderation!!  If doing a challenge isn’t for you – know that you CAN have sugar you just have to have it in moderation.  There’s no reason you can’t enjoy what you love, it’s all about balance.  For a lot of us sugar can be a trigger to consume more sugar, so you just have to be aware, have faith that you can say no to more than you really want.  Have a bite of the cake – ask yourself if you REALLY want more.  If you do, then have another.  Be aware of how much you’re intaking.  You’ll feel better if you can enjoy a few bites and then put it down rather than eating it all or 1 more piece or 10. 🙂  

7.  Play with your food!  Look – just because sugar is basically legal crack and tastes oh so good, it doesn’t mean that we have to completely cut it out or wean ourselves off of the sweet TASTE.  It’s more about eating the right kinds of sugar and finding substitutes for your cravings as I mentioned above.  For me, what has been really fun since changing my diet a bit has been finding ways to make unhealthy things healthy – especially sweet treats.  Which leads me to my next topic…

Scroll back up to the top of this blog and look at those lovely cupcakes…  would you believe that they are vegan, gluten free and naturally sweet?  (Meaning no processed sugar – only honey or agave is used.)  Well, they are.  Now…. don’t get too excited – these aren’t my famous avocado cupcakes – you’ll have to torture me for that recipe, but this one is a fun one to try as well…  (I do have to confess – these are RICH and the avocado frosting makes it even richer.  I put a dab of regular frosting on the top and liked it a bit better,)  Here’s the recipe that I got from Love and Lemons – enjoy!! 

Chocolate Cupcakes with Avocado Frosting

cupcakes:
  • 1 1/4 cups spelt flour – I used a blend of almond meal and gluten free flour, but I think spelt would work better 
  • 3/4 cup agave syrup – I used honey
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup almond milk – I used skim
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
frosting:
  • 2 very ripe avocados
  • 1/4 cup chopped baking chocolate (around 65% cacao)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup agave – I used honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup almond milk – I used skim 
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Make the cupcakes: Mix the wet ingredients, mix the dry ingredients, mix together and bake for 15-18 minutes at 325 degrees. These are best if you under bake them slightly (since there’s not very much oil in the recipe).
  2. Make the frosting: Melt the baking chocolate in the microwave (careful not to burn it). Let it cool slightly. In a food processor mix all ingredients together. Taste and adjust. Let chill in the fridge for at least 15 or so minutes.

Lunge Sequence

Moooooove of the week!!  This is an awesome sequence that will BURN!!! I took Devin Tolentino’s class at Barry’s Bootcamp one day and we did this with step ups, and I was sore for days.  You can really do this sequence with ANY exercise, that’s what makes it oh so good!  One of my awesome clients Courtney is demoing this sequence for us with split squats or stationary lunges.  (She already did this with step ups and plyo squats, and STILL looks this good!!)  You’ll need HEAVY, medium and light weights.  Courtney has 20s, 15s, and 10s for this exercise.  Line up the weights so that you can get to them easily.  Start with the heavies and do 10 reps, then move to the mediums for 20 reps and light weights for 30 reps.  If you want to try split squats like Courtney – stay on your back toe, knees pointed forward and make sure that when you are down in the lunge that your front knee doesn’t go past your toe.  Get low on the lunge and push through the reps. If you’re really crazy, you can walk the sequence back up and do another set of 30 reps, then 20 then 10…hehehee. Love the burn, feel the burn, own the burn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Every day you have 2 choices: continue to sleep with your dreams, or wake up and chase them.

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