quick power snack: tasty caprese crispbread

If you’re in the mood for a quick, easy, and hearty snack made with ingredients you most likely have on-hand, this one’s for you!

Our  homemade Tasty Caprese Bread is a fast and simple way to whip up an arguably gourmet snack to satisfy a crunch or salt craving. All with ingredients you can feel good about.

Here’s what to grab for 2 servings:

4 crispbreads

1 tomato, sliced

mozzarella (buffalo is best, but shredded is fine)

balsamic vinegar

basil flakes

Top crispbreads with tomato slices.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and top with shredded or sliced mozzarella. Add a generous sprinkle of basil flakes.

Toast in a toaster oven for 7 minutes or until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.

Let cool and enjoy! You have just made yourself a filling, all-natural power snack.

I’d like to thank my boyfriend for this wonderful creation.

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Fa-YAY! the wonders of greek yogurt

If you’re like me, there was a point in your life where the processed and artificial-ness of Activia was cause enough to give it up cold turkey. Luckily for me, this was right around the time Greek Yogurt entered my life. I was skeptical and weaning myself off the fake sweet, watery goodness commercial yogurt brands brainwashed us all into mistaking for real wholesome yogurt.

But once I acknowledged all the undeniably fantastic things about Greek Yogurt, I was hooked and have never looked back. Yes, it’s a taste and consistency that takes getting used to but so worth it. Greek Yogurt is like a highly concentrated version of all the good things about it’s distant cousin.

1. Lower sugar. Have you ever checked out the back of that Dannon container? Many types of regular yogurt have lots of added sugar. Yes, you need to watch out for high amounts of sugar in Greek Yogurt but typically only in the flavored kinds. Plain Green Yogurt usually contains <10g sugar per serving.

2. All natural. Regular yogurt companies may use artificial ingredients, preservatives, and milk from cows treated with who-knows-what. It’s always a smart choice to go with GY if only for quality of ingredients.

3. High protein. Non-fat dairy protein is complete and awesome for you, especially when included in a high-activity diet. Plain or Vanilla versions of GY boast more than 20g of protein per serving, compared to 5g in some of the leading regular yogurt brands.

4. Live active cultures. Same stuff that promotes regularity that most of the regular brands like to brag about. Oikos and Chobani have 5 LACs, Fage contains 2.

5. Versatility. Plain GY is not a far cry from sour cream, and can be used as a healthy nutrient packed substitute in a number of recipes. I’ve used it for baking, for dips, and as a base for sauce in a pasta dish to name a few.

Once you discover the creamy goodness of Greek Yogurt,  it’s sure to become your new grocery store staple that you find yourself eating at least once a day. It’s certainly pricier than other yogurt alternatives, but without a doubt worth the extra cost. Try adding a high-fiber cereal, fresh or frozen fruit, and even almond or peanut butter for a quick, fulfilling snack.


big meal of the weekend: turkey stoup

I’m pleased to announce my first official Big Meal of the Weekend: Turkey Stoup

I just gracefully burnt my tongue on this incredibly healthy and satisfying creation. What is stoup do you ask? A hybrid soup/stew. Here’s what you need:

1lb ground turkey

Lots of hearty veggies: 1/2 to 1 cup of the following: onion, green beans, carrots, celeri, spinach, potato

1 jalapeno, diced

1 can pinto beans

Low sodium chicken broth

Can diced tomatoes

1 tbsp diced garlic

Start by browning the ground turkey in a splash of EVOO. Chop all the veggies into stew-sized pieces. In a stew pot, heat a generous amount of EVOO and add garlic, jalapeno, onions, green beans, carrots, potato, celeri. Hold spinach for later.

 

When the turkey is finished browning, put to side. Let the veggies sautee  for about 10 minutes. Then, add 1 cup diced tomatoes and 3 cups broth. Rinse and drain the beans, add. Stir in the cooked turkey and a handful of fresh spinach leaves. Optional: 1 tsp ground cumin. Add sea salt/pepper to taste.


Bring to a boil and let simmer, checking every 10 minutes. Let it cook until the potatoes look soft, but not falling apart like above. Serve alone or with a piece of whole wheat bread. Enjoy!

Find our inspiration here.


McDonald’s gives oatmeal a bad name

Despite the recent sweeping trend of providing ‘healthy’ menu alternatives at even some of the notoriously worst restaurants (think Unos: home of the 2,000 calorie ‘Pizza Skins’ who now offer ‘Five Grain’ thin crust pizza), one chain giant yet again gives us a reason to never stop being skeptical. Published yesterday on Time’s health page was an article about how McDonald’s Fruit & Maple Oatmeal is made with an offensive number of artificial ingredients and contains just about as many calories as an Egg McMuffin. Read more here.

And then check this out for a good laugh.

I’m a bit disappointed, Micky D’s. I’ll admit, I hadn’t yet had the pleasure to select this bait-n-switch bomb in a pinch, but I guess I’ll stick to egg & cheese on an english muffin from Dunkin Donuts as my default on-the-go breakfast. Well, that is, until they get ratted out.


insanity diaries – day 5

Just completed my FIFTH official day of Insanity workouts!! Woohoo. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

1. P90X Plyo (I cheated) 2. Cardio Power & Resist 3. Plyo Cardio Circuit 4. Cardio Recovery & Fit Test 5. Pure Cardio

Today (Pure Cardio) was by far the most insane of them all. As I mentioned before, once you get through with the warm-up (cardio & stretching) you only have 20 minutes left on the clock so you’re thinking, no sweat! The actual workout in Pure Cardio is just over 15 minutes long but it is straight out 1-minute cardio intervals. Anyone familiar with interval training like myself will tell you that 30-second intervals can actually be breezy (Jillian Michael’s typically uses these, especially in her new videos). 45-second intervals are a bit more challenging, and it really depends on how what intensity of exercise you’re doing.

1-minute intervals are down right brutal. Especially after a warm-up that includes moves like ‘Heismans’ and ‘Mummy Kicks.’

Unlike the other videos I’ve tried so far from the Insanity line-up, none of the moves in Pure Cardio are repeated. 15 minutes straight of intervals may not be that bad however he starts you off with Switch Kicks and Suicides and brings you home with Suicide Jumps and Push Up Jacks. Woof.

But I’m alive! And loving it. If I wasn’t a seasoned vet in terms of plyo stuff and interval training I can confidently say I would never make it through these. I’m not sure this program is designed for people who are moderately to significantly overweight or who haven’t seen a gym in years. Most of the moves are ultra advanced and you’re pressured to move FAST. Often times I find myself wondering if I compromise form or speed in order to see the most improvement. This feels more like what can we do to kick the TRAINERS ass? Sounds like some of the  participants in the video are trainers or spin instructors. And they are dying.

So how am I feeling so far? For the most part great. Other than feeling a bit under the weather for two days, I felt like I was coming down or fighting a bug. It did cross my mind that it may be my body adjusting to a shift in workout intensity and also eating patterns but I had that throaty/achy feeling that’s unmistakable for a virus of some sort. Feeling a bit better today and I’ve been determined to not miss a workout.

More than anything, I’m focused on eating right – planning ahead and not deviating from a set schedule. Insanity comes with an eating guide, I’m not following that exactly but the idea I’m going for is to have 300-400 calories every 2-3 hours. My diet each day has looked something like this:

7am: 1 egg/2 egg white omlette w/mushrooms, spinach, avacado. A bit of cheese, 80-100 calorie whole wheat bread, splash of ketchup.

10am: Serving of plain 0% Greek Yogurt with almond butter & strawberries

12pm: Hearty serving of homemade Turkey Chili with a slide of whole wheat bread, 1 medium apple

3pm: 1 pouch organic flax oatmeal (or any all natural, low sodium/sugar alternative) with walnut pieces

6pm: Tufu, veggies with whole wheat pasta seasoned with salt-free Mrs Dash (Fiesta Lime is the shiz)

8pm: 1 VitaMuffin Top – soo good!

Not sure how many calories but since I’m not new to controlling a diet, I’m trying to listen to my body and eat when it’s hungry. We’ve all read about the idea that when your body isn’t getting enough calories it can go to a semi or full-on starvation mode which is actually even worse than eating too much since everything you eat will be stored as fat. No fun! The Insanity workouts are fairly quick, only 40 mins or so in the first 4 weeks of the program so I’m not sure how many calories you’re burning but what I do know is jump-training ignites metabolism. I’m certainly more hungry than usual, so over the next week or so I plan to tweak my diet until I find the perfect balance.

In terms of body composition, I am feeling quite lean. Perhaps because this past week was my ‘lady week’ and I always feel extra fresh after going through that, but I do feel strong and lean. My body hasn’t been too sore, except for my calves. They have felt like knots each morning, but not so bad this morning. Other than that, I do feel a bit worn down but not sore in any other area. I’m not sure that I’m expecting to be ripped since there’s no strength training involved but with lots of lower-body explosive movements I’m anxious to see how I can transform those problem areas.

Although the Fit Test doesn’t ask you to take measurements, I’ve added a few to my Insanity calendar that I will track each day I do the Fit Test. Here’s where I am as of Day 4:

Bust: 33 1/4″ Waist: 27″ Hips: 38 1/4″ Upper Arm: 11″ Mid Thigh: 20 3/4″

Upper arms and hips are probably where I’m looking to change the most.

Tomorrow is my first rest day I’m pumped!


what fruit curbs appetite & aids weight loss?

For years doctors and researchers have been trying to unlock the mysterious connection between weight maintenance and grapefruits. This vibrant member of the citrus family has a bad rep on the fad diet list, but there may be some actual science to back up weight loss claims when added to a healthy, active lifestyle.

I’m not expert, but what I am an expert on is picking up on anything that can help cut corners in my effort to stay thin and feel great. A number of studies conducted over the years prove the link between 1/2 a grapefruit before every meal and a considerable amount of weight loss. Mind you, the participants were most likely significantly overweight so any change toward a healthier eating regime would show improvement but that’s besides the point. I’m intrigued so I wanted to find out more.

It seems like what’s really going on with our bitter-sweet friend is a property that moderates blood sugar. I have read that when you take the time to meticulously cut out every little piece (and you know you’ll never get it all) before eating a meal, the grapefruit stabilizes your blood sugar level so that whatever you eat after has a lower chance of causing a spike which means a lower chance of fat storage. And 1/2 a fruit boasts a mere 40 calories.

Often times the weekends can be a sabotage to an otherwise great week of eating flawlessly and exercising like a saint. We all know what it’s like to overdo it with a dark chocolate bar. Or go a bit appetizer crazy at Girl’s Night. Or select a seemingly balanced item off the menu only for it to be dripping in butter or oil. It sounds like 1/2 a grapefruit before ingesting a meal that is normally a diet wrecker may mitigate the damage.

I’ve been dabbling with having 1/2 a grapefruit once every couple days. I’m trying to be mindful of making sure to have some before a big eating spree but you really need to plan ahead. I find myself having some before or after dinner on the week nights, where I don’t technically need to block fat but I’ll take it where I can get it. And did I mention they taste WONDERFUL!


insanity diaries – day 2

Am I crazy?!? I may be.

From what I gather, I’m not the only one. Beachbody workout programs seem to be all the craze. Starting with P90x and most recently with the release of Insanity, apparently the most  hard-core of them all. What piqued my interest (along with my boyfriends) was a late night infomercial for P90. First off, let me take a step back and say a little bit more about myself.

I’m 26 years old and have been working out for years – 10 I think? Starting in high school with 20 minutes or so every few days running on the treadmill. Eventually I became comfortable with the weight room and dabbled in basic weight training and mat ab work. Fast forward to my college years, and I found myself at all sorts of gym classes. Kickboxing, ab and bum blasters, Pilates and even tai chi. At this point I was doing around half an hour of cardio a day followed by 15-20 mins of weight training, with a couple of days here and there of Pilates. Post college things changed quite a bit. The last thing I wanted to spend money on was a gym membership, so I had to be creative.  I moved to Boston in 2007, this is when On-Demand became popular through my cable provider and Exercise TV really turned out to be a god-send (the website is just as amazing http://www.exercisetv.tv). As part of my subscription I was able to view full-length workout videos which helped increase my fitness level and test my body in new ways. In no time I was officially a huge Jillian Michael’s fan, the concept of jump training blew my mind and I quickly became addicted to high intensity workouts. This is also around the time I first gave yoga a shot and learned all sorts of new ways to use my body, I was really inspired by how yoga defined parts of me I had never seen before and how much more dynamic a practice it can be than Pilates.

Needless to say, over the past few years  I’ve carved out a significant spot in my life for fitness and always find myself looking for the next instructional video to challenge me physically and mentally. I religiously workout every morning, 6 out of 7 days a week. Yes, there have been plateaus, yes there have been times when I haven’t been inspired as much as others, but overall pushing myself physically has become an official and unplanned outlet and destination in my life.

I’ve been looking for an excuse to start any sort of blog for the past few weeks, if for nothing more than a creative outlet. At the same time, it seems I always feel an underlying nag to completely re-vamp my life. My diet, my body, my appearance, work, location….I could go on and on.  Why don’t other people feel this way? Is everyone so happy or at least satisfied with the status quo that they don’t constantly stretch their mind for ways to improve their life?

Anyway, enter Insanity. Am I unreasonably attached to Jillian Michael’s DVDs? Yes. Do I have a Bob Harper DVD that’s still in the wrapper, yet I can’t wait to try it? Yup. Do I think the Beachbody videos are a tad cheasy and cliche? Perhaps. But one thing I’ve learned from self-improvement is to always have an open mind because you never know how things will work out or what will actually make you happy. So I am in! All or nothing baby. I need something to shock my system (both mentally and physically) and since I’ve become strangely addicted to the way it feels to be strong and toned, Insanity felt right up my alley.

So I have a confession. You are supposed to complete the Fit Test on Day 1. I cheated a  bit (or maybe actually pushed it) and did the Plyo video from P90x. Just to get a taste, and decide which program was right for me. Also, my boyfriend joined the fun just to see what the fuss was about. My impression of P90 was too slow and more geared toward men or those who aren’t used to killing themselves at least a couple times a week. If I was going to make a huge difference I wanted to really feel it, feel like I’m going to die. I decided Insanity sounded like more of fit for me, so I began today with Cardio Power & Resistance.

Can I just say that I am not a fan of warm-ups. I usually fast forward to the actual workout if nothing more than to save time. You don’t want to do that with these, the warm-ups are essential and definitely part of the workout if you are looking to maximize calorie burn. All in, the warm-up in this video was close to 15 minutes. The first section was comprised of 3 sets of 8 cardio moves that really fire up your heart rate. Then a brief stretching section. You are literally almost halfway through the workout by the time the warm-up is through. I wasn’t dying as I’ve read in other reviews, but I felt it. The rest of the workout consists of 2 circuits: 3 sets of 4 strength/jump/cardio moves that increase in pace with each round. He also throws in a couple sets in between the circuits so just when you think it’s over, think again.  I skipped the cooldown because I was late for work.

Cardio Power & Resistance was exactly what I expected. There were certainly points where I wanted to die and I had to modify some moves (especially the Hit the Floor and Moving Push-Ups).  Since I’m a Jillian Michaels snob, it did feel like the sequence lacked substance and purpose – just a bunch of crazy cardio moves strung together to make sure the majority of users feel like this is the most ‘insane’ workout they’ve ever done. I always feel with Jillian, the workouts, down to the moves and length of each, are well thought out and purposeful.

I’ve put together my own workout and progress calendar which I will share later and do plan on completing the Fit Test on Day 4. Tomorrow is the Plyometric Cardio Circuit, which based on today’s ‘strength’ video will probably be just short of first degree murder. Wish me luck!