Friday, September 28, 2012

Just Protein Pancakes

"I feel like I've never done this before"...Annie, Overboard

I was on Facebook one day last winter when one of the pages I follow shared a page for Protein Pancakes. Alas, as someone who typically tries to eat a healthy diet pancakes were not something I had regularly. So I was excited about the idea of pancakes that were in fact good for me to eat, and not the starchy substance that all health magazines and sites encourage you to avoid. This was new territory!

So of course I picked up the few ingredients I needed to make these magical pancakes, and whipped them for breakfast the next morning. This is actually how I discovered Tone It Up! - which is a great online company that offers a lot of excellent information and tips as well as workouts and a nutritional plan.

This recipe has as much protein as an omelette and keeps you full all morning. I like a good omelette,  but I seriously can't eat eggs every morning. You can really vary the ingredients to suit your style. Or make easy substitutions depending on what you have on hand. For example, you could use some apple sauce if you do not have a banana on hand or vary the fruit. I have these a few mornings a week so I like to get creative! You could also have them as a snack. Here is the original recipe below:

1/4 cup egg whites
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (organic brown rice protein or whey)- visit your local nutrition store or wholefoods!
2 tbs vanilla almond milk or skim
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs ground flaxseed
After above ingredients are mixed together add 1/2 banana (mashed)- mash first, then add!!
Add a handful of fresh or frozen blueberries

Pour into a pan that has been sprayed with olive oil cooking spray ~ heat on medium. Cook one side until you see the little bubbles.. just like cooking any pancake! Flip over (careful!) and cook on the other size until the middle is done (peek inside with a fork). Top with two sliced strawberries and optional powdered stevia. ENJOY your protein pancakes :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Just Curry Tuna Cakes

"Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid."... Mom, Almost Famous

This recipe caught my eye a few weeks ago on one of the blogs I follow - . I really admire Tina who is the woman who started Carrots N Cake as she was one of the first big healthy living blogs. She even got a book published of her recipes which really shows you how powerful this medium has become. Tina is also one of the "founders" of the Healthy Living Summit which is an event that I hope to attend next year. It's great to see an example of someone who followed their bliss and through time and dedication turned their passion into their profession.

Here was the recipe:

Curry Tuna Cakes
1 can of tuna, drained
1 egg
1/2 tbsp coconut flour
1/2 tsp curry
1 tsp minced garlic
Chopped scallions
Salt + pepper to taste
Coconut or olive oil for the pan

Combine all ingredients (except oil) in a bowl; blend well.
Divide tuna mixture in half and then form into two cakes.
Heat pan on medium-low heat and coat with oil.
Add tuna cakes to pan and slowly cook on each side until lightly browned.
Remove from pan and serve immediately.

Makes 2 cakes

I was sort of intrigued as to how canned tuna would be cooked. With all of the spices it was actually quite delicious. Sadly my cakes did not hold their shape quite as well as Tina's. I think people are a little too concerned sometimes with how foods look. When you are cooking alternatively you have to accept that it might not turn out as perfectly as you would like. With some avocado slices and roasted asparagus on the side it honestly did not matter. I recommend checking out the blog and this recipe.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just Relax

"The reason that I can be 38 and have two kids and wear a bikini is because I work my ass off. It's not an accident. It's not luck, it's not fairy dust, it's not good genes. It's killing
myself for an hour and half five days a week, but what I get out of it is relative to what I put into it. That's what I try to do in all areas of my life." Gwyneth Paltrow

Kudos to Gwyneth for stating the obvious. I remember this from an interview she had done within the past year or so. I thought it was so refreshing for a celebrity to completely come clean about what it takes for a woman to look good. Let alone one who is in her late thirties and has had children. It's dedication and not magic. Honestly, it's not even being rich and famous because I know we can all name a good amount of television and movie stars who have less than perfect bodies. I thought she was dispelling a lot of mystery.

Of course her bold statement elicited a lot of backfire as people criticized her less than perfect body and mocked her think frame. She was challenging other people that they could in fact do it too which only made them angrier.

I work out 5-6 days a week if you count yoga classes. Is that too much? I guess I probably maintain a schedule a little like Paltrow. Working out is one of those weird things where there is no guideline for how much you should do. Most people mock working out as one of those things they can't imagine fitting in at all. So is any type of regular exercise schedule viewed as overkill or an over indulgence of time? Sometimes it's hard to gauge by the way people react. I am almost a little insulted when people comment that I'm so skinny when I really want to be seen as fit.

I have struggled with pain in my right shoulder for about a year now. It comes and goes so some days I feel ok. This week has particularly bad. I did a low impact workout on Monday night and I had to skip my yoga class tonight. I went for a walk instead, but It felt a little like a set back to me as I settled in for the night with a bath and a glass of wine. I had to remind myself that like everything else it's a journey and not a destination. You cannot let challenges deter you from your goals in any area of your life. It's important to get back on that bicycle and just keep pedaling. However, for tonight it was nice to take it easy and relax. After all, to look good and feel good it's vital to listen to your body.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Just Pasta

"Snap Out of It!"....Moonstruck, Loretta Castorini

Moonstruck is the ultimate movie that inspires Italian-style cooking for me. Probably for a lot of other people too since there are very few people who don't like Italian food! I was driving home from the gym last night and was thinking about what to have for dinner. For some reason, I was just craving marinara sauce. Maybe the tang of the tomato? I was not sure really. I thought about how I could satisfy this craving while still making a healthy meal..  

I think it's really vital to find ways to make your favorite foods while still finding short cuts to make them better for you. It's no fun to deprive yourself of the things you really want to eat. A great way to do this is to learn to cook for yourself if you don't already. Then you can substitute where you need to in recipes or modify meals you have in restaurants. Isn't that easier then pledging you'll start you diet tomorrow? Maybe it's time to snap out of the cycle.

My simple recipe combined a healthy complex carbohydrate, protein, greens and some healthy fats. Plus, it was very easy!

Chicken Sausage Arugula Pasta
1/2 Cup Quinoa Pasta (you could also use whole wheat if you prefer)
1 Cup Arugula
1 Chicken Sausage (you can pick these up at Trader Joe’s or Stop and Shop)
1/2 Cup Marinara Sauce
½ tsp Olive Oil
2 tsp Parmesan Cheese (I always prefer fresh)
Add Ground Pepper and/or Red Pepper Flakes

While I boiled the water for the pasta, I cooked the chicken sausage in pan with a cooking spray. When both were done, I combined all of the ingredients in a bowl the marinara sauce which I had heated separately. I topped it all with the Parmesan cheese, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Just Zumba

"No one puts baby in the corner"...Johnny Castle, Dirty Dancing

Or do they? Zumba is a latin dance craze that has become a popular feature at many a local gym. I hear a lot of people say they love it, and that it hardly feels like you are working out...I guess because they are having so much fun. Interesting. I can move around on a dance floor, but following a specific routine on the fly is not a specialty of mine.

So this past Friday night, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and give this dance-a-thon a try. I was running late of course from silly rush hour traffic that I didn't anticipate on a Friday afternoon. So I jumped right in with a group of about seven women who were all moving at different paces and levels.

There was a lot of cha-cha-cha and what felt a little bit like dancing at a wedding. You know how you become excited when you hear music you have heard before? So it was a little awkward at first, but gradually as I became more comfortable during the class I was moving a little more fluidly. The hour did go by rather fast and the positive spirit in the room was kind of catching.

I would not say it was an intense workout. I am sure they are all different but this class was not.  However, it did get my heart rate going and after a full day at work it simply felt good to move. I am not sure if I will return every Friday night to the class, but when the mood strikes I think it may make a guest appearance.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Just Walk

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step. Proverb

There's nothing like a good walk to clear your head and this is often what I use my daily walk to do. It allows me to think things through or mull things over...sometimes it helps me come up with new blog posts! I try to walk every day for 20 minutes. I live in New Jersey and the weather doesn't always cooperate, but I do my best. As a cube dweller, I had been looking for a way to add in a little extra movement during my day. I do a lot of sitting during a typical day. So now I like to enjoy my lunch and then go for a 20 minute walk to just get moving.

Walking is also a great way to get started with a weight loss routine. It helps your body grow stronger though increasing your cardiovascular capacity. It's so simple, and all it requires is slipping on a pair of sneakers! I keep a pair at my desk. I highly recommend walking to get started with a walking routine if you want to start exercising or need a little bit of a boost to lose a few pounds. There have been studies that have shown that walking a little after you eat improves digestion as well. It's a win-win.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just Sweet & Sour Fiesta Salad

"Why not? Life is short. Life is dull. Life is full of pain. And this is a chance for something special." Juan Antonio, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

I believe that eating and food should be a special experience. It's important to eat foods that we love and that love us back in terms of the nutrition they provide. I totally  heart this salad that I came up with over the summer. I just put it together one day just using miscellaneous items I had in my fridge. Honestly sometimes experiments results in the best meals! It's also another reason I like prepping food over the weekends because you can just grab different items and put them together. Even if you are cooking just for yourself it should be a ritual that you savor and enjoy. Hence, don't eat a bowl of cereal and a cookie standing at your kitchen counter because you can't be bothered. Whenever I have been lazy and done this I just end up eating odd snacks throughout the night, and I'm never really satisfied.

I came home from yoga class the other night and this was exactly what I wanted.
I was impressed I even made it to class since we were experiencing horrible rain storms and it's always a production for me to venture out in the rain. Aren't some nights just tougher than others?

Sweet and Sour Fiesta Salad

3 cups of greens (I prefer arugula but you could used mixed greens, spinach or kale)
1/2 cup cooked sweet potato (I toss the skin)
2 tablespoons chopped red onion (I always prefer the taste of red onion since I think it's sweeter and I also learned recently that white onions are surprisingly high in sugar...who knew?)
3 tablespoons corn (I defrosted some frozen corn I had on hand in the microwave)
1/4 of an avocado chopped
3 tablespoons black beans
3 tablespoons diced red pepper
3 ounces grilled chicken or protein of your choice (you could also use a white fish like cod or tilapia and tofu is great as a vegetarian option)

2 tablespoons nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chipotle or flavored mayonnaise
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Extra lime and salt/pepper to taste

It's so tasty and very filling! This serving is for one person so you could just double up on ingredients to make it for more people.

If you are feeling festive you could add a Skinny Girl Margarita to round out the meal. Who doesn't love Bethenny Frankel and her cocktails?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Just Getting Start with Arms

"I can't give up shopping - it's my cardio." Carrie, Sex & the City

Oh Carrie...if only it was that easy to get Sarah Jessica Parker's awesome abs and sculpted arms. We would all be downing cocktails and planning a trip to a sample sale. Unfortunately, we all know it takes a bit more work.

My mother recently asked me for a simple routine she could do for her arms. Upper body exercises should be approached cautiously because you can really hurt yourself quite easily. I used to be caught in a terrible cycle of trying out exercises and being too ambitious and then pulling one muscle or another. Nothing can derail your ambition to get stronger. So discouraging!Try to do this simple routine three times a week.

These exercises are simple and can be done at home. I recommend them especially if you are new to working out or if you want to get starting using weights. Also, the only equipment you need to get started is a two pound dumbbell which you can pick up at Target or order through Amazon. This routine will only take about 15 minutes.

Front Raise - Hold the dumbell in front of you at 90 degrees.You want to hold this position for a total of 3 minutes on each side. You can take breaks as needed until you
progress. It's harder than you think Feet should be hips distance apart and draw your belly button back to your core to maintain a solid stance. Draw your shoulders down and back.

Standing Push Up - Stand at an angle on the balls of your feet. You are going to slowly lower to the wall. Keep your hands close to your chest. Perform 15 in a slow and measured fashion.

Delt Side Raise - Use the dumbell again at each side and hold for a total of 3 minutes taking breaks as needed. Feet should be hips distance apart and draw your belly button back to your
core to maintain a solid stance. Draw your shoulders down and back.

Wall Angels - Stand against the wall with your hips tilted under you and your belly button drawn in. Hand at a 90 degree angle on both sides. Raise them up above your head for a set of 15.

Angled Door Draw-In - Choose a random doorway in your home and stand with your feet flat on the floor as close to the beam of the door as possible. Hold the sides of the door and slowly draw yourself in. Remember to draw in similar to the above exercises.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Just Curried Pumpkin Soup

“The day there is a meteorite heading toward the earth and we have 30 days to live I am going to spend it eating butter. Here’s my final word on the subject…you can never have too much butter.” Julie, Julie & Julia

Well, I cannot really imagine being this in love with butter since we all know how bad it is for you! However, I can relate to getting excited and feeling comforted by the idea of certain foods. Soup is always a particular favorite of mine, and I have even been known to eat it over the summer…in the air conditioning of course. I also am a big fan of anything pumpkin flavored.  I am already planning to try some pumpkin pancakes for breakfast this week! I love this soup as it’s an old favorite, and I’ve modified it over the years to make it even healthier. As the weather started to turn a little crisp this past weekend, it seemed just like the right thing to make. I also wanted to participate in Tone It Up’s Fall Recipe Swap so I am sharing the recipe on their community site as well.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

1 head of broccoli
1/2 pound of mushrooms
1-2 shallots (depending on size)
2 tablespoons butter substitute (I like Smart Balance but any brand will work)
1 can of pureed pumpkin
1 can of coconut milk (I used Taste of Thai)
4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth (I used Pacific Organic Vegetable Broth)
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
Cook the shallots and mushrooms in a saucepan in the butter substitute until soft. Add the pumpkin, coconut milk, broth and coconut flour.
In the meantime, steam the broccoli for a few minutes before adding to the soup mixture. Add broccoli to soup and add curry powder, salt and pepper.
Cover and simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes. Serve topped with nonfat plain Greek yogurt and chives.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Just a Pick Me Up

"Whoever said orange is the new pink was seriously disturbed"…Elle Woods, Legally Blonde

What’s your favorite pick me up? Women all have vices and it’s sort of interesting to see what everyone chooses as their indulgences. For me, the siren call of a bad day is usually in the form of a color like my quote of the day here. I gravitate towards new lipstick and nail polish colors as well as other assorted make up purchases. Someone like my sister on the other hand would balk at this decision and would be headed straight towards the clothing rack. I debate clothing so I don’t really find this to be a soothing purchase. It can often be a little stressful actually. Shoes? You have to try on so many to get it right, and I am often in regret by the time I try them on again at home.

On a recent day where I felt the urge two purchases came up. Hourglass Femme Rouge Velvet Cream Lipstick from Sephora At $30 it was big indulgence, but I decided it would last a while, and it was refillable which of course made it a bargain! It was listed as one of Jessica Alba’s favorites in a magazine and I’m really excited by her Honest line as she is trying to make organic products even more accessible. My other purchase was Zoya Nail Polish in Carmen that I purchased through Amazon which was the perfect shade of red. For me, a little makeup upgrade, and a nice hot bubble bath could make the worries of the world melt away.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just Squash & Zucchini

“I’m on this new diet, I don’t eat anything and when I feel like I am going to faint I have a cube of cheese.” Emily, The Devil Wears Prada

Hmm…well, I could seriously never survive on a diet that only involved an occasional piece of cheese. However, like everyone else I feel like coming up with meals that are tasty, healthy and quick is a challenge. What’s for dinner is surely the universal question that plagues all of us. It can feel overwhelming coming home during the week and trying to come up with a recipe. You’re tired and even if you enjoy cooking it hardly feels like the time to bust out the pots and pans and get creative. A little planning has helped me to overcome this issue. I am big on lists and as soon as I run out of something I add it for the next time I am at the store. I do my food planning on the weekends which usually involves my food shopping for the week prepping some items so they can just be reheated for dinners. Sometimes it’s as simple as making quinoa and grilled chicken ahead of time. If I make any recipes during the week I like to keep it super simple.

I came across this recipe for roasted vegetables on one of the blogs I follow Ironically the name of the post was Meals in Minutes…that’s what I like to hear! The blog writer, Brittany Mullins, suggested adding these veggies to a mix of quinoa and grilled shrimp which is exactly what I did. My oven is pretty hot so I took the veggies out after 20 minutes. It was light, easy and perfect for a week night.

Roasted Summer Squash and Zucchini

  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini and yellow summer squash (about 3 pieces), chopped in to bite-size cubes about 1/2 inch big
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, at a liquid state
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. Place zucchini, squash, onion and garlic in a large bowl, drizzle with coconut oil and stir until all the veggies are coated. Sprinkle on salt and pepper and stir.
3. Spread mixture out on a large rimmed baking sheet or baking stone and roast for 30 minutes, stirring once around the 15 minute mark.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Just Your Vision

"If you build it, he will come." Shoeless Joe Jackson, Field of Dreams

It is sort of timely that I have been planning to write a post about designing your own vision board at some point this week. I sort of had one of those blah days where you wonder if your life is headed in the right direction. There was some unfortunate drama at home, I missed my boyfriend and somehow an email campaign that I was not even aware of was my fault at work. So it was a relief to finally head home for the day. I took out my vision board as a reminder of all of the things in life that I need to remember and all of the areas of my life where I need to be grateful. I am healthy and have a lot of love in my life. I may not be making the money I want to be making, but I am not wanting for anything either. Today is 9/11 and I can still remember where I was when the infamous events took place, and I am very fortunate that I was not affected nor was anyone close in my life. So the board reminds me of what I have, but also the goals I want to obtain in the future. 

It’s easy to make your own vision board and I highly recommend it as it’s a fun process, but also helps you to zero in on what you want. When you are going through magazines allow yourself to cut out images and words that grab you and connect with you in some way. You do not have to have a plan or any specific designs in mind. In fact, you really should just allow yourself to see what you gravitate towards. Collect all of these images and buy a large board where you can paste them. It will be interesting to reflect what you have chosen. Are you living the ideal life that is reflecting back to you in that board? What are they ways you are going to get there? It’s time to seize the day because nothing should hold you back from fulfilling your potential.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Just Measure It Up

"I should have checked the milligrams…live and learn. " Cynthia, Working Girl

When my boyfriend left he took his food scale. I defy any other girl to echo that statement. I am really sure I am alone on this one. I used to think that food scales were for high end chefs or crazy dieters who worried about the trace calories in sugar free gum. I grew up with a mom who doesn’t even measure for recipes! However, I have to come to change my opinion on this matter. Simply, you cannot manage what you can’t measure. I am not saying I measure everything, and I don’t whip one out in a restaurant or anything. Although in a hilarious story, Tim Ferris author of The Four Hour Body did just that as an experiment to see what his date would say. Years ago, I would have left the restaurant…but now I might ask if I could use it too.

It helps me to know what I’m eating because quite honestly some of those rough guidelines do not work. A serving of chicken is about the size of a fist? This visual is not very helpful to me at all. Plus, I used to just throw things together, and end up with way too much food since I just couldn’t tell what was what. This is wasteful and not good for a single woman living alone unless she wants to eat the same meal multiple times during a week. I don’t recommend this either – we all need variety and balance. A food scale is simply a way to make sure you are getting the right amount of food you need. 

So I did have to replace mine when my boyfriend moved, but the good news is that they are pretty reasonably priced at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Just Apple Pie

"Could solve all of the problems of the world that pie"….Joe, Waitress

Fall is in the air and while I do hate the departure of long sunny days there are a few things I welcome about the change in season. There’s a cool crisp in the air, football, pumpkins, and apples to look forward to among other things! Well, my mom and I were excited…perhaps a little too excited to jump into apple picking season when we realized it might be a little early for the best the local farms would have to offer. So instead, we ended up taking a field trip to Trader Joe’s instead to pick up some apples and the ingredients for Tone It Up’s Dutch Apple Pie Recipe. For those of you not familiar, Karena and Katrina are trainers who started their own company looking to help women improve their lives through health, fitness and making positive lifestyle choices. Hmm…very similar to the very reasons I recently started my blog. You can check them out at

This recipe intrigued me because it basically substituted organic protein power for flour which I did not realize you could do in baking. I had experimented making muffins previously, but the end result was a little lackluster. So I was curious how this would be since I was switching in the protein powder and decreasing the sugar significantly with swapping in some stevia. However, being in an adventurous frame of mind, and of course wanting to find a guilt free resolution for my craving for apple desserts, I decided to give this a whirl.

Here is the recipe:
5 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced (I actually used 7)
¼ cup sugar (half stevia/half organic sugar) (I used half Stevia in the Raw and half Organic Maple Sugar)
¼ cup organic light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 packets or scoops of Perfect Fit Protein (click here if you want to purchase
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (I probably used closer to 2 tablespoons so you can modify it to your taste preferences)
3 tbsp natural applesauce

The recipe calls for a  pre-made whole wheat crust which would have been simpler, but Trader Joe’s did not have any…so, I googled a recipe on how to make crust and it was very simple. All you do is combine whole wheat flour and butter and you are ready to go. Hopefully you have a rolling pin on hand…which we did not. J

I did not use the recipe for the topping as I had a lot of crust left over so I chose to make a lattice instead. If you are interested, here is the recipe suggested for topping:
4 scoops or packets Perfect Fit Protein
 ¼ cup sugar (half stevia/half organic sugar)
¼ cup light brown sugar (firmly packed)
1/3 cup vegan butter substitute

Preheat oven to 375 F
Combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, protein power, lemon juice and applesauce in a bowl. Mix well to coat the fruit.
Fill pie plate with the apple mixture.
Sprinkle topping mixture evening over the apples in the crust.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top is golden brown and filling is boiling.

The end result was delicious. I really loved the pie and did not taste any of the substitutions in the recipe. You could serve with a little vanilla frozen yogurt or whipped topping. I happen to be a big fan of Trader Joe’s House Whip. Yum!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Just Towel Sit Ups

“Luck is a myth”…Steve Prefontaine, Without Limits

Unfortunately, you have to work your abs to get good ones. I battle this like everyone else because my job is mostly inactive and I just don’t get in a lot of movement during the day. So I always make sure to include some excercises in my workouts about 3 times a week.
I like to try different things to have variety, and my boyfriend introduced me to towel sit ups that he had discovered through strength coach Nick Nilsson. The trick is that you take a towel (I usually use two hand towels together since I am the gym and this is all they have) and roll it up and place it under your low back below your waist. You want the towel to be fairly thick but comfortable.
By adding this simple addition you are performing the exercise differently and also protecting your low back by making sure it’s not rounding.  If you want to make it more challenging you can hold a weight at your chest too (5-8lbs).

My usual routine:
30 straight sit ups
15 rotating to the right
15 rotating to the left
30 straight sit ups

These only take minutes and I usually do them as part of my workout, but you could easily do them at home while watching TV or before getting ready for bed. 
Here is a link to Nilsson’s article where he takes you step by step through the process.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Just Greek To Me

“Nice Greek girls are supposed to do three things in life: marry Greek boys, make Greek babies, and feed everyone…until they day we die." Toula, My Big Fat Greek Wedding

It’s no secret that Greek Yogurt has upset the dairy industry. When is the last time you saw someone eat a regular yogurt? It just doesn’t happen anymore. I love Greek yogurt as it is a more perfect version of yogurt in my mind. It is so much more creamy and delicious. I used to always find regular yogurt a little too runny if you over-mixed it, and of course you had to if you it had fruit on the bottom. Everyone from magazines to advertising is telling us that Greek yogurt is so much better for us and provides a lot more protein. This is true, however, it also provides a lot of sugar which our bodies don’t really need. The sugar also drives up the calories and carbohydrates and what was once a healthy snack is getting a little closer to dessert territory. Lately I have been experimenting with ways to turn plain Greek yogurt into a more appealing snack because without a little something it almost tastes like eating a tub of sour cream. The nice thing about it being plain is that it’s a blank canvas you can change. Here are some new combinations I really like that are worth checking out:

Apple and Cinnamon – This is my personal favorite Chobani flavor that I have closely replicated. Finely chop a half of an apple without skin and add cinnamon and Stevia to taste – it’s really good! For anyone who has not tried Stevia check out Stevia in the Raw. It’s natural and has no calories! I got my mother to give up sugar in her coffee when she tried it. And she was up to 4 teaspoons a cup - at least that’s what she confessed to.

Lemon or Lime – Use the juice of a lemon or lime and re-create either of those flavors and add some stevia to taste. It’s very close to the real thing! Haven’t you wondered why Key Lime Flavor yogurt is just too good?

Honey or Maple Syrup – Honestly a little goes a long way and even though it’s still sugar, it’s a better alternative. I usually only need a teaspoon or so to add enough sweetness.

Nuts or Nut Butter – I actually love adding almond or sunflower butter to plain yogurt. It adds a delicious flavor and changes the consistency so that’s it’s thicker. If that’s not your thing, then some chopped almonds or walnuts are good for crunch.

Flavored Whey Protein Powder – I am working on perfecting this one, but my boyfriend swears by it. It makes me very full so it’s almost more like a meal than a snack.

Fruit – Berries, mango, kiwi, you name it. They all are great with plain yogurt. Here’s a good place to try different combinations and get creative.

Flavored Extracts – It recently dawned on me that I could use vanilla extract to replicate a vanilla flavored yogurt and it was quite tasty. I’m going to try almond extract next and see what I can whip up.

Whole Grain Cereal – I like to add Barbara’s Puffins BearNaked Fit Granola in place of nuts sometimes. If I’m running late for work or not hungry in the morning I will mix up greek yogurt, cereal and fruit to eat later in the morning. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Just Go With the Flow

“Groceries, the meditation room is inside.” Richard from Texas, Eat Pray Love

I love telling people that I'm going to yoga. I know what they are thinking – oh, she’s spiritual, bendy and totally on trend too. Is yoga still “in” if it’s not hot? I am probably already behind the times. But in my mind it’s super cool to whip out my own yoga mat and strap along with a Giam block. I slip on my Victoria’s Secret yoga capris with flip flops. For some reason, I am always a sucker for the accessories and the outfit.

Alas, in the rather nondescript “studio” at my gym there is little or no ambience even though the instructor is excellent. The extra yoga mats and blocks are placed with aerobic benches and steps. As the yoga teacher asks us to settle in and forget about the day I find this very hard, downright impossible actually. I often faintly hear Taio Cruz warning me he is going to break my heart along with the whirl of a treadmill and possible a bike grinding. Of course, I soldier on and pretend all is well and tranquil. This is where I struggle with yoga. I always feel like Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love as she has a million thoughts that spring up while she is trying to mediate at the ashram in India. I am supposed to be turning off, but in some ways it feels like my mind is turning on. Where did I leave that medical form – my desk at work or my kitchen counter? Did I pick up all of the necessary ingredients from the Self magazine recipe I was dying to try? Did I remember to lock my car? Geez…it’s totally exhausting.

As a fairly fit girl yoga also frustrates me because it requires so much patience. Some of the poses are hard for me since I struggle with flexibility and I’m barely able to match the style of a woman next to me who is most likely about twice my age. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to others, but it’s hard when you’re in the dark so closely surrounded by people. I was also introduced to the chaturanga in this particular class. Yes, I was a total yoga newbie who had only sampled a few routines at home previously. For those not familiar, a chaturanga is a little like lowering yourself to the floor through a push up. Most days I feel like I am simply collapsing from a plank to a blob on the floor.

As I talked to my boyfriend about the less than stellar atmosphere of the class, he suggested I try a legit yoga studio and take it up a notch. Since this made complete sense, I signed up for a new member package at a local yoga studio. I was not sold, but thought I might be able to disconnect a little more. My first night, I noted that I was not able to wear shoes into the class and that there was incense burning. I felt better already – so yoga, so Zen! I was on my way. The class was really cool and enjoyable. However, there was still the nagging feeling of being inferior that tugged at me. It wasn’t where or the type of class I was taking - it was a struggle because of me. There was still the chatter of to-do lists knocking around in my head and I still felt a little behind the class. I made a lot of my chaturangas a child’s pose as the teacher assured us that was a totally acceptable option. But let’s not kid ourselves, it’s way easier than the dreaded chaturanga. For those not familiar, a child’s pose is sitting back into your heels with your butt grazing your feet and your arms reaching ahead of you. I seriously do love this pose as it is just one of the best stretches ever. Yes! A little closer to relaxation…maybe.

Despite the challenge every class presents, I left feeling a little different this time. Probably just a little more relaxed and a tad calmer. However long this lasted I’m not quite sure. But it was refreshing to feel that way and perhaps I realized that sometimes it’s important to embrace a challenge. After all, we’re all just a work in progress and maybe that’s ok….you just have to go with the flow.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Just Breakfast Cookie-Bars

“My love for art and for cooking spring from the same source. Both interests are lifelong, and at times they have readily intertwined.” Mollie Katzen, Still Life with Menu

Long before anyone had heard of Lara or her bars, my mom was whipping up Breakfast Cookie-Bars. Don’t let the word “cookie” fool you. These are very healthy granola bars and can be modified in numerous ways to fit your tastes. The recipe is from Still Life with Menu which was written by Molly Katzen, who was named by Health Magazine as one of the "The Five Women Who Changed The Way We Eat" and the brainchild of Moosewood. The Moosewood Restaurant is a famous natural foods restaurant in Ithaca, New York. I haven’t been there yet, but it’s definitely a place I’d like to check out. These bars are delicious when crumbled and put in a Greek yogurt, with a little bit of nut butter or by themselves. They are low sugar, low fat and have no preservatives. Be careful when buying granola bars in the stores and read the labels to check the nutritional information.  I like to modify this original recipe with almond or coconut flour and coconut oil. If I add sweetener, I typically use honey or maple syrup in place of the brown sugar. Nothing against Larabars of course…I love these natural bars and they are perfect when you are on the go.

Below is the original recipe. I like to use almond or coconut flour. I also use coconut oil for my vegetable oil and omit or use a little bit of honey or maple syrup as my sweetener.

2 cups rolled oats
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup apple juice
¼ cup wheat germ and/or ¼ cup millet flakes (optional)
1 cup (packed) dried currants or other dried fruit, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon cinnamon, plus extra for the top
6 tablespoons (maybe increased, decreased or even omitted)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ sesame seeds and/or ½ cup minced cashews (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and distribute as evenly as possible, patting the batter into place with your hands. Sprinkle the top with a little extra cinnamon.
Bake for 30 minutes. Cut into large squares while still hot, but don’t try to remove them from the pan until they are completely cool or they will seriously crumble.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Just Yours

“I wear it, I’ve always worn it”…Katherine, The English Patient

In one of my all time favorite movies, The English Patient, Katherine utters this phrase to Count DeAlmasy as he carries her through the desert. He remarks on the thimble around her neck since he has never noticed it before. He bought it for her at a street vendor at the height of their clandestine affair. He hadn’t even intended it to be a necklace. Oh...the chills this scene brings to me.

Is there something you always wear? Jewelry has the power to capture a memory or remind us of our beliefs. Perhaps it is a cross to signify your faith or a heart your husband gave you for a special occasion. Maybe you wear the names of your children around your neck to bring them closer to you throughout the day. Since starting this blog, I am currently on the hunt for an infinity like my logo. There is a ring (not an engagement ring!) that my boyfriend gave to me last Christmas that’s very special to me and I wear it often. It reminds me of him and connects me in a way that I really cannot explain. Hmm…perhaps this is how Katherine felt about the thimble.

From the beginning of time we have had a fascination with adornment. Even the most primitive of civilizations had jewelry fashioned from different materials, some of it so intricate in design that it is always fascinating to view the museum collections. Many of these pieces were worn for protection or luck, a talisman. Do you find you always have a good day when you wear a certain piece of jewelry? You are not alone. We are always searching for our lucky charm.  Many believe it is certain stones or a symbol that embodies the wearer with luck or safety or perhaps a certain necklace or bracelet or ring that was given for luck. Energy Muse is totally devoted to jewelry to bring you health, luck, energy, prosperity……and so on. Saint by Sarah Jane  has an exquisite line of designer jewelry inspired by nature.

I recently purchased a mala from a fabulous website called Tiny Devotions What does a mala mean? Well you choose it or let it choose you by simply feeling the energy that connects to you. It’s a visual display and reminder of your intentions. It’s very powerful to hold your intensions close to you and remind yourself to stay the course and work towards your goals.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Just Contact Me

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I really enjoy having the opportunity to share with all of you. I would love to hear your thoughts or suggestions at any time so please feel free to email me at