"Healthified" Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Memorial Day weekend was filled with my 3 favorite F-words: fitness, family and food. My family, boyfriend and I spent the weekend in the Adirondacks soaking up the perfect and sorta-bug-free weather. We didn't have much service which was a welcomed change; however, it didn't stop me from taking pictures of trees and desserts with Instagram. My aunt is a skinny-chef who whips up cookies the size of Frisbees then goes for a 17-mile run; so, though I didn't run a 1/2 marathon this weekend, I still got some yummy looking pictures!

A gym of any sort is out of the question so we stay active by running, biking, rowing and hiking. My boyfriend and I didn't bring our road bikes up this time--- the first hill off my road is known for flashing your life before your eyes--- instead, we hiked and the view looked like a photograph (and with the help of Instragram it really did, mwhaha!).

Whew! Going up was a workout but we did see 21 frogs--- which doesn't have to do with the hardness of the hike but it was still a lot of frogs!

Before the weekend my aunt and I bought several bushels of rhubarb from the farmer's market. I haven't cooked a ton with it but wanted to try a crisp with a healthy twist, so I introduce to you my "healthified" version of Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp.

What you'll need:

4 C chopped rhubarb
3 C hulled and halved strawberries
14 packets of Stevia (we only had individual packets)--- or use 1/2 cup of suagr
2 tsp cornstarch
4 tsp butter at room temperature
4 tsp unsweetened applesauce
1 C soft white wheat flour 
1/2 cup oats 
1/4 cup brown sugar

What to do:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the rhubarb, strawberries, Stevia, and cornstarch. 
  3. Pour into the greased baking dish.
  4. In another bowl, add the butter and applesauce into the flour oats and brown sugar.
  5. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and bake about 30 minutes, topping should be golden brown.
  6. Let cool and enjoy!

The crisp..... 

and weekend was a success!



The Organic & Cage-Free Myth

How many times during your grocery shopping trip do you idly scan shelves in hopes to select the most organic and environmentally-friendly product? I do this an average of 5 times per trip and most of the time it occurs in front of the egg and meat aisle. We’ve all heard that happy food comes from happy animals; therefore, these animals are not raised in cramped cages or killed inhumanly. Knowing this, I do my best to buy products that are dubbed organic by the USDA and featured the words “grass-fed” or “cage-free”. I assumed I was doing my part as an ethical carnivore until I read an article that made my rethink my buying habits.

The article featured on PETA’s site wrote:

Many organic and free-range farms cram thousands of animals together in sheds or mud-filled lots to increase profits, just as factory farms do, and the animals often suffer through the same mutilations—such as debeaking, dehorning, and castration without painkillers—that occur on factory farms (PETA).

I was really hurt by this information and felt I was being tricked by companies that trusted. I’ve always tried to buy organic beef but the FDA said that this meat can be labeled as organic as long as the cows are given organic feed; therefore, these cows are deemed organic but still sent to factory-farm feedlots to be fattened prior to slaughter.  Cows on organic dairy farms may still be kept in inhumane enclosures though their milk is labeled organic. I also read that some organic and “cage-free” chickens have their beaks cut off. According to my own opinion, this is not what I or the USDA should consider “organic”. I’ve always believed organic meant that animals were raised properly and never mistreated; however, this definition is becoming misconstrued and twisted into something more of an antonym of its core meaning.

What really is "Organic"?

The only advantage of organic products is that they do not contain antibiotics, hormones or arsenic-based addictive. The flesh may be somewhat healthier than non-organic animals but to avoid all of these unethical animal behaviors is to avoid all meat, eggs and dairy. This is difficult for someone like myself who doesn’t eat a ton of red meat but loves eggs. Realistically, there’s no win/win in this situation. I look for “organic” and “cage-free” eggs and buy from suppliers that I trust. There is no perfect answer and my advice is just to do the best you can when selecting your produce.


Lamb Burger with Greek Yogurt Dressing

I've been buggin' my friend and fellow blogger, Tony, for months now to share one of his delicious and inventive recipes! He'll describe his lasted dish in which I wipe up my drool and follow up with a "Tony, when are you going to send me this recipe for my blog?" Atlas, I am thrilled to feature one of Tony's yummy creations on my site. He is a gifted technological guru who's digital presence has thrived over the past years and has been an huge inspiration to my own blog. Check out his impressive website, Sheckiiville, and Twitter!

This lamb burger is as delicious as it is healthy and I'm about to grill up a few up this Memorial Day (FYI: Tony just informed me that if you're going to grill these, add some bread crumbs to the mixture for more patty firmness!) 

Thank you so much Tony and enjoy everyone!


Recipe for Summer Burger with Greek Yogurt Dressing

Ground lamb
Red onions, diced
“Greek seasoning” (garlic, onion, black pepper, oregano, mustard powder, thyme)
Ground Cayenne red pepper
Fresh garlic, chopped finely
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Red pepper, diced
Ground pork

Greek yogurt
Whipped cream cheese
Cucumber, diced
Tomatoes, diced
Cantaloupe, diced
Lemon juice
Lemon zest

Before I start explaining the recipe, here are some pressure points:

·        Dressing needs to be in fridge immediately after mixing the ingredients. The burger’s temperature will make the mixture runny — and a thick, rich dressing is better.  
·        Most people under season. Also, if you have never cooked with lamb, it reacts to seasoning different from beef. So, a pinky nail-sized test meatball is recommended.
·        When cooked, the patty’s circumference will shrink, while the thickness will increase. Keep that in mind and form accordingly to bun size.

Start with the patty mixture using a 3:1 lamb to pork ratio. The pork is optional, but a 100-percent lamb burger doesn’t taste right to me. For this recipe, make it a total 16 ounces (ie: 16 ounces of lamb or 12 ounces of lamb and 4 ounces of pork).

Dice up about a fourth of a medium sized red onion. The red pepper is optional, but I think that spice adds a very interesting taste profile with the dressing. Mix that into the patty mixture.

I’m a huge believer in season it to your pleasing, so please forgive me if you hate those type of cooks. I added a 1/4 cup of the Greek seasoning, and two cloves of finely diced garlic.

(I bought a premix named “Greek seasoning.” I’ve listed what was in the ingredients at the top.)

For the olive oil and cayenne pepper, I mix those in a small bowl together. After dividing the patties into equal amounts (I made six burgers from that 16-ounce mix), I rolled each of the meatball-shaped portions into the mix, generously coating it. Then, I formed each burger patty.

Notice I haven’t added salt and pepper yet. I adjust accordingly after the taste meatball.

After you’re please with the mix, put it into the fridge, patties fully formed and ready to cook. Let it chill there for about 30 minutes.

Now work on the dressing, but add in the Greek yogurt last.

Dice equal amounts of cucumber, tomatoes and cantaloupe. Even if you don’t like one or two of those ingredients separately, an equal combination of those together brings a lovely mix and texture.

The great thing about this dressing is that you could eat it as a desert, too — so dice a generous amount. The highlight of this burger is this dressing!

Combine it with the Greek yogurt and mix. Add in a small amount of lemon juice. Then, put it back into the fridge.

After the patties have been set for about 30 minutes, cook it on a pan on medium heat.

Because it’s a summery burger, I don’t like to toast my buns with salt, butter, mayo or anything. Like stated above, the dressing should be the highlight! Still, a light toast is recommended.

Take out the dressing from the fridge and put a light coat on the bottom bun. Put the patty on the bottom bun, put more dressing on it and generously sprinkle the lemon zest. You’ll love the scent!

I’d recommend serving this with apple fries (still working on a good recipe for this) with a whipped cream and whipped cream cheese mix (whipped cream cheese alone is pretty dense). Or a nice baby greens salad mix with a mango ginger vinaigrette.


Gardening: Basil & Onions & Peas, Oh My!

Every summer I look forward to planting my garden because (1) I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with every grown vegetable and (2) I love food. My garden is essentially my child in which I'm incredibly proud of. When plant shopping, I pick my seedlings with precision and a critical eye. It would probably be unbearable for anyone to accompany me because I've been known to scan a single section for 15 minutes...or more (I have a tad case of veggie OCD) in hopes to adopt the perfect addition to my garden family. I am also prone to buying more vegetables than what will fit in my garden. It's like being at an animal shelter and having all of those adorable animals tug at your heartstrings, how can you say no?

This year my 3rd year so I've gotten an idea on what works and what doesn't (zucchini = huge success and broccoli = epic fail). I bought tomatoes (Early Girl and Cherry), cucumbers, yellow straight-neck squash, zucchinis, sweet banana peppers, baby eggplant, white and yellow onions, Brussels sprouts (curve ball), Swiss chard, Romaine lettuce, sugar snap peas, green beans and basil. Holy cow!

Here's the forest I had to cut down before I started planting:

After I broke out my machete and anaconda repellent, I finally had a blank canvas to color with basil and onions and peas (oh my!):

My boyfriend is like my personal landscaper and garden expert, he was a huge help in leveling my back bed, topping off my soil and planting. He grounds me (no pun here) when gardening because I get planting-happy and he reminds me that my children need space to thrive. I have an issue that I can't leave a lone seedling unplanted, so I had several extra pots full of tomato and pepper plants. We worked in the full sun for a solid 3 hours and I have the sun burns to prove it.

The backyard supermarket is open and ready for business:

I can't wait for everything to grow because that means new recipes and tasty new summer dishes! 
What do you plant in your garden?


Banana Nut Breakfast Cookies

What if I said that you could have cookies for breakfast? Delicious cookies. For breakfast. Can you contain your excitement? I can't. What if I told you that these cookies are also healthy? Hallelujah, it's like every childhood dream that followed us into adulthood has come true.

I saw this recipe in my May issue of Fitness Magazine. After seening the words "breakfast" and "cookies", somehow the the oven was magically turned on and set at 350. They're full of fiber, iron and yumminess. A perfect start to any day. Here's the recipe:

I slightly tweaked the recipe and used two banana vs. one (more bananas = more fun) and Stevia over honey--- sadly, honey wasn't home. These cookies are  >150 calories a piece according to the recipe but will be more or less depending on how big or small you want them.

Step 1.

Ground 1 cup of ground oats in a food processor.

Ground walnuts and flax seed.

Step 2.

Mix all of the ingredients together and mash the bananas (isn't this a line from a kid's song? mash bananas, mash mash bananas, go bananas, go go bananas--- any one?)

Step 3.

Place on a well butter sprayed cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Step 4.

Let cool and eat! You have permission to enjoy these outside of breakfast.



Ander's Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

My downfall is sweets especially chocolate. If it's covered in chocolate, it seems to quietly speak to me in a tongue that only my stomach can understand. Knowing my downfall, I've substituted healthier alternatives into my baking. Baking has also given me a greater respect for skinny chefs; somehow when I bake, there's always more broken cookies than whole and the perfectionist in me can't serve cookie halves (so they find their way into my stomach). Oh well.

I had the opportunity to bake for my graduate class, I was excited to produce healthy cookies that tasted far from healthy. A few tweaks in the ingredients and I was able to create ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookies that wouldn't take tolls on waistlines.

What you'll need:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
1 cup whole-wheat flour
5 teaspoons water (to balance out whole-wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon liquid Stevia (or 3/4 cup sugar)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used minis for a bigger chocolate punch)

Yields about 3 dozen (depending on cookie size) 
with less than 90 calories a cookie!

What to do:

Preheat oven to 350.
Add dry (minus chips) ingredients in a large bowl and wet ingredients in seperate large bowl.
Mix both bowls well.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet (add half, mix well, then add the rest).

Add chips!

Try not to eat all the dough (this is the toughest part).
Spoon (about an inch or two apart) onto a well-butter sprayed cookie pan lined with aluminum foil for easy clean up.

And bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cool, pair with almond milk and enjoy!

I think they were a hit with my class (the 2 lone cookies were #proof of success). They couldn't believe they were healthy and I was proud to show how healthy can be delicious!

What healthy substitutes do you use while baking or cooking?


P90X: The Benefits of a Home Workout

I graduated from college today! Yay! With that being said, I have been extremely busy and unable to blog (*tear*, but I promise to make it up to you); however, I am thrilled to feature a guest post by John McKiernan. He is a health and fitness writer for Supplement Helper. I've done P90X and it is no joke of a workout, it kicks your butt. His quality post features the benefits of P90X and how it may be your solution to an effective home workout!



Reaching Your Fitness Goals Without Leaving Your Home

For many of us, the extra time and money spent on getting a gym membership and commuting to a gym make it an unattractive option, to say the least. Further there is a large population of people that don't like working out in front of other people. There's nothing wrong with valuing your privacy, especially when you’re at a point where you’re not comfortable showing off your body to strangers. And There's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to save some money and time (after all, time is money).

Achieving Total Body Fitness From Your Living Room

Fortunately there are some highly effective workouts that you can do in your own home that touch on every major aspect of total body fitness. Today I'm going to write about a workout program that includes elements of cardio, muscle endurance, strength, flexibility and overall athleticism.

P90X - The Ultimate Personal Trainer

My guess is that you've probably already heard of P90X. This is one of the most popular video workout series for good reasons. One of the most crucial reasons P90X works for people is that you're working with a time-line in place. When working to achieve any goal, setting a time-line will help keep you motivated and on track. With P90X the goal is to transform your entire body in 90 days.

With the P90X videos it's almost like having your own personal trainer. You have Tony Horton telling you what to do every step of the way. One of the main reasons people spend money on personal trainers is so that they can have someone there telling them what to do, when to do it and how to do it. When you have someone holding your hand, it takes the guesswork out of it. That's exactly what these videos do - they take the guesswork out.

Working Out Should Be Fun!

The thing I used to hate most about going to the gym is that it's boring, I'm was doing the same thing every time. I would either lift weights or run on a treadmill. One of the things I realized about fitness over the past few years is that the more exciting you can make it the easier it will be to get yourself to do it - and that means changing up your workouts constantly.

With that in mind the P90X videos includes kickboxing, yoga, Kempo karate, plyometrics, weight training and more. Every workout is like a new fitness adventure. You get to try something new and challenge your body at the same time!

Muscle Confusion - A Recipe for Faster Results

One of the ideas that P90X promotes is a technique called muscle confusion. This means the workouts are always changing, which keeps the body from adapting to one specific workout and plateauing. With muscle confusion the body continues to be challenged every step of the way. With this challenge comes faster and more efficient body adaptation, in other words - a better body in less time.

Have I Done P90X Myself?

Having completed P90X myself I can tell you firsthand that the workouts in these videos are no joke. They are pretty intense and I did have to pause the videos a few times myself so I could catch my breath. This is coming from someone who works out regularly and is in good shape. Although the workouts are a little bit intense for beginner you can always positive videos and take a break whenever you need to, and of course you can do the workouts at any level of intensity that suits you.

An Even Shorter Option - The 10 Minute Trainer

If you're looking for a really short workout, the folks at P90X released a new video series called the 10 minute trainer. It's essentially another version of P90X, but it's only 10 minutes of exercise per day. Although it sounds too good to be true you can actually getting great shape only working out 10 minutes per day. The trick is that the workouts are at a high intensity and they are pretty much nonstop.

Sum It Up

To sum it up P90X is like having a personal trainer guiding you through a total body fitness routine with a preset goal of changing your body in 90 days. And you can do it all in your own home with minimal equipment and no gym membership. I'm speaking from personal experience in writing this review, however I don't have any affiliation with the folks at P90X and I receive no compensation for writing this article. I've simply used the product and enjoyed it. I believe the concepts behind this program are rock solid and the way that it's put together is top notch.

About the Author: John McKiernan is a health and fitness writer at Supplementhelper.com


Ugly Meters, Body Confidence & How We See Ourselves

 I was in the mood to download some free apps on my iPhone. I enjoy the simple things in life so it's always an adrenaline rush to download a quality app for free, cha-ching. As I was "shopping" I came across something that did not sit well with me. This is what I observed directly below my beloved Draw Something:

an Ugly Meter? Excuse me? I don't understand why these applications are becoming so popular. What really irked me was the description: Do you ever wonder if you're ugly and your friends don't tell you? People are paying 99 cents too much for this application and giving it 4 stars. Come on, we're better than this. Society as a whole has a fragile state of self- confidence as it is, we don't need the Ugly Meter ranking our appearances--- the name itself sets us up for failure. In a world saturated with materialistic mindsets, this just adds to the clutter.

Growing up, I was never tiny. I wasn't unhealthy but I wasn't slim and trim. This mindset stuck with me throughout high school and the beginning of college where I'd hide behind baggy sweatpants and lots of mascara. Only within the last couple years have I gained the confidence to accept myself. Since then I've became healthier and more fit but my self-perception should not have been built around my physical appearance. 

How many times have you been with a friend and said "Ugh, I feel so fat" and your friend who doesn't negate your statement but tries to out do it by replying "You're fat? Look at my muffin top." It's gotten to the point where we try one up the other's flaws. A survey from FITNESS Magazine and Yahoo! Shine reveals that men and women view themselves as too heavy and far from their goal weights. Look at these statistics:

  •  41 percent of people believe that they would be happier at their "goal weight" than they are right now. What's more, 18 percent believed their sex lives would be improved, 7 percent thought they would make more money and 5 percent were under the impression they would have more friends.
  • While almost half of all women said they had a "fat day" at least once a week, only 28 percent of men said the same.  Also, 58 percent of women said they wanted to lose between 10 and 20 pounds.
  • 31 percent of women believed they looked fatter than other women and only 10 percent thought they looked "better." Whereas, 16 percent of men compared themselves unfavorably to other men.
  • 51 percent of women and 21 percent of men said that they had deleted a photo of themselves because they worried they looked fat in it.

If someone wants to lose weight to become healthier, I am 100% on board with that idea (Good for you, that's what I did!); however, it's unhealthy if someone is trying to lose weight so he or she can fit media's "beauty" standards. Perception and reality are opposite sides of the spectrum, how we feel and what we are can be totally different things. It's important to address if our minds are acting on perception or reality and, for Heaven's sake, don't let an iPhone application make that decision for you.


Roll It Out: Foam Rollers & Muscle Soreness

Have you been to the gym and seen those odd cylinder rolling pins mixed in with the dumb bells and jump ropes? I've seen them at my physical therapist's office but now they've made their way into gyms. They don't look like fitness tools (and some of the more serious rollers look like medieval torture devices) but these foam rollers may be the answer to healing all your tight and sore muscles. They're like a miniature masseuse in disguise! 

How they work: Foam rolling is a way to massage away tension from various trigger points throughout your body. It's cheaper and more convenient than a professional massage and reaps similar benefits. You use the roller by lying on top of it and placing the muscle you wish to massage directly over the foam cylinder. You then gently roll over that area until you hit the tender trigger point or knot.

The direct pressure may hurt but don't stop! It may seem like cruel and unusual punishment but when it hurts (you may yelp but it's normal) it means its working because you're moving the lactic acid from its concentration point which causes soreness. It's similar to a deep tissue massage and you may start belting out Hurts So Good by John Mellencamp. Roll it out until you feel all of the tension leave that trigger point, and don't forget to stretch the area you just targeted!

I use a foam roller after most of my cardio sessions because my back gets extremely tight. I'll end up placing the roller directly under my lower back and roll until I'm a lesser green Gumbi.

Try these simple poses suggested by Running Times & feel the love of the foam roller:


Why Is It So Hard To Eat Healthy In Social Settings?

Ever since the Pilgrims and Pocahontas (and Grandmother Willow), social settings have gathered around friends, fun and food. Food has been the focal point of socializing from celebrations to bad break ups(no one wants to drown his or her heartbreak with tofu). People don't crave toasted chick peas at the movie theater or carrot sticks at McDonald's, it's a norm that society gravitates towards unhealthy eating due to convenience, affordability and impulsive emotional cravings. When's the last time a friend said: hey, lets celebrate with some beers and celery sticks?

This cultural habit can make social settings difficult for those trying to eat healthier. I've sometimes felt "uncool" or judged if I opted for a salad over chicken fingers when eating out with friends; however, it's hard not to be swayed into peer pressure. Even a no thank you can quietly excommunicate a person from the snack pack. Why is it so hard to stick to a healthy lifestyle when temptations are always lurking behind every pizza box and value menu? Occasional cheating is expected and an essential to keep our cravings in check, but why do social settings always seem to deteriorate our willpower?

The LiveStrong site addresses this bamboozle perfectly:

When you eat with friends and family members, you're liable to be goaded into eating foods you normally wouldn't. It's human nature to observe what others are doing and follow suit. If everyone at your table is ordering indulgent meals, it can be embarrassing to ask for a salad or grilled vegetables. If you do try to order something healthy, you could be laughed at by your friends. To avoid that ridicule, you might order something high in fat and calories or go for a dessert you wouldn't when eating on your own.

Have you ever heard the saying, sharing the guilt? I think this phrase perfectly sums up why healthy eating can sometimes be shunned in social settings. It starts with one person craving the Triple-Chocolate-Mousse Cake and not wanting to be lonely in his or her indulgence. As a result, the peer pressure gets piled on as thick as the triple chocolate mousse. How can you survive these situations without feeling uncomfortable? Here are some tips:

Be honest: Honesty is the best policy especially for staying on track with healthy eating. Be upfront about your eating habits and own your decision, your crew should be supportive (If not, do what my grandpa always said: Screw 'em!)

Share an entree or dessert: If there isn't any healthy alternatives when eating out, split a dessert or entree. If no one wants to split, ask the waitress to put half in a to-go box and take it home for later!

Bring your own healthy side: At a potluck or picnic? No problem. Bring a dish that fits your dietary criteria so you'll have something to nosh on as you socialize.

Eat prior: If you know beforehand that your palate isn't feeling the party's food platter, eat something prior to the event. If someone asks why you're not eating, simply and honestly say I'm not hungry but thank you!

Remember, never feel guiltily about passing on dessert or even indulging once in a while. Just be healthy and all will be fine in body, mind and soul!


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