Blue Apron

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A month or so ago, I heard about this cool food service called Blue Apron. I did some investigating, got a first-hand account of the process and decided it would be something fun to do this winter. This is how it works.

You sign up for the service and provide your general food preferences — fish, beef, vegetarian, etc. Then, the chef’s at Blue Apron sort out the recipes catered to your dietary preference. All of the ingredients for each dish (three meals per week)are shipped in a refrigerated box, along with the detailed recipe cards. That’s it! The ingredients are always fresh and the chefs try to choose meals that incorporate seasonal ingredients. Each meal ranges from 500-700 calories, per serving, but you can easily divide that up for smaller portions. This service is basically for someone who likes to cook, but ends up wasting ingredients. The plans are very flexible and allow you to skip weeks if you don’t have time to prepare the meals. The plans offered are $59.94/week for two people or $119.88/week for four people. Depending on when you sign up, you can expect your first delivery within two weeks. So cool!

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On Friday, I received this box with ingredients for the following amazing recipes.

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-Moussaka-Style Lasagna
-Pan-Roasted Chicken
-Crispy Fish Sandwiches

Tonight, I’m preparing the chicken and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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Happy Earth Day!

Hi everyone!

Today is Earth Day, which means finally taking that load of magazines to the recycling center, making the effort to turn off the water while you brush your teeth and trying to be more mindful of the “carbon footprint” we will leave behind. I’m totally playing the Prius card to make up for the massive amounts of paper copies I made earlier today.

“Oh, how are you being green this Earth Day?”

“Prius.”

No, but seriously, I am going to try to make more of an effort to re-purpose and lessen the amount of trash I throw out. One thing my dad does that I always make fun of is reuse plastic containers, such as butter containers and this local brand of marinara sauce we carry in the area. In fact, I just took a marinara sauce tub of coleslaw home with me this weekend. I laugh, but in all seriousness, it does help with the seemingly constant overflow of trash I face daily. If the look of a butter tub makes you feel weird, decorate it! This sounds so stupid to say, but I bet a million dollars there is someone on Pinterest already slapping up some tutorials on this very subject. 

Speaking of green, I have had absolutely no desire to eat well these past few days. I think it all started with the massive amounts of sugar I consumed this weekend. Monday morning rolled around and I didn’t have the ingredients for my oatmeal, so I grabbed a Poptart instead. :-O This is why it is now Tuesday and I’m still dreaming of cake. It’s just that nothing healthy sounds good to me. I think it’s time to detox again.

To round out my “green” post, I’d like to share a zucchini muffin recipe I just tried out last night. Let me tell you this stuff is great. I never thought I would be this into zucchini bread!

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

METHOD

You don’t need a mixer for this recipe.

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). In a large bowl combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Stir these dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture. Stir in walnuts, raisins or cranberries if using.

2 Coat each muffin cup in your muffin pan with a little butter or vegetable oil spray. Use a spoon to distribute the muffin dough equally among the cups, filling the cups up completely. Bake on the middle rack until muffins are golden brown, and the top of the muffins bounce back when you press on them, about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a long toothpick or a thin bamboo skewer to make sure the center of the muffins are done. Set on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the tin let cool another 20 minutes.

Note, if you are including walnuts and dried fruit, you will likely have more batter than is needed for 12 muffins. I got about 14 muffins from this batch, and that included filling the muffin cups up as far as they could possibly go (above the surface of the muffin tin).

This recipe was brought to you by Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes

Next time, I think I’ll add chocolate chips!

A Few Days In

Well, I’ve survived the first few days of this sugar-free thing. Honestly, it’s not that bad. The key is moderation and being realistic. Realistically, I’m not going to give up pineapple or bananas — fruits that have higher sugar content — but I always try to fit healthy greens into my meals. I feel like that’s a good compromise. Another thing I’ve realized is that without some meats, I’d probably starve. As a former vegetarian, I can tell you that this is kind of difficult to do if you don’t eat meat. Without meat, you definitely need to stock up on beans and a ton of quinoa so you don’t pass out. That being said, vegetarians can definitely handle this; just use caution. Just replace the meat in the salad below with beans, beans, beans!

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Moving on to some exciting news. Morgantown is getting (or has?) a juice bar! I read about it online a few days ago and just drove by today to confirm it’s existence! If you live in the area, it’s actually right across from Black Bear Burritos. Seems like the perfect spot! If you aren’t familiar with Black Bear, they are famous for using locally grown produce and resources. Plus, their food rocks. A juice bar is the perfect neighbor for Black Bear! I haven’t been to this new juice bar yet, but my lady Candace Lately is already on it! Anyway, I’ll update when I’ve stopped in for a taste. (Check them out on Facebook.)

Tonight’s dinner: Paleo Spaghetti Squash Pizza Bake!

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Sugar-Free Fresh Start

Today, I started my sugar-free adventure. In honor of Lent, I decided that I would give up more than just candy and ice cream this time. I am walking away from all things “added sugar.” My particular list includes:

  • White bread (includes any bread with white flour in it)
  • Pasta, unless whole grain
  • White rice
  • White flour, and products made with it such as cake, cookies, crackers, pretzels, doughnuts, bagels, and muffins
  • Corn and corn chips
  • Sugar and products with added sugar, e.g. canned fruits in syrup
  • Jams and jellies containing added sugars
  • Salad dressings and sauces with added sugar, such as Teriyaki sauce
  • Fruit drinks containing added sugar
  • Sugar-sweetened soft drinks
  • Sugar-cured meats (e.g. ham is often cured with salt and sugar)

I’ve seen a lot of different lists, so far, and I have to say, I do have a few things I’m NOT cutting out.

  • Chewing gum
  • Honey
  • Wine
  • Bananas, pineapple, beets, corn, etc. (This is beyond silly to me.)

Basically, I’m just trying to eliminate sugar that doesn’t occur naturally. This weekend, I’m hoping to get some serious baking done so that I have a variety to live on for the next 40 days. (I actually started this a day after Ash Wednesday.) So here are a few examples of what I will be eating.

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Oatmeal: 1/2 old fashioned oats, 3/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk, 2 tbs of unsweetened applesauce, handful of raisins, a handful of almonds and a splash of honey. Perfect flavor combination! I think I’ll throw apples in tomorrow.

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Caprese Spinach Salad: bed of spinach with freshly chopped basil, sliced cherry tomatoes, a little fresh mozzarella and a homemade dressing with olive oil, white vinegar and stone ground mustard.

My goal is to keep the ingredients as basic as possible. So here’s to going sugar-free!

My Healthy Tip of the Day: Read your food labels! It’s truly amazing how much junk gets put into our processed foods. For instance, did you know that the following are all fancy terms for sugar?

  • Brown sugar
  • Cane crystals
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Syrup

Shocking! So just be aware and try to look for things with less than 3 grams of sugar. Your waistline will thank you later!

Get Low Furlough

Sorry for the absence, but I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Thanks to the government’s inability to make decisions, I, like a ton of other federal employees, have been furloughed. At first I was shocked, but now it’s feeling surprisingly normal to live each day without an agenda. Luckily, I have had a few fun trips since I’ve been “shut out.”

A week ago, my parents invited me to go to Cass Scenic Railroad with them for one of their monthly day trips. Since Dad left the prosecutor’s office, he’s really slowed down his work load, so he and Mom and enjoying life as much as possible. Anyway, we left around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday afternoon and hit our first spot just outside of Randolph County, Gaudineer Picnic Area.

Cass Trip

It was the coolest spot I’ve ever picnicked. The entire forest floor felt like walking on pillows! It also really gave me an understanding of how dangerous it can be to wander away from your group or hiking partner…or maybe it’s just my general concern for every situation.

A few days after that trip, I loaded up the car and headed to D.C. to visit my friend and old roommate, Chelsey, with my other friend and old roommate, Micah. We arrived at Chelsey’s Friday evening and spent the entire time drinking wine and catching up. The next day, Chelsey and I got up and headed to a barre class at this cool little studio called Biker Barre.

We let Micah sleep in since she works a billion hours a week. I had never been to a barre-style class, so I was pretty surprised that I actually managed to finish the workout without collapsing on the floor. It was a challenge! I definitely wish we had something like this in Morgantown.

After the workout, we spent the whole day walking around D.C., eating and shopping. That night, we headed out for dinner and drinks with Chelsey’s boyfriend Jay and several new friends. Such a fun night!

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Now it’s time to get into the holiday spirit by settling in for the premiere of American Horror Story: The Coven! So excited for this!

Pasta Party

Yesterday was supposed to be my third day doing Ripped in 30, HOWEVER, I skipped it in favor of a much needed hang session with my friend Abigail. First, we had a very filling dinner at Puglioni’s. I got linguine with veggies and pesto sauce, ate at least half the loaf of bread and still managed to walk out of the place without the help of a crane. After we left there, we headed back to Abigail’s to start planning our little getaway in July. We are going to see She & Him (!!!!!!!!) in Washington D.C. and plan to stay in the city for two nights. Abigail used to live in D.C. for a summer while she worked at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, so she knows the area much better than I do. We’re hoping to do some sightseeing and definitely hit the museum to catch up with some of her former colleagues. Pretty fun trip planned! I stayed out much later than anticipated, but got to see another great friend as well! Worth it.

After I got home, I started thinking about how important it is to savor time with people you care about. Abigail is moving in August and will be living out of the state for nearly 3-5 years, so every little bit of time with her counts. I’m definitely used to her being far away, sometimes even halfway across the world, but it still always bums me out when I realize she won’t be a few minutes away from me. Regardless, I’m very happy and very proud of her. Plus, now I have an excuse to finally visit Massachusetts.

Tonight I plan to hit the Ripped in 30 DVD hard. I may even sneak in 20 minutes on the elliptical at the gym as well. Every little bit counts!

What activity can guarantee you’ll skip your workout?

Guest Post: The Best Foods for Your Skin

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area. She has written on everything from marketing, real estate, technology, and manufacturing, as well as a variety of health & wellness topics. She currently writes for the health & beauty blog at Skintrium.

You’ve heard the term “you are what you eat” before, just like you know that the foods you put into your body on a daily basis play a major role in how healthy or unhealthy you are. However, if you’re like most people, you may not realize that certain foods can play a dramatic role in the way your skin looks and feels.

Eating right for healthy skin isn’t that difficult. In fact, the best way to eat right for your skin health is to follow the same diet most doctors recommend: a balanced diet rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and protein sources that are lean and low fat.

But studies have shown that particular foods that fall within these categories can have a direct impact on your skin, and researchers have managed to pinpoint the best foods to include in your diet for the best skin.

Carrots

The beta-carotene in carrots is good for your eyesight, but the vitamin A in carrots is actually what’s beneficial for your skin. The high vitamin A content in carrots may be able to help you clear up or prevent breakouts and pimples by regulating your skin’s production of skin cells, reducing the likelihood of dead ones clogging your pores. Vitamin A may also be able to reduce the risk of skin cancer by blocking the development of cancer-causing cells.

Raw carrots are your best bet for vitamin A, but if you don’t like snacking on baby carrots, cooked carrots can still be beneficial.

Safflower Oil

Safflower oil is sometimes recommended to people with dry skin conditions like eczema as a topical moisturizer because of its moisturizing properties. However, you don’t have to slather your skin with safflower oil to enjoy its skin benefits.

Safflower oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids which help to keep the skin supple. You can use it as a moisturizer if you want, but it also works well for things like salad dressing or light stir-fry’s or sautéed vegetables.

(Hint: if you’re going to cook those carrots, try lightly sautéing them in safflower oil!)

Almonds

Loaded with vitamin E, almonds are one of the best foods you can eat for optimal skin health. The vitamin E in almonds helps to protect your skin against dangerous UVA and UVB rays from the sun, and believe it or not, eating almonds can actually keep you from getting as sunburned when you spend time outside. Still, that doesn’t mean you should leave the sunscreen at home and pack a bag of almonds instead.

Along with protecting your skin from the sun, the vitamin E content in almonds can help prevent free radicals that can cause wrinkles and fine lines from damaging your skin.

Sweet Potatoes

The vitamin C in sweet potatoes may slow down wrinkles.

Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin C, which can help boost the amount of collage your body produces. More collagen production equals fewer wrinkles and fine lines. The best part is that even a small amount of sweet potato is beneficial for your skin, so you don’t have to feel bad the next time you sneak a few sweet potato fries. Of course, you’re better off baking that sweet potato since you’ll get more vitamins and nutrients out of it that way.

(Hint: sprinkle your sweet potato with cinnamon, a healthy spice, for a delicious and nutritious combination!)

Foods to Avoid

People used to think that certain foods were bad for their skin – mostly unhealthy foods like potato chips, French fries and refined chocolate. While we’ve found out that some of those foods may not be great for your waistline but not so hard on your skin, there are still some foods you should avoid, especially if you have problem skin.

People that suffer from conditions like eczema should avoid eggs, milk, peanuts, soy and products that contain refined sugar, as these may make the condition worse.

Acne, proving stubborn to treat as ever, isn’t caused by fried foods, though some people notice a reduction in severity when they stop eating them. There is some evidence that foods high in carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates like pasta and white bread, may cause acne. More research needs to be done here, but people with acne should consider avoiding them and noting any changes in their skin.

Training

So far my 10K training is going well. I’m about to finish Week 4 Day 3, which looks like this:

  • 5 minute warm up
  • 3 minute run
  • 90 second walk
  • 5 minute run
  • 2.5 minute walk
  • 3 minute run
  • 90 second walk
  • 5 minute run
  • 5 minute cool down

As I’ve said before, even though I used to run 30-40 minutes straight, I would often get burned out. Training with a set plan that eases you back into running is a great way to prevent this. Never underestimate the power of simply slowing down to get ahead. So far I’m a little behind schedule. I have about 30 training days left and only 45 days left until the race. I haven’t checked ahead to see what the next few weeks will look like, but there is a chance I may skip a day or two if I encounter repeat days. It all depends on how I feel, though.

Aside from training, I’ve been spending a lot more time in the kitchen. Well, not this week, but in weeks past, I’ve definitely been making more of an effort to cool. First there was my homemade apple butter excitement.

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I think it’s safe to say I’ll never buy apple butter from the store again. This recipe was FAR superior.

After that, I really got into avocados. I took an avocado, sliced up about half of it, then added some feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas and dumped it on 1/2 cup of brown rice. Delicious.

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Of course we can’t forget about the many faces of my omelets.

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I think the middle one was my favorite.

Before I sign off, I’ll leave you with this neat graphic I found yesterday.

10 Benefits of Running Infographic

 

Let’s just call that my Healthy Tip of the Day. 🙂

Bridesmaid Dresses

On Saturday I headed over to meet my best friend Micah and the rest of her bridesmaids for our dress fitting. Before I launch into my whole measurements boo-hoo, let me first point out that this outing was the first time I’d seen my dear friend Courtney since we were freshman in college and my other close friend (and former roomie) Chelsey since I graduated college. Let’s just say I was beyond happy to see these two. Among the bridesmaids were Micah’s close friends from Pharmacy School, Jordan and Ashleigh, two very sweet girls and Micah’s sister, Carie. (Another ladybug I hadn’t seen in a very long time.) Courtney, a mom of two, graced us with the presence of her beautiful little girl, Kinley, who I proceeded to bounce until she vomited. See, that’s the thing with me; I think babies are adorable, but I almost always end up making them puke, poop or cry. Nevertheless, the entire outing was a success. I found the dress I wanted, as did the other ladies, and Micah seemed happy with our choices.

Fast forward to the measurement portion of the day. Now, I had ball-parked what I thought my measurements might be, but I really wasn’t prepared for what I discovered. My hips are at least two inches wider than I thought. Again, I’m sure I can shave off a little for clothing, but I was pretty surprised. Talk about more motivation** to get training for the half marathon.

Oh, and did I mention that I’m starting to get really paranoid that the half marathon is going to be the same day as the wedding?! It’s pathetic that this just occurred to me. Still, I’m going to try to have a back up, just in case I have to miss it. (It would be completely illogical to do them both in the same day, right?)

So, for your viewing pleasure, here is the dress I chose for the wedding…and the very thin model who wears it much better than I do.

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This is the actual color, but the one I tried on was a very pretty pink. Thank GOD this color looks decent on fair skin. Now if I could just get my hair growing a little faster…

After the fitting, we headed to Yesterday’s for some much deserved pizza. (It was my cheat day!) Micah, being the dessert freak that she is, was bold enough to order a piece of their very delicious carrot cake. Little did we know that the waiter was plotting against us and planned to kill us with this giant slice.

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Literally the size of her face.

My Healthy Tip of the Day brought to you by LiveStrong.com: Relax and have a cup of coffee! Coffee — and the caffeine in it — has been shown in multiple studies to increase both endurance and short-term performance. A 2008 study concluded that the benefit of caffeine before exercise occurs during endurance events, stop-and-go events and long-term high-intensity activity. It also can help athletes perform better during strength training — even when sleep-deprived — if taken one hour before exercise at the rate of 4 mg for every kg of body weight.

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/557242-how-drinking-coffee-could-improve-your-health/#ixzz2FL2eTJ3E

 

**While I haven’t set a goal yet, I’d like to have at least two inches off my hips by the wedding date.

WIAW: Chocolate Peppermint Stick Luna Bar

Around this time of year, I’m on the hunt for a few key food items: Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee, green and red Christmas themed M&Ms, Christmas tree shaped Reese Cups and this.

Yum! This may be the best flavor yet. It’s pretty seasonal, of course, but definitely worth the arsenic.

Now, on to WIAW.

 

I wanted some whole wheat pasta, but I didn’t have any marinara. Luckily, I always keep canned tomatoes in my pantry, so I topped my pasta with that and 1 cup of steamed spinach. So filling and much better than marinara sauce. For a snack, I had a VitaTop with a cup of coffee and a big ol’ banana. This is a flippin’ power snack, my friends. Finally, for breakfast, I had one of my happy omelets, completed with a whole wheat English muffin. Yum!

Well, that’s all the food ogling I can stand for one day.

My Healthy Tip of the Day brought to you by lifehack.org: When you’ve got time – at your desk, driving the car, cooking food – do some deep breathing. Inhale and count up to 5 seconds, hold it for a few seconds, and release slowly. Exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is one of the best things we can do for our blood and cells.