Archive | September, 2013

Healthy Homemade Chai Tea

30 Sep

I adore fall so hard. It’s totally my favorite season of the year.

After a long lazy summer, I appreciate the shorter days and cooler mornings, and even though it doesn’t get very chilly here in LALAland (in fact, sometimes it even gets warmer near the beach where I live) we still find a way to throw a loose-knit sweater over our bikinis, wear boots with our shorts, and scarves with our maxi dresses. There’s something so cozy and cuddly about this time of year that puts a smile on my face, so the next week around here is dedicated to all things fall.

To that I toast you with a super healthy version of a usually not-so-healthy fall favorite: Chai Tea.

I love nothing more than a sippinga mug of  Chai Tea when the temperature drops, but there’s a little problem with that. Even though the name alone sounds yoga-y, hippy and nutritious,  it’s usually packed with sugar. Most major coffee retailers -not naming any names here- use a sugary citric acid-y Chai concentrate to flavor it. Yuck.  After scouring the  depths of the Internet for a suitable recipe, I experimented with a couple of the best (and easiest) sounding homemade Chai recipes. After a couple of tries, I finally brewed a pot that passed with flying colors.

chai

Boil 4 cups of water and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add:

10 whole cloves

12 whole cardamom pods

12 whole black peppercorns

2 cinnamon sticks

4 slices fresh ginger

1 cup of almond milk (I found that homemade tastes lightyears better than the boxed kind

1 tablespoon or to taste: maple syrup, raw honey or stevia

Let simmer for at least a half an hour – the flavors intensify with time.

All Fall Everything: Link Lovin’

27 Sep

fall everything circle

Happy Autumn!!

collage1. A step by step guide to  perfectly DIY’d chevron pumpkins

2. I didn’t name it Legwarmer Nation by accident- obsessed with the idea of pulling these cozy LW’s on after a workout

3. Guiltless oatmeal pumpkin bread that’ll make your house smell amazing

4. L-o–v-e these brilliant printable workout routines from Tone it Up, perfect for those times when  you just need to switch it up

5. Cooler temps don’t have to mean that it’s all cookies and comfort food –25 Perfect Fall Salads

6. I ♥ these  super sexy nail colors for autumn, esp. the Oxblood and Metallics

7. A recipe for mulled wine that will cement your local celebrity status

8. I have a slight issue with seasonal decor (meh)…but this is just gorg and oh did  I mention that I plan to copy immediately?  Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery!

9. Cozy + adorbs fall workout gear…I’m especially in love with #3 and #5

It’s Fitspo, Yo

24 Sep

Fitspo

I was completely in the dark about about the concept of “fitspo” until one of my besties enlightened me about it a month or so ago.

She texted me a pic of a totally hot, super cut woman in a bikini, the text reading, “I want to look like this.”

I texted back “duh.”

This is the story of how I learned about the existence of hundreds of Instagram accounts that strictly  post “fitspo” (not to be confused with “thinspo”) pics like this. (FYI, those words are short for “fitspiration” or…come on, you got this…”thinspiration”)  When she told me she followed the account, I immediately did too. And then followed a dozen or so more. I figured it would be good motivation.

So this shiz is EVERYWHERE. Now that I’m aware of it I notice it all over the Interwebs, particularly on social media. I don’t really do much Instagramming (so, my spell check just corrected my spelling of “Instagramming”…really? I’m 100% confident that isn’t a real word), but when I do, my feed is now full of super toned, super, tan, bikini or skimpy workout clothing clad women and extremely muscular men flexin’ away for the camera with their way serious faces. Some days, it motivates me to get my butt out the door. And honestly, on other days it just makes me feel not so great.

I just can’t decide what to think about it. On many levels, the increasing exposure of fitspo pics is a good thing, as it’s definitely a great alt to “thinspo” (oy).  If you have the time, willpower, and guidance, that kind of body is something attainable, unlike being a 6′ tall Victoria Secret Angel with God-given genes and ridiculous cheekbones, and for the most part these women don’t appear to be underweight, just like, way freaking toned.

On the other hand, could overexposure become harmful since it really does take an extraordinary amount of willpower and dedication for most people to look that way? Is it just more glorification of a single body type?  I’m leaning toward the idea that it’s better than ya know, heroine chic, but I’m still not completely sure how I feel.

So I’m curious you guys…Fitspo: helpful or harmful? Share your thoughts.

Obsession du Jour: Coconut Oil

23 Sep

Graphic

So you already know that Coconut Oil is the bomb replacement for Olive/Veg when it comes to cooking.  And it’s for sure better than cooking spray, because that nonsense sneakily contains petroleum gas, propane, and butane, clever titled “propellant.” Eek. But I digress; back to coconut oil.

Here’s a little 101.

1. Contrary to popular belief, olive oil isn’t ideal to cook with. It’s chemical structure makes it susceptible to oxidative damage at high heat. Heat has minimal effect on the chemical structure of CO.

2. Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids & triglycerides. What’s that mean? I’m not a scientist so I’ll break it down in blonde terms: these are easily digested by your body and are not stored as fat. The long chain fatty acids of vegetable oil are not easily digested and yep, you guessed it, stored as fat.

3. Coconut Oil has impressive health benefits even when heated, containing both antibacterial and antiviral properties.

So that’s cool.

Buttt….that’s not all! Coconut oil is good for about 5 million other things.  <- I will let you investigate this on your own. Don’t be angry, the invention of the www back in the 90’s makes this pretty simple. In the meantime, here’s a little testament to its wonders.

I  have a delightful little skin issue by the name of eczema. You may be familiar with it, it’s pretty awesome. Just kidding, it’s gross. Anyhow, I’ve been prescribed everything under the sun, most recently being a topical steroid. The steroid worked wonders, but that just isn’t a long term solution for me.

After an extensive Google search of my own. I tried a dozen or so home remedies from Apple Cider Vinegar (my normal go-to for all the ails me) to some interesting potions and tinctures. I tried every combination of juice, mineral, and plant extract.  Nada. I had given up all hope when I stumbled across a thread raving about Coconut Oil for various skin problems.

Hmmm.

Since I stock up on it like the world is ending, I spared some for the cause. I smeared it all over the afflicted areas, slept on it, and to my great delight, I woke up with wonderfully non-dry, non-itchy, non-patchy skin.

Victory!

So don’t write it off as just a cooking alternative! It’s the bomb for your skin, hair, even removing eye makeup (I’ll experiment with just about anything to delay a trip to CVS). So that’s my song and dance about coconut oil. What are your favorite ways to use it? I’m taking suggestions!

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Your Virtual Trainer is Here.

19 Sep

So here is just about the coolest thing ummm, ever.

Skype Personal Training.

My super hottie friend Rachele of Fantastically Fresh and Fit is a babe in high demand. She’s a fitness instructor, personal trainer, and a brand new mom to the most adorable baby you’ve ever seen.

R is clearly dedicated to her fabulously fit lifestyle, but between jobs in an office, as a fitness instructor/ trainer, as a wife and as a new mama, she’s all too familiar with the feeling of not having time to squeeze in a workout. Which, needless to say, is totally sucky. When you’re balancing a hundred things, driving to the gym to fart around for a while, work out for an hour and drive back home can eat into precious family/work time. So Ms. Genius here has come up with the greatest idea since the invent of the plank, for you superwomen who’ve had to put your workouts on the backburner (sniff).

Meet your new virtual trainer, Rachele Jaegers.

Rachele has brilliantly set up a totally customized virtual personal training program via Skype, that allows the busiest of bees to squeeze in a good sweat without even leaving the house.

I’m going to list the 9 million cool things about this. Well, I’ll list the highlights, because I know you’re slammed.

1. Personalized Goal Setting: Before you even get started,  Rachele will “meet” you online to determine your fitness goals – be it strength, weight loss, flexibility, endurance, or any combination thereof, so that she can tailor your workout to meet your needs.

3. Totally, Amazingly Efficient: She then takes your goals and creates a personalized, super effective kick-ass 30 minute workout that you can do without even leaving your living room. She will meet with you 8 times via Skype for 30 minute sessions.

4. The Cost is $159 for 4 hours of personal training. Compare that to any trainer you’ve ever considered and you’re officially out of excuses to sign up.

5. She’s Freaking Amazing. Seriously, I can’t think of many people who’s fitness advice I’d rather follow. Superwoman R was out hiking like, 3 days after bringing home her newborn.. #Idol-status. (<- yes, I used a hashtag. Deal with it)

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I don’t believe this picture needs any explanation.

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If you’re one of the gazillions of time-strapped chicas (or chicos) who is just dying to get back in the swing of things, this is the gig for you. I’m already on board for session #1,  which begins in November.

For more information, email Rachele at Rachelejaegers@gmail.com, or like her FB page and send the girl a message.

See you in cyberspace!

Healthy Peanut Butter Drumsticks..What?!

17 Sep

I was causally walking down the street in Vancouver a few weeks ago when THIS jumped out at me, in front of a liquor store:

drumstick unedited graphic

Dear God. Peanut Butter Drumsticks.

Now, I haven’t had a drumstick since I was a child, but they were a fan favorite of my inner fat kid (remember her?). I was obsessed with the chunk of chocolate at the bottom – I believe it was referred to as a “nugget”- and faced a complex inner war each time I ate one. I fought hard, trying to maintain enough self control to slow down and not just inhale the entire thing in order to reach the solid chocolate at the bottom of the cone. Someone should have told me to just enjoy the journey. Poor inner fat kid.

Whatevs.

Obvi I was way tempted to go in and buy a package but I figured I’d just wait to get home to re-create it into something slightly more respectable. Free of preservatives, additives, animal products, saturated fat, refined sugar, and all that stuff I prefer to avoid.

But we’ll step it up a notch and A. Use dark chocolate and B. add a 3rd flavor – banana (I’m actually only doing this because it’s going to make this a much easier process for all of us). But what better goes with PB & Choc than banana? Duh. But if banana isn’t your deal (I’m actually shocked by how many people don’t like banana…you all cray), feel free to make regular vegan vanilla ice cream instead)

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4

5

Ingredients:

4 Ripe Bananas

1/3 C Coconut Oil

1/3 C Dark Chocolate Cacao Powder or plain ol’ Cocoa Powder if you’ve got that on hand, no judgement.

1/3 C Maple Syrup

Ice Cream Cones

Chopped Nuts

Nut Butter of Choice

Add ins for ice cream: PB2, Peanut Butter, Cacao Powder, etc

Directions:

Step 1: Chocolate Banana Ice Cream. Peel bananas and cut into thirds, and freeze in an airtight plastic bag until frozen solid. Throw them in your Vitamix or food processor – if using a regular food processor be warned that it will shake violently! Just hold it still and let it keep going – eventually you will get an ice-cream like consistency.  You can either leave it as is, or add cocoa powder to taste. I added chocolate PB 2 powder for an extra chocolate and peanut butter boost. Form into round scoops (quickly, as it will melt), and re-freeze for 10 minutes or so.

Step 2: Peanut Butter Center. And by all means, if you have a preferred nut butter, go for it. Don’t let me hold you back. Anyway, take your scoops from the freezer and use a knife to cut out a well in the center, 1/2-3/4 of the way through. Fill hole with nut butter of choice, and use the ice cream you scooped out to patch up the top a little. Re-mold it with your hands into a nice round shape. Refreeze about 10 more minutes.

Step 3: Hard Shell Chocolate. Simply mix together equal parts dark chocolate cacao powder, melted coconut oil, and maple syrup. If it starts to get chunky, just throw it in the microwave for 10 seconds or so until it liquefies.  I used about 1/4 cup of each and it was enough for 4 cones.  The chocolate hardens on contact with cold so leave it on the counter, not the fridge, while you work.

Step 4: Assembly Remove scoops from freezer and roll around in the chocolate with a spoon.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts quickly, as the chocolate dries fast. I don’t care what kind of nuts you use as long as it matches the nut butter. It will really bother me if the nut butter and sprinkled nuts are not the same. Just saying.

Step 5: Place scoop in cone. Feel free to fill the bottom cone with chocolate (you’ll want to freeze them for a while if you go that route) or peanut butter if you want that sweet nugget at the bottom.  Just learn from my inner fat kids’ mistakes and make sure you enjoy the freaking journey.

Stop Hating: The Ugly Stepchildren of Natural Foods

16 Sep

Do you know what is so irritating to me? Listening to someone rattle on and on about why they would NEVER touch a potato with a 10 foot pole, while they pull an Atkins bar out of their bag for lunch.  It totally gets under my skin.

Hi, I have a little news flashy for you: your fat-free cream cheese and diet Cokes are making you way fatter than a potato ever will.

I’m sorry to sound mean, it’s Monday, not you. It’s not really our fault that we’re so confused. Over the years dozens of fad diets have infiltrated our lives, most of which have vilified various fruits, vegetables, and legumes (presumably in order to distinguish themselves from the last fad). While the diets themselves have slipped into obscurity, the associations with the poor scapegoat foods that were blacklisted have found their forever homes in our consciousness.

Here are a handful of foods that have developed particularly bad but undeserved reputations, and you’re totally missing on out by omitting them from your diet.

Stepchild

Carrots

The misconception:

 Carrots first came to a negative light when the low-carb craze took off, mostly because they’re a root vegetable.  They’re associated with being high in sugars and carbohydrates.

The Reality:

First of all, complex carbs are necessary for a s-load of reasons, but that’s irrelevant because raw carrots actually has less sugar than strawberries (per serving) and a lower glycemic load than a large grapefruit.  Secondly, the amount of carrots you need to consume to reap the health benefits is incredibly low: you can get an entire day’s supply of Vitamin A from a measly 1/4 cup of grated carrots (which is like, 3 grams of sugar. NBD.). Know the expression “eat the rainbow?” Well of all the orange/yellow foods, carrots are the most protective against cardiovascular disease. Simply put, they help fight heart disease (and cancer, btw). The dreaded carrot is an excellent source of soluble fiber, beta-carotene, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, C, B6, potassium, and a laundry list of other phytonutrients. Relax, bunny!

Potatoes

The Misconception:

Even more so than the carrot, the poor potato was totally and completely demonized by the Atkins diet and its lookalikes. Additionally, the association with french fries and loads of salty toppings have really dragged the potato’s reputation through the dirt. No pun intended.

The Reality:

Potatoes are an essential source of brain fuel- and complex carbs help keep you both full and satisfied. A medium potato has half your daily requirements of Vitamin C! Potatoes are high in fiber, iron, potassium, copper, and  contain blood-pressure lowering molecules in potatoes called kukoamines.  Potatoes are extremely rich in Vitamin B6, which your body needs to produce seratonin and dopamine production.  Potatoes really do make you happy! Like many nutrient dense foods, potatoes are somewhat calorie-dense (about 270 calories in a medium spud), so if you’re watching your calorie intake skip the high calorie toppings and lighten it up with Greek yogurt or salsa.

Bananas

The Misconception:

 Bananas should be avoided because they are high on the glycemic index, high in sugar, and packed with calories.

The Reality:

First of all, the glycemic index is widely accepted at being flawed, confusing, and mostly irrelevant. So let’s move on from that. Sure, bananas are higher in sugar than some other fruits, so perhaps don’t go stuffing your face with them (I actually think that’s a pretty good rule of thumb in general). However, they’re super rich in antioxidants and important minerals. Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium (467 mg, to be exact) which is essential for maintaining normal blood pressure. They produce a digestive enzyme that greatly improves our ability to absorb nutrients which is a pretty big deal, and they lower risk of colon and kidney cancer.  They’re also the bomb for endurance athletes looking for the perfect food to fuel a workout.

Peanuts

The Misconception:

Poor, poor peanuts. Everybody knows they pale in comparison to the mighty walnut and almond (not a fair comparison, don’t even make me tell you that peanuts are legumes, not nuts) and have come to be considered a “bad” nut as a result.

The Reality

While almonds and walnuts kick ass in general, don’t shelf your peanut butter (just buy freshly ground natural peanut butter, please)!  At least five major studies confirm that eating peanuts can lower risk for coronary heart disease, are good sources of Vitamin E, niacin, folate, protein and maganese. Peanuts also contain resveratol – sound familiar? That’s the same antioxidant that we use as an excuse to pour ourselves that nightly glass of red wine. They contain more antioxidants than an apple. Truth.  If that’s not enough, peanuts protect against Alzheimers disease. So if you just can’t let go of your love for PB, at least let go of the guilt.

Egg Yolks

The Misconception:

In recent decades, eggs’ high cholesterol content has been thought to play a role in increasing “bad” cholesterol.

The Reality:

We learned a while back that cholesterol in food doesn’t  cause heart disease (trans fat and & saturated fat do) but we still cling to the notion that eggs are bad. While high in cholesterol (184 milligrams in the yolk) they’re relatively low in saturated fat — about 1.6 grams in the yolk. So don’t skip the yolks. because whole eggs are a nearly perfect food. The yolk contains almost every essential vitamin and mineral our bodies need! It’s one of the only natural food sources of vitamin D, contains perfect protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, B6, B12, riboflavin, folate, and choline, L-arginine and important amino acids. So think twice before ordering that egg white omelette: skipping the yolk actually means missing out on most of the nutrition and protein.

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