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​Cajun Shrimp & Rice Stuffed Peppers

Friday, February 20, 2015

 

This is currently my absolute favorite meal to prepare! After trying to find some healthy grain dishes, I decided to combine several recipes into my own spicy taste of heaven. If you don’t have (or like) shrimp you can add chicken, sausage or ground turkey as a protein alternative. Since we live on the coast, seafood is in healthy supply so I cook with it every chance I get. They make great leftovers too. (My husband even ate them for breakfast.) You can also make these ahead and freeze them for a mid-week easy meal prep. I would take them out in the morning so they are ready to pop in the oven when you are home from work in the evening. 

 


 

Makes 4 Peppers (Enough for 4 people plus a side)

 

2 Large Red Peppers – cored and cut in half

(Save the tops of the peppers to dice into ~1/4 cup)

1 Onion – diced

2 garlic gloves – diced

1 cup chicken stock

2 cups brown rice - cooked

12-24 shrimp – deveined and cut into ~1” pieces

1 tbsp Tony’s Cajun seasoning

½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

 

Preheat oven to 375°

Saute onion, red pepper and garlic in olive oil for ~ 5 minutes (Onion should become translucent)

Add shrimp and Tony’s seasoning and continue cooking until shrimp turn pink (~3-5 minutes)

Add rice and chicken stock and cook for another few minutes stirring occasionally

Place the 4 pepper halves in a baking dish

Scoop the shrimp/rice mixture into each of the 4 pepper halves and top with the mozz cheese

Bake for ~30 minutes or until cheese becomes bubbly

 

Enjoy!!!

 


What I Learned From Running My First Marathon

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

After spending six months training for my first marathon, I finally crossed the finish line this past Sunday. What a feeling!! My legs have been extremely sore for the past few days and I’ve hobbled around in pain but I’m still feeling the high of my accomplishment. As I was running I couldn’t help but think about how my experience during the race parallels to life in general.

 

What I learned….

Start slow and save your energy. 

It’s a given that you will be full of adrenaline at the start of the race and I was tempted to come out sprinting but instead I kept my cool and started out at a slow and steady pace. So often in life we start on a new project full of energy and halfway through run out of steam which hampers our follow through. We’ve all been there at some point.

 

Slow down and enjoy the scenery.

I’m not a competitive runner and I was certainly under no time constraint for this race so I took the opportunity to enjoy my surroundings. We even had 2 miles on the beach and my sister and I stopped for a selfie photo opp. I was only at mile 6 and having so much fun in the moment! We get so caught up in the ‘busyness’ of our lives that we don’t stop and just enjoy the journey. And that’s what life is really all about it….the experience of it all.

 

 

 

Celebrate every milestone.

I told myself before the race that I would only focus on getting to the next mile. And that’s just what I did. After every mile marker I would do a little dance in my head and then reset my goal to get to the next mile. That made ALL the difference in the world when I got to mile 20 and started to feel my body scream at me to stop. When I got to mile 25 I cried and then I sprinted my way to the finish. It also reminded me to continue to celebrate every milestone in my life-big or small. My whole life has been about setting and achieving goals. After every accomplishment I give myself a pat on the back or even celebrate with my family and friends. Then I set a new goal and start a new course to reach it.

 

When you’re ready to give up…don’t.

The most challenging part of the race was when I was between mile 22 and 23 and I had to literally run up an exit ramp onto a major highway. Once I made it up the on ramp I could see the next mile of the road and it was full of hills. The temptation to stop and just lay down was so strong. For about 30 seconds I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it to the finish. There were several people around me that were crying and one lady was limping due to an injury so I felt the need to stop focusing on myself and offer some encouragement. I walked with the limping lady for a few minutes and kept telling her she was close and she was going to finish this race. For every person I passed afterwards I said good job or we’re almost there. For those last few miles I forgot about my pain and focused on helping others and I didn’t give another thought to giving up. Sometimes we have to dig deep to find the inner strength to keep going but it’s in all of us. Maybe we need to look outside of ourselves and offer help to someone else. Just keep going!

 

Embrace the pain.

After 20 miles of running my body physically started to fight me. I knew blisters were forming on my right foot and my knees were throbbing with every step. I hurt like I’ve never hurt in my life. Instead of resisting it, I repeated the mantra ‘I am the universe’ or ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ which reminded me that I am part of the universe and it is part of me. Life is about pain and joy. You have to take the good with the bad but I knew in those moments of pain that my joy would come when I crossed the finish line. And I felt so alive in that moment! Holy shit, I was running a marathon!!!!!!!!! My life lesson was so clear….through every challenge there is an opportunity so embrace those challenges and know there is a purpose. Trust yourself and the universe!

 

We all need a little help sometimes.

When I signed up for the race I asked one of my sisters if she would sign up too. She opted to do the half marathon and we were able to run together for the first 7 miles of the race. She even slowed her pace to help me save my energy (and my legs!) and I could not have been more grateful. She’s the best!!!! My mom sent me inspiring texts during my training months and everyone sent me cheer texts during the race to keep me going. Life would be so lonely if we had to go it alone but luckily we have family and friends to keep us motivated and help us out when we need it the most.

 


Breathe Your Way to a Healthier Heart

Friday, February 06, 2015

Have you ever been in an uncomfortable situation and could feel your body tensing up, possibly experiencing shortness of breath and a tightening in your chest? That type of stress also negatively affects your heart health and causes a constriction of the blood vessels which makes it harder for blood to flow through the body. Although we may find ourselves in those type of situations from time to time, that doesn’t mean we cannot control the way our bodies respond. Slowing down your breath can produce immediate relaxing responses and greatly improve your mental clarity even during times of stress.

 

Remember when you were little and your mom would sometimes count to 10 before responding to some ridiculous prank you pulled?! Believe it or not, there is scientific data behind this type of counting method so once again Mom was right!! So the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, simply slow your breathing down and count to 10. I like to count on my inhale and really feel my breath expand into my chest and belly. Sometimes I’ve even forgotten what number I was counting but that doesn’t matter. What really matters is that my body relaxed and my mind was clear. It has made all the difference in the world in how I’ve responded to people and greatly improved my ability to clearly articulate myself through a difficult conversation. 

Heart Healthy Office Exercises

Friday, February 06, 2015

Even if you are stuck behind a desk most of the day doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze in a few exercises every now and again. Many people seem to think they have to go sweat it out at a gym for an hour in order to get the full benefit of a workout….not true, my friends! Making exercise fit into your schedule and a part of your overall lifestyle is the key.

Try these desk exercises out the next time you are in the office. Trust me, you’ll feel the effects and thank me (or hate me) later.


Desk Dips

Stand up with your back to the edge of your desk (or cubicle). Place your hands directly behind you on the desk with elbows straight. Walk your legs out until they are at about 45° angle from the floor. Slowly bend your elbows keeping your back straight and elbows at your side; then raise yourself back up. All of the work should be done using your triceps which is the back side of your upper arm. Exhale as you lower and inhale as you raise back up. Do a set of 20 repetitions. Or time yourself to do as many as you can in 30 seconds.


Wall Sit

Stand up straight with your back against the wall. Then slide your body down the wall and bending your legs until your thighs are parallel to the floor. You can lightly place your hands on your thighs or hold them in a prayer position in front of you. Hold this for as long as you can. The more you feel your thighs shaking the more work you are doing.


Chair Ab Curl

Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Place your arms either on top of your desk or resting on the arms of your chair. As you exhale contract your stomach muscles and pull them in towards your spine. (Think of someone punching you in the stomach.) Inhale to release. Repeat this for 20 reps.

 

Any time you need a quick break from the computer you can repeat these exercises and will immediately feel refreshed. 

Heart Healthy Oatmeal Casserole

Friday, February 06, 2015

Eating the same bowl of oatmeal for breakfast can get boring so I decided to mix it up into a hot casserole. You can use any type of berries (preferably ones in season) and also substitute any type of milk.

 


Serves 6 (Double the batch for a larger breakfast crowd)

1.5 cup of rolled oats

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

½ tsp aluminum free baking powder

¼ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup honey or agave (can eliminate if you want to reduce the sugar; I used just a drizzle on top)

1 cup coconut milk (any milk will work)

1 egg

1 tbsp soft butter

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1-2 bananas, sliced into ½-1” pieces

1.5 cups blueberries

 

Heat oven to 375°. Coat a 9x11 baking dish with butter (or light baking spray)

Mix oats, cinnamon, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and set aside

Whisk milk, egg, vanilla extract together and set aside

Place sliced bananas on bottom of dish in a single layer

Add ~1/2 of the berries on top of the bananas

Spread the oatmeal mixture on top of the fruit evenly

Add the rest of the berries and then slowly pour the milk/egg mixture on top of the entire dish

(You may need to shake the dish a few times to make sure the milk mixture is evenly distributed across the entire casserole)

Sprinkle the walnuts on top and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until slightly golden brown and bubbly

Drizzle honey on top after removing from the oven

 

Heart Healthy Benefits:

  • Eating oatmeal can reduce the ‘lousy’ cholesterol (low density-LDL) and also helps to lower blood pressure
  • Blueberries contain flavonoids that help prevent plaque build-up in the arteries as well
  • Adding cinnamon to your food (or coffee) can help control your blood sugar

Love Yourself!

Monday, February 02, 2015

Who's in the mood for love this month? I’ve created 28 Daily Tips for the month of February to celebrate the most important person in your life…YOU! Incorporating self-care into your daily routine is critical for keeping yourself mentally and physically at your best. Women, in particular, are the worst at putting themselves first since we are natural caretakers and tend to take care of everyone else first ignoring our own needs. And then you hit that brick wall and are so exhausted that you are forced to slow down. That’s why it is critical to take time for yourself even if you have to schedule it. Think ME first, Busy second!! That should be your daily mantra to help program your brain into putting yourself first.

 


 

Here’s my February Love-Me List:

#1: Hit snooze on a work day - Sometimes starting your day off with a few extra minutes of sleep is a treat!

#2: Sit down for breakfast - With the ‘busyness’ of life, it’s ok to occasionally sit down and enjoy a meal in peace

#3: Go for a walk – I’m a big fan of gratitude walks because it’s so refreshing to think about all of the good things in your life

#4: Read that guilty pleasure book you bought six months ago

#5: Take a bubble bath

#6: Get a massage

#7: Watch your favorite movie

#8: Cook your favorite meal (Or have someone cook it for you or go out if your budget allows)

#9: Indulge in your favorite dessert

#10: Plan a girls night out – Friends are the family we choose for ourselves

#11: Put your hand over your heart, close your eyes and breathe in/out slowly for one minute

#12: Look in the mirror and tell yourself how awesome you are….smile and mean it!!

#13: Get a facial (You can easily mix up your own using 2 egg whites & 2 tbsp plain yogurt, mix & apply; after it dries you can wash off with warm water)

#14: Ask your partner to rub your feet (or your back)

#15: Find a way to laugh…let yourself just be in the moment, no judgment….just laughter

#16: Write yourself a letter telling yourself all of the things you love about you

#17: Block out a date night for yourself (Or at least block out a few hours to spend quietly with yourself just enjoying your own company)

#18: Watch a sunrise or sunset

#19: Plant a flower or start an herb garden

#20: Make a bucket list

#21: Do 1 thing on your bucket list

#22: Paint a picture (or create some piece of art)

#23: Snuggle with your favorite pet

#24: Get a pedicure or manicure

#25: Go to bed 30 minutes early

#26: Request breakfast in bed (or make it yourself and bring it back to bed)

#27: Create a daily mantra to inspire you (You are strong, confident and sexy!)

#28: Do something unexpectedly nice for a stranger 

Are You Ready for the Super Bowl?

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Have you ever tasted a dish that made you moan because it was so good? Well if you haven’t then you are missing out! I went on an adventure/fitness retreat to Costa Rica with Sonja Franzmann who is an awesome retreat leader and basically one of the most incredible women I’ve ever met. We literally moaned our way through meals for a week and basically existed in food and fitness bliss. One of our best meals was a salad made of quinoa, avocado, lettuce, tomato, carrots, celery and broccoli. Every bite was a different blend of veggies and quinoa so you always had a slightly different taste with every bite. It was totally moan-worthy!! When I came back from Costa I was obsessed with this salad so I decided to try my hand.

 

You may be wondering what this has to do with the Super Bowl? Well this bowl is full of SuperFoods. You may recall from a previous blog that there are some incredibly powerful foods out there that can help fight infection, cancer, cardiovascular disease, aging and many other ailments. SuperBowl Sunday gave me a reason to pile all of my favorite SuperFoods together into one blissful, moan-worthy bowl. So here’s to my own SuperFood Bowl!!

 

The NanBowl (Makes enough for 2 but you can always use more and invite friends over to make their own bowls)

1 cup Brussel sprouts halved

½ sweet potato cubed

1 beet cubed

2 cups quinoa cooked

½ onion diced

Small bunch of spinach or kale (any leafy green will do)

½ cup cherry tomatoes halved

½ avocado sliced

 

Mix all of these ingredients together and toss with your favorite dressing. I like a simple balsamic vinegar/extra virgin olive oil drizzle. Or you can make this phenomenal Avocado Lime dressing.

 

Avocado Lime Dressing

½ to 1 avocado mashed

2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (or 1 whole squeezed lime)

½ tbsp honey

¼ tsp cumin

1 tbsp white or red vinegar

1tbsp evoo

1 tsp minced garlic

¼ cup water

 

Whisk all ingredients together and toss on top of your own superfood bowl and have your own ‘moan’-ingful moment!! You may not even care who wins or loses while you are enjoying this bowl of bliss!!

Anywhere/Anytime Exercises

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Time is the number one reason many people do not commit to an exercise routine. Add travel into your schedule and it can be extremely difficult to start or even just maintain an exercise program. Now I’m going to tell you that there is no excuse for not being able to exercise (well unless your doctor tells you no!) Committing to an exercise program takes a certain mindset. You have to have that certain ‘stickativity’ that will get you out of bed even when your inner devil may be screaming NO. That’s when you need to remember how good you feel after you work out. I use vision boards and Pinterest a lot to help me stay motivated. And when I’m snuggled in my bed and my alarm goes off at 5am I roll over and think of how strong and sexy I feel after my workout. And nothing can replace that feeling so then I jump out of bed and start my day with a workout!

Now for those of you that aren’t quite as motivated (or crazy) as I am when it comes to working out, here are a few moves that will get your endorphins flowing and have you feeling good in just a few minutes. Plus these moves go with you anywhere and you can do them any time of day or night.

 

Warm Up

It’s always a good idea to warm up your muscles before you begin your workout. This will get oxygen flowing throughout your body and loosen up any tight muscles preventing injuries. The following warm up should be repeated 2-3 times.

Jumping Jacks: Stand up straight and simultaneously laterally raise your arms while jumping both feet out sideways. Think of doing a snow angel standing up. Repeat for 30 seconds.

High Knees: Stand up straight and extend your arms out straight in front of you. Bounce your right leg up so that your right thigh meets your right hand. Repeat this on the left side. Think of this move as a jumping march. You want to bring your knees up as much as possible while maintaining a straight back. Repeat for 30 seconds.

Mountain Climbers: Lower yourself to the floor in a push up position. Your arms should be extended straight out with palms under your shoulders. In this position, bring your right knee into your right elbow. As you straighten your right leg, bring your left knee in to meet your left elbow. Repeat for 30 seconds.

 

Now that you're warmed up here are 3 simple moves to give you a quick total-body workout.

 

Squats

Stand up straight with your feet hip width distance apart. Keeping your back straight bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Then stand up straight again. Be careful not to bend at the waist because you could strain your back muscles. You should immediately ‘feel the burn’ on the tops of your thighs. Repeat this for 20 repetitions. 

 


Dips

Stand up with your back to a chair (or some other stable object). Place your hands on the chair and walk your feet out until you feel most of your weight in your arms. Feet should be about a 35 degree angle off the floor. Keeping your back and legs completely straight slowly bend your arms to a 90-degree angle. Then straight them again. You want to keep your elbows by your rib cage. You should feel the backs of your arms (triceps) start burning. Repeat this for 20 reps.


 

 

Bicycle Crunches

Lay flat on your back with your legs in the air and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows extended out to the side. Using your oblique abdominal muscles, twist your torso so that your right elbow meets your left knee. Then twist your torso so that your left elbow meets your right knee while simultaneously extending your left leg out. Think of your legs actually pedaling a bicycle while your torso is turning. Once you complete the right and left twists, that is 1 repetition. Repeat this for 20 reps.


 

If you repeat this simple circuit 3-5 times, you will see (and feel) the benefits. And if you want to add more of cardio into this workout you can repeat the warm up moves in between each circuit. No more excuses!!

16 Minute Ab Tabata

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Best 16 minutes of your life or maybe you’ll hate every minute of it but your abs will say thank you! A tabata is a great high intensity interval training that can be done anywhere. You can use them to target a specific area of the body (such as the ab one I’m about to show you) or you can work the entire body. The workout is simple: 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. During the 20-second work period you should complete as many reps as possible with good form. You can do 4-8 sets of each exercise depending on your exercise & energy level. There are some great apps available that you can use that will keep track of your time and also allow you to use any of your workout playlists. Tabata and Seconds are two that I use frequently. And I love being able to add my own music to keep me pumped up during the workout. Otherwise you can always use a stopwatch to time the 20 second/10 second intervals.

 

Ab Tabata Workout

Oblique Standing Crunches: Stand straight up, feet hip distance apart. Bend your elbows & place your hands behind your head. As you begin to bend your knee and lift your leg, rotate your entire leg so that you can bring your knee to meet your right elbow. Use your oblique abdominal muscle to lift your leg to meet your elbow. Do the same on the left side.

 

 

Plank: Lay face down on the floor in a straight line. Push yourself off the floor and with your forearms flat on the floor forming the number ‘11’. Your shoulders should be right over your elbows. The rest of your body should be in a straight line. For better stability move your feet further apart. Beware not to raise your butt because then you lose the entire benefit of the exercise. You want to constrict the muscles in your abdominal section as well as your glutes (aka butt). This exercise works the entire abdominal section.

 

 

Bicycle Crunch: Lie back on the floor with your hands supporting the back of your head. Your legs should be bent in a 90-degree angle. Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the floor and rotate your abdominals to bring your right elbow to meet your left knee. As you rotate extend your right leg straight out. Then rotate your body (using your abs) to the other side so your left elbow meets your right knee. And your left leg extends straight out. Picture riding a bicycle while laying on your back. The twisting motion of your trunk should all be done using your abdominals.

 

 

Scissor Kick: Lay down on your back with your arms by your side. Raise your legs 6-12 inches off the floor making sure that your lower back does not arch. If it does begin to arch lower your legs slightly. Slowly cross your legs to form an ‘X’ and then repeat on the other side. You can make this more challenging by lifting your head, neck and shoulders off the floor and raising your arms so they are parallel to the floor. This is great for working the lower abdominals.

   

 

And now you have a 16 minute anywhere/anytime t AB ata!! Enjoy!!

Super Foods to the Rescue!

Monday, January 19, 2015

There’s a lot of contradicting information out there in regards to foods and nutrition. There are, however, some really great ways to keep your body operating at its best. One easy way to do this is by incorporating as many SuperFoods into your diet as possible. It may sound complicated but these foods are likely already a part of your diet and you don’t even know it. Check out my SuperFoods recipe blog for some tasty recipe ideas too.

 

Beans

Eating beans may help reduce cholesterol levels and reduce certain cancers like colon, breast & prostate. They contain a highly concentrated amount of a certain phytonutrient called polyphenol which acts as an antioxidant and is also anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic. Fava beans, pinto/black beans and garbanzo beans (chickpeas) are a few of my favorites.

Blueberries

If I could pick one SuperFood that I had to eat everyday it would be blueberries. I’ve spent some time in upstate NY in the summer and the local farmers market has the best fresh berries. Some of the sidekick berries include cranberries, boysenberries, raspberries, strawberries and cherries. Eating a cup daily can prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, senility and degenerative eye diseases. This is THE most powerful disease-fighting antioxidant than any other fruit or veggie. You can add these to yogurt for a great boost to your breakfast; to an afternoon smoothie; or even eat a handful on the go.

Broccoli

Many people I’ve talked with still have a negative stigma about broccoli. It might be because that was the one food that our parents made us eat even though we hated it so we still revolt against it today. Hopefully you’ve outgrown your dislike of this vegetable because just ½ cup to 1 cup daily provides a natural protection against cancer. They contain powerful antioxidants that help to fight cancer. There’s also a study that found that eating broccoli more than 2 times/week provided a 23% lower risk of cataracts. If you aren’t a huge fan of broccoli, you can try Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale or cauliflower.

Wild Salmon

There’s been a great debate about eating fats and one of the ‘good’ fats known as polyunsaturated fat helps to increase the good cholesterol, control hypertension, prevent cancer, mitigate auto-immune disease and relieve depression. These polyunsaturated fats known as Omega3 and Omega6 are greatly concentrated in wild salmon. Eating this fish 2-4 times/week will give you the needed Omega fats and help maintain good health. One important note is to beware of farm raised salmon due to environmental concerns over the toxicity levels of raising these farmed fish. ( http://draxe.com/the-dangers-of-farmed-fish/ ) Although many improvements have been made over the years to raise clean farmed fish, the known benefits are directly related to wild salmon. Some other sidekicks include Alaskan halibut, canned albacore tuna, sea bass, oysters or clams.

 

By adding these foods into your diet on a daily/weekly basis you are well on your way to ensuring that your body is well-defended from many diseases.


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