Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A February Fete

Last week, my friends at Cascade Ice treated me and a guest to a night of pampering. I invited my mom to go with me, and we had a blast. Below is the recap of the night from event representatives. 

Photo by Emilia Gaston
Cocktails, manicures, blow-outs and more! It was a night to be pampered last Thursday evening at Frederic Fekkai Salon, where Cascade Ice sparkling water hosted a February Fête.

Guests were treated to complimentary hair, nail and makeup services by the friendly and experienced staff of Frederic Fekkai salon – enjoying a first-class night of beauty! The Fekkai manicurist Joey does Brittany Spears' nails. Before the beauty began, each guest sampled the zero-calorie sparkling flavored waters and skinny cocktails by Cascade Ice. 

Cascade Ice is ZERO calories and also free of sugar, gluten, sodium and carbohydrates. They're quite delicious too. Guests' favorite flavors of the evening included Coconut, Lemonade and the Margarita. The beverage is available for purchase in Dallas at Albertson's, Sprouts, Kroger & Market Street Supermarkets.

Guests received fabulous parting gifts: Frederic Fekkai shampoo and conditioner and samples of Cascade Ice to enjoy!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cocktails by Cascade | Basically Guilt-Free Drinks

Living a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle doesn't mean you have to be the person hiding at the party, sipping on water in a dixie cup (don't be offended because this has so been me before). One of my personal mantra's is to embrace life with the idea that everything is better in moderation. Really though, even if it's spinach, you eat too much of it, and it could harm your body.

There's nothing wrong with enjoying a cocktail with friends, and thankfully, there are several healthier options available for you to make those cocktails almost guilt-free (there's always a little bit of guilt associated with alcohol, isn't there — haha).


In this post, I'll present to you healthier drink options that you can make at home. My friends at Cascade Ice sent me a cute red box full of sparkling water mixers that are absolutely perfect for making light cocktails. Granted, I tried them all straight out of the bottle, and they taste delicious by themselves, so these could be an alternative to other fruity drinks or juices. Before I they contacted me, I hadn't heard of Cascade Ice, but a few days later, I noticed several flavors available at Kroger. You can also find them in other major retailers like Wal-Mart, Albertson's and Safeway.

Here are some ways they are different than other products out there:


  • Zero-calorie and sugar-free
  • Caffeine-free
  • Sodium-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Carb-free
  • Artificial-anything-free

A girlfriend and I enjoyed the Cosmopolitan one night, and we both approved. As an avid diet cranberry and vodka drinker, I found this cocktail to be super easy, and tasty.

The next one I want to try is one of their Va-Va-Voom Valentine's Day cocktails called Ice Love Potion, which is made with Cherry-Guava Blueberry Cascade Ice and gin. Ummm, yes please!

I encourage you to check out their blog, where they post tips for creating new and fresh cocktails and other fruity drinks, plus visit their Recipes page to find out more.

If you want to learn more about Cascade Ice, visit their website, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Seriously Good Spaghetti

If you haven't jumped on the band wagon for "clean eating," you still have time. If you're hesitating because you can't imagine a life without bread or pasta or comfort food, I encourage you to reconsider. My diet is full of whole foods and clean eating, but I've learned to not let it consume me or prevent me from having a thriving social life.

In case you're still not sold, just humor me and try out this easy, cheap and delicious recipe as an alternative to the traditional spaghetti. Why do us Americans like spaghetti so much? For my family (growing up as one of four kids), spaghetti was a quick meal to make in less than 30 minutes, and it fed all six of us (and the occasional neighborhood kids) for under $10, plus left-overs.

You can make the same cheap and easy meal a healthier way — like way healthier. Here's what you need.

Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash 
  • 1/2 cup bell peppers (assorted colors if you want)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste (small can)
  • 2 cloves garlic (or garlic powder to taste)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Extra veggies (broccoli, zucchini, carrots, etc.) *optional
  • 1 lb. extra-lean ground turkey (or beef) *optional
Consider the size of the squash before you buy one. An average-sized squash will probably feed four normal adults. But also note that this recipe makes great left-overs, so if you want to have something to munch on all week, buy a bigger squash.

Directions:
  1. With a decent-size knife, cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds and nasty looking stuff in the center using a fork.
  2. Place both halves open-side-up on cookie tray in the oven. 
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
  4. While that's baking, sautée the turkey in a pan at medium-high heat.
  5. Once the turkey* has no sign of raw meat going on, add the onion, garlic and bell peppers, and other veggies* and turn heat to low-medium.
  6. When everything's pretty much cooked through, add tomatoes and tomato paste to same pan, and let it simmer until your squash is done.
  7. When squash is a little brown on the top, remove it from the oven and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
  8. Lastly, use your fork to scrape the sides of the squash into a big serving bowl (or eat it right out of the flesh of the squash). Add salt, pepper and a little butter (if you want).
  9. Pour meat sauce on top of the squash and thoroughly mix it all together.
  10. Enjoy!
Let me know how yours turns out in the comments. :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Plantains | How Do You Cook Them?

Plantains are those giant banana-looking things in the produce section of your grocery store. Most people are unfamiliar with the various health benefits plantains provide, like fiber, calcium, beta-carotene and Vitamin C. They are also lower in sugar than bananas, which means they fall lower on the Glycemic Index (which is good). 

Because plantains offer such good nutrients and vitamins, adding them to your diet can help improve your skin, hair and nails, as well as help strengthen your immune system. Other benefits of plantains include the reduction of inflammation and the regulation of women's menstrual cycles. 

So how do you cook them?


While I'm still experimenting with different ways to cook these sweet and savory fruits, I have two recipes to share with you. You should also note that plantains cooked in restaurants may be fried or sauteed in fatty or unhealthy oils and butter, so it's probably best to eat these at home.


For a savory side dish (or main dish if you want to add meat like I did), try pairing peeled, chopped plantains (1 plantain) with peeled, chopped butternut squash (about 1.5-2 cups). In my dish, I added some left-over extra-lean ground turkey (about 1 cup), and added chopped onions, garlic and Mrs. Dash chipotle lime seasoning.  


I mixed all of this together with about a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and popped it in the oven for a couple of hours at 275 degrees. I had it cooking while I was at the gym, but I'm sure they'd cook up just fine in less than an hour if you increased the heat to 350-375 degrees. I'm telling you, this fiesta-style entree is absolutely delicious, and practically melts in your mouth!


The other way I like to eat plantains is the sweet way. Now, this is probably the kind of treat you'd need to beware of in restaurants. Instead of frying them, I peeled and chopped another plantain (along with half a green apple, shown above) and spread them in a small dish, on which I smeared coconut oil. I sprinkled them with brown sugar (about 1 Tbsp), stevia, cinnamon, and then drizzled some raw, unfiltered, local honey on top of all that delicious-ness. After baking at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (or until softened), these plantains make for a healthy yet decadent dessert.

Let me know if you try these out! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What Makes a Man Sexy? (A.K.A. How to Turn On a Woman)



Women are deep. We’re complicated and sometimes, that can come off as being high-maintenance. We just want a guy to tell us we are captivating. That we are beautiful. That we are worth fighting for.

It’s our deepest desire: to be pursued by men. Unfortunately, the fall of man twisted that around and now it’s our biggest struggle: to keep a man pursuing her and not chase him.

Although I feel like it’s biblical for a man to pursue a woman, it’s also a woman’s responsibility to entice a man. Read what guys said was the best way to do that in a previous post, “What Makes a Woman Sexy.”

This time, I asked 15 women what they find sexy in a man, and boy, did they have a lot to say.

When You Can Tell Who They Are on the Inside


The first quality that most women suggested had to do with how a man treats a woman. When a man can balance his respect for a woman (through honest and real communication) and knowing how (and when) to flirt with her, he can call himself a stud. Girls like guys to use their words. Tell her she’s beautiful, that she’s intriguing, that she’s talented, yada yada yada ….

Another biggie is spontaneity. Personally, I think that a man who doesn’t fear the future has grit. He has faith. He has guts.

Two more qualities appeared in the answers of multiple women, and quite honestly, these two are probably the biggest turn-on’s for me: humility and passion.

A guy has no idea how sexy he is when he lacks arrogance and instead, blushes at a compliment or speaks highly of someone else. Hearing a guy give credit to another (and especially God) when He’s been blessed is equivalent to the ecstasy a man gets when a girl flashes him. Pair that with a raw, manly passion (in the gym, in the office, in bed, and in life in general), and suddenly, I’m smitten. I want him. I’ve got to have him.

When They Display Modern-day Chivalry


A guy doesn’t have to show up on your doorstep with a sword and horse-driven carriage (although I’ve had friends who have done that), but having a servant's heart will take you far.

Being chivalrous means you are a leader. You’re fearless. You open doors for others, speak politely, and don’t eat like a pig. It means you help with house chores (without asking for the most part). You appreciate women and want to fight for them.

However, protecting a woman and fighting for her can also look like a guy who is confident enough to talk to a woman and share his thoughts with her. Or, even a guy who takes charge, grabs a girl’s hand and leads her down the aisle at church (or into the club).

One woman said it’s sexy when men do “‘guy things’ like airing up my tires and hanging pictures.” I could not agree more. There’s value in having your man take you shopping or watching a “chick-flick” with you, but one of the sexiest things about a man is just that — his manliness.

Do I want to wake up at 3 a.m. to hunt, gut a pig, and skip bathing for 3 or more days? No. Do I think it’s okay for men? Sure.

Knowing that a man can take care of himself without a mother (a role in which no woman should play to the man whom with she sleeps) is one of the biggest turn-on’s. (Note that this is totally different from a man valuing and loving his mother.)

When They Try to Look Good


One of the biggest misconceptions about “hotness” is that a person has to fit a certain mold. Just like most guys answered last time, women agreed that a man’s “hotness” is bumped up a notch by simply trying.

To me, seeing a guy in the gym automatically puts them above Joe Schmoe outside (unless he’s exercising outdoors — hah). When a guy is trying to look good, it tells a girl he’s willing to pursue her, to fight for her, to impress her — because she is desirable. (I know … That’s pretty deep, huh?)

“If they’re willing to let their appearances go, then chances are, they aren’t too worried about what you think of them either.” — B

Women want to be pursued, and if they feel like a guy doesn’t care what she thinks, she won’t feel like that guy desires her. Active and healthy lifestyles show women that a guy cares about his future, that he cares about being there for his family as he ages.

When They Try


It can be as easy as taking note of a woman’s likes and dislikes. One girl’s first response to my question said sexy is “a man who still wears cologne even when he’s been married a few years because he knows how much his wife loves that smell.”

Lounging in the recliner, playing X-box, and watching someone else work is unacceptable, one woman says. One of the simplest things a man can do is just ask if someone needs help.

Also, the flirtation shouldn’t stop just because you’ve been with a girl for a couple years, and it still shouldn’t stop when you’ve been married for 20. Brief moments of tenderness and vulnerability are invaluable to a woman. Always say, “I love you” and kiss your girl goodbye. Send her the occasional sweet texts just because you’re thinking about her. You will not be disappointed. (Ladies, don’t take this stuff for granted.)

The Deal-Breaker


A relationship with God is key, no matter what your gender. It doesn’t matter where you are in your spiritual walk as long as you’re trying to walk with God. We’ve all got issues and hang-ups and things about our past that make it hard for us to connect with others, but the most important thing to consider is whether a man has welcomed God’s presence on his path or if he’s doing it alone.

Girls, you cannot change a man. Stop chasing after guys trying to change them (we’ve all done it).

A man has to be a leader. It’s a man’s responsibility to initiate in order to protect his family. A woman has to respect her man and allow him to fulfill his God-given role (and that’s a separate struggle), but a man must engage her emotionally, physically and spiritually.

What did I miss? I appreciate your comments!
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