Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sweet Potato Mash-Up

Besides having a butt-load of healthy benefits, sweet potatoes taste amazing. Can anyone agree with me? Bake 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew — if they weren't so tough without cooking, I might try to eat them straight-up like an apple.

One of my favorite reasons to keep sweet potatoes around is so I can have fudge ... every. single. day. Yep, with just a few extra ingredients, I can turn these orange little potatoes into chocolate magnificence. 

Before I tell you how to make the fudge, let me explain all the nutritious reasons why you should keep them in your kitchen.

  1. Vitamin A — Sweet taters are full of vitamin A, which promotes healthy vision, skin, nails and hair. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means the body can more efficiently absorb it into the bloodstream with healthy fats. Consider eating sweet potatoes with good fats like coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, flax seed, avocado or crushed pecans.
  2. Beta-Carotene — You'll know a food has beta-carotene, an antioxidant, by the color orange/red. Food sources that contain beta-carotene help prevent cancer because they protect the body from free radicals (the root cause of cancer). This is one of the main reasons sweet potatoes are listed as an acceptable food for body-builders and athletes — because the formation of new muscle causes your body to produce free radicals and ammonia, so you need extra antioxidants to get rid of them.
  3. Anti-Inflammatory — When your body is at rest and not fighting free radicals so much, things are at peace on your insides, meaning all your body parts aren't swelling up due to stress, and your body can begin to heal.
  4. Low Glycemic Index — Studies show that foods lower on the G.I. can actually help your blood sugar levels regulate at optimal levels, which is good for average joe and great for people trying to lose weight, and especially great for diabetics. 
  5. Convenience — You can find our orange tubers on grocery store shelves all year long, and for a decent price. You can also eat them in different dishes and they will taste totally different, offering a unique taste with each recipe (salty vs. sweet).
So now that you know why you should be eating more sweet potatoes, let me tell you how.

I don't do numbers — seriously, I probably make them different every single time, so this is my best effort at telling you how I make these recipes. Sorry!

Chocolate Sweet Potato Fudge


Ingredients:
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Coconut Oil
  • Stevia
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Egg Whites
  • Cinnamon (optional)
  • *In the past, I've added 1-2 scoops of protein powder, which helps the batter stick together and not be so gooey.
Instructions:
  1. Cook 2-3 sweet potatoes in the microwave for 10 minutes. Repeat this for however many taters you want to cook. (I made a big batch of about a dozen.)
  2. Let them cool off before peeling them and tossing them in a big bowl. After they're cooked, the peeling will come off super-easily. You should be able to just pick at the peeling and tear it off in a few big chunks.
  3. Pour melted coconut oil over them. (I ran out of coconut oil, but I would have probably used about 1/2 cup or so. This time, I used about 2 tbsp.)
  4. Add cocoa powder (I used about 3/4 cup), egg whites (1/3 cup) and stevia and cinnamon to taste.
  5. Use beaters to mix it into a brownie-batter consistency.
  6. Taste it to make sure you like it and you don't want to add anything else.
  7. From here, you can make ...

Sweet Potato Fudge Fro-Yo

  1. Simply put it in a freezer-safe bowl and store in freezer until you want to eat it.
  2. Transfer it to the fridge to thaw for 1-2 hours before it's fro-yo consistency, but really, you guys, this stuff is awesome.
  3. Side Note: Don't leave your metal spoon in the bowl and put it back in the freezer, because when you get ready to microwave it to eat it the next time, you will be mad that you have to wait until it thaws enough to remove the spoon.

Sweet Potato Fudge Balls or Brownies

  1. Embrace your inner child and make little mud pies.
  2. Plop some batter on a lined cookie sheet and then freeze or refrigerate them.
  3. You can pour the batter into a cake-sized baking dish and refrigerate them, and then you can cut them into fudge squares.
  4. Really, whichever way you make them, they're good frozen, chilled or warm.
So far, I've been able to store this batter in the fridge for about three weeks, and it still comes out tasting fresh and fudgy. I think it would keep for longer if I wanted it to, but I go through them too fast!

What would you put in yours? I'm sure there are a TON of sweet potato recipes out there, and I'm sure to share more. Tell me your favorite one in the comments below!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

4-Ingredient Oatmeal Pancakes

Who said you couldn't eat pancakes every single morning and still follow your bikini-prep meal plan?

Not I, said the fly!

Well, I may not eat these pancakes every morning because some days, I wake up with three minutes to do 30 minutes worth of getting ready to go to work. That includes hugging my dogs, rolling my hair and making the bed. (I'm a nazi about making the bed). There's something about having a neat bed that makes the whole room look better — even if the rest of the place is a disaster.

Any way, the point is that if you wanted to eat these pancakes every day, you could, and it would be totally appropriate.

Oatmeal Pancakes

Note: The ingredients make one serving of 3 pancakes, so if you want to make more at a time, be brave and do the math. I tend to steer clear of numbers ...

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup water
  • stevia/cinnamon to taste

Directions:

  1. Blend your oats in a food processor or a blender to make them finely ground, like flour.
  2. Combine the oats with the egg whites, stevia and cinnamon (and whatever other flavorings you want) in a bowl.
  3. Even though I said 1/2 cup of water, I like to turn the faucet on really lightly, and let it slowly dribble into the bowl, stirring it at the same time, until it gets to be that pancake-batter-pudding-like consistency.
  4. Sometimes, I'll add a tablespoon of Spirulina, which is pretty much tasteless, and is a total super food (more to come on that soon).
  5. Get out your pan on the stove, and make the pancakes like you normally would.
Other options for these pancakes would be to add 1/2 - 1 scoop of whey isolate protein. My favorite is Hydrowhey Platinum by Optimum Nutrition in Cookies & Cream. You can also add almond butter, PB2, Walden Farms calorie-free syrup, vanilla extract or cocoa powder. 

These pancakes are so easy and so delicious, you will be hooked. Get creative, and tell me what you like best for your pancakes in the comments below!



Monday, June 24, 2013

Lemons, Limes and Weight Loss

I drink more than a gallon of water every day, and almost 100 ounces of that water probably contains lemon. My favorite way to begin the day is to make a big glass of lemon water, sweetened with some stevia. Aside from adding flavor to boring old water, squeezing in more lemons in your diet is a simple way to boost your fat-burning metabolism.  Limes work too, but studies show lemons are a bit more nutritiously dense.

Here are some of the benefits of lemons:

  • Contains loads of Vitamin C, which helps produce more antioxidants in your body, reducing inflammation, free radicals and soreness
  • Creates an alkaline state in your body, which prevents your body from becoming a breeding ground for harmful bacteria
  • Detoxes your body and especially your liver, making this filtering organ function better (Note: your liver rids your body of toxins and helps burn fat because the easier it is for your liver to work properly, the higher your metabolism will be.)
  • Clears your skin of blemishes and discoloration
  • Aids in digestion
  • Boosts your mood
  • Increases energy
  • Fights simple illnesses like coughs, colds, fevers, etc.

Honestly, I don't know anyone who simply hates lemons and limes. I mean, some people may like them more than others (like me ... I could eat a whole lemon minus the rind). One of the other benefits of lemons is that their refreshing taste makes you want to drink more water, helping to satiate your appetite and eat less. If you drink a big 52 oz. QuikTrip cup full of lemon water like I do every morning, I promise, you will feel fuller.

It's important that you use real lemons and/or limes, and try to not use the juice. Those juices often contain harmful additives or sweeteners. You can find lemons and limes in bulk at places like Sam's Club or Costco (and they're super-cheap there). For the most part, they last a long time too.

Another refreshing drink I've started making with lemons and limes is my mojito-inspired citrus chiller. My mint and stevia plants in our little backyard garden definitely add a kick to this perfect summertime drink. There are probably a hundred different ways you can spin this little concoction, but here are a couple ways I've been making them.

Citrus Chillers

(best served in a mason jar because ... everything's better in a mason jar)

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 lemons/limes
  • 10 oz. carbonated water or sparkling beverage (like Cascade Ice)
  • 3-4 leaves of Mint
  • stevia to taste

Directions:

  1. Fill your mason jar or cup up a quarter of the way with ice (crushed works best)
  2. Throw your mint leaves in there and use a wooden spoon or knife to smash it all around (I'm sure there's a technical term for this), but doing this releases the flavor of the mint
  3. Fill up your cup half way with the carbonated water
  4. Slice and squeeze your lemons/limes into the water
  5. Add the stevia
  6. Fill up the rest of the cup with the carbonated water and stir it all around

So, do you think you will start drinking more lemon water? Will you try the chiller recipe? I'm telling you, once you try one, you will want to go to Home Depot and buy a little mint plant just to satisfy your new addiction.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Eat Clean: Easy Stir-Fry and Fish

It's easier than you may think to eat clean. I got home from the gym last night at 9:15, and I still managed to cook and devour this delicious clean meal before 10 p.m.

You'd be surprised just how much I can stuff in my face. I began cutting up veggies, thinking I'd cook enough to have some left over for today, but half-way through, I thought, nah, Ima just eat it all! ;)

And guess what? That's okay, because for the most part, eating clean means you can eat more — especially when you pair lean, white fish with a big bowl of veggies. I had my husband lay out the frozen fish about 20 minutes before I got home, but to be honest, fish thaws out so quickly that if you set it in a sink full of warm water, it will be ready to cook by the time you finish chopping up your veggies.

There are tons of variations to a clean stir-fry meal, but this is how I ate it last night.

Thai-Inspired Fish Stir-Fry


Ingredients:

  • 4-6 oz. cod fish
  • 1 small onion
  • 1-2 mini bell peppers (or 1 large)
  • 1/2 cup broccoli
  • 1 large white mushroom (or a handful of small mushrooms)
  • 10-12 chopped asparagus spears


Directions:
  1. Turn your oven onto Broil-Low.
  2. Clean all your veggies with warm water and a white vinegar spray, which rids them of any pesticides or residue.
  3. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and spray with extra-virgin olive oil. 
  4. Lay the fish on the sheet and add all the seasoning pizzazz your little heart desires. I used garlic powder, Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb, and a salt-free medley I got as a gift (I'm not sure what's in it).  *I save the salt to add to the entire dish at the end, so I don't get too much of it.
  5. Place the fish in the oven and check on it in about 15 minutes.
  6. While the fish is cooking, chop up all your veggies and toss them in a sauteƩ pan on your stove. You can drizzle a little coconut oil to wet them (maybe 1 Tbsp) and simmer them on low/medium heat. I also added 2 Tbsp water to add some steam.
  7. Season 'em up!
  8. Toss them in a bowl and place your fish on top when it's ready. 
  9. I used about 2 Tbsp of Annie Chun's organic peanut marinade for an Asian-flavor that I'd been craving.
  10. You can use whichever sauce you'd like. I'd suggest low sodium soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, low sugar BBQ sauce, balsamic vinegar, or even honey mustard.
Please let me know if you try this, and fill me in on all your variations in the comments!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Value of Sleep

I came across this infographic from Greatist.com in one of my daily emails with healthy tips. One of the best things we can do to ensure overall health is prioritize sleep. Although sleep should be one of the most sought-after activities to better your health, ironically, it's one of the biggest problems people face.

It can't be because people don't enjoy sleep ... that's just blasphemy.

Is it because we're so darn busy? I think so. I think that life today goes so fast, especially here in the United States, that we have a hard time unwinding and relaxing, until we burn and crash. And then, our bodies often aren't equipped to relax and fall into that deep sleep that brings rejuvenation.

Today, I encourage you to consider moving sleep up on your priority list. Surely, there is one or two things on your to-do list that can either wait or be removed all together.

Like for me, I might not watch another episode of Lost (yes, I'm just now watching that show on Netflix). I really don't need to scroll through my Instagram newsfeed one more time. I could probably get away with going to the bedroom and open a book sooner than I normally do.

I tend to be more motivated to make sleep a priority when I remember that if I get better sleep, my metabolism will work more efficiently and my body will be able to burn more fat. Therefore, more sleep equals more fat-burning!

If that's not motivation, I don't know what else to tell ya!

How do you get better sleep? Do you have any tips for unwinding before you hit the hay?


Get health and fitness tips at Greatist.com
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