Thursday, February 28, 2013

'Six Pack' March

The February Fitness Challenge is finally over...... whew! 2,500 push-ups and 2,500 tricep-dips completed in 28 days.  Not only can I see a change in my arms and shoulders (they are more toned) but I also feel MUCH stronger.  At the beginning of the month, I could barely do 1 standard regular push-up... and today I busted out 9 sets of 15 standard push-ups like it was no biggie!  These monthly challenges do work!
Read more about the February Fitness Challenge here: February Fitness Challenge

With swimsuit season around the corner, I thought it was was only appropriate to do a mid-section and ab fitness challenge for the month of March.  The 'Six Pack' March challenge consists of sit-ups, reverse crunches, Russian twists, and bicycle crunches to work your upper and lower abs. :)  The reps increase a couple times during the month, so make sure to keep the Fitness Challenge calendar handy!

As always, you can add on reps or make the exercises harder if you feel you need the extra challenge.  I am going to continue to do a few reps of exercises from previous months' challenges (squats, push-ups, tri-dips) during the day to mix it up.

March.... Let's do this!

For a printable calendar, go to our Facebook page and while you're there don't forget to 'Like' us!

Good luck :)

And don't forget... abs aren't just made in the gym (or home 'gym'), they are made in the kitchen too!  For results, you have to exercise AND eat healthy.  For healthy recipe ideas, check out our recipe index page... lots of ideas for breakfasts, lunches, dinner, desserts, and snacks!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Black Bean Brownies

A friend of mine requested I try out a recipe for Black Bean Brownies as one of my next kitchen adventures.  I like brownies and I like black beans... so I quickly obliged.  Plus, black beans sounded like a healthy and interesting twist on the original gooey, chocolatey (but no-so-good-for-you) brownie.  And black beans actually replace the white flour in these brownies!  Crazy.  I'm all about my sweets and desserts... could these healthier brownies made with a can of fiber-packed black beans possibly satisfy my sweet tooth?

Black Bean Brownies
based on a recipe from

1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used unsweetened applesauce)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee or coffee grounds
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8x8 square baking dish.
Combine the black beans, eggs, oil, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla extract, sugar, and instant coffee in a blender;

Blend until smooth;

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the mixture.

Bake in the preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

These brownies have a spongier, drier texture than your regular brownie... but are still chocolatey and rich.  They actually remind me a lot of the Low-Fat Brownies I made using a box of brownie mix and a can of pumpkin.  You probably will not fool your kids or husband with these brownies, you can still taste a hint of the black beans.  However, they are a healthier option to original version made with white flour and they will satisfy a sweet tooth!  I think I will play with this recipe a little more to see if that black bean flavor can be masked.  But overall, I'd say they turned out pretty good. :)


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Master Cleanse- My Personal Journey

Let me start off by saying that the Master Cleanse, or a cleanse/detox of any sort, is not for everyone. You should always check with your health care provider before undergoing any type of cleanse or detox. I am only speaking of my own personal journey and do not expect everyone to have the same experience as me.

With that said, this is my 3rd time doing the Master Cleanse. I did the cleanse two times last year, and had no bad experiences to speak of. Just the opposite, the cleanses provided me with not only the opportunity to jump start my diets, but I actually find clarity, improved sleep patterns, and my overall well-being improved during the cleansing period.

If you are interested in this cleanse, I highly recommend the book: "Lose Weight, Have More Energy, and Be Happier in 10 Days: Take Charge of Your Health with the Master Cleanse" by Peter Glickman. I don't recommend you start this cleanse without reading this book first.

What you need:

  • The book: "Lose Weight, Have More Energy, and Be Happier in 10 Days: Take Charge of Your Health with the Master Cleanse" by Peter Glickman
  • 30 large lemons or 60 limes or small lemons, or some combination of all those.
  • At least 64 fluid ounces organic Grade B maple syrup
  • Sea salt (not "iodized" or "iodine added")
  • Cayenne Pepper (not pills) 
  • Herbal laxative tea
  • Peppermint tea

Quick Start:

  • The night before and every night of the cleanse, drink one cup of herbal laxative tea before bed.
  • In the morning, before drinking any lemonade, each day of the cleanse, drink 32 ounces of purified water with two teaspoons of sea salt
  • During each day of the cleanse, drink 6 to 12 ounces of "lemonade" (2 tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of syrup, 1/10 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and 8 ounces of purified water)

  • You can drink as much herbal mint tea and/or water as you want. (yay!) 
  • Do not eat anything!!! The only exception is prescribed medicine.

The cleanse should be done for at least 10 days. It will be very tempting to quit. But, stay strong. Lots of people have made it through the cleanse and you will too! 

When breaking the cleanse, you should slowly drink freshly squeezed orange juice for an entire day. The second day of breaking the cleanse, you should start the day with orange juice, and slowly start to transition to solid foods, such as vegetable soup. There is a lot more guidance in the book, so if you do this cleanse, read it.

I started the cleanse 10 days ago and I am still going strong. I have had good and bad days. Some days, I feel really hungry and tired. Other days, I feel strong and clear-headed. The worst part to me is the salt water flush in the morning. It is really hard to get down 32 ounces of salt water. And, there are almost immediate eliminations right after the salt water flush. I usually can't leave my apartment for an hour after I do the flush (as I am glued to the toilet). So, plan your days accordingly. The first couple days, I also suffered from headaches, presumably from caffeine withdrawals. They did go away. 

Some of the benefits include weight loss (obviously), a sense of clarity and lightness, and cleansing your body of toxins. When I started the cleanse, I was suffering from hemorrhoids. They disappeared during the cleanse. It's amazing. I feel so much better. YAY!

Each cleanse has been a different journey for me. I believe the experience is unique to each person. It's a spiritual, physical, and mental journey. 

Best of luck to you if you should choose this journey.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Cookie Love: Flourless Fudge Cookies and Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cookies

It's almost Valentine's Day! What special thing are you doing for the love(s) in your life?  To me, nothing says "I Love You" like a batch of warm and delicious, home-made cookies!

Today was the perfect rainy day for baking, so I made a batch of Flourless Fudge Cookies.  These cookies are dark, rich, chocolately, and decedent... they are firm on the outside, but remain soft and chewy on the inside.  It's like eating a tiny lava cake!  Not to mention, they are so quick and easy to make... and only take a couple of ingredients.

Flourless Fudge Cookies
via King Arthur Flour

"Ultra-chewy, rich chocolate cookies with no added fat? And no gluten? Impossible! But it's true: these flourless chocolate cookies get their texture from egg whites, and their flavor from cocoa powder (which represents the only fat in the recipe). Plus they're easy to make: Just stir together a few simple ingredients, scoop onto a pan, and bake for 8 minutes. You won't believe the delicious result." 

2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional but good
1 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-process (European-style) preferred*
3 large egg whites
2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla extract
*For darker, richer-looking cookies, substitute 1/4 cup black cocoa for 1/4 cup of the Dutch-process cocoa

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets. Or line with parchment, and grease the parchment.

2) Stir together all of the ingredients till smooth. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and stir again till smooth.

3) Drop the soft, batter-like dough onto the prepared baking sheets in 1 1/2" circles; a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.

4) Bake the cookies for 8 minutes; they should spread, become somewhat shiny, and develop faintly crackly tops.

5) Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool right on the pan.  Sprinkle with some additional confectioners' sugar.

6) Yield: 16 large (3") cookies.

I couldn't stop at just one batch of cookies....

The combination of peanut butter and chocolate is my idea of perfection.  I just love those Peanut-Butter & Chocolate Kiss Cookies (my mom has been making for years), but didn't have any Hershey kisses today... so I changed the original recipe a bit and used dark chocolate M&M's instead!  These peanut butter and chocolate cookies are soft, chewy, and so delicious.

Peanut-Butter & Chocolate Cookies
recipe adapted from the book Cookies by Natalie Hartanov Haughton 

½ cup butter or margarine, room temperature
½ cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ - 1 cup chocolate chips or M&M’s

1) Preheat oven to 375.

2) In a medium bowl, beat together butter (or margarine), peanut butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy.  

3) Add flour and baking soda, beating until thoroughly blended.  Gently fold in chocolate chips or M&M’s.  

4) Shape into 1 inch balls, using a rounded teaspoon.  Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  

5) Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden.  

6) Remove from cookies from baking sheets, cool on rack.

Now this is what I call TRUE LOVE!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Slow-Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!  But if you're like most people... you find yourself running out the door in the mornings, having barely enough time to grab your coffee and whatever 'breakfast item' you have on-hand.

For those of us who don't have enough time to prepare a hearty and healthy breakfast every morning, this Slow-Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal is a great option because it cooks while you sleep... or you can make a big batch on a Sunday and eat all week!!  Just turn on the slow-cooker or crock pot before you go to bed, add the ingredients, and you will wake up to a warm, nutritious breakfast (and a house that smells divine)!

Slow-Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
recipe and image from

Place 2 sliced apples, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon in the bottom of the slow-cooker or crock pot. Pour 2 cups of oatmeal and 4 cups of water on top.  Do NOT stir.

Cook overnight for 8 - 9 hours on low.

I found you only need to cook on low for 4 - 5 hours.

Here are the ways I changed this recipe:

  • I reduced the amount of brown sugar and added honey in it's place.
  • I stirred in about 1 cup of applesauce and 1/2 cup raisins to the oatmeal at the end of cooking process.
  • The slow-cooker/crockpot dish needs to be sprayed with non-stick spray before.  I had A LOT of crusty oatmeal stick like glue to the sides of slow-cooker dish.... so much, that the dish is still soaking in the sink.  
  • Don't be fooled by the beautiful oatmeal picture above, this oatmeal turns out more like brown mush.  DELICIOUS brown mush, but mush all the same.
  • I only cooked the oatmeal for 4.5 hours on low and it still turned out perfect... you don't necessarily have to cook it for 8-9 hours.

I have made this Slow-Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal twice now and it tastes fantastic. I will definitely make this recipe again... there are so many variations I would like to try.  A warm healthy, hearty breakfast can now be a reality.  It keeps you full for hours too!



Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Spicy Buffalo Turkey Meat Loaf w/ Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes"

Last Sunday while most people were enjoying a Party-Food-Related-Cheat-Day, I was stuck at work... eating an apple and boring sandwich.  So it's not surprising that ever since the Superbowl, I've been craving Spicy Buffalo Wings!  All I want is some fiery, vinegary, spicy goodness.  Instead of heading to the closest bar for a big greasy plate of Buffalo Wings, I came up with a creative way to get my "wing sauce" fix and have a hearty, healthy dinner too.

Wow, this is one tasty meatloaf!  The amount of wing sauce and crumbled blue cheese in this meatloaf is perfect.  Very well balanced, full of flavor and healthy ingredients... I'd say this meatloaf is the big WINNER!

Spicy Buffalo Turkey and Blue Cheese Meat Loaf
based on a recipe from

2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons buffalo wing sauce
1 pound lean ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup chopped onion (I used 1 tsp. onion powder instead)
2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese, reduced fat

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly mist a 9"x5"x3" nonstick loaf pan with nonstick spray.

Combine the oats and milk in a medium mixing bowl and stir to mix. Let stand for 3 minutes, or until the oats begin to soften. Stir in the wing sauce until well mixed. Add the turkey, celery, carrot, onion, egg whites, and salt. Mix the ingredients well. Add the blue cheese and gently mix to combine.

Transfer the mixture to a prepared pan and spread so that the top is flat. Drizzle top with some additional wing sauce and blue cheese (if desired).

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the turkey is completely cooked through and no longer pink. Cut into 8 slices and serve immediately.

And you can't have meatloaf without a side of Mashed Potatoes!!  In this recipe, cauliflower replaces most of the potatoes making these "mashed potatoes" a lower calorie, lower carb version of the original.

Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes" 
recipe from

8 oz uncooked cauliflower, florets
2 small uncooked Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 cloves (medium) garlic, peeled
1 tsp table salt, divided
1/4 cup low-fat milk
2 tsp salted butter
1/8 tsp black pepper

Place cauliflower, potatoes, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover ingredients and bring to a boil. Boil until vegetables are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes; drain and return to saucepan.

Stir in milk, butter, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper; mash with a potato masher until smooth. 

Yields about 1/2 cup per serving.

Just like mashed potatoes! 

What can I say?! This dinner was so good... I'M STUFFED!!!!!!!!!! (and no longer craving Buffalo Wings)