Monthly Archives: October 2012

White Broccoli Pizza

Happy Halloween blog friends!

How adorable is that? Check out 49 other hilarious animal Halloween costumes here: http://www.hlntv.com/slideshow/2012/10/24/animal-pet-cute-costume-halloween?hpt=hp_c2

Today’s post is about one of my well-known favorite kitchen creations — pizza! For last weekend’s homemade pizza night,  I decided to use a bunch of fresh broccoli I had on hand to make this delicious pie:

First I rolled out my whole wheat dough, then placed it on my pizza pan:

Next I chopped the broccoli, minced the garlic…

…and brushed olive oil evenly on my dough.

Next I spread shredded mozzarella & provolone cheese, spooned ricotta cheese, and placed broccoli and garlic evenly on top of my dough, seasoning with salt, pepper and basil:

I baked the pizza in the oven at 400 degrees until lightly browned, let it cool,  sliced the pie, then thoroughly enjoyed a few pieces. Full recipe is below!


White Broccoli Pizza
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 1 whole wheat pizza dough
  • 1 bunch of broccoli (2-3 cups)
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • ¾ cup light ricotta cheese
  • 1½ cups shredded mozzarella & provolone cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt, pepper & basil to taste
  • Flour for dusting
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Lightly dust the dough, surface, and rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough out and place on a pizza pan.
  3. Chop broccoli into bite-sized pieces and mince garlic.
  4. Brush the olive oil evenly onto the dough.
  5. Sprinkle the shredded cheese and spoon the ricotta on the dough, then evenly spread the broccoli on top.
  6. Add minced garlic, basil, salt, and pepper to the pizza.
  7. Bake in the oven until lightly browned, around 15-20 minutes.
  8. Allow the pizza to cool before cutting into slices.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: Per slice, Calories: 235 calories, Fat: 10 g, Carbohydrates: 28 g, Protein: 11 g

Everything But the Legs: Working Out Around an Injury

First off, I just wanted to say that my thoughts are with everyone in the path of Hurricane Sandy. It’s been hard to watch the chaotic weather hitting my home state of New Jersey, where my family & friends live, while I’m so far away from it all. Luckily, all of my loved ones are safe and doing fine – just without power and with some minor damage, including the gigantic tree at my grandma’s house that shines with Christmas lights every year that’s now on the ground blocking her driveway. Natural disasters always remind me of what’s most important in life — the people I love.

On a lighter note, let’s talk workouts. I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, but I’ve been battling a calf injury for a couple of years now. I tore my calf muscle running, at first procrastinated getting help for it, then finally smartened up, rested it, and went through months of physical therapy, but it has never fully recovered. Earlier in the year, I was ecstatic when I realized that my calf hadn’t been hurting me. I continued to stretch and ice it, and wore a compression band when working out, but I thought that the injury was pretty much behind me. With the exception of running, which still agitated it, I was doing a lot of high intensity workouts without much soreness.

Fast forward to a few months ago, and I all of a sudden had a lot of pain in my foot on the same side. I went to my doctor, who barely looked at it and called it plantar fasciitis. I was unsatisfied with this lackluster diagnosis but gave it a couple of weeks to feel better. Instead of it feeling better, the pain continued, and my calf became sore as well. I knew I had to do something, so I went to a physical therapy & rehab center to see what they thought. They found that my calf, achilles, and foot all felt extremely tight, with a lot of scar tissue around my calf. The doctor believes that my foot has been compensating for my calf for so long, resulting in my foot tendons consistently overworking themselves. My calf is clearly still suffering, so now I’m back in physical therapy, hoping to nip this injury in the butt once and for all.

One of my faults is not being able to take it easy. Being active is a big part of my life, and I have a rough time with just sitting on my butt and not exercising. However, a major part of healthy living is listening to your body, and mine is telling me to chill out and let myself heal. I really want to get rid of this nagging injury, so when the physical therapist instructed me to not doing anything that puts a strain on my calf or foot for at least a week, I obliged. That means that a lot of my usual workouts are off the table for the time being – cycling; hiking; lunges, squats, and all of my usual leg exercises; mountain biking; and my barre workout & Jillian Michaels’ DVDs. I’m not going to lie, it’s annoying and frustrating. I have a feeling the therapist is going to further extend my leg exercise ban, but I just have to do all I can to get back to 100%. When there’s a will, there’s a way, and there are always ways to work around injuries and obstacles, right?

That’s where the workout below comes into play. Over the weekend, the most activity I did was take Harley for long walks, so by yesterday, I was craving a real workout. I came up with a list of 20 exercises I could do that require minimal or no leg work, and what I wound up with was a combo of strength and core moves that left me sweaty and fatigued! This workout is great if you want to rest sore legs and focus on arms and abs, or like me, if you’re banned by your physical therapist from working your legs:

This routine left my arms feeling sore and achy today, so now the question is, what kind of workout can I do today that involves both little leg and arm strength? 😉 I’m thinking a long walk with Harley, stretching, and light yoga will have to do the trick!

In case you are unfamiliar with some of the exercises noted above, here are some videos & explanations from around the web:

  • Bicep concentration curls
  • Planks 
  • Shoulder Press
  • Worms (aka squirms)
  • Standing oblique twists (I used a dumbbell instead of ball)
  • Front shoulder raises
  • Tricep extensions
  • Tricep dips
  • Seated oblique twists
  • Standing row 
  • Supermans (at 1:15)
  • Plank rows (at :35)
  • Quote of the day:  ”Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan

    Cinnamon Apple & Banana Pancakes

    With cooler temperatures hitting most of the country as fall is well underway, you’d barely realize it living in San Diego. We did have a few days last week with temperatures around 70 degrees. I kept seeing people walking around with heavy jackets and boots on, and all I could think is that San Diegans are desperate to pull out their chilly weather clothing! This weekend was back to warmer temperatures. My favorite is when temperatures are in the low 70s, but don’t think I’m complaining. Laying on the beach earlier today and enjoying the gorgeous warm sunshine wasn’t too terrible. 😉

    Even though it still feels a lot like summertime, I’ve been embracing a lot of autumn things — including my pumpkin obsession lately, picking up some fall-ish goodies during a farmer’s market trip yesterday…

    …and my yummy pancake creation yesterday:

    Cinnamon Apple & Banana Pancakes
    Author: 
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    Serves: 1
     
    Ingredients
    • ½ cup whole wheat flour
    • ½ banana, mashed
    • 1 medium apple, chopped
    • 2 TSP light brown sugar
    • 1 TSP baking powder
    • 1 TSP cinnamon
    • ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
    • ½ TSP vanilla
    • 1 TBSP light butter, melted
    • Dash of salt
    Instructions
    1. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, 1 TSP of the brown sugar, and ½ TSP of the cinnamon in a bowl.
    2. Add the banana, almond milk, vanilla, and butter to the bowl, and mix everything together well.
    3. Pour the batter onto a griddle pan over medium heat, forming 3 pancakes.
    4. Cook until lightly browned on both sides.
    5. Meanwhile, put the apple chunks and remaining cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Warm apple pieces in the microwave for 30-45 seconds, or until hot.
    6. Once pancakes are done, remove from heat and place on a plate. Add the apple mix on top.
    7. Eat as is, or add your favorite toppings. I threw a few TBSPs of granola on top.
    Nutrition Information
    Calories: 440, Fat: 10 g, Carbohydrates: 88 g, Protein: 10 g
    This evening’s plans include a pumpkin carving contest (wish me luck!) and watching Halloween movies to get into the spirit of this week’s holiday. Enjoy your Sunday night!

    Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life

    ”There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with. I can select what I can read and eat and study. I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life – whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

    We’ve all had days when things don’t seem to go our way. A lot of the time we let it impact our moods and attitudes, continue our day in an agitated state, and blame it all on bad luck or external factors. However, I think that life is too short to allow trivial annoyances wreck an entire day. As a matter of fact, life is also too short to let significant setbacks totally ruin our spirits. But how can we minimize the days when we’re feeling mad at the world, and live as many days as possible filled with happiness and joy? One word: attitude. 

    Yesterday morning started off feeling like one of those days when things are off. I woke up not feeling well, but decided to begin my day going to a nearby park with Harley to hike a trail. I realized I had parked my car about 10 minutes down the street to give my hubby the extra parking spot when he came home late last night.

    While walking to the car, Harley did her pooping business. This may seem like a weird detail, but go with me here. I get to my car, turn on my ignition, and see that my gas tank is low… strike that, now on E. I look in my rearview mirror to see what turns out to be ketchup spattered all over my back window. We live in a neighborhood with a lot of college kids who party a lot, and then apparently smear ketchup on random cars.

    I clean up the ketchup and get back in my car, thinking I smell poop. I look back to see Harley kicking her paws around like a lunatic, as she does after she poops. Scratch that, I really do smell shit.

    Why my 2-year old dog felt the need to poop in my car 2 minutes after she had pooped outside is beyond my comprehension. She only pooped a little, but managed to then step in it and kick it around all over my backseat, including my car door. I hastily wipe the crap off my car and begin to feel annoyed at her still exuberant mood.

    While driving to the park, Harley, as usual, wants the window down so she can stick her head and half her body out of the car. It’s a cool morning and I’m already chilly, so I ignore her whining. As she continually presses her paw on the locked window button to open it to no avail, I feel the aggravation inside of me mounting.

    When we get to the park, my dog is overly excited, pulling on her leash, yanking my arm as I yell, ”HEEL!” at her. A few minutes into our walk, I realize that I’m in a cranky mood. I feel tense and annoyed, and it’s not even 8 AM yet.

    I decide that I’m going to give myself an attitude adjustment, and so I follow the steps I do when I want to reclaim a good mood:

    First, I take deep breaths. The act of just being mindful of my breath helps me to relax a bit.

    Next, I focus on my surroundings. It’s a beautiful, brisk morning. The trees and shrubbery around me have some unusual color to them, due to the rare days of rain we’ve just gotten. There’s barely anyone around, and it seems so peaceful at the park. I look down at Harley, who gazes up at me with her typical smiling face, looking at me like she’s thinking it’s the best day in the world. She’s still pulling on me as we walk, and I don’t see a person in sight, so I let her off the leash to get some of her energy out. As she sprints around me nonstop for probably 5 minutes, I can’t help but smile.

    I ask myself if what has put me in a bad mood is important in the overall scheme of things. If it’s not something that I’ll feel mad about in a week or month, it’s not worth spending my energy on it now. Is the ketchup surprise on my car a big deal? Definitely not. The empty gas tank? Completely my fault for procrastinating paying $4.25 a gallon at the pump. I’ll stop at the next gas station to prevent myself from completely running out and getting stranded. Harley’s antics? That’s just my crazy dog. I remind myself that her nuttiness is one of the qualities I really love about her, and that this is pretty much her first poop accident of 2012. Not bad for my little nut job puppy. My not feeling well? I think I’ll survive, and I tell myself I’m lucky to be alive and healthy. 

    I start thinking about what I’m thankful for. I note all of the great people in my life and all I’ve got going for me. The longer my mental checklist gets, the better my mood gets.

    We’re making our way through the trail as I’m pondering all of this, when all of a sudden I stop dead in my tracks…. because there’s a bobcat standing in front of us.

    (source)

    The bobcat, Harley, and me have a standoff, for what felt like an hour but was probably 10 seconds. I have  never seen one in my life, and I totally froze. We all did actually. I put my hand on my taser, as the thought of him/her doing this ran through my head…

    (source)

    …though I’m not sure how well that would have turned out. The bobcat finally bolts into the forest, and is gone just like that. A minute later, I passed a man who saw the bobcat in the distance. He told me he’s been coming to the park for 50 years, and this was the first one he’s seen.

    Now, cranky me would have thought, ”Of course, I almost get attacked by a damn bobcat at the park today!” but the refocused, more pleasant version of myself instead thought, ”How scary, but how awesome was that?!”

    And so, when we take the time to evaluate why we think we’re having a shaky day, reassess our outlook on things, and remind ourselves of all the wonderful things around us and in our lives, a lot of the time a bad day isn’t really bad at all. What’s unfortunate is that we tend to let a few minor annoyances negatively effect our attitudes, making the rest of our day seemed doomed when it probably isn’t so. I have a quote written on a post-it hanging in my bathroom that reads, ”Your attitude is a secret power, working 24 hours a day, for good or for bad.” It reminds me of the major impact that my attitude has on my life, how it shapes every aspect of my world. Moving forward in your life, ask yourself if your attitude is impacting your life in a positive light, or if it’s holding you back. Life is short, but it’s never too late to alter your thinking and make the very most of all the living you’ve got left.

    It’s National Food Day

    Did you know that today is National Food Day? October 24th is a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable and sustainable food. May you make it a priority to eat real food that fuels you not just today, but every day of the year! 

    Speaking of food, today’s post is about what many refer to as the most important meal of the day – breakfast. According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who skip breakfast compared to those who regularly eat it have a 21% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Since excess body weight and poor diet are major factors in causing the disease, I think that this stat is the result of this: People who don’t eat breakfast are more likely to overeat later in the day and/or grab something unhealthy when hunger strikes a couple of hours later. So what’s the lesson here? EAT BREAKFAST!

    Plain and simple, a healthy breakfast is good for your mind and body. Eating in the AM revs your metabolism up early in the day, and has also been shown to improve concentration, strength, and endurance levels, while lowering cholesterol. It makes perfect sense that if you begin your day by eating something healthy, you’re setting the tone for the rest of your day’s eats.

    Here are my top 5 favorite breakfast combos:

    Greek yogurt is a great way to start your day – with fruit, granola, nuts, plain, or however you choose to eat it. It’s high in protein and low in fat, and is easy to take with you if you’re on your way out the door.

    Pancakes – If you’re thinking that pancakes are heavy and unhealthy for you, think again, because they certainly don’t have to be. I love experimenting with batter recipes to come up with yummy and balanced morning meals. Try my pumpkin pancakes or yogurt protein pancakes!

    Bars – For those of you who don’t wake up with pangs of hunger, stock up on some protein, granola and cereal bars. Protein bars are a staple in my house. They’re so easy to throw in my bag  and take with me or keep in my car as a healthy breakfast or snack for later on. Look for bars with familiar ingredient lists and easily pronounced words. My favorite brands of snack bars are Kashi, Clif Bars and Cascadian Farms.

    Smoothies – I adore smoothies and usually have one a day. They’re quick to throw together and make for a great breakfast. The bonus of making shakes for breakfast is that you can pack multiple servings of produce in to give yourself loads of vitamins and antioxidants first thing in the morning. After concocting your smoothie, you can always pour it into a travel glass or mug to take with you on the road. My favorites include my chocolate peanut butter protein shake and banana agave smoothie.

    Fruit & Nut Butters – Sometimes I start my day with a big bowl of fruit, an apple with peanut butter, or a banana with almond butter. Mixing up your breakfasts (and meals in general) with healthy foods is great because you won’t get bored, and you’ll be providing your body with a wide range of vitamin and antioxidant sources.

    Question: What’s your go-to healthy breakfast? 

    Crispy Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Treats

    ”Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal the patient with food.” – Hippocrates

    A work event today took me out of my home office and near the beach… and a Sprout’s farmers market. I obviously had to make a stop there to see what foods caught my eye. Besides picking up some spirulina tablets (I just recently discussed algae here) and getting excited to find my favorite kind of apples, Macintosh, for the first time since I’ve lived in California, I spotted brown rice syrup and immediately knew what I’d use it for:

    This recipe is from Alicia Silverstone’s book, The Kind Diet. I’ve played around with some of her meal recipes and haven’t been crazy about any yet, but I really like the desserts I’ve made from the book. All of her recipes are vegan, but I always seem to sub a dairy ingredient in –  this time being regular chocolate chips instead of nondairy/carob ones (If I’m being honest here, my tendency to eat Greek yogurt or cheese on a daily basis makes me far from a vegan!). These peanut butter treats will definitely satisfy a sweet tooth and are also really filling, not to mention ridiculously easy to make:

    First, pour the brown rice crisps in a big bowl…

    …and then heat the brown rice syrup in a saucepan over low heat with a pinch of salt.

    Once the syrup liquifies, add the peanut butter in and stir until well combined…

    …then pour over the rice cereal and mix together well with a wooden spoon.

    Let the mixture cool completely, then stir in the chocolate chips…

    …and press the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish.

    Let them sit for around an hour before cutting into bars.


    Crispy Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Treats
    Author: 
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    Serves: 12
     
    Ingredients
    • 1 box brown rice crisps cereal
    • 1¾ cups brown rice syrup
    • ¾ cup peanut butter
    • ½ cup chocolate chips
    • Pinch of salt
    Instructions
    1. Pour rice cereal into a large bowl.
    2. Heat the syrup with a pinch of salt in a saucepan over low heat.
    3. When syrup liquifies, add the peanut butter and stir until well combined.
    4. Pour mixture over the cereal and mix well with a wooden spoon.
    5. Let the mixture cool completely, then stir in the chocolate chips.
    6. Spread the mixture evenly into a 9x13 baking dish, pressing with the wooden spoon.
    7. Cool for around an hour before cutting into 12 bars.
    Notes
    Cutting the treats into 12 bars makes big portions! Feel free to cut into 16 bars for smaller treats.
    Nutrition Information
    Serving size: 1 bar, Calories: 390, Fat: 10 g, Carbohydrates: 71 g, Protein: 6 g

    Feta Green Bean & Tomato Salad

    As usual, another weekend has flown by!

    My Sunday morning was spent in the La Jolla area for the San Diego Triathlon Challenge to benefit the Challenged Athletes Foundation. I participated in their 5K event with my hubby. Even though sunny San Diego hasn’t been all that sunny this weekend, luckily the weather held out during the athletic events, and we only experienced a few raindrops towards the end. Seeing amputee triathletes in action was inspiring, and I’m glad I got to support such an awesome cause!

    The rest of my day was spent running errands, doing yoga and watching football.

    Oh, and torturing Harley by making her wear my 5K medal:

    For dinner, I wanted to use a pile of string beans starting to brown in my fridge. After steaming them, I threw the green beans together with a couple of heirlom tomatoes, red onion, crumbled feta cheese, and an olive oil dressing to make a colorful salad:

    Green_Bean_Salad

    I paired the tasty green bean dish with some rice pilaf:


    Feta Cheese Green Bean Salad
    Author: 
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    Serves: 4
     
    Ingredients
    • 10 oz string beans
    • ¼ red onion, minced
    • 2 medium (heirloom) tomatoes, chopped
    • 2 oz crumbled herbed feta cheese
    • 1 TBSP red wine vinegar
    • 1 TBSP olive oil
    • ¼ TSP dried oregano flakes
    • Sea salt & pepper to taste
    Instructions
    1. Cut the string bean tips off.
    2. Place the beans in a steamer basket and cook in a pot until tender, around 8 minutes.
    3. Once the green beans are cooked, remove from heat and place in a serving dish.
    4. Add the tomatoes, red onion, and crumbled feta to the green beans.
    5. In a small bowl, mix the red wine vinegar, olive oil, and dried oregano together.
    6. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, then add salt and pepper to taste.
    Nutrition Information
    Calories: 114, Fat: 7 g, Carbohydrates: 10 g Protein: 5 g

    My Interview With Amputee Triathlete Sarah Reinertsen

    Growing up, my dad frequently used the phrase, ”You get like who you hang with.” I’ve come to completely agree with him. I believe that the people you surround yourself with have a major impact on your own behaviors and attitudes, whether in a positive or negative light.

    Meeting and getting to spend time with people who do amazing things inspires me to do great things myself. That’s why when I was contacted to meet the first female leg amputee to complete the Ironman World Championships , Sarah Reinertsen, I jumped at the chance. I can’t think of meeting a type of person more inspiring than an athlete whose overcome major obstacles to achieve amazing goals.

    Sarah on the cover of ESPN’s 2009 Body Issue

    Sarah has broken the physically challenged world marathon record numerous times, as well as world records for 100m and 200m distances. After being the first female amputee to attempt Hawaii’s Ironman World Championships in 2004 but falling short, she came back the next year to become the first female amputee to complete the grueling competition. In 2006, Sarah won an ESPY Award for Best Female Disabled Athlete of the Year. This year, Nike released the first ever shoe for a running prosthetic, inspired by her and called the ”Sarah Sole.”  She even competed on the TV show The Amazing Race.

    Today I had the chance to chat with her at a running & mobility clinic for amputee children and adults. Sarah is a spokeswoman for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), which provides funding to physically challenged individuals for sports equipment such as prosthetics, wheelchairs and handcycles. The organization also helps to subsidize competition and training expenses, produce mentoring and fitness clinics, and offer community outreach programs. This weekend, CAF’s San Diego Triathlon Challenge is taking place in La Jolla. More than 200 of the world’s top physically challenged athletes and 500 able-bodied triathletes and celebrities are participating in the event, which consists of a 1 mile swim, 44 mile bike and 10 mile run. Here are some things Sarah and I talked about:

    How long have you been involved with the CAF? 

    -I first participated in the San Diego Triathlon Challenge in 1998, and have been involved with the organization ever since.

    How do you think the CAF impacts the lives of physically challenged athletes?

    -I think that our clinics, programs, and assistance help to build confidence in people, especially young athletes. I started competing in races when I was 11, and sports helped build my self-esteem and made me feel comfortable in a body that’s not like everyone else’s. I’m so passionate about the organization because athletics made a world of difference to me, and I know it has the power to do the same for other physically challenged people. There’s no better feeling than that moment of glory when you cross the finish line in a sporting event, and the CAF helps athletes to be able to experience that feeling of being a champion.

    What’s your diet like?

    -I like to practice mindfulness. I eat well to feel well, but I also like to indulge on occasion. I like to think of my body as a Porsche that I only want to feed with the best fuel.

    Was there a moment when you made the decision to be a serious athlete?

    -Yes, I found a role model in triathlete Jim MacLaren. He was an amputee Ironman and a very inspirational person to me. In my conversations with Jim, he empowered me to believe in the possibility that I could do it too. This weekend’s San Diego triathlon event began almost 2 decades ago to help raise money for Jim, after he was hit by a van that drove through a closed intersection during a triathlon event. This was the second tragedy in Jim’s life, as he first became an amputee after getting hit by a bus while on his motorcycle. The second accident left him a quadriplegic from the waist down, and the event was created to help raise money to help Jim afford a van that he could drive with his hands. The event’s creators realized how many other physically challenged athletes needed help, and that’s how the foundation was born. Jim has since passed away, though his legacy lives on. He was a big inspiration in my training for the Ironman.

    Speaking of inspiration, what mantras push you through tough times?

    -Sports are a lot about mental toughness. I have a lot of mantras that I repeat to myself as I run. A major one is, ”Fear less, live more.” It’s important to not worry too much about failing and to just go for it. Growing up, I learned the importance of failure. I think that it teaches you lessons in persistence and hard work. You learn to get back up and give it another shot. Another mantra I tell myself is, ”Show the world you’re tougher than the rest.”

    When I commented on how tiny (and cute) Sarah is, her response was something along the lines of, ”Yeah, people don’t usually expect me to be so small. But if an amputee whose 4’11” can do a triathlon, you can do it too right?!” 😉

    *San Diegans, if you’re interested in helping support the San Diego Triathlon Challenge tomorrow, join me in walking their 5K fitness challenge! You can also take part in the challenge’s Tour de Cove event, or just show up to support the triathletes. If you’d like to support the Challenged Athletes Foundation in other ways, check out their website for opportunities and events.*

    Making Exercise a Priority

    Last night, I checked out my schedule for today and determined the best time for a workout to be first thing in the morning. I set an early alarm so I could fit in a nice 75 minute hike with Harley as the start to my Friday. This is common for me, as I schedule my workouts the vast majority of days as I would a conference call or doctor’s appointment. Sure, some days things don’t go as planned and my workouts might have to get switched around. Perhaps every now and then I won’t get a workout done at all when I had penciled it in. But, because I make it a priority to exercise, I usually find a way to fit it into my days.

    When I hear people say that they simply don’t have time for exercise, I cringe a little and then think of this quote: ”If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.”

    Let’s face it – most people have busy lives. But even those with the most on their plates can still manage to squeeze in exercise, if they make it a priority. I’m not saying that everyone has hours a day to dedicate to fitness. What I am saying is that I believe that we are all capable of exercising at least 20 minutes a day on most days. It’s just a matter of making it a must in your busy life and taking a minute to plan it out. Why wouldn’t you make an effort to fit something into your day that improves your health in just about every way possible (Endorphins! Cardiovascular health! A strong body! Disease and illness prevention! Improved self-image! Calorie burn!)?

    That being said, I don’t think that everyone needs to belong to a gym. They’re not for everyone, and luckily, there are a lot of other options out there. If you’re looking to begin a fitness regime but don’t want to get a gym membership, 1.) Make sure you have a good pair of sneakers, 2.) Nab some cheap workout DVDs off of Amazon or elsewhere, and 3.) Get a pair or two of dumbbells to work with. Your exercise regimen can now easily include walking or jogging, doing your choice of exercise DVDs, and incorporating some easy moves such as bicep curls and lunges within the comfort of your own home. 

    Here is a short workout challenge involving old-school exercise moves that you can do anywhere, whenever you have about 10 minutes to spare. Even though it’s a quickie, it’ll get your heart pumping in no time! I started my workout with this yesterday and was sweating within a few minutes: 


    Wishing you a happy & active weekend!

    Pumpkin Muffins with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

    Lately I’ve been borderline obsessed with eating pumpkin – everything from pumpkin smoothies, pancakes, and ice cream, to smearing pumpkin cream cheese or butter on my toast and sprinkling pumpkin pie spice on anything my heart desires. Pumpkin is such a quintessential fall-time flavor. The funny thing is that I never really liked it until last fall, and my how my taste buds have changed!

    Last week I was talking to my cousin Noelle, and she requested I come up with a pumpkin cupcake recipe with cream cheese frosting. Well, you don’t have to ask me twice! 😉

    In the midst of baking my pumpkin goodies, I decided that I wasn’t really making cupcakes, but more so muffins.  I then proceeded to get myself all confused in figuring out what the heck the real difference is between muffins and cupcakes. Researching on Google gave me some funny and questionable answers. My favorite comment was something along the lines of,  “I firmly believe that muffins are just confused cupcakes.” Ha! To me, cupcakes are more of exactly what they imply – individual servings of cake, meaning that they’re sweet and only meant to be eaten for dessert. Muffins, on the other hand, tend to be more acceptably eaten as part of breakfast, lunch, or a snack, and don’t necessarily have to be overly sweet. I also realized that I pretty much always include some type of fruit in my muffin recipes. Hmm, since calling them muffins gives me permission to eat one with a yogurt and call it a balanced meal (or something like that…), I’m deeming these treats pumpkin muffins:


    3.5 from 2 reviews
    Pumpkin Muffins with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting
    Author: 
    Prep time: 
    Cook time: 
    Total time: 
    Serves: 12
     
    Ingredients
    • 1 cup all purpose white flour
    • ½ cup all purpose whole wheat flour
    • 1 TSP baking powder
    • 1 TSP baking soda
    • 1½ cups pure pumpkin
    • ½ cup light butter, melted
    • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
    • 1 TSP pumpkin pie spice
    • 1½ cups brown sugar
    • 8 oz reduced fat cream cheese
    • ½ TSP salt
    • 2 TSP cinnamon
    • 2 TSP vanilla extract
    • Chocolate chips, chopped pecans, candy corn, or any other desired toppings, optional
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with muffin cups.
    2. In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, salt and 1 TSP of the cinnamon.
    3. In another bowl, beat butter, Greek yogurt, 1 cup of the pumpkin, 1 cup of the brown sugar, and 1 TSP of the vanilla extract with an electric mixer until smooth.
    4. Slowly mix the wet mixture in with the dry mixture, and stir just until combined.
    5. Pour batter evenly into muffin cups.
    6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick can puncture muffins and come out clean.
    7. Once muffins are done cooking, remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
    8. Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese, remaining pumpkin (1/2 cup), vanilla extract (1 TSP), brown sugar (1/2 cup), and cinnamon (1 TSP) in a bowl. Beat until smooth.
    9. Allow the muffins to completely cool, then use a butter knife to spread the cream cheese frosting on top of each one.
    10. Dress them up with toppings of your choice, or eat them plain in all their pumpkin-flavored glory.
    Nutrition Information
    Serving size: 1 muffin, Calories: 240, Fat: 8 g, Carbohydrates: 39 g, Protein: 5 g