Monthly Archives: July 2014

Dark Chocolate Drizzled Salted Caramel Rice Crispy Treats [Gluten Free & Vegan]

Today is the birthday of the wonderful, amazing man that I’m fortunate enough to spend my life with.

skydiving

7 years ago, celebrating the first birthdays we were dating by skydiving together… We were just college kids!

Birthdays are celebrations, and celebrations call for dessert, so today I’m sharing with you guys a new sweet tooth creation I’ve come up with. Meet my latest food obsession: chocolate drizzled salted caramel rice crispy treats.

crispy treats-4

Lately, as I stand in my kitchen deciding what to make for a meal, I find myself somehow breaking off a piece of one of these rice crispy treats as a pre-meal snack.

While having a conversation with my hubby the other night, I all of a sudden found myself with one of these babies in my hand. It was like I blacked out and awoke with a sticky, delicious treat in my possession.

Okay, perhaps I’m being dramatic… but I just love these!

crispy treats-3

The recipe all came to fruition after making these salted caramel granola bars via Oh My Veggies. Oh my deliciousness, every time I read her blog I’m practically drooling because every recipe looks so good!

fleur de sel

After I originally bookmarked the granola bar recipe, I nabbed some fleur de sel salt for the first time, which is a sea salt hand-harvested in France. After buying it and having full intentions of making the granola bars ASAP, I got caught up with a little thing called moving to a new city and becoming a homeowner, and I forgot about the bars for awhile – that is until I had my father-in-law in town and was looking for fun treats to whip up.

Green juice with salted caramel granola bars

Green juice with salted caramel granola bars

I found the idea of making “caramel” by throwing mainly almond butter, maple syrup, a few dates into a food processor to be a genius idea. For this recipe, I modified her caramel into my own by using brown rice syrup, almond butter, fleur de del and vanilla extract. The crispies in this recipe are Barbara’s brown rice crisps — the healthier version of Rice Krispies cereal.

crispy treats-1

crispy treats-5

Rice crispy treats remind me of childhood, along with fruit roll ups and those sour straw things I would eat at my school’s rollerskating night. But these rice crispy treats are better than the ones I would uncover from those shiny blue wrappers as a kid. These are sweet and salty, with a hint of almond butter flavor and a drizzle of chocolate on top. They’re made with simple ingredients I can pronounce – minus the fleur de sel, but we’ll just refer to that as fancy schmancy sea salt!

crispy treats-2

This recipe makes a big batch of rice crispy treats. I feel like I just keep eating them, and I still have a few left!  Kid friendly and healthy foodie approved, these treats will make for a great dessert or snack that everyone in the family can enjoy.

cripsy treats-6

Chocolate Drizzled Salted Caramel Rice Crispy Treats [Gluten Free & Vegan]
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 18
 
Ingredients
  • 1-1 lb 5 oz jar of brown rice syrup
  • 1-10 oz box of brown rice crisps cereal
  • ½ cup creamy almond butter
  • 1 TSP fluer de sel
  • ¼ cup (vegan) dark chocolate chips
  • 2 TBSP chocolate soy milk (any kind of milk can work)
  • 1 TSP vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Melt the brown rice syrup in a small saucepan over low heat until it's liquified.
  2. Add the almond butter, vanilla extract, and fleur de del. Mix well until smooth.
  3. Pour the brown rice crisps into a large bowl. Pour the "caramel" sauce on top. Mix with a wooden spoon until everything is well incorporated.
  4. Pour into a 8x11 pan and press into the dish well.
  5. In another small saucepan, add the chocolate chips and soy milk. Melt over low heat, constantly mixing with a spoon. When chocolate is fully melted and smooth, remove from heat. Evenly drizzle on top of the rice crispy treats.
  6. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 90 minutes before cutting into squares. Cut into 12-18 treats, depending on how large you'd like each to be. Keep in the fridge until ready to eat.

My Tips for Eating Healthy When Dining Out

Hello, hello!

My weekend flew by, Monday was a very busy day, and now here we are and it’s Tuesday already. Over the weekend, I was quite the lunchin’ lady, with two restaurant get togethers on my agenda. One date was catching up with my first friend that I made as a Marine Corps wife, and the other was meeting a new friend for the first time who I had connected with via social media.

Restaurant collage

Dining out can be challenging if you’re trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, so I wanted to share with you some things that I do to maintain a healthy diet when eating out. Let’s get to it!

Tip #1 – All in moderation: If you want to enjoy something indulgent, I say go for it. I think that you should be able to have your cake and eat it too…. but preferably, that cake is a small slice.

In example: I kicked off my weekend with a late lunch date at a cute, casual place called Cafe Elysa in the beach town of Carlsbad. The menu offered salads, sandwiches, and lots of breakfast. I really was in the mood for chocolate chip pancakes, but I knew that some veggies were in order since I hadn’t eaten any yet that day. It was also later in the day and I was super hungry, so I compromised with myself and got a single pancake along with a salad. It was a perfect combo of satisfying my yen while also getting in some greens.

Cafe Elysa-pancake

Tip #2 – Only eat half: Make a habit of not wiping your plate clean. More often than not, restaurant portions are too much than you really need to eat in one sitting. Instead of munching away when I’m not hungry anymore, I try to be mindful of where my hunger level is at. Usually after I eat half of the meal, I’m no longer hungry. Take the other half home, and BOOM, you have leftovers for another day.

PB almond milk ice cream

Tip #3 – Indulge, but then get back on track: I’ve read a lot of articles that suggest you choose 1-2 things to “splurge” on during a meal out. It’s not that I totally disagree with this suggestion, it’s just that I don’t think it’s always realistic. Here’s why: If I’m at a nice restaurant, drinking a glass of wine, longingly staring at a basket of fresh bread deciding if I can eat a piece of it because I also think I might want dessert afterwards, I feel deprived. In that scenario, too much energy is going into thinking about indulging in a treat meal, instead of just enjoying that meal.

I’d rather go out to the nice restaurant, drink the wine, eat the bread, and have my dessert too, then be done with it. The key goes back to moderation in terms of portion control: I eat one piece of bread, not 3; I drink 1-2 glasses of wine, not 4; and I’ll either get a small cup of fro yo or split one with my hubby. That way I can have it all if I really want it!

True Food-quinoa burger

Tip #4 – Pick healthy restaurants: If the restaurant choice is at all up to you, do some research beforehand and pick a place with healthy options. This way, you know that you won’t be hangry at the restaurant with nothing but deep fried menu options to choose from. Don’t be afraid to speak up and say that you’d like to go somewhere healthier!

In example: For my lunch date on Sunday, we chose to meet at True Food Kitchen. I’d been there before and adore the menu, as there are so many healthy options to choose from. I knew that I would be able to get a green juice if I wanted to, and I certainly did!

True Food kale aid

Tip #5 – Scope the menu out beforehand: Going along with tip #4, do some quick research. Check the menu online, and see what’ll be available for you. This helps me to plan my day of eating accordingly. For instance, if I know that my only options at a restaurant that night will be pizza or pasta, to keep things balanced I won’t eat any cheese that day beforehand.

Also, a lot of bigger restaurants have nutrition information posted online, so if you’re dieting or calorie conscious, you can scope it out beforehand. Sometimes a little planning can go a long way.

Cafe Elysa- salad

My berry feta salad at Cafe Elysa

Tip #6 – Get the dressing on the side: This tip is one that I’ve been doing ever since I can remember. I don’t enjoy salad completely drenched in dressing, and it’s healthier to get it on the side and add in the amount that I want.

Carlsbad walk

Carlsbad beach walk with Harley last weekend

Tip #7 – Go for a post-meal walk:  Sure, this one doesn’t have to do with the actual dining out part, but I’m including it anyways because I love walking around after dining out. After enjoying a meal and catching up with my friend on Friday, I headed home to take care of a few things, change into walking gear, pick up my little family, and go for a walk along the coast.

If you’re out and about in a pretty area, walking around prolongs your date and gives you time to enjoy yourself more and to see more of the area. Plus, if all else fails and you’ve overindulged, taking a walk after your meal will get your moving and help you to digest your food.

Friday sunset

The sunset on Friday in Carlsbad

Personally, since I work from home and cook a lot, I don’t eat out that much. On average, I’d say I go out to eat once every week or two. I like to look at dining out as a treat and something that I look forward to. As much as I love cooking, it’s nice to relax and have a pro cook me a delicious meal sometimes!

Do you eat out often? Do you have any favorite tips to add to my list? 

My New Favorite Hiking Spot: Elfin Forest

Meet my new favorite place to go hiking:Elfin Forest-20

When I moved back to San Diego County a few months ago, it was funny because although I was back in a general area that I had lived in before, I’m 45 minutes north from where I had lived prior. It has been like learning the ins and outs of a whole new place, although the area is familiar. Elfin Forest-4

One of the first things I started searching for in my new area was new favorite hiking spots. After all, hiking is one of my favorite things to do. It’s not only a way that I get exercise and exercise my dog, it’s also a meditative practice for me. It’s a way that I process things and clear my head. Often, I start off a hike with a dilemma or just something that I’m contemplating, and by the time I get back in my car, I’ve resolved it.

Elfin Forest-11

Escondido’s Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve has become one of the areas that I frequently hike around, and it’s no doubt my favorite spot that I’ve found nearby thus far. I’ve gone with my hubby and brought my cousin hiking there once as well, but usually it’s just Harley girl and me hitting the trails.

Elfin Forest hiking

Harley’s a pretty hilarious hiker. She gets super excited with every man, woman, child, and animal she sees. She runs around like a maniac. Sometimes she lays down in the shade to cool off for a second whenever she possibly can, but most often she’s a ball of energy. Seen below, she’s climbing up rocks to get to a piece of pizza crust that someone left behind.

Side note: Who eats pizza while they’re hiking?  

Elfin Forest-1

It has become a ritual for hiking to be my workout of the day on mostly every Friday afternoon/evening. I find it to be a great way to kick off the weekend on a healthy and relaxing note.

Elfin Forest-2

The Elfin Forest Reserve is operated by a municipal water district, because the area has a huge dam and reservoir that services residents in the area, holding 8 BILLION gallons of water. The reservoir is no joke right?

Elfin Forest-16

Elfin Forest has lots of different hikes to choose from, but to get to any of them, you first hike up the Way Up Trail (about 1.5 miles of hiking). After you get to the height of that and are in sight of the dam, there are a bunch of different ways that you can hike. Some of them are short trails that link up to other short trails, and others are longer ones. For instance, there’s an Equine Incline Loop Trail that’s 2.6 miles around. I honestly don’t pay too much attention to the signs, and usually just hike around in whatever direction I feel like, or whichever way Harley ventures to if she’s running around in front of me.

Elfin Forest-12

Speaking of Harley running around loose, the park allows dogs off the leash during the week once you get up towards the top of the Way Up Trail….

Elfin Forest-21

Whether Harley is under “effective voice control” as specified is quite debatable – she’s more under selective hearing voice control – but I always let her off the leash to run free. She’s pretty good with staying close to me without me saying much at all, unless there’s another dog, in which case she totally disregards me and does what she wants. What can I say, she has a mind of her own!

Elfin Forest-7

In all honesty, if we’re hiking somewhere and there aren’t a lot of people around, I let Harley off her leash regardless if it’s allowed or not, but it’s nice that the park officially gives your permission to do so. She’s a curious, energetic pup – she likes to run, then stop, then explore and sniff, then lay down for a sec, then turn around and see how close I am, then sprint again – and it’s a lot easier to hike without having her on a leash.

Elfin Forest-8

The park has a bunch of picnic areas and overlook spots, which I’m a fan of. It gives us space to take a water break and chill out for a moment while taking in the scenery.

Elfin Forest-6

Elfin Forest-3

The other night Harley and I went for an evening hike. The weather was perfect, there were only a handful of people on the trails, and the atmosphere was just so calm.

Elfin Forest-14

Elfin Forest-17

Because I was enjoying myself so much, we hiked a little longer than planned. When we were about 15 minutes from getting back to my car, horns started blaring and the ranger got on a megaphone speaker to warn hikers that the park was about to close and our cars would be towed if not moved in time. We got back just in time to scoot out of there before sunset. So, a word to anyone whose planning on hiking there, make sure that you plan your route accordingly. That would not be fun to come back from a relaxing workout to an empty parking lot wondering where your car went!
Elfin Forest-19

I know that I’ll be visiting Elfin Forest many, many more times. I’ve probably said it a million times, but hiking is definitely my favorite outdoor workout!

What’s your favorite way to get exercise outdoors? 

PS – Harley usually refuses to look at my phone when I try to take a picture, so my hiking puppy selfies usually turn out like this…. 🙂
Elfin Forest-15

Watermelon Cucumber Mint Juice

Lately I’ve been obsessed with watermelon – and rightly so I think, as it’s such a refreshing summertime fruit. You may have noticed this because of my frequent mention of watermelon smoothies. Can’t.stop.making.them!

watermelon smoothie

Besides blending smoothies, making salads like this one with it, and eating watermelon all on its own, I’ve also thrown it in my juicer a bunch of times lately.

melon mint juice-1

Does anyone else drink fresh juice out of a wine glass?

melon mint juice-2

I realized that I haven’t posted a juice recipe in awhile, but that’s not because I haven’t been juicing. It’s more so because for a few months there, I got a little boring with my juices: always apple, carrots, and ginger, and then I’d often thrown in spinach or cucumber. When I realized that I was in a juicing rut, I decided to get a little more creative, and thus, this green watermelon mint juice came to fruition in my kitchen.

watermelon smoothie-1

Watermelon Cucumber Mint Juice
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Ingredients
  • 3 cups of watermelon
  • ½ large cucumber
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • ½ lemon
Instructions
  1. Juice the watermelon, cucumber, celery, and mint leaves into a glass. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into the glass and stir, throw a couple of ice cubes into the mix, and enjoy!

 

The thing I love about making a juice in the morning is that I nourish my body with a bunch of fruits and veggies in one little glass. I don’t do it every day, but I’ve found a happy balance in making a juice a couple of mornings a week, and I definitely like getting green juice when I’m out and about somewhere that offers it (which takes the work out of enjoying a juice!).

Do you juice? If so, what’s your go-to combo? 

An Early Birthday Celebration & Desserts Galore [Weekend Recap]

Hi friends!

I haven’t been around the past bunch of days, and I’ve missed blogging! The reason I’ve been a bit MIA is because my father-in-law flew in from the east coast to visit my hubby and me. I’ve been busy having fun around town and hosting him in our new home.

Carlsbad sunset-wide screen

Although we had a couple of days of overcast skies, we also had a few days with gorgeous weather to enjoy. We spent all Sunday afternoon at the beach soaking up the sun in Carlsbad:

Carlsbad beach

When guests come to town, I inevitably wind up whipping up a lot of yummy food for us to enjoy. What can I say, I show my love with food! My father-in-law went gluten free earlier this year, so I had a bit of a fun challenge in coming up with all GF fare.

He also has a huge sweet tooth, so I knew that dessert was a must. One dessert hit was gluten free fudgey brownies, which I made using Pamela’s brownie mix.

GF brownie mix

I had heard a lot of good things about Pamela’s mixes, and this gave me a chance to try one of them. I used apple sauce instead of oil and substituted a flaxseed egg for a regular one to keep the dessert vegan and a bit healthier… and they were delicious!

GF brownies

One night for dinner I made rosti potatoes, roasted red pepper hummus, and whole wheat garlic bread knots:

rosti potatoes

Saturday was an especially nice day, because my hubby’s dad and I had planned an early birthday surprise for A. His birthday is July 31st, but his dad and him haven’t been together for a birthday in a bunch of years, so we thought it’d be fun to celebrate it while he was in town.

I kicked off the day by making us a nutritious and delicious breakfast to enjoy on our patio: salted caramel granola bars (more on those later this week – they were amazing!), green juice and strawberries.

juice & granola bars

This was the first fresh fruit & veggie juice for my father-in-law and he actually didn’t think it was bad at all. That’s better than me – it took me awhile to start liking green juice! This one had apple, cucumber, ginger, mango, carrots and spinach. I suppose it was more orange than green huh?

We then let A in on the surprise and gave him some gifts. We teamed up to buy him a grill, and I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty excited about it too! You better believe that we’ll be grilling up a storm from now on.

new grill

We grilled in the afternoon and ate corn, zucchini and burgers (veg for me, obviously):

grilled zucchini

I also made a Mexican dip and Greek pasta salad (using brown rice pasta to keep things gluten free):

Greek pasta salad

As part of A’s birthday celebration, his dad nabbed tickets for us to see a Padres game, so Saturday evening we headed downtown to Petco Park to watch them play the Mets. This was the liveliest baseball game I’ve been to in San Diego, and the Padres whooped some butt!

Petco Park

When we got home from the game, we sang “Happy Birthday” to a cake I had made earlier that day, but not just any cake — one of my all-time favorite desserts — Chocolate Kahlua Cake! I modified the recipe by using a gluten free chocolate cake mix, and didn’t notice a difference in taste at all. I must warn you, it isn’t healthy for you but is so worth the splurge…especially with vanilla bean ice cream, which we all had two nights in a row!

chocolate kahlua cake

During my father-in-law’s stay, we also had a few good meals out. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant that my hubby and I have been wanting to try in downtown Carlsbad called Vigilucci’s. I tried their minestrone soup, which tasted really fresh and full of goodness:

minestrone

I also ordered a margherita pizza, adding artichokes to spice it up a little:

artichoke pizza

We always have a favorite ltalian joint wherever we live, and this could be it! We will definitely be going back there for dinner again.

For dinner another night, I had a kale salad with almonds, feta cheese, figs and multigrain crisps. It was a tasty combo, and just the dose of greens that I felt like I was in need of:

Sammys salad

For dessert on the last night he was in town, the guys and I stumbled upon Sub Zero, a really interesting ice cream and fro yo place that makes your frozen creation on-the-spot. Per their website:

Thanks to Chemistry, Sub Zero uses Liquid Nitrogen to instantly freeze a custom ice cream, at -321 degrees Fahrenheit! You don’t need a degree in molecular gastronomy to experience how in seconds, the freshest, smoothest ice cream you’ll ever taste will appear out of a cloud of smoke!

Subzero-2

You completely customize your order at Sub Zero, choosing from fro yo, ice cream, or custard; tons of flavors and toppings; and you even have the possibility of ordering almond or soy milk nondairy desserts. I think it took us way too long to figure out what we wanted! I wound up going with a mint & brownie batter cup of fro yo:

Subzero

If it seems to you like I ate a lot of dessert the past bunch of days, you’re completely correct. I certainly have a sweet tooth, but dessert 5 days in a row was definitely overdoing it for me. I enjoyed all of the yummy desserts I ate, but I believe it’s all about moderation, and woke up this morning ready to not have dessert for a few days. After all, healthy living is all about balance right?

Carlsbad sunset

Anyways, we ate our desserts on the beach while watching the sunset, and it was the perfect way to end my father-in-law’s visit!

Questions: Have you ever been to an ice cream place where they make your dessert on- the-spot? Do you ever overdo it on sweets? What’s your favorite thing to eat off the grill?

My First TRX Suspension Training Experience

Recently I mentioned using a Groupon to try out different classes at a fitness studio near me called Fortis Fitness and Strength Training.

workout daily

My 5-class deal is up, and do you think that I did the same class twice? No way my friends, I like to keep things interesting! I had a lot of fun participating in a kickboxing, spin, heated barre, yoga sculpt (more on that to come) and TRX class. And today I thought it’d be fun to share my experience with my first TRX suspension training class.

TRX (the acronym is for Total Body Resistance Exercise) classes center around the use of a suspension trainer, where you do a variety of exercises using the TRX bands, leveraging gravity and your body weight to develop strength, balance, flexibility and core stability.  A little tidbit that I didn’t know until just now: TRX was born in the Navy SEALs.

TRX-2

I knew little about TRX before going into the class. We started off with a warmup to loosen up our muscles, particularly our backs, which felt great since it was 8 am and I was pretty stiff.

We went on to do a variety of exercises, some of which felt awkward, but most of which felt good. It took me a bit to get used to the idea of letting myself fall back and stand at a complete angle without feeling like I was about to have my butt hit the ground. I definitely was gripping the TRX bands pretty hard! Some of the exercises we did included single leg crossing balance lunges and shoulder stability moves like this one.

TRX-1

The class was broken down into three different segments: the first and the last used the TRX bands, the middle was a circuit training routine. It included things like walking lunges with kettlebells, jumping rope and pushups on a ball. I’m not crazy about circuits like this, but it went by fast because I took the class with my friend Tiffany. We chatted in between panting and bear crawling!

TRX training

(source)

What killed me were the core moves. We did a series of moves right at the end where we were in planks with our feet in the TRX bands, doing oblique twists and mountain climbers in the bands. I hardly ever have achy post-workout abs, and oh my gosh, the day after this class, my obliques were crazy sore. Every time I laughed I cringed! It certainly got the job done with working my abs. If you’re interested in checking out some TRX core moves, check out this link.

TRX-3

All in all, I loved TRX training. I found it to definitely be a total body workout, and I felt like I used muscles in different ways than I do on a normal basis. I was surprised that my calorie burn wasn’t higher, but then again, I would consider the class more of a strength training workout than high intensity cardio.

Questions: Have ever tried TRX training before? What was the last new workout you tried?

Apple Pie Smoothie

While I like to get creative with my meals, there are certain foods/types of meals I eat almost daily. This list includes some type of protein/granola bar, Greek yogurt and smoothies. While my smoothies have for the most part been very summery lately (like watermelon smoothies every other day!), recently I was craving more of an autumn-ish type of flavor with my smoothie meal of the day.

Apple Pie Smoothie-2

Call me crazy, but sometimes on a dreary summer day – or even on a perfect sunny day for that matter – fall flavors are just what I’m craving. Enter this guy:

apple pie smoothie

In case you’re wondering, I know that the above image is a completely autumn themed photo and it’s July, but I’m taking a Photoshop class for work and brush strokes – including the above leaf one – was one of my recent lessons. You see, I’m being a good student practicing my newly learned Photoshop skills on my food photography! But back to the recipe…

Other foods I eat almost daily are both bananas and apple. In the mood for something cinnamony, I created an apple pie smoothie starring two of my favorite fruits.

Apple Pie Smoothie-1

Don’t be fooled, this smoothie may resemble a liquid apple pie, but it’s still perfectly refreshing for a warm summer day.

Apple Pie Smoothie-4

5.0 from 2 reviews
Apple Pie Smoothie
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Ingredients
  • 1 red apple, quartered
  • ½ frozen banana
  • ⅔ cup unsweetened almond milk (or other type of milk)
  • ½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 TBSP honey roasted almonds (I used slivered almonds, but plain/whole almonds will work too)
  • ¼ TSP vanilla extract
  • ½ TSP cinnamon spice
  • A pinch of stevia sweetener
  • Lots of ice
Instructions
  1. In a high powered blender, combine all ingredients and pulse until smooth.
  2. Pour into a glass and enjoy.
  3. Optional: Sprinkle extra cinnamon on top if you're a cinnamon lover like me!
Nutrition Information
Calories: 335, Fat: 9 g, Saturated fat: 1 g, Carbohydrates: 56 g, Fiber: 9 g, Protein: 15 g, Cholesterol: 5 g

 

Questions: What’s your favorite type of smoothie? Do you ever crave foods/meals that are quintessential in other seasons of the year? 

Weekend Beach Picnic + My Picnic Essentials

Ahhhh, the beach…. Like a lot of people on the planet, it’s definitely one of my happy places.

Oceanside beach

This weekend I was able to get to the beach two days in a row! On Friday, my hubby convinced me to take an hour work break at lunchtime to head to the beach with him. There had been an insane amount of anchovies in the water the day before – apparently the largest school of northern anchovy seen in local waters in 30 years:

anchovies_r620x349

(source)

Wow right?! There are so many anchovies it looks like an oil slick. Adam had gone surfing and swam amongst them the day before and said it was really cool. We were hoping the fish would still be around, but they had moved on by Friday afternoon. I’m not going to lie, if they were still there I probably would have been a little freaked out swimming in the middle of a school of that size!

On Saturday evening, we decided to pack a dinner and head to the beach for a picnic. It was such a nice night there, and we had the entertainment of a hilarious dog right in front of us having a blast getting crushed by waves as he chased his tennis ball.

Oceanside sunset

To top off our beach picnic, we had a celebrity sighting! Singer Jason Mraz walked onto the beach with what appeared to be his family, and sat down right next to us. We Googled him afterwards (obviously), and he resides around here. Ever since then I’ve been singing, Do you hear me? I’m talking to you.. Across the water, across the deep blue ocean under the open sky…  But I digress.

Picnics are one of my favorite ways to enjoy a meal, and I think I became quite the picnicker when we lived in the Bay Area. One of my friends even bought me a picnicking backpack as a gift, and it has come in handy a lot! The backpack comes with a cutting board, silverware, glasses, plates, and other things that fit right into their own little spots. So often we would take my backpack full of food with us to our favorite local winery, choose a bottle of wine to go along with our food, and sit on their patio for a couple of hours just soaking up the day.

girls weekend-3

For my beach picnic this weekend, I packed sandwiches of tofurky (me)/turkey (him), cheddar cheese, avocado, and tomato on rustic rolls, pretzel thins with garlic hummus and mango slices.

beach picnic

I usually have some essentials that I make sure to bring on picnics, and here they are:

1.) Bread. I think I could eat a hunk of fresh bread every day!

2.) Cheese. I love bringing a few types of cheese to my picnics. Monterey Jack, muenster, cheddar and mozzarella are some of my favorites.

mango

3.) Fruit. Just what type of fruit varies depending on my mood and the season, but some common fruits I bring to picnics include apple, strawberries, pineapple, cherries and peaches. Dried fruit also complements my cheese and bread selection, and is so easy to throw into my bag. 

Rutherford Hill picnic

4.) Wine. As far as beverages go, what better to go with bread, cheese, and fruit than wine? If it’s a summer day, I like a chilled white (my favorite varietals are viognier, riesling, or chardonnay!). If the temperature isn’t too warm, I’ll pick a lighter red wine. (Also, water’s a given, because I bring water just about everywhere all the time!)

5.) A Salty Snack. Kale chips, almonds, lentil chips, whole grain tortilla chips, Popchips, pretzels cashews.. I’m sure to bring one of these salty snacks to munch on.

And if salty just isn’t doing it for me that day, sometimes post-picnic I find myself at a fro yo joint loading up on whatever flavors spark my interest. This was the case last night!

fro yo

There you have it – my picnic must-haves! I like to keep it pretty simple for picnics, and take advantage of the fact that it requires little prep and makes it acceptable to eat copious amounts of cheese, bread and fruit. 😉

What are your picnic essentials? When was your last celebrity spotting?

Review: ProCakes High Protein Pancake Mix

It’s no secret that I love pancakes. I regularly include them in my diet on at least a weekly basis, and I’ve gotten into the habit of making my own healthy batter.

I often add protein powder or throw Greek yogurt into the mix, especially if it’s a post-workout meal. I think it’s important to include some protein in every meal to keep it balanced, and what some pancake mixes on the market today are missing is a good amount of protein.

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Say hello to ProCakes – a gluten free, no added sugar, high protein pancake mix. Recently launched by, Caren Magill, a fellow FitFluential ambassador, ProCakes pancake mix is made with whey protein, organic coconut flour, gluten free baking flour, and almond flour, and sweetened with xylitol, a naturally occurring sweetener derived from tree bark.

procakes-banner

A ProCakes sample was recently sent out to me to try, and I was happy to get my hands on my first protein pancake mix. I made my pancakes by combining the ProCakes mix with a flax egg and almond milk, then adding banana slices to the pancake batter.

ProCakes ingredients

I topped my pancakes with warmed chopped apple + more banana slices with cinnamon, plus a drizzle of honey.

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Here’s what I thought:

Nutrition-wise, ProCakes are great, especially for someone like me who sometimes wants breakfast for dinner, but also needs a protein boost in my meal. The mix is fully made with recognizable ingredients, which I can always appreciate.

Taste-wise, I liked the ProCakes mix. I’m not the biggest fan of bean flour flavors in general (ProCakes contains fava and garbanzo bean flour), but I didn’t think the taste was overpowering or too-proteiny. Sometimes high protein products such as this are dry and cake-like, but my ProCakes had the consistency of normal pancakes.

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My only negative feedback on ProCakes was that the batter stuck to my pan a bit when I tried to flip the pancakes over. It took a bit of finagling to get the pancakes flipped over without them falling apart.

Overall, I think that ProCakes make for a nice kitchen item to have handy when you want to make pancakes in a jiffy!

Questions: Have you ever had protein pancakes? What do you typically top your pancakes with?

Let’s Get Sweaty! Heated Workouts: Yay or Nay?

Confession: I don’t do well in the heat.

If the temperature’s cold, I’m usually fine with a blanket and a hot cup of tea, but what I don’t like is being hot and sticky. This may be in part the reason that I’m living in SoCal, since I love being outdoors and the mild weather is so conducive to that. When I go back to Jersey in the summertime, where I was born and raised, I practically melt with the high humidity. It’s not even that I’ve turned into a spoiled Californian. My body just has never done well in weather over 85 degrees.

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My house doesn’t have air conditioning (which I recently found out is common in this area), and I actually have a heat paranoia. All windows and doors are opened and my ceiling fans are turned on first thing in the morning, for fear of getting hot and not being able to cool off….Typing that out made me realize what a first world problem that is! But it’s totally true.

Anywho, now knowing of my dislike for extreme heat, you can imagine that I’m not big on high temp studio workouts. I feel like I sweat enough on my own during exercise and don’t feel the need to be in a room that’s 100 degrees.

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Bikram yoga is probably the most common heated workout. As much as I love yoga, Bikram is not my idea of a good time because you practice in what they refer to as “torture chambers.” On an unrelated note, the founder of Bikram also seems like a complete egomaniac that I don’t care to support.

Though I usually steer clear of heated studios, the gym where a friend of mine and I have been using a Groupon for classes offers a variety of warm or hot temperature classes. We decided to give their heated barre class a try last week.

heated barre HRM

I won’t lie, I was fully prepared to hate every minute of the heat. But since I had low expectations for my level of enjoyment, it actually wasn’t too bad because the class went by really quickly. I was dripping sweat within 5 minutes of walking into the class. I was sure that I would receive the award for sweatiest person in the room, but then I looked over and a girl near me wearing just a sports bra and bike shorts had produced a puddle on the wood floor below the barre. So I certainly wasn’t the only one who was dying!

A couple of weeks ago, I took a warm temperature boxing class at this gym, and it was even more gross because we had gloves and hand wraps on. In these classes I found myself really distracted by beads of sweat flying off of my body during workouts, especially when I had gloves on and couldn’t wipe it out of my eyes.

boxing gloves

(image source)

Heated workout enthusiasts claim that the high temps flush toxins from your body. My barre instructor said that she really only works out in heated rooms, so when she does barre in normal temperatures, she feels like she isn’t as flexible. I suppose I could see her point, but personally I didn’t notice a change in my flexibility level.

I may find myself at a heated studio again at some point, but I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t really feel the need to be completely dripping sweat to feel like I had a good workout. Plus, working out in heated studios makes me feel dehydrated and depleted. I’m not a professional boxer, so I don’t think I need to lose 2 pounds of water weight by the morning!

Tell me, what are your thoughts on heated studios?