Monthly Archives: September 2015

ShiftCon Recap: GMO Talk + Giveaway of Goodies!

“Every time you buy, you’re voting for the world you want or the world you don’t want.”  – Gary Hirshberg, Chairman of Stonyfield and Founder of Just Label It & Only Organic

I found this to be the most powerful sentence I heard at last week’s ShiftCon event. It’s such a simple and somewhat obvious statement, but it brings to light the fact that when you purchase something, you’re supporting a product – and not only the product itself, but also how it was made.

ShiftCon Marriott view

The view from the Marriott in Manhattan Beach, where ShiftCon took place

ShiftCon took place last week in the pretty town of Manhattan Beach, and was an event geared towards health, wellness and green living. You can check out this YouTube video to get a better idea of what the conference is all about.  I randomly won a ticket to the event through my ambassadorship with FitFluential, and was excited to check out what the event had to offer. My cousin lives in the neighboring town of Long Beach, which was great because I got to crash at her place for a few days and spend some time with her.

The conference had an exhibit hall full of brands that I love, including Barbara’s

Puffins at ShiftCon

(Can’t wait to try their new pumpkin cereal! Sadly they didn’t have any actually at the show.)

Annie’s was there with their yummy snacks and pastas…

Annies ShiftCon

…and organic yogurt company Stonyfield had a big presence there. Their gingered pear Oh My Yog! was delicious.  Stonyfield Oh My Yog!

ShiftCon also had sponsored lounges, including one with Naturepedic that allowed you to zen out on their comfy organic mattresses while charging your iPhone.

Naturepedic lounge

(This was me entering their giveaway for a new mattress by tweeting a picture. I didn’t win, but winning a ticket to ShiftCon AND a mattress would have been just too crazy!)

During a conference focused on food and the environment, it was no surprise that THE major topic of the event was GMOs. With states bringing labeling laws to elections and the House recently passing what its opponents refer to as the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know), which if passed, would preempt states from requiring labeling of GMO food, we are a really pivotal time when it comes to GMOs. I’m disheartened to know that many Americans don’t have any idea what GMOs even are, and since I learned a lot of facts at ShiftCon about them, I thought I’d share some GMO stats with you all today:

Honey Nut Concealios

Big food companies like General Mills are pouring millions of dollars into getting the DARK Act passed

  • So exactly what are GMOs? They are organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.
  • What crops are GMO? They’re primarily in soy, corn, cotton, sugar beets and canola oil. This may not sound like many foods, but it translates to GMOs in 75% of conventional food in the U.S.!
  • With the increase of GMO crops, herbicide applications have also dramatically increased. The primary ingredient in Monsanto’s popular Roundup herbicide, glyphosate, was just deemed to be a probable carcinogen, meaning cancer causing, in the state of California.

Nutiva Real Food Manifesto

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7 Healthy Snacks & Desserts I’ve Been Eating Lately

Hi friends!

I hope that you had a wonderful weekend! I had a great 3 days out of town for ShiftCon, and then I came home to spend time with my little family. Highlights on Sunday were a relaxing few hours at the mostly empty beach…

Carlsbad Beach-Sept '15

…and making vegan s’mores via our fire pit under the Blood Moon:

s'mores-1

I’ve been wanting to make s’mores for months since finding these vegan marshmallows at my natural foods store, and even included it on my Before 30 Bucket List. Mmm, now I can check that one off the list!

S'mores Collage

I’m going to share some highlights about ShiftCon – a conference that puts the topics of wellness, health, and the environment front and center – in my next post, but today I want to chat with you guys about new snacks that I’ve tried lately. As of late I’ve been obsessed with both popcorn and cereal, so here are my recent favorites of those, plus a few other yummy snacks I’ve been noshing on! 
ICONIC Vanilla Bean

ICONIC Protein Drinks. Recently ICONIC sent me their Cafe au Lait, Vanilla Bean & Chocolate Truffle flavored protein drinks to try. While I typically don’t go for milk or milk-based protein drinks, I was intrigued in trying ICONIC because their products come from grass-fed and hormone free cows and include organic fair-trade blue agave.

Naturally, I liked the chocolate flavor the best. It reminded me of these Special K protein shakes I used to drink as a teenager – only with a much healthier ingredient list, less calories and more protein. Each bottle contains 20 g of protein and 130 calories, making it an ideal easy snack post-workout when I want to fuel my recovering muscles with a nice dose of protein.

479 popcorn

479 Degrees Sea Salt Caramel Artisan Popcorn. [gluten free] Ooh baby baby, sweet and salty popcorn! I love the short and sweet ingredient list on this popcorn and the fact that it’s made with organic ingredients and rBST and antibiotic-free butter. At 100 calories a cup, this popcorn is a perfect sweet & salty snack.

Vans GF cereals

Van’s Cocoa Sensations & Blissful Berry Cereals. [gluten free, vegan] Recently Van’s sent me these boxes of their new gluten free cereal line flavors to try, and I’ve been snacking on them often. The cocoa cereal is obviously my favorite given my love for anything chocolate. I’ve been eating some with protein powder, blueberries/sliced banana and almond milk for breakfast, and noshing on it when I’m starving waiting for dinner to cook or just want a little something sweet at night.

Made with a blend of oat brown rice, millet, quinoa, and amaranth flours and sweetened with cane sugar, these cereals are a great alternative to the artificially dyed and corn syrup-filled cereals that you (and your kids) might normally eat.

Dried Bananas

Made in Nature Dried Bananas. [gluten free, vegan] Made in Nature, one of the vendors at ShiftCon, sent me a cute package with some of their products prior to the show, and their dried banana slices were definitely my favorite! Containing just organic banana and lemon juice, they make for a perfect healthy grab-and-go snack, and I have been adding a couple of them to my smoothie bowls.

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Roasted Tomato & Spinach Ricotta Pesto Stuffed Shells

Happy Hump Day friends!

I’m excited because tomorrow I head up to Manhattan Beach for ShiftCon – a social media conference focusing on wellness, health, and the environment. There are so many sessions that seem so interesting and fun that I’m looking forward to, and it’s always great to connect with other bloggers and people in the healthy food industry! I’m sure I’ll be recapping all of the fun for you next week, but today, let’s talk about this deliciousness:

Roasted Tomato & Spinach Ricotta Pesto Shells

The idea for roasted tomato & ricotta pesto stuffed shells first came to mind when I bought a bag of locally grown beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes. There’s just something about those vibrant colors that makes me want to get all creative with the meal I use the tomatoes for.

heirloom cherry tomatoes

I roasted them with just a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and stuffed the shells with spoonfuls of glorious soft mini tomatoes. Now for the other part of the shell filling…

pesto ingredients

I’ve been wanting to do a fun take on pesto for awhile now. The idea was born out of the fact that many times when I order a dish with pesto at a restaurant, it’s too much. Too garlicky, too oily, too thick…. and not easy on my belly! This pesto, on the other hand, is more mild – not as pungent as typical pesto.pesto-before

pesto-after

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Weekend Escape to Big Bear Lake

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny space you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

With my hubby and I both home last weekend with nothing on the agenda, we decided to  take a road trip to a place we’d never visited before: Big Bear Lake. Located in the San Bernardino Mountains about 2 1/2 hours away from our house in San Diego’s North County, Big Bear Lake is a popular destination known for its winter ski slopes as well as summertime water sports.  
Big Bear-4

My hubby had brought up the idea of camping in the area mid-last week. However, all of the campsites at the lakeside campground I wanted to stay at were already reserved. Plus fires aren’t currently allowed there because of the extremely dry conditions and high fire danger, and that’s kind of my favorite part of camping, so we decided to leave the pup home and go for a long day trip to Big Bear instead. We headed out bright and early on Saturday morning, with breakfast on-the-go:

Big Bear snacks-1

Road trip breakfast: Siggi’s yogurt, Van’s cocoa cereal, blueberries, Blue Diamond almonds and dried bananas

Like much of California, the trip to Big Bear was a gorgeous ride. The town is named after the Grizzly bears that inhabit the area, which I was kind of hoping to spot while we were there (within a safe distance), but no such luck!
Big Bear grizzly bear

Once we got into the area, we popped into the Big Bear Discovery Center to obtain a parking pass and get further info about the trail we wanted to hike: Cougar Crest – Bertha Peak. After researching the trails in the Big Bear area, this one seemed to be the best half-day hike for us. The hike is about 7 miles from the trailhead, and pretty soon after you start hiking, the views are beautiful: lots of trees and green, and a nice view of Big Bear Lake and surrounding mountains!  Big Bear-2The hike had a nice steady incline a lot of the time. We were happy that it wasn’t too steep because both A and I felt a little short of breath from the elevation, which we aren’t used to! Big Bear Lake sits at around 7,000 feet in elevation.Big Bear-1

The Cougar Crest Trail ends at the juncture of the world-famous Pacific Crest Trail, known as the PCT. This was kind of cool for us because we watched the movie Wild recently, the non-fiction movie starring Reese Witherspoon about a woman who hikes 1,100 miles of the PCT in hopes of finding herself and getting a fresh start. The movie itself was just okay, but being a hiker, I was intrigued at the movie’s concept. The PCT runs all the way down from Mexico up to Canada!

PCT sign

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PB & J Oatmeal Crumble Bars

Happy Friday friends!

So, when a new recipe idea doesn’t turn out exactly how I want it to, there are two conclusions I come to: 1.) I just fuhgeddaboudit, or 2.) If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! Today’s recipe is a case of something working out the second time around. PB&J Oatmeal BarsSome of you may remember that a few months ago, I included the below photo in a weekend recap: pb and jelly bar recipe fail

This was the first run of testing out my idea for PB & J bars, and while they tasted great, they just weren’t holding together well at all. Since the ingredients seemed to work well together and it was just a texture issue, I gave it a second go a few weeks ago. This time I adjusted a few ingredients, and chilled the bars for a few hours before cutting them into squares, and BOOM! The recipe was a winner. 
PB & J Oatmeal Bars

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Creamy Mango Melon Smoothie

It’s mid-September, which means that a lot of you are starting to experience some cooler temperatures and the start of autumn. You’re stashing your flip-flops away in exchange for ballet flats, throwing on pants instead of shorts, and starting to make pumpkin everything. If this is you, this recipe is not being shared with you in mind… because this post is dedicated for all of the Californians who have been experiencing a heat wave with me (and anyone else whose sweating somewhere in the world)! 😉

mango melon smoothie-3

The last couple of weeks here have been hot. I’m not complaining, especially because I live in a place that has awesome weather year-round, but not having air conditioning makes temperatures in the 90s with a crazy high UV index feel kind of brutal. Okay, maybe I’m complaining a little – I know, such a first world problem – but as I mentioned in my last post, my only relief is constantly eating refreshing foods. And jumping in my pool every chance I get, as I hate being hot and sweaty unless I’m working out!

My poor pup has been making me nervous panting so heavy at night, and like the overprotective pawrent that I am, I’ve constantly been feeding her ice cubes to cool her off a bit. My hubby and I have also forced my water-hating dingo to take a dip in the pool a few times.

mango melon smoothie-4

Luckily, yesterday San Diego got some much needed rain, which brought about a bit of cool air and some relief. The temperature today is supposed to be 75, so get your parkas out local Californians! But then we’ll be back in the high-80s in a few days, so yeah, let’s talk about smoothies… this smoothie recipe in particular.

mango melon smoothie-2

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Barre on the Bay + Nonstop Refreshing Eats {Weekend Recap}

Hi friends! How was your weekend?

The two themes of my weekend were 1.) consuming all things cold and hydrating, and 2.) working out outdoors – followed by #1 again because exercising outside these days = lots of sweat! Refreshing eats. Sweat. Repeat. 

My top refreshing eats included the below pictured smoothie bowl, which I made because I was craving ice cream…

Raspberry banana smoothie bowl topped with Zing bar pieces

Raspberry banana smoothie bowl topped with Zing bar pieces

…and then later in the day when I still actually wanted ice cream, I got a cup of deliciousness from Sub Zero, an ice cream maker that creates your dessert right in front of you using liquid nitrogen:

Sub Zero mint ice cream

{Low-fat “Magnetic Mint” ice cream cup}

Yum. Sometimes you just need the real thing!   

I also ate an obscene amount of watermelon, and came up with this smoothie concoction:

Mango Melon Smoothie

{Creamy Mango Melon Smoothie}

The recipe will be posted later this week. 🙂

I ate just a few non-smoothie/ice cream/summer fruit items, including kicking off my weekend by picking up burritos and heading to the beach to enjoy them and the sunset with my hubby:

burrito on the beach

Workout-wise, I had a nicely active weekend outside — just how I like it! My hubby had Marine Corps training, so on Saturday morning, just my dingo and I headed to our favorite nearby park for an hourlong hike. I knew if we didn’t get out early, it’d be too hot for Harley, and it worked out perfectly because when we got there it was cloudy and didn’t feel too hot for her.

Harley hiking with Giants bandana

{She’s obviously a NY Giants fan like me!}

I also did some swimming/lounging in my pool to beat the heat Saturday afternoon.

On Sunday morning, I headed into downtown San Diego for Daileyfest. As I mentioned last week, it was an event hosted by The Dailey Method San Diego that featured barre classes and food/health/beauty/workout clothing vendors.

Daileyfest

The event was held at Embarcadero Marina Park North – a beautiful area right along the San Diego Bay typically full of active San Diegans running, biking, and walking around enjoying the area’s shops and restaurants in what’s called Seaport Village.

Embarcadero Marina Park North

Seaport Village sign

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Meet Me at the Barre: Comparing San Diego Studio Barre Methods

Barre workouts are all the rage these days, and it’s no secret why: This type of workout focuses on flexibility and graceful dance moves as a means of toning and lengthening the muscles, in hopes of achieving those beautiful dancer-like curves. There’s no shortage of barre style studios in the San Diego area, but what’s the difference between the various barre methods and what type of exerciser does each best suit?

Meet me at the barre

These are the questions I was asking myself a couple of months ago when I decided to commit myself to really trying out barre. Sure, I had done barre classes before here and there, but I was on a mission to really experience three different methods within the barre community: Bar Method, The Dailey Method and Xtend Barre.

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on each style of barre. While I’m sure each studio represents its designated method well, keep in mind that I’m specifically comparing Bar Method Solana Beach, The Dailey Method San Diego and Xtend Barre Encinitas.

Barre Power Hour

All of the workouts focus on flexibility, toning, and proper form in ballet barre moves, but the styles also have some distinct differences. Instead of doing a rundown of each individually, I thought it’d be fun to categorize the studios by what I found to be their defining qualities. Here we go!

Best method for cardio: Overall the workout that you’ll sweat most in is Xtend Barre. I really enjoyed how the classes focus on flexibility, toning, and a cardio workout in one.

While The Dailey Method’s regular barre classes weren’t all that cardiovascular, the studio’s Dailey Interval class is an awesome fast-paced class where you’ll torch some serious calories. This class in particular was definitely more my usual style of working out, and I love how it still incorporates the same dance moves that focus on form and flexibility, but it takes things up a notch and makes it a more challenging workout. When I chatted with the owner of The Dailey Method, she said that their interval classes are meant to balance out their regular lower intensity barre classes.

The Dailey Method

Best method for feeling the burn: One thing is for certain when you take a class at Bar Method Encinitas: Your muscles will be on fire! While all the classes focus on small movements for muscle toning, Bar Method seemed to emphasize this the most. After I take classes there, my legs and glutes tend to tingle the whole ride home.

Friendliest instructors: Xtend Barre takes the cake with this one, as every single instructor whose class I took was really energetic and super friendly. I’m all about warmhearted, down to earth people! Having friendly staff makes me become a bigger fan of a studio (and a business in general for that matter).

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Chocolate Greek Yogurt Fruit Dip + Labor Day Weekend Recap

Oh, how I love 3-day weekends! It seems like there’s so much more time to have fun, relax, and also get a couple of productive things done than during a regular weekend. That extra day really makes a difference, don’t you agree?

I spent a ton of time outside over the weekend — just how Labor Day weekend should be. Inspired from watching all of the U.S. Open action, I kicked my long weekend off with a tennis session with my hubby…
tennis session

…and then we headed over to the beach for a sunset picnic:

banana pb sammy on the beach

Peanut butter, banana, honey & cinnamon on whole wheat — mmm!

We also had a chance to stroll around the farmers’ market and pick up some local goodness….Vista farmers' market

…grill a margherita pizza for dinner one night… grilled margherita pizza

…and go on a hike with our dingo at our nearby favorite park: harley at trail sign

Something we spent a lot of time doing over Labor Day weekend was entertaining in the backyard. With temperatures in the 80s with clear sunshine, it was perfect pool party weather! On both Saturday and Monday, we had some friends over for some fun in the sun. Not to toot my own horn, but I put together a pretty awesome spread for Monday’s get together:

pool party-3

 

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5 Healthy Ways to Add a Little Adventure into Your Everyday Life

Happy, happy Friday! And Happy Labor Day weekend to my fellow Americans!

Hope that you’re looking forward to your long weekend. My hubby has come down with a nasty cold for what will be the first weekend we’ve had together in a month – so I’m just trying to allude the sickness and hoping that he gets better ASAP so that we can have some fun!

Love this sign at a local Pilates studio

Love this sign at a local Pilates studio

Speaking of fun, I definitely consider myself to be a fun, adventurous person. While I’d love to go on a trip every month or jump out of a plane or some other daredevil activity every week, that isn’t really feasible. So, even during the week when I’m busy with normal things like work, I like to add a little spice to my life in small ways.

wheel pose on the Navesink

Wheel posing at my parents’ Jersey shore house a few weeks ago

I think that one of the major ways you can live life to the fullest is to make every day an adventure in some way. I was recently thinking a lot about this, and I thought I’d share with you guys some ways that I add some excitement to my everyday healthy lifestyle.

#1 – Try a new walking/hiking trail: Since I take my dog for a long walk on a daily basis, I like not only having numerous routes that we take, but also trying new trails to switch it up.

Calavera Lake

The other evening at a nearby park we often frequent, I spontaneously turned left when I usually go straight. Was it an earth-shattering adventure? No, but it gave us a change of scenery to enjoy.

#2 – Try a new recipe: Eating the same meals over and over is borrrring. Sure, everyone has their favorite go-to foods and meals, but not only is it fun and different to try out new recipes, it also helps to provide your body with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that enable you to function at your best – not to mention that it helps to expand your kitchen maven abilities.

Freekah salad-3

My most recent new recipe creation was the above pictured Mediterranean Freekeh Salad. Freekeh was also a brand new food to me last week. You can try it too by entering my giveaway to win a package of freekeh!

#3 – Get out of your workout rut! Go to a new exercise class, or a challenging one that you haven’t done in awhile. Switching up your workout routine not only keeps things interesting, it keeps your body guessing and working harder too.

Core40 class

This week I kept not being in the mood to workout (although I kept pushing through!) and felt kind of bored, so I made a return to the Megaformer machine for a killer Pilates class yesterday. I hadn’t done a class in a few months, and whew, it was tough!

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