Saturday, March 29, 2014

Culinary Pursuits: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quinoa Wrap

This one's a quick vegetarian dish that uses some of the things you probably already have prepared in your fridge. I always have sweet potatoes on hand and I also just so happened to have black beans and some extra quinoa leftover from the quinoa bake so I decided to put them together to make a very  tasty and meatless wrap. I sprinkled on some goat cheese and dinner was done in under 5 minutes. A perfect weeknight meal. Hopefully this gives you some wrap inspiration. Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Culinary Pursuits: Tomato Coconut Curry Sauce with Roasted Spaghetti Squash

I'm bringing you a quick and easy, low-calorie, delicious, and vegetarian friendly dish that I made. If it sounds to good to be true just wait.

For the sauce you'll need:

1/2, large white onion
1 Tri-color bell pepper mix (pre-diced from Publix)
29 oz can of Hunt's tomato sauce
15 oz can of reduced sodium chickpeas
12 oz can of Rotel Seasoned diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut milk
One tablespoon of olive oil (to sautee the onions and bell peppers)
Seasonings (the only seasoning I measured was the curry; everything else was to taste):
1 tablespoon of curry
Sea Salt
~1/2-1 teaspoon of Olive Garden's Garlic & herb seasoning
~1/2-1 teaspoon of Tony Chachere's Original Creole seasoning
~1 teaspoon of cilantro leaves

  1. At a medium to high heat cook the onions in one tablespoon of olive oil and sea salt until translucent.
  2. Once translucent, add the bell peppers and cook for 3 minutes, spraying some olive oil cooking spray.
  3. Add the can of diced tomatoes and green chilies, followed by the can of Hunt's tomato sauce. 
  4. Let that come to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once that comes to a boil add the chickpeas and let cook for 5 more minutes.
  6. Add the 1/2 tablespoon of coconut milk, followed by the different seasonings. 
    Full disclosure: There's also a not so secret ingredient and it's not really ground white pepper like the bottle says. It's this African pepper my mom gave me. Don't ask me the name (sorry!) I don't have the slightest clue, but red pepper should also work well.
  7. Turn off the stove, the sauce is done. 

For the spaghetti squash:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and while the oven is preheating heat the spaghetti squash (whole) for 3 minutes.
  2. Once the spaghetti squash is done in the microwave, slice off the ends and cut in half.
  3. Spray a pan with cooking spray and place the two halves (face down) in the pan and let cook in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. This depends on the size of the squash you have. For larger squash cook closer to an hour, or if you like your spaghetti squash mushier, cook closer to an hour
  4. After an hour has passed fork out your spaghetti squash. 

I sprinkled black pepper on top of mine before adding the sauce since I know spaghetti squash can be a bit bland.

I suggest sprinkling on a little sea salt as well. Add the sauce on top. Enjoy!

I highly recommend trying this one and be sure to let me know what you think if you do! I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fitness Feature: My Pure Barre Experience

I took a barre class this past Saturday at a Pure Barre Studio in Druid Hills and I thought I'd share my experience. I wasn't going in as a complete newbie. I've done barre workouts before (Exhale Core Fusion and Tracey Mallett), but I knew this wasn't going to be a walk in the park. I was right. I got there about 10 minutes early to fill out some forms and was then taken to a room to store my bags and shoes while I worked out (no shoes allowed).

The class was held in a smaller room, more dimly lit with wall to wall mirrors so you could see your form and of course, wrap around ballet bars. I got the sense that a lot of the people there were regulars but there were a good bit of new people as well. It was a smaller sized class with about 15-20 people. The actual class lasted for 55 minutes including the warm-up/stretch and cool-down. While I did recognize a few of the moves, most of them were completely new to me which I loved. For equipment we used 2 or 3lb hand weights depending on preference, resistance bands, and a small ball. We used the ball pretty much throughout the lower body section and it made the moves much more challenging.

My arms were sore from workouts I had done earlier that week and I thought going into this class that I'd be okay because they'd probably just focus on legs. I was wrong. They hit everything. We worked our arms, abs, quads, calves, and glutes. The instructor would come around and correct form, if need be. She corrected mine a couple of times, which was nice because I feel like I got the most out of the moves and the workout. The music was also spot on. Not distracting or offensive but still motivating. At the end of the class, they had some instructors walk around to the students and gently push us deeper into the stretches. I thought that was a nice touch.

Overall, I thought it was a well-balanced and very challenging workout. I felt it especially in my glutes for the next few days which was awesome! Will I go back, perhaps, but it won't be too often. The first class for new clients is $15 but after that it's $23 a pop. The price per class goes down as you commit to more classes, but I don't want to lock myself in to just barre because I want to take all kinds of fitness classes. Stay tuned for more fitness features!

Have you ever tried barre classes or workouts before? If so, tell me what you think about them!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Seven Steps to De-Rut Your Workout Routine

I've found myself in a workout rut and it sucks. I don't want to see exercising as a chore but rather something to enjoy and look forward to. In the spirit of having fun, I decided to implement some of the steps below to re-vitalize my exercise regimen. Now nothing I'm about to write here is groundbreaking, but I'm hoping that it'll give you some inspiration for ways to keep your workouts fresh and fun.

Pure Barre

1. Sign up for a new class. I love my at home workouts. They're convenient and cost-effective, but they get boring after a while. When you know all of the cues given by the instructor and can cite them in unison with her it may be time to give something else a try (guilty). Why not sign up for a class with the money you're saving from gym memberships? I've decided I'm going to sign up for one new fitness class a month, whether it's a bootcamp, kickboxing, cardio, spin, or barre class. Today, I kicked things off by taking a class at a Pure Barre studio and I really enjoyed it. It's nice not knowing what the next sequence is and that's when time goes by faster.

Nike Id

2. Get some new workout gear. Because clothes matter even when you're working out. When you look good you feel good and that translates to performance. Choose what you like and wear that. Maybe it's a bright colored sports bra, a bold patterned top, or black leggings. Whatever it is, sport it. Target, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Forever 21, and Old Navy all have cute and affordable workout gear. I'm adding some Nikes to my workout wardrobe. I custom-made these Nike Id's because I need a new pair of workout sneakers and I think they're so fun. I can't wait to get them and put them to work.

3. Get some new workout DVDs. While taking new workout classes can be a lot of fun, workout DVDs will continue to be a big part of my routine because of the sheer convenience. I bought a few new ones from Amazon by Jessica Smith and Tara Lee and I can't wait to try them out.

4. Try some new workout equipment. I purchased this weighted Nike jump rope and I love it! Incorporating new tools in your workout can help to re-invigorate them and keep things from getting stale.


Other options that don't involve money:

5. With warmer temps a change of scenery may be just what you need to get out of a workout rut. Try running in a park or hiking a new trail.

6. Switch up the time that you workout. If you're feeling sluggish and tired during your evening workouts maybe it's time to make the switch to morning workouts instead or vice versa. I did this and it's been great! I was coming back from work and I just felt so tired and groggy. It was a big struggle to muster up the strength to workout after an 8-hour workday. So I flipped my schedule and decided to work out in the morning instead. Now I get up at about 5:30 in the morning and start my day off with exercise. I feel incredible after it's done, and I've found that I have more energy throughout the day.

7. Get a new playlist. Music is so important when I'm working out and I imagine most people would agree. It can push you at those critical moments when you find your strength waning and you want to quit. But after listening to the same song for over 100 runs maybe it doesn't have the same motivational factor anymore. Trying a new playlist with a new crop of songs may help to get you back in the zone.

What are some of the things you do to keep your workouts fresh? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Culinary Pursuits: Coconut Quinoa Bake

As promised, I'm bringing you guys this coconut quinoa bake recipe. Shamefully, I bought this bag of quinoa from Trader Joe's months ago and it has just been sitting in the pantry, staring at me every time I plan my meals for the week. Well this week I was determined to use it and I did! I also had to incorporate some of my fave healthy staples into the dish including oven roasted sweet potatoes, pecan smoked, apple and gouda smoked chicken sausage, and spinach. Check out the recipe below:

3 medium sweet potatoes
Holmes Smokehouse 5 pecan smoked apple and gouda smoked chicken sausage (Publix)
2 bags of 12 oz spinach
3 tablespoons of coconut milk
1 large squash
2 cups of tricolor quinoa
Ground cinnamon
Sea salt
Goat cheese (optional)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. While the oven is preheating slice your sweet potatoes. You can slice them in cubes or medallions, whichever way you prefer. See the picture for how I sliced mine.
  3. Once diced coat two pans with cooking spray, and then spread the sweet potatoes evenly amongst the two. 
  4. Once sweet potatoes are sliced spray them with cooking spray and drizzle one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on each pan, sprinkle with cinnamon, and then place them in the oven for 30 minutes.
  5. Slice the chicken sausage and set aside. After the sweet potatoes have been cooking for 30 minutes, add the sausage on top of the sweet potatoes and cook for 15-20 more minutes.
  6. Cook the spinach in two tablespoons of olive oil using sea salt and the Olive Garden Garlic and Herb seasoning and set aside.
  7. Rinse the 2 cups of quinoa in cold water and drain fully before cooking. Bring to a boil with 4 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of coconut milk, and a pinch of sea salt. Once the quinoa has been brought to a boil, lower it to a simmer, cover, and cook until the water is gone. (Follow the instructions on the package if they differ).
  8. While the quinoa is boiling chop the squash, spray it with cooking spray and season it with Olive Garden's Garlic and Herb Seasoning.
  9. Coat a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray. 
  10. Once the quinoa is done cooking take it out and spread 4 cups of it evenly across the pre-coated pan. 
  11. Take 1 tablespoon of coconut milk and spread it over the first layer of quinoa. Evenly spread all of your spinach, and 1 pan of roasted sweet potatoes and sausage over that first layer. 
  12. Take 3 cups of cooked quinoa and spread it over the sweet potatoes, sausage. Finally add your squash on top and put it in the oven for 15-20 minutes. 
  13. Take out of the oven and keep covered with aluminum foil.
  14. Serve with a tablespoon of goat cheese sprinkled on top if you like.

This makes a lot so you'll have food to last you for a while. Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Spirit of Gratefulness

I think it's important to take the time to let those who have impacted your life in a meaningful way know as much. So on this beautiful Sunday, I took some time to write thank you letters to some people who have supported me, encouraged me, pushed me, and influenced me over the years. This includes everyone from an old high school history teacher to former supervisors and my professional mentor. An unsolicited, unexpected gesture of gratitude can be so meaningful. It's nice to let people know that they are valued. If you're still not convinced about the power of sending a thank you note, imagine for a second that you were on the receiving end of one. Wouldn't it make your day if out of the blue someone sent you a letter saying how awesome you were or how much you inspired them? Here's a little tidbit about me: I like to make people smile. I also like acknowledging and showing my appreciation to those who have helped me get to where I am. What better way to do that then with two very powerful words? I hope you all have a beautiful Sunday.

P.S. I have an awesome recipe coming your way tomorrow!