Thursday, September 1, 2016

Name Change and Re-launch!

Hi Guys. TGI almost F! It was right around this time three years ago that I officially launched Healthy Girl Transformation. I must say that it has been an incredible three years. What I initially envisioned as a space to share healthy lifestyle changes, grew into a creative outlet for me to share everything from recipes to major life milestones. I'm so grateful that I decided to take the leap and press "publish." 

Since the beginning of this year, I've been thinking more about blogging, and what I intend for this blog to become. Aside from sharing bits of my life, it's my hope that this blog can be a space for young women to come to be encouraged and inspired. Being more of an introvert, blogging helps me create this space in a way that feels right for me. It's on my terms, in my voice, and I love that.  

As I continue to blog, however, I've come across new topics that I'd like to talk about here, but I struggle with how they fit into the blog's overall focus. At times, this has had a censoring effect, which I don't like. After giving it a lot of thought, I feel like I've outgrown Healthy Girl Transformation. While I stand behind everything this blog represents, the  name is limiting. It doesn't give me the freedom to express all of the different parts of who I am and who I'm becoming.

I wanted to find a name that gave me this freedom and that could also grow with me. With that being said, this blog will become "A Bit of Chi." I've been working on a new name since March. Who knew the process would take this long?! Changing a blog name is a big deal though so I wanted to make sure that I chose one that I could really stand behind. A bunch of names came and went, but "A Bit of Chi" stuck. It just felt right. On the new blog, you'll see the same types of posts you've grown to love on Healthy Girl Transformation in addition to more travel posts, decor & entertaining tips, a new school advice segment, and much more!

Another big change you'll notice is that I'll be moving to WordPress. Since I'm going to have to change the website name anyway, I decided that now will be as good a time as any to make the switch. 

So yeah, that's it for now! I can't wait for you to see everything once it's all said and done. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Snack Easy Series #4

Hi Guys! How are you? I hope life's treating you well. You would think that with my comps behind me things would have calmed down a bit. Oh no! There's so much going on. The semester officially kicked off this past Tuesday. While I'm not taking any more courses, between my TA duties, working on my dissertation proposal, and looking for jobs (eek!), I'm keeping quite busy. I'm also working on a few exciting blog and business projects. I can't wait until I can share them with you!

Right now I'm coming to you with the August installment of the Snack Easy Series. This month I've got two types of jerky, a tropical inspired crisp, a black bean snack, and some healthy oatmeal cookies.

Alyssa's Healthy Oatmeal Bites
Bought at: Publix
Price: $4.28
Repeat Purchase: Absolutely
I wanted to start off on a high note. These oatmeal bites were my favorite snack of the bunch. So delicious. If you didn't tell me they were "healthy," I wouldn't have guessed it. Somehow they taste like a real oatmeal raisin cookie, but they manage to be low in calories and sugar and high in fiber. It's some kind of wizardry Alyssa's got going on here. These would be a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth craving with zero guilt. I highly recommend trying them. Price wise they're not the cheapest, but they're also not the most expensive. One package costs $4.29 and contains 4 servings (one serving is 2 cookies). That gives it a cost per serving of a little over a dollar. I don't buy these every time I go grocery shopping, but I do pick up a package when I want a sweet treat but don't want to go rogue. I've lucked out and gotten them on sale a couple times though.

Mango & Ginger Crisps
Bought at: Trader Joe's
Price: $3.99
Repeat Purchase: Yes!
I've enjoyed other flavors of these Trader Joe's crisps, so when I saw these mango and ginger crisps I immediately knew I wanted to try them. These didn't disappoint in the slightest. They are really good. I ate these crisps with everything from fruit, pepper jack string cheese, or yogurt as a midday snack. While they're pretty low in calories, they are nutritionally neutral. The price point is reasonable in my opinion. One box is $4 and it has 5 servings, which makes the cost per serving about eighty cents. I would buy these again because the flavor is amazing, but not regularly since they don't provide any beneficial nutrients. I will say that these are a great snack if you want something crunchy to nosh on.

Turkey Perky Jerky Jammin' Jamaican
Bought at: Publix
Price: $4.69 (sale price)
Repeat Purchase: No

When I spotted these at Publix, my interest was quickly piqued. Turkey jerky in a Jamaican jerk flavor?? Sounded very promising. While I loved the initial flavor of these, they left a somewhat salty aftertaste in my mouth. It's possible that I could have misinterpreted what was in fact some other flavor as salty. I say this because when I checked the sodium content it wasn't as high as I would have expected based on the taste. These have a chewy, but not super tough texture. The bag says two servings but I think this is pretty clearly a one serving snack. Nutritionally, it offers a good amount of protein (esp. if consumed as one serving - 22 grams). On the other hand, since I consider this to be a one serving snack, that makes the cost per serving very expensive at $4.69 per serving. Ultimately, I don't think I would buy it again with its high cost and salty aftertaste.

Country Archer All Natural Turkey Jerky Honey Dijon
Bought at: World Market
Price: $3.29 (sale price)
Repeat Purchase: No
I'm on the fence about these. They weren't bad, but they didn't taste amazing either. In contrast to the Jamaican Jerky, these had a pretty tough texture and they weren't overly salty. Similar to the Jamaican jerky, however, this jerky offers a solid source of protein (especially if consumed as one serving). Country Archer also uses all organic ingredients, which may explain the cost. I got the honey dijon on sale for $3.29 but it's typically around $6. Since I consider this to be a single serving snack as well, this makes the cost per serving pretty high at $3.29 ($6 if it weren't on sale). In terms of repeat purchase, I would lean toward no if I had to make a decision. However, I'm open to buying these again because I think the taste could grow on me. I also like that it's high in protein and quite low in sodium (esp. for a jerky). If I were to buy it again though, it'd probably have to be on sale.

Inner Bean Black Bean Snack
Bought at: Trader Joe's
Price: $1.49
Repeat Purchase: Yes
These black bean snacks have a really good flavor to them. They have a light and crispy texture which I enjoyed. If you've tried the pea snacks that look like these but are green, these have the same texture. Price wise this snack is about as cheap as you can get. At $1.49 per bag with three servings per bag, the cost per serving is 0.50 cents. In the two bags that I've bought, both had four servings. Don't you love it when they underestimate the number of servings?! It's like the snack fairies smiled on you. Nutritionally, this snack has a good amount of fiber, owing to the fact that it's made from black beans.  If you didn't catch it earlier, these are definitely a repeat purchase for me. I think they would make for a great healthier snack alternative for kids compared to some chips or crackers.

That concludes this month's roundup! I hope you guys have been enjoying the series. If there are any healthier snacks that you'd like for me to review then drop me a note below! I'm open. As long as it doesn't involve peanut butter.

I hope your week is as delicious as those oatmeal bites:)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Culinary Pursuits: Whole Wheat Chocolate Chunk Coconut Cashew Cookies

Walmart has these insanely addictive toasted coconut cashews. I discovered them last summer and was immediately hooked. Guys, they were so good that I had to stop buying them. I was crushing them. It was shameful. Each time I bought a new bag, I'd say this would be the time I practiced some self-restraint. Nope. So I cut myself off cold turkey. When I had some people over a few months back I thought this would be a great snack to set out. It got me thinking about how delicious these would be in a cookie. So that's what I did. I put them in a cookie and tossed in some semisweet chocolate chunks so they wouldn't get lonely, and the result was deliciousness. 

The recipe is a simple one so you'll be in and out of the kitchen in no time.  Now I made these two ways. The second time I made them I used half white whole wheat flour, and half all purpose flour. good! The first time I made them I exclusively used white whole wheat flour. Still delicious but the cookie was somewhat denser. Either way you make these you're coming out ahead. Those are pretty good odds in my book. But don't take my word for it. Make them and taste for yourself. After you do let me know if you need my address to send the thank you card:)

3/4 cups of white whole wheat flour
3/4 cups of all purpose flour
3/4 cup chopped coconut cashews (found at Walmart)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1/4 tsp sea salt (plus extra to sprinkle on top)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup melted coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with wax paper and lightly spray. You can use a silpat mat instead if you have one (I need to go ahead and order one from Amazon).
Pulse the cashews in a food processor to chop. You can also chop them with a knife or break them apart manually.
In a large bowl combine the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and sea salt
In a separate bowl add the egg, sugars, cooled coconut oil, and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and slowly mix until no dry pockets of flour remain.
Fold in the chopped cashews and the dark chocolate chunks.

Use a medium sized cookie scoop to portion out dough and then roll into a ball with your hand. Complete until all of the dough has been used. This should make between 15-18 cookies.
Bake in the oven for ~9 minutes (don't over bake, you want a soft, chewy center!)
Let cook for a minute or two and enjoy!

P.S. Yes, I'm still alive. I just finished taking the last of my comprehensive exams yesterday. Woohoo! I may bake these cookies again this weekend as a treat:)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Snack Easy Series #3

You didn't think I forgot about you, did you? Of course, not! I had to bring you July's Snack Easy round up. I planned to get this in earlier, but this month has been super hectic and virtually nonexistent. Yesterday it was the 4th of July and today it's July 31st. I'm convinced the weeks in between didn't actually happen. Why is time moving so fast?? 

Anyway, I had to come through for you this month because I've got some really good stuff on the list to share. For this month's round up, we've got a fiber-packed granola bar, a string cheese, fig crisps, a Chobani flip yogurt, and an almond butter. Check out my thoughts on each below:

Trader Joe's Rolled Oats & Chocolate Chips Fiberful Granola Bars
Bought at: Trader Joe's
Price: $2.69
Repeat Purchase: (Yes, many, many, many, many, many times)
These are my bread and butter as far as breakfast staples go and I realized they could also make a great snack. My immediate older sister put me on to these a few years ago and I've been hooked ever since. I remember the first time she told me about them. I scrunched my face up when I saw the box. You want me to try a chocolate fiber bar?? Isn't that like eating chocolate covered cardboard? No thanks. But eventually I caved and was almost instantly a fan. On the mornings that I do have my Kashi cereal for breakfast, I always have one of these bars with it. I end up looking like a hoarder whenever I go to Trader Joes because I always buy like 5 or 6 boxes at a time (I live between 20-25 minutes away from the nearest TJs so I  go once a month and stock up). God help me if Trader Joes decides to discontinue these. As you can tell from the name these have a huge amount of fiber, they're chocolate covered, and really tasty. What more could you ask for?! One of these and you're already a third of the way toward meeting your daily fiber requirement. Gotta keep things moving and grooving:) I've probably bought well over 100 boxes since my sis introduced me to them.

Wisconsin Pepperjack String Cheese
Bought at: Walmart

Price: $2.98
Repeat purchase: Yes
It's hard to believe I have a string cheese on the list. As a kid, the only time you could even think about getting me to eat cheese was when it came melted on top of nachos or with macaroni and cheese. I've definitely come to the dark side! This pepper jack string cheese is really good. One stick has five grams of protein and only 80 calories. I've purchased this several time since I first bought it because it tastes quite good, it's well-priced, and it's a pretty healthy snack. Bonus points for string cheese being fun to eat.

Big Spoon Roasters Almond Ginger Butter
Repeat Purchase: Yes
Purchased at: Whole Foods

Price: $13.99
I hate peanut butter but almond butter is my jam. I love my AB & J sandwiches as another breakfast option when I want to switch things up. Some months ago, I found out about this local nut butter company based in Durham and when I saw they had an almond ginger butter I knew I needed to try it. I spotted it in Whole Foods a couple weeks ago and quickly scooped it up. This was delicious with sliced bananas and a drizzle of honey as a healthier sweet treat (try it!). Also, for any fellow AB&J sandwich lovers out there, these help to elevate them to next level status. I had it with a peach pepper ginger jam and it was really good. Compared to other nut butters like Justin's (which I love) this is not as sweet, but it does have these crystallized chunks of ginger throughout though that provide little bursts of sweetness. It's not the cheapest of jars but almond butter tends to last me a while because I'm usually only using one tablespoon at a time on toast or with fruit. Nutritionally, I love the ingredient list. It's simple with things I recognize and love - ginger, almonds, and sea salt. If you're in North Carolina, you may be able to find one of these in your local Whole Foods. If not, they are available for purchase online. 

Chobani Flip Pear & Honey
Bought at: Harris Teeter
Price: $1
Repeat Purchase: Nope
Typically Chobani flips have all of these crazy mix ins, which are great, but the simplicity of this one caught my eye - pear and honey. How can you go wrong with that combo? Unfortunately, this one missed the mark. I was pretty surprised by it too because Chobani usually always comes through. Even with the pear and honey add-ins this was way too bland. I got these for one dollar at Harris Teeter, but I'm pretty sure that was the sale price. You could probably doctor this up by adding some jams but at that point you might as well just buy the plain version. Nutritionally, it's a solid snack though. One serving has 11 grams of protein and only 140 calories. Even with the good price and nutritional deets I just can't get past its blandness. I definitely won't be buying this one again.

Bonus opinion: Yesterday, I had a practice writing session for my comprehensive exams and my writing partner had just bought some of these. She was about to try them for the first time, and I told her I wanted to hear her thoughts first before I colored her expectations. After one bite, she agreed that it was too bland. Back to the drawing board Chobani.

Kii Naturals Fig & Black Sesame Crisps with Golden Flax Seeds
Bought at: World Market
Price: $4.99
Repeat purchase: Yes
Sometime last year I stumbled across these fig crisps at World Market and fell in love. They're awesome on their own, but they're also badass with either a jam or a pepper jelly and some goat cheese or brie. Nutritionally, these are neutral. They don't have much of the good stuff (protein or fiber), but they also don't have much of the bad stuff (saturated fat, sodium, or added sugar) either. These would make a great party appetizer, snack, or a side to soups or sandwiches. I love a versatile purchase. Price wise they're middle of the road - not cheap but not terribly expensive either. As a result, I would (and have) bought these again, but I don't get them often.

Happy Sunday!

See you guys next month (which is like tomorrow).

P.S. Today I can officially say my comps start next week!

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Cocktail Dress and Chicken Wings

When I packed for Clearwater my suitcase was full. I had no plans or need to do any shopping. When we get there, my sister told me she didn't have a bathing suit and you can't very well come to a beach town without one. Well, we ended up at Ross and long story short, I think you no where this is going. I ended up buying two tops, a pair of shorts, a maxi dress, and a really cute cocktail dress for a total of about $50. Crazyyyy! In fact, I've already posted outfit pics of the gray maxi dress.

Together the shorts and the top in these pictures were about $16. You just can't beat those prices.
The combo was so cute that I opted to wear it instead of one of the other outfits I packed.

I loved wearing this. I'm always down for a little print mixing:) Plus it was super lightweight which was my top priority for anything I wore in Clearwater.

While I loved everything I bought, it definitely presented a challenge when it came time to leave and pack my suitcase. You should have seen me at the airport! Between the extra clothes and some of the leftover food, my bags were stuffed. I survived though. With my chicken wings and the new cocktail dress I got at Ross in tow!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I Spot a Lavender Wall

I couldn't very well leave Clearwater without finding some colorful wall or backdrop to take some outfit shots against. As we were driving around town we spotted this beautiful lavender wall, and my sis was kind enough to put on her photographer hat and snap some shots:)

Shades: Target, Dress: Macy's, Bangle: Thrifted, Shoes: Steve Madden

My comprehensive exams are two weeks from tomorrow. Ahhhh! I'm nervous but it's an excited kind of nervous. I'm feeling pretty good at this stage. There's still more articles to read and more practice writing sessions to complete, but I feel like I'll be prepared come August 8th. Pray for me though!

Hope you're having a sunny Sunday wherever you are:)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

"Snapchat" Beach Chic in Clearwater

I spotted this headband at Walmart in Clearwater and gravitated toward it for some reason. When my sister saw it she said it looks like the Snapchat filter. Now that I've finally caved and joined Snapchat (check me out: abitofchi), I must say I agree.
It fit perfectly with my bathing suit and cover up. I loved this look. I felt like the ultimate 70's beach, flower child. All that was missing was a tambourine:)
Cover up: Nordstrom, Bikin: Asos, Headband: Walmart
It was so relaxing watching the sunset. There was a nice breeze, the temperature was perfect, and there weren't many people out there at all. It was so hard to pull ourselves away.
Take me back!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Clearwater Outfit Day 1

To say Clearwater was humid would be an understatement! I've never done bikram yoga before, but I think I'm much better prepared for it after having gone to Clearwater. The air was dense. Fortunately when I was packing I figured as much and opted for loose, flowy, and breathable clothing.
For the first day, I wore this sheer leopard dress that I got from TJ Maxx a few years ago. Usually I wear the dress buttoned up with the belt it came with around the waist and a black bodysuit underneath. Well this time I forgot to pack the belt. I didn't like it as much without the belt, so I opted to leave it open. I ended up loving the look. Happy fashion accident.

I felt so beachy!

Check back throughout the week to see what else I wore:)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Clearwater Food Fest - A Diner, Brick Oven Pizza, & Jamaican Eats

I had some really (really) good food in Clearwater. Check out some of the food highlights below:)

Maggie Mae's
Thanks to Comedians in Cars Getting coffee (if you haven't heard of it check it out, it's genius), my sister had a hankering for some good ol' fashioned diner breakfast food. Since I am by default always game for breakfast food, diner food it was. Maggie Mae's fit the bill. It's waterfront location meant we could enjoy the view as we dined on pancakes, sausages, eggs, and biscuits.

Any restaurant that has several people waiting outside is typically a good sign, so by all accounts our expectations were high. It took us about 45 minutes to get a table. In the end, the food was yummy and super affordable. About $20 for all the food pictured (minus tip). They only serve pancakes until 12 though (don't ask me why), so if you have a hankering for some hotcakes you need to get there early!

Cristino's Coal Brick Oven Pizza
For dinner one night we ended up trying this pizza spot called Cristino's. Everything about this place was perfect - from the decor and vibe, to the service, and best of all the food.
Oh my goodness. Best pizza I've had to date. We'll get there in a second though. Let's talk about appetizers first. My sister ordered the calamari because she'd been having a hankering for some and I got the pan tossed crispy garlic wings served with a bed of carmelized onions on top and a blue "cheesy" type dressing.
For the main meal we got a large pizza and did half Quattro Formaggio and half Bianca. The Quattro Formaggio was my favorite. PHEnomenal. The Bianca pizza was really good as well.
They bring out samples of some of their gelato for everyone, which was a great marketing ploy because as soon as we tasted it, we knew we had to get some. I got the cheesecake and almond gelato and my sister got strawberry and almond.

Rumba Island Grill

My food was delicious at Rumba Island Grill (although the service left much to be desired). Usually when you tell your server you need a minute to decide, oh I don't know, they actually give you a minute to decide. Every 30 seconds he kept popping back over to our table asking us if we knew what we wanted. Really? Maybe we would be further along in deciding if you didn't interrupt our thought process every two seconds.
Anyhow, I knew of at least one thing for sure that I was getting. In fact, I had known before we even got to the restaurant. It was their Jamaican jerk grilled chicken wings with cranberry jerk and mango bbq sauces. Those sauces had me sold. The real question was what sides was I going to get.
I ended up going for their cranberry cornbread stuffing and the crab mac n cheese. While I had high hopes for the mac n cheese, it wasn't my favorite. The cranberry cornbread stuffing was delicious though.
Typically if I have leftovers when I travel and I don't finish them before I leave, I'll just throw them away, but the wings were too good to waste. I traveled back with them and had them for dinner the next evening. That's commitment.

Clearwater outfits coming next!