handmade owl heatpack-lavende and flax

DIY Lavender + Flax Owl Heat Pack

Now that the rush of the holiday season is behind us, I say it’s fine time to start focusing on other important things like relaxation and our own wellness =)  I know that I’m a big hypocrite when it comes to this because I’m always running around trying to cram 17,000 things into one day (as I’m sure many of you do as well)!  At any rate, every now and then I try to squeeze in a little R&R…I was in this frame of mind the other day when I decided to create today’s adorable DIY =)  I’ve seen a few DIY heat packs around the web and I’ve always thought they’d be fun to make, so I went ahead and made my own the other day!  I sewed my heat pack into an owl shape then filled it with flax seed and lavender, I absolutely love the end result… and it forced me to relax on the sofa with it for a bit ;)

DIY FLAX + LAVENDER OWL HEAT PACK

GATHER UP:

Two pieces of fabric, approx 9″ H x 8″ W

Two small pieces of scrap fabric (for eyes)

One small piece of orange fabric (for beak)

1/4 cup dried lavender buds

1/2 cup flax seed

3/4 cup rice

METHOD:

Cut your owl shapes out of fabric.  Start with the owls head, cutting an oval shape with ears (remember you need a back and front, so cut two pieces of fabric on top of one another). The size of my body was approx. 9″ L x 8″ W. Next, it’s time to cut they eyes.  Cut two circles approx. 3″ in diameter, using a solid colored fabric. Then two more circles approx. 2″ in diameter, using a coordinating print.  Finally, cut two more circles approx. 1″ in diameter in the same solid fabric you used for the large circles.  Last, cut out an orange triangle for the beak.

It’s time to make the owls eyes.  Begin by sewing the medium sized circles onto the middle of the large circles.  Next, sew the small circles onto the bottom of the medium circles….

Now it’s time to attach the owl’s eyes and beak to his face!  Use a sewing machine or needle and thread to attach the eyes and beak to the owl’s face.

Next, sew the front and back of your owl’s head together using a sewing machine or needle and thread.  Make sure to leave a small open space (about 2″)  on one side so that you can fill your owl heat pack with the flax, lavender and rice.

Now it’s time to fill up your owl heat pack with flax, lavender and rice!  I chose to fill a separate pouch then insert that into the owl.  You can simply pour the flax, lavender and rice directly into the owl or fill a separate pouch and insert that if your heat pack fabric is thinner.  I made my pouch by sewing two squares of fabric together, simple!  Once you’ve filled your owl with the materials, simply sew him closed!

Your handmade owl heat pack is now complete!  Throw him into the microwave for 30 seconds to warm him up, then use him to relieve sore muscles or simply snuggle with!

Now you just have to remember to make some time for a little rest & relaxation!

 

pesto green pea pasta

Pesto & Green Pea Pasta {recipe}

I’m constantly finding myself stuck when it comes to weeknight meals…I always have trouble thinking of something quick, healthy and different to make.  Pasta is usually my go-to dish, I like to load it up with veggies and add a basic sauce like tomato, but that tends to get old after a while.  In an effort to mix things up, I experimented with a healthier pesto pasta dish the other night.  I mixed up a simple, fresh pesto then added some green peas for an extra pop of flavor!  I enjoyed this pasta as a main dish, but it would make a great side dish along too!  Here’s my simple Pesto & Green Pea Pasta recipe…

Pesto & Green Pea Pasta [serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side]

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound wheat linguine

1 cup frozen petite green peas, thawed

3/4 cup packed torn basil leaves

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

METHOD:

Cook pasta according to directions.  In a food processor or chopper, combine basil, olive oil and Parmesan cheese, blend until chopped and well mixed. In warm sauce pan, combine pasta and pesto sauce, then add thawed peas. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve alone or as a side =)

Enjoy!

banana bread pudding

Banana Bread Pudding for One {recipe}

My sweet tooth gets the best of me WAY too often…which is why I’m always looking for healthier ways to satisfy it =) One of my favorite sweets is bread pudding, but making it is usually a long process that leaves me with a week worth of leftovers (which I’ll consume within the first two days…) You can only begin to imagine my delight when I came across this healthy bread pudding recipe on The Vegan Stoner recently, I knew that it was an immediate MUST TRY.  I made a few modifications to the recipe, including cutting down the recipe to a single size serving ;)

Banana Bread Pudding [for one]

INGREDIENTS

one banana

1/8 cup brown sugar

1.8 cup white sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 slices of bread (your choice, I used sprouted wheat)

1 tbsp melted butter (optional)

METHOD

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut banana into thin slices and toss with brown sugar, set aside.  In a medium saucepan, heat coconut milk, sugar and vanilla extract (just until a very light simmer).  Add bread to pan, allow the bread to soak in the liquid for one minute.  In a small baking dish (or divided into two ramekins), add a layer of bread, then banana slices, bread again, then more banana slices.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until top is light golden brown.

Remove from oven and drizzle a bit of melted butter on top (optional).  Bon appetite!

 

strawberry spinach salad blue cheese recipe

Strawberry & Blue Cheese Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing {recipe}

As we transition into Fall, I’d like to share one of my all time favorite salads with you (second only to the La Grande’ salad!).  I usually associate this salad with Summer, but a few modifications (and variations) cozy it up perfectly for Fall.  The best part about this salad is that it is so versatile.  The spinach and strawberries are light and fresh, while the blue cheese and almonds hearty and savory.  So here it is, The Spinach & Strawberry with Blue Cheese Salad



Spinach & Strawberry Salad with Blue Cheese (and poppy seed dressing)

INGREDIENTS (for the salad)

1 package of baby spinach (washed & dried)

3/4 cup sliced strawberries

**You can swap out the strawberries for cranberries, blueberries, raspberries or just about any other fruit you like

1/4 cup sliced almonds (or halves if you prefer)

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

INGREDIENTS (for the poppy seed dressing)

1/2 small onion (minced)

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. dry mustard

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

3/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp. poppy seed

METHOD

Mix the salad ingredients in a large serving dish, set aside. 

To prepare the poppy seed dressing, add all of the ingredients together in a blender and chop until dressing is blended well. 

Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving and toss.  You will end up with extra dressing which can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. 

Enjoy!

 

healthy cooking choices

10 Healthy Choices You Should Make [healthy living]

In my opinion, staying fit and healthy shouldn’t be about holding back and making sacrifices.  It should be a conscious decision to eat what you love by incorporating delicious foods that help your body perform better and keep the extra pounds off.  Choosing healthier, more nutritious options will come naturally to you once you learn when and how to incorporate them…and when eating better comes naturally, it’s called a lifestyle =)

I love sweets and I’ll never deprive myself of them, so I’ve already put together a healthy baking substitution chart.  This has come in handy countless times for me!

healthy-cooking-substitutes

10 Healthy Eating Choices- get fit faster & stay fit!

RICE CRAVING?

Try: Quinoa

Why is it better? Quinoa is a complete protein based grain, so it contains all the amino acids necessary for our nutritional needs.  It is super high in iron and calcium, as well as a good source of magnesium, copper, and fiber.  White rice is a carbohydrate based grain.  It may have slightly less calories per serving than quinoa, but it’s irrelevant since the gluten and carbs in the rice turn into sugar after we consume it, which can eventually turn to unwanted fat.  Quinoa on the other hand, processes through our body efficiently, providing fuel as a clean protein.  This make quinoa the better choice every time!

HAVING A SANDWICH?

Try: Pita Bread

Why is it better?  Technically, there’s really no bread that’s “good” for you…and ideally, if you’re going to eat bread it should be sprouted grain or spelt bread since neither are processed and they offer the most amount of vitamins & nutrients.  However, sprouted and spelt bread can be pricing and difficult to find (especially if you’re eating out).  So next time you’re having a sandwich, consider opting for pita bread instead of sliced white bread.  Pita bread has less calories than white bread and is very low in fat, it also contains a bit of iron and calcium.  That’s a heck of a lot more than we can say about white bread, which offers almost no nutritional benefits!

MUST HAVE MASHED?

Try: Mashed Cauliflower

Why is it better?  Cauliflower over potatoes is a much better choice any day, for obvious reasons.  Cauliflower is packed with essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, K, B6, potassium, fiber, foliate…the list goes on!  On top of the multiple health benefits, mashed cauliflower has a fraction of the amount calories as a cup of mashed potatoes…a win all around!

MEXICAN NIGHT?

Try: Corn Tortillas

Why is it better?

One corn tortilla contains only 40 calories and .5 grams of fat, while one flour tortilla contains 110 calories and 2.5 grams of fat, that’s reason enough for me!  Not to mention the fact that flour tortillas contain loads of sodium while corn has very little…I’ll take the corn, please =)

DIPS & TOPPINGS

Try: Greek Yogurt

Why it’s better?

Non fat Greek yogurt tastes amazing, and the consistency is the same as sour cream, so it makes for an amazing calorie saving swap out.  One cup of non-fat Greek yogurt contains about 130 calories and is fat free, while one cup of sour cream contains upwards of 450 calories with 45 grams of fat, now that’s a big difference!

QUENCH YOUR THIRST

Try: Fruit Flavored Water
Why it’s better?
Most of us now know that fruit juices (even though they are made from “fruit” and are loaded with healthy claims) are not actually good for you.  Fruit juices are packed with sugar and syrups that cause our bodies to create and store unwanted fat.  Yes, even that orange juice you have every morning!  Swap out the juice for water with fresh fruit and save hundreds of sugar packed calories daily!
SANDWICH TOPPING
Try: Guacamole
Why it’s better?
Having a sandwich?  Consider this first: two tablespoons of mayo contains 115 calories, loads of saturated fat and over 200 mg of sodium, while 1/4 of a whole avocado contains only 80 calories and is packed with health benefits (so many that some consider it a “super food”).  Avocado is a great source of protein, fiber, calcium and most of all, potassium!
FRY FANATIC?
Try: Sweet Potato Fries [baked]
Why it’s better?
French fries are bad for obvious reasons, the contain loads of saturated fat and carbs that do nothing but harm to your body.  Their yummy orange counterpart however, now that’s another story!  Next time you’re craving fries, have baked sweet potato “fries” instead, you’ll save tons of calories, as well as add great vitamins and nutrients your body needs (like vitamin A, C, protein and fiber)!
FOR PIZZA & PASTA
Try: Fresh Diced Tomato
Why it’s better?
Tomato sauce from a jar may seem like a healthy choice, tomatoes right? Not.  Tomato sauces often contain large amounts of added sugar (among lots of other unknown ingredients), which we certainly don’t need when we are trying to maintain a healthy diet.  Opt for fresh diced tomatoes instead, now you’ll know exactly what you’re putting in your body, and you certainly won’t be consuming unnecessary sugars that do nothing but encourage your body to create and store fats!
HAVING PASTA?
Try: Wheat Pasta
Why it’s better?
Although the calorie content is about the same here (some versions of wheat pasta contain a bit less in the calorie department), consuming regular pasta provides almost no nutritional value. Opting for wheat pasta instead of white can deliver up to 7 grams of fiber, and 8 grams of protein, while regular pasta just can’t compete.  This means that you body will receive more of the nutrients it needs to function and burn better!
Happy Eating!

 

healthy baking substitutions

Healthy Baking Substitutions {healthy living}

I can’t lie, I have a major sweet tooth and I love to bake.  Most of the recipes I gravitate toward are loaded with butter and sugar, so when I did make them in the past it was always a rare treat.  This just wasn’t cutting it.  I wanted to eat sweets more often and NOT feel like I should have to go on an all  lettuce diet for the next week.  This is when I started exploring healthy recipe substitutes for baking.  I found some really strange things, and I found some really great things.  I tested the substitutes on some of my favorite recipes and came out with some winners (and some really weird things I just won’t share!).  I’ve been using many of these substitutes for a while now on recipes like the Skinny Chocolaty Chippers and The Healthy Brownie with delicious results.  Here they are, some of my favorite healthy baking substitutes

PS.  If you like these substitutions, then you’ll LOVE my 10 healthy eating choices!

Healthy Baking Substitutes

FLOUR SUBSTITUTE:

Black Beans

How it works? Using black bean puree in place of flour in recipes is a great way to reduce calories and add fiber to any yummy treat.  If your recipe calls for a cup of flour, try swapping it with a cup of black bean puree!

Works best with: Brownies, cookies

SUGAR SUBSTITUTE:

Unsweetened Apple Sauce

How it works? For cakes and bakes, you can reduce the sugar content by up to half when you use apple sauce.  All you need to do is cut the sugar in half, then add the same amount of apple sauce plus about 1/3 more. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, you can use 1/2 a cup of sugar and about 3/4 a cup of apple sauce (1/2 a cup, plus about 1/3 more).  For this substitution, you will need to cut down a bit on the recipe’s liquids.  Reduce the recipe’s main liquid by about 1/4 for every cup of apple sauce added.

Works best with: cakes, bakes and fruit dishes

BUTTER SUBSTITUTE:

Mashed Avocado

How it works? Avocados are packed with essential vitamins and minerals and are a great source of healthy fats.  Swapping avocado for butter will significantly reduce the calories and fat in any recipe.  To make this switch, replace with a one to one ratio.  For example, if your recipe calls for one cup of butter you can swap it with one cup of mashed avocado.  Just remember, naturally this will tint your batter or dough green, so keep that in mind!

Works best with: Cakes and cookies. With cakes, reduce your oven temperature by 25% and increase your baking time. This will help to prevent your cake from rising up in the middle or, alternatively, caving in. It’ll also prevent the cake from browning too quickly.

CREAM SUBSTITUTE:

Evaporated Milk

How it works: Replacing heavy creams with evaporated milks is another great way to cut out fat and calories.  Use a one for one substitution on most baked dishes.

Works best with: Whipped cream, dessert beverages

BUTTER SUBSTITUTE:

Banana

How it works? Replacing butter in a recipe with banana results in a nice rich, dense texture which can be great for all kinds of sweets.  Substitute an equal amount of mashed banana for the butter in the recipe. If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup softened butter, for example, pack a 1/2 cup with mashed banana.

Works best with: Cakes, muffins, cookies, breads. Using banana for butter may reduce cooking time by up to 25%, so keep an eye on your sweets!

SUGAR SUBSTITUTE:

Vanilla Extract

How it works?  For most baked goods, you can cut the sugar in half and add a teaspoon of vanilla as a replacement.  This will add just as much flavor without all the added calories!  Assuming a recipe originally calls for one cup of sugar, that’s a reduction of almost 400 calories!

Works best with: Cakes, muffins, cookies, breads

CHOCOLATE CHIPS SUBSTITUTE:

Cacao Nibs

How it works? Cacao is essentially chocolate in the raw.  It’s often referred to as a “super food” because of it’s wide array of benefits (unlike it’s processed counterpart).  Cacao nibs contain no sugar, and very little fat so they make a fabulous substitution for chocolate chips in just about any recipe!  Use cacao nibs one for one in place of chocolate chips.

Works best with: Any recipe where chocolate chips are used.

SUGAR SUBSTITUTE:

Stevia

How it works? Stevia is an all-natural plant based sweetener with zero calories!  Stevia is usually sold in packets under different brands (Truvia etc.) in a granulated form.  This makes it the ultimate, natural sugar replacement.  One tablespoon of sugar is equal to approx. 1 1/2 packets of Stevia.  For example, if a recipe calls for one cup of sugar, you should replace that with approx. 20-24 packets of Stevia, this will eliminate almost 800 calories!  Stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar, so sample recipes before adding too much!

Works best with: Cookies, cakes, muffins, dessert bars, breads

CANOLA OIL SUBSTITUTE:

Greek Yogurt

How it works?  Using Greek yogurt in a recipe in place of oil is one of the best ways to cut the fat right out!  The Greek yogurt replacement is barely detectable and makes recipes super moist.  To make the substitution, cut the recipe’s amount of oil by half. Add ¾ cup of yogurt for every cup of oil that you remove from the recipe.

Works best with:  Cakes, breads, cookies

Now go forth and bake!

xo

pesto pasta with grilled chicken and sweet potato

Pesto Pasta with Grilled Chicken & Sweet Potato {Recipe}

Have I mentioned before that I LOVE pasta and that I usually have it at least once a day?  Yes, I know it’s not the best choice but it’s really not a problem!  Let me explain.  I love almost every pasta dish, and I’m always experimenting with different flavors and new combinations.  The trick to enjoying a yummy pasta dish without packing on the pounds is loading up the dish with great flavors, healthy vegetables and clean protein.  You CAN satisfy your pasta cravings by eating much less than you think-I promise.  Just about every pasta dish that I make consists of 75-80% vegetables (and protein) and only 25%-20% pasta.  This is more than satisfying, and I always have a HUGE plate =) Today, I bring you a great new recipe I’ve concocted using one of my favorite flavors, pesto.  This healthy pesto pasta is packed with medley of delicious flavors and textures enter the : Pesto Pasta with Grilled Chicken & Sweet Potato

Pesto Pasta with Grilled Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe (Serves 2)

Gather Up:

One red onion

One sweet potato (cut into cubes and roasted)

One cup green beans

One chicken breast (grilled and cut into 1” strips)

One cup cooked whole wheat pasta

¼ cup fresh basil pesto (my simple pesto sauce recipe)

3 T parmesan cheese

1 plus 1/2 T olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Dice one sweet potato into cubes, toss with 1 T olive oil, salt and pepper.  Transfer onto cookie sheet, bake for 30 minutes until golden.

Prepare one grilled chicken breast.  Brush the chicken with olive oil, and then rub with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Grill the chicken for approx. 15 minutes until blackened.  Cut the chicken into 1” strips.

In a large skillet, sauté olive oil, red onion and green beans for approx. 5 minutes.  Add the roasted sweet potato and chicken, sauté for 1-2 more minutes.   Transfer mixture into a bowl.

In the same skillet, add the fresh basil pesto and pasta.  Sauté for 1 minute, add chicken and vegetable mixture to the pasta, lastly add parmesan cheese and salt & pepper to taste.

And now for my deliciously simple basil pesto sauce recipe

 

oatmeal

Top 10 Foods For A Speedy Metabolism {Healthy Living}

With the summer approaching we’re all scrambling to get swim suit ready!  Firming up and shedding a few pounds can be simpler than you think.  Sometimes it’s about making a few modifications to your daily meal choices to include things that taste great and work FOR your body rather than against it.  Incorporating foods that work for your body simply means eating natural & nutritious things that benefit the way we live and function.  For shedding pounds (and for a healthy lifestyle too) the best way to do this is with foods that provide the most amount of energy and help your body metabolize quickly and efficiently.  For today’s post, I’ve put together a helpful guide of 10 great foods that help to speed up your metabolism.  Incorporate these foods into your diet and get swim suit ready in no time!

Top 10 Foods For a Speedy Metabolism

 

1: Hot Peppers

2: Spinach

3: Water

4: Oatmeal

5: Low Fat Yogurt

6: Broccoli

7: Green Tea

8: Spices

9: Citrus Fruits

10: Fish

60-second-spinach-omelet

The 60 Second Skinny Omelet {recipe}

We’ve all heard the old “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” countless times and we get it! However, sometimes our busy schedules just don’t allow time for a well rounded breakfast.  Today, I bring you one of my favorite super quick & healthy breakfast options, with less than 100 calories.  My 60 Second Skinny Omelet is jam packed with healthy & nutritious ingredients and just about anyone should be able to squeeze this delicious breakfast into their day.

Gather Up:

One Organic Egg

1 cup of raw baby spinach

2 tbsp. organic chunky salsa

Instructions:

In a small microwave safe bowl, crack the egg, then add spinach and salsa.  Whisk the mixture together.  Microwave for 1 minute.

Totally optional:  Add a small scoop of guacamole for garnish and even more nutritional benefits!

This breakfast is far more filling then it seems.  It keeps me feeling full & energized for hours, all for under 100 calories!

Enjoy your 60 Second Skinny Omelet

mexican-chicken-lasagna-recipe

Chicken & Black Bean Mexican Lasagna {Recipe}

It’s no secret that I LOVE Mexican food.  I just can’t get enough of the fresh ingredients that are typically used in authentic Mexican dishes- avocado, black beans, salsa, cilantro, the list goes on.  Today’s post is about my all time favorite lasagna.  Which is actually nothing like typical Italian lasagna, as a matter of fact, it couldn’t be more different.  This is Mexican Lasagna with chicken, black beans, and mixed veggies; so it’s much better for you than it’s Italian counterpart.  Here it is, the Chicken & Black Bean Mexican Lasagna Recipe.

Gather up:

2 1/2 lbs ground chicken breast {I dice and ground in food processor}

3 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp ground cumin

1/2 cup chopped red onion

8 (8 inch) spinach flour tortillas

2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar (or Mexican blend) cheese

1 (14 oz) can of stewed tomatoes

1 cup mild salsa

1 cup frozen corn

2 finely chopped scallions

1 (15 oz) can of black beans

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large skillet, add chicken, olive oil, red onion, chili powder and cumin-sautee until chicken browns.

Add tomatotes, salsa, black beans and corn and scallions.

Simmer mixture for 5-8 minutes, until liquid thickens…

Coat a baking pan with 1 tsp of olive oil.  Cut tortillas into strips as needed to line the bottom of the pan.

Spoon a layer of the chicken mixture onto the tortillas.

Put down another layer of tortillas on the chicken mixture, sprinkle cheese on top of the tortillas.  Spread a second layer of chicken mixture, another layer of tortillas, then cheese on top again.  The lasagna will look like this just before it hits the oven…

 Bake the Mexican lasagna for 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees until cheese is brown and bubbly.