Things I am Loving Lately

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1. Coconut Butter
Specifically, Essentially Coconut’s line of coconut butters. This local company creates coconut butters with no additives just coconut meat slow churned. They do love to add in different types of nuts making many flavor variations. I currently love the Coconut Cashew flavor. I am hooked on drizzling a teaspoon or two over a baked sweet potato. It is the perfect complement and acts as a great ending to a dinner or even a dessert. I also enjoy it on a piece of Ezekiel toast or English muffin topped with banana slices as a breakfast treat!

Health Benefits of Coconut: It is packed with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Coconut has antibacterial and antiviral properties. It is known to improve digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Coconut is also great for your hair, skin and nails.

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2. Kale Sprouts
I had heard all the hype about this new hybrid vegetable but had not come across it in any grocery stores until last Sunday. Trader Joe’s now sells bags of Kale Sprouts. I quickly grabbed multiple bags and brought them home to try. They are a perfect blend of the two vegetables; a mild version of a Brussel Sprout in obscure shapes with small kale leaves attached to them. If you throw them in the oven with some olive oil and garlic powder they are the perfect side vegetable.

Health Benefits of Kale Sprouts: This is self explanatory; two of the powerhouse green vegetables and superfoods combined into one!

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3. Roasted Pumpkin
Trader Joe’s has another win in this week’s post; they currently sell bags of pre-cut pumpkin. I have been adding these to dinners and lunches since I first saw the product hit the shelf. It is as simple as laying them out on a sprayed baking sheet, spraying the tops with olive oil, sprinkling garlic powder and rosemary and baking for 35 minutes or until golden brown. You can also substitute the garlic and rosemary for pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon to make a sweeter version of this side dish.

Health Benefits of Pumpkin: Pumpkin tastes very similar to squash and has the same nutritional value but contains a lot less natural sugar. It is very low in calories for a root vegetable and contains a great amount of fiber. Pumpkin is known to be a tremendous source of Vitamin A; just a cup of cubed pumpkin packs twice the daily recommended amount. Pumpkin is known for its anticancer properties since it is also filled with beta-carotene and antioxidants.

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4. Terra Sweets & Beets Chips and their Limited Edition Sweets & Pumpkin Chips
These bags of chips are the best things ever made. Once a bag is opened it is very likely to be finished that day in our house. These chips are a combination of sliced beets, sweet potato, and pumpkin then baked or fried (I don’t want to know) and topped with various flavorings. The original flavor and the new cinnamon and nutmeg flavor are my favorite. These are a great treat once in a while.

Health Benefits: A serving of root vegetables? Treat yourself…

Halloween Candy Upgrade

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As we approach Halloween I thought it would be appropriate to share some of my favorite treats. Growing up, my absolute favorite candy was Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I ate them plain, in banana bread, pancakes, and ice cream. Basically, if it had Reese’s or Chocolate Peanut Butter in the description I ate it. Just recently, I have found three “healthier” versions that I believe taste even better and wanted to share them with you:

1. Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

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These Cups are made with organic fair trade chocolate and peanut butter. The dark chocolate and peanut butter combination is amazing as always and is super rich in flavor. Justin’s also makes the best nut butters out there. There are lots of creative flavors to choose from as well (they are expensive but worth the splurge everyone once in a while, especially if you like to eat it by the spoonful).

http://justins.com/item/dark-chocolate-peanut-butter-cup-single/

2. Sun Cup’s Dark Chocolate Sunflower Butter Cups

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These Cups are perfect for anyone with a food allergy because they are nut and gluten free and the do not contain any eggs or soy. They are also made with fair trade ingredients and do not contain any GMOs. The sunflower butter is less sweet than other nut butters but it still has a strong flavor that compliments well with the dark chocolate.
http://suncups.com/products/dark-chocolate-cups/

3. Evolved Dark Chocolate Coconut Butter Cups

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These Cups are made with organic ingredients and never contain soy, gluten, dairy or refined sugars. These treats are naturally sweetened with maple syrup and have no added sugars. These aren’t exactly the traditional chocolate nut combination, but if you are a coconut and/or almond joy fan this is an incredible indulgence.
http://eatingevolved.com/?product=coconut-butter-cups

4. Lastly, for those who are ambitious and have the patience for this can make their own Superfood Almond Butter Cups from an awesome nutrition blogger I follow; My New Roots. She incorporates the superfood, lucuma, into the nut butter filling which provides antioxidants, minerals, fiber and a natural sweetness.
http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2013/03/superfood-nut-butter-cups/</div&gt;

All three of these companies make different flavors and variations that please a wide variety of taste buds. The best part about these products is that they are all made with real simple ingredients. No preservatives, chemicals, and additives.

PS. They taste even better with a glass of red wine or cocktail of choice..

TuftsHealthPlan for Women 10k

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Back at the end of August I began to search online for a local 5k and hopefully a 10k race (they are hard to find). I stumbled upon the TuftsHealthPlan 10k for Women and quickly without thinking twice registered. I have always wanted to complete an official 10k but had never pushed myself to sign up for one. My manager is an avid marathon runner and was so excited when she heard that I had signed up for a race. She quickly registered as well so I wouldn’t be racing alone and to be able to share the great experience with me. Once I was registered I was excited to start training. I used to be an every day runner but recently had stress fractures in my feet that forced me to avoid running for awhile. Since I have been completely hooked on Pure Barre and have forgotten about my love for running so this was the perfect push to get back into it. I had recently been beginning to run 5ks a couple times a week but needed to train to push myself to the 6.2 and I also wanted to finish in a good time. My training plan consisted of 5k runs, 2 mile fast runs, and a few long runs and before I could blink it was race day.

The event itself was incredible. The amount of women involved was inspiring and so motivating. There were close to 8,000 women running and around 20,000 spectators, so the atmosphere was motivating to say the least. I finished the race in 43:04 and couldn’t be happier about it. I was aiming for 8-8:30 min/miles but never expected an average of 7:36 min/miles! After crossing the finish line, my manager and I got to participate in a stretching class on the Boston Common and then grab a lot of free goodies from countless vendors; Luna, Stonyfield, Sparkly Soul, Nuun, City Sports, and Reebok. It was an amazing day and I was very happy to share it with the hundreds of women participating as well as celebrate with my manager at the finish line! I might now be hooked on participating in races..

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Pasta Cravings? Here is a Healthy New Solution…

I am so excited to tell you all about the newest product I found (yes, at Whole Foods Market). Every time I go into that place I end up going up and down each aisle to see if there is anything new and intriguing on sale. This past weekend I stumbled upon “bean pasta”. This company, Explore Asian, has come out with “pasta,” but it is only made up of two ingredients: different types of beans and filtered water. I immediately got excited to try it and grabbed two different flavors; edamame fettuccini and adzuki bean spaghetti. These pastas are loaded with protein and fiber, low in carbs, high in iron content, and sodium free. You cook them as you would normal pasta, except, it only needs about 4-8 minutes depending on the type; just follow the packages instructions. Then, it is up to your imagination to dress them up how you would like!

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I created a fall vegetable pasta dish by adding roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and garlic then topped it with parmesan cheese and olive oil. The “pastas” themselves have a great deal of flavor so depending on the bean type you can pair vegetables and meats accordingly. These are an awesome way to reduce your carb intake and still get the feeling you are indulging in a great pasta dish!

Recipe:

Ingredients:
1/2 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 medium onion cut into wedges
1/2 package of sliced mushrooms
1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for serving
Garlic powder, Salt &amp; Pepper to taste
1 packages Explore Asian Organic Adzuki Bean Spaghetti
1/4 cup rosemary
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese plus more for serving

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Divide the squash, mushrooms, onions, and garlic onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with garlic powder, salt and black pepper, toss to coat. Roast for 25 – 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and starting to brown, flipping the vegetables once with a spatula. I like to broil for the last 5 minutes or so to get the squash crispy.

While the vegetables are roasting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve a half a cup of the pasta cooking water, drain the pasta and rinse with cold or hot water (depends on the bean type). Return the pasta to the hot pot. Add the roasted vegetables to the pot along with the reserved pasta water, and lastly sprinkle in the rosemary and Parmesan cheese. Toss well to coat. Season to taste with more salt and pepper if desired.

Serve the pasta with a drizzle of olive oil and more Parmesan cheese if desired.

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Check out their website http://www.explore-asian.com/bean-pasta/ and head over to your closest Whole Foods Market and pick some up to try!