Bottoms Up!

This blog is a guest post from Tabio! I chose to share this with everyone because for those of us that like to drink, maybe it is time to start being more cautious of what we are putting into our bodies.  Why should we try to eat healthy, but throw all the rules we know out of the window to have some fun?

This blog post shares some tips on how to try and drink the healthiest ways possible!

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Let’s just be honest here, drinking isn’t the healthiest of things, but it is one of the most fun things to do to let loose and have a good time. For those of us that like to try and watch our waistline, training and drinking do not go hand in hand.
Because people train hard, they think that they are allowed to go hard on the liquor (which they are, who am I to judge?), but they also forget just how caloric alcohol really is. In addition to the large amounts of carbs in alcohol, people tend to mix with all sorts of sweet concoctions, which just starts to count up in the long run. Stick to low-cal options like club soda, lime juice, or diet soda.
If you are going to drink, start by making smart choices. Of course, you need to remember those choices in the morning and drink a glass of water per alcoholic beverage to stay alert and hydrated. “Healthy” is a pretty subjective term when it comes to drinking, however, below is a list of the “healthier” drinking options.

Vodka Soda
“If you’re trying to watch your weight, drink vodka and soda.” Something that I am sure we have all heard before, vodka soda does happen to be amongst the most low-cal ways to drink…it also happens to be one of the most boring as well! Vodka averages 95 calories per 1.5 ounces. Soda water, of course, has zero calories. However, this drink has no nutritional value whatsoever, so you can do better!
Wine
I am sure we all know by now that wine is actually pretty good for you. Red wine packs in a ton of nutritional value such as 9.4% for potassium, 5% magnesium, and 9% of your DRI in iron. Most importantly, it is packed with antioxidants. The calories tend to range from about 110 to 130 for a five ounce glass, which ain’t bad at all.
Mimosa/Bellini
One of the most popular brunch items, these tasty drinks made it to the list. A mimosa is made out of champagne and orange juice, while a bellini is made out of champagne and peach juice. Even though we are moving out of the low calorie category with this drink, it is packed with other benefits such as:
-Like red wine, white wines also have antioxidants. Although they are different antioxidants they are still just as healthy.
-Orange juiced is packed with Vitamin C, Potassium, Folic Acid, Calcium, vitamin B6, and Thiamin. For those of you who opt to make a mimosa with grapefruit juice, go you! —–Grapefruit juice is known to be a “fat-burner.”
-Like orange juice, peach juice used in bellinis is also packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamins B.
Bloody Mary
Another brunch favorite, bloody mary’s happen to be one of the healthiest alcoholic drinks. Considered very low calorie, it is also packed with tons of nutrients.
-Tomatoes: As an excellent source of the strong antioxidant vitamin C and other antioxidants, tomatoes can help combat the formation of free radicals known to cause cancer. Prostate Cancer: Lycopene has been linked with prostate cancer prevention in several studies.
-Horseradish: Can help fight the common cold, has antibiotic properties and can help protect against UTI’s.
-Celery: Very rich in vitamin K and also contains folate, vitamin A, potassium, and vitamin C. Dietary fiber — despite being mainly water, celery also provides a fair amount of dietary fiber. The vegetable contains 1.6 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
-Tobasco: Studies have proven that spicy foods, especially chilis, can reduce appetite and increase metabolism.
Tequila
According to Forbes tequila is healthy to drink because:
It doesn’t give you a hangover
It has healthy benefits such as aiding in lowering
It makes you smarter
It is classy
It is Mexico in a bottle
Like I said, “healthy” is a pretty subjective word when it comes to drinking. Most people tend to through their concerns right out of the window after a couple of shots and have a good time, which is the most important part about going out with your friends. Just remember to drink responsibly and walk out of the bar paying your tab with Tabio…that way you can pay whenever and wherever!

Make sure to check out more of Tabio’s really useful and helpful blog posts that cover every subject from hangovers to best concerts of the year!

xoxo Sarah

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Calories Don’t Count….on the Weekend

Just in case ya’ll have been living under a rock for the past few months, you should know that it is playoff season. Football Sunday’s mean gathering together with your friends and spending the day watching your favorite teams compete…they also mean good food.  Some people may think of wings while other may think of some sort of dip, however, I always think of nachos.

Not only are nachos one of my favorite foods, especially if they are good ones, but they are one of my favorite foods to make because they can be so versatile.  There are so many different flavor combinations and styles of nachos that all it takes is a little inspiration to make a bangin’ nacho dish.

Because I was studying abroad in Australia this time of year with a girl that happened to love anything and all things Greek, not only am I reminiscing about the good times in this dish, but I was also inspired to make Greek nachos today.  Using a lamb gyro as my inspiration below is my recipe!

Greek Lamb Gyro Tacos

4 pita pockets, white or whole wheat, cut into wedges
About 1/2 cup olive oil
Salt
4 ounces feta cheese
½ cup yogurt, preferably whole-milk
½ cup chopped fresh mint
1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
½ pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 or 3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded if necessary, and chopped
½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees Arrange pita wedges in one layer on baking sheets and brush or drizzle with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Bake until they begin to color, turning once or twice, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, turn off oven and put chips back in to keep warm.

In a blender or food processor, combine feta, yogurt, 1/4 cup olive oil, mint and zest and juice of lemon; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Blend or process until smooth. (You can also mash mixture by hand, with a fork).

Put two tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add lamb and cumin and sprinkle with salt and pepper; continue cooking until meat is cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes more. Put chips on a serving plate and top with lamb, sauce, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives if you’re using them. Enjoy!

xoxo Sarah

Winter Soups

Now that the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina are finally starting to feel like winter, I find that it is appropriate to make a blog post about winter soups! Although I am an avid soup lover, I do not make them as often as I should.  However, waking up to 27 degrees outside has caused me to want one thing and one thing only, soup!

Over the holidays my family received a Honey Baked Ham in the mail.  Because it is by far one of my favorite gifts, I hate to see any part of it go to waste.  Thus, I knew that by keeping the bone as well as last little scrapings of meat I could make some yummy split pea soup!

The recipe that I am sharing with you was merely created off of the top of my imagination.  After looking in my pantry and refrigerator to see what kind of ingredients I had readily available, I threw together a soup that is surprisingly very yummy! …..The only reason why I say surprisingly is because I grew up with a girl who’s mother makes the best split pea soup that I have ever had and still remember to this day! My only hope is that my version lives up to her legendary recipe! The best part about this recipe is that it is so easy to make and only contains a few ingredients! Check it out.

Split Pea Soup made with Honey Baked Ham

2 medium sized onions, chopped

2 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 cups ham, chopped (Keep your ham bone)

1 (16 oz) bag of dried split peas

8 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon dried thyme

2 tablespoons butter

In a large saucepan, melt your butter over high heat.  Once it is melted, add your onions, potatoes and ham.  Cook for about 8 minutes or until soft.  Add your dried thyme and cook for about minute or until fragrant.  Then add your peas, broth and ham bone and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once it comes to a boil, turn down to low heat and cover slightly.  Cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Enjoy!

Cook’s Notes: I did not add any salt to this recipe because Honey Baked Ham is naturally very salty, in addition to chicken broth. However, I did add some ground black pepper.  If you have carrots and celery handy, go ahead and chop a cup of each and add to the mixture.

xoxo Sarah

Life is Like a Sandwich…the More You Add to it the Better it Becomes!

In my personal opinion, there is nothing better than a good sandwich.  Although I am not a fan of eating them cold, a hot sandwich can really make a perfect day even better! Since sandwiches come in all different shapes, forms and sizes they can be served anytime of the day!

Perhaps one of my all-time favorite sandwiches is a BLT.  There is something about the way the three ingredients come together that make me crave it all of the time.  The crispiness of the bacon with the sweet juiciness of a tomato is what I live for and often times put a new twist on it to make it more exciting than it already is.

For this blog post, I opted to make an open faced BLT with jalapeño chimichurri, avocado and a fried egg.  I substituted the lettuce for avocado because I wanted the added nutrients.  Below is my recipe!

Open faced BLT with Jalapeño Chimichurri, Avocado and a Fried Egg

1 slice of artisan bread, toasted

1 avocado, sliced

1 tomato, sliced

3 pieces of bacon, cooked

1 egg, fried

2 jalapeños, seeded

2 cups fresh cilantro

2 cups fresh parsley

3 tablespoon garlic, minced

3 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Add the jalapeños, cilantro, parsely, and garlic in a food processor and blend until reduced almost half in size.  Then add the lime juice and olive oil in slowly until it becomes a nice smooth texture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Take a piece of toast and put a nice little helping of the chimichurri sauce on the toast and top with some tomato slices.  Add a little bit more salt to taste.  Then top with avocados, and then bacon slices.  Last but not least, add your fried egg (I like mine to be sunny side up) and drizzle a little bit more chimichurri sauce to taste.  Enjoy!

Cook’s Notes: I chose to make this dish an open faced sandwich because I have a phobia of eating an egg sandwich and having egg yolk run down my fingers.  However, if you are a traditionalist go ahead and make a classic sandwich with two pieces of toast!

xoxo Sarah

Make Brunch, Not War

Brunch is a necessary meal. I find that I want brunch almost every single day of the week and when I am able, I make sure that I have brunch.  Because it is a meal that everyone should love, it is important to switch the dishes up.

The dish that I am sharing with you today is huevos rancheros.  Now I am hoping that most of you already know what huevos rancheros are, but if you do not huevos rancheros is a popular breakfast dish comprising eggs served in the style of the traditional large mid-morning fare on rural Mexican farms.The basic dish is composed of fried eggs served upon lightly fried corn tortillas topped with a tomato-chili sauce. Refried beans, Mexican-style rice, and slices of avocado or guacamole are common accompaniments.

However, I do not like to follow recipes and often times like to use the same components or ingredients and switch the dish up a little bit.  Because I did not have any tortillas, I decided that I would make a “Southern” huevos rancheros and use grits instead.  In addition, I also wanted to use my mother’s homemade roasted tomato salsa that she made with tomatoes from her garden.  I also did not want to use refried beans and chose to use Goya Black Bean Soup beans because it is super flavorful and yummy! Below is my take on huevos rancheros, hope you love it!

“Southern” Huevos Rancheros

1 cup grits, cooked

1 can Goya Black Bean Soup, heated on the stove

1 can chopped green chilis

2 avocados

1 lime, juiced

1 tablespoon jalapeno, seeded and chopped

salsa of your choosing

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1 egg, sunny side up

Take you avocado and mash it up in a bowl.  Add the green chilis, jalapeño, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.

Start with platting you grits on a wide rimmed bowl. Top with a few spoonfuls of black beans, you might want to strain them so they are so soupy.  Then you take your egg and place it on top of the grits and beans.  Add a few spoonfuls of salsa and top with the guacamole.  Finish off with some chopped cilantro and shredded cheese if you would like.

Cook’s Notes: Because this is such a soft dish, I enjoyed mine with some tortillas chips to add some crunch.  In addition, I also added some hot sauce to the top because I love some heat!

xoxo Sarah

Don’t Stress, Be Merry

Let’s just be honest here, the holidays can be extremely stressful.  Along with running around like a wild woman (or man) trying to make sure that you have all of your presents wrapped, your house decorated, and holiday cards sent, the occasional holiday party can make your life a nightmare.  While they are supposed to be fun, they can also add more stress to your life because you need to bring an appetizer. However, I promise that this does not have to be stressful at all!

Because my goal in life is to try and eat as healthy as possible, this appetizer that I am about to share with you is not only the festive colors of Christmas, but it is also healthy! Only containing a few ingredients, this is a dish that can be thrown together at the last minute! It contains peas, fresh radishes as well as goat cheese! These ingredients create a light appetizer that is beautiful to look at as well as a nice vegetarian option to all of the heavy meat dishes that surround the holidays. Below is the recipe:

Pea Crostini with Fresh Radishes, Goat Cheese and Sea Salt

1 French baguette, 1/2 inch slices and toasted

2 cups unthawed frozen peas

1 bunch of radishes, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup goat cheese, and more to crumble on top

salt and pepper to taste

Make sure that you have toasted your bread.  Turn on the broiler, drizzle some olive oil over the freshly sliced bread and toast in the oven on the upper rack for about 5 minutes.  Make sure that you constantly watch it to make sure that it does not burn.  In the mean time, take a blender and add your peas, vinegar and goat cheese and blend until smooth.  Once you have toasted your bread, add a nice little helping of pea mixture to the top of the bread.  Then top with a few sliced radishes, sprinkle with goat cheese as well as salt and pepper.  Enjoy!

Cook’s Notes: Because I did not have fresh bread when making this, I used Wasa Crackers as a substitute.

xoxo Sarah

Tis the Season

With Christmas right around the corner, this dish is something a little festive.  Because most people have family and friends constantly around during this time of year, it is important to keep some healthy food that people can munch on when hungry.  I find that quinoa salads are a quick and easy dish that can be thrown together a variety of different ways and is generally a crowd pleaser. This can be used as a dish that is meant just as a quick snack or as a dish that can be served during a meal.

Because I am trying to keep it very festive, I decided that I would make a quinoa salad that incorporates both red and green.  For the green, I decided that pistachios and fresh basil would complement the red ingredient which is pomegranate seeds.  Pomegranate is a great and healthy food to eat because they contain a lot of potassium, they curb your hunger, and are great protection against cancer.  Below is the recipe!

Christmas Quinoa with Basil, Pistachios, and Pomegranate Seeds

1 cup quinoa

3/4 cups chopped pistachios

1 pomegranate, seeded

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons basil, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa according to the package.  In the meantime, take your pomegranate and cut in half.  Then put it over a bowl and beat the back of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon.  Once you have seeded your pomegranate, mix in the basil and pistachios.  Add your cooked quinoa and then add the oil, vinegar and salt and pepper.  Enjoy!

Cook’s Notes: The pomegranate add a nice sweetness to the dish as well as a crunch.  I would say to season to taste, thus add more vinegar, oil and salt and pepper if you prefer a stronger taste.

xoxo Sarah

 

Light Bites

Although I find this dish to be more appropriate and suited for warmer weather, it is a recipe that I figured I must share.  Since it is that time of year where people become relatively cautious of what they are eating, this is the perfect meal to have for lunch.

The dish that I am sharing with you all is a seaweed salad with a twist. The reason I decided that I would share a seaweed salad recipe with you all is due to the fact that seaweed is a superfood that is most often overlooked.  It is one of the most nutritionally dense plants on the planet and also the most abundant source of minerals in the plant kingdom as they have access to all the nutrients in the ocean.

Some health benefits include:

Blood Purifying: The chemical composition of seaweeds is so close to human blood plasma, that they are excellent at regulating and purifying our blood.
High in Calcium: They can contain up to 10 times more calcium than milk and 8 times as much as beef.
Alkalizing:They help to alkalize our blood, neutralizing the over-acidic effects of our modern diet.
Have Powerful Chelating Properties: They offer protection from a wide array of environmental toxins, including heavy metals, pollutants and radiation by-products, by converting them to harmless salts that the body can eliminate easily.
Contain Anti-oxidants: Seaweeds contain lignans (naturally occurring chemical compounds) which have anti cancer properties.
Detoxifying: They are rich in chlorophyll (the pigment that makes some seaweeds green) which is a powerful, natural detoxifier that helps to draw out waste products.
Boost Weight loss: Seaweeds play a role in boosting weight loss and deterring cellulite build-up. Their naturally high concentration of iodine, helps to stimulate the thyroid gland, which is responsible for maintaining a healthy metabolism. At the same time, its’ minerals act like electrolytes to break the chemical bonds that seal the fat cells, allowing trapped wastes to escape.

So with all of these health benefits in mind, this dish is very easy to make and can be thrown together relatively very quickly.  After making a quick stop at my local Asian market, where I found a refrigerated package of pre-made seaweed salad mix, I was ready to go because I have all of the essential ingredients already stocked up at my house.  Below is the recipe

Seaweed Salad with Sautéed Oyster and Shiitake Mushrooms and a Quick Pan Fried Tofu

1 package of SeaVegi Seaweed Salad

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 tablespoon sesame oil, plus more for sautéing

1/2 cup mixed medley of mushrooms

1 teaspoon liquid aminos

1 (14 ounce) block of extra firm tofu

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons corn starch

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Remove the tofu from the package. Line a plate with paper towels and set the tofu on top. Set a small plate over the tofu and weigh down the plate with something heavy, like a 28 ounce can of tomatoes. Press for 15 to 20 minutes. You will see the liquid collect around the tofu.

While you are preparing the tofu, go ahead and rinse the seaweed and mix it together with the rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, and lemon juice.  Set aside in a bowl.

Then take about 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and heat it over a small skillet. Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft, add the liquid aminos.  Remove from heat and cool.

Remove the weight off of the tofu and pat the tofu dry. Slice the tofu into cubes, large rectangles etc. Whatever your shape preference is.

Transfer the tofu to a shallow dish and sprinkle with salt. Toss to evenly season the tofu. Sprinkle 1/3 of the tofu with the cornstarch then toss evenly to coat. Continue to sprinkle and tossing until the cornstarch is used. After adding all of the cornstarch, the tofu should be evenly coated with a sticky, gummy layer of cornstarch.

Set a skillet over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil. Heat until the oil starts to simmer. Slowly add the tofu in a single layer. Once it starts to brown, flip the tofu until all of the sides are lightly browned and crispy.

Take a cooling rack and place it over a paper towel lined plate. Remove the tofu from the oil and place on the cool.

Once the mushrooms have cooled, add them to the seaweed salad and toss.  Serve the seaweed salad and then top with the tofu. Enjoy!

xoxo Sarah

Happiness Comes in the Form of Homemade Soup

Now that my hometown of Asheville, NC has officially become freezing, I find that it is appropriate to make some homemade soup.  One of the most overrated and often times overlooked soup is mushroom soup.  The reasons for this is due to that fact that many people do not like mushrooms, in addition to the issue that most mushroom soups tend to fall on the creamy side.  However, both of these stop signs can be avoided!

Mushrooms are in the fungi family have many health benefits! For instance they are very high in antioxidants.  Selenium is a mineral that is not found in most fruits and vegetables but can be found in mushrooms.  It plays a huge role in liver enzyme function and helps detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body.  Additionally, selenium prevents inflammation.  Mushrooms contain two types of dietary fibers in their cell walls: beta-glucans and chitin which increase satiety and reduce appetite, making you feel fuller longer and thereby lowering your overall calorie intake.

This recipe that I am about to share with you all comes from Jamie Oliver and is definitely worth talking about! It is the perfect recipe for cold weather and does not contain a high amount of cream/dairy products to make it creamy.  Below is the recipe!

The Real Mushroom Soup with a Dollop of Mascarpone 

1 small handful dried porcini
olive oil
600 g mixed fresh wild mushrooms (chanterelles, girolles, trompettes de mort, shiitake, oyster) , clean and sliced
2 cloves garlic , peeled and finely sliced
1 red onion , peeled and finely chopped
1 handful fresh thyme , leaves picked
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 litre organic chicken or vegetable stock
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley , leaves picked and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese
1 lemon
truffle oil , optional

Place the porcini in a small dish, add boiling water just to cover, and leave to soak. Get a large casserole-type pan nice and hot, then add a good couple of lugs of olive oil and your fresh mushrooms. Stir around very quickly for a minute, then add your garlic, onion and thyme and a small amount of seasoning. After about a minute you’ll probably notice moisture cooking out of the mushrooms and at this point add half of your porcini, chopped up, and the rest left whole. Strain the soaking liquid to remove any grit, and add it to the pan. Carry on cooking for about 20 minutes until most of the moisture disappears.

Season to taste, and add your stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes. I usually remove half the soup from the pan and whiz it up to a purée at this point, then pour it back in, adding the parsley and mascarpone, and seasoning carefully to taste.

You can serve this soup as you like, but there are a few things to remember when finishing it off. Mix together a pinch of salt and pepper with the zest of one lemon and the juice of half of it, then spoon a little of this into the middle of the soup. When you go to eat it, stir it in and it gives a wonderful flavour. Other things you can consider are little slices of grilled crostini put into the bottom of the bowls before the soup is poured over. Or you could even quickly fry some nice-looking mushrooms – like girolles, chanterelles or oysters – and sprinkle these on top of the soup. If I was going to use truffle oil, then I would use it on its own – a few drips on the top just before serving.

My Notes: Because it is relatively hard to find a different variety of fresh mushrooms, I ended up using Shiitake, Portobello and Oyster mushrooms.  In addition to this, I also added every single topping that Jamie suggested in the last paragraph of his recipe.  I found it to be a perfect meal for dinner!

xoxo Sarah

Eating Healthy on the Go 

The difficulty of eating healthy when you are on the go is something that everyone can relate to. Throwing something together very quickly when you are on the way out of the door is definitely not appealing to most and often times leads to eating an unhealthy meal. For those of you that are not meal preppers, like myself, this is the easiest recipe that be thrown together in a matter of minutes. Not only is it healthy and full of protein and fiber, but it is also very flavorful!

When studying abroad in London, I lived on a tight budget.  One of the cheapest foods that I was able to buy from the grocery store was canned tuna, thus my love affair started. I came back to the states and found myself wanting to eat canned tuna for lunch. This recipe that I am about to share is something that I created just from trial and error. I hope you enjoy!

Italian Tuna Salad

1 can of oil packed tuna (Trader Joe’s has the best)

1 cup of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup cucumber, chopped

1 small shallot, finely chopped

2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Combine balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Combine all other ingredients in a bowl and toss well.  Add the dressing and serve!

As I said, it is EXTREMELY easy to make!

xoxo Sarah