My New Favorite Piece of Home Fitness Equipment

IMG_20130623_112813Hello Friends! I hope you are enjoying your weekend. Today, I just wanted to pop in real quick to tell you about my newest investment for at-home workouts: a kettlebell! Will has been a big fan of this funny shaped weight for years but I was unconvinced. However, after seeing more and more workouts online using them, I thought I would finally give it a try and see what all the hype was about! I found a good deal on mine at a discount sports store here in town called, Play It Again Sports. I am kind of a weakling, so I started my collection with just a 15 lb one. Sunday, Will showed me a few of the basic moves and I woke up so sore the next day! Who knew it could be such an effective strength builder.
Part of the advantage of a kettlebell over a dumbbell is that you can target numerous muscle groups with one move rather than just a few. Plus, a lot of these exercises incorporate a bit of cardio in addition to strength conditioning. To get an idea of some of the things you can do with a kettlebell, here are a couple examples of popular exercises:

I also found a few great workouts online that incorporate kettlebells!

Do you ever lift weights, or do you always go for a cardio workout at the gym? Have you ever tried kettlebells?

10 Things Tuesday: Body Image and My First Reuben

10 things tuesday 1. We picked up some salmon this week when grocery shopping… I am thinking we may just have to use it to make a broiled version of these grilled balsamic salmon kabobs
2. Normally, I am no potato salad fan. (Too much mayo for me, thanks!) However, I felt like I could be tempted by this curried sweet potato salad from Peanut Butter Fingers.
3. Why do we as women use up so much time and energy incessantly critiquing our appearance? I love Gina’s post, For [Body] Shame, which discusses just how hard it is to truly break free from this self-deprecating cycle of body shaming and why it is so important that we do.
4. Sometimes, I feel like I enjoy Joy the Baker’s introspective non-recipe posts the best. She wrote this one, I never could have known this week.
5. I loved this collection of summer recipes from Hillary at Nutrition Nut on the Run. The peach blueberry crisp is calling my name…
6. Can I confess to you that I am absolutely terrible at anything crafty/DIY? That doesn’t mean I can’t still admire and dream about recreating one of these DIY headboards!
7. I love the simplicity of this little green salad from Cookie and Kate.
8. Speaking of salads, I am drooling over this peach and arugula salad with goat cheese from Catherine at The Broccoli Hut.
9. This homemade wine cooler from Fit Foodie Finds looks so yummy. (I think I just might have everything I need to make it in my kitchen right now…)
10. Will and I went out to the Chicago Diner on Friday night. (Where I took the picture above!) They are an entirely vegetarian and vegan restaurant, which was a lot of fun for me. We ended up sharing their signature vegetarian Reuben sandwich. (The first time I’ve ever had one!) It was SO good! I could totally go back again this weekend for another. DSCF4751

Easy Zucchini Pasta Noodles

Happy Monday! I don’t know about you, but I am seriously loving the start of summer! We had a beautiful weekend here in Chicago, so we tried to make the most of it by spending lots of time on our bikes. The warmer temperatures of summer mean that we have been able to find more summer squash and zucchini at the farmers’ market. Since these veggies often grow in abundance, there are a ton of great recipes for preparing them! They can be roasted, sauteed, grilled, broiled, steamed, and more. Recently, I came across a recipe online for these zucchini noodles and I knew I had to try them out. However, I had to pick up one of these julienne peelers at the store before I could get started. Once you have one of those, you can convert your zucchini into noodles in no time!

These are great for any of your paleo or gluten free friends as well since they have no wheat in them, unlike traditional pasta.
zucchininoodles Easy Zucchini Noodles
(Makes 1-2 servings)
(Recipe based on Nom Nom Paleo)

  • 1-2 large zucchinis
  • Salt

1. Rinse zucchini well and chop the ends off. Take your julienne peeler and run it across the zucchini lengthwise to make long noodle-like strips. Continue to do this until you reach the inner seedy part of the zucchini which you can just toss.
2. Place zucchini shreds in a colander and salt generously. (You want to draw out some of the excess water in the zucchini.) Let sit for 5-10 minutes and rinse.
3. In a large saucepan or stockpot, set up a steamer basket and some water. Toss zucchini strips into steamer, cover, and turn up heat to medium high. Once water starts to boil, set a timer for 5 minutes.
4. After 5 minutes, check the zucchini; it should be crisp-tender, which is what you want. Be careful not to overcook! (No one likes mushy noodles…) Toss zucchini in a colander or strainer and let any additional water drain off. Serve!
We served ours with some semi-homemade tomato sauce (see below) and homemade mozzarella cheese. Feel free to add whatever toppings you would like!

Semi-Homemade Tomato Sauce
(Makes 3-4 servings)

  • 1- 14 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1- 14 oz. can fire roasted stewed tomatoes (we bought ours from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 8 oz. ground seitan
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (adjust to your liking)

1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until soft and browned.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Serve on spaghetti!

Coconut Almond Quin-ola Bake

I always love these Recipe Redux challenges because it gives me yet another excuse to do a little bit of experimenting in the kitchen! This month, each blogger was supposed to come up with a seasonal recipe with a key ingredient: seeds. When you think of edible seeds, the first ones that usually come to my mind are chia seeds and sunflower seeds. Did you know that quinoa is actually a seed as well? That’s right! These versatile little seeds are often treated like a grain.
I am always looking for creative ways to liven up my breakfast, so I decided to put a spin on baked oatmeal and use quinoa instead. Since we had some coconut cream on hand and I was feeling adventurous, I made these vegan as well. The end product reminded me a bit of granola bars, but was just a little too crumbly to be handheld. So, I warmed it up a little and tossed it in a bowl with some strawberries and a little leftover coconut cream. Yum! You could also serve it warm with some milk and sliced banana as well. I am so excited to have this on hand for super easy and quick breakfast meals all week!
Coconut Almond Quin-ola Bake
(Makes ~6 Servings)

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup canned coconut cream/milk (you want to use the thick stuff at the top of the can) 
  • 2/3 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped salted almonds (I used half-salt ones from Trader Joe’s)
  • 3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt (if not using salted almonds)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Rinse quinoa well with cold water. Add water and quinoa to a saucepan and heat until boiling over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer for ~10 minutes, or until water is absorbed.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat coconut cream and almond butter over low heat. Stir constantly until well combined and mixture melts into a sauce.
  4. Combine quinoa, almond butter/cream mixture, and the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Stir well until all ingredients evenly distributed.
  5. Grease an 8”x8” glass baking pan with oil. Spread quinoa mixture into pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Make sure to check out all the great Recipe Redux dishes below!

How to Cook Dried Beans (“The Musical Fruit”!)

If someone ever asked me what one food packed the most nutritional value for the lowest cost, I would have to say the bean! You can get a pound of beans which is 8-10 servings for less than two dollars. In fact, you can save quite a bit of money over time if you substituted dried beans for meat in at least one meal every week! A 1/2 cup serving of beans offers an average of 7-8 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, and 10% potassium for the day all for less just about 200 calories! They are even a great source of carbohydrates for diabetics as the extra fiber in beans means they don’t cause the spike in blood sugar after a meal that most carbohydrate foods do. As a vegetarian, I often depend on beans to help me incorporate enough protein into my diet.
Plus, I’m not the only dietitian who loves them… Will corrected the “beans the musical fruit” poem since beans aren’t actually a fruit and all!

Beans, beans, the healthful legume
You’ll live longer the more you consume
Eventually, the gas goes away
So eat beans at least once a day!

For a long time I avoided cooking dried beans because I thought it was too much work to make them. Will won me over, however, when he showed me this easy method based on Mark Bittman’s in his How to Cook Everything cookbook. I know this recipe looks like it takes forever, but if you are home all afternoon on a Saturday or Sunday anyways, it’s easy to start a batch of these since it doesn’t require you to be by the stove to stir or anything. 
beanscooked2Cook Any Dried Bean Like a Pro!
(10-20 Servings)

  • 1-2 pounds of dried beans (lima, black, kidney, navy, or experiment with a new one!)
  • Water
  • Vegetable broth (or chicken)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Pour beans into a colander and rinse well. Pick out any that look shriveled or otherwise inedible.
  2. Pour beans into a large stock pot and cover with water until level is 1 to 1 1/2 inches above the beans.
  3. Bring beans to a boil. Let boil for 3-5 minutes then turn off heat and cover. Let sit covered on the stove for ~2 hours.
  4. Uncover the pot and turn heat to medium high. The beans should have absorbed the majority of the liquid you added in step two. Now, add broth to bring liquid level about 1/2 inch over the beans. Simmer beans for another 1-2 hours until all liquid is absorbed and beans are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Here are a couple of ways we usually eat up the big batch of beans we make up on the weekend.

DSCF4589 Stir in some taco seasoning and top with guacamole, salsa, cheese and sour cream.
DSCF4271 Saute with some kale or swish chard, season with garlic, and top with cheese.
DSCF4136Reheat beans on the stovetop with a couple tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and salsa. Top beans with some shredded cheese.

Tell me: Do you like beans? What’s your vote: dried or canned?

10 Things Tuesday: Cookies, Abs, and Vegetarian Eats!

1. If you haven’t tried browning butter to use when baking, you have got to try it. After making Joy the Baker’s browned butter blueberry muffins once, I was totally sold! When you use browned butter, I think whatever you are baking gets a delicious caramel-like undertone to it. Yum! Now I need to try the browned butter chocolate chip cookie recipe she just posted!
2. Speaking of chocolate chip cookies, I just bookmarked Pinch of Yum’s guide to the perfect chocolate chip cookie. She offers a lot of great tips I never would have thought of before!
3. It seems like every time summer rolls around, everyone starts talking about their magic diet or exercise tips for obtaining rock solid, bikini ready abs. Although I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to obtain that 6-pack you see in the magazines (can anyone do that?!), I will be trying out this summer ab series from Fit Souffle for the fun of it!
4. I can’t wait to get some replacement pieces for the outdoor fire/grill pit at our apartment so we can start grilling up some great food – like these grilled peaches with strawberry basil sauce.
5. This lentil, sweet potato and spinach stew from Nutritionella has all of my favorite things in it!
6. I totally need to make this kale, black bean, and avocado burrito bowl from Cookie + Kate. I love simple, yet wholesome meals like this! (If only I could make mine as pretty as her is… sigh).
7. With only 6 ingredients, these chocolate peanut butter balls from Eat Yourself Skinny look like such a fun, easy snack!
8. Almost every time Will and I go out and order a salad it usually has arugula in it. At that point, I remember just how tasty it is when mixed with the right ingredients. It hasn’t shown up at the farmer’s market yet, so I might have to grab some at the store so I can make this yummy butternut squash and arugula salad from Eating Bird Food.
9. I always enjoy the recipes from Real Food, Real Deals because she not only makes healthy dishes, but she gives you an idea of how much they would cost to prepare. Her collection of thrifty vegetarian dinners this week is definitely worth checking out!
10. I secretly wish I could do this to one of the doorways of our apartment 🙂

How to Eat Out Like a Dietitian

Although I frequently talk about healthy cooking at home and shopping the farmers market here, that doesn’t mean Will and I never eat out! I would say that we actually eat out at least 1-2 times a week. (Chicago has so many great restaurants to try out!) So today, I thought I would share a few of my own tips for navigating restaurant menus without packing on the pounds.
1. First off, don’t go to fast food joints. Seriously, part of the fun of eating out is trying new things you normally wouldn’t make at home and you won’t find that at any fast food places. Plus, the food isn’t even tasty and it is terrible for you.
2. Start with a salad. Salads are great for filling you up without contributing a lot of calories. Plus, most restaurants offer some surprisingly good house salads for little money. 
3. Order a salad and pair it with a healthy (ie. not fried) appetizer or two and call it a meal. The great thing about appetizers is that the portions are often much more reasonable than the entrees.
4. Skip the french fries. Ask if you can sub a salad or other cooked non-starchy vegetable for your side. Some places will charge you another dollar or two, but it’s worth it!DSCF4338
5. Skip the soda. If you are really craving a soda, go for a diet one if you have to. Water or unsweetened tea is best. If it’s your thing, have just one beer or wine with dinner (even these have more healthy benefits than soda!). Just be careful to stop at one or else you’ll be adding quite a few extra calories to your meal.
6. Ignore the bread basket. All the extra carbs are unnecessary and just add more calories to your meal!
7. Share your meal with a friend, family member, or your significant other. The entrees at most restaurants are actually 2-3 servings of food, so avoid the temptation to overeat by sharing.
8. If you don’t plan on sharing, ask for a ‘to-go’ box as soon as you get your meal and set aside about half of it if the portions are large. This is another way to prevent yourself from over-indulging!
9. Try to choose non-starchy vegetable based sides when you can… especially if you aren’t going to order a side salad. If you are going out for pizza, add some veggies as toppings!
10. It is totally fine to indulge every once in awhile! Just remember, all things in moderation. You don’t have the eat the entire mountain of french fries they provided to satisfy your craving.
On a side note, try to think outside of the box a bit and find non-chain restaurants in your area. When you go to a chain restaurant like say, Applebee’s, you know what to expect because they are all the same. Instead, try out a local place and support your community’s small business. Sometimes those little “hole-in-the-wall” places can really surprise you with a delicious meal. Plus, a lot of them often try to source their food locally as well!
What are some of your favorite healthy strategies for eating out?