Row Baby Row Workout

One way that I am staying on track for healthy eating and exercise this holiday season is through the Elf for Health challenge coordinated by Lean Green Bean and Nutritionella. Not only are the challenges fun to do, but it has been a great way to interact with a few new people via social media! You can join in on the fun too!

elf for health

Today’s challenge was to try out a new workout. Here’s one that I did recently that I really enjoyed! Feel free to try it out. ūüôā If you don’t have access to a rowing machine, feel free to substitute with 10 minutes of jump rope or a 1/2 mile run.

rowing workout

Click on the widget in my side bar or this link if you are interested in learning more about the Elf for Health Challenge or signing up on the next round!

Pomegranate, Squash, and Walnut Salad

Happy Tuesday Friends! Today, I wanted to share this scrumptious fall/winter salad with you. This salad could easily be a healthy, colorful addition to your Thanksgiving dinner. Who said all Thanksgiving dishes have to be laden in tons of calories?! Do you ever add fruit to your salads? I have made salads in the past with apple, cranberries, and pear; but I’ve been wanting to try pomegranate! Oh. my. goodness. Who knew they were such a delicious addition?! I love the mixture of the tart-sweet pomegranate arils with the buttery squash and tangy vinaigrette.


Pomegranate Salad

Pomegranate, Squash, and Walnut Salad

(Serves 3)


  • 3-4 cups spring mix
  • 1/2 cubed, roasted butternut squash
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Cheddar cheese – to taste
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Mix vinaigrette ingredients (vinegar to salt/pepper) together.
  2. Toss with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl until lettuce is coated. Serve!

Pinning My Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner!

Are you all ready for Thanksgiving this week?! I can’t believe the holidays are already here. ¬†In case you are still looking for a few ideas, or perhaps you have no idea what to serve a vegetarian guest, I have a few recipes to share with you! (Or maybe I’m the only procrastinator here!) As I was looking for recipe inspiration, I found myself searching Pinterest – with a bit of luck! You can find so many wonderful recipes and decorating inspiration – I could spend hours on the site. Below are a few of my favorite, or if you want more vegetarian friendly feast ideas, check out my Thanksgiving Pinterest Board! Click on any of the pinned images below to head to the recipe.

stuffed eggplant

Stuffed Eggplant from ME!

vegetable pot pie

Vegetarian Potpie from A Beautiful Mess

wheatberry salad

Ultimate Fall Wheatberry Salad from Kath Eats

green bean casserole

Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions from Smitten Kitchen

sweet potatoes

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pecans from Oh My Veggies

pumpkin trifle

Pumpkin Cheesecake Trifles from My Baking Addiction

pear chai tarts

Pumpkin Chai Tarts from Delicious Knowledge

Recipe Redux: Larabar in a Jar

Anytime I get to someone on my list that I just don’t what to buy for Christmas, gifts from the kitchen are often perfect. The theme for this month’s recipe redux was “adding merriment to mixes” or DIY gifts from the kitchen. As I was thinking about what to do for my gift from the kitchen I was debating about homemade granola or some sort of granola bar recipe. Then I remembered that larabars are often super simple to make with only a few ingredients and super delicious! Instead of “bars” I mixed this batch into small balls just to see how they would turn out. Since homemade larabars can tend to be more on the crumbly side, the ball shape held together much better.

Larabar in Jar


Larabar in a Jar

(Makes 10-12)


  • 1/3 cup coconut flakes, unsweetened
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips


  1. Layer the ingredients into a glass ball jar in the following order: cocoa, coconut, dates, walnuts, chocolate chips.
  2. To prepare larabars/balls, pour the chocolate chip layer into a small bowl. Toss the rest into a food processor and process until it starts to clump together.
  3. Stir in chocolate chips. Shape into bars or balls.

Add a fun ornament and cute tag to the jar to make it look festive for gift giving!

Larabar in Jar 2

To see more great recipe redux posts, click on the link below! 

Food Addiction: Fact or Fiction


You can’t stop with just one…

I go to eat just one cookie and the next thing I know, the whole package is gone…

I’m a chocoholic…

I’m sure at least one of those statements is either one you’ve uttered or heard before. I know I have! They all relate to one concept ¬†– food addiction. If you are anything like me and have a bit of a sweet tooth, at times it may feel like food is indeed addicting. As the holidays approach, I feel like this topic is particularly relevant since it can be tough to not over indulge in all those holiday treats that are readily available this time of year! So, let’s talk about food addiction. Is it really possible that certain foods can lead to addiction? Here are 10 things I learned from my research on the topic.

  1. Food addiction is defined as a compulsive desire to consume “hyperpalatable” foods in excess to reproduce pleasurable changes in brain chemistry (ie. increased dopamine) similar to what you would see in drug addiction.
  2. The Yale Food Addiction Scale is one of the best tools we currently have  for identifying individuals who suffer from food addiction.
  3. From what we know from mouse studies, “hyperpalatable” foods are the most habit forming. These include sugary foods, processed foods, or high fat/high sugar foods. (2)
  4. Potentially addictive foods activate the same pleasure/reward centers in the brain as common addictive drugs. Both food and drugs can stimulate the caudate nucleus, hippocampus, and insula¬†and¬†trigger the release of striatal dopamine, a key player in our brain’s reward system. (3)
  5. In some studies, food addiction was more prevalent among obese participants. In other studies, there was no significant difference in the number of normal weight vs. obese individuals who scored higher on the Yale Food Addiction Scale. (1) Just as some people seem more susceptible to substance abuse, some may be more likely to develop food addiction.
  6. When rats are allowed to binge on sugar, the same neurochemical changes in dopamine, acetylcholine, and opoid systems occur as when they are exposed to an addictive drug. Repeated exposure to sugar results in higher consumption of sugary foods at each feeding as time progresses and desensitization to dopamine (due to fewer D2 receptors) produced from sugary food binges.¬†(2) Therefore, like a drug, a person has to eat a larger volume of a food to have the same “feel good” sensation.
  7.  Rats will also binge eat high fat/high sugar foods which produce the same addictive features as the sugary foods do. They will also binge on fat only, but fat does not cause them to have withdrawal/addictive symptoms like the other foods.  (2)
  8. Scientists are using binge eating disorder as a model for trying to try and better understand how food addiction works.
  9. If future research finds that food addiction is truly a factor of obesity, the addition of medications that control certain neurochemicals in the brain, may become an important part of treatment.
  10. As we learn more about food addiction, it may soon play an interesting role in public policy – like more bans of junk food similar to the regulations on soda size in New York.

If you are one who feels they struggle with food addiction, here are 3 things you can do to help control your craving for addictive foods.

  1. Don’t buy addictive foods. You are less likely to binge on foods if you have to go out of your way to get them rather than keeping them in the house.
  2. De-stress. Stress and lack of sleep often wear down our self-control. Even in this busy, stressful time of year, schedule time to participate in activities that relieve your stress like walks, yoga, reading a good book, etc.
  3. Monitor your exposure to advertising. Yes, this can be very difficult, but when you are trying to control your cravings for fast food or candy, it can be difficult if you watch ads for those things constantly. Think about limiting your tv time or walk away when commercials are on.

Vegan Apricot Coconut Granola

Do you have a favorite breakfast food? If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you may already know that my absolute favorite breakfast food is oatmeal. However, I am also a big fan of oats in another form… granola! Just like oatmeal, granola can be modified in a multitude of ways so you can never get bored. Use good ingredients and it can be a super healthy breakfast option that comes together in minutes. To mix things up, I added dried apricots to this mix and loved how it turned out! They pair really well with the coconut. Even if you aren’t normally a breakfast eater, you could easily eat this as a snack on its own or else topped with a little milk. Either way, it will be sure to satisfy your hunger as this granola is fulled with fiber, healthy fat, and protein.


Vegan Apricot Coconut Granola 

(Adapted from “How to Make Great Granola” from The Kitchn – Serves 5-7)


  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups walnuts, chopped
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (can sub almond milk)
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups dried apricots, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine all the ingredients except apricots in a large bowl. Stir until oats coated well with oil mixture.
  3. Spread oat mixture onto a baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove granola from oven when evenly browned. Once cool, stir in apricots. Serve!


Seasonal Food Spotlight: Pomegranates

Since I frequently talk about a whole foods diet and choosing seasonal produce, I thought I would start writing posts highlighting a different fruit or vegetable of the season. For the first post, I wanted to feature a fruit that I had never tried until recently – the pomegranate. I never knew just how much I was missing out! The word pomegranate in Latin translates to “seeded apple”, which is a perfect description for this odd-ball fruit.¬†Pomegranates¬†originated in the Middle Eastern country of Iran and grow best in drier climates.¬†Pomegranates are a fall fruit, typically grown in the US in California and Arizona.


Pomegranates are shaped a bit like an apple (hence the name “seeded apple”) with a tough outer skin. Cut through the skin and you’ll find the inside filled with ruby red seeds or¬†arils¬†– the edible part of the fruit. They have a slightly tart-sweet taste, similar to a cranberry. Pomegranates are high in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and antioxidants. A few years ago, you may remember that pomegranates were in the spotlight as a new superfood when POM juice was popular. Other than juiced, there are numerous ways to enjoy this yummy fruit. So far, my favorite way to enjoy them is on top of yogurt or cereal in the morning. They are also great in salad!

Great Recipes for Pomegranate:

10 Link Tuesday: Bring On the Cold Weather, Chicago!

Pancake Tuesday

  1. I will definitely be making a cup of this boozy skinny hot chocolate from Fit Foodie Finds this winter!
  2. I’ve always wanted to do a clothing exchange with friends!
  3. I’m drooling… –> butternut squash & mushroom enchiladas with tomatillo sauce!
  4. These trail mix muffins from Savoring the Thyme sound like a perfect on-the-go breakfast.
  5. I can’t even deal –> hard cider cinnamon spice cupcakes with caramel whiskey apples and whiskey buttercream
  6. Planning on trying out this upper body and core strength circuit from It’s Progression this week. ūüôā
  7. This blueberry chai granola smoothie sounds amazing. 
  8. I tried this kettlebell workout over the weekend and really liked it!
  9. I used to love sloppy joes when I was little, can’t wait to try out this vegetarian version –> loaded vegetarian lentil sloppy joes
  10. This cranberry and peach galette looks almost too pretty to eat!

Cheesy Quinoa with Kale and Roasted Squash

Happy Veterans Day! So incredibly thankful for those who have served to protect our country. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to give back by working to make our Veterans healthier each day at a Veterans Affairs Hospital. To kick start the week, I just wanted to share this quick recipe with you today. Since we had a snowy day here in Chicago, I was craving a filling, warm lunch. So, I made up a batch of this cheesy quinoa with kale and roasted squash – all of my favorite foods melded together in one delicious dish. To make prep a little faster, roast your butternut squash before-hand and store in the fridge. I usually roast a winter squash or two over the weekend so I have something yummy to add to salads or dinner dishes throughout the week.



Cheesy Quinoa with Kale and Roasted Squash

(Serves 3-4)


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 4 oz. havarti cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1-2 large leaves of kale, chopped
  • 1 cup cubed, roasted butternut squash
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa, water, and broth. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, cover with lid and cook 10 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  2. In a separate saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour and cook over low heat until mixture starts to lightly brown. Stir in milk and continue stirring until mixture begins to thicken.
  3. Stir in shredded cheese and continue to stir until it is all melted and you have a thick cheese sauce.
  4. Toss cooked quinoa into the cheese sauce. Stir in kale, squash, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes. Serve warm!

Savoring the Season

This weekend, Will and I took a bit of time to slow down and enjoy the last vestiges of fall here in Illinois. Since the weather was so nice, we had to take advantage. On Saturday, we took a long hike in the Des Plaines forest preserve outside of Chicago with Honey. The air was just a little chilly, but perfect for walking with long sleeves and a scarf (my favorite kind of weather!). Moving to the city has been a lot of fun, but there is something so refreshing about reconnecting with nature for a bit. (Especially for a small-town Pennsylvania girl like me!)




Did you do anything fun this weekend? What are your favorite fall activities?