Cooking with Cava

One thing that DC doesn’t lack is amazingly fresh and healthy foods. One of my favorites in the area is Cava, a DC area restaurant that makes healthy and tasty Greek food that you can purchase locally. Mediterranean food is one of my favorites and Cava hits the spot. Inspired by their flavors, I used their spreads to amp up some of my favorite dishes.

DSC_6183 DSC_6184

If I could describe Cava foods in one word I would say flavorful. These products are full of delicious taste and spice and it is easy to get creative with them. So let’s get cookin’!

First up on the menu: Baked Kale “Chips” with Tzatziki Sauce.

Normal Kale chips are delicious, but it doesn’t get much better than dunking them in Tzatziki sauce. To make these, I just rinsed the kale, broke off large pieces and put them on a cookie sheet. I drizzled them with olive oil, garlic and pepper and baked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Then enjoyed with tzatziki!

DSC_6185DSC_6188DSC_6190

Soo good.

Next up was the main course. Inspired by this dish, I decided to make harissa and feta stuffed chicken breast. Cava’s Crazy Feta is spicy and the harissa is even spicier. Bring it on!

DSC_6193 DSC_6192

To make the chicken I took 3/4 cup of the crazy feta and mixed it with 1/3 cup of the harissa. I stuffed 4 chicken breasts with the mixture and cooked at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Easy as that!

To round out the meal, I used their tabbouleh to make stuffed grape leaves. Grape leaves are new territory for me but I was up for the challenge.

DSC_6194DSC_6199DSC_6201I used a few videos and tutorials to blanch and stuff the grape leaves just right. I need a bit more practice but was happy with the result.

After stuffing the grape leaves it was time to eat. Final product:

DSC_6204This meal was spicy, but adding Tzatziki on the side cooled it down while adding delicious flavor. We had it for dinner and rated the meal a 10 out of 10. It was fresh, tasty and easy to put together. Plus these products were born in the DC area and I am always a fan of local eating.

For your own Cava products, they are available in retail locations from DC up to Connecticut. I would definitely recommend trying them out for some awesome Greek products. Great for recipes, party dips or healthy snacking!

 

Things I’m Loving Now

Does anyone else feel like July flew by?? I can’t get over how fast this summer is going and know a lot of people are feeling the same. It was a great month filled with fun and adventure! I also have been loving a few food and nutrition-related things this month. In no particular order these are my top picks for July:

 

1. Keep Calm and Bake On Spatula

I got this perfect spatula as a gift from Frank’s mom (she knows me well!). I love using it and think it adds a little extra love to my baking :). For a similar version click the link above.

IMG_9023

2. Vega Sport Protein Powder

A big perk of having a friend that works at a grocery store is getting samples of amazing goodies! This is one of the latest and greatest, a plant-based protein powder. I personally believe you can get enough protein through foods such as meat, dairy, beans, etc. so I add protein powders to smoothies in small amounts for texture and flavor and a little extra nutrition.

vega sport

 

3. Navita Naturals Cacao Powder

Another sample from ma friend, this Cacao powder is chocolate in its most natural form – no sugar or fat added. Just raw powder and antioxidants! This has been my new go-to for Banana Soft Serve and the flavor is intense (in a good way). Use this and frozen bananas for smoothies and it would be a great alternative to a chocolate “milkshake.”

cacao powder

cacao powder 1

4. Summer berries!

Summer is one of my favorite seasons because of the abundance of in-season berries! Sure, you can get strawberries and blueberries  at any time, but in the summer they are fresh and local and full of flavor. I can’t get enough.

blubes

 

5. Smoothies

Smoothies are a year-round favorite of mine, but I had to include them anyway. They are even better in July because they are the best way to refresh and cool down in this weather. My go-to is the green smoothie, but I try to get creative by using different fruits and vegetables. I drink them for breakfast or a post workout snack/meal. They are the best.

IMG_5536DSCN3890

6. PB2

For the flavor of Peanut Butter without the extra calories this is a great alternative! PB2 is powdered peanut butter stripped of the oil to make it much lower in calories and fat. I still love my peanut butter and definitely recommend it,  but sometimes I’d rather just have the taste of peanut butter in things such as smoothies and sauces. I got this bottle at Giant and am going through it quickly!

PB2

 

7. Grain and Protein Bowls

I don’t know what it is, but I am on a bowl kick lately! At work and home I love getting creative with  different add-ins to make a nutritious grain, veggie and protein bowl. The one below features brown rice, crock pot chicken, beans and avocado. At work I’ve been making meal bowls with quinoa, beans, chicken and veggies. How do you make a perfect meal bowl? It’s easy. Just pick a few choices from the following lists, layer and enjoy!

Grains: Quinoa, brown rice, millet, couscous

Protein: chicken, tofu, beans, cheese, egg

Veggies: kale, broccoli, spinach, carrots, butternut squash, zucchini/squash

Toppings: avocado, hummus, cilantro, seeds, nuts, salsa, greek yogurt

These are just suggestions, but anything goes!

 

rice bowl

8. Athleta

For a long time my exercise clothes included old t-shirts and shorts and I longed for something cuter! Behold my new clothes from Athleta. I got a gift card for my birthday and was able to splurge a little on something new. Click here for the shirt and here for the shorts. Both are lightweight and feel great (and on sale)! I also shop at Gap Fit for workout gear that is both cute and a little more affordable.

athletaathleta 1

9. At-Home Yoga Workouts

With a month full of travel, I was worried that if I joined a yoga studio I wouldn’t be able to make the most of it. I decided to turn to at-home yoga videos and am so glad I did! I definitely believe in starting your practice at a studio but once you are more comfortable with it, home videos are a good option once in a while. This was a perfect way to fit in yoga workouts that could be either short or long depending on my schedule. I tried out a few and enjoyed the one below by Katie Levans the best. It is a great workout and just what I was looking for!

45-Minute Power Yoga Flow with Katie levans

Hope you enjoy some of these July favorites! Have a great rest of the week!

5 Ways to Ease into Healthy Living

Healthy living doesn’t mean all or nothing. It doesn’t mean depriving yourself or completely cutting out food groups. It means finding a balance, eating to nourish your body and treating yourself well. If you are used to yo-yo dieting or going the all or nothing route, start small and ease into balanced living. Small changes can make a huge difference in your overall health and don’t require strict plans or deprivation.

DSCN3258

1. Sleep More

Try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep can help you more than you think. It regulates your hunger and fullness hormones, making it easier to eat normal amounts of food and helping you make healthier choices.

2. Exercise

Doing something is better than nothing, and the benefits can be life-saving! Try to get in some form of aerobic exercise at least 3-4x per week for 30 minutes. Whether it’s power walking, using the elliptical, running, swimming, dancing–just get that heart rate up.

3. Eat a Balance of Nutrients at Each Meal and Snack

Even if in the beginning you don’t change much in your diet, try to at least get a balance of protein, carbs and some fat at each meal and snack. This will provide essential nutrients and help you to feel satisfied each time you eat. Try to use the plate method and make half of your plate vegetables and fruit, 1/4 plate lean meat and 1/4 plate whole grains. For every snack make sure you have something with fiber and protein to keep you feeling full.

myplate

4. Listen to your body

Your body will tell you what food it needs and how much. Try to focus on how foods make you feel. Does a cheeseburger make you feel energized or sluggish? Does pizza make you feel light or weighed down? When you eat, do you feel stuffed or just right? If you eat the foods that your body needs and eat until satisfied instead of full, you will get to a healthy weight for your body without depriving yourself.

5. Reduce Stress

Not only is it important to take care of your body, but it is equally as important to take care of your mind as well. Both mind and body are connected when it comes to healthy living and it is important to reduce stress and find healthy ways to manage it. Each person is unique in what might help them. For some it is yoga and exercise, for others meditation, for others it might be talking on the phone or reading a good book. Use this list to help you identify different ways to help clear your head and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

These steps are the base of a healthy lifestyle and can help you feel better long-term. Notice how these tips are maintainable and life-long to help you lead a happier, healthier life.

 

22 Nutrition Fun Facts: Volume II

In case you  missed it, here are the fun facts from Volume I!

1. Peas, corn and potatoes are considered starches, not vegetables.

2. 1 bagel = 4 slices of bread.

3. Whole grain means higher in nutrients, but not necessarily lower in calories.

4. Juice cleanses and detoxes are not necessary to be healthy. Our body naturally detoxes through the liver and kidneys. Juice cleanses can sometimes cause more harm than good.

5. Sugar is sugar. Brown sugar, molasses, honey, high fructose corn syrup and brown rice syrup all react the same in our bodies.

6. If a product says that it has 0g of trans fat, but has partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredient list, that means the product has trans fat in it. Companies do not have to label trans fat if there is less than 0.5g per serving. Make sure to check those ingredients!

7. Healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats found in avocados and olive oil and omega 3’s found in fish can help lower your cholesterol.

8.  The exercise recommendation for heart health is at least 3-5x per week of aerobic activity for 30 minutes.

9. The difference between Greek and regular yogurt is that Greek yogurt has more protein

10. Milk alternatives (almond, soy and rice milk) contain just as much calcium as regular milk. The difference is in protein levels. Regular milk and soy milk have about 7-8g per 1 cup, while almond and rice milk have 0-1g protein.

11. Foods that contain carbohydrates include: Starches (rice, pasta, grains), dairy and fruit.

12. If you eat only carbohydrates your blood sugar can spike, but pairing carbs with protein, fiber and/or fat will help bring them back to normal levels

13. You can substitute foods such as applesauce, avocado and pumpkin in place of butter during baking. Healthier and still tasty!

14. The recommendation for salt intake is 1500mg per day, or 1 tsp! The average daily intake for Americans is 3,436mg per day, which is more than double the recommendation.

15. In order to get the benefits from Dark Chocolate, the product needs to contain 70% or more Cacao, like this one.

16. You don’t need Vitamin B12 shots or pills unless you are a vegan. Adequate B12 is found in meat and dairy products.

17. Rice and beans are a complete protein.

18.  Cholesterol is only found in animal products. Plant products do not contain any cholesterol.

19. Vegans do not eat honey or any foods that contain it. A popular alternative is Agave nectar.

20. One pasta serving = 1/3 cup cooked pasta. At most restaurants you could be served up to 2 cups+. Be aware of portion sizes, especially when eating out.

21. Chicken and turkey are lean meats as long as they are skinless. Saturated (unhealthy) fat is found in the skin of these meats.

22. You can make a delicious ice cream alternative just by adding frozen bananas and cocoa powder to a food processor. This is known as banana soft serve.

101 Ways to Manage Stress

Upon arrival to my year-long dietetic internship they handed us a survival kit filled with little tips and tricks for getting through the program. For those that don’t know, after doing either your undergrad or grad courses in nutrition, you do an accredited internship before you can sit for the RD exam. This internship is an intense 10-12 month program and I welcomed a survival kit to prepare me for what was ahead!

One thing that stuck out was a list of 101 ways to manage stress that I wanted to reprint here. Some of these tips can be very helpful for reducing stress in your everyday life, which is important to your overall health. Stress can affect your mood, digestive health, immune system, sleep and eating habits, put you at risk for colds and infections, and increase your risk of developing serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and depression. While severe stress is best handled through a team approach, everyday stress can be minimized with small changes that can make a big difference. You might not relate to all of the recommendations in this list, but choose 3-4 to start and see if you notice a difference after incorporating them into your day.

  • Take 10 deep breaths
  • Visualize a relaxing scene
  • Learn to say no
  • Stay clutter-free
  • Read good books
  • Stretch
  • Write in a journal
  • Try yoga
  • Laugh often
  • Watch clouds go by
  • Read a magazine
  • Believe in yourself
  • Prioritize tasks
  • Get some fresh air
  • Hug someone
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Watch a movie
  • Seek out positive people
  • Make to-do lists
  • Take a brisk walk
  • Stargaze
  • Make a cup of herbal tea
  • Put your feet up
  • Enjoy a hobby
  • Confront your feelings
  • Exercise
  • Plan ahead
  • Talk with a friend
  • Dance
  • Laugh at yourself
  • Count your blessings
  • Be silly
  • Set realistic goals
  • Sing
  • Think positively
  • Squeeze a stress ball
  • Eat right
  • Take a nap
  • Walk away
  • Vary your routine
  • Play with children
  • Get a massage
  • Ask for help
  • Find a quiet spot to relax
  • Take regular breaks
  • Listen to soothing music
  • See problems as challenges
  • Smile
  • Play a sport
  • Be faithful
  • Avoid caffeine and tobacco
  • Eat breakfast
  • Cry if necessary
  • Be flexible
  • Don’t procrastinate
  • Wear earplugs when it is noisy
  • Buy fresh flowers
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Celebrate Life
  • Do one task at a time
  • Meditate
  • Plant a garden
  • Avoid distractions
  • Budget time and money
  • Share jokes
  • Play games with friends
  • Look at the big picture
  • Get up earlier
  • Set limits
  • Express your feelings
  • Treat yourself to a gift
  • Simplify your life
  • Reflect on your joys
  • Punch a pillow
  • Go out to lunch
  • Don’t dwell on the past
  • Play with a pet
  • Go to the park
  • Soak in the tub
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Forgive and forget
  • Delegate work
  • Love others
  • Have plants at work and home
  • Daydream
  • Bake a special treat
  • Savor meals
  • Look at old photos
  • Take a vacation
  • Fly a kite
  • Learn something new
  • Volunteer
  • Go out for frozen yogurt
  • Join a group
  • Rub your neck and shoulders
  • Take the bus or carpool
  • Have a picnic
  • Recognize beauty around you
  • Take it one day at a time
  • Make someone smile :)

How do you manage your stress?

Tour de PA

This summer has been flying by! Does anyone else feel that way? Guess that happens when you’re having a blast :)

The past 3 weekends have been spent in Pennsylvania for wedding-related events and some adventures on the side. This past weekend Danielle, the boys and I went up to celebrate the wedding of our favorite lil’ family! Sorry in advance for the blurry pictures but I had to share.

IMG_9075IMG_9070IMG_9071

IMG_9077

me and reneeWe had a great time celebrating Renee, Dez and DeAngelo and danced the night away. Congrats friends!

Other adventures before the wedding included stops at Victory Brewing, Produce Junction and downtown West Chester.

The second portion of our trip included blueberry picking at Highland Orchards, a local Farmer’s Market right in West Chester. We spent some time picking delicious blueberries and enjoying the outdoors.

IMG_9084IMG_9085

IMG_9090

 

 

 

bluberries

blubesAfter that we ventured off to a fun-filled day in Lancaster, PA! Fun times with some of my favorite people.

We left with a lot of produce including fresh veggies from Frank’s Mom’s garden which only meant one thing: Time to cook!

Baking utensils ready

IMG_9023

Blueberries made their way into a Blueberry Muffin Loaf inspired by this blog. When you don’t have muffin tins, a loaf is a perfectly fine alternative.

blueberry loafThis loaf came out soo good. Perfect taste and texture.

The second baking creation was a Zucchini Coconut Loaf using the fresh garden zucchini

IMG_9017IMG_9035IMG_9031I changed the recipe by using Coconut yogurt instead of plain yogurt. I also didn’t have any sugar so instead used Truvia and I do not recommend doing that. Otherwise it was very doughy and delicious and full of nutrients.

Leftover zucchini and a garden squash made its way into a Quinoa veggie bowl. Homegrown veggies taste the best!

IMG_9026Hope everyone is having a great week and a happy summer!

 

 

Downingtown 5k and a Wonderful Wedding

Happy Tuesday folks! I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend.

This weekend I visited Pennsylvania for a fun-filled holiday including a very special wedding. But first a 5k!

Each year Frank’s fam runs the Good Neighbor Day 5k and throws an epic 4th of July party after. Luckily I have been able to partake the past few years! The 5k starts at Kerr Park in Downingtown and is a fun run through the neighborhood. Last year I couldn’t handle the heat and ran at my slowest pace ever and actually had to walk a little. So my goal this year was to do better. Easy enough!

IMG_8945Game faces on!

IMG_8946We started the run and it was an easy 3.1 miles through the town.  I didn’t want to have any issues with the heat like last year so I kept at a steady pace and felt great! The weather was warm but nowhere near last time, which made it much better.

IMG_8950

Race finishers!  I set a new 5k PR of 26:15 at a pace of 8:27 and was very happy!

The rest of the day was spent celebrating the 4th and then prepping for Frank’s sister’s wedding!

IMG_8943The day turned out beautifully and everything was perfect! There were some power outage issues due to a brief storm the day before, but it only made it more memorable.

IMG_8977

IMG_8982IMG_8987The reception and venue were gorgeous and so were the happy couple. So excited for them!

IMG_9003IMG_9005I was too busy dancing and having fun and forgot to take pics during the wedding. Always a good sign!!

Congrats Rita and Jason! Thank you for letting me share in your special day :)