Fresh & Colourful Summer Dinner

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This meal showcases two new recipes I found on Pinterest and they are super healthy, light and easy to make. What I enjoy most about this particular meal is the variety of colour. They say to eat a wide range of colourful food to get all the nutrients your body requires and I think this meal does just that.
So what exactly is this meal? It is quinoa sweet potato cakes, marinated tiger shrimp and baby scallops, fresh mango avocado salsa and asparagus.

Quinoa Sweet Potato Cakes:

1c mashed sweet potato
1/2c cooked quinoa
1/2 red bell pepper (small dice)
1/2c lentils (I used green lentils)
3tbsp red onion (finely chopped)
Salt & pepper to taste
1tbsp chili powder

Cook quinoa and mix in a bowl with lentils, red pepper, onion and spices. Add in mashed sweet potato and mix until well combined. Form into four patties and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, flip the patties and bake for another 10-12 minutes.

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These cakes are a good source of protein and are roughly 200 calories each.

Tiger Shrimp & Scallop Marinade:

Super easy! Throw a peeled and diced mango, 1 jalapeno and a pinch of cumin and coriander into the blender. Voila!
Cover the seafood with the marinade while saving the rest as a dipping sauce without cross contaminating. This marinade should sit for at least an hour before cooking.

Mango Avocado Salsa:

*While you were preparing the red onion and pepper for the sweet potato cakes, you should have diced up some extra for this salsa.

1 avocado
1 mango
1/4c red onion
1/4c red pepper
1tsp ancho chili pepper or regular chili powder
salt & pepper to taste

Cut up all the ingredients to a small dice and mix together. You can sprinkle a little lemon juice in it to keep the avocado nice and green if you aren’t serving it right away.
This salsa is very versatile and can be served as a dip, on nachos, burgers or in chicken wraps.

 

I made this for my boyfriend and I and we found it was a very light and refreshing summer meal. I enjoyed the mango marinade on my sweet potato cakes as well as the shrimp and scallops. The quinoa sweet potato cakes can be served with any condiment of your choice but I found the salsa was a great touch and completed the dish. A nice white wine or champagne would go well with this meal. We finished this dinner with frozen chocolate treats served with a strawberry compote for dessert!

I had some left over salsa the next day so I mixed it up with cooked bbq chicken and used it as a nacho topping on whole grain tortilla chips before baking in the oven. Delicious!

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Fruit & Nut Chocolate… Brownies? More Like Frozen Treats

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I found this recipe on Pinterest and thought I’d try it out. They are essentially healthy “brownies” that don’t require baking and leave very little mess. It’s an easy two step process that even the most inexperienced cook/baker can make. I’ve made a few changes as usual.

Original Recipe:

Bottom Ingredients:
1 cup pitted medjool dates
1 cup mixed raw walnuts & almonds
1/4 cup raw cocoa

Mix these ingredients in a blender until well mixed. Spread mixture out in parchment-lined casserole dish and pack it smooth.

Top Ingredients:
2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup raw cocoa
4 tbsp raw almond butter
4 tbsp raw honey

Mix these ingredients in the blender until smooth. Pour over first layer and even it out with a spatula. Let sit in freezer for 30 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

I found that within minutes of cutting and plating the “brownies” to take photos of them, they began to melt. The base was also very crumbly and didn’t hold its shape. Although these taste delicious, I wouldn’t serve them as squares. I recommend either preparing this recipe with my revised ingredients and serving it by scooping a portion out of the casserole dish and into a bowl or simply layering the recipe in individual serving dishes or cups.

My Revised Recipe:

Bottom Layer:
1c Dried Cranberries
1c Almonds
1/4c Chocolate Whey Powder
1tbsp Natural Peanut Butter

Top Layer:
2 Ripe Bananas
1/4c Cocoa
1/4c Chocolate Whey Powder
4tbsp Natural Peanut Butter
4tbsp Honey

I sprinkled a bit of unsweetened coconut on top before placing in the freezer as a bit of a garnish.

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These no-bake frozen treats are a good source of protein and packed with flavour and anti-oxidants! Store it in the freezer and scoop out a portion into a bowl. Fresh raspberries or a berry compote would be delicious served with these treats. The acidity would cut through the richness for a more complex flavour. Enjoy with a cup of black coffee : )

Mission: 1 Year Goal Accomplished!

Today marks the day that I have reached my personal goal of going to the gym consistently for one year. It wasn’t easy and there were definitely moments where I felt especially challenged.
Last week at the FitnessStar competition, I did not place top 3 in my category, however I was chosen to be the cover model for their magazines summer edition! It was a great learning experience and seeing all the girls in great shape just makes me want to push myself even harder. I am shooting for the cover today. How coincidental that it happens to be on my one year goal! 

 

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Berry & Oat Muffin in a Mug

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I originally found this recipe on Pinterest several months ago. I finally got around to trying it out about two weeks ago and it was pretty cool! Today is the second time I’ve made it and I tweaked it a little bit from the original recipe. The original recipe calls for 1 egg, 1/4 cup instant oats, handful of blueberries, sprinkle of brown sugar/stevia and a tablespoon of soy or almond milk.
You basically just mix everything together in a mug and microwave it for a minute or two.
I didn’t have almond or soy milk so I used a tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt instead. I found the original recipe a bit bland the first time I made it so today I added a teaspoon of cinnamon in the mixture as well as sprinkled on top before baking. Instead of only using blueberries, I added in some local strawberries and I also put a teaspoon of flax seeds in the mixture.

My Revised Recipe:

1 Egg
1/4c Instant Oats
Handful of blueberries & strawberries (cranberries or raspberries would be nice too)
1tbsp Greek Yogurt (or soy/almond milk)
1tsp Flax Seeds
1tsp Cinnamon
1tsp Brown Sugar or Stevia

Mix this in a small bowl before pouring into a slightly greased mug and microwave.
Depending on the mug you use, you may have to adjust the time it takes to bake. The first time I made this, I used a mug that was rather thin and it took 3 minutes in the microwave. Today I used a thicker mug and it baked within 2 minutes. Start off with one minute and increase baking time 30 seconds at a time. When the top is no longer wet and gives a bit of resistance when you touch it, it is finished! Be careful when removing the muffin from the mug because it can be really hot, especially the berries.

Total preparation time for this is about 5 minutes! Super easy to do in the morning even if you are in a rush. It’s a well balanced item with grains, fruit and protein. You don’t even need to add butter because it is so moist to begin with.

Enjoy!

Competition Day

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Well, it is currently 6am on the day of the FitnessStar competition and I have been wide awake for the last hour going over my t-walk in my head over and over in bed. I figured I should just get up because there’s no way I could have slept until 7am.
I am first on the roster to get my spray tan (8:15am) and I am really curious to see how my tattoos will look underneath it. I’ve never had a spray tan before and all I know about them is what I’ve seen on Toddlers and Tiaras.. as embarrassing as it is to admit that I’ve even seen the show, but it looks like a chilly ordeal.
I will then go directly from my tan to get my makeup done, again, first on the list. Now that I know I will enjoy! What girl doesn’t like getting their makeup done? I am curious to see the style of makeup applied for competition shows, as I know it requires a very distinct look. Model call isn’t until noon so it will be a very long day

I cut out water yesterday at 4pm and won’t be drinking anything until after the show. I keep psyching myself out that I’m getting dehydrated but I know I’m fine. It’s so strange to go from forcing yourself to drink six litres of water a day to none at all. My breakfast this morning will consist of protein and high glycemic carbs, HURRAY! I’m having three egg whites, crispy minis and wait for it……. a Coffee Crisp bar! This will be the first chocolate bar I’ve had in five weeks. I won’t be eating anything else for the rest of the day except for a handful of sugary, delightful gummy candies backstage a few hours before my name is called to walk the runway.

There are two parts to my category, bikini wear and athletic wear. I ordered my custom made suit from SuitsYou.com which is based out of Florida. It is metallic lime green with a bunch of bling on the connectors. I am so excited to wear it! Who doesn’t love lime green? My suit will be paired with the mandatory clear heels you can find at your local adult store. My athletic wear consists of hot pink Underarmour shorts and a nice black sports bra from LuluLemon. It has nice detailing in the back and I have matching black and hot pink sneakers to go with it.

I know a few girls that will be either competing or helping out with hair backstage so it won’t be too hard waiting all day. The show starts at 2pm and runs until 8pm. I don’t know if I’m more excited for the show itself or for the nachos I plan on ordering afterward with my family, boyfriend and his family haha.
I’ve worked really hard this past year, especially the last five weeks. I look strong and healthy and ready to rock the stage! Wish me luck!!

The One Year Goal

One year ago I decided to join the gym (for the tenth time). I only had one goal in mind; Stick with it for a year. I had no weight-loss or fitness goals, I simply wanted to see if I could commit for a whole year. In the past, I would join a gym, whether it be GoodLife, a boxing club or the YMCA with great intentions… however as soon as that two or three month mark came around, I seemed to lose my motivation and drive. I would stop going for 6-8 months and then get another wave of motivation and join up again only to fail a couple months later.

Understandably, my original goal to go to the gym for a year made me more than a little apprehensive with self-doubt. Maybe I set the bar too high for myself? I decided to reward myself with a tattoo I’ve been wanting for years but kept putting off because I wanted it on my thigh and I never liked how my legs looked. My thighs were in fact my least favourite body part. I figured a year at the gym might change that (fingers crossed).

I started going to the gym at the end of July 2012. I took progress photos and put pictures of fitness models on my bedroom wall as inspiration. At the beginning, those photos were something I considered idealistic and unattainable, however, great for motivation nonetheless. Only weeks after beginning my gym-going journey, I went through a very painful breakup. It would have been my typical self and very easy to just quit then and hole up in my apartment with ice cream and Doritos with my two cats. But for some reason unknown to me, I pushed myself to the gym six days a week and got on that elliptical whether I felt like it or not.

I transferred all the energy from my old relationship into the gym. It became my one social outlet other than my job. Within months I began to see results. Taking monthly progress pictures, it was easy to see my once “soft around the edges” body losing excess fat and becoming trimmer.
I was never a really overweight person but I was definitely unhealthy. I was very sedentary and on a regular basis I would have processed sugars and carbs for breakfast such as cookies, scones, even cheesecake, then go all day without eating and devour a whole pizza for dinner.
I used to sit on the couch watching Americas Next Top Model while eating a pan of nachos, hating myself for it and wishing I could miraculously look like the girls on the show.

Seeing results from exercising motivated me even more. After fumbling around the “circuit”, I developed a routine that used mainly machines around the gym. I was too self conscious to venture into the mirrored weight area because I was worried I would look stupid trying to figure out the proper form of a squat or I wasn’t strong enough, or I didn’t know what I was doing. Plain and simple, I was intimidated and didn’t want to be judged.
After about six months of a consistent routine, I knew I had to change things up. A trainer showed me proper form for some compound movements with free weights and barbells such as squats, deadlifts and bench press. He also showed me how to change my routine to maximize my workouts. I now spend most of my time in the free-weight area and am no longer intimidated or fear what others may or may not think of me. I grew to be confident and proud, especially on the days that I make new personal records.

I began to include healthier options in my diet without completely cutting out my favourites and there have been times, sometimes a whole week, where I’ll eat nothing but a stack of Pringles and ice cream for dinner.
Around the same time of me venturing into the free-weight section of the gym, my ex and I got back together. It felt great to show off what I had accomplished on my own and be supported and encouraged to keep it up. I really began to transform my body and those photos of fitness models didn’t seem so unattainable after all. I changed from wanting to look like a waifish model on Americas Next Top Model to wanting to look like the strong and sexy “Lindsay Messina”.

As my one year deadline became closer, I realized just what my body was capable of. I went from being embarrassed to wear those spandex shorts to wearing them all the time with pride. After training with a friend of mine a few times who will be competing in the WBFF Worlds, I became curious about the fitness competition scene. Lucky for me, a fitness model search competition was announced to be held exactly one week before my one year goal in the city I live in.
After deliberating and research, I decided to enter the bikini category as a level 1. It all set in after I registered; I was going to take this seriously. I quickly went from wanting to compete for the personal experience to wanting to win. I was just over four weeks out (quite late to start preparing for a show) and I completely changed and cleaned up my diet. It was hard at first, especially not knowing what my body required pre-workout vs. post-workout and why my body required certain things. My boyfriend (who was once a personal trainer, body builder and fitness model himself), helped me to formulate a diet that consisted of about six small meals a day. I was down to two portions of “good” carbs a day, one with breakfast and one post-workout. Also lots of high protein, veg and healthy fats such as avocado, salmon, almonds and natural peanut butter. I cut out all refined sugars and carbs and even kept natural sugars low such as fruit.

Within ten days of this new diet, I really began to notice a difference. I was leaning out! Muscles I wasn’t even aware I had began to appear defined and I felt amazing. I even began adding an hour of fasted cardio to my daily routine. I weighed 133 pounds and my body fat was 14.8% when I first started preparing for the show. I kept my diet super clean and I never cheated, not even once. The competition, FitnessStar Model Search is TOMORROW. I dropped a percentage of body fat and I am down to 125.5 pounds. I learned so much in the last few weeks, it has been mind blowing. I have a new found respect for the pros that compete in WBFF, NSABBA and CBBF and other big fitness competitions. The last five weeks have been anything but easy. I stressed my body out so much that my immune system crashed and I got a cold and sore throat only a week ago (I am feeling much better now). I have never gone so long without pizza, brownies or even bread for that matter. I surprised myself with how much determination and self control I actually have. One big thing I learned, is if you really want it, you CAN achieve it. You just need to have the right mind set and make it a priority.

I am one week out from my one year goal and I can say for the very first time in my life that I not only like my legs, but I love them! My tattoo appointment is booked for next weekend! I went from having a chronological goal, to gaining pride and confidence, a healthy and fit lifestyle, and a body I never thought I would have. I no longer sit on the couch for hours on end watching What Not to Wear while eating chips and garlic fingers. I have energy, happiness, sleep better and have such a positive outlook on life itself. I have inspired friends, family and co-workers to live a healthier and fit life through my experience and I am so happy I was able to do that.

I am very excited to compete in FitnessStar tomorrow. It will be a great experience and introduction to the fitness competition scene. I would like to work my way up to WBFF some day. Regardless of tomorrows outcome, I have gained so much knowledge and am very proud of my accomplishments. To top things off, I have an interview next week to become a personal trainer at my own gym! I don’t think life can get much better than this!

:  )

Delicious Oatmeal Peanut Butter Banana Cookies!

This is the second time I’ve made these healthy 100 calorie cookies this month! I found this recipe from another blog, theskinnyfork.com and boy are they ever good! As a graduated pastry student, I couldn’t resist making them myself.

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Often when the word “healthy” is in the title of a food item, I imagine it to taste bland and have the consistency of sawdust. Not these! If you like chocolate chip banana bread, you will love these. These cookies are really simple to make and there are no eggs, flour or oil in this recipe. They are naturally sweetened with bananas, apple sauce and of course the chocolate chips. The original recipe from The Skinny Fork yielded 18 cookies. I increased the recipe to make roughly 27 because I love to give away goodies to friends and family.. as well as have extra for myself!

The Recipe:

1/2cup Natural Peanut Butter
1cup Unsweetened Apple Sauce
3 Mashed Bananas
1.5 teaspoon Vanilla
3/4teaspoon Salt
3/4teaspoon Cinnamon
Dash of Cloves and Nutmeg
2 1/4cups Oats
1/4cup +2tablespoons Chopped Nuts
1/4cup +2tablespoons Chocolate Chips
1/4cup + 2tablespoons Unsweetened Coconut

Set your oven at 350 degrees and prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with baking spray.
In a large bowl, mix peanut butter, apple sauce, bananas, vanilla and spices together until well combined. Then add in your oats, nuts, chocolate chips and coconut. Spoon each cookie onto the tray well spaced from one another (1 inch)
Each portion should be about two tablespoons. Bake for 20-30 minutes and let cool.

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As for the nuts, the type you choose is optional. The first time I made them, I used peanuts. This time I used a combination of peanuts and almonds mainly because almonds are healthier than peanuts and are considered a “super food”. I also threw in a few extra chocolate chips but that’s not necessary if you’re really watching your weight.

These cookies are a great healthy alternative to your regular chocolate oatmeal cookies and will successfully curb your cravings without the added guilt! They are approximately 100 calories per cookie and are very satisfying. I personally like to store mine in the freezer and only take a couple out at a time. This helps me from binging on the entire batch!
I took these to a Canada Day party and no one could tell they were “healthy” cookies. That is how good they are!
I hope you enjoy these as much as I have!