Microwave Baked Apples

Happy Tuesday! Wow, I have been SO busy lately. Work is crazy, dance is ramping up for a big show in March and I have some exciting news to share. I will now be guest blogging for Stay, Work, Play! SWP is an organization focused on promoting how awesome it is to stay, work and play in our great state of New Hampshire. I will be representing the Seacoast region and you can find my articles on their blog every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month! Check out my first article, 7 Ways to Embrace Winter on the Seacoast, right now!

microwave baked apples

So since I am so busy this week, I wanted to share with you guys a recipe that is literally the easiest and quickest thing ever. You actually just use the microwave and there are only 4 ingredients involved and one bowl. I kinda wish all recipes were like that! To make this recipe even healthier you could swap the real butter for Earth Balance spread and swap the brown sugar with Truvia. I’m a sucker for real butter, just ask my mom (I ate sticks of butter as a kid) so I like to keep it real.

microwave baked apples

Microwave Baked Apples

Ingredients:

  • 1 large apple
  • 1 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp butter

Directions: Peel and slice apples and place in small microwave safe bowl. Mix in cinnamon, brown sugar and butter and microwave for 2 minutes. Mix again and top with your favorite frozen yogurt or ice cream.

microwave baked apples

This Microwave Baked Apples recipe is great when you need something sweet, hearty and satisfying on a cold winter evening. I like to top it with some vanilla frozen yogurt and enjoy with a good book or some Netflix binging. Speaking of being too busy, I have been meaning to crack this book, Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham for about 3 months now, which I think is hilarious given the title.

Question: What are you reading/watching right now?

 

6 Healthy Food Swaps for Quick Meals

Eating healthy when you’re on-the-go can be quite challenging. And I am the queen of on-the-go, so I know the struggle is real.

Little tid-bit of info about my life – I work full time in marketing during the day and 2-3 nights a week I teach dance and rehearse at a local studio. That means a lot of my dinners are packed to-go or just need to be super quick.

healthy food swaps for quick meals

Over the years I’ve found some products that are easy AND healthy. The worst feeling is walking into a dance class with an overfull belly of McDonalds because you didn’t have time to make something healthy.

Below is a list of my top 6 Healthy Food Swaps for Quick Meals

1. Instead of 45- minute white rice…

Microwave brown rice/grain packet

One of my biggest pet peeves is how freakin’ long it takes to cook rice. Luckily, I found Seeds of Change rice packets. These guys are a life saver. And I love that they are incorporating other grains like quinoa and red rice.

seeds of change rice

2. Instead of chicken nuggets…

Frozen sausage

As you found out in my last post, I love frozen sausage. They’re just so easy to pluck out of the freezer, microwave and BAM, you’ve got your protein in less than 3 minutes. Combine Roasted Garlic Al Fresco chicken sausage with some brown rice and vegetables and you’ve got a whole meal in less than 10 minutes. Just make sure the sausage you pick is nitrate free. Processed meats are OK in moderation, just make sure they are all natural or organic. I also love these Kayem artisan sausages!

kayem artisan sausage

3. Instead of Easy Mac…

Whole grain mac & cheese box

You’re tired, you’re hungry, you’re about to reach for the cereal…but wait! You have a box of mac & cheese! AND it’s whole grain?? WHaaaat? Combine one of these whole grain mac and cheese boxes with some frozen vegetables and you’re as good as gold. This Hodgson Mill Ultragrain Mac & Cheese is made with quinoa! So cool.

hodson mill mac and cheese

4. Instead of canned vegetables…

Frozen vegetables

Quick, easy and there when you need them. With the same nutrition as the fresh version, you can’t go wrong. I especially like some of the Trader Joe’s frozen vegetables that have some tasty sauces or spices on them.

trader joe's vegetable melange

5. Instead of Lean Cuisine…

Smart Made frozen meals

I do not recommend frozen meals on the reg. However, if you’re in a pinch, these Smart Made meals are actually not horrible for you and are truly tasty. My expectations were pretty low since frozen meals like this usually make me gag and then die of sodium poisoning. But, to my surprise it was pretty darn good. The idea is that they have swapped in healthier ingredients like brownie rice, whole grain pasta, turkey instead of beef, etc. I’ve had the Turkey Sausage & Roasted Veg Lasagna and the Roasted Turkey & Vegeteables meals, both of which made me feel great after and I could just reach into the freezer and grab it on my way out the door. Perfection.

smart made meals

6. Instead of Ramen…

Hearty soups

This is definitely my last-ditch effort at a meal. But when all I can do is grab a can from the cabinet, I want to make sure that it contains something at least semi-healthy. Lately I’ve been loving these Campbell’s Well Yes soups. They are made with relatively healthy ingredients are surprisingly tasty. Sweet Potato Corn Chowder is my fave. But my all-time favorite soup/meal is from my man Wolfgang Puck. His soups are amazing and made with hearty organic ingredients. The butternut squash is my wintertime weakness.

campbell's well yes sweet potato corn chowder soup

What do you eat when you’re on the go?

Dark Chocolate Yogurt Brownies

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Happy Valentine’s Day! On this day of celebrating love, I want to talk about something that I love very, very much. This special something can always make me smile, cheers me up when I’m down and is oh-so sweet! It’s rich, intense and always satisfying. You’ve probably guessed it by now, it’s CHOCOLATE.

double dark chocolate brownies

Chocolate is kind of a bad boy. It’s like that guy in high school that broke all the rules, but was secretly super smart, but didn’t want to tell anyone because it would ruin his coolness.

What I’m saying is that chocolate is secretly good for you (in moderation). It’s often exiled from any diet because of its high sugar and fat content, but dark  chocolate can actually provide many health benefits because of it’s high antioxidant content.

double dark chocolate brownies

Studies have shown that eating a small amount of dark chocolate every day can actually help reduce stress, blood pressure, risk of stroke and help with weight loss! Plus we all know it’s a great aphrodisiac…

Check out this Women’s Health article for even more benefits of eating chocolate.

double dark chocolate brownies

Right in time for Valentine’s Day I have the perfect chocolate recipe for you to share (or not) with your special someone.

These Dark Chocolate Yogurt Brownies are oozing with chocolate flavor. I lightened up the recipe a bit by using yogurt instead of oil and oat flour instead of white flour. I used Bob’s Red Mill whole grain oat flour. You could food process your own oats, but I like that Bob has already done it for me 🙂

The omega-3 and antioxidant content is high because of the walnuts and dark chocolate. I like to use Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder and chocolate chips, but you could use whatever you like best. So in one brownie recipe you’ve got fiber (oat flour), calcium (yogurt), omega-3’s and antioxidants. Man, you’ve already scored 😉

Dark Chocolate Yogurt Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oat flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine yogurt, sugar, vanilla and eggs. In a medium bowl mix together flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt. Combine dry ingredients with wet and mix until fully blended. Add in chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour into greased baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool completely and then enjoy.

double dark chocolate brownies

These brownies are definitely on the dessert menu for my Valentine’s Day celebrations. And hey, if you’re flying solo this Valentine’s Day I fully support diving into these with a pint of vanilla froyo by your side. That WILL be a good time. No bad boys needed. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Chicken Casserole

Do you love cheese?! Do you love warm, ooey gooey comfort food? If so, then this casserole is for you. This dish resulted from my craving for something warm and hearty. Right now life is pretty cold, everywhere I go. So when hot showers and hot cocoa just don’t cut it anymore, I turn to comfort food.

sweet potato chicken casserole

Oftentimes comfort food leaves you feeling heavy and sleepy, so I wanted to make something that would leave me feeling energized and ready to go. Instead of using pasta or rice as the base, I chose to use sweet potato, which offers lots of great nutritional benefits like fiber, vitamic C, potassium and B vitamins.

sweet potatoes

This dish is gluten free, full is healthy veggies and could be easily made vegan by omitting the chicken sausage and subbing the butter and cheese with alternatives like Earth Balance or Daiya Cheese.

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Speaking of chicken sausage, let’s talk about it for a second. It’s one of my favorite go-to’s when I’m in a pinch for a quick, healthy meal. I love to stock up on Trader Joe’s or Al Fresco chicken sausage and freeze it. Then I’ll microwave it for an easy protein solution. Just make sure your chicken sausage is all natural and nitrate free. You don’t want any of those nasty chemicals in your beautiful casserole. I’ll be talking more about chicken sausage in my next post, 6 Healthy Food Swaps For Quick Dinners. So stay tuned for that!

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Sweet Potato Chicken Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/8 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups half & half
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups broccoli
  • 4 mushrooms
  • 2 chicken sausages

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and dice sweet potato, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes. While the potatoes are baking, slice mushrooms, broccoli and chicken sausage into bite size pieces. In a medium pot melt butter and mix in flour, salt and pepper. Add in half and half and then melt in half of the cheddar cheese. In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli and chicken sausage and mix in cheese mixture until everything is fully coated. Pour into baking dish, sprinkle on the rest of the cheese and bake for 20 minutes.

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This dish kinda reminds me of mac & cheese, minus the mac. It gives you that same comforting feeling, but without the guilt!  I don’t know about you, but for me, mac and cheese is always great going down, but pretty uncomfortable after.

Sweet Potato Chicken Casserole

The last thing I want to say about this recipe is that it’s so friggin’ easy. If you’re like me and have a husband who thinks he’s the only one that can cook a good meal, bring this out when you want to beat him at his own game. Super easy, but impressively delicious. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite comfort food?

4 Things I Learned At Nuvo Dance Convention

Happy almost-Friday! I don’t know about you, but I am so glad the weekend is only hours away. Before I throw in the towel for the week I wanted to share a few things I learned last weekend when I attended Nuvo Dance Convention  in Boston!

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Nuvo is a big treat for me because I’m able to take class, observe amazing dancers and learn from some of the greatest teachers in the industry. It’s honestly like a trip to Disneyland for a dance teacher. Plus any weekend with dancing + Cheesecake Factory + drinks with the girls is a win in my book.

Below are just a few of the many things that I took away from the weekend.

1. Improv is Everything

Improvisation is built into every single class, whether it’s before the start of a combo or as an exercise itself. And the kids are AMAZING at it. It’s something that I try to work on with my students, but now I know that it’s even more important for them to be comfortable with it and at an even younger age.

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Improv Tip: For contemporary classes I like to start class every now and then with an improv warm-up. Instead of doing the usual isolations and stretches I spread the kids out, put on a song and give them prompts to lead them through an improvisation. I ask them to stretch a bit before they begin and limit their improv to smaller movements if they haven’t taken class yet. This warms their muscles, their minds and helps them practice improvisation.

2. Lay Down To Get Aligned

Proper alignment is very important and something I struggle with communicating to my students. Chantel Aguirre took us through an enlightening Floor Barre exercise that forces you to align and activates the correct muscles while you’re laying down, making it easier for your muscles to remember to activate when you stand up.

Floor Barre Exercise

  • Lay on the ground and put your hands on your hips. Tilt you thumbs towards the ground and tuck your pelvis. In this tucked position you may be a bit lifted off the ground, but engage your abs so you are not arching.
  • Staying tucked, do 4 demi plies, trying to keep your length with each one.
  • Immediately stand up and repeat the same 4 demi plies.
  • Lay down again and in the tucked position do 2 tondues front (right, left) with a flex and then 2 tondues side (right, left) with a flex.
  • Immediately stand up and repeat the same 4 tondues.

4. Forget Your Legs

Dancers these days are so obsessed with getting their legs higher that they forget about their arms. They can do the kick, but their arms are dead in the air.

Tip: Stacey Tookey had a great tip – make the dancers perform their combo without using their legs at all. Just have them stand in 2nd position, but do all the same arm movements that are required in the combination. It forces them to focus on the arms and make sure they are fully extending.

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4. Verbalize Tap Steps 

In Anthony Morigerato‘s class he talked about the importance of dancers verbalizing the sounds they are making with their feet. One way to practice this is to associate words and syllables with a step, with the number of syllables denoting the timing of the step. To make this easy for kids to understand, Anthony associates the steps with names of fruit and calls it “making a fruit salad”.

Anthony’s Fruit Salad Tap Exercise

Do the step, right and left, and say the word at the same time, exaggerating the syllables. Repeat each step 4x before going to the next one.

Step = pear

Dig heel = ap-ple

Shuffle step = pine-ap-ple

Paradiddle = wat-er-mel-on

 

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Overall it was an awesome weekend of dancing and we all came back with a little more knowledge and a little more swagger, which helps in class, at the club and in life in general.

Have a great weekend friends!

 

Healthy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Good morning! Yesterday we got hit with some thick, heavy snow so naturally we all cancelled everything we had planned (when I say we, I mean the entire state of New Hampshire) and hunkered down for the day.

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Dance was cancelled so that meant I had some extra time on my hands. For me extra time = baking time. I decided to experiment with my new favorite healthy food swap, pumpkin puree!

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Pumpkin is so versatile and full of essential vitamins and fiber. You can easily use pumpkin as a healthy alternative to ingredients like butter, oil and eggs in baking recipes! By swapping in pumpkin you will automatically reduce the calories and fat in the recipe and increase your veggie intake for the day. It’s a win-win!

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Today I replaced the butter that would normally go into these oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with the same amount of pumpkin puree. The results = you don’t miss the butter for a second. Your baked goods may come out a little more orange tinted than normal, but who doesn’t like a little extra warm glow in their kitchen?

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Healthy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup coconut

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine pumpkin, sugars, egg and vanilla. In a smaller bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and oats. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients until thoroughly mixed. Mix in walnuts, chocolate chips and coconut. Drop 1.5 inch size cookies onto greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Yields about 18 cookies.

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These cookies are full of other healthy ingredients too like dark chocolate chips, which provide healthy antioxidants, walnuts and coconut for some healthy fats and whole wheat flour and oats for added fiber. The recipe title says cookies, but these could probably qualify as a power bar if you’re in a pinch. Enjoy!

What To Do & Eat In Maui

Aloha! Are you dreaming of palm trees and warm breezes too?! If you’re in a northern climate like me, now is the time to plan your escape from the cold. So while everyone else is busy watching the Super Bowl (don’t worry it’s on in the background), I thought I would share with you some highlights from my trip to Hawaii!

WARNING: May induce extreme vacation envy and/or sudden-trip-booking syndrome.

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In October Shawn and I made the very (very) long journey to a place I had dreamed of visiting since I was a kid. My Dad used to live in Hawaii, so I made it my goal at a very young age to honeymoon there. And that we did! We visited Maui and Kauai, but today I’ll focus just on Maui. More to come on the amazingly beautiful island of Kauai.

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First I have to start by saying that Maui is one of the most beautiful, welcoming and vibrant places I have ever been. Once you step off the plane, breathe in the sweet air and talk to just one person, you’ll know that you’re in a magical place. Not only are you surrounded by natural beauty that you didn’t even know could exist, but all the people are so incredibly happy and kind. I think I would be too if I lived in Hawaii!

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Second I want to say that there are a lot of things to do in Maui so you definitely need to do research before embarking, just to make sure you know what you’re going to do and what you’ll have to pass on, because you cannot do everything. I used the internet, Maui Revealed travel books and friends as references.

Road To Hana

This was definitely a can’t-miss activity for us. Yes you have to wake up at like 6 am, so I recommend doing it on your first or second day to take advantage of jet leg. And yes the road is winding and slightly dangerous. BUT, it. was. incredible. Waterfalls, hidden caves, lava rocks and road-side food stands are just some of the highlights you will find. Here are my top 4 tips for Road To Hana:

  1. Download the Shaka Road To Hana app. It’s inexpensive and will guide you to all the stops even when you don’t have cell reception. The book is good to read beforehand, but can be really confusing to follow to a specific spot on the road.
  2. Bring a rain jacket and water/hiking shoes with grip. It rains about every 10 minutes on RTH so you will need the jacket if you want to get out of the car at all (which you will, every 10 minutes). Everything is muddy and wet so the water shoes are a must-do because they will dry quickly in between hikes. I got these Ryka Hydro Sport shoes and they were a life-saver.
  3. Stop at the food stands! Best banana bread and fruit I’ve ever had. There’s a lot of good food options along the RTH, so you don’t need to pack a lunch. We got fooled on that one and bought sandwiches before we left, paid for a cooler bag, which didn’t actually keep anything cold, and then found awesome taco huts and authentic eats along the way. On your way back you should stop at Mai Thai. Insanely good Thai food cooked by a little old lady in a hut by herself. “Best meal of my LIFE!” is what I exclaimed as I was shoving shrimp and noodles into my face as I spoon-fed Shawn his meal while he navigated the dark winding road home. Not an ideal situation because we didn’t head back before dark, but an ideal meal for sure.
  4. Go all the way to the Pipewai Trail. You will need to decide before you set out what you want to stop at. This is very important. You cannot stop at everything in one day and if you try you will be heading home at 2am and it will be very scary. The road is SUPER dark and winding and not good to travel at night. Just pick and choose what you want to see. I suggest NOT missing the Black Sand Beach and Pipewai Trail, which is located at the end of the road. At the end of the Pipewai Trail was a 500 foot waterfall…so friggin cool. See Waimoki Falls below.

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Haleakala Crater

The next must-do in Maui is the Haleakala Crater. I read a lot about this before deciding to go because they say the best way to see it is at sunrise, but we are decidedly NOT sunrise people. Also, the winding road up the side of a mountain did not thrill me. So we went around 10am and it was still ammmmaaaaazing. The drive up the mountain is scenic itself and when you get there it’s like you’ve landed on the moon. That’s actually how you will feel too. The elevation sickness definitely got to us, but you just have to take it slow, like turtle slow. 10,ooo feet is very high. I have to say that the drive was pretty scary. At times I had to close my eyes, but the view from the top was well worth it.

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After seeing the crater we stopped at Mama’s Fish House in the North for lunch where we ate one of the best meals of our lives. Seriously this place is NOT overrated. You must go here and you must not be deterred by the high prices. It’s well worth it and you can enjoy a walk on their beach after for freeeeee.

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Lahaina 

This is an adorable little town located on the West side of the island. Definitely take a drive through to see the endless coastline of beaches with surfers and campers hanging out and living the good life. A walk downtown is nice for some souvenir shopping and to see the largest tree in the United States, an enormous Banyan Tree. But the BEST part of Lahaina is Island Cream Co. Oh my god. I still dream about this ice cream experience. Island Cream Co. has actually been called the Best Ice Cream In America and I whole-heartedly agree! They claim that it’s not ice cream, not gelato, but rather a cross between the two – island cream. Whatever it is, it works for me. I had Maui Loco, which had coconut, macadamia nuts and chocolate chips, served in a homemade cone with a pirouline for dipping.

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Kanapali Beach

This is the beach our hotel was located on, which made for some easy snorkeling whenever we wanted! I recommend staying on or near this beach if possible, because it is apparently some of the best snorkeling and best swimming conditions on the island. We saw multiple turtles, an eel and colorful fish every time we swam. The water was warm, clear blue and very calm.

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The other good thing about staying near Kanapali beach is the close proximity to one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. Mostly because it was so much fun! Slappy Cakes is an all-day breakfast joint where you can make your own pancakes at your table! Each booth has a hot griddle in the middle and you can pick your own batter like pumpkin, mix-ins like bananas and granola, and toppings like macadamia nut sauce, whipped cream and maple syrup!

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Holy yum.

Honestly I could go on and on about Maui and all the magical things that we did, but this post would get exceedingly long. And All this talk about good food has me ready for a snack. Must find chocolate covered macadamia nuts stash…

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If you’re not currently planning a vacation I hope this post inspired you, because there are studies that show that traveling literally makes you a better person. I think that’s a pretty good argument for getting on a plane. And if you’re planning a trip to Hawaii sometime soon, feel free to hit me up with questions! I’m more than happy to relive my experience by helping someone else plan theirs.

Aloha my friends!