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!

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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!

4 Healthy Snack Swaps For The Food You Crave

Nowadays there are lots of healthier snack options out there to satisfy even the most ravenous sweet tooth. I’ve compiled a list of a few I’ve come across that are actually delicious. Because that’s the point, right? No one wants to be gnawing on cardboard when they just want a cookie.

I’m not saying that you should eat these every day, all day (although you might want to after you try them), but they are each packing some beneficial ingredients and are probably a bit better for you than their classic counterparts.

4 Healthy Snack Swaps For The Food You Crave

#1 – When You’re Craving GUMMIES

The Solution: Trader Joe’s Fruit Bar

I’ve never seen a fruit bar so jam-packed with goodness. This bar has flax and chia seeds and provide 6 grams of fiber! Next time you’re craving gummy worms, reach for this instead and let the superfoods do their work.

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#3 – When You’re Craving CHOCOLATE

The Solution: Lovely Dark Chocolate Coconut Chips

These little guys are my new favorite thing. Organic, non-GMO coconut chips covered in 60% cacao. Addicting, but winning in the antioxidant game. I actually found these in the food isle at Home Hoods.

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#3 – When You’re Craving COOKIES

The Solution: Zema’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are so cool. They’re gluten free, but actually taste good. Go figure! They’re made with a blend of quinoa, oat, teff and millet flour and also have flax and chia. Not going to lie I enjoyed a few dunked into a glass of milk. Because apparently I’m 5. Or Santa Claus.

Another Home Goods find!

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#4 – When You’re Craving CAKE

The Solution: Kodiak Cakes Cups

The Blueberry & Maple flavor below is actually more of a breakfast go-to for me, topped with walnuts, fresh blueberries and a drizzle of maple syrup, mmmMMmmm!

But if you’re in a “I NEED CHOCOLATE CAKE RIGHT NOW” kind of mood, try their Double Dark Chocolate flavor with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt. You will think you have died and gone to healthy-cake heaven.

I buy these at Hannaford or Shaws, but they’re probably available at other groceries stores as well.

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These little cups are chock-full of 100% whole-grain goodness and have a pretty clean ingredient list. Each one has a whopping 6 grams of protein (plus 2 more if you use milk instead of water, which I do, duh) and 5 grams of fiber. This is 250 calories of cake that you don’t need to feel bad about.

Hopefully this list inspires you to upgrade your snacks so that you’re at least getting something good out of that chocolate splurge…may it be fiber, protein, antioxidants or just that good’ol happy feeling of satisfying your craving.

Truly, you CAN have your cake and eat it too.

5 Stretches You Haven’t Tried Yet

Happy Tuesday! How is your week going so far? Today we are talking about stretching!

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I want to talk about stretching, not just for performance, but also for general well-being. Everybody knows that stretching is important for injury prevention and flexibility, but it can also be key to feeling balanced. Read on to find out why! (if you’re impatient scroll to #5)

Below is a list of some of my favorite stretches that are geared to challenge your normal and make you push a bit further.

5 Stretches You Haven’t Tried Yet

1.Foot Stretch – Point

This stretch will be most enjoyed by the dancers and yogis looking to work on their point and foot flexibility.

HOW TO: Start on your knees and bring your right leg in front of you. Gently roll over your point. Use your left hand as support and use your right hand to firmly press against your heel, leading your heel forward and pressing your arch further. Hold for 10 seconds and then switch to #2 below. Repeat 4x on each foot.

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2. Foot Stretch – Ball

This is part 2 to #1 above. Simply flip your foot so that you are stretching the flex position of your foot on the ball. Again press your heel forward with your hand. Alternate between this and #1, 4x on each foot.

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3. Split Stretch – Reach Back

This stretch will be enjoyed by anyone looking to increase their flexibility in their split. Only attempt if you already have your split, meaning you do not have to support yourself on either side and your thighs are completely touching the ground. This stretch can be very intense for your hips, so make sure to stretch before attempting.

HOW TO: Once you are fully in your split, reach back with your right hand. At the same time lift your back left leg up to meet your hand. Hold for 30 seconds. Do #4 below and then switch to the other side.

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4. Split Stretch – Flex & Lift

This stretch is again only for those who want to further stretch their split, this time the front foot. Only attempt if you are fully down in your split already. This stretch can be very intense for your calves and hamstrings, so make sure to stretch them before attempting.

HOW TO: Once you are in your split, flex your right front foot and grab and lift with your right hand. Hold for 30 seconds.

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5. Stretch. Every. D@m#. Day. 

My 5th and final stretch tip is not a specific stretch, rather a challenge to incorporate stretching into your life every day.

Throughout the day stress builds up in your body and causes muscles to contract, making you feel tense and generally uneasy. All this tension can lead to negative affects on your mind and body. Bah! We do not want that. Especially when the solution is so easy.

Stretching loosens muscles, increases blood flow and releases endorphins (love those guys!), all of which helps you to relax and feel balanced.

Even if it’s just a quick toe touch and a shoulder stretch, try to fit stretching into your daily routine to reap the (easy and free) benefits! Why not?! Dancer or not, stretching is good for everyone.

 

Pumpkin Apple Oatmeal Muffins

New Hampshire in January can be such a bummer. It’s cold, dark, and we’re all basically counting down the days until we’re back in shorts and flip flops (which oddly usually happens around 55 degrees). There’s a word in the Danish language called “hygge” (pronounced hoogah), which is essentially the art of being cozy and comfortable. It’s all about finding pleasure in mundane things like having dinner at home with friends on a cold night or hunkering down under a blanket during a snowstorm.

Think about all the things that make you feel cozy and warm…cuddling up by a fireplace with a good book, snuggling with a puppy, hot chocolate after a brisk ski session. Hygge means grasping onto those things and appreciating that warm feeling it gives you for as long as you need to…so basically until April. How smart is that though?! We’re all sitting around complaining and the Danish are like guys this is freaking awesome, here’s a cup of soup!

These muffins are my attempt at feeling the hygge. Anything pumpkin, cinnamon and apple always makes me feel cozy especially when warmed and served with hot cocoa or my morning coffee.

This recipe is gluten free, grainless and jam packed with superfood power. The pumpkin provides fiber and vitamins, while the oats and flax keep you full for hours. Plus you could easily add walnuts, raisins or pumpkin seeds to make it even more of a power muffin.

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Traditional oatmeal is awesome, but baked oatmeal muffins are like the quicker, hip version. They pack the same nutritional benefits, but you can eat one as you run out the door on the way to work, or pack one for a midday snack.

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pumpkin
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 2 Tbsp flax meal
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 large apple, peeled and sliced

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together pumpkin, vanilla, egg, maple syrup and milk. In a separate bowl combine oats, flax, baking powder, salt and spices. Mix dry ingredients into wet and fold in apples. Drop into greased muffin pan and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool and enjoy! Yields about 12 muffins.

My suggestion for consuming these blonde beauties is warmed and covered in peanut butter, cinnamon butter or even some cookie butter for a sweet splurge. And being cuddled up by a roaring fire with your favorite someone wouldn’t hurt either…Embrace hygge!

Plank & Split Exercise

There’s something refreshing about being upside down. All day long we live our lives right side up, so when the opportunity arrises to get those legs in the air, it can be a really nice change of perspective. Plus being able to support yourself with your arms is a great core workout in itself.

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This exercise combo is something I use in my Jumps & Turns classes to get the kids to practice their splits and at the same work on core and arm strength. But it’s not just a dance exercise, it can be good for anyone who wants to work on their flexibility and core strength. You can modify the number of commandos and push-ups based on your ability.

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I would definitely recommend some dynamic stretching before attempting this combination, especially for your legs muscles and hips flexors. Dynamic stretching is active stretching, meaning muscles are repeatedly put through the range of motion. For example, bending over and touching your right toe, but lifting the right toe 8x while you’re in the stretch. This helps the blood flow to your muscles, warms your muscles and is proven to help increase performance compared to static stretching (no movement during stretch).

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Plank & Split Exercise

  • Start standing with your back to a wall
  • Walk your hands down your legs to touch (or reach for) the floor
  • Walk hands out to high plank and hold for 16 counts
  • 4 commandos (left arm down, right arm down, left arm up, right arm up)
  • Walk hands back to legs
  • Extend right leg up wall and hold stretch for 16 counts
  • Walk back out to plank (bring leg down as you go) and hold for 16 counts
  • 8 push-ups
  • Walk hands back to legs
  • Extend left leg up wall and hold stretch for 16 counts
  • REPEAT

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You leg may not look like this, and that’s OK! Hey, it might look even better, and that’s awesome! The goal is to try to get your hips as close to the wall as you can. The wall and your hands pushing on the ground give you the right leverage to really deepen that split and push your flexibility (safely of course).

And you might even find some new perspective while you’re down there. Just don’t look at your face if you’re looking into a mirror like I am…upside down face can be quite frightening.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Bars

It’s National Peanut Butter Day! How could I not celebrate one of my all-time favorite foods? My favorite thing about peanut butter is the power it has to keep me full. I can wake up after a long night of teaching with sore muscles and a hangry belly and I know the only thing that can make me feel better is my good ‘ol whole wheat toast and peanut butter. The simplest complete protein on earth.

Long story short, we’re in love and there’s nothing that can tear us apart.

Except the other day I found this guy.
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In Home Goods of all places! Just sitting on the shelf, in the clearance isle, all by its lonesome.

Oh. my. g@d.

Walnut butter is the new peanut butter.

Except it’s definitely not. (But you should totally try it).

In honor of my beloved peanut butter I’m sharing a quick healthy dessert recipe adapted from the amazing Chocolate Covered Katie .

 

 

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 applesauce cup
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together applesauce, peanut butter, vanilla, baking soda, flour, sugar and chocolate chips. Spread into 8×8 greased baking pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes. The bars will be very gooey when they come out! Let cool completely before serving.

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These bars are so incredibly ooey-gooey that you will think you have majorly messed up the recipe when they come out. But it’s OK! Just wait. They will set eventually, but will still be super gooey.

My preferred method to eat these is heated up (via microwave for about 20 seconds) with a nice dollop of vanilla frozen yogurt on top.

What’s your favorite kind of nut butter?

Fezziwig’s Food and Fountain

Portsmouth is one of my favorite places. It’s like this ever-changing mini city that is constantly evolving for the people that live and play there. When I was growing up there were about 3 restaurants and 2 stores worth visiting in downtown Portsmouth.

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Now it’s buzzing with culture, unique eats and thriving businesses. But still, one of the greatest things about it is that in many ways, it remains the same. The streets are brick and crooked, the buildings are quintessentially old, the stores are exceptionally quirky and the restaurants are continuously surprising and delightful.

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Fezziwig’s Food and Fountain was no exception to that. Probably one of the most unique cafes I have ever been in, Fezziwig’s is a must-stop for anyone visiting Portsmouth for lunch (or breakfast or dinner). This restaurant is a sister to its parent shop Pickwick’s Mercantile, a historically inspired shoppe that flawlessly depicts the merriment, peculiarity and charm of days gone by.

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The festive atmosphere of Pickwick’s seamlessly spills over into the cafe with costumed baristas and exquisite decorum. The elaborately decorated space transcends time and brings you to a fairy-tale place where everything has a little bit more wonder to it.

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And who doesn’t need a little wonder in their Sunday afternoon?! We certainly did, and girl talk and tomato soup was on the menu today.

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The tomato bisque I ordered was creamy and thick, with toasted croutons floating on top, just waiting for us to dig in. The turkey BLT was hearty and wholesome, with a salad and a crisp pickle on the side.

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This is not one of those cafes where you leave and you’re hungry 20 minutes later because your sandwich was made on tiny bread and had two lettuce leaves on it. This food is genuine good eats, and kept me warm and satisfied for hours.

I mean did we leave and go straight to Stonewall Kitchen for free brownie samples? Maybe.

But at least we had our salad first.

 

 

Running + Dance Playlists January 2017

Whether it’s cleaning the house, organizing my desktop or sweating it out at the gym, music is a huge motivator for me. And of course I have to have the hottest beats for my dance classes. Nothing like hearing the same songs during warm-up all year long to make you go crazy.

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I spend a lot of time curating my playlists because one of my biggest pet peeves is overplayed music. I CANNOT listen to Shut Up and Dance one more time, and yet, it used to be my favorite song. For a hot second that is. To me, as soon as a song is on the radio, it’s over for me.

Well maybe not that drastic, but it’s a slow downward spiral after that point.

My running playlist needs to be upbeat, positive and the more it can make me want to dance while running (although not recommended), the better. This is also the playlist I use for my jazz classes and warm-ups.

Running Playlist

My dance class playlists are split up into Hip Hop and Contemporary, mostly because those are two very different music categories. But it’s basically faster music that helps you get your swag on, and then slow chill music.

Contemporary Playlist

Hip Hop Playlist

Happy listening!

Sweet Potato Steak Fajita Bowl

Do you ever have one of those days when all you can think about is eating chocolate? Or a cupcake? Or chips?

Our bodies are actually programmed to crave certain foods for specific reasons. Usually because we are lacking certain nutrients in our diet at the time.

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Being aware of this can be key to understanding what your body actually needs, vs. what you think you need at the moment (ie. Chicken vs. an entire sleeve of Oreos).

There’s a few handy dandy charts floating around the internet that make it easy to see what you should eat based on what you’re craving.

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This recipe came out of one of those craving moments. All day I just wanted something sweet, so I came home, looked at what was available and whipped up a quick Sweet Potato Steak Fajita Bowl. Holy guacamole was it satisfying. And my sweet craving was gone.

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I used steak from our dinner the night before, but you could easily swap it out for some other meat like ground turkey, chicken sausage or tofu. The fajita (or taco in my case) seasoning is what does the trick and makes whatever protein you put it on oh, so, tasty.

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For those of us that are trying to stay away from gluten, the sweet potato acted as a bed for my sauteed ingredients, instead of rice or a tortilla.

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Sweet Potato Steak Fajita Bowl

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 a yellow onion
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 a yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 an orange bell pepper
  • 2 large mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cooked steak, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp McCormick Organic Fajita Seasoning Mix 
  • Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish
  • Chopped romaine lettuce for garnish
  • Sour cream for garnish

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cube sweet potatoes, spread on a baking sheet and mix with 2 tbsp olive oil, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, saute onions, garlic, mushrooms and peppers in oil until soft. Add in cooked steak and season with fajita seasoning mix. Start layering your bowl first with roasted sweet potatoes then vegetable/steak mixture, then shredded cheese, lettuce and sour cream. Enjoy!

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Super quick, super easy, incredibly satisfying.

One quick meal planning tip for you – add a few more sweet potatoes to your recipe and save the leftovers for an easy and gluten/grain free side to your morning eggs. You will not even miss your toast, I promise.