4 Dynamic Stretches For An Effective Warmup

Stretching is one of the most underrated things you can do for your health. It’s kinda like the broccoli on your plate…everybody knows its good for them, but for some reason we all want to skip it. I can’t tell you how many times I see people hop on the treadmill without so much as a toe-touch. I cringe and wish them luck in my head. But seriously how friggin’ good does it feel to take a deep breath, stretch your arms above your head and just feel your body come alive?! Ahhhhh.

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It’s time to embrace the stretch! Stretching is essential to get blood flowing to your muscles and help your body prep for movement (or just your day). Before a workout its important to practice dynamic stretching, which means your body is moving throughout the stretch as opposed to static stretching, where you hold a stretch without moving.

Dynamic stretching is key for anyone prepping to do any sort of sport that requires intense movement, ie. running, dancing, basketball, shopping (just kidding…but am I?). By making small movements in the stretch you can better prepare your muscles for what you’re about to do….whether it’s a burpee or a reach for a tank top on a high shelf. Dynamic stretching increases your core body temperature, increases range of motion around joints and decreases chance of injury. Basically it’s awesome and you should try it.

So today I’m sharing with you my favorite dynamic stretches! I incorporate these into my dance warm-ups and into my own pre-run routine (and hope the non-stretcher on the treadmill next to me notices).

4 Dynamic Stretches For An Effective Warmup

1. Toe-touch toe lift

Face right leg and bend to touch toes, placing hands on either side of foot. Lift right toe up and down 8x. Repeat left.

2. Flex heeled bend

Face right leg again and bend to touch toes, placing hands on either side of foot. Bend left leg and lengthen body over right leg. Repeat bend 8x. Move to left side a repeat.

3. Knee dip lunge

Move into lunge on right side and dip knee to floor 8x. Repeat on left side.

4. Toe touch heel lift

Bend over right leg and lift left leg, bending at knee. Lift right heel 8x. Repeat on left side.

These stretches are super simple, but can be modified for any flexibility level.

Having trouble touching your toes? Put a chair in front of you to hold onto.

Can’t go down all the way into the lunge? Put your hands on your knee or hold onto a wall.

Basically these stretches are built to help your muscles slowly work into your range of motion and gradually warm up so you’re ready for greater things. Like running a few miles or shopping till you drop 🙂

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5 Things I Learned On My First Cruise

Phew! My life is becoming increasingly busy these days with dance ramping up for the end of the season, work getting crazier than ever and keeping up with blogging and my personal life. That’s why I am SO glad the hubbs and I were able to get away for a few days last week to recharge, unplug and just have fun!

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Back in February, on a cold, blustery, miserable day, we booked a 4-night cruise to the Bahamas, as a way to escape New England winter and just reset for a few days. It was our beacon of light at the end of a very dark, cold tunnel. In October we took our honeymoon in Hawaii, which you can read about here, so our main goal for this trip was for it to be cheap (cause really who can afford two vacations in one year??). Well if you haven’t heard, cruises are pretty affordable these days. Honestly I have always been very skeptical about cruising and have even been known to swear it off all-together, which probably sounded something like this; “I will never go on a cruise, it’s too claustrophobic! People get sick! TITANIC!!!”. Well, I have to admit that I was wrong. Cruises are kind of awesome and here’s why:

1. The boat is your giant playground.

In other words, I was never claustrophobic at all. The whole boat is yours to explore and take advantage of from the mini golf on the top deck, to the casino in the middle and hidden spots to hang out all over the place. Plus the ship stops on beautiful islands that you can get out on and find your adventure on land. We did have a window in our room, which probably helped, but our living space was fine, in fact I’ve been in smaller hotel rooms in Brooklyn! Cross claustrophobia off your worry list now.

IMG_08652. You will be forced to totally check out…and it’s amazing!

You will have zero service at sea to check Insta, Snapchat your day or do any of the other annoying things society thinks we should do to prove we’re having fun. You CAN purchase a plan to get access to social media, but honestly I think that’s stupid. This is your vacation, enjoy the moment, take photos and show people when you get home.

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3. There’s always something to do…which can be overwhelming at times.

We learned this the hard way. Every night they slip a schedule of events for the next day under your door. We tried to hit all the fun, but eventually sun and exhaustion took us down. Naps are highly encouraged between the hours of 4 and 5pm. Then you rally and continue your day with dinner, drinks, shows, dancing, hot tub….etc.

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4. Exercise is built in!

No need to hit the gym, just take the stairs. I think we both left with extremely toned glutes from the dozens of stairs we climbed every day. It was a great way to burn off the lava cake! I did actually hit the treadmill, which was hilarious because the boat sways you back and forth, which made for quite a challenging run!

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(This is the view from my treadmill. Not bad, right?)

5. The food is what dreams are made of.

Quinoa stuffed tomatoe with croquettes in a cream sauce. Molten lava cake. Oysters Rockefeller. Deconstructed ham sandwich appetizer. 24 hour pizza and ice cream. Need I say more? I had heard mixed reviews about Carnival food, but I have to say I was incredibly impressed every night with the creativity and quality of the food.

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So would I cruise again? Absolutely! I think there’s a time and place for boots on ground, map in hand adventure; exploring waterfalls and finding the hidden taqueria, but there’s always something to be said for sitting back, drink in hand, watching the land and sea pass by and letting someone else bring the entertainment to you.

What’s your favorite way to vacation? Land or sea?

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies {Gluten Free}

I’m baaack! Turns out the Bahamas are beautiful, in case you were wondering 🙂 I’ll do a full recap of our trip and the amazing food that we had next week (I’m still sorting through photos). Until then, I’m bringing you some chocolaty goodness..

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Now that I’m officially off my pre-cruise diet, which consisted of clean(er) eating (aka no chocolate, bread, decadent food), I wanted to share one of my favorite dessert recipes! This recipe is quick, easy and completely flourless. Peanut butter cookies without flour? It can be done!

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These cookies feature two of my all-time favorite things; peanut butter and dark chocolate, mmmmmmm. Since the recipe does have a good amount of sugar in it, I wouldn’t recommend eating these allllll the time, but they’re a great treat!

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies {Gluten Free}

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate M&Ms

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl mix together peanut butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and m&ms. Drop onto greased cookie sheet and press with fork. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Yields about 18 cookies.

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I’m not going to lie this is usually my go-to when I need to bring something to a party or get-together. It’s just so easy and who doesn’t love chocolate and peanut butter? Need something to bring to your Easter celebrations next weekend? Swap classic m&ms for some Easter colored m&ms and you are good. to. go.

Enjoy!

Blueberry Walnut Baked Oatmeal

Happy Hump-day! Woowee. The last 24 hours have been quite a doosey. We had a major blizzard here with heavy snow, crazy winds and we even lost power for quite a while :(. Not fun at all. But do you know what is fun? Baking!

Especially when it’s with a friend. Today I have a special guest star on the blog who is sharing with us her recipe for Blueberry Walnut Baked Oatmeal!

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Meet Erin. I promise, she’s not as crazy as this picture makes her seem. But she is sharing a crazy good recipe that is her go-to for a quick and easy breakfast. Erin works as a Spanish teacher so her mornings are early, busy and require a no-fuss breakfast. Anyone else in the same boat? So on Sundays Erin bakes up a big batch of this oatmeal and is ready to go with a delicious, hearty breakfast all week long.

This recipe is full of healthy ingredients that will keep you full for hours, like hearty old-fashioned oats, walnuts, peanut butter and banana. It is whole grain, contains no refined sugar and can easily be made gluten free by using gluten-free oats. Maple syrup and banana offer all the sweetness you need, but we added an extra peanut butter drizzle on top for a special treat.

Erin says that some weeks when she’s feeling a little naughty she’ll throw in some chocolate chips instead of blueberries. Feel free to switch up the mix-ins as you please! You could do diced apples and pecans, cranberries and walnuts or banana chunks and peanut butter chips.

Blueberry Walnut Baked Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 medium bananas, 1 mashed with fork and 1 sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup blueberries

Peanut Butter Drizzle:

  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In medium bowl combine oats, cinnamon, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. Mash one of the bananas with a fork and add to oats mixture. Add in egg, milk, vanilla, maple syrup and peanut butter and mix to thoroughly combine. Mix in walnuts and blueberries and pour into 9×9 baking dish. Bake for 26-28 minutes. Remove from oven and top with sliced bananas. To prepare drizzle, mix together maple syrup and peanut butter with a fork in a measure cup. Slowly drizzle over baked oatmeal. Enjoy!

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Who doesn’t want to wake up to this?! When you’re ready for breakfast I suggest microwaving a piece and topping with your favorite nut butter, drizzling with maple syrup or you could serve it cold with some vanilla yogurt on top. Heck, with a dollop of cookie butter this could even be a desert! Mmm…cookie butter…

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Everyone owes Erin a big thank you for bringing this delicious recipe into our lives. And I owe Erin a big thank you for helping me make it! She comes in handy quite a bit…anyone recognize her from this post? She was one of my beautiful bridesmaids!

Well I hope the next half of the week is better than the first half. Excuse me while I go hug a lamp…electricity is awesome!

20-Minute At-Home Workout

Let’s face it, working out in the winter can be tough. Unless you live somewhere that is eternally warm or you have a home gym, getting motivated to go to the gym or go for a walk can be like pulling teeth. I just do not want to get out from under my warm blanket!

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If you’re like me and the temperature outside has been below 30 for days on end, I have a solution for you that will not require you to get cold. This at-home workout is my go-to for those snowstorm days or when I only have about 20 minutes to get a workout in. All you need is your body, 3-5 lb weights (or soup cans) and some good tunes to keep you motivated! (check out my playlists here)

20-Minute At Home Workout

CARDIO – Do whole sequence 2x

1. Burpees – 10 reps

Touch floor, shoot legs into plank, bring legs back to hands, jump up.

2. Weighted squats – 20 reps

Hold weights together and squat, then lift weights over head.

3. X-Jumps -20 reps

Make X with your hands, jump and land reaching towards opposite leg, jump and reach to other leg.

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4. Lunge and curl – 24 reps

With weights in hands lunge front and bring weights up in bicep curl. Bring legs back together and uncurl. Alternate feet.

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ABS – Do whole sequence 2x

1. Toe touches – 20 reps

With legs above hips reach over head and then up towards toes.

2. Butt crunches – 20 reps

Lift hips towards the sky and engage glutes. Bring hips down.

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3. Bicycle – 20 reps

Lift head and twist towards opposite knee as other leg extends straight. Switch to other side.

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4. Arm Dips – 20 reps

With fingers facing your heels, bend elbows and straighten.

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Still can’t get your butt off the couch? Here’s a tip. I always find it hard to change into my workout because I don’t want to get cold. So instead of changing, I start the workout in whatever I’m wearing and then as I get hot I change into my workout clothes. It works in a pinch!

What’s your trick to motivate yourself to workout?

Pulled Pork Stuffed Peppers

Anyone else stress out about using all their produce every week? Sometimes it’s a real struggle to remember what you need to use and what’s about to rot! The horror of wasting produce haunts me. Using up our veggies was the motivation for this dinner tonight. The result = so friggin’ delicious.

pulled pork stuffed peppers

Thursday is my favorite night of the workweek because I’ve gotten through teaching my dance classes, it’s almost Friday and I can finally just come straight home after work (and the gym) to my husband and my puppy. It’s a fantastic feeling.

pulled pork stuffed peppers

Usually on Thursday nights the hubbs and I like to make dinner together. (Or he makes it for me. Fun fact- he’s actually a super good cook).

pulled pork stuffed peppers

At the beginning of the week we made a huge-jass batch of pulled pork and now really needed to use it up. Conveniently we also had a zucchini, some mushrooms and 2 bell peppers that were about to go to waste. So duh, we stuffed them!

pulled pork stuffed peppers

We used our leftover pulled pork for the protein, but you could easily cook up some chicken breasts and shred them instead. Or go meatless with this recipe, honestly it was hearty enough that you could definitely do that.

Pulled Pork Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 2 large bell peppers
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 3 large mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fajita seasoning
  • 1.5 cups pulled pork (or shredded chicken breast)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut tops off of peppers and take out seeds. Place onto baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Dice zucchini and mushrooms and saute in pan with olive oil and garlic on medium heat. When veggies are soft add in pulled pork and sprinkle with seasoning. Cook until pork is heated through. Remove peppers from the oven and spoon pork and veggie mixture into peppers. Tops with cheese and place back into oven for about 10 more minutes. Remove when cheese is fully melted and enjoy with your favorite sides.

pulled pork stuffed peppers

We also had some roasted sweet potatoes and a super-ripe avocado waiting to be enjoyed so we added those on as sides to our stuffed peppers. Perfection.

I loved this dinner because it was so full of veggies, but I was delightfully full after eating it. The combination of complex carbs (sweet potatoes), hearty veggies and good fats (avocado) made it ultra-satisfying.

Plus lets be honest, everything is better covered in melted cheese.

Don’t you agree?

Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies

If you are freaked out by the title of this recipe, you are not alone. The thought of having chickpeas or any kind of beans in my cookies was repulsive to me, until I tried these babies.

chocolate chip chickpea cookies

These Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies are gluten free, grain-less, chock-full of protein, fiber, antioxidants AND they are so tasty, you won’t miss your Mrs. Fields for a second.

Now the main ingredient of these cookies is in fact chickpeas, but I promise you, they are completely unnoticeable. Chickpeas are actually almost tasteless and are super good for you, so why not just try it out? That’s what I did and I was pleasantly surprised.

chocolate chip chickpea cookies

The next ingredient is walnut butter, but you can use any nut butter of your choice. I sometimes get sick of everything being peanut butter tasting, so I used this Crazy Go Nuts Oatmeal Cookie Walnut Butter and it really helped give the cookies that classic cookie taste.

Instead of sugar this recipe uses maple syrup, which has more nutritional benefits than regular sugar and is less refined. It provides manganese, zinc and can even help your immune system. The flour is replaced by coconut flour, which you only need a small amount of because it is so incredibly absorbent.

Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup walnut butter (or peanut or almond butter)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor combine all ingredients except chocolate chips. Blend until smooth. Pour mixture into medium bowl and add chocolate chips. Spoon cookies onto a greased baking sheet and bake for 18 minutes. Yields about 18 cookies.

chocolate chip chickpea cookies

These cookies are best enjoyed with a tall glass of milk and your favorite rom-com. Dunking is recommended. Or bring them to work for a post-lunch chocolate fix that won’t leave you feeling yucky 🙂

Whatever you do with them, just let people taste them before telling them what’s in it. Because in the case of chickpeas in baked goods, tasting is believing.

Pesto Chicken Zoodles

Only 18 more days until Spring! Soon we will be shedding our sweaters, busting out the florals and bearing our legs….oh wait. I’m not ready!!! Anyone else feeling like they need to start prepping for bikini season NOW?

pesto chicken zoodles

Here’s some fun news – the hubbs and I just booked a cruise! In just a few weeks we’ll be sailing into some Bahama sunshine. Thank god. So with all this talk of springtime weather and fitting into shorts I thought I would share one of my favorite veggie-loaded, low carb dinner recipes.

pesto chicken zoodles

In this recipe I use Trader Joe’s pesto, but you could use any kind. For the chicken sausage I recommend using Al Fresco Chicken Sausage, which is gluten free, all natural and super delish. This time I went with spinach & feta flavor, which worked perfectly.

pesto chicken zoodles

The only catch for this recipe is that you do need to have some soft of spiralizer. I have the “made for tv” version, aka the Vegetti, which works perfectly fine. No need for expensive equipment. Also, are they serious with that name??

Pesto Chicken Zoodles

Ingredients:

  • 2 large zucchini
  • 5 button mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 chicken sausage
  • 1 Tbsp pesto

Directions: Spiralize zucchini into thin noodles and slices mushrooms. In a large saute pan on medium heat cook mushrooms and garlic in olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add in zucchini spirals and cook for about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat chicken sausage in microwave and slice into discs. Add chicken sausage to pan along with pesto and mix completely to combine.

pesto chicken zoodles

My Pesto Chicken Zoodles recipe (aka zucchini noodles for all the newbs out there) is super quick, easy and totally satisfying. You may or may not feel like you are kickin’ back in a big ‘ol booth at Olive Garden scarfing down pesto primavera and breadsticks. It’s really pretty much the same thing, but with less guilt and self-loathing 🙂

Enjoy!

Zucchini Crust Pizza

Do you know what America’s favorite comfort food is? That’s right, it’s pizza! Anyone else on the same page? I’m not ashamed to say that I regularly daydream about biting into a warm, cheesy slice of pepperoni pizza. They said you should follow your dreams, but if I followed every one of those dreams I would be 800 pounds.

The solution: zucchini crust pizza!

zucchini crust pizza

This recipe is great because it’s low carb and gives you all your veggie needs for the day and then some. Also, let’s be real for a second, everything is better smothered in cheese, especially your veggies.

zucchini crust pizza

I’m using a mozzarella and cheddar cheese blend, but feel free to mix and match your cheeses as you please. I’m also using uncured pepperoni for this recipe. If you’re going to indulge in processed meats, do so responsibly. Friends don’t let friends eat nitrates.

My favorite brand is Hormel Natural Choice Uncured Pepperoni Slices because they don’t have any nasty cancer-causing chemicals and they are super delicious.

Zucchini Crust Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 2 large zucchini, grated
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • Pepperoni slices

Directions: In a medium bowl combine grated zucchini with salt and set aside for about 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Thoroughly coat a nonstick baking pan with nonstick spray and drizzle with olive oil. After the 15 minutes, drain as much liquid as you can from the zucchini. Mix zucchini with parmesan cheese, flour, egg, pepper and oregano. Pour the zucchini batter in the center of the baking page and spread over the surface. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the crust and top with marinara sauce, cheese and pepperoni slices. Bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Slice and serve warm.

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I don’t know about you guys, but Friday could not have come any sooner. Now I’m off to a weekend full of sleep, relaxation, dog walks and movies. There will probably be some good eats in there as well of course.

What are you up to this weekend?

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?