Let the Side Dish Take Center Stage this Holiday Season

Yeah, sure…Thanksgiving was a week ago. But that’s no reason to take¬†the seasonal eats out of rotation. Not yet, anyway.

And definitely not before you’ve tried my Cranberry, Orange & Pecan Chutney. This recipe is vegan, refined sugar-free and contains natural ingredients. With a tart and tangy flavor, full-bodied texture and festive color combo, this crowd-pleasing side dish will make your holiday celebrations both merry and bright.

Plus, cranberries are extremely nutrient-dense¬†(we’re talking antioxidants, fiber and Vitamin C!). So…there’s that.

Cranberry Relish recipe

Ingredients:

12-oz. Cranberries (fresh)

1 c. Orange Juice (freshly squeezed)

1/2 c. Raw Pecans (chopped)

2 tbsp. Orange Zest

1/2 tbsp. Liquid Stevia

1/4 tsp. Black Pepper

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat a large stockpot on a high stovetop setting, pour in the Cranberries and Orange Juice, then bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and allow this mixture to simmer until the Cranberry skins start popping.
  3. Add the Liquid Stevia, then gently stir the mixture with a wooden spoon, while it continues to simmer.
  4. Remove the mixture from heat until it cools to room temperature.
  5. Strain the Cranberries in a colander and reserve the Orange Juice.
  6. Pulverize the Cranberries to a chunky consistency with a potato masher, then stir in the Orange Zest and Black Pepper.
  7. Pour the reserved Orange Juice into this mixture, stir to combine,       and refrigerate until cold.
  8. Sprinkle the chopped Pecans on top right before serving to add             a little extra crunch.

Cranberry Relish close-up

Cue. All. The. Drools.

Wanna Avoid Over-“Stuffing” Yourself this Season? Let’s Talk Turkey!

The countdown for Thanksgiving is on, and chances are, we’ve all got¬†food on the brain. After all, baked goodies and comfort carbs are hallmark holiday traditions, but they often come at the expense of our waistlines.

So, in response to¬†Turkey Day’s delectable yet potentially “diet derailing” fare, follow these pointers for mindful — and enjoyable!¬†— eating:

Avoid Thanksgiving Overeating

1.   Don’t deprive yourself by skipping the pre-Thanksgiving meals.

Count on this rookie mistake to backfire when you face a smorgasbord of tempting morsels, while that empty stomach begs for relief. Hunger pangs increase the appetite, inevitably causing overindulgence. So, rather than restricting your intake altogether, choose light yet satisfying options for breakfast and lunch. For example, oatmeal topped with fresh fruit is both a hearty and healthy start to the morning, and a green salad loaded with colorful vegetables is an ideal afternoon pick-me-up.

2.   When the  feasting begins, allocate small amounts of each dish.

An average portion size equals the size of your fist, so apply this guideline when charging through the buffet line. Resist the urge to pile your plate with every delicacy within reach.¬†Sure, you can’t wait to sample the entire spread, but a¬†few bites of each tasty tidbit should suffice. View¬†this meal as a marathon,¬†— not a¬†sprint — so pace that ravenous appetite. And, remember: dinner isn’t the only course.

3.   Fill the majority of your plate with veggies and eat them first.

Before digging into that fluffy cornbread, caramelized¬†yams or quintessential butterball, consume those often overlooked side dishes — green beans, squash, beets and, of course, the relish tray. Starting¬†your meal with nutrient-dense vegetables¬†will curb initial cravings. So, rather than inhaling the carbs, sugars, fats and high-caloric items, you might just manage a few cursory nibbles.

4.   During the meal, chew slowly and pause between mouthfuls.

Don’t devour the deliciousness in such record time that you barely taste any flavor. Instead, savor these traditional comfort foods and allow the familiar aromas, seasonings and textures to fill you with nostalgia. Instead of letting the entire meal revolve around your taste buds, actively engage in table conversations and create memories with loved ones. Also, deliberately set your utensils down after swallowing each bite and take a break before resuming the graze-fest.

5.   Unless you’re still HUNGRY, avoid sneaking back for seconds.

Practice self-restraint by repeating the following mantra in your head: ‚ÄúI‚Äôm saving room for dessert. I‚Äôm saving room for dessert. I‚Äôm saving room for dessert‚Ķ‚ÄĚ This will motivate¬†you to fight¬†temptation until it subsides. Meanwhile, stay occupied between courses by leaving the table and participating in a physical activity to jumpstart digestion, prevent further pitfalls and¬†burn post-dinner calories. Take a brisk nature walk, organize a touch football scrimmage, recruit some friends¬†for an abridged Turkey Trot, or even volunteer to¬†wash dishes.

6. ¬† Don’t¬†deny the¬†dessert¬†cravings, but limit yourself to a sliver.

Pumpkin, pecan, apple, sweet potato…Oh, the cruelty of¬†choosing just one!¬†¬†But, in the seasonal spirit of gratitude, give thanks¬†for will-power. Here’s¬†another instance where portion control becomes key. There’s no reason to dodge the dessert¬†station altogether — just don’t reach a level of physical discomfort. Experience a few spoonfuls of your favorite treat, then back away once that sweet tooth is satisfied.

Finally, consider this promising prospect: food-centric holidays mean leftovers for the whole week ahead!

Egg-less…Eggnog?!?!

Yup. You read correctly.

And, let me assure you: this is one mouthwatering oxymoron!

Quite possibly, my favorite seasonal indulgence is eggnog. Add a generous splash of rum, and that sugary, yolk-y, saturated fatty concoction tastes like liquid Christmas.

With a complementary aftertaste of “hello, holiday pounds!”

Sure, sometimes I can rationalize this guilty little pleasure with the old “Look at me getting my daily dose of protein!” excuse. But, the unfortunate fact remains that your average store-bought eggnog contains more imitation¬†Nog than freshly-cracked Egg.

Still, it’s Christmastime, and seasonal beverage enthusiasts — such as myself — shouldn’t have to deprive themselves of drinkable holiday cheer. Therefore, I submit for your culinary experimentation (and guiltless enjoyment), a nutritious and equally delicious alternative to the questionable eggnog you’ll find on a dairy aisle.

This vegan recipe cuts down on refined sugar, saturated fat, and other artificial additives. It also substitutes avocado — Wait, what? Oh, yes! — for eggs, and coconut milk for all that…well, “Nog” stuff. The combined creaminess of these ingredients creates that delectably thick, smooth texture associated with classic eggnog (and even offers up some omega-3 goodness!). Plus, spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and vanilla add flavorful holiday nuances to get you into a cozy state-of-mind.

So, ignore the slightly greenish tint (because it really does taste like eggnog), and drink up!


  • Ingredients:
  1. small Hass Avocado
  2. 1 1/2 cups Coconut Milk
  3. 1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
  4. 1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  5. 1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  6. 1/4 tsp. Ground Cloves
  7. 1 packet Stevia Powder

vegan eggnog ingredients

  • Preparation:¬†
  1. Peel the avocado and remove its pit, then chop the avocado into bite-sized chunks.
  2. Transfer the avocado chunks into a blender, then pour in the coconut milk.
  3. Stir the vanilla extract, stevia powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves into the coconut milk.
  4. Turn the blender to a medium-high setting, then puree the mixture until thoroughly smooth.
  5. Transfer the liquid into a tall glass (or Christmas-y mug!!!) and lightly sprinkle nutmeg on top.

vegan eggnog before

vegan eggnog after

Gallery

Don’t Wait for the New Year. It’s Never Too Early for a New You.

Yeah…Yeah…Yeah. You know the drill:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

…for working up a sweat, that is!

Wait, is that not how the song goes? Oh, well. Sorry to burst your bubble, but with the imminent threat of “holiday pounds” (dun! dun! dun!) looming on the horizon, now is an ideal time to kick your fitness goals into high gear. Why hold out until New Years to start acting on that — dare I say, predictable — resolution?

The following 28-day Interval Training circuit, courtesy of Girls Gone Sporty and CROSSROPE, will support you all the way through this festive, yet often diet-derailing season.

With a combination of high intensity tabata, cardio and strength conditioning exercises, you can count on this 4-week program to whip you into tip-top shape — just in time for debuting that brand new little black dress ¬†at holiday parties or tongue-tying those hypercritical relatives into stunned silence.

These daily workouts can be done absolutely anywhere, anytime. ¬†And, aside from your own body weight, the only equipment you’ll need is a jump rope. ¬†(Any jump rope will suffice; however, if you wanna get uber legit, the masterminds behind this program suggest using CROSSROPE’s¬†Double Under Domination Set. Check out my social media accounts to score a 5% discount code on¬†CROSSROPE merchandise.)

So, without further ado…Tone your way through Thanksgiving and Christmas, then ring in the New Year with a fabulous physique and oodles of confidence to continue this healthy streak into 2015!

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***Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these image slides or the 28-Day Interval Training circuit. All credit for this post goes to Laura Williams, founder of Girls Gone Sporty, in association with CROSSROPE.***

(Oh, and one more thing: Download the entire program here.)

For the First Time in Forever: Frozen-Inspired Holiday Decorating

I grew up in Orlando, which means that an obsession with all things Disney has practically been written into my genetic code. As such, the holidays never fail to bring out the “Disnerd” in me.

During this most glorious of seasons, my family can be found celebrating Christmas “around the world” at EPCOT, decorating our oh-so-traditional Mickey Mouse-themed tree, and — most recently — watching Frozen¬†while sipping hot cocoa.

(Side Note: I make the best¬†hot cocoa EVER.¬†Here’s my secret formula: 1 c. rice milk and 2 tbsp. Nutella, melted over medium-heat for 5 minutes. And don’t skimp on that Nutella; it’s the clincher here. Besides, a¬†little holiday indulgence never hurt anyone, right?!)

Wait. What were we talking about? My affinity for Christmas beverages took me off on a tangent.

Oh, right. Disney. My other affinity.

So, the¬†Frozen¬†fanaticism has hit me hard. Guilty as charged. My twin sister and I even refer to ourselves as Anna and Elsa. (But, as the oldest by 1 whole minute…I’m obviously Elsa.) Wanna see our Arendelle-couture Halloween costumes? Sure you do!

Anna Halloween Costume

Elsa Halloween Costume

Nope. The cold never bothered us anyway.  But enough with all these tangents. There is a point to this post, I promise.

Now that Halloween is over and the holidays have officially begun (Hey…Starbucks says so. Those red cups are back, people!), ’tis the season to start crafting. ¬†And, in typical “Disnerd” fashion, no DIY project in my house would be complete without a nod to the Happiest Place on Earth.

So, $20 and 2 hours wandering around Hobby Hobby later, I set to work recreating some Elsa ice-magic. ¬†The finished product — a¬†Frozen-inspired Christmas wreath.

So, while this isn’t related to health and fitness, it turned out so cute that I just had to share!

All it took was faith, trust, pixie dust, and the following tutorial:

  • ¬†What You’ll Need:
  1. 16-inch metal wreath form
  2. 3-foot rope of silver garland
  3. 3-foot rope of icicle beads
  4. 6 lavender snowflake ornaments
  5. 1 pkg. assorted-size blue ball ornaments
  6. 4 teardrop pearl branches
  7. hot glue gun & glue sticks
  8. wire cutters or scissors
  9. wreath door hanger
  • Time to Make It:
  1. Glue one end of the garland rope to the top center of the wreath form and wrap the garland tightly around the wreath until the other end reaches the point where you started, then glue it down.
  2. Glue one end of the icicle bead rope to the top center of the wreath form and loosely drape the beads around the wreath until the other end reaches the point where you started, then glue it down.
  3. If you have any extra garland left over, cut several 3-inch strands and glue them, at one end, around the wreath, so they stick out  in a random yet artful arrangement.
  4. Remove the loop hangers from the snowflake ornaments, then glue them onto the wreath in whatever pattern you choose. (I opted for symmetry here, but feel free to get creative!)
  5. Remove the loop hangers from the ball ornaments, then glue them onto the wreath, between the snowflakes in whatever pattern you choose. (I placed them in clusters of varying numbers/sizes.)
  6. Cut the teardrop pearl strands off the main branch and glue them, at one end, around the wreath, so they stick out in a random yet artful arrangement. (I paired each pearl strand with a garland strand.)
  7. Allow the hot glue to dry completely, approximately 10 minutes, then hang this fabulously Frozen-ified creation outside your door for the neighbors to ogle at with envy!

And, just in case you were wondering, the finished product should look something like this…

Frozen inspired Christmas wreath

Hey, Y’all! It’s Time for Fall!

happy fallimage courtesy of onlysmallthings.com

On principle, I religiously avoid using the expression “Y’all” (because, make no mistake: Florida may, geographically, be considered the South, but Floridians are NOT Southern!).

However, today, I’m temporarily suspending my “Y’all” boycott for 3 reasons:

  1. Fall has officially fallen.
  2. “Y’all” rhymes with “fall.”
  3. I just really love fall.

In fact, I’ll probably be wishing people an exuberant “Happy fall, Y’all!” all day ’cause the calendar says we’ve finally arrived! Summer sweat is a thing of the past. Crisp air, crunchy leaves, cinnamon-scented candles, and pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING have taken its place.

And, in the spirit of welcoming this stupendous season, I’ve compiled a countdown of my Top 10 favorite autumn-isms. (Although, I could seriously go on for 10 pages!).

Got any of your own favorites, worth adding to the list…Y’all?!


10. UGG boots, infinity scarves, leggings, and over-sized sweaters become every girl’s signature wardrobe.

9. It’s acceptable to spend every spare minute crafting and baking (just keep it pumpkin though, capiche?).

8. Food Network is unanimously considered the TV channel of choice from right about now until January 1.

7. Yankee Candle Company breaks out with all their cinnamon spice, apple cider, and snickerdoodle scents.

6. The foliage changes from boring ‘ol green to vibrant red, fiery orange, buttery yellow, and rustic brown.

5. It won’t be long before the holidays are upon us (in fact, I call mid-October the start of Holiday Season).

4. There’s an invigorating chill outside that clears the senses, puts a pep in the step, and refreshes the soul.

3. Starbucks serves up seasonal favorites (PSL, anyone? Yep, went there!) and invites us to #SpreadTheCheer.

2. ¬†Black Friday becomes a festivity in itself, and the stores play “All I Want For Christmas Is You” on loop.

1. Everyone – and I do mean EVERYONE – hops on the pumpkin bandwagon, from desserts to coffee creamers.

(And, to that point: I may or may not be eating pumpkin oatmeal as we speak…)

pumpkin oatmeal

Jealous, much?