Jumping Into Protein Bars

If there is one staple of healthy food bloggers, besides smoothie bowls, I would have to say it is protein bars. My Instagram feed is full of so many I’m not surprised when one shows up that I have never heard of. Last year I was super into Luna bars, but I also knew that they weren’t the healthiest of the bars and also expensive, so I let that obsession fall off.

One of my biggest weaknesses is snacks, like all the time, so I have been trying to figure out a healthier way to satisfy my constant snack cravings. Last week I made these pickled cucumbers , but they only lasted two days and they were almost too good. If my snack is a large bowl full of something it probably isn’t the best. Now these were definitely healthier than my go-to Doritos or chocolate, I knew I couldn’t sustain the cucumber love.

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I ate much more than this at once

So I decided to make my first trip to my local Whole Foods to peruse the protein bar aisle. I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for, I was just winging it. I landed on trying three different kinds to see what I was in to — knowing that these are not my Chewy granola bars, I had a feeling this would take some trial and error. Here are my thoughts on all three:

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3. RX Bar-Coffee and Chocolate

This review warrants a disclaimer: I was hesitant to try this one because I haven’t been the biggest fan of date bars in the past, and this reaffirmed that feeling. I keep telling myself that I just need to get used to it, but I don’t know if that is possible. I could see where this would be appealing to people, but the texture and flavor was not working for me. The coffee and chocolate flavor seemed off as well, too bitter.

2. Square Bar-Chocolate Covered Coconut 

I decided to give this bar a go after seeing it all over In it 4 the Long Run’s Instagram. I was mostly not disappointed —its pretty hard to mess anything up that is completely covered in chocolate. The texture was a little off from anything I had had before, but it was doable. It reminded me a lot of an Almond Joy, which is never a bad thing. I will definitely be trying more of their flavors.

1. Pro Bar Meal-Peanut Butter

This was by far my favorite of three that I tried. It had that classic protein bar chewiness, but there were enough of the other ingredients, like sesame seeds, that I wasn’t focusing on that part of the texture. There was also little pieces of dried fruit, which were much welcomed sweetness. This one even had dates in it, but because it was not the main ingredient I was able to deal with it and like it. The peanut butter flavor also wasn’t too powerful compared to everything else going on in the bar, which was a lot. It may claim to be a meal bar, but I would definitely need to supplement it with some fruit or yogurt. This may be my new go-to snack. Does anyone have any flavor recommendations??

2 for 3 isn’t too bad for my first round!

Weighing the (Literal) Costs of Health

There isn’t anything in life that doesn’t involve money in some capacity — clothes, a place to leave, entertainment, the list goes on. And from what I have found on my health and fitness journey is in order to make actual changes and lead a healthier life it takes both a mental investment as well as a monetary investment.

The mental investment either it happens or it doesn’t, a decision needs to be made whether the time and effort is going to be put in to make a change for the better. For the most part I on the right side of the decision, I choose to make healthier eating choices and work out a few times a week. Sometimes I am on the wrong side, but who isn’t? I am a sucker for a good dessert and tiredness tends to creep up on me.

Lately I have found that if I want to make the health and fitness changes that I set out to make mental investment isn’t the only thing that is going to get me there, I need some monetary investment that thus far I have not been willing to make. This isn’t to say I haven’t spent any money toward betting my life; I have when it comes to some of my grocery shopping decisions, but there are SO many more that I wish I could make.

However what I really feel like I am missing out on is a gym membership or fitness plan. I can join a gym for $15 a month — not too bad for the city — but as much as I have said I want to, I have yet to take the plunge. I have talked about spending $40 on PIIT28, a pilates intense interval training program developed by Cassey Ho of POP Pilates, but again haven’t pulled the plug. I even considered Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide, but the price for that scared me away  quickly. There are all these programs and gyms out there, options for taking my fitness to the next level , but I can’t get over the money hump without knowing if these things are going to work for me or give me the results that I want.

I’m sure I would see results if I truly devoted myself to any of these options, but will I like it or actually want to do it? I have thought that making a monetary investment will make me more likely to use the program because I would feel guilty otherwise, but is that really the reason I want to be working out, guilt?

One of these days I’m sure I will bite the bullet and shell out some cash, but given my current financial situation (#unemployedlife) and not knowing if I will see the results I want, I can’t pull the trigger. If I find something that offers me a free trial before committing I will be all over that. Until then it will be free POP Pilates videos and runs in the park.

Has anyone else struggled with having to spend money on a fitness plan? How about anyone who has found a fitness plan that works for them and is glad they spend the money on it? Let me know!

A Little Bit of Health Goes a Long Way

Last year at this time I had completed a four month healthy journey of 90% cutting out white bread, pasta and rice, and working out 3 to 4 times a week. I reached a weight goal and felt like I was on top of the world. It was the first time I committed to making a health change in my life and actually stuck with it. By no means was it easy — there were plenty of breakdowns, cravings for bowls of french fries, and cheat days filled with some sweets — but I did it.

In following year I by no means stuck to that stringent of a diet, I love good food way too much, but I have mostly eaten decently healthy and worked out when I could. I think the most surprising part of my healthy journey is the consistency of my workouts. Even when I haven’t been eating the healthiest, I haven’t gone more than two to three weeks without some type of workout. If you had told me that in January 2015 there is no way I would have believed you. While I have been relatively athletic person the better part of my life, my actual desire to workout for any reason besides a sport has been extremely low.

Since officially moving to Brooklyn in January healthy choices have by no means been a priority. I have been consumed with applying to jobs, working, saving money and trying to maintain some sanity during this very stressful time of my life. In terms of eating, I have bought some veggies, and then they have proceeded to sit in my refrigerator, I have bought salads, but then I have also bought ice cream. Stress and comfort eating has always been my downfall and that has come into full force these past few months while trying to find a job. I spend a lot of time at home alone during the day — gotta love the restaurant world — which means plenty of time to eat just to eat.

And then working in a restaurant throws in a whole other curve ball — I am constantly surrounded by wonderfully tasting and smelling food. Some of it is healthy and then some it is heavy, greasy and full of rice. Our staff meals frequently involve rice and pasta, and because I am indirectly paying for it, I am eating it. It also normally tastes wonderful, which doesn’t help my ability to resist. I by no means overeat, but those four meals that I am eating at work could definitely be replaced by something healthier.

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To receive an expensive diploma one must wear a silly hat

Last weekend I attended my college commencement, and for whatever reason it gave me a little bit of extra motivation to be a little healthier this week. I made these bomb-ass buffalo chicken lettuce wraps, ate a salad for dinner, ate more fruit and went on two runs. While it may not seem like a ton, I can definitely feel the difference in the way I feel, especially my energy. It has reminded me why I started out on this journey, what feels like ages ago. I am looking forward to the abundance of fresh veggies and fruits as we enter into the summer months, and hopefully more motivation and inspiration to play around with some recipes.

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Hottest days of year so far, and I decide its a good idea to run outside

This week I proved to myself that I still have it in my to keep this journey going, and that all it takes is one week of a couple extra good choices to make a huge difference. I am ready to keep these choices going and to continue to better my life. Here’s to a super happy and healthy summer!

Let me know what you do to keep yourself motivated when you feel like you are in a slump or need to be reinvigorated!

Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

It is no secret that I can’t get enough buffalo sauce in my life. I put it on things that I probably shouldn’t. I even had my family send me Anchorbar buffalo sauce because I can’t buy it in Brooklyn. In order to indulge in my buffalo love in a healthier way I decided to concoct some buffalo chicken lettuce wraps to keep it healthier than classic wings.

This dinner is BY FAR one of the best things I have made in months. It was the combinations of fresh veggies, juicy chicken and a little bit of spice that set my taste buds a flurry. My boyfriend and I devoured everything that I made, to my dismay because once I started eating I was hoping I would be able to enjoy in some leftovers. Good thing ground chicken was on sale and I bought two packs — it won’t be long before I am making these again!

Keep reading for this super easy recipe!

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Spring Means…

Farmers Markets!

Today I made it out to one of my many local famers markets for the first time this spring. While there isn’t a ton of stuff in season yet I was on a mission for one thing: ramps. Up until this year I had missed the boat on the wonders of ramps, but I was introduced to them at work — Go Sunny and her tasty banchan!

For those of you that are also in the dark about ramps, they are a cousin of the leak that have a garlicky/oniony tasty. So pretty much it can’t get much better. The only problem is they are only available for a few weeks, so you have to jump on them if you want to enjoy what they have to offer — and be willing to pay a pretty penny for them. I got one bunch at my farmers market and spent $5, as in $16/pound. I don’t think I have ever spent that much on produce or meat, but it was oh so worth it.

For my first attempt at cooking them I went simple. I did a simple sauté with butter, salt, pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes. To quote my boyfriend (who I could tell was skeptical of them at first): “I could eat ramps all day!” The flavor was like nothing I had ever had before, but very tasty. I will definitely be savoring what I have left, not knowing if I will be able to get any more this season.

If my first farmers market venture of the season is an indication of how the rest of the spring/summer will go, I can’t wait! Here’s to buying local and fresh produce!

Best Brooklyn Eats (So far) Part 1

I have officially spent three months living in Brooklyn (not in student housing) in my own apartment, making my way. While I still haven’t found a journalism job, I have been working a lot at the restaurant. I am fortunate enough that they offer a “family meal” before every shift, but that has mean my cooking has dropped to a very low level.

However, my love for food has not stopped me from trying new food, even if I’m not the one doing the cooking. When most people think of New York City restaurants, they think of Manhattan, but surprisingly I have spent minimal time in the concrete jungle. Living and working Brooklyn has given me the opportunity explore Brooklyn’s culinary joys.

I am going to do a round-up of some of my favorite spots so far, starting with breakfast.

Breakfast

Brooklyn Roasting Company 

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Cinnamon sugar donut featuring an iced latte

I have become quite the coffee lover — give me a latte any day — and Brooklyn Roasting Company has given me everything I can dream of in a coffee shop. It’s right on the water in DUMBO, which is also a nice perk. They also have Dough donuts, the fluffiest, biggest, tastiest donuts I have ever had.

The Bagel Pub

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BEC on an everything bagel

It wouldn’t be breakfast in NYC without a bagel spot. Finding this bagel spot was one of the best (and worst) things I did because it is less than a block from my grocery store. It makes for the perfect pit stop before Sunday shopping. These bagels are LARGE, and oh so tasty. They have the perfect combo of softness and chewiness, and they hold up great to a mound of bacon, egg and cheese. Bonus perk: they have stellar iced coffee!

Employment!

Normally a week-long hiatus might be cause for alarm, but this one was for good reason — I have found employment! Not a career in my field (still working on that one), but a part-time job to keep me busy and bring in some money while I am still looking. I trained for four days straight and then worked my first two shifts, so I have been more than busy and exhausted.

While the job may not be journalism, it is in a restaurant, so I can’t complain too much. And this isn’t your average restaurant — it is a new Korean BBQ restaurant in Brooklyn. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I accepted the job, but I have been exposed to a whole new part of the culinary world. The food has so much flavor and spice, and the different combinations blow my mind.

And the topper on the cake is while I am only a back waiter/busser, I get to cook food. Part of the Korean BBQ experience is grilling your meat right on the table, and I am one of the people that gets to help the customers do it! As you know I am all about cooking, so I guess now I can say I have some professional cooking experience … I think.

While I still don’t want to make working in a restaurant my long term career, I am happy that I get to do something that I enjoy and have a passion for while I am still looking. I never thought I would eat as much fermented cabbage —kimchi — in my life as I have in the past week.

Also props to my employer for paying a living wage and eliminating the need for tips! Working below minimum wage and having to rely on the busyness of the restaurant is no way to live.

Maybe I will be experimenting with some Korean flavors in the future…

Garlicky & Cheesy Carrots and Cauliflower Tots Review

A question I will never stop asking myself: why is meat so darn expensive? I grew up eating eat, I am accustomed to meat being a part of my meal and I like meat. We all know meat isn’t always the most healthy option, but I don’t think I would be able to cut it out of my diet completely. The cost however, does make me think twice about eating it and trying to find some alternative options.

Some days I try harder than others to make my life meatless, and when I do I generally try a new recipe. I am rather picky when it comes to veggies so I need something that isn’t too out there with foods that I am familiar with. Cue the cauliflower — super versatile, relatively flavorless and something I can stomach. I decided to go with this recipe for Garlicky & Cheesy Carrots and Cauliflower Tots. The results were less than stellar, mostly because of my own doing.

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As you can seem from my picture, I have some pretty big carrot chunks. The joys have not having a food processor. This recipe calls for one, I don’t have one, so I thought I would be able to smoosh the veggies enough to make it work. Unfortunately, the carrots weren’t soft enough after boiling them, and I ended up with this. I also wasn’t super impressed with the flavor profile, something was missing.

Next time I recipe calls for food processing I might think twice before trying it, instead of relying on the power of my hands.

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Exercise for Me

Working out has never been a time of enjoyment for me. Despite growing up playing sports my entire life, I never enjoyed the necessary workouts out of practice time. Give me a purpose to run — like running after a ball or catching up to the other team — but telling me to just go out an run was not an option. I couldn’t find the motivation or enjoyment, and envied my brother’s for being able to run for days without breaking a sweat or showing any sign of exhaustion.

The older I got the more I forced myself to put in the extra time in the off season, which eventually earned me a spot on my varsity lacrosse team for three years. Then college started and there was no longer a reason for me to workout or forced practices where I was guaranteed to get some running in. I never considered myself super fit growing up, but I also wouldn’t have considered myself out of shape either — college changed that.

During my first two years of school I made the occasional trip to the gym, but I rarely ventured far from the elliptical. I didn’t really know what I was supposed to be doing, and I didn’t take the time to educate myself. Two and a half years of meal plans later, and the ever dreaded “Freshman 15” was a reality.

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Come follow along!

I wasn’t lying when I said I was back, and I have been putting in some work in terms of my vision for this blog, creating a community and reaching a larger audience. You can expect more posts on a variety of topics (not necessarily food), better pictures and more ways to connect.

To do this I have set up a new Twitter and Instagram, where you can stay up to date on all my latest food loves and see what I have in store for the blog. Make sure you follow the blog so you don’t miss a post, and see what I am doing over on Twitter and Instagram — who knows what crazy food shenanigans I am going to get into …