Monday, April 29, 2013

Cold Oatmeal

Cold Oatmeal

I have the tendency of finding a new recipe that I love, eating it nonstop and then getting sick of it. After an entire winter of eating Apple Pie Breakfast, I was sick of steel cut oats! Then last week my friend at work, Karen, brought me in some of her Cold Oatmeal. This is an added bonus to starting a blog. People are always letting me try their delicious food they make, and sending me good recipes. It is awesome! I loved the consistency and taste of the cold oatmeal. Needless to say, I am back on the steel cut oatmeal wagon, and happy to be there because they are so filling!

Cold Oatmeal

1/2 cup of steel cut oats
1/2 cup of any kind of milk (I used almond milk)
1 tablespoon of plain greek yogurt (I used almond yogurt)
Sprinkling of cinnamon
Fruit (I used blueberries)

Mix all ingredients together in a small container. Let it sit in the fridge overnight. When you are ready to eat add whatever fruit topping you like.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Goal Setting & CrossFit

Each Step Takes You Closer to Your Goal

As a teacher I talk to my middle school students often about the importance of setting goals, planning how to reach goals, putting in the work necessary to reach goals, and celebrating success once a goal is accomplished. As a teacher I am also expected to set quarterly S.M.A.R.T. goals. This stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Every marking period I sit down and look at student data and set challenging goals. I then plan what I need to do to make sure my struggling readers achieve these goals, and everyday I do whatever I can to help my students bridge the gap from where they are to where I want them to be.  Of course, celebrating their success is the easy part (they love my candy)!

When talking to friends I often have said things like, I want to run faster, I want to run a marathon, I want to complete an Ironman, I want to be a better biker, etc. However, I never used the same strategy I preach daily. One of my favorite teachers used to say the difference between a wish and a goal is a plan and a deadline. All of these things were wishes because I never had a specific plan to help me achieve these goals. I ran, biked, and swam a lot and sometimes even loosely followed a plan I printed offline. However, I never picked one specific goal and sat down and figured out what I was going to do to achieve that goal. An example of this is, like many runners, I have always had the lofty goal of running a marathon. This summer I signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon while in the middle of training for my first Olympic distance triathlon. I found a training plan online, printed it out, and taped it to my mirror. It was probably a good plan, and if I followed it as written I might have successfully completed my first marathon. However, I couldn't fit in all the running the plan required while also training for the Olympic distance triathlon. So, I decided that I would just make sure every Sunday I completed the long run that progressively built each week (after completing a tough brick workout on Saturday). You probably can guess where this left me- miserable on the couch the entire month of November. Not only could I not complete the marathon, I was struggling to just walk around my house. I went to the doctor who said I had plantar fascists. He gave me painful cortisone shots and made me expensive orthotics. (Looking back I would have rethought both of these decisions) I was eager to get a quick fix and start running again. I started researching early spring marathons.

December 1st hit and I started running again. I was a little smarter this time and made sure to follow the 10-Percent Rule. However, I was still frustrated because I was experiencing a lot of pain. By the end of January I knew a marathon was out of the question. My doctor encouraged me to continue exercising, but I knew I needed to scale back on the running miles. I treated myself to a bike trainer and a new bathing suit because I figured my winter would be filled with biking and running. I am an outdoors person, so I quickly grew bored of the laps in the pool and hours on the bike trainer. Instead of looking forward to working out, I was dreading it. About the same time the MHWTC offered a free trial class at our  local CrossFit gym, I signed up. I had heard about it a lot before, but was never was interested in weight lifting (which I thought was the only focus). How could weight lifting possibly make you faster, I thought. Well it did.....and I was hooked.

This post is about goal setting, so I will stick to that and save my newly found love for CrossFit for another post. The high intensity workouts I was completing, and a focus in CrossFit of setting individual goals made me finally sit down and do what I encourage my students to do everyday....

Set a goal: Set a new PR (personal record) of 23 minutes flat in a 5K
Plan how you will meet the goal: CrossFit classes, one day of speed work, and one 3.5 mile run per week
Work hard: Every day but rest days
Celebrate Success: New Sneakers, of course!

This post is getting long, so I will skip to the chase. I achieved my goal at the MikesMiles for JDRF run. I crossed the finish line at 22.51. I celebrated with a glass of wine since we were at the beautiful Cedarville Winery. Being that the run was a good portion sand and trail, I also set my new goal of 22 minutes flat! The new sneakers are coming soon!

All award winners who received a gift certificate to our local running store!

22 minutes flat!

I see this every morning. Balance is a goal that I am constantly struggling to attain, and don't we all have the goal of feeling great in our bathing suit this summer!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

End the Stigma Workshop

20 Seconds of Insane Courage

On Monday the MHWTC hosted an End the Stigma Workshop. It was an important night of education and inspiration with a goal of raising awareness and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness.  Club members shared profoundly touching and deeply inspiring personal stories, a panel of experts in the mental health field provided information and answered our questions on mental health issues, and local resources were provided.
My friend Alicia was one of our members who worked very hard to make this night such a success. She is also one of my blogging inspirations. You have to check out her blog- she is a pro! 

I was asked if I would be willing to share my story when we were discussing the topic of suicide. At first I thought no way- I haven't even talked to my closest family members and friends about some of my thoughts and feelings surrounding my dad's death. But then I had a familiar feeling creep up. It was the feeling I had the days and months after my dad's death when I thought about how awful I felt that I did not speak up when I knew he was in a terrible place. Regret is a slippery slope. Most people are quick to say that you should have no regrets in your life. I agree to an extent. Do I know that it was not my fault that my dad committed suicide, and do I know I could not have stopped it? Now- yes I do. However, knowing what I now know, would I have done things differently? Yes. I also want others in a similar situation to know what I would do differently. 

When preparing for the speech I started with my original My Biggest Fan post but since this forum was a perfect opportunity to reach out to others who may be dealing with some of the same issues I added a little bit. Here is an excerpt:

The last time I saw my dad I knew in my heart there was something seriously wrong. When I looked at him, looking at me, there was emptiness in his eyes where there usually was unconditional love. I could see a heavy blanket of despair wrapped around him. I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. That is something I regret. I was uncomfortable talking to my dad about depression, anxiety, and his thoughts of suicide. My advice to people in a similar situation is, speak up! Speak up about your feelings, even if it is just to say you are scared. Speak up to medical professionals by asking questions. Then ask more questions. Continue asking questions until you get a clear answer. There are so many people who devote their lives to helping others cope with mental illness. Did you know that the National Suicide Prevention hotline is not just for people in crisis? If you are concerned about a loved one they encourage you to call so that you can find out what resources are available in your area. Your call is routed to the Lifeline center closest to your area. I believe silence helps perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. People do not want to talk about these topics because they are uncomfortable, but we need to. We need to so that we can learn, discover, heal, cope, and survive.

I knew that sharing my story was going to be extremely emotional. However, I was not prepared to be in tears before the speech because of the courageous stories the three women before me shared. I reminded myself of the quote a good friend shared with me earlier in the week. 
"Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you something great will come of it."

After a hug and kiss from my mom, I walked up to the podium in tears already. Honestly, after that it was a total blur. I was able to get through my speech, and look up at so many encouraging faces a couple times. Afterwards, so many people approached me and thanked me for being so brave, and they shared their personal stories with me. I never considered myself brave and felt incredibly honored that others felt comfortable and safe sharing their stories with me. I could not hang around for long because it was such an emotional couple hours. I needed to take a deep breath and have a couple drinks (we are all human right)?! More about "all natural Stoli Doli's" later :)

In summary, it was one of the most important nights of my life. Thank-you to my mom, Milena, Jen, Caroline, and Talia for being there to support me. 

Alicia and Leanne worked so hard to make this night possible!

Two of our very knowledgeable panel members   


We did it!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Favorite Vegetarians

May 1st I am going to be a Jersey girl again! The past two years I have lived in Philadelphia. Moving to Philadelphia totally pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was definitely trying to "run away" when I moved, but overall, I think it was a great decision. It has been a really amazing experience for me for a lot of reasons. One of the best reasons is that I have met a lot of really awesome new friends. Siobhan (my roommate) and Jim are two of those people that I am lucky to call friends now! They are both teachers, vegetarians, bikers and really FAST runners! (they won't admit that though because they are also very humble) When I moved into the city a healthy dinner for me was a Lean Cuisine and a sugar free pudding for dessert. Siobhan and Jim were always cooking such great recipes. I watched them out of the corner of my eye quite a few nights while I waited for my microwavable meal to finish. A couple times I remember thinking- I could make that! They always let me try their dinners, and I always loved them! Watching them inspired me to start cooking more and trying new recipes. They also introduced me to trail running. Last spring they invited me to sign up for a nighttime 7 mile trail run. I was really uneasy, but signed up anyway. It was really hilly and really hard but I REALLY loved it! When you are running on a trail it is a totally different experience from the road or treadmill. Even though I was breathing very hard, turning my ankles constantly, and my calves were throbbing, I felt more at ease and connected. I was surrounded by trees and it was really quiet. The entire 7 miles I was busy thinking about how lucky I am, how beautiful the scenery was, and how thankful I am for the people in my life. I was on a total running high I know, but I was addicted. This fall we did the same course, and I did much better! I also enjoyed it just as much.

Last week Siobhan and Jim gave me a vegetarian cooking lesson. Here is what we made:

Tempeh-Mushroom Stir-Fry and Soba Noodles

Tempeh is an unprocessed, whole grain product made from fermented soybeans, unlike tofu and other soybean products, which are usually processed.

Serves 2 to 3

16 ounces soba noodles, cooked
1 package tempeh, sliced into thin strips
3 tablespoons low-sodium tamari
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon of molasses
8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces of white mushrooms
8 ounces of trumpet mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1 cupt cilantro, for garnish

Cook the soba noodles per the directions on the package, drain, and set aside. Thoroughly brown the tempeh strips on medium heat in a sprayed skillet or wok with 1 tablespoon of tamari. Set aside. Mix the remaining tamari, lemon juice, flour, and molasses together in a bowl until the flour is dissolved. Set aside. Heat a large, sprayed skillet or wok. Add the remaining ingredients except for the cilantro in the order listed, stirring for 1 minute after each addition. Remove from heat and add tempeh strips and sauce. Serve stir-fry warm over soba noodles and top with tempeh strips. Garnish with cilantro.

So yummy!

Jim & Siobhan

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Friends are Family

Everyone would probably agree that they have a group of supportive close friends. In the days, months, and years (still hard to type!) since my dad's passing I realized that my group of friends is truly my extended family. I do not know what I would do without them. My friends would tell you that I am not much of a talker. I think that is why blogging is so healing for me. However, they were always there for me. After my dad's death they never asked me what I needed or how I was feeling; they crawled in bed with me, brushed my hair, sent messages on tough days, and most importantly were always by my side without me having to ask them. I want them to know how much I love and appreciate them.

 A benefit held for my dad 
My surprise birthday party

You should also know they are an amazing group of women who inspire me daily. I want to brag about one of them in this post: Katie. One of my best friends Katie has a full time corporate job in New York City. However, one of her true passions is baking. I have clear memories in high school of all her crafting and baking adventures. On black friday, when our group of friends wanted to go shopping for jeans and sweaters, Katie would drag us to AC Moore first to get some baking supplies. Katie has used that passion and crazy talent to start her own business: Goldisweets. You have to check out her website and "like" Goldisweets on Facebook. She made Spiderman cookies for my little brother's birthday and baby shower favors for me, and I will testify that not only do they look amazing they are really delicious. Katie has started the Paleo diet (only a best friend can send you a picture of a chicken enchilada at 7am). I'm thinking her next adventure is gluten free Goldisweets. I would love to be her assistant on this one! Here are just some of her creations:

Check her out for your next celebration! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Barbecue Pulled Chicken

Clean Barbecue Pulled Chicken

Pulled chicken is a weekly go to meal for me, but every once in awhile you need to spice it up. This recipe was really good.  I ate it over a spinach salad for a couple meals, but it would be great as a sandwich as well. Try it out and comment on what you think. I am not a barbecue expert, so I would love to hear how you modify the ingredients to get a specific flavor. 


1 8-ounce can reduced-sodium tomato sauce

  • 1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, drained
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sweet or smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced


  1. Stir tomato sauce, chiles, vinegar, honey, paprika, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, ground chipotle and salt in a 6-quart slow cooker until smooth. Add chicken, onion and garlic; stir to combine.
  2. Put the lid on and cook on low until the chicken can be pulled apart, about 5 hours.
  3. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred with a fork. Return the chicken to the sauce, stir well and serve.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Quinoa Fruit Salad

Quinoa the Powerfood

I eat quinoa almost everyday, and here are eight reasons you should too:

1. High quality protein with the nine essential amino acids, the protein balance is similar to milk. At 16.2 to 20 percent protein, it has is more protein than rice (7.5 percent), millet (9.9 percent) or wheat (14 percent).
2. Great source of riboflavin. Riboflavin has been shown to help reduce the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers by improving the energy metabolism within the brain and muscle cells.
3. Inca warriors had more stamina and quicker recovery time by eating these quinoa seeds, making it a truly ancient powerfood.
4. Antiseptic. The saponins from quinoa are used to promote healing of skin injuries in South America.
5. Not fattening! Only 172 calories per 1/4 cup dry (24 of the calories from protein and only 12 from sugars, the rest are complex carbohydrates, fiber and healthy fats).
6. Gluten-free. Since it is not not related to wheat, or even a grain, it is gluten-free.
7. Alkaline-forming. Although it is not strongly alkaline-forming, it is comparable to wild rice, amaranth, and sprouted grains.
8. Smart Carb: It is a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index, so it won’t spike your blood sugar.

Here is another recipe I get asked for a lot. It is delicious and great to bring to summer parties. Hint: Wegmans and other grocery stores sell frozen mango that will save you LOTS of time!

Quinoa Fruit Salad

Quinoa with blueberries, strawberries, mango, and a refreshing honey lime dressing. 


1 cup quinoa (I used Red Quinoa)
2 cups water
For the Honey Lime Dressing:
Juice of 1 large lime
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
For the fruit:
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
1 1/2 cups chopped mango
Extra chopped mint, for garnish-optional


1. Using a strainer, rinse the quinoa under cold water. Add quinoa, water, and salt to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Let quinoa cool to room temperature.
2. To make the Honey Lime Dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk the lime juice, honey, and mint together until combined.
3. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, blueberries, strawberries, and mango. Pour honey lime dressing over the fruit salad and mix until well combined. Garnish with additional mint, if desired. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Note-Use your favorite fruit in this salad. Blackberries, peaches, kiwi, raspberries, pineapple, grapes, etc. are great options!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Clean Easter Candy

Clean Easter Candy

Here are some recipes for easter candy without the guilt or headache. Enjoy!

Copycat Peanut Butter Eggs
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (or any nut butter)
  • dash salt 
  • 1/4 cup Sugar Free Powdered Sugar
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. virgin coconut oil 
  • Liquid stevia to taste, or 2 tbsp. agave or pure maple syrup
  • 2 more tbsp. of sf powdered sugar, if needed
Mix the first three ingredients together in a bowl until it becomes a crumbly dough. Add the extra 2 tbsp. sugar/sf sugar if it’s too gooey, and add a little more pb if it’s too dry. (Different brands of peanut butter will yield different results.) Taste the dough and add a little more salt if desired. Form dough into flat little ovals (or egg shapes, but real Reeses eggs are flat). Freeze the dough for an hour or so, until it’s hard.
Meanwhile, mix the cocoa and coconut oil (melt the oil if it’s not already melted) in a shallow dish. Add the agave/maple or stevia drops. If you use the stevia option, also add a scant 2 tbsp. water or extra oil. Mix until it looks like chocolate sauce, and then take one “egg” out of the freezer at a time (so the rest stay cold) and cover in chocolate. Immediately return covered egg to the freezer and let harden. Best to store these in the freezer as well. You can thaw a little before eating, or eat when frozen–either way, they’re awesome!

Frozen Banana Bites

2 Large bananas cut into chunks
1/3 cup of dark chocolate broken into pieces
1/4 cup of natural almond butter

Place the chocolate and almond butter in a glass bowl and microwave for one minute.
Stir rapidly till it is melted together and smooth.
Dip the bananas in the chocolate and place on parchment paper over a cookie tray.
Place in freezer for fifteen minutes or overnight.