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Empanadas-The Flavors of Family

On New Year’s Eve I taught Grace how to make the empanadas my Puerto Rican abuela used to make for me.  This is a special treat that takes a lot of time, love, and patience.  Grace likes to help me in the kitchen, so I thought the time had arrived for her to learn one of my favorite family recipes.

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Dishes that remind us of our loved ones are like a thread that ties the generations together.  The aromas and flavors of family dishes evoke childhood memories filled with the same love and “sabor” that they were made with.  I have many memories of my abuela in the kitchen preparing a buffet of Spanish food:arroz con gondules (Puerto Rican rice with pigeon peas), sorullos (deep fried corn sticks), platanos maduros (sweet plantains). She made everything with love and would sit back and smile when she would see everyone savoring her food.

I remember her hands always smelled of Spanish herbs and garlic when she hugged me or rubbed my head, and there was such a comfort in that for me.  I hope to pass down that love and those kinds of memories to Grace.  I hope she remembers being with me in these simple ways, more then she remembers the toys she got for Christmas.

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After teaching Grace how to seal the beef turnovers with a fork, we very delicately placed them in the pan, so as not to break them.  My husband loves empanadas, and waits all year for his favorite treat.  As soon as we were done frying them, he savored 3 in less then 10 minutes!

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I’m keeping the recipe close to heart.  But here is a good one you can try: Food Network Empanadas  And yes, there are about 20 ingredients and the cooking time is lengthy, but so worth it.  And no, these are not whole 30 or paleo approved in any way.  They are simply one of the best indulgences to enjoy with family.

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What I’m Loving Now

The Power Bowl from Quench Juicery in Warren 

Feel like spooning your smoothie?  Get an acai bowl!  You can mix in all kinds of healthy ingredients, but the acai is what gives the bowl it’s signature name.  What the heck is acai?  It’s a South American berry that’s loaded with nutrients like fiber, antioxidants, and unsaturated fats.

Recently, I tried The Power Bowl from Quench Juicery in Warren, RI-basically I had dessert for breakfast!  Usually I opt for one of their protein smoothies, but I was in the mood to mix things up.  The bowl was bursting with flavor: bananas, coconut, nutty granola, almond butter, and honey.  In the future, I would go lighter on the coconut and honey, to reduce the amount of sugar.  I like the variety that acai bowls bring to the table and the berry itself tastes like a mix between a grape and a blueberry.  Want a DIY version?  They sell frozen acai berries at Whole Foods.  And you can find pureed berry packets at Trader Joes.

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Pacemaker

As we all know music makes the workout!  Research confirms that upbeat music can influence your workout performance, by having you literally pick up the pace!  Pacemaker is an app that helps you mix your favorite workout songs into a beat matched playlist.  Not only can you mix your own playlists, but you can follow other users with similar music tastes and save their playlists as well.  It’s opened up a whole new world of music for me, and exposed me to a wider variety of genres and songs.  The Pacemaker app only works with a Spotify Premium account.  Want to give your playlists a DJ upgrade?  Download The Pacemaker App HERE

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Go2Socks

Compression socks and leggings are a new part of my workout routine.  They help ease aching legs by promoting circulation, and reducing lactic acid buildup that can accumulate after an intense workout. But most of all, I just like the way they hug the fatigue out of my calves and feet!

Want a cute holiday themed pair to help your post workout recovery?  Click this Amazon link and receive 25% off until Thanksgiving when you enter the promo code go2joy4u.

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Move of the Month

How’s your balance and joint stability? Need more of it? Add in unilateral (one sided) exercises! This week I’m working on firing up the muscles around my knees and ankles with single leg squats.

This exercise is one of the best ways to help even out your lower body muscle imbalances and turn on your Glutes! So often, when we exercise the focus is spent on the front body muscles, especially our quads. Choosing one sided exercises and balancing our front bodies with glute and hamstring activation can help improve joint instability; saving our knees, hips and lower backs.

This week try doing 3 sets of 12 reps of single leg squats on each leg. Focus on engaging your glute and evenly placing your weight evenly throughout your foot bed. Maintaining an even diagonal spine will help with core recruitment as well.

Instant Pot

Officially sold on the magic of the Instant Pot! I broke in this new kitchen tool with a Chicken Corn Chowder recipe.  for dinner that tasted like it had been simmering for hours. The entire dish from prep to plate took less then one hour. Total game changer in the kitchen!

The Instant Pot is like an electric pressure cooker and certain models offer a slow cooker and rice cooker function, cutting down on kitchen clutter and clean up. It’s like turbo speed cooking, without sacrificing any taste. It even sautés and sears meat! 😱

Click HERE for the delicious recipe I pinned from Simple Happy Foodie. I substituted light cream and you could omit the bacon (but why would you do that?)

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Harvesting the Flavors of Fall

FD4D7C6B-9BCA-4634-9E5F-A3D6D5705C66.jpegYou know what’s exciting?  When you start to build confidence in the kitchen.  It feels so good to practice new recipes in the kitchen and then actually start to create your own concoctions based on what you learn from others.

Thanks to experimenting with different recipes, and learning from all sorts of resources (Pinterest, cooking magazines, books and TV shows) I’m starting to go off book and make my own recipes.  After all that’s how my grandma and mother always cooked.  Whenever I would ask my abuela for recipes, she couldn’t exactly tell me how she created her magical arroz con pollo dishes.  She just put it together based on years of trying things out in the kitchen and following her instincts.

These days I’m always looking for ways to make healthy whole food dishes that can also be used for lunch or snacks the next day.

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Sheet pan cooking may be one of my favorite ways to whip up delicious meals in a pinch, and also blend tons of flavors together.  Throw in your favorite seasonal veggies, grains or potatoes and a protein, and oui la you’ve created endless dinner possibilities.  My favorite colorful veggies and fruits to sheet bake are butternut squash and apples.  Yes! I have a sweet tooth, and yes certain veggies definitely help satiate that need for sweet.  Usually, I choose boneless skinless chicken thighs as the leading role in my sheet pan dinners.  And of course sliced onions, garlic, and olive oil make everything just pop!

As for lunch, if I have a slow afternoon on the weekends, I like to take my time and jazz up a salad.  At this point in the season, I’m sure you’re over salads. But if you can find a way to dress them up in all the flavors of autumn then you’re more apt to eat your greens.  My Autumn Rainbow Quinoa Salad is the perfect answer to warming up your veggies with all the flavors of fall!

Rainbow Quinoa Autumn Salad

  • 1 1/2 Cups Baby Spinach
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Butternut Squash
  • 1 cup of Nature’s Promise Rainbow Quinoa Cooked
  • Sprinkling of Unsalted Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Bragg Organic Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 of Your Favorite Red Apple Diced
  • Sprinkling of Dried Cranberries
  • Option add grilled chicken for added protein

Cook quinoa according to packaging directions.  I recommend always rinsing your quinoa beforehand.  I also like toasting it in olive oil to bring out it’s nutty flavor.  If you want even more flavor boil your quinoa in vegetable or chicken broth.

Sprinkle butternut squash with a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Combine all ingredients and savor!

Fall Flavor Inspiration!

2D86FED0-23A4-489B-B7C1-934B4BF455B6It’s so easy to get stuck in a cooking rut ( which I do towards the end of a season).  That’s when spending a little extra time on meal prep can help add variety and inspiration to your dishes.  Mixing it up is where it’s at when it comes to sticking to a healthy lifestyle.  I especially like adding seasonal veggies and fruits to dishes.

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Our bodies tend to crave what’s in season, which is why it makes sense to reach for the flavors of fall right now to help satisfy your appetite.  Here’s a quick reference list of veggies and fruits to add to your shopping cart.

  • Apples
  • Squash: Butternut and Acorn
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potato
  • Kale
  • Eggplant
  • Pomegranate
  • Figs

This upcoming weekend when you have some downtime, take a half-hour and collect some ideas from Pinterest, Cooking Magazines, and even look through that stack of Cook Books you probably have high up in a cabinet somewhere.  Re-inspire your meals for the next few weeks, and find yourself getting excited about cooking savory, wholesome dishes this month!

I’ve been playing around in the kitchen and have been creating some of my own autumn recipes, that I’ll be sharing with you throughout October!  My Apple Protein Muffins will make a great addition to your grab and go mornings.

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After apple picking at Sweetberry Farm this past month, my family collected a bushel of delicious apples to start incorporating into some delicious fall recipes.  These low sugar muffins are also a wonderful snack and addition to school lunch boxes.

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 Cup Oat Flour
  • 1/2 Cup White Flour
  • 1/2 Tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1 Large Honey Crisp Apple Diced
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Siggi’S Peach Vanilla Yogurt or Greek Yogurt
  • 1/3 Cup Raw Honey
  • 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut Oil
  • 1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

Instructions 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Spray 12-cup muffin pan with Coconut Oil
  3. Mix all wet ingredients
  4. Whisk together all dry ingredients
  5. Add all ingredients together, folding in diced apples
  6. Fill muffin cups almost to top
  7. Bake 15 minutes

Enjoy!  And look forward to my next fall favorite-Rainbow Quinoa Autumn Salad!

 

Creating Space

Let’s face it we’re living in a digital world, where everything revolves around our devices, and there’s no end in sight.  Our phones and email have the potential to own us if we let them.  And the over stimulation we’re accustomed to is starting to feel like the norm.  It’s affecting our brains, our ability to communicate and truly connect, and it’s wreaking havoc on our nervous systems.

Ironically, as I was scrolling through Facebook I came upon a post by Thic Nhat Hanh, a Tibetan monk, that struck me, “Every home, no matter how small, can have a breathing room. We may have a room for everything else— a bathroom, a bedroom, a living room— but most of us don’t have a room for our own breathing and peace of mind…you can make a breathing space or a breathing corner. Your breathing room is a sacred place.”

This idea of creating space from the noisy digital world and all of the daily stressors we face, inspired me.  And so I embarked on the task of digging through the mess that was my basement (5 years of small biz ownership, and no time to tackle the clutter).  It was invigorating, tiring, but mostly exciting!   5 garbage bags later, 8 items of furniture and old toys sent to the garage for donation, and lots of dusting, scrubbing and vacuuming later-the space was clear.

Gracie and I made a trip to the paint store and picked out a color called Wishes (inspired by Young House Love on Pinterest), an off-white creamy and perfectly peaceful color for what we have now dubbed the Zen Den.

It’s been about two weeks since we’ve created our sacred space, and it’s been lovely.  The room is used for yoga, Pilates, journaling, and reading.  It’s also a place where Grace or I go when we need some quiet time or feel overwhelmed.  Just knowing we have this space in the house is very comforting.

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Want to create your own space at home where you can unplug from an overcharged day? Here are some tips I picked up along the way when creating The Zen Den:

  1. Color-Choose calming colors that will help you relax.  Skim through some home decor magazines and save clippings of room colors that move you.  Stick with lighter colors to help encourage open space.
  2. Words of Inspiration-Spend some time strolling around a thrift shop and look through their framed prints.  Or head to Etsy and search wall decor for prints and quotes that uplift you.
  3. Mats and Pillows-Make a corner filled with soft pillows or an comfy chair that you can settle into when you write, read or meditate.
  4. Set the Mood-Incorporate music, candles, and essential oils.  I love filling my diffuser with lavender or rose oil to help inspire a calm atmosphere for melting the day away, practicing yoga, and just chilling out.