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Friday, May 22, 2015

{Friday Favorites} 5/22

Good morning & a happy Friday to you! I sure am excited that the weekend is just hours away as it is a long weekend that I am more than ready for. Once I am done with work for the day, my parents are picking me up from my apartment and we are making our way across the state to the Silver Lake sand dunes for the holiday weekend. The west side of Michigan is absolutely beautiful and being up on the sand dunes makes you forget you are even in Michigan. I went a few times last summer and am excited to be able to go again. Just a few more hours!

Do you have any plans for the long weekend ahead?

I hope to get in a bike ride or two and hopefully a run while I am away, though I plan on spending lots of time poolside if the weather cooperates.

Before taking off for the holiday weekend, I wanted to share my usual favorites from the week and link up with HeatherJill, and Clare on their blogs as well!
The Boston Girl
I am trying to get back into a reading routine since I have more free time now that the semester is over and I just recently got hooked into The Boston Girl. I am absolutley loving it so far and have been reading it every free moment I have. I was hoping to read most of it while away this weekend, but I may finish it quicker than I thought! The story follows a young woman's life in the early 1900s. She is raised in Boston by her parents who are immigrants and it follows her journey through escaping her upbringing and making a life for herself. I cannot remember how exactly I stumbled upon this book, but it was available at the library so I checked it out and have been reading it ever since. I have heard that the author's other books are also really good so I want to check out those too.
Salsaritas
It has been forever since I last visited a Salsaritas and I forgot how much I loved it. It is like a Chipotle or Qdoba as it has much of the same menu. After participating in a charity walk on Saturday, I went with my family as it was on our way to other errands we had to run and we were all more than happy with filling up with Mexican food. I ordered a burrito bowl with ground beef and a bunch of toppings. They also didn't charge extra for guacamole which always makes me happy. It was tasty and filled me right up after being quite hungry when I got there.
NuNatural Cocoa Syrup
Confession time: I have been adding this syrup into my iced coffee in the morning and blending it all together and tastes so good. After a sweaty workout, I love sitting down to this iced coffee in the morning and enjoying a healthy dose of chocolate before getting the rest of my day started. I also have the mint chocolate syrup which is really good too when I want to switch up the flavor. I also love this syrup on my protein pancakes and banana "nice cream" too, so delicious!
Weights
This is really always a favorite, but more so this week since now that half marathon training is over I can get back to strength training a lot more than I was able to during training. I was happy with how much I was able to fit in with my running schedule, but I still did miss days when I could devote my whole workout to strength training. I am happy to be back, even though that does mean I spend more time working out indoors, but I make it up by running a route that leads to me the gym. Ah, it feels good to be back!


30th Anniversary Celebrations
On Monday's post I mentioned that my parents were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary and my brothers and I threw them a surprise anniversary party with their friends and family. I am still surprised with how we pulled the whole surprise off since there were a few times our story wasn't matching up with what each of us were saying. But my parents still didn't catch it and as soon as they walked into my cousin's home on Saturday evening and saw all of their friends and family there they were extremely surprised. It was a great evening celebrating their 30 years of marriage! My brothers and I got my parents a personalized wine bottle that has their names and wedding date etched onto the bottle and it turned out to be a really great gift. We ordered it from this site and were very happy with the quality of how it turned out!

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad! <3

That wraps up another round up of my favorites from the week! Time to get my day going and head off to work before heading out. I will try to check in throughout the long weekend, though internet is always an issue where we are staying so I may (or may not) be quieter than usual on Twitter and Instagram, we'll see!

What are your plans for the long weekend? Are you travelling anywhere?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Squash

It's been a while since I have pulled out my slow cooker, but I finally did and decided to make use of the spaghetti squash sitting on my counter. I was curious as to whether I could use my slow cooker to cook the spaghetti squash and it turns out it was a success! It is perfect for busy days when I am on the go and want to come home to a nutritious dinner that is already cooked for me. It couldn't be any easier to cook this spaghetti squash and it tastes just like it would if you cooked it in the oven, though I think this way is much easier.

Eat as a side dish or make it into a complete meal by reading the tips at the end of the post. An easy and delicious meatless meal that is ready for you when you get home!
 Using a sharp knife, stab 5-6 slits in the spaghetti squash
Place spaghetti squash in slow cooker, along with 2 cups of water

Cook for 4-5 hours on low
The longer you cook it, the softer the spaghetti squash noodles will be. I tend to go towards 4 hours for smaller squash and 5 hours for larger ones.
 Once it is done cooking in the slow cooker, bring out of slow cooker (be careful, it will be hot and flimsy!), scoop out the seeds, and pull strands with a fork.

I am personally a fan of eating the leftover seeds, so I save them and eat them, but if you are not, just dispose of them.
Dinner idea: Cook pasta sauce on the stove. Saute chickpeas with olive oil, lemon juice, basil, and oregano. Add on top of serving of spaghetti squash, add garlic salt, and you have a meatless meal in minutes!
What is your favorite way to enjoy spaghetti squash?


Linking up with Tina and Deborah's Meatless Monday!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Healthy Snacking Tips

This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds.

Before I get into today's post, I wanted to thank all of you so much for your kind words on yesterday's race recap! I am still riding that post-race high and am so thankful to have all of you in my life *viturally* cheering me on.

There's no good way to segment into today's post, unless running a half marathon makes me all kinds of hungry. I've gotten better about not letting the days I run a long run turn into days where I eat everything in sight since I would always pull out the excuse "I ran 10 miles today". I make sure I truly am hungry throughout the day after I run long instead of just using the excuse. Most times I am legitimately hungry, but it's not an excuse to eat junk food. I always try to keep my snacking in check since it can easily overcome me if I am not prepared. Today I have teamed up with Blue Diamonds to share my healthy snacking tips to make sure you are fueling your body right and enjoying your snack in the process. If you read my blog often, you'll know that I am big into snacking as I eat 3 main meals a day with 2-3 snacks scattered throughout the day. Many think this approach can be too much food, but I believe if you keep your snacking in check it can be part of a healthy and active lifestyle.

Check out my healthy snacking tips below to see how I snack smart and healthy!
Make it something you will enjoy
Don't pack a snack you know you will not enjoy. Even if it is "healthy" to eat, if you are going to go into your snack time dreading what you are going to eat, it's not even worth it. I always pack snacks that will get me through that mid-morning or mid-afternoon slump and snacks that I will look forward to. When I sit down to my desk at work and know that in a few hours I am going to be snacking on something delicious, it makes my day that much more enjoyable, rather than dreading what I will be pulling out of my bag.
Pre-portion and pre-pack your snacks
Whether you prepare your meals and snacks ahead of time on Sunday of just the day before, make sure to portion out your snacks to the correct serving size and pack it in your bag so you are sure to not forget it. I try to prep a lot on Sundays, but I don't get to everything and end up doing prep the night before as I pack everything I need for the day before heading to bed. The best way to pre-portion your snacks? Plastic or glass ware! You will rarely see me with a ziploc sandwich bag as I always use the plastic ware I have in my kitchen. These will help you portion out your snacks and have them on hand and ready.


Make sure to include protein
If you want your snack to be worthwhile, make sure it has protein. It is ideal for your snack to have a decent amount of protein so that it will keep you fuller for longer. If you skimp out on protein, your snack isn't going to hold you over until your next meal. I have been snacking on Blue Diamond Sea Salt and Dark Chocolate Almonds a whole bunch lately and with the right amount of protein, it is the perfect snack to keep me fueled through my workday until my next meal. Enjoy each on their own or together and you will not only look forward to your snack (hello, dark chocolate!) but it will keep you much more satisfied than reaching for a nutrition void bag of potato chips.

Don't wait until it's too late
It is best to have your snack 3-4 hours after your last meal, but try not to push it any longer than that. Even if you aren't really hungry for your snack, you do not want to wait until it's too late and your stomach wants all the food right now. If you wait too long, your body will not be satisfied with the snack you packed beforehand and will want more since it had to wait so long for fuel. Keep your body fueled, and remember that if you are participating in physical activity, your body may be ready for a snack before 3 hours, and that is okay.
Hydrate before you snack
On the flip side, if you just ate lunch an hour ago and you are already ready for more food, check to make sure you are actually hungry. Drink a glass of water before opening up your snack and see if you feel a bit fuller. Sometimes our body is actually telling us it is thirsty rather than hungry and we often confuse those signals. So sip up and make sure you are truly hungry before getting your snack out!

Take a break and snack
This one is huge for me! Avoid snacking while you are busy working on something. If you are able to step away from your work and enjoy your snack somewhere different from where your are sitting that is ideal. If not, try to take a break long enough to enjoy your snack and not feel distracted. When I eat my snack and am distracted with my work, I end up looking into the bowl my snack was and wonder where it all went. When I take a step back and eat my snack, I enjoy every bite and can feel myself getting fueled back up. When I return back to my work, I feel refreshed and more focused than trying to snack on something while distracted.
Read the nutrition label and ingredient list
Know what you are eating! Check the nutrition label to see whether or not that snack is ideal for you, especially look at the protein, and check the ingredient list for a clean list of ingredients. When checking the ingredient list, the smaller the better. Look for foods as close to their natural source as possible. Also know that the first ingredient listed is the highest ingredient used and it descends from there. What is the first ingredient of the Blue Diamond Sea Salt Almonds? Almonds! And that is the way it should be. If there is something before that, it probably isn't what it seems.

What are your healthy snacking tips?