Mixing up those greens.

Let’s start your week off right with some creative alternatives for your healthy meals!

But first, I’m going to shoot straight with you: I have always been an admitted salad hater. I grew up hearing people around me order salads at restaurants as a “healthy substitute” for a big meal, like dinner…something to just help them to lose weight, a la dressing on the side. Now these were just your basic, bare-boned salads with a hint of protein: lettuce, grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes, shaved carrots, and a light vinaigrette (kept on the side to portion your calories properly, of course). Because I was surrounded by these kinds of salad-eaters, something within me ignited a deep hatred for the salad; so much so that nothing infuriated me more than hearing someone order a salad and I began to mock the salad eaters, vowing to never become one of them.

Now bear with me…I’m a little older and more mature and open-minded in my views now. I understand the reasons why I disdained the substitute-a-meal-with-a-salad eaters and have decided to approach it with the mindset of: “Hey-whatever floats your boat, but it’s just personally not my cup of tea.” It still didn’t make me enjoy eating salads or feel like they could fill me up and fuel my active lifestyle and felt like they should be left to the rabbits to munch on. That was, until I discovered what kind of salad could work for me and my needs.

Those who know me well would tell you that I can take anything from a refrigerator-even things that usually don’t mix well together-and throw it together to create some kind of a hodgepodge of a meal and be thrilled with it; they would also say that I can throw anything together over two handfuls of lettuce and call it a salad. I like to think that I’m just creative and easy-going in that regard. I’ve learned to find what I need from food (protein, veggies, fresh fruits, vitamins, a crunch, etc.) and experiment with hearty meals and snacks to complement my diet for the day and always keep me feeling strong and moving.

And so, for today’s Sunday Snacks edition I’d like to do something different: instead of giving you a new recipe to try out, I’d like to share with you some of my all-time favorite salad toppers, broken down into categories to get your own creative juices flowing. Maybe you are a basic salad hater like me or maybe you’re just looking for something new and different to spice up those boring greens…either way I hope this short list adds color and creativity to your meal prep life!

Please note that I am not writing this post with the knowledge and authority of a nutritionist. I am simply sharing my personal opinions and experiences with playful salad toppers that keep me fueled and happy. For a full disclosure statement regarding what Meg in the Meantime’s purpose is and my personal qualifications, please check out my About Me section or, just consider the image below. 🙂

Koalafications

Meg’s favorite salad toppers to mix up those plain greens:

  1. Meats/Fish: I love meat so almost every salad I made will incorporate a major portion of protein like steak tips, tuna, salmon, etc. Obviously chicken falls into this category, as well but I try to avoid going the basic route of grilled chicken when you can be so much more creative with your pairings when you use something like a steak or tuna. Steaks are great and juicy and, when combined with the right kind of cheese sprinkled on top, will make you forget you even have greens underneath! Tuna is a great, creamy salad topper and-when mixed with a lite Mayo or Greek yogurt-does not really call for a salad dressing to go with it.
  2. Fruits: Both fresh and dried fruits can add a sweetness to your salad that can combat the blandness of your basic greens, as well as add a nice, succulent crunch to each bite. Think: apples, pears, grapes, dried cranberries (Craisins) pomegranate seeds, avocado (I just learned that it’s considered a fruit, at its core), etc. You can dice some of these fruits up into little cubes or shave them off into long, thin slices–both will give a nice color and texture to your salad!
  3. Veggies: When building your salads, vegetables can give you the most bang for your buck in terms of flavor, fiber, vitamins, and crunch. Besides the obviously carrot topping, versatile veggies like corn, sugar snap peas, and beets are some of my favorites to throw onto a salad and usually pair nicely with most cheeses and meats. Diced beets have become a newfound favorite of mine last year when I searching for something to serve as a good anti-inflammator, but you can read more about the amazing health benefits of beets here.
  4. Cheeses: Of course cheese are not the most healthy addition to salads, but when used proportionately it can add great flavor and serve as a rich source of necessary calcium to your meal. Some of my favorite non-traditional cheeses to put on salads are goat cheese, brie, and feta-depending on what your main protein pairing is. As you can tell, I prefer less crumbly cheese and more creamy/spreadable cheese because it helps fight the urge to drown my greens in a creamy, fatty salad dressing.
  5. Nuts: There’s no better way to incorporate protein-while doubling your crunch factor-than by adding nuts, such as walnuts, almonds and pistachios, to your salad. While rich in healthy fats, nuts are meant to be more of a light salad topper-whether crushed up and sprinkled, shaved down for an added textural element, or broken up to really add a crunch-so make sure to use sparingly and beware of those drenched in salts, sugars, and glazes.
  6. Alternative dressings:  Let’s face it-a dressing can either make or break your salad, but it’s usually the thing we pile on the most when trying to drown out those greens, like lettuce and kale. Some healthier alternatives from store-bought salad dressings are Greek Yogurt (yes, me again promoting Greek Yogurt) or a DIY light vinaigrette. My personal favorite DIY salad dressing recipes come from Michelle via her blog, Sunshine & Superfoodsdefinitely check it out if you’re interested in saving some money and making your own creative dressings. You can also always play it simple and add strong flavor (with minimal calories) to your salad by using the juice from a lemon or lime.

While salads are still a symbol of a healthy meal, I’ve come to realize that you have to bring your own personality to the table to really make salad eating more of a willing habit than a dreadful, desperate attempt at cutting calories…keeping in mind the moderation of toppings to still consume a health-conscious meal. But that’s just my opinion–what’s yours? Again, I’m no nutritionist or salad-expert, just a former hater who’s opening up her heart and stomach to the idea of incorporating more salads in her life so I would love to hear your thoughts on my funky salad topping choices, as well as some of your own! Comment below or Tweet at me: @meggielukes.

In the meantime, today is Memorial Day-how are you spending it? I like to consider national holidays, such as this one, a day to not only reflect and be grateful for those who served our country and fought for our freedoms and rights, but also a time to spend in solitude being grateful for the freedom that our bodies entitle us to: to move about, run around, and explore. Today, I’ll be going for a quick 3 miler to stay on track with my 10k training and to relish in all things that running has given to me that I am forever grateful for.

Until Wednesday, wishing you wellness!
-Meg

Get Movin’!

Hi There!

I got an e-mail from MoveWith yesterday that included a mini challenge: workout nine times with them in the month of June and they’ll reward you with one free class! Did someone say free? If it’s free, then it’s definitely for me…at least that’s a saying that’s resonated with me since my undergraduate student loans kicked back in last week.

And so, I figured this would be the perfect Feature Friday post to share with all of you-check it out:

MoveWith

So I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to resist a challenge (must be part of my natural-born competitive DNA) so I’m stoked to expand my usual workout regiment of mainly running and yoga to test out some new classes in the community and see what moves me, what clicks with my personality and style, to see who in this amazing city I meet; and what I can overcome when I take on new, personal (both physical and mental) challenges. The extra free class is just a bonus…but a great, financial one at that!Pe

In previous posts, like “Make Time To Do The Things You Love” and “Never Forget to Stop and Smell the Roses,” I’ve mentioned things that I appreciate about MoveWith and the community they’re building in Boston through their mission of #SocialSweat. But what I like best about MoveWith’s website is their easy search and filter function. Looking for a specific teacher? Check! Can only workout in mornings? You got it! Interested in a certain fitness style: barre, cardio, cycling, pilates, running, strength training, yoga? Just one click away! Nothing could be easier. Oh, wait…yes. There’s even an app for that so you can check out their classes and experiences while you’re on-the-go.

Personally, I’m interested in trying out some rowing and meditation classes. What about you? If you live in the Boston (or San Francisco) area, what classes have you tried and loved? Who are some of your favorite movers and shakers? Comment below or share your thoughts with me on Twitter: @meggielukes.

In the meantime, it’s Memorial Day Weekend! The weather is on the rise: 70’s and 80’s! Life is good. I hope you make the time to get outside and do something that you love-get back to the basics, something simple and enjoyable…whatever that means to you. Maybe instead of just texting someone from the comfort of your couch, call up that person that you care about and take a nice long stroll outside together and walk and talk for hours (don’t forget to take some water with you…always stay hydrated!) or heading out for a long, solo run to reset your mind and focus in on your summer goals and plans. Or, get adventurous: go for a hike and breathe in that fresh air, hop into a kayak and work your way up a river or across the lake…do something, get dirty, don’t stop moving.

This week, I took my own advice and got away from the city to do something I don’t do enough of with someone who I love: getaway, relax, and unplug. Ryan and I booked a tiny house via Getaway and landed ourselves in northern New Hampshire for a night of small spaces, simple living, fresh air, and no service…it was lovely and so necessary for a recharge/reset. We went for a stroll around the nearby lake, met some kind locals, cooked a great dinner, roasted some s’mores, Ryan built us a great fire that we sat by for hours in the Adirondack chairs, and ended our night by escaping the mosquitoes and playing cards and singing classic songs from the 90’s and early-2000’s for hours. It was perfect and I only wish it lasted for another day.

tinyhouse    fire

NatureScenes

 

Anyways, I’ve been so inspired by some great, local bloggers and their recipes lately so I’m really excited to keep experimenting with food and share my experiences with you-tune back in tomorrow for my weekly Sunday Snacks edition to see what I got for you!

Until then, get movin’!
-Meg

Make the time to do the things you love.

So I’m just going to jump right in tonight…

I once read something so straightforward and simple that it couldn’t help but stick inside my head: “You were not born to just pay bills and die. You are here to live your life joyfully and to love fully.”

I have always been the kind of person who needs to feel passionate about the things I do in all aspects of my life–it motivates me, it fulfills me, it genuinely makes me happy (and who doesn’t like to feel happy?!). I’m not sure that I would be able to wake up and repeat the actions of my week or dedicate the amount of soul, time, and energy  into things that I do, if I wasn’t passionate about them.

That being said, there are-of course-things we have to do in life, just because. Sometimes we just have to find a certain kind of work to make a living and survive through a rough patch in our life or pay down some debt (does any one else feel me on these never ending student loans?!). Sometimes we have to sacrifice our free time for the greater good or just put in our time for something bigger to open up later down the line. And when our 9-5 doesn’t align with our passions then we especially need to make some time in our day to do the things we love–to live joyfully and to love fully.

On that note, I recognized a big trend lately in some of my favorite local bloggers-they are writing about things they are loving lately, things that they are looking forward to. I love this idea; I am so inspired by it because I think it not only supports the notion of making time each day to do some thing (even just one thing) we love, but it also raises awareness of the simple things in life that can give us great joy and happiness-such a positive list to create. And so, before I share my own short list, I want to share their posts with you first and pay some respect and love to these two bloggers who inspired me to make my own: Jana’s post “Looking Forward & Loving” and Michelle’s post “Things I am Loving Lately Pt. 5.

Weren’t those both great and unique?! Well, without further ado here’s mine!

Things I’m Loving Lately:

Consistent running and yoga via Cara Gilman’s RunYoga Series. I thank my lucky stars every Monday (well, every Monday of this 10-week series) that I get to start my week off running a consistent 3-4 miles around this gorgeous city and push myself to focus on better breath control and form during my 10k training, as well as to have an hour of restorative yoga to follow that teaches me more about my body and how to incorporate better stretching habits into my daily life. The added benefit? Thanks to Cara being such a beacon of light and positivity, and for MoveWith for supporting this series with their concept of #SocialSweat, I have also been introduced to a wonderful new community of runners and yogis who I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
*If you haven’t checked out any of MoveWith’s classes in Boston yet, I highly recommend it. They have a wide variety of class offerings…really something for everyone from barre to running to bootcamp, cycling, and so on! 

Different running routes and what they offer me. As I was running along the Charles River during Monday evening’s RunYoga class, I could not help but keep saying “Wow, what a view!” If I wasn’t already losing my breath from trying to pick up my pace, I’d give all of the credit to Boston for taking my breath away with its beauty. I mean, really…how fortunate am I to live in this gorgeous city and have the ability to explore it through my runs. Some of my favorite runs have been along the Charles with views of the city skyline that reflect in the shimmering river alongside it, and sailboats that effortlessly weave across the choppy waves that makes it feel like they’re racing you, and bridges every so often allowing us to weave ourselves and cross from side to side, magically allowing us to be right in the middle of it all for a few moments in time.

Alternatively, I have also been running in a more suburban environment 1-2x/week, depending on the week. My boyfriend, Ryan, just recently moved to Danvers in the North Shore so I have taken to adding some weekly runs in around his new neighborhood, even joining a local running community and racing on Wednesday nights courtesy of the Danvers 5K during my training period. I never really ran much in the suburbs growing up (at that point in my life I would’ve only been running short distances on some kind of track or on an indoor court-never on the streets throughout the neighborhood for pleasure), but I have to admit there’s a certain charm and peacefulness to it–something I can definitely get used to! My routes weave me through residential, tree-lined streets with rolling hills, friendly strangers cheering you on/offering a word or two of encouragement, kind people in cars actually stopping to let you cross the street and not mess up your stride, and beautiful, quintessential New England scenes like old cemeteries and various historic sites…I am never plugged in and instead choose to soak in the sights and sounds around me. If you claim to be only a city-runner, like I used to be, just try it once…you might surprise yourself with what you can fall in love with and open yourself up to.

Rolling my feet out with a tennis ball. As my training has kicked into full gear for the B.A.A. 10K, I find that I am-rightfully so-always moving and therefore always on my feet. And so I have found myself forming a close relationship with my tennis ball-I bring it with me to work almost every day to give myself a mini foot massage mid-day. All I do really is stand up and roll the the tennis ball under the length of my foot from heal to toe for a few minutes. Sometimes I even just keep it stable under the arch of my foot for a few minutes of pointed pressure. Really, it’s that simple but makes a world of difference! I won’t go into great detail about this wellness tip because you can find everything you need here in an old post of mine: “Wellness, when you can.

The resurgence of November Project in my life (aka surrounding myself with the kindest of human beings). Now that I am back from my international work travels, grad school is done, and I am on the mend from this horrible sickness that has worn me down, I can finally wake up and make it out to NP again! This not only means more consistency in my training (running stadiums and hills), but also just a more elevated level of training…when you surround yourself by the best, you push yourself to be better. Plus, all of the hugs and happiness. I’ve never been a morning person, yet these amazing humans make me smile (read: beam, ear-to-ear) as soon as I show up and get greeted by genuine hugs, love, and encouragement; they also make me glad to wake up at 6am to workout and sweat like a pig for an hour–and that results in a release in endorphins, which triggers happiness. It’s science, people. Again, I won’t preach too much about NP and instead just link to an old post of mine that I highlighted its amazingness and general information, in case you missed it the first time: “Reason #1,000,001 to just show up.

The warmer weather (and what that means for active living). Today was the first day it hit 80 degrees in Boston since last September…what?!!! That was such a big deal. This makes me so excited for things to come: summer racing, outdoor yoga, kayaking (and hopefully paddle boarding for the first time!), hiking, evening city and neighborhood strolls, etc. This also means that I am looking forward to trying out new products to fuel myself. So far on my list of new things to try, as recommended by local, Fitfluential people: Nuun (waiting on my order to arrive!!), Spindrift Seltzers (need to hit up Trader Joes to pick some up), and Nutty Life Milk (waiting until I can finally go to SOWA).

What about you? Tell me some of the things that you’re loving lately. Is there something that I should add to my list of active things to do now that the weather has changed for the warmer?!  I’m always down for suggestions and recommendations on new things to do, see, and try so feel free to comment below or write to me on Twitter: @meggielukes. Can’t wait to hear from you! 🙂

In the meantime, I’m off the grid for the next two days to New Hampshire to stay in a tiny house via Getaway–looking to restore some balance into my life by living the simple life and spending some quality time in the great outdoors with Ryan. More to come on that experience on Friday…can’t wait to share!

Love,
Meg

An overnight success!

Hello Again!

As I’m sure you know by now, most-but not all-of my Sunday Snack recipes have incorporated Greek yogurt in some way, shape, or form. For some of you, this might be a little weird, or even a turn off, but I never really grew up eating yogurt (let alone the healthier, Greek yogurt version) so now in my adult life I am trying to substitute it into my diet more often. Why? Because a simple substitution can make all of the difference when you’re trying to live more health-consciously. The benefits of using Greek yogurt, in lieu of other items such as butter or sour cream, as well as a measurement substitute guide, can be found in this helpful Fitfluential article How to Sub Greek Yogurt in Baking

And so, on to today’s healthy snack to fuel your life in motion: Overnight Oats. This concept is nothing new to you, I’m sure. With the resurgence in popularity of mason jars over the last few years, as well as the time management trend of weekly meal prepping overnight oats became an overnight success to those who needed to find a quick, simple, and hearty solution to breakfast on-the-go.

If you’ve never heard of overnight oats before (or have, but never made them yourself), let me give you a quick overview: basically they are a cold version of oatmeal and you never cook them. Instead of cooking your oatmeal with a liquid on the stove or microwave (the classic way), you mix rolled oats with a liquid of your choice (mainly Greek yogurt and some kind of milk), mashed together other ingredients and store them in your refrigerator overnight to let the contents blend together to create a creamy, pudding or porridge-like consistency. Meal prep is extremely short (anywhere from 3-5 minutes) and they usually can last and stay fresh for a couple of days in the refrigerator so you can make a few batches at a time! I personally think that the best thing about overnight oats is that there is no wrong way to prepare them–there are actually probably 1,000,001 different recipes and methods for overnight oats nowadays so all you need is a little inspiration and creativity and you are well on your way to enjoying a delicious and healthy breakfast snack!

I’ll share with you one version of overnight oats that I made the other day, but also list some websites below where you can find some other recipes for further inspiration, as well.

Overnight Oats Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt (I chose the honey blended one, for extra flavor)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup Almond Milk (some people put less or more-personal preference)
  • 1 tbsp. Chia seeds
  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp. peanut butter (I chose the chunky kind, with honey)
  • Whatever amount of fruit desired (I chose apple, banana, and blueberry)
  • 1 tsp. honey* (Most recipes calls for a little honey added for sweetness, but I put an asterisk here just because I chose honey-blended Greek yogurt and crunchy peanut butter with honey so I passed on the extra honey option)

OvernightOats-1

Other Items Needed:

  • Mason jars or Tupperware containers.
  • Measuring cups (only if you prefer, you can easily eyeball the ingredients, as well).

Instructions:

  1. Prepare your fruit pieces and cut them up into your desired sizes. I chose to make mine very small so that there would be more to blend throughout the container.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together into your storage jar/container.
  3. Refrigerate overnight (most recipes call for 8 hours, but you can definitely eat them with less-time being stored…the consistency may be a little different).
  4. Stir again before eating and, if you would like, add some fresh fruit on top or granola for extra crunch. Then, enjoy!

Here’s what mine ended up looking like–it was DELICIOUS and filled me up for the entire morning, especially after my run.OvernightOats-2

 

If you’re looking for some inspiration to get creative and playful with your recipes, I highly recommend checking out the Quaker Oats’ Overnight Oats Recipe Pagewhere you can see an easy-to-follow video instruction on how to make them, as well as specifically search for recipes with certain ingredients (if you have dietary needs/restrictions, or are just more focused on a particular flavor) and helpful tips for some first time overnight oat makers. I also stumbled upon on Cassie’s Back to Her Roots blog, which focuses on healthy eating and natural living and she has a post highlighting the Top 8 Classic Overnight Oats Recipes To Try–all look delicious and very inspiring, especially if you like chocolate flavors! Beyond that, you can always troll through Pinterest for more recipes and easy-to-follow snack inspiration OR just say to hell with recipes and go wild and playful making up ingredients and measurements of your own…you never know what successful dish you might end up creating!

What about you-have you ever made overnight oats before? I’m definitely hooked on this healthy breakfast concept and would love to try some new recipes so please comment below and share some of your favorites! Don’t forget you can always connect with me on Twitter to share your healthy snack recommendations: @meggielukes and include the hashtag #MegInTheMeantime. I can’t wait to hear from you!

In the meantime, the only other thing for you to think about is what will you do with ALL of that extra time on your hands since these overnight oats only take up to 5 minutes to prepare?! I personally will spend that extra time planning out my workouts and training schedule for the week. I have Cara Gilman’s RunYoga series to look forward to tomorrow night–looks like we’re running around the Charles River and then complementing our run with a core-based yoga flow…can’t wait! Beyond that, I hope to get back to Harvard Stadium for a lung-crushing stair workout with November Project on Wednesday morning and hopefully do another Danvers 5k run later that night. I’ll share more about my training later this week, though.

Until then, be well and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!
-Meg

 

Impossible is nothing (so they say).

Hi, Friends!

It’s been a while since I blogged about a running-related book (if you missed my last book review check out Something for runners and non-runners alikewhich highlights Caleb Daniloff’s book Running Ransom Road: Confronting the Past, One Marathon at a Time), so I figured I’d share with you another highly recommended book…you know, since I have more time on my hands to read for pleasure again now that I’m done with grad school. 🙂

And so, today I would like to introduce to you Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon by Ed Caesar. Unlike Daniloff’s book, this one is definitely geared more towards the running community, as it captures the true essence and the (sometimes heartbreaking) love affair we have for endurance sports, such as marathons. However, even for those of you who don’t run or who are just starting out, I think there is still something in here for you–something to make you fall in love with the history, evolution, and mindset of marathoning, both the casual and elite styles.

TwoHours-Book

Why people run–any length, let alone endurance lengths like marathons and ultra-marathons–is always something that is questioned by non-runners. What is the answer to why we run? Why we put ourselves through the ringer during training periods? Why we go to bed extra early to get up early to run extra far? Why do we put ourselves in pain-sometimes both physically and mentally-to run great lengths? Everyone probably has their own personal stories and reasons; I’m personally still writing and conceptualizing my own, but in the meantime like to refer you all to Boston blogger Jana Ross’ post on “Why I Run Marathons.” I know that I already linked to her blog in my last post about 10k training, but I really do think she hits the nail on the head with her reasoning.

Anyways, back to the book! I actually got Two Hours as one of my Christmas gifts from my boyfriend, Ryan-he’s always extremely thoughtful with his gifts and intentions (one of the many reasons why I love him). To be honest, I actually had never heard of this book before, but he assured me that he did research on the book and that it not only had great reviews and received lots of praise by the running community. Say no more-I was excited to dive in!

After reading the inside cover, I expected the book to really follow one marathoner’s journey on his quest to hit a world marathon record of a two hours, but it was so much more than that–his story was only one part of the overall message of endurance sports. To take a quote directly from the inside cover: “It is a book about running that is about so much more than running.” I learned about the history and evolution of the modern marathon, about technical race rules, terms, and strategies (like “rabbits” and the “Stotan approach”), and even gained some insight and inspiration about the human body and kinesiology.

As I turned the pages of this book, Muhammad Ali’s famous “Impossible is nothing” speech kept coming to mind. A couple of hours later when I breezed through the book’s 217 pages, I found myself left in a state of amazement and awe for the human body-more so than ever before. I also found myself questioning what actually, if anything, is the limit that we can push our bodies and spirits to when we set off to accomplish great physical feats?! To paraphrase the great, local athletic company New Balance, I think when you’re always in beta that success is not the end…that there is no end to what we can become.

MuhammadAli-Impossible

I consumed Two Hours in probably about two hours or less–it was just that captivating and insightful! One of my favorite takeaway quotes about run training can be found on page 147 of the book: “Mutai doesn’t spend a minute of his working day on a flat surface, and so his muscles are always working to balance and respond. ‘They learn to listen with their feet,’ says Lancini.” How could an insight into running get more poetic than that?!  I don’t want to ruin the great experience of reading this book for you, so I won’t go into anymore detail and instead just tell you to pick up a copy for yourself to enjoy!

Did I walk away from reading the book ready to sign up for my first marathon? Not necessarily anymore than I’ve already considered doing so, but I don’t think that was the point of the book. What I was impressed with, however, was how much I learned about the fascinating details of marathons and world records and it was definitely enough to get me to look up some more information afterwards. What about you? What’s your favorite book about running? I’d love to compile a big list of books to read and ultimately review to fuel my passion for this sport. Feel free to comment below with some of your favorites or send me a note on Twitter: @meggielukes.

In the meantime, I hope enjoy your weekend–looks like we finally got the warmer weather, but not the sunshine quite yet. Either way, make sure to get out there and do something active that you love, just because!

Talk with you soon,
-Meg

Time, is on my side.

Hi there!

First of all, I’d like to thank you all for bearing with me as I continue to recover and adjust back to every day life from my recent business trip to China–that 12-hour time difference is really messing with my system more than I expected it to. I came back to the US late last week, celebrated my second master’s graduation (M.Ed.’14 and M.S. in advertising ’16) over the weekend with loved ones over the weekend by way of commencement ceremonies, delicious steak-filled meals, and lots of corny college catalog photos like this one:

DSC_0230

And suddenly after all of the excitement and celebrations passed and life began to slow down, my body slowed down, as well and began to crash: I would put myself to bed at a normal hour, but just lay awake until the sun came out and soon thereafter I developed piercing headaches in the center of my forehead and the top of my head, complemented with a nasty, phlegmy cough that came forth out of left field. Not sure what’s going on with my body at this moment (will bring myself to the doctor for a check-in soon), but I just wanted to explain briefly and let you know that I appreciate your patience with my posts as my blog fell to the wayside for the last week or so.

I ended up missing posting about a healthy snack on Sunday, so I’ll just save that exciting post for this upcoming weekend and instead share with you my B.A.A. 10k training updates because exercising has been one of the few things that has made my body feel better this week.

On Monday, I finally was able to attend my first session of Cara Gilman’s RunYoga Series, courtesy of MoveWith; I unfortunately had to miss the first two sessions due to grad school and the business trip to China, so I was stoked to finally be able to go, despite not feeling so well. The way the workout goes: each session, a scalable running workout (hill repeats, speed workouts, group runs, etc.) is paired with a targeted, strength-based yoga sequence to challenge the individual members of this inspiring community over the course of the 10-week program. Each workout takes place on Monday evenings from 6-8pm in the wonderful Brookline/Boston neighborhood, rain or shine.

This week, we started our run from the Ruggles Baptist Church in the Audubon Circle neighborhood of Brookline and ran to Summit Ave, where we took on hill repeats on the one of the steepest hills in the Boston-area (the gradient incline goes from 7-17% fairly quickly). From there, it was up to us if we wanted to just do one full hill loop and head back to our starting point in Audubon Circle, or add some repeats before turning back. I turned to my usual training buddy/running solemate, Becca Smith, and we decided on adding an extra repeat of the smaller side of the hill, ultimately ending our run with a solid 4.20 miles completed. Afterwards, back in the church, we settled in for our yoga sequence, which would target the outer hips (hello, IT band!), calves and quads. Before we began though, Cara told us to focus in on one word, a mantra, that would guide us through our practice not only that night, but also throughout the week–something we are grateful for and something that would keep us present.

What would be my word?! That one was easy: “time.” Lately, I am so grateful for time-so much so that I find myself replaying The Rolling Stones’ song, “Time Is On My Side” in my head most days! After four years straight of working full-time and going to graduate school part-time (for two different master’s programs back-t0-back) and revolving my life and its priorities around the schedule that these two pieces set for me, I feel so unbelievably free and open to new opportunities and possibilities. And so, more than anything, I was grateful for those two hours on Monday night to reflect on the last four years, refresh my body, and reset my mind to start the first week of the rest of my life with balance and positivity. Despite my headache pounding into all sides of my head at that point, those two hours of active movement not only served as a training run and strength and conditioning session for my upcoming B.A.A. race at the end of June, but it also served me in a metaphorical sense: taking to life one step at a time-one foot in front of the other-possibly facing some obstacles (hills) in the way, and heading straight towards the next great thing, more in balance.

Speaking of things I am grateful for… I am BEYOND grateful for what my friend, fellow November Project-er, and PT/DPT/Cert. DN/Running Specialist, Dani Adler (aka RunFitDoc), taught me about active stretching during her run clinic. If you missed my post from last month, Stretch It Out, which broke down in easy-to-follow steps her suggested guidance of applying the 3 E’s: Easy, Effective, and Efficient to your run training warm-up, then I highly suggest giving it a read through before you continue with your run training! I have noticed a major difference in the way I feel (read: much stronger, more open, more loose, more warmed) before, during, and after all of my training runs and wish the same for all of you!

For example, tonight I practiced my active stretching routine and it put me in the right place, mentally and physically. I attended fun/casual 5k race that occurs every Wednesday night at 7pm outside Osborn Tavern (49 Maple Street) in Danvers, MA called Danvers 5K. My boyfriend recently moved to Danvers so I wanted to start doing something active in the area to get to know the surrounding neighborhood better and I couldn’t have fell more in love with this open running community the second I showed up. First of all, as their website states: this reoccurring weekly race is open to absolutely anyone: great for hardcore runners and those who are just starting out and looking for a solid weekly run/reason to run. Second of all, the course was absolutely beautiful and very enjoyable to run. I honestly don’t know much about the Danvers area yet, but there were some small, rolling hills, lots of cemeteries that were passed along the way–I kept myself unplugged and just soaked up the quintessential New England/North Shore scenery. It felt so nice to change up my usual route and run around a town for once-there’s definitely a charm to it, something I could easily get used to. Third of all, everyone was so friendly…especially to us newbies! I had such a nice and enjoyable time meeting everyone and even found myself trying to keep pace with two older guys during the entire race. To the main in the orange shirt, thanks for letting me tail you during the entire 3.1 miles–you rock!

I really could go on and on, but instead I’ll just encourage anyone who lives in the greater Boston and North Shore area to just show up and check it out yourself. Once you race, you have a bib number for life and are always welcomed back-how nice is that?! I ended my 5k with a time of 29:07, which is far from the lower end of the 25 minute 5k time I used to regularly race a couple of years ago, but instead of being disappointed in myself and wondering where I went wrong, I actually just really look forward to chipping away at that number bit by bit as I continue to focus in with more intensity and intention on my run training.

In the meantime, I’d like for you to read my favorite Boston running, health, and wellness blogger, Jana Ross’ post on “Why I Run Marathons.” People often ask why I run or why I choose to make the time to fit in training runs or workout series to my usual busy schedule and-to be honest-it’s a pretty hard question to answer; however, in a short and eloquent post Jana captures it all. I sure as heck am far from being as accomplished as she is as a runner and am nowhere close to running marathons (she just completed marathon #8!), but I definitely connect with what she expresses and think it’s overall just such a well-written piece. For example, two lines that, in particular, stuck out to me: “I love a challenge, I love the community, and I love the simplicity of placing one foot in front of the next.” and “It’s where I push myself most, discover how I handle adversity, and pick myself back up when I hit what feels like rock bottom.” Preach, Jana!!

Anyways, for one reason or another these lines stuck out to me and made me reflect on the reasons of why any of us do the things that we love, even when they sometimes tear us apart or take all that we have to give at the moment. As we continue to live our lives and push forward each day, tacking new obstacles and challenges with our dreams and goals in sight, I think it’s something pretty important to meditate on, if you haven’t ever…just a suggestion, of course! 🙂

Sending love and wellness to you all of you until the next time!
-Meg

Don’t call it comeback…

Hi Everyone!

Thanks so much for bearing with me during the last week and staying patient until this comeback post. If you were not following my last few posts, here’s a quick catch up: I went to Shanghai, China for work for one week, which was just barely enough time to adjust to the 12-hour time difference before jet setting right back here to Boston. Here’s some photographic proof that I (a) did indeed go to Shanghai and (b) that I do own non-athletic/athleisure clothing. 🙂

megbund

I really did have an amazing time in China–it was so different from anywhere else I’d ever been before, but I was able to do some really neat things: I explored the famous West Lake region in Hangzhou, hung out in some ancient Buddhist temples, went to the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center (8th tallest building in the world), and ate some DELICIOUS and funky local delicacies (if I could spell any of them, I would list each and every one…I promise!).

Almost everyone’s first reaction or question to my trip to China was “…but really, how difficult was it to get around when everyone speaks Chinese?!” or “…but aren’t there people, like, everywhere in China? How annoying was it to deal with all of the crowds everywhere you turn?!” and, lastly: “…I heard the bathrooms are disgusting–did you have to squat and go in one of those holes in the grounds??”

My mindset going into my trip focused on none of those things, though; instead, I was focused on how to see and do as much as possible to understand the culture and daily customs in such a short period of time. I was also pretty excited about unplugging from my usual, hyper-connected lifestyle.

You see…to me, traveling-even something as quick as a day trip-teaches you a lot, if you open yourself up to it. China taught me many things (yes, including how to gracefully squat in less-than-ideal conditions to go to the bathroom), but my biggest take away was patience. In a country with over 1.25 billion people, more specifically the city with over 14 million people, let’s just say there’s not much personal space, time to figure something out when you don’t speak the native language, or time to every really just be alone.

There were times, mainly in the airports of course, that I wished I could pause, drop all of my heavy baggage, stretch out on my yoga mat, clear my headspace, and then move along. I even longed for my Spoonk a few nights after being away from my own bed, and having hard time adjusting to the drastic time difference. There were other times that I wished that I could just lace up my sneakers and explore Shanghai while training for my upcoming race-severely poor air quality did not allow for me to do that one, though. And, as much as I enjoyed devouring all of the new foods, there were some mornings that I longed to make a protein smoothie to fuel me throughout the day. But those things are luxuries in my every day life that I couldn’t take with me on this trip–and that is more than okay.

Right before I travel, I like to re-read one of my favorite travel quotes by Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Trust me when I tell you that I could go on and on with inspirational travel quotes, but I know what you’re thinking…this is not a travel blog, where’s the usual health and wellness stuff? Don’t worry, I’m getting to it…

I believe that when you travel, you learn a lot about yourself…some would even say: “If you travel far enough, you meet yourself.” We should all take these opportunities in our lives to draw the lessons from the road. I took any and every moment I had, when I was finally alone each night, to form some kind of connection between the patience I was practicing throughout the day with others and myself and my overall health and fitness goals (currently: training for the B.A.A. 10k and aiming for a PR)–here are my top three takeaways that I wanted to share with you:

  1. Be patient with yourself. Way easier said than done, but great things do not happen overnight. You need to not only be in the right mindset to put forth the dedication and effort necessary to achieve your goals, but you also have to give yourself time to adjust and space to fail and grow. Whenever I’m feeling frustrated with myself-in any situation-I like to think of something my favorite yoga instructor always said during our practice: “Close your eyes-do not look around the room to others and where they are in their practice or how far along they are in their pose. It does not matter. Focus on you, in this moment, and how you feel. Now can you stay here, present, in this pose for another 10 seconds? If you can do that, what else can you do in life-outside of yoga-for 10 more seconds? How does that make you feel?” Hearing her tell us this always grounded me, brought clarity and perspective to my life, and gave me the drive to have patience with myself for just a little longer. I hope this helps you a bit, too!
  2. Be patient with your training/practice. It’s so easy to feel down and out or unhappy with your current state or progress, but if you stay positive and patience then I guarantee you’ll soon see the fruits of your labor and will be grateful for the times you had to struggle. And if you ever feel stuck, think of this: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” -Henry Ford. Soon you’ll be flying, too! 🙂
  3. Be bold with your goals, but patient with the time it takes to chip away at them. Be proud of the little victories you’ve achieved along the way: hitting your walking 3x/week goal for a month straight, running a mile or two without stopping, finally feeling strong in a new yoga pose, holding a plank for longer than you ever did before, running .25 miles further than you ever thought your body could, hitting a 20-second race day PR, etc. It’s great to stay focused on the big end goal, but do not push aside everything you’ve done in the meantime to continue moving forward-those have been your stepping stones to success. Stop every once in a while and show gratitude towards your body and yourself for everything you’ve done.

That’s all I got for now. Tune back in on Sunday morning for the latest Sunday Snacks edition. Last time I shared with you a quinoa dessert-style snack, so what could it be this time?! I’ll give you a hint: I’m back to sharing another quick and super easy-to-prepare Greek Yogurt snack, and this one has endless combinations and possibilities so it’s also a great and fun (read: delicious) experiment. So why do I keep sharing recipes that incorporate Greek Yogurt? Because Greek Yogurt is an easy and healthy swap for baking, cooking, and non-cooking alike…and because a simple, healthier substation can make all the difference in your life! If you’d like more proof, I highly recommend checking out FitFluential’s Guide for Cooking with Greek Yogurt.

In the meantime, I’m off to graduate with my master’s degree in advertising today–I already woke up at 7am from all of the excitement!! All of the time, energy, and hard work that I poured into this part of my life for the last four years (four years in total because I actually completed two master degree programs back-to-back) is coming to an end. It’s pretty bittersweet as I am closing the book on this thing that was a HUGE part of my every day life for so long-something that I was so passionate about and that, I felt, really defined me. I do feel lucky though, because to share with me in this special day are some special people: my mom and dad. They drove all the way up from New Jersey to sit through this third Boston University graduation of mine…bless them, their amazing parental love and support, and their patience to sit through all of these ceremonies! But anyways, more to come on life post-grad (I already read 3.25 books!) and my training schedule…for now, it’s time to celebrate!

Before I head off though, I’m curious; what about you–is there a big shift going on in an area of your life right now? How are you dealing with it and what health and wellness practices are you utilizing to work through it? Comment below or tweet at me: @meggielukes-don’t forget to use the hashtag #MegInTheMeantime for good measure!

Talk soon!
-Meg

This thing called “Spoonking”

ni men hao! you duán shijiān méi liánxìle.
(roughly translated to: Hello, Everyone! It’s been a while.)

Greetings from rainy and humid, Hángzhōu, China, where the current time is approximately 5:50am and here I am…awake! My biological clock is definitely still thrown off, having just arrived in China approximately 14 hours ago after a 16 hour flight and knowing that I’m 12 hours ahead of where I usually am back home in Boston. Despite the fatigue and my body’s confusion to the local time, I am most excited to be here in China for a week and to explore as many cultural aspects as I can. As you can already see, I’m doing my best to pick up the language to get by. 🙂

I’m going to keep this post fairly short since the internet is pretty touch and go here, but I did want to follow up on something that I mentioned during my last post on Wednesday: “Do Your Om Thing!” So when I was describing that my best friend, Anya, had just come out of a 40-minute meditation and was lying on an acupressure mat, I knew at that very moment that I wanted to talk about that mat on this week’s Feature Friday post.

Although there may be many variations of an acupressure mat, the one that I know Anya was lying on (because she gave me the same one for Christmas last year) is called a Spoonkand it looks like this:

spoonk2

According to their website, Spoonk is “based on the principles of acupressure and Japanese Shiatsu massage. The mat stimulates specific reflex points throughout the body, releases blocked energy, eases tense muscles, and creates deep mental and physical relaxation. Benefits include increased level of energy, reduced inflammation and pain, improved and deeper sleep.”

That all sounds well and good and very commercial, but what is it really like? Well, even though it may look to some like a torture device (see the picture below), I have honestly found it to be quite relaxing and a great way to practice bringing awareness to specific parts of your mind, while easing your mind. While I never thought to use it during my stretching time, I have tried it recently on my sore calves and tired feet and it also can definitely relieve tension and pain in certain trigger areas…I mean, check out those spikes!

spoonk1

I personally have used the Spoonk mat most to calm my body down after a long day or to mindfully try to go to sleep without the aid of Netflix or my phone. I’ll usually break it out before bed, and position my back (from the neck/shoulders area) all the way down to my lower back to be positioned on it. From there, I will usually lay down in my savasana pose with my legs completely sprawled out straight or a  variation of vrksasana, or tree pose, where I switch each leg off in being in a figure four pose while still lying down. From there, usually it takes me about 20 minutes to completely fall into a deep, relaxation state and many time I find myself sleeping for about 2-3 hours on it before I wake up in the middle of the night, grateful for the peace that it has given me, and push it aside for the rest of the night to give my back some release from the spikes.

You might want to use the Spoonk differently, though.

  • You can roll the mat a little bit to elevate your neck, like a pillow, and massage out that high-stress area.
  • You can sit down on a chair or the edge of your bed, and walk out your feet to hit pressure points that way.
  • You can use it in a more active sense and either massage your hands or feet with it during a yoga pose like, downward-facing dog.

The best part about the Spoonk is that it’s light and easy bring with you on-the-go and store anywhere. The mat easily rolls up, very much like a yoga mat, and can be stored in a handy over-the-shoulder/across-the-shoulder, light weight protective bag that it comes with–this means that you can Spoonk at home, at work, on vacation, at your friend’s place, etc. The possibilities are endless!

spoonk3Well, I’m off to eat breakfast and start my day as you wind down yours across the world. Today we are exploring Hángzhōu through a private boat ride on the famous West Lake, Lingyin Temple-one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, and the Southern Song Imperial Street, which is filled with genuine antique shops and teahouses.

In the meantime, I encourage you all to find a way to meditate today. Personally, I know that I will definitely take some time to quiet my mind as I enter the temple today to think of my current state of being and my levels of happiness, as I continue on my quest for balance. You are winding down your day–what will you focus on?  If you don’t know where to start, first read over my last post to get a better sense of what kind or style of meditation might be best for you. As always, if you have any suggestions on techniques that work best for you, I’d love to hear them and share them with everyone: leave a comment below, email me melucas7@gmail.com, or Tweet at me @meggielukes and include #MegInTheMeantime.

And make sure to tune back in on Sunday (pending internet connections) for my next edition of Sunday Snacks!

baozhòng! (Take care!)
-Meg

Do Your Om thing!

Hi Everyone!

So I was originally going to write to you today about my training schedule and plan for the upcoming B.A.A. 10k on June 26th; however, I ended up having a much needed life conversation with my best friend from home, Anya, last night and I feel like some of those points are probably more relevant and important to share with you at this time…

First of all, I have to express that I hope that everyone has an Anya in their life–not a literal person named Anya, but someone just like her. Anya is one of those people who is so kind, wise, and non-judgmental; she automatically calms your life down with the sound of her voice; and, most impressively, she and I have always had such a rare connection in completely understanding each other.  Even though she and I are arguably very different people and even if our lives aren’t synced up or at the same place in our respective trajectories, there is some kind of unspoken balance and understanding within us, so much so, that we’ve always considered ourselves to be “twin souls,” lucky enough to find each other so early in our lives! Anya has been my best friend since first grade, so that means we’re going on 22 years of friendship-the past 10 of which have been spent a majority apart from each other due to college and post-college life (I, up in Massachusetts and she, down in New Jersey)…so that, in itself, is amazing. Somewhere in that brief rambling of an overview, I hope you can gain a little insight to the type of person that Anya is and why I would hope everyone is just as lucky to have someone similar of significance in their life. Anyways, I digress…

I will not go into the great details of what Anya and I spoke about on the phone for countless hours last night, but I will share an inspirational concept that was sparked from our conversation with you in hopes that we can both incorporate something new into our lives to better balance ourselves and practice wellness.

We began our phone call talking about what we were just doing: I had just walked into my apartment after running around Boston, crossing off my to-do list of last minute errands before my business trip to China, feeling completely exhausted from earlier in the day because of a 4am wake up to travel down to NYC to pick up my visa and passport from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York only to travel back up to Boston to attend a work reception in the afternoon. Anya, on the other hand, had just stepped out of a 40-minute meditation state in her apartment, where she was lying down on an acupressure mat, with a warmed up, spa-like mask to cover her eyes, and soft music and sounds playing in the background that she downloaded off a yoga YouTube channel. I told you we were very different!

Right away I thought to myself: Damn, I wish I could be more like her! Only to quickly correct myself and say: I am inspired by Anya and will put in the effort and time to practice similar wellness habits. There is no reason why I can’t be more like her in that way, I just have to choose to make time for myself and my wellness throughout the day.

I don’t know about you, but I am notorious for always keeping myself busy, for better or for worse: I always stay late at work and take work home with me (the first thing I check in the morning when I wake up is my e-mail so I know what I am getting myself into for the day); for the last four years straight (including summers) I have been in grad school part-time for two different master’s degrees; and I am always taking on some new challenge, like a half marathon or 30-days of yoga, etc. I choose and love these additions in my life, but I also never choose to take a break or check-in to make sure I’m not going to burn myself out. This is where something like meditation can come into handy!

I just completed my very last grad class on Monday night and, while I’m so sad that I will not be in a physical classroom learning anymore (at least for now!), I am energized at the thought of a formal break to take some time for myself; to be able to come home after work and do what I please: read a book for pleasure, take a walk, go to more yoga classes, meet up with friends, or even meditate! Anya is just as busy and stressed as I am in her life, but she does a way better job of making time to practice wellness and set aside time to check-in, reconnect, and refresh. I think just mentally knowing that my schedule will clear up a bit will do a lot for me in terms of fitting in time for meditation, self-reflection, and care.

Now I know some of you may scoff at the idea of meditation, yoga, or the concept of “finding yourself,” or “doing something that’s good for your soul.” Some of you may even feel like the donut depicted below in this sketch:

meditation

You don’t have to attend a yoga class to meditate. I personally think the best part of meditation is the fact that there are a million different ways, spaces, and times to do it–it’s very adaptable to any schedule! If you have no idea where to start, start with concentrated, deep breathing-you’ll be surprised at how much taking sloooooow, deep breaths will relax you and clear your mind. If you master that and want to move on, consider setting an intention or a mantra for the day and honing in on how you might achieve that.

If you do feel the need to have some form of private, guided meditation there are plenty of free ones to stream on YouTube, but you can also buy some really wonderful apps that come fully loaded with meditation essentials (some cost money, others are free). One company that I feel does the meditation things really well is Meditation OasisI personally have downloaded their “Relax & Rest,” “Simply Being,” “iSleep Easy,” and “Breathe” apps to practice mindfulness throughout the day, but you can also purchase their Meditation Oasis bundle (which includes 8 targeted apps) or listen to their podcast that is highlighted on the website I’ve linked above. Again, while there are many this is the one that I have been most happy with because I like the way they blend voice commands and soothing background music and because there is a wide variety of different timed meditations to choose from: as short as 2-3 minutes if you’re trying to squeeze in a quick break and all the way up to 30-45 minutes.

Here are some ideas to kickstart your meditation practice:

  • You can lay in bed for a few extra minutes when you wake up and set your intention for the day.
  • If you walk to work or commute by bus or train you can plug in to a guided meditation flow, close your eyes and follow a meditation sequence (make sure to not miss your stop!).
  • You can close the door to your office and take some time mid-day to refresh.
  • You can wait until you come home from work to disconnect with everything that happened throughout the day.
  • And, my personal favorite, take some time to wind down before bed to reflect on your day, let go of anything that doesn’t serve you, and prepare for the next!

Okay, well I’m off to China in the early morning for a week-long work trip. As I mentioned, I hope to still be able to blog regularly on my usual schedule (Sunday, Wednesday, Friday), but please bear with me, the jet lag, and the 12-hour time difference in the meantime. You can trust that I will definitely be utilizing these meditation tools throughout my trip-especially during the 16 hour flight-and will share with you one of my favorite meditation accessories on Friday.

Until then, be well and send me some positive and energizing vibes during your meditation experiment! 🙂

Love,
Meg

From quin-what?! to quin-whoa!!

Wake up, friends! Don’t let the rainy, dreary weather keep you in bed too long this morning.

I’m going to get right to it today. Many of you have probably heard of quinoa and its plethora of health benefits: rich in diverse array of antioxidants, loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, valuable about of heart-healthy fats, and so on…the benefits, to me, seemed pretty similar to the “super food” chia seeds that I wrote about in my PB&J smoothie recipe. Well, just like chia seeds, I was intimated to try to incorporate something new into my diet, but knew that eventually I should.

And so, while browsing healthy dessert alternatives the other day I stumbled across a recipe by Blissful Basil blogger, Ashley, that seemed too awesome to be true: Quinoa Peanut Butter Crunch Cups. Peanut butter cups are one of my all-time favorite candies so I figured-even though there is no chocolate involved in the recipe (it is a healthy alternative, after all)-this would be the safest, and probably most delicious, route to testing out quinoa.

Some things to note: prep time for this recipe is much longer than the usual ones I give you in my Sunday Snacks series…well, depending on if you have pre-puffed quinoa or not; that is the part that took me the longest, especially because I was new to working with quinoa. If you are puffing your own quinoa (don’t be intimidated by the sound of that…remember, if I can do it, so can you!) then I’ve included instructions below. If this is the case, then consider prep and cook time to be about an hour. If you have already-puffed quinoa then take out about 30 minutes out of the overall time. Once the quinoa-peanut butter mixture is complete, the cups will have to set in the freezer for about an hour before they can be consumed.

Despite its longer prep time, the reason I still am including this recipe is that it’s still very simple to follow (just six steps!), there’s no baking involved, and I really appreciate it as a creative alternative to one of the most beloved candies: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. The only other downside to this recipe is that it includes things like coconut oil and coconut butter and, if you’re like me, you’re not one to have these things lying around your kitchen so you will have to pop over to a place like Whole Foods and pick those up. However, I must say, now that I have worked with coconut oil as a healthy alternative I think I’ll use it more while cooking–so that’s another bonus from working with this recipe. But, I digress…

The recipe will yield 16 peanut butter cups, which is a great amount to save a handful for yourself and bring the rest in to share with co-workers, friends, and family! I envision these peanut butter cups as a nice mid-morning snack when you’re craving sweets or need a little pick me up or as a great fueling source pre and post-workout. So, without further ado, here are the ingredients and instructions to make your very own peanut butter crunch cups:

Quinoa Peanut Butter Crunch Cup Ingredients:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups puffed quinoa*
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. peanut butter (you can also substitute in almond butter, if you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. coconut butter
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp. maple syrup (the recipe calls for pure maple syrup, but I used the “fake stuff” because that’s what I like-feel free to improvise, as well)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

*You apparently can buy puffed quinoa in the store (most likely in a place like Whole Foods), however I had trouble finding it so my instructions will include how to “puff” regular quinoa. Note: if I can do this, so can you-this was my first time ever working with quinoa and I think I did alright!

Other Items Needed:

  • cupcake/muffin liners
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • mixing bowl
  • whisk
  • pots
  • tray

QuinoaCupIngredients

Instructions:

  1. “Puff” your quinoa: use a little coconut oil in a pot on medium heat and pour in a small amount of quinoa at a time-enough to line the base of the pot. Gently stir the quinoa around the pan (to avoid burning) and wait for them to “pop”- this should take a couple of minutes. I had no idea what I was doing during this part of the instructions and was honestly just hoping for the best, so my advice to you is to trust yourself-the site and smell will remind you of popping popcorn. The size of the quinoa won’t be drastically different, but you’ll be able to tell that they’ve popped a bit. Be careful because some can pop right out of the pot and burn you! Once the quinoa is puffed, pour it into a mixing bowl and repeat with the rest, little by little, until you have puffed and popped 1 & 1/2 cups of quinoa.
  2. One your quinoa is puffed and in a mixing bowl move on to the other ingredients. In another pot, mix together your peanut butter, coconut butter, coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Keep the heat low and whisk continuously until the ingredients are melted and smooth (it took me 1.5-2 minutes).
  3. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the puffed quinoa in the mixing bowl and stir until fully and evenly coated.
  4. Place your cupcake/muffin liners on a tray or baking sheet. Scoop 2 tbsp. of the mixture into each liner and smooth out evenly with a spoon.
  5. Pop the tray into the freezer for an hour to set.
  6. Once the cups have set, move to the refrigerator to store until you are ready to induldge!

FinishedQuinoaCups

SingleBittenQuinoaCup

I found that these peanut butter cups are definitely crunchy and delicious: your taste buds will be overwhelmed with the peanut butter taste at first and then as you continue to chew, the more plain quinoa flavor slowly takes over-and so that will continue for every bite you take to consume the cup. I think I’m still just getting used to the overall quinoa flavor and texture and I realize that many of you, might be as well. That being said, I’d like to find a way to incorporate these peanut butter cups into something else as to ease our way into loving quinoa. Perhaps we can dip these cups into a Greek yogurt, drizzle a little chocolate on top (the dark kind, to keep it healthy), or even throw them a few cups into a smoothie that needs some peanut butter and crunch!

Can you think of other ways to utilize these peanut butter crunch cups in your snacks? I’d love to hear your thoughts: leave me a comment below, e-mail me at melucas7@gmail.com, or tag me on Twitter: @meggielukes and include #MegInTheMeantime. Then, be sure to check back later this week for more wellness tips.

Oh, I should mention: next week I leave for China for a business trip for a week….I know, casual right?! I’m pretty stoked for this trip and can’t wait to share some of my cool experiences with you but, this also means that some of my posts may be a little late or shorter than usual. I would never leave you hanging and don’t intend to put Meg in the Meantime on hold while traveling, so it will be be a great testament to still being able to incorporate a healthy lifestyle and workout regiments while on the road. I also start training for the B.A.A. 10k this week so, for the next eight weeks, you can follow me on a fitness journey that will hopefully result in a PR, one of my “Current Goals” listed on my homepage–this will be a great series to follow if you are thinking of training for a race of any length!

In the meantime, I’m off to tackle my first training run (after I actively stretch first, of course)-it’s nothing too long or crazy, just a 3 miler, but I think it will be a great starting point. Starting points don’t have to be drastic or too scary, they just have to be somewhere semi-comfortable to begin and give you enough space to be able to move forward to where you want to be in your projected time frame. For me, starting with a 3 miler allows for me to have a few weeks of consistent 4 and 5 milers, and even allows for me to push into the 6-6.5 mile zone, before the actual race day-which is enough for me to feel comfortable and confident to tackle shaving off some time. That’s the plan, at least! I will definitely make sure to share my training schedule with you this week so you can see where I’m at and offer any advice you may have if you’ve recently attempted something similar.

Talk with you soon,
-Meg