DIY: Healthy Blue Cheese Dressing

Good Morning!

So before you start your (hopefully relaxing, but probably more realistically errands-filled) Sunday I thought I’d catch you to share the latest on my Sunday Snacks series…you know, in case you needed to run out to the store to pick up a few inspired items for your healthy meal prep for the week or one special Sunday evening dinner.

To be honest, many of the snacks/meals/smoothies that are featured on Meg in the Meantime are found on Pinterest and/or are brought up in conversations with my friends, family, and/or boyfriend. Today’s feature came about after Ryan, my boyfriend, and I were trying to decide what to make for dinner one night this week. Bless him, he always plays along with my food experiments for this blog and so I took to my usual Pinterest search and stumbled upon Marie’s version of Healthy Blue Cheese Dressing,* courtesy of her blog: Not Enough Cinnamon.
*For the sake of today’s feature you can ignore the part about the chopped brussels sprout salad, unless of course you’d like to incorporate that into your meal as a refreshing appetizer or starter to share.

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What I appreciate most about Marie’s blog is that, while she is clearly passionate about cooking and baking-and therefore probably capable of some really intimidating and impressive impressive nutritious cooking feats-she makes sure to keep her recipes on Not Enough Cinnamon fairly simple and easy for us likeminded folk who don’t have much time (and perhaps the same skill level!) in our daily lives to dedicate to cooking, but who still desire to lead a mindfully healthy lifestyle.

By now you must be thinking: “She was trying to figure out healthy dinner plans with her boyfriend and she only decided to make her own blue cheese dressing?!” Well, no…I actually decided to test out the blue cheese dressing with another one of Marie’s recipes: Skinny Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, but for the sake of this blog I’ll just feature the dressing and show you how I used it on the stuffed sweet potatoes and let you get creative with what else you dip in/dress with the healthy dressing. Here are some of my thoughts: vegetables, salad, crackers, chicken (think: chicken wings), sandwiches and burgers (beef, turkey, veggie, etc.)–the possibilities are endless!

And so, with just seven simple ingredients and no more than five minutes you have created a delicious, low calorie alternative dressing that yields just under two cups in total. Here are the details to get you going:

Healthy Blue Cheese Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup blue cheese (use 3/4 cup if you want a stronger flavor/chunkier consistency)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or, use honey blended if you want some extra sweetness)
  • 1 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp. honey (I ended up using more like 1 tbsp)
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • salt to taste

BlueCheeseIngredients

Other Items Needed:

  • mixing bowl
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • whisk

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients into mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk together until fully blended. Whisk harder and pound a bit if you want a creamier dressing-otherwise enjoy its naturally chunky texture!

I honestly was not sure how the healthy blue cheese dressing would come out, but lucky for me I had blue cheese’s biggest critic, Ryan, by my side to test it out (never met anyone who despises Kraft’s blue cheese more than he does). Good news for this recipe, though-he liked it! I actually felt like screaming “He likes it!” a la the 1978 Life Cereal commercial featured “Mikey.”

Anyways, like I mentioned earlier…Ryan and I decided to use our healthy blue cheese dressing on another one of Marie’s recipes: Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes and it was fantastic! I won’t go into the details of that recipe (you can find that information linked above), but I will share some meal prep and finished product snapshots with you to hopefully inspire a future meal of yours!

BuffChixStuffedSweetPotato

What are some things that you would use this healthy blue cheese dressing on? I listed a few obvious suggestions above, but am always interested to hear what you all think! Comment below or share your ideas with me on Twitter: @meggielukes.

In the meantime, I’m off to race the B.A.A. 10k (in some unfortunately really hot weather)–wish me luck and send me good vibes. Will report back with results later!

Stay cool out there,
-Meg

Chocolate-Drizzled Peanut Butter Cookies

Hi Everyone!

First of all, I’d like to wish a very Happy Father’s Day to all of the great dads out there…but especially to mine, who-in my humble opinion-is the world’s greatest. I’m not sure if he knows this, but I feel extremely fortunate that I can say that my dad has had a major influence in my love of living a healthy, active lifestyle.

From the moment I could walk, I was running and signed up for sports. I, along with all of my siblings, grew up playing year-round sports and always being pushed to be the best we could be from our dad, who was a naturally strong and great athlete himself. And I don’t mean he pushed us from afar, like hearing about our games over dinner because he wasn’t there…I mean in the moment and in all of the moments leading up to the games my dad was (and still is) always there. He would spend his days off taking us to sports academies and camps, traveling leagues, and practicing drills with us in the backyard or at a nearby field. He would make sure to be at every single game of ours, even if it meant coming straight from work and showing up in his uniform. My dad was always there in my peripherals: when I was up at bat, on the field, or on the court-to shake his head slightly frustrated if he knew we could do better/weren’t trying our best, to give some constructive advice after a tough moment, to give a roar/hoot/holler from the stands that exuded pure pride and love, and sometimes even to drag us to the hospital for x-rays or MRI’s, when we inevitably injured ourselves…and then to console our defeated, tearful selves afterwards when we realized our season was over and we needed surgery. No matter what the situation, my dad was always there to hug us afterwards, look us in the eye, and tell us that he loved us…every single time.

And even though I don’t live in New Jersey with my parents anymore and my current active lifestyle is a very different kind from what it once was (now mainly running and yoga), I know my dad is still just as proud and tries to stay as involved in and as up to date in my healthy, active lifestyle as possible. Although I selfishly wish that I could see him in my peripherals during every road race I run, I know he’s thinking of me during the race and makes sure to check in with encouraging texts and phone calls. He might not even fully understand the whole blogging/social media concept, but he’s one of my most loyal and supportive Meg in the Meantime followers, too! How lucky am I to have him?! So thanks, Dad for caring enough to always be there.

And so, here’s to you dad: the greatest man I know and a fellow peanut butter lover. I want to dedicate today’s Sunday Snacks edition to something that he would enjoy eating–lucky for me, I am home in New Jersey this weekend with my family and so my dad can actually test them out, instead of just commenting about how good my healthy snacks look. Per usual, I trolled Pinterest for some healthy peanut butter desserts and came across a peanut butter cookie recipe from Myra of The Happy Healthy Freak. With a healthy dark chocolate, coconut oil drizzle on top, I knew right away that these small, sweet, and healthy treats would be the way to go for Father’s Day.

PeanutButterCookie-baked1

These cookies are made from only five ingredients, are low in sugar, low in carbs, and takes less than a half hour to make (about 10-15 minutes of prep time and about 15 minutes of baking time). This particular recipe will yield 20-24 cookies, depending on how large you want to them, but I believe the whole purpose to to keep them on the smaller, bite-size end.

According to my dad, they’re a little too delicious to be healthy. He said (and I quote): “Are you sure these are healthy?? They seem too good to be healthy…” Haha! So since these cookies are impressively “Dad-tested, Dad-approved” (trust me, he’s not easily impressed) let’s get straight to how to make them so you and your loved ones can enjoy, as well!

Chocolate-Drizzled Peanut Butter Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1 cup natural peanut butter (I used the kind with honey in mine for extra sweetness)
  • 1/2 cup organic sweetener (I used Stevia, but there are many different kinds)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tbsp. virgin coconut oil

PeanutButterCookie-ingredients

Other Items Needed:

  • mixing bowl
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • whisk or electric beater
  • baking sheet
  • fork

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine peanut butter, sweetener, and egg in a bowl-mix together well.
  3. Roll the mixture together into 1 inch balls (or a little smaller)-place on baking sheet.
  4. Press down on rolled balls with a fork.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes (but check at 12-13 minutes, if you rolled smaller balls).
  6. While cookies are cooling, melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil together in the microwave.
  7. Once cookies are cooled, drizzle the chocolate mix on top.
  8. Let the chocolate drizzle harden* and enjoy!

*You can place the cookies in the refrigerator to serve chilled and really harden up the chocolate, or keep the cookies softer, warmer, and gooier and keep out in room temperature.

PeanutButterCookie-ballsPeanutButterCookie-forked

PeanutButterCookie-baked

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Besides inspiring my love of peanut butter, my dad inspires me to forever strive for greatness; to respect and appreciate the pride that comes after a long, hard days work; to always keep challenging myself and to never stop until my “good” is better than my “best” in all aspects of my life…and I’m so grateful to have that kind of mindset in my adult life. What about you? Think about what your dad (or some kind of father-figure) has inspired you to do/become today. Was your dad your number one fan growing up? What special traditions did you have together growing up-something that maybe is meant for just you and him? What’s some of your favorite memories? Make sure to give him a call and tell him or, if you’re lucky enough to live nearby, go visit and tell him in-person.

In the meantime, if your dad is a peanut butter fan like mine is, bake these cookies for him and enjoy a special conversation over a healthy snack together. And don’t forget-look him in the eye and tell him you love him, too!

Happy Sunday,
-Meg

Healthy Enough for Breakfast, Sweet Enough for Dessert!

Hello There!

I don’t know about you, but I can almost never turn down dessert…especially if it’s ice cream, or some kind of frozen treat. So now that we’re moving into the hot summer months, I want to share with you a cool, healthy snack alternative that complements most sweet tooth desires: Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana, Yogurt Pops. Yes-almost all of the ingredients are listed right there in its title and yes-they are as perfectly balanced and delicious as they sound.

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I originally found the Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana, Yogurt Pops recipe from Danae on her healthy recipe blog, Recipe Runnerafter trolling Pinterest for healthy summer snacks. Right away the title caught my eye (all of my favorite things in one popsicle?!) and knew that it would be perfect for this week’s Sunday Snacks edition-it’s quick and easy to make, healthy and wholesome, and something cool and refreshing for any “Sunday Funday” you might have this summer!

Prep time for this recipe is only 10 minutes so you can make them (without stress) when you get home from work and-in three easy steps-this sweet and delicious treat will be ready for you before bed or after your morning miles as something to cool yourself off with (in lieu of a smoothie)! This particular recipe yields 8 popsicles, so feel free to double your ingredients if you are making them for a larger gathering or summer party.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana, Yogurt Pop Ingredients:

  • 1 & 1/2 – 2 large bananas
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

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Other Items Needed:

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Popsicle molds (the ones I used are from Bed, Bath. & Beyond, but you can use any mold with wooden popsicle sticks, too)
  • Blender (or some other variation: Ninja, NutriBullet, etc.)

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Instructions:

  1. Put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until mixture is smooth.
  2. Pour the mixture into the popsicle mold and place the sticks/holder in place. If you are using traditional wooden popsicle sticks, freeze the pops for about 30 minutes before placing the stick in so it stands up straight).
  3. Freeze the popsicles for about 4 hours, or until frozen. Enjoy!!

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Now all you have to do is get out there, grab a friend or two, move with intention and get your sweat on, and come home to this refreshingly, cool treat to snack on…you more than earned it!

On a separate note, have you ever read through my “Current Goals” section?  If not, please check it out and make sure to tune back in tomorrow for a special post-I want to share some exciting news with you about my training! In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you-what are some of YOUR current health, wellness, and fitness goals? As I continue to  accomplish more and add new challenges to my list, I’m curious about what you all are striving for. If you are willing, share some of your big and bold or small and hard goals below in the comment section to inspire me and others or tweet at me: @meggielukes (with the hashtag #MegInTheMeantime for good measure). Can’t wait to hear from you!

Happy Sunday to you all,
-Meg

(W)awfully Delicious!

Hey There–it’s been a while!

How are you on this rainy, cozy, and cool Sunday?? To me, New England today felt more like an early fall day than late spring/bordering summer one and so I wanted to give you the gift of a healthy alternative to a classic brunch dish with a hint of fall comfort: Healthy Sweet Potato Waffles.

SweetPotatoWaffle-Final

I found the recipe for this amazing Sunday brunch treat while trolling Pinterest for healthy snack ideas (one of my favorite parts of blogging!). I came across Whitney’s recipe for sweet potato waffles* on her blog To Live & Diet in L.A. and knew that it would be the perfect addition to my Sunday Snacks series. Whitney makes a note that waffles are a great source of fuel to keep your body in motion during a typical energy-packed day…I’m no nutritionist, but I’d have to agree; there’s no better way to start your day than to fill you up with nutrients and vitamins through some kind of sweet potato dish.
*These sweet potato waffles are also gluten-free.

Another reason why I appreciate this recipe is that even though breakfast and brunch preparations can seem more like a chore at times (depending how many people you are cooking for or how much time you have in the morning), these waffles only take a about 20 minutes to make (well…contingent upon how you decide to prepare your sweet potatoes, of course…that’s explained below and is a personal preference). This recipe in particular will yield two large waffles or four small waffles and is extremely easy to create. So, without further ado…let’s get to it!

Healthy Sweet Potato Waffle Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato (depending on the size of the sweet potatoes you can change this ingredient to be 1 & 1/2 or 2 full ones)
  • 1 cup old fashion rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp. virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Other Items Needed:

  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Blender (or some other variation: Ninja, NutriBullet, etc.)
  • Waffle maker
  • Cooking spray

SweetPotatoWaffle-Ingredients

Instructions:

  1. Cook the sweet potatoes: either 30-45 minutes at 425 degrees in the oven or by piercing the potato with a fork/knife and microwaving for 6-8 minutes.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (oats, baking powder, cinnamon) in the blender, then transfer into the mixing bowl.
  3. Combine the wet ingredients (sweet potato, egg, coconut oil, almond milk, vanilla extract) in the blender, then transfer into the mixing bowl.
  4. Mix together the dry and wet ingredients with a whisk until fully blended.
  5. Heat up the waffle maker, lightly coat with cooking spray, and pour the sweet potato batter in. Cook waffles until crisp on the outside (I noticed that even after the waffle maker light indicated that the sweet potato waffle was finished, that it still needed an extra few minutes to cook all the way through-so make sure to monitor closely.)
  6. Top the sweet potato waffle with an an optional peanut butter and honey topping, in lieu of maple syrup: combine 2 tbsp. of peanut or almond butter with 1 & 1/2 tsp. of honey and heat up in the microwave. Drizzle on the waffle and top with fruit (cut up banana, apple, pear, peach, blueberry, strawberry, etc.). Enjoy!

SweetPotatoWaffle-Mix

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Another great thing about these sweet potato waffles-they can be as healthy or as playful and dessert-like as you want them to be, depending on your mood! Feel free to follow the directions above religiously or add some sweetness to them, in moderation: a tsp. or tbsp. of maple syrup to the drizzle topping for an added layer of sweetness…or go full-out Thanksgiving and top your waffles with some marshmallows and perhaps even a little chocolate drizzle mixed in with the peanut butter. Whatever you want, you earned it…so follow your heart and make sure to enjoy every last bite of these delicious, healthy waffles.

On a personal note, I unfortunately missed a couple of my usual posts this week so I’ll summarize some highlights from my week quickly for you, in the meantime:

  • I’ve been loving consistently running throughout the week as I come towards the end of my training for the upcoming B.A.A. 10k on Sunday, June 26th-from long 5 milers through downtown Boston and along the Charles River with Becca early in the morning to shorter 3 milers in the pouring rain with Ryan in the North Shore in the afternoons. One of my current goals, outlined on the Meg in the Meantime homepageis to hit a 10k PR. I’m just a few weeks away from race day, but I think I’m right on track to accomplishing that goal…and that’s a great feeling!
  • With all of the running also comes lots of active stretching pre-runs and longer, deeper stretches and strength training exercises post-runs a la Dani Adler’s easy, effective, and efficient run training plan. To learn more about these stretching habits, check out an older post of mine: “Stretch It Out.
  • Even though I mentioned it earlier in this post, I am really loving all of the food exploration and experimentation that has come from blogging. Spending my day researching creative and healthy alternative snacks, meals, and smoothies and connecting with amazing companies and brands (both large and well-known, like Nuun, and local, start-ups, like nutty life) has been such an added pleasure to my new blogging lifestyle!
  • As always, I’m looking forward to my RunYoga series tomorrow, led by Cara Gilman–word on the street is that tomorrow we’ll be doing some speed work on a local track and then slowly down our yoga practice with a deeper meditation style…all of this sounds very different from what I’m used to and, therefore, AWESOME! I can’t wait to tell you more about it later this week.

Well, that’s all from me for now. Enjoy what’s left of your Sunday and make sure to share this sweet potato recipe with someone you love…it is Sunday after all, a traditional American family get together kinda day! I sure do miss my family since they’re all back home in New Jersey and so these are the kinds of things that I share with them to close the gap between us and let them know I’m thinking of them and they’re health and well-being and sending them love by way of healthy alternative recipes. 🙂

Sending you happy and healthy vibes to start your week,
-Meg

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

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)

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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

 

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

 

 

The new chip on the block.

Good Morning!

This weekend, I wanted to break away from my usual breakfast-themed snacks, like muffins and smoothies, and give you a recipe that can be used more as a pre-dinner appetizer with your family or a snack to share amongst friends in a social setting. What is this snack?  Zucchini chips, your new healthy alternative to greasy fried potato chips!

Now I know you may be thinking: “But Meg, they make baked potato chips now with far less fat…” to which I would respond: “But these include a delicious vegetable with a plethora of health benefits, including the ability to lower cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.” For more on the surprisingly awesome health benefits of zucchinis, definitely take a couple of minutes to browse through this article from Veg Kitchen; the benefits are endless and so powerful for your overall health, especially for your beautiful hearts. Then, when you decide to bake these chips and share with your friends you can super cool and in-the-know when your health facts when you reference this article (plus your family and friends will appreciate that you’re looking out for their health).

This is also the first of my Sunday Snacks series that, surprisingly, does not involve Greek yogurt and is not something that I found on Pinterest while looking for half marathon training meals to fuel my workouts–this snack will be a little heartier, but has simple ingredients and is very easy to make in a reasonable timeframe. The original recipe that I found was through the Real Simple website (which I highly recommend to browse through for a wide variety of healthy meals). I’ll include the original recipe that I found here because it includes a video that’s easy to follow in case you get nervous baking new things and want to feel like someone is in the kitchen with you. 🙂

Prep time for these zucchini chips is just around 15 minutes and total bake time is around 2o minutes–so we’re looking at 35-40 minute time slot set aside to complete this recipe. I chopped up a fairly large zucchini, so my recipe yielded 30 chips, which is a perfect size to serve as an appetizer before dinner or snack on with friends while watching a show or a game on TV. Without further ado, let’s get to the ingredients you’ll need to gather and the baking instructions.

Zucchini Chips Ingredients:

  • Zucchini (sliced)
  • Skim milk
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

Other Items Needed:

  • Baking sheet/pan
  • Measuring cups
  • Mixing bowls

Chip_Ingredients

Baking Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Wash zucchini and slice into even pieces (not too thin).
  3. Mix together breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in one bowl.
  4. Pour about 2 cups of skim milk into a separate bowl.
  5. Dip zucchini slices in the milk, then dredge into the mix of breading ingredients and place evenly on pan.
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or till crispy on the outside.

Chip_Prep.jpg

Chip_PreBake

I chose to eat my zucchini chips as a pre-dinner appetizer and dip them in a refreshing cucumber dressing, but these chips would also be lovely with a hummus, a chipotle aioli, or even just on its own with a mixture of other vegetables like carrots and such.

Chip_FinalProduct

I’m off to Dani Adler’s run clinic now (Learn the 3 E’s To Run Training: Easy, Efficient, Effective)- can’t wait to share what I learned from her with you later this week, as well as recap my experience at the Fitbit Local bootcamp and yoga event yesterday. I’m already feeling pretty sore from the Fitbit Local event, so I’m looking forward to sharing some kind of deep stretching tips with you on Wednesday–tune back in for all that goodness.

In the meantime, I hope this snack inspires some healthier alternative snacking options throughout your week. Potato chips are easy to pick up in the store and go to town on until you hit the bottom of the bag before you know it; however, these chips give you the opportunity to feel less guilty, while also getting your daily vegetable in. I challenge you all to think of one of your favorite go-to snacks and think of how you might be able to create a healthy alternative option. If you have something you’d like to share, I love trying out new recipes so please feel free to e-mail me at melucas7@gmail.com or comment below to share with everyone-I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

Enjoy your Sunday,
-Meg

When in doubt, blend it out!

Good Morning!

As the weather turns towards our proper spring expectations (it’s going to be sunny and over 60 degrees tomorrow for the Boston Marathon!!) I figured it was time to have one of the “Sunday Snacks” reflect the warmer weather…this means it’s smoothie time!

Smoothies are such an easy way to nourish and replenish your body with essential nutrients, while also encouraging some experimental food fun! What’s great about smoothie making is the flexibility and creativity that it allows–you can take a basic smoothie recipe and tweak it to fit your body’s needs that day (or any dietary preference you may have); plus, it’s a great way to prevent fruit or veggies from going to waste!

Again, while trolling through Pinterest for half marathon training meals, I came across a smoothie recipe by Serena from Domesticate Me that ended up being as delicious as it sounded: a PB&J Smoothie. Yeah, you heard me right…it’s peanut butter jelly time!

I don’t know about you, but two things came to mind when I was reading through this recipe for the first time. (1) I am so proud of the way my taste buds have changed, grown, and become more refined over time. When I was a little kid all I would’ve never even eaten a PB&J sandwich (I didn’t like jelly), let alone try something like a “smoothie.” Instead I would have opted for plain peanut butter (not even the cool crunchy kind) on white bread and that was it. All I wanted back then was peas, carrots, hot dogs, bologna sandwiches, and milk…not all together, of course! And while I still love all of those things (anyone who knows me immediately understands my affinity for hot dogs, both plain and fully loaded with an assortment of interesting toppings), I am so proud of myself for being more open to new experiences and healthy food options. But, I digress…

(2) I saw the phrase “1 tbsp. chia seeds” and had a moment of panic. I honestly have never tried this “super food” before and, while I have read multiple articles citing the plethora of health benefits that they provide you with, they still remained on a list of  intimidating healthy foods to one day try and incorporate into my diet…mainly because I had no idea what to do with them. Luckily, this recipe just calls for you to just throw it in a blender, so I felt better about that. Well, I’m here to tell you that, if you’ve never tried chia seeds before then HAVE NO FEAR–I found them to be quite delicious and am looking forward to testing them out in other recipes now, too!

So, without further ado, let’s get to the main event: a throwback and homage to your basic childhood lunchtime snack. The following recipe will yield 1 large and hearty smoothie, guaranteed to fill you up and fuel you throughout your day. Let’s face it: mornings are not all sunshine and roses, as this Real Morning Report, courtesy of Organic Valley, hilariously depicts (but seriously, watch it…it’s great…and so true). Therefore, I wanted to make sure to provide you with a smoothie recipe that is not only healthy and energizing, but also will be realistic and doable for you. And so, in less than 10 minutes (from ingredient gathering/preparation to smoothie making) you have a delicious and nutritious snack that’s great for a commute into work, a midday work break, or a post-workout.

PB&J Smoothie Ingredients:

  • 1 banana, sliced or whole
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter (I used crunchy peanut butter with honey for extra flavor, but almond butter works, too!)
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt, honey blended (the original recipe didn’t call for this, but I wanted to add it for a thicker smoothie)
  • A handful of ice cubes

Other Items Needed:

  • Blender (or some other variation, such as the Ninja, NutriBullet, etc.)
  • Measuring cups

smoothie-prep

Instructions:

  • Add all of the ingredients into a blender (or NutriBullet, in my case) until fully blended/smooth, or at the consistency that you prefer.

PBJ-smoothie

If you haven’t gotten into a smoothie kick yet, I highly recommend testing out a few recipes to figure out what kind of smoothies you prefer before completely writing them off. First consider: water-based, milk-based, yogurt-based? Do you prefer thicker smoothies to pretend you’re drinking a milkshake? Do you use smoothies to get your daily greens in? Do you use smoothies to replace a meal like breakfast or lunch or to avoid midday munching? Or, maybe you just enjoy the simplicity of throwing a bunch of things into a blender and letting it do the work for you? Personally, I’m a big fan of the last one since I’m no Chef Boyardee (speaking of throwbacks…).  Either way, whatever your reasoning for smoothie making, don’t be afraid to go off the strict recipe outlines and have some fun with it!

Make sure to check back later this week for another dose of wellness! In the meantime, make yourself a smoothie and share your favorite recipe with me: leave a comment below, e-mail me: melucas7@gmail.com, or tag me on Twitter: @meggielukes and include #MegInTheMeantime, for good measure! And, if you haven’t done so already read my last post “Wellness, while you can” and really take some time to reflect on what little steps you can take in order to take better care of yourself and check-in with your physical and mental wellness levels more often.

Until then…from Boston with love,
-Meg

It’s crunch time!

Rise and shine, friends!

It’s time for another edition of “Sunday Snacks.” I really look forward to writing this post, in particular, each week because it means that I get to do some experimenting with food and really let my creativity flow. I also enjoy this series because it connects me with my friends. I often will consult with a friend or two about my healthy, on the go snack ideas to see what other improvisations they can think of that I can share with you all; we all have such different tastes and interests so picking the brain of those who are very different from us is usually very eye opening when playing–I mean–experimenting with food recipes.

As I mentioned last week in my post about Banana Oat Greek Yogurt Muffins, I have been trying to incorporate more Greek yogurt into my diet. This week’s healthy snack also includes Greek yogurt and is something that I found again while surfing through Pinterest for meals that would help fuel my half marathon training: Cucumber-Feta Bites.

Cucumbers are so versatile and aren’t meant to just be a garnish in a salad. Think of a cucumber as an alternative to a cracker during snack time or even a bread alternative to your lunchtime sandwiches! Not sure what I mean? Keep reading below and you’ll see a cucumber evolve into wonderful and crunchy key part of your future healthy snacking habits!

The specific recipe I found came from MyRecipes, although I’m sure there are many alternatives and different versions out there. What I really appreciate about MyRecipes, and the reason I want to promote their interpretation of this snack, is because they are partners with the Let’s Move! initiative and are attempting to educate the public about creative, healthier alternative recipe options–all good stuff! Here’s a little snap shot of the finished product to get you excited before I share the rest of the simple steps to get you healthy snacking on the go!

After1

Depending on how you cut the cucumber, this recipe will yield 6 slices per cucumber-just the right amount to snack on throughout the day or share as an appetizer with friends/family before a meal. This is also a pretty quick snack to make and requires no baking or cooking, so prep time is just under 10 minutes, which means there’s no excuse why you can’t prep this snack very quickly before you head out the door in the morning.

Cucumber-Feta Bites Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp. non-fat Greek Yogurt (you can even try Greek Yogurt with honey for extra flavor!)
  • 2 tsp. of less/low-fat cream cheese (I used chive and onion cream cheese, but flavoring is your choice, depending on other toppings)
  • 1 tbsp. feta
  • 1 cucumber (cut and seeded)
  • 2 tsp. of walnuts (or your choice of alternative toppings)

Before

Preparation Directions:

  • Wash and peel the cucumber.
  • Cut cucumber in half the long way, and then in thirds.
  • Scoop out the seeds of the cucumber with a spoon.
  • In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, cream cheese, and feta. Add in salt and pepper (or other spices), if desired.
  • Spread the mix on each cucumber evenly.
  • Add your topping of choice (in this case, walnuts and Craisins) and enjoy!

CucumberSliced

After2

One of my favorite things about this recipe is how easily you switch up the ingredients to keep it interesting or to appeal to a friend of yours with different tastebuds. You can get creative with your Greek yogurt flavoring (plain, vanilla, honey blended) and/or your cream cheese selection (plain, chive and onion, vegetable). Other ways that you can make this snack recipe your own: mixed nut alternative (almonds, cashews, etc.), any diced vegetable of your choice (think: carrots, tomatoes, etc.), an optional honey drizzle on top, as well as a variety of other spices such as garlic. What about you-any other toppings or improvisations to add? Please feel free to share your comments below–I’d love to hear your additions to this simple snack.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope your brain is running a mile/minute with creative ideas for your cucumber bites and that you’re literally running out to the grocery store to grab some ingredients to prepare your healthy snack for the week!

In the meantime, make a point to share this quick and simple healthy snack with someone that you love. Many people consider Sunday a day to get together with family to spend quality time catching up and sharing special moments over a big, hearty meal. Unfortunately not all of us (myself included) live close enough to our families to do this as often as we’d like to. For those of us who can’t be with our families, or loved ones, today I urge you to pick up the phone and give them a call–tell them you’re thinking of them and wanted to share something that’s not only good for them, but also tastes good, too!

And, even if cucumbers, Greek yogurt, feta cheese, and so on isn’t really their cup of tea, I’m sure at the very least they’ll appreciate the phone call and the quality time they got to spend talking with you…if that’s not a great way to head into the week and restore balance to the important things in your life, then I don’t know what is!

Have a great day,
-Meg