#TastyTuesday: The Best Guacamole Recipe Ever

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Are you as obsessed with guacamole as I am? It tastes amazing (obviously), and it’s rich in healthy fats, potassium, and fiber. Even better, it’s so easy to make at home (and when you DIY, you know it doesn’t have unnecessary and unhealthy add-ins, like sour cream). If you don’t already have a go-to guac recipe, I highly recommend this one. The combination of smooth, creamy avocado, sweet mango, and spicy serrano chile is just perfect.

Mango Guacamole
makes 3 cups
adapted slightly from Martha Stewart

2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 serrano chile, minced (ribs and seeds removed for less heat, if desired)
1/4 cup fresh corn kernels
Coarse salt

In a medium bowl, combine avocados, mango, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, serrano chile, and corn. Fold gently, leaving texture chunky.

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What Every Woman Needs to Know About Overeating and Weight Gain

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Recently, a friend of mine came back from a weekend out of town and told me she’d been “so bad,” eating and drinking way more than she should have. So bad, in fact, that when she’d stepped on the scale the Monday after her trip, she suddenly weighed four pounds more than she had before the weekend. The thing is, it’s not as if this is the first time I’d had a conversation like this. And there have even been times when I’ve had this conversation with myself in my head. But here’s what I told my friend—and I make an effort to remind myself of the same thing when I start being too hard on myself about overindulging: Despite what the scale may say, it’s pretty much impossible to gain four pounds in two days.

Think about it: There are roughly 3,500 calories in a pound, and  14,000 calories in four pounds. Even if you ate an entire Pizza Hut stuffed crust pizza (with pepperoni), you’d only take in 960 calories—some of which aren’t even necessarily excess calories that would contribute to weight gain (after all, you need a certain number of calories for dinner). Are you seeing how difficult it would be to get to 14,000 extra calories?

Now, I know that there are a lot of other, more important reasons not to stress about indulging once in a while—namely that it’s just so much nicer to practice self-compassion. But when you’re in the throes of a post-binge panic attack and you can’t seem to muster the level-headedness necessary to see that potential weight gain and “bad” eating decisions aren’t worth beating yourself up over, remind yourself that your weight and overall health aren’t about one carb- and booze-filled weekend here and there. It’s about all of the little decisions you make and how they add up over time (speaking of which, you can also easily balance out overdoing it at one meal by being more mindful and eating a little less at your next several meals). Ignore what the scale may say—it’s probably reflecting increased water retention more than anything else. Once you convince yourself that you can’t possibly have done that much “damage” to your waistline, it’ll be easier to get to a mental state where you can treat yourself with kindness, regardless of whatever you ate the night before—I promise.

Do you have any other tricks you use to prevent yourself from freaking out after overeating? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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#TastyTuesday: Super-Simple Cinnamon-Raisin Hummus

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A couple of months ago, I wrote this fun article for work about how to add a few ingredients to a store-bought tub of hummus to make it taste way better. The concept was inspired by Blake Wollman, who’s invented dozens and dozens of out-of-the-box hummus flavors, which he sells through his company The Wild Pea. His creations are amazing—I’ve tasted his buffalo chicken, pizza, and the Asian fire flavors, among others—but my favorite has to be his cinnamon-raisin hummus (it’s also his signature variety). I know it sounds kind of strange to have a sweet hummus, but I promise it tastes so good. Granted, I don’t live in Baltimore, where Wollman is located and has managed to get his hummuses in lots of local markets. And while you can buy some of his flavors on Amazon, you have to commit to getting six tubs at a time (while I like hummus, I don’t go through that much of it).

So I came up with the idea to play around with creating my own cinnamon-raisin hummus at home, starting with a 12-ounce container of plain hummus from the store. And I have to say, I think I came pretty close to Wollman’s crazy-popular concoction. Here’s how you can make your own, too:

Cinnamon-Raisin Hummus
Inspired by The Wild Pea

12 oz store-bought plain hummus
2 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup raisins
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a bowl (or in the original hummus container if there’s room), and enjoy!

Super simple, right? Please let me know if you try it—I’m dying to convert more people into sweet hummus lovers!

 

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How to Exercise Intuitively (Plus, Links!)

Ever since I wrote about my recent fitness class fatigue, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of intuitive exercise. It’s something I first heard about while doing an intuitive eating challenge back in May; the idea is that, rather than dragging yourself to the gym and doing whatever will burn the maximum amount of calories, you should stay active in ways that you actually enjoy—and it definitely doesn’t have to involve doing the same exercises every day. Rather, just as you would listen to what your body is craving to eat intuitively, you should do the same with exercise and move in whatever way feels best to you in the moment.

Granted, everyone has those days when you don’t want to start working out because of sheer inertia—but are so glad you did afterward. Still, I’ve been making more of an effort the past several days to really ask myself, “What type of workout are you in the mood for today?” and make my decision of what to do based off of that. Today, I did a short bout on the elliptical at the gym (while reading The Silkworm; I know you’re not “supposed” to read while you’re working out, but I love it!). And I also biked to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with my boyfriend. No, it wasn’t as intense as a cycling class. But it was way more fun—and I saw some gorgeous flowers! Take a look:

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I’m going to continue to make an effort to exercise intuitively (including not forcing myself out of bed at 6:30 a.m. when I’m really enjoying evening workouts more lately). Here’s what else I have on my wellness radar this week:

Have a well-intentioned week!

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#TastyTuesday: How to Turn Any Cookie Recipe Into a Cookie Cake

As I’ve mentioned before, I try to eat healthy most of the time—but I also love baking. I don’t think the two have to be mutually exclusive. And one of my favorite things to make are cookie cakes! Not to brag, but I’ve mastered the art of baking and decorating them—and they’re always a hit. Take a look at some of my creations:

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Pretty fun, right? And the nice thing is that they’re (a) super-easy to make, and (b) a cinch to transport (so, so crucial when you have to take your baked goods on the New York City subway system). Even better? You can really use any cookie recipe you love to make a great cookie cake; you don’t have to stick to chocolate chip like Mrs. Fields did. After you mix up the dough, just follow these steps:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Prepare the dough as usual. (If you don’t feel like doing this step, you can totally cheat and buy a log or bucket of ready-to-bake cookie dough from the store.)

3. Roll the dough out into a disc roughly 3/4″ thick and 12″ in diameter. (Hint: Use a clean wine bottle to do this if you don’t have a rolling pin.) If your dough makes a bigger disc than this, cut off the excess (you can use it to make extra cookies!).

4. This is the only slightly tricky part: gauging how long your baking time will be. Basically, you want to take the cookie cake out of the oven as soon as it starts looking golden brown around the edges. I recommend beginning to check around 25 minutes, then checking again every 2-5 minutes after that if your cookie cake isn’t done yet.

5. Let cool for at least an hour. At this point, you can either decorate your cookie cake or just serve it as-is. Either way is fun, but if you’re decorating, you’ll probably want some disposable pastry bags and decorating tips. I’d just recommend practicing with the frosting on some wax paper first so you can get the hang of piping it through the bag and plan out where you want your writing/drawings to go before you start on the cookie (it’s not hard, I promise!). 

Make sure to keep the cookie cake on a flat surface (if you put it on a plate that’s not completely flat, your cookie cake will crack, like the panda one I made above). And if you need to transport your festive dessert, ask your local pizza joint if you can buy (or just take) one of its pizza boxes. They’re perfect for this, as are pizza cutters. Enjoy!

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A Red, White, and Blue Mimosa Bar for 4th of July Weekend

You guys, I worked on a really fun story for work recently—it’s all about how to create a red, white, and blue mimosa bar for Independence Day! (I know I’m a little belated here, but it’s still Fourth of July weekend.) Coming up with the idea, selecting which products to feature, ironing out all of the details on which foods and drinks we’d need to stock up on, and then putting it all together was a blast—and I think the end product turned out really well! Check out some of the photos:

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So fun and festive, right? You can get the full instructions on how to create the mimosa bar for yourself at WomensHealthMag.com, but here are some of the basics:

  • You’ll want to buy lots of bubbly, along with red, white, and blue juices and red, white, and blue fruits. We did cherry juice, coconut/white cranberry juice (coconut juice is whiter but also harder to find), blueberry juice, strawberries, raspberries, white peaches, apples, blueberries, and blackberries. Of course, if you’re making a mimosa bar for another occasion, you can coordinate the juices and fruits to be appropriate colors for that event. This would work really well for a bridal shower featuring the wedding colors, for example.
  • Then just arrange everything with a bunch of glasses in a pretty way, and you’re ready to go! If you’re using the same juices we used, you might want to take advantage of these free printable juice labels and straw tags.

Cheers!

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Yet Another Great Reason to Stop Comparing Your Eating Habits to Other People’s

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This weekend, when I was camping with the Girl Scout troop I volunteer with, my co-leader said something that surprised me: “I told myself that I was going to watch what you eat this weekend and have whatever you have.” Apparently, she had been impressed one time at a meeting when I turned down ice cream because I said I was having dinner afterward and didn’t want to ruin my appetite. What I hadn’t said was that, in addition to having those dinner plans, I had also overeaten at work that afternoon. Had that not been the case, I’m not sure I would have had the self-restraint to say no to some Ben & Jerry’s (at a later meeting, I gladly indulged in a Carvel ice cream sandwich).

The experience was a poignant reminder of something one expert told me when I was working on a story a wrote about food shaming a few months ago: You really have no idea what a person eats when you’re not around. And since our diets are all about the big picture—and not whatever you happen to notice someone noshing on in any given moment—the food habits of others you witness are definitely not worth guilting yourself over.

Still, it’s something that many of us do. Today, I got a text from the same woman mentioned above saying, “My watch Robin diet worked! I lost almost 2lbs this week! Now how do I get a video camera to follow u this summer? Lol.” Oh, the irony; I don’t actually feel like I have great eating habits. At all. Sure, sometimes I’m successful at my attempts to load up on produce-filled salads and snack on fruit with protein-rich Greek yogurt. But at other times (and a lot of other times lately), I stress eat, overindulge, or snack just because I’m tired—or for no discernible reason at all. Luckily, it seems like in this case the food comparison is somewhat motivating. But it’s not the only time something like this has happened. People at work have told me that I’m always so good about practicing self-control and turning down sweets. Again—that’s not at all in line with how I view my own eating habits. (I wish I could resist dessert more often!)

So the next time you find yourself noticing how or what someone else is eating and starting to compare how it stacks up against your own food tendencies, I hope you’ll remember this post and tell yourself that the person could have skipped the previous meal, just eaten a snack not too long ago, be planning to eat a big dinner, or any number of other situations about which you’re totally clueless. Rather than feeling bad (or good) about your own eating choices based on theirs, focus on listening to your cravings and hunger levels and choosing foods that will satisfy those. (And check out this other advice on how to stop comparing your food choices to other people’s.) If you ask me, that’s a much saner and less stressful way to nourish yourself.

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photo by Kwekwe

#TastyTuesday: 5 Fruits That Taste Amazing When They’re Frozen

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Have you noticed how sugar’s become public enemy No. 1 lately? Tons of people are quitting all added sugar, and in one survey, 15 percent of people said they thought the sweet stuff was the worst thing for your health—that’s twice the number who said the same about marijuana. I won’t be eliminating sugar from my diet any time soon—I think a balanced eating plan can include all foods, and I know that it would drive me crazy to adhere to all of the food restrictions that would be necessary to eliminate added sugar from my diet.

Still, I’m not opposed to the idea of focusing on nutritious, no-sugar-added ways to satisfy my cravings for something sweet. Which is why I love the idea of eating frozen fruits for dessert. Many of them are so good—even better than their fresh counterparts, in my opinion. Seriously, I’d want to eat them even if they had the nutritional stats of ice cream. So in the name of becoming more conscious of my sugar intake—and eating more foods I genuinely enjoy—I thought I’d share my favorite frozen fruits with you:

Bananas
If you check out food blogs regularly, then you’ve likely noticed that banana “ice cream”—or chunks of banana that are blended into a soft, creamy frozen treat—is everywhere. I have two major issues with these recipes: (1) I don’t really like getting my blender dirty unless it’s for a really, really delicious reason. (2) When you blend the bananas, their volume decreases a lot. So it can take a few bananas to feel like you’re actually getting a decent amount of ice cream. Luckily, there’s an easy solution: freezing a whole peeled banana in a zip-top bag and eating that as if it were a Popsicle. So good!

Pineapple
Buy a can of pineapple chunks in 100 percent pineapple juice, and pour the whole thing into a few Dixie cups. Put a Popsicle stick in each one, and in a few hours, you’ll have yourself a really tasty dessert.

Red Grapes
These freeze up into little balls of bliss. They’re amazing on their own (just pluck them off the stem and wash before freezing). Or you can also dip them in yogurt and put them on a wax paper-lined baking sheet before sticking them in the freezer.

Mango
To tell you the truth, I’m not that crazy about mango when it’s fresh. It’s all right—but when you slice it up and put it in the freezer, something magical happens. Don’t just take my word for it—try it for yourself.

Watermelon
I cut this juicy fruit into chunks, put them in a giant Tupperware container, and stick the whole thing in the freezer all. The. Time. I’m dying to try it with cantaloupe soon and see how that tastes, too.

Are there any fruits I missed that are great frozen? Let me know so I can try for myself!

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#TastyTuesday: The Seriously Delicious Healthy Sandwich You’ll Love

This weekend, I finally ordered delivery from a sandwich spot in my neighborhood I’ve been dying to try ever since I moved to Williamsburg. (It only took me 10 months!) It’s called Saltie, and it’s known for combining creative ingredients into innovative (and of course tasty) sandwiches. I ordered a sammie called “clean slate” and somehow wasn’t disappointed—even though I’d spent so long hyping up this place in my mind. Here’s the sandwich:

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And here’s a photo after I cut into it. Much messier—but still pretty yummy-looking!

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The great thing about this sandwich (or do you call it a wrap if it’s made with naan?) is that it’s the type of thing you could totally recreate on your own. Just toast naan, then fill it with hummus, bulgur, yogurt sauce (I’ll probably be trying just plain yogurt in my DIY version), cilantro, some sesame seeds, and pickled veggies (mine came with shredded carrots and beets—and you could probably soak them overnight in some vinegar with a dash of salt to get a similar effect). It’s the perfect Saturday sandwich—it not something you eat every day, so it feels special, but it’s filled with good-for-you ingredients that won’t leave you dragging for the rest of the day. Can’t wait to try making it on my own!

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How to Stop Comparing Your Food Choices to Other People’s

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Me enjoying a cronut. No food comparing here!

Last week, I shared a post that I wrote for The Real Life RD and let you know that I had another one in the works. Well, it was published last Friday! So I thought I’d share this one with you today. It’s all about why it makes no sense to constantly worry about how your meals and snacks stack up against other people’s eating choices—and how to stop the cycle of comparisons. Here’s a preview:

I love going to dinners with girlfriends, but almost every time I do, the same question comes up: “What are you ordering?” There’s nothing inherently wrong with the question; if it comes from a place of curiosity, then it’s really just showing an interest in the other person. But many women I know don’t ask the question that way (and I know I often haven’t in the past).

They’re asking because the answer will dictate what they choose to order—or make them feel bad about what they’re getting. Many women feel like they don’t want to be the one person at the table getting a big bowl of pasta when everyone else is eating a Caesar salad. I’m not a big fan of food guilt or just eating things because you feel like you should; why should choosing to nourish your body with whatever it’s truly craving in the moment—rather than depriving yourself—ever be something to beat yourself up over? (You can read more about my views on food guilt and food shaming.) But somewhere along the way, we’ve become obsessed with striving for this impossible ideal of “normal”—including with our food choices.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of how it happened for me: I’ve always had a large appetite. I can remember being about four years old and shocking my babysitter with how much cornbread I ate in one sitting. Then, in high school, it wasn’t uncommon for me to out-eat the boys whenever we ordered pizza. I never felt self-conscious about my hunger—that is, until I moved to New York City after college to start a new job there. That’s when people’s comments about what I was eating stopped feeling like simple observations and started feeling more critical (or at least that’s how I started perceiving them for the first time).

You can read the rest of the post at The Real Life RD (including my top tip for how to stop food comparisons). Is this something that you’ve ever struggled with? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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The Most Important Thing I Learned From Doing a 21-Day Intuitive Eating Challenge

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Back in May, I participated in a 21-day intuitive eating challenge. I’ll be honest: The challenge wasn’t as helpful for me as I was hoping it would be. I think a lot of other people in the group had a different experience. But since I’d been introduced to a lot of the concepts before, getting daily e-mails reminding me of them wasn’t exactly life-changing.

There was one big lesson that the challenge hammered into me, though—and I’m so thankful it did. The message? There’s no such thing as failure, only feedback. The idea is that if you slip up—in this case, eat mindlessly—that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. You could look at it that way, and goodness knows many people do. But the much more helpful thing to do is to look at it as a potential learning experience and try to figure out where your good intentions were derailed—so you can use that knowledge to your benefit in the future.

For example, I found myself snaking a lot one afternoon during the challenge. But rather than berating myself for being so “bad”—something I definitely would have done in the past—I decided to think about why I felt like munching nonstop—and I realized the fact that I was sleep-deprived didn’t help. Since then, it’s become obvious that not getting enough shuteye definitely makes it hard for me to eat mindfully.

The concept of “there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback” is incredibly empowering, especially if you’re the type of person who’s ever beat yourself up over mistakes (guilty as charged). It gives you the ability to change yourself from a “complete failure” to a human being—one who’s allowed to make mistakes without letting it completely erode your self-worth. That self-compassion is the real benefit of this approach—although getting helpful information on how to change your situation in the future is definitely a nice bonus. I still slip into that mindset where I start belittling myself sometimes. But I’m getting better about making more of a conscious effort to stop that destructive thought process and repeat my new mantra instead.

Tell me: What other strategies do you have that help you practice more self-compassion when you feel like you’ve “failed”? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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Why I’ll Never Use a Food Journal Again

Me enjoying myself at the Chocolate Museum in Barcelona last fall—sans food journal.

Me enjoying myself at the Chocolate Museum in Barcelona last fall—sans food journal.

You guys…I wrote a guest post for The Real Life RD, one of my favorite blogs! It’s actually one of two posts I did for the site (the next one will go up tomorrow), and it’s all about how and why I broke up with food journaling (for a while there, it was one of those toxic relationships I just couldn’t kick). Here’s a preview of the post:

Last week, I was going through my phone and deleting old apps when I came to one that gave me pause: my food-journaling app. A few years ago, I used the app diligently, logging every morsel that went into my mouth. Not even my daily gummy vitamin was safe from my log.

The funny thing is that when I started trying to eat healthier and exercise regularly—sans food journaling—I didn’t particularly want to lose weight. But after having spent a few months of working out and eating more produce and lean meats (at least some of the time), the number on the scale hadn’t budged. I felt like it probably should have, which is why I looked into food journaling as a way to help me see tangible results from my new, healthier lifestyle. (After all, I’d read somewhere that research showed keeping a diary of your eating choices could help you lose weight.)

I set my daily caloric goal at 1,200 calories (not counting those I burned through exercise), figuring that even if I went over by 150-200 calories, I should still be on a path to weight loss. And if I actually stuck to 1,200 a few days a week? All the better.

In a sense, food journaling “worked”—I ended up losing 20 pounds. Granted, I had no business losing that much weight in the first place. But the more I got into food journaling, the more I became obsessed with calorie counts and adhering to my allowance. Which is why, even though I didn’t really feel like I needed to drop that many pounds going into food journaling, I ended up using the technique (along with the restrictive eating and extreme exercise it encouraged) to lose almost 15 percent of my starting weight.

You can read the rest of the post at The Real Life RD, but I’m curious—has anyone else found food journaling as triggering as I did? If so, did you abandon the habit for good, or did you find a way to come to terms with it? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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