Next weekend marks the first true holiday weekend of summer. Here in Canada it’s Canada Day Weekend, and for my US friends it is 4th of July Weekend – and both typically involve picnics, barbecues and fun in the sun.
When you are trying to adopt a healthy lifestyle, these gathering can cause a lot of tension and stress if you are worrying about how to eat well, but still have fun. But eating healthfully and enjoying a family barbecue shouldn’t be two separate things. There are lots of healthy summer dishes you can take along with you to ensure you are getting some healthy nutrition (to go along with your hot dogs and s’mores!) and you never know, you might just spark one of your friends or family members to start moving in a healthier direction too!
I think the problem is that we think that healthy = boring and drab, unhealthy = tasty and delicious. So today I’ve partnered with Snapware to share with you some fun, different twists on summertime classics that are maybe a bit healthier, and can encourage your friends and family to look at healthy eating in a new way!
Snapware makes some great pieces for summer entertaining. In today’s post I am using the Entertain-a-Bowls
which are spill-proof serve and store bowls that come in fun summer colours, and the Fruit & Veggie-tainer
which is a 4-piece Colander/Bowl set includes one 25.3-cup bowl with matching spill proof cover, removable colander and covered dip container. But I’ll talk a little bit more about those in a few minutes.
What I’ve tried to do is take some classic potluck/summer staples and put a twist on them to make them a little bit healthier or different. The first is one of my favourite salads – Kale Caesar.
The reason I really like the kale caesar is because the tangy Caesar salad dressing helps to break down the tough fibres of the kale making it more tender and less “kale-y”. And because kale is such a hardy green, you can dress the salad before your get together (I recommend dressing it at lest 20 minutes before serving) and it will still be perfect. Though I always wait until the last minute to add the croutons so they don’t get soggy.
I like to make my own Caesar salad dressing, but store bought will work too. Since I’m not big on fish, using anchovies freaks me out a bit so I use capers instead which give a very similar taste.
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 Tbsp capers, minced
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 2 Tbsp mayo
- 1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- After mincing the garlic and cloves I take the side of my knife and scrap along the cutting board to start and create a paste of the two ingredients. You don't have to be terribly fussy here, I normally only take a few passes to break down the garlic and capers a bit more and get some of their juices to release. Then transfer mixture directly to empty salad bowl.
- Add mayo, dijon, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Mix with fork or small whisk to combine.
This is a great “starter” salad for converting people to eating kale. It really is fantastic, and if they already like Caesar salad, I can’t imagine them not enjoying the kale version!
Another summer staple is pasta – or macaroni – salad. I’ve never been a fan of the typical store bought macaroni salad in the creamy sauce, but love a homemade version. I adore rotini with fresh veggies and ranch dressing, but today I’m sharing a more recent creation – tortellini pasta salad!
I first discovered this idea a few years ago when working on a summer salads post, but keep coming back to it. The general idea is to cook your tortellini, then toss with some extra virgin olive oil to keep it from sticking. Then I added some spices (in this case, sun-dried tomato epicure dip mix), chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes and a few fresh grape tomatoes. But really you can make this with any veggies and spices you like – make it your own!
And my third summer salad is one that might seem a bit weird if you haven’t tried it – Watermelon Feta salad with Balsamic Vinegar.
If you enjoy sweet and salty combos you will definitely enjoy this one. And it is as simple as it sounds: chopped watermelon and feta, with Balsamic Vinegar drizzled over the top. That’s it!
All of the above salads are shown in the Snapware Entertain-a-Bowls. The Caesar Salad is in the Turquoise 5 Quart Entertain-a-Bowl, while the pasta and watermelon feta salads are in the Yellow & Pink value pack Entertain-a-Bowls. What’s really nice about the Entertain-a-Bowls is that the lidded bowls nest together for easy storage (you’ll never have to search for the lids!), they are both dishwasher and microwave safe and the lids attach easily and securely. I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of lids that just don’t seem to attach properly. That’s why I love snapware!
I also really like that the inside of the bowls are white, as they make it easier to see the food inside, and are more attractive when set out at a potluck. It’s also nice that you can stack them on on top of the other and carry them all at once (with ease) by their handles without worrying about them falling apart. So great!
Another classic summer (and year round) staple is the veggie tray. As a kid my favourite part of the veggie tray was the dip. Who am I kidding? It still is! So I’ve taken my favourite dip recipe from when I was a kid, and switched it up a bit (switched it up = removed all the cooking oil and sugar) to make it a bet healthier.
- ½ Cup plain greek yogurt
- ¼ cup mayo
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp prepared mustard
- Mix all the ingredients together and let chill for 1 hour. Taste after mixing and add more ingredients as needed to suit your tastes.
I’ve also used all greek yogurt to omit the mayo entirely, and have made it using all sour cream as well. I opted for greek yogurt today because that’s what I had, and because it adds a bit of protein.
I used the Fruit & Veggie-tainer from Snapware for my veggie tray which not only comes with another spill proof cover, but has a built in removable colander and covered dip container. It too is microwave and dishwasher safe, and is BPA free. If you don’t need the veggie divider, the Fruit & Veggie-tainer can be removed to give you a large salad bowl. When inserted, there is enough room left between the bowl and the veggie divider that you can pack ice or ice packs inside to keep food fresh and crisp. Because my photos don’t really do justice to all the Fruit & Veggie-tainer can do here is a short video that explains it all a bit better.
One last main dish item I made were these fun skewers of tomato, basil, bocconcini and a prosciutto salami. These couldn’t be easier. I took a wooden skewer, cut it in half and then added one grape tomato, a sprig of fresh basil, bocconcini and one slice of meat. The end.
So simple, so pretty, so tasty!
Once the main dish is over, it’s time for dessert! I’ve seen this idea on Facebook and Pinterest so decided to give it a try – Watermelon Pizzas!
I’ve seen a number of ways to make the “sauce” but I mixed plain greek yogurt with softened cream cheese (about 2/3 cup yogurt to 1/3 cup cream cheese) and added the zest of one lemon. This is a fun dessert you can let everyone make as they are ready. Just have the watermelon pre-cut, the yogurt and cream cheese mixture pre-made and the toppings ready to go. When someone is ready for dessert they can take a watermelon “crust” top with the yogurt and cream cheese mixture and then add the toppings of their choice.
If you are wondering if they are as good as they look – they are. Fresh and delicious on a hot summer day, these will be certain to please any crowd! These will most certainly be made again here this summer. Yum.
I hope this post has helped you think of some new ways you can make your summer gathering a little bit healthier without having to give-up on taste. And adding snapware products to your next get together is a no brainer!
In fact, the amazing folks at Snapware want to help you get summertime party ready so are offering one of my lucky readers a set of the same snapware products I used in the above post. To enter follow the directions in the Rafflecopter widget below!
Giveaway will end at 12:01am Thursday, June 30th. Giveaway is open to residents of Canada and the US.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for World Kitchen/Snapware, all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
About World Kitchen/Snapware
From bakeware, dinnerware, kitchen and household tools to range-top cookware, storage and cutlery, World Kitchen, LLC., and its affiliates manufacture and market brands known and trusted around the world. World Kitchen brands include Corningware, Snapware, Pyrex, Baker’s Secret, Chicago Cutlery, Corelle, and more!
Happy first day of summer!!!
I mentioned in my last post that my quest to re-finding my fitness self was going to be a multi-part endeavour. I’ve been plugging away at yoga even if for only 10 minutes at a time since I hit publish last week, but that alone isn’t going to be enough.
Since I decided to give up racing (I still am going to do a couple 5K’s here and there, even if they are more walks than anything – just for fun) the one thing I have missed is getting to exercise outside. I like walking, and want to get into doing more hiking, but both of those can be kind of boring when done on their own. I’ve never been really into biking, but for some reason I got it in my head last fall that what I wanted was a cute, mint green cruiser that I could zip around on in the warmer months. Our mail box is about a kilometer away from our house, and I will often walk to it in the summer, but it can be a pain if there are a bunch of packages, or if it’s really hot out so I thought a bike with a basket would be great.
In the winter I started casually looking around online to see what types of cruisers were available, how much they costs, and if they had any that I really liked, and time and time again found myself coming back to this one on the Sport Chek website.
Since I know nothing about bikes aside from the fact that I know it’s important to get the right size, I decided before getting anything I should go in and talk to the employees at my local Sport Chek to see if the bike I had my eye on was an appropriate size for me. Because I’m still a little shy about recording video in-store unless they know I’m there to do that, I vlogged what I found out and then the whole process of getting it, which you can watch below.
It’s taken me a little bit of time to get around to putting this post together because I was fairly sure Ollie was in the video footage, and I didn’t think I was ready to see her yet But happily, this weekend when I started editing, I was so happy to see her fat little grey self come strolling around the corner. You’ll get to see her twice in the short video!
I apologize that the video ends sort of abruptly. I brought the bike home the day Ollie passed away, so I was definitely not in any state to be seen on camera. :/
If you can’t (or didn’t want to) watch the video, basically what I found out was that cruisers are the “stretch limos” of the bike world. Because the seat is placed differently than on other bikes, most anyone can drive them – which meant that pretty green cruiser should be perfect for me! The bike was ordered on Thursday, and the following Wednesday it was here!
Sport Chek bikes come un-asembled when you order them online, but you can take them into your local store and drop it off to have it assembled free of charge. I was told that they are usually ready to pick up again in 24 hours or less, but since I dropped mine off the weekend of the Apple Blossom Festival (which is a huge deal in my area) I wasn’t expecting it to be done right away, and then I think they forgot to call me to tell me it was ready. I left it there for a week before calling to see if it was ready, I was half waiting to see how long it would take for them to call but I was too busy to go pick it up before then anyway. When I did finally call it was ready and waiting so the following day Cathy and I went and picked her up!
Again they were really nice in-store, they told me that not only did I get the assembly for free, but that they will do minor tune-ups for a full year after purchase. So if it feels like it’s not driving quite straight, or the brakes are a little off, etc. I can bring it back in and they will fix it. That is a great perk that I had no idea they offered!
In fact, I didn’t realize they even serviced bikes, that’s how terribly unobservant I am. I thought they mostly did skate sharpening and other hockey related things and that was it. I am so out of touch sometimes, haha.
Once home there was only one thing my bike needed – a sweet basket. And one quick virtual trip to Amazon and I had a package arriving on my doorstep within days.
Seriously people, how fab does she look?
I can’t even.
I swear this bike screams Suzi, and Suzi is having a slight love affair with the bike…
My husband saw that picture and jokingly said, “You better not be hugging that bike!” Oh but I am…..oh but I am… 😀
And don’t worry yourselves, I’ll be wearing a bicycle helmet when driving – and wearing more appropriate shoes too.
Yes indeed, I am pretty darn smitten and am very much looking forward to having some fun bike excursions this summer. I love that my cruiser is super basic – no gears to shift (because let’s be honest, I never learned how to shift properly so my bike chain always falls off when I try) and it has the backwards brakes (pedal back to stop – like a 4 year old’s bike. Which I love, haha).
I don’t plan on doing anything more than cruise along taking fun, but slow bike rides this summer so this is perfect.
So I’ve traded in my running sneakers for wheels, so hopefully I’ll still cover as many miles (or more) as I would have other years, but instead of doing them on foot, I’ll be on two wheels.
And that is part two of Suzi’s new fitness focus. But I’m not done quite yet. This is a three pronged focus of YOGA – BIKING – ?????? Part three shall be revealed next week.
Thank you again to Sport Chek for working with me on this and helping to make my mint green cruiser dreams come true!
If you are in the market for a new bike, check out their selection in store and online – and remember, if you order online you can take it to your local store to have it assembled free of charge. And regardless of where you bought your bike, you can take it in and have their service department take care of minor or major service needs. Check your local store’s In-Store Services to see all they offer.
Disclosure: This post had been sponsored by Sport Chek, all opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own.
Life is interesting. It’s ever changing and we need to be ever adapting in the wake of those changes.
As a fitness instructor, healthy eating coach and blogger you would think that the one place in my life that is a constant is striving to be (and stay) healthy.
And it is.
But being “healthy” can look so different from person to person, and can look vastly different for the same person year after year.
Which is what has brought me to writing this post.
Only a few short years ago I found myself in a very different place than I am now. I was teaching almost exclusively cardio classes (because that is where the demand was), I was running (more cardio), and teaching way more classes than I ever should have been. I was the energizer bunny – but mostly running on empty.
Then I got sick from it.
I scaled back my class load time and time again. I changed the formats I was teaching to reduce the amount of cardio I was doing, and became a certified yoga instructor.
As time passed, I gave up more and more classes as I was still not feeling well, introduced different forms of strength training classes, obtained my healthy eating and weight loss certification, and started coaching others on developing healthier habits.
I began teaching yoga more regularly and enjoying the benefits of my own practise, while still running races and challenging myself and even becoming a certified running coach.
But even with all those changing I continued having issues with hormonal imbalance and hints of over training syndrome.
Last fall after my half marathon I felt like I’d had enough. My body wasn’t enjoying running. My lung (for those who don’t know, I have a soft spot on the top of my left lung – which is why I started running to begin with) started enjoying running less and less.
So when 2016 rolled around, I unofficially decided to hang up my running sneakers, and put myself on the “I run only on the odd occasion” list and scrubbed my name from the “runner” list.
After all the movement over the last seven years, my body craves less. It still wants to move and stretch and grow stronger, but it’s not interested in spending hours pounding the pavement and stressing my already stressed body further.
I still enjoy teaching Zumba but I find myself trying to sweat less at those classes, because I no longer have any interest in “killing” myself while teaching. I want my participants to leave feeling out they have worked as hard as they’d like, but I don’t wish the same for myself.
Instead I want to do cardio for “fun” and not for the calorie burn or the sweat. I want to lift heavy things (and then even heavier things), and I want to stretch and flow on my yoga mat.
With that last one in mind, and remembering I said only a few paragraphs ago how I love the benefits of yoga, that I would be diligently practising at home on a fairly regular basis right? Wrong.
I haven’t been practising at home for months. Many months. In fact, I don’t recall the last time I unrolled my mat to do yoga at home just to do yoga.
I’ve felt like if I wasn’t purposefully working to improve upon poses I find challenging that there was no point. I felt like I needed to be doing fancy flows in order to live up to the expectations of myself – and perceived expectations of others. And to be honest, I haven’t felt the drive to do those things.
I read this article yesterday about a girl who did yoga for 10 minutes/day for a full month and as I read it I was a bit irritated with myself for letting my practise slack this much.
oh hands…. I remember when you use to easily meet up in this pose…
And so I am going to try. I’m going to try to commit to at least 10 minutes of yoga a minimum of 5 x/week. I know, I know, I just said I should be doing it everyday, and I should – but I’m going to be nice to myself and scale my expectations back a little bit.
10 minutes, a minimum of 5x/week.
I can do it, and if this post has struck a cord with you, I’d love for you to join in and commit to doing 10 minutes of yoga 5x/week too!
But yoga is just one part of this puzzle. There are a few things I need to get back on track with before I can really say I’ve found myself fitness wise.
Part two of my quest to re-find myself will be coming in my next post, and let me just say….she’s a beauty 😉
In the above pictures I am wearing the new Tommie Copper Shaping Compression Leggings which are comfortable (not transparent!) and lug you in all the right places for a comfortable compression fit that make you look fabulous! Paired with their compression camisole with adjustable straps which stayed in place through all my bending, twisting, and downward dogging. The cami is super comfortable and is designed to be flattering no matter what your body type. I’ve layered it under a flowy tank from Fabletics I bought a year or two ago, but could have easily worn it on it’s own with no trouble.
The leggings are a bit thick to be wearing much in the summer months, but I will be getting lots of use out of them come fall, and the cami is light enough to be worn year round. Since it doesn’t ride up or bunch, it’s prefect for under any summer tops or dresses that may show a bit too much for your liking.
Disclosure: Tommie Copper sent me these items in exchange for a review on their website. I was not required or asked to share them with you on my blog, I chose to do so on my own because I liked them so much!
Essential oils have been used for centuries and along with other natural healing methods were the main tools used in medical care until we learned how to create and synthesize drugs and other medications.
I’ve been an advocate for essential oils for many years, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million more times, but peppermint, lavender and tea tree oil especially have saved my life (and sanity) on more than one occasion from the horrible pain of migraines, cramping, abdominal upset, bug bites, and much more.
Did you know our sense of smell is connected to our limbic system? The limbic system is the part of the brain responsible of memory, breathing, blood circulation and the regulation of hormones. I’m sure you can think of scents that instantly transport you to a different time and place in your memory – that is you limbic system at work! So while it may not make sense to you as to “how” essential oils can work, hopefully that example can help convince you that they do tap into that part of the brain, and if a scent can bring back powerful memories, that it can have a therapeutic effect in other ways as well.
As with anything, it can be easy to get carried away when it comes to essential oils and trying to incorporate them into your day to day life. So today I want to share with you three easy ways you can start to enjoy the benefits of essential oils.
To begin, you will need to get your hands on a few essential oils, or essential oil blends. I have a collection of oils that I’ve build over the years, but have only just recently entered the world of pre-mixed blends. You can of course create your own blends based on your personal needs and tastes, but when starting out it is more cost effective to purchase a few pre-mixed blends, especially if you find some you really enjoy. Personally, my favourite is this Energy blend from Organic Aromas which is a blend of Spearmint, Peppermint, Melissa, Tangerine and Rosewood, and their Purity blend is my second favourite. It combines Lemongrass, Tea Tree, White Camphor, Rosemary, Lavender and Citronella.
The energy blend provides natural glandular support, helps reduce fatigue and anxiety, helps to stimulate the mind and boost energy and may aid in headache relief, while the purity blend helps to cleanse odours, helps to repel insects and vermin, aids in reducing tension and promotes well being, and has anti-viral, anti-microbial and anti-fungal qualities.
Obviously I’m a bit partial to my “big three” (peppermint, lavender and tea tree) but when it comes to starting your own essential oils collection you need to find some scents that you like and will be useful in your life. Sweet Orange is a great starting oil if you like citrus scents. It is the scent preferred by most children (making it a great option for homes with kids) and has been shown to help them overcome fear and reduce anxiety. It is a bright happy scent which is great for helping ease depression and helping us feel a little bit more cheery.
Above all, it’s important to choose a scent or blend that you enjoy, if you pick on based solely on what it is suppose to do for you, but you dislike the scent – you are not going to use it!
Once you’ve chosen your oil, or oil blend(s), it’s time to talk about how to use them!
Epsom Salts Bath
A nice aromatherapy epsom salt bath (complete with coconut water) is definitely enjoyable after running a half marathon!
Adding epsom salts infused with your favourite essential oil is a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the benefits of the essential oil after a tiresome day. While running a warm bath, take 1 cup of unscented epsom salts and add 4-6 drops of your favourite essential oil, or essential oil blend in a small bowl and mix. Sprinkle the salts into the bath while the water is still running and then run your hand through the water to help the salts to dissolve. Relax in the tub for 20-30 minutes to allow the epsom salts to work their magic, while massaging any oil droplets you see floating in your bath water into your skin.
Getting a professional massage is wonderful, but lots of times it is hard to find the time – or finances – to do so. Adding aromatherapy to an at-home foot massage, back massage, or even to tired achy muscles can give you that spa feel right at home, and you can do it any time day or night! Ever notice that many foot lotions and creams are peppermint scented? That’s not an accident! Peppermint provides such wonderful cooling and pain relieving effect that it is a natural choice for our feet and legs. There are lots of different massage oils and massage bars available, so when looking to purchase one, look for one that is made using essential oils and pure ingredients you can pronounce. I enjoy using massage bars from LUSH (especially the WICCY Magic Muscles for muscle aches and pains), but most health food and natural living stores will carry a nice selection of massage oils and bars.
Bonus points if you can find someone willing to give you a back massage using the massage oil or bar! 😉
Essential Oil Diffusers
An essential oil diffuser like this one from Organic Aromas (which is the most effective diffuser of pure Essential Oils on the market) diffuses your chosen essential oil or essential oil blend into the air, allowing you to reap the benefits of aromatherapy easily while adding to your home or office decor! This diffuser silently nebulizes using the Bernoullis Principle, consumes very little energy, and is equipped with a control allowing you to determine how much oil is diffused into your space.
I chose this model because it is sleek and simple, and I thought it would best fit in with our home decor and I like the soft glow it gives off while it’s running.
This diffuser uses pure essential oil, no water or heat so it doesn’t heat up or create a humidifier like atmosphere when in use while still easily giving off an amazing scent.
If you would like to purchase your own diffuser from Organic Aromas you can use the coupon code: SHAREME to get 15% off your purchase!
I hope this post has helped convince you that adding aromatherapy into your life doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating and I hope you’ll give it a try!
Disclosure: I was provided with product from Organic Aromas in exchange for my honest review, and that is what this is. I truly believe in aromatherapy and think if you haven’t yet, you should try it yourself!
I have been saving the books I’ve read so far this month for another round-up at the end of June, but wanted to write a separate post for Marissa Vicario’s new book “Your Holistically Hot Transformation” for a couple reasons.
Number one – if you have the Kindle app, right now until Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 you can pick the title up for FREE (click here for Amazon.ca and click here for Amazon.com) and because Marissa was kind enough to offer one of her books (hardcopy – not via Kindle) to one of my readers so keep reading to the end to enter to win!
In reading through Marissa’s book, so much of what she suggests and recommends is completely in line with what I believe and recommend when coaching people so I felt an instant connection with both her and her book. There is so much information out there with today that it’s easy to get swamped in information and be left without any idea of what to do or where to start when it comes to making healthy life changes.
Change doesn’t have to start with some huge flourishing move, a small change in the right direction is not only more manageable, but more sustainable long term anyway. Through her book Marissa tells you how she transformed her life, and how you can begin to change yours too.
And you might be surprised at how easy it really is.
Challenging – but easy.
Probably my favourite thing about Marissa’s approach is that she believes as I do – that every person’s body reacts differently to different foods and because of that there is no one eating style that will work for every person. Period. There are things that will work for everybody like choosing water over processed drinks, and eating fewer processed foods and more natural ones, but overall each person must be their own detective to figure out what particular foods work best for them.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the small “Put It Into Action” steps she sprinkles throughout the book. These are ideas and tasks you can start right away to start to make positive changes without turning your entire life upside down.
Marissa also explains other alkaline versus acidic foods, super foods, shares recipes, information and lists on stocking a healthy kitchen and more making this a well rounded easy read for beginning (or continuing) on your healthy living journey.
As I mentioned above, Marissa has been kind enough to offer one of my readers a hardcopy of her new book. I find “real” books are easier to use when trying to go back and reference them, so even if you’ve taken advantage of the free Kindle promotion, you are still welcome to enter this giveaway!
To enter: Leave a comment below telling me what is one change you’ve made in the past year that has lead to you living a healthier, more holistically hot life! A winner will be chosen on Monday, June 20th.
Update: Winner has been chosen!
For me, the answer would definitely be taking more time to relax and trying to work smarter not harder. Stress is so bad for your health and learning to take better control of my work load has really helped me to stress less (usually, but not always 😉 ).
For a bonus entry tweet the following (then leave a separate comment with your twitter handle and telling me you tweeted):
Good luck, and enjoy!
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I was provided with a free copy of Marissa’s e-book (which you can get too by following the links above before June 15th), and wanted to share it with you as well as give you the chance to win a copy!