Maple Butter Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Maple butter roasted butternut squash soup. It's a mouthful, but a delicious mouthful :) I've personally never been a real fan butternut squash soup... I know, tragic. But I'm on this wellness journey, if you will entertain my ego for a moment, that has me realizing that my happiness comes from within, from little old me. It doesn't manifest from my kids, the hubs, family, friends, work or anything else you can think of. It's all about me, and my thoughts, and what I do with those thoughts. So, naturally I turn to my thoughts and I then ask my thoughts, "Thoughts, why not change the way you think about butternut squash soup and try it again?" (This is a long, arduous and painful journey I'm on as you can see. There is plenty of talking to yourself in fragmented sectors but I guess it's a lot about learning to compartmentalize. Men, you have us women on that one!)

Tying it all back to food, I give you my changed perspective on butternut squash soup and I will admit, I've had two huge bowlfuls of this soup since. Mission accomplished. I have successfully changed my thoughts on butternut squash soup. Check that off my "things to fix" list. Next up: temper tantrums don't mean panic attack for mom. (This one is going to be a dooooosey!)

Here's the recipe so you too can begin to love the butternut!

Maple Butter Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I ask why not in a martini glass. Why not? (And that's a sweet potato chip dipped in dark chocolate garnish on the rim... again, why not?!)

I ask why not in a martini glass. Why not? (And that's a sweet potato chip dipped in dark chocolate garnish on the rim... again, why not?!)

1 Tbs butter
1 Tbs maple syrup
1 butternut squash, sliced down the middle and seeded
1 Tbs avocado oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups beef or chicken broth
1 cup water
1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Once you've sliced and seeded the butternut squash, in a small saucepan over low heat, combine the butter and maple syrup and heat until butter is melted. Once melted, pour the mixture over the butternut squash and place on a baking sheet, flesh side up. Place in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, or until you can easily pierce with a fork. 

Once cooked through, remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Then carefully peel away the skin on the butternut squash and chop into smaller pieces and set aside.

In a large soup pot, over medium-low heat, add in the avocado oil, onion and garlic and let cook for about two minutes. Add in the thyme, sage, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and cook for another 5 - 7 minutes until the onions are slightly cooked.

Add in the broth, water, and squash and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and add in the Greek yogurt. Mix well.

Working in small batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Season with salt if needed.
Season with a little sprinkle of cayenne pepper if desired.    

Chicken & Hummus Salad

Leftover chicken is something I always seem to have in my fridge. It's just so freaking versatile that little bird. Stuff it, saute it, bake it, soup it, coat it and fry it, and today turn it into the best ever chicken salad! Yup. Best ever. Why? Because this long generational pull toward drowning it in mayo no longer applies here. We're breaking the rules and our ties to grandma's recipe and we're turning our attention to healthy, satisfying and downright delicious! Can you feel it?! Yes!!! 

The secret to this "best ever" (which I am now officially calling it) is.... the hummus! There are so many flavors you can choose from that let you really personalize your own salad. That's pretty awesome, I know! Give this healthy version a try and you'll quickly agree... Best ever.

Chicken Hummus Salad (aka Best Ever)

Leftover chicken, about 1 cup
3/4 cup plain hummus (or any hummus you like!)
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 Tbs freshly chopped chives
1 small apple
Juice of 1/2 lemon

In a bowl, combine hummus, mustard, chives, salt and pepper. Core the apple, and cut into 1/4-inch dice. Place in the bowl and add the lemon juice, toss to combine. Cut chicken into 1/2-inch pieces. Add to salad and stir to combine. 

Ginger Garlic Shrimp

Sometimes I spend waaaaaaaaay too much time in the kitchen. You feel me? You make the dinner that's more involved than you had imagined. Then you eat the dinner. (Well usually. The more drawn out the process, the more likely I'm to fill up the kids plates and sit and watch them eat, asking every so often how much they like it, while I'm too annoyed with it to even attempt trying. It's usually cheese and crackers for me at that point.) And then there is the clean up - heavens, the constant clean-up! Can we all just not move for an hour while in the house, this way NOTHING gets put out of place, used, or dirtied?! Lord I'm always cleaning.

So suffice it to say, when I come across a recipe that is pretty much as uninvolved as can be, but yet comes out tasting amaz-o, then I share. And share with you I must. This is my new fave so if you're into Chinese food, consider this one as it will not leave you with any icky Chinese box leftovers in your fridge, because you will have eaten it all. Guaranteed. Or my name isn't... 

Garlic-y Ginger Shrimp

2 tsp peeled and grated ginger
1 Tbs avocado oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbs raw honey
1/4 cup Tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
15 - 20 wild-caught shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp. sesame oil (optional)
2-4 scallions, chopped

In a medium sized skillet, or wok if you have one, (that's what I used, first time ever! I was excited), heat oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic and ginger and saute for about one minute. Add in the honey, soy sauce and salt and pepper and let it come to a boil, and then lower heat and simmer until it slightly thickens, about 8-10 minutes.

Increase the heat and add in the shrimp, cooking about 2-3 minutes on both sides, until cooked through. Add in the scallions, sesame oil, mix well, and serve. 

Easy right?! And soooooo good!

Sweet Potato Chips (Dipped in Chocolate - Oh Yea!)

I went there. I took a nutritious veggie (sweet potatoes are high in fiber, Vitamin A and potassium) and I turned it into a sweet and salty snack you can count on to satisfy any craving without packing on the calories and quilt. (Not that we count calories over here at Project Slim Waistline - oh no, that went out with Jane Fonda videos. We simply eat clean and sensibly, and these snacks are right up there with clean and sensible!) 

Here's the how-to so you can get-to it already! 

Don't these look delish?!

Don't these look delish?!

Sweet Potato Chips

1 sweet potato, thinly sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs olive oil
2 oz (or 4 squares from a baking bar) chocolate (70% cacao or higher)
Sea salt for dusting
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 375˚F. Either with a knife or mandolin, thinly slice the sweet potato into even slices. In a bowl, coat the sweet potato slices with olive oil, cinnamon and a little sea salt, and mix well. On a baking dish lined with parchment paper, spread out the sweet potato slices and place in oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, keeping a close eye on them. (Wait too long to check and you could have an army of blackened chips!)

As they are cooking, melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Add in the cayenne pepper and mix well.

When the chips are done to perfection, meaning they're a little crisp on the edges and not soft and mushy., pull them out and let them cool for a few minutes before handling. Once slightly cooled, carefully dip one side into the melted chocolate and place on a piece of parchment paper to cool completely.

Enjoy these bad boys pretty much the same day... they won't keep as long as store bought chips will, but I think that's what home cooking/baking is all about... take out the preservatives and eat real food :)

Pumpkin & Peanut Butter Waffles (Really, They're Goooood!)

Come Autumn, pumpkins infiltrate our brains and help ease the transition from summer to crisp autumn days. They're our silver lining. The respected patriarch of fall we all look to to guide us in blissful harmony toward the inevitable coming of the blustering cold weather of winter. Pumpkins are our happy place. And waffles. (Does anyone know why there are no Waffle Houses here in the Northeast? I'd frequent the hell out of them if they were here, nothing gets me more warm or more fuzzy than the mere mention of a Waffle House. Not that I admire the dinginess that accompanies each one, or the strange feeling I get upon entering one that I'm succumbing to some odd southern way of life that makes my uppity New York sense of self shutter, but I enter nonetheless in the name of waffles.)

Ok, too much talking... I mean, who even reads this stuff? When I see a recipe I usually breeze past the commentary and get right into the lists and rules and ways to make the recipe instead of reading why someone I don't know thinks I need to try this recipe. 

So... enter waffle recipe :)

Ingredients

1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 banana, mashed
2 eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup peanut butter (or almond, or cashew)
1 Tbs butter (grass-fed)
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. Stir to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed banana, eggs, pumpkin puree, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt, and mix well. Add in the flour mixture and combine. 

Pour spoonfuls of the batter onto your pre-heated waffle maker and cook according to its directions. Once cooked through, place on plate and top with maple syrup.

Smoked Salmon Over Sweet Potato Pancake (Yum and Yum!)

Ok, my best advice is to make the sweet potato pancake beforehand because I get it, who the hell wants to be this involved in breakfast when you're rushing your ass all over the place trying to get yourself ready (and maybe a kid or two) for the day ahead. No thanks. 

Make ahead of time and pop the pancake in your toaster oven for 1 min or two and boom, you're done... well almost, except for the laborious process of mashing up your avo, but in the name of healthy, I trust you'll take the time for at least that. 

Smoked salmon is in my top ten for super good breakfast food that's super easy to eat. Peel it open, gently finagle a slice free and place on top of something. Or eat it alone. The herbed ones are my favorite, I think in the pic I used the lemon and dill seasoned ones. No brainer. 

Enjoy :)

Smoked Salmon Over My Sweet Potato Pancake

2 eggs
2 tsp flour (coconut, almond, all-purpose, whatever you have on hand.)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 cups shredded sweet potatoes (using a food processor with a shredding disc is ideal or shred them by hand, which could get to be annoying)
Coconut oil for pan frying
4 slices smoked salmon
1 avocado, mashed
A few shakes of red pepper flakes

In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggs with the flour, cinnamon, ground ginger, and sea salt. Mix in the shredded sweet potatoes until well combined. 

Add coconut oil to a large skillet over medium-low heat. Spoon the mixture into the skillet in “cakes” and cook approximately 2-3 minutes per side until they hold together, flipping once as you would a regular pancake. 

Layer the potato pancake with the mashed avocado and smoked salmon. Season with a few cranks of sea salt, and red pepper flakes. If you got a lemon, squeeze a little lemon juice on top. Easy peesy. 

Pardon Me While I Bare it All (Well most of it anyway!)

Not exactly what I was prepared to do, but if it's to show that what I do for a living really, actually works, and that I'm a legit player in the weight-loss world.. well then it had to be done! I needed to show my own personal before/after pic. (Did I ever tell you I'm more of an introvert than extro?)

To set the stage, earlier this year I wanted to lose a few inches off my belly (who doesn't right?), and I wanted to tone up my arms (again, who doesn't?). In an effort to keep myself accountable, I took the obligatory "before" pic... and I posted it online. (Not fun. But no one laughed so it was ok, despite being mildly embarrassing... because I'm a trainer and I was kind of outing myself for being lazy. Bad for business. Or good... hmmmm?)

Fast forward to last week when I took the "after" pic. Clearly there is only one thing I can say....

Those boobs are real! And no, I didn't go buy a push-up sports bra for the "after" pic. That's the same sports bra in both photos. That was a real deal side effect from doing my program. (How cooooool is that?) I didn't even have "boob-lift" set as a goal. 

And here is the front pic...

(Let's give a nice round of applause to the summer sun for a little tan and it's nice dose of vitamin D, which clearly I needed!) What other things you may notice is that my tummy is a little firmer—even if my bellybutton is a little askew... never noticed that before! I'll thank my two kids for that! 

But in all seriousness, this is what 40-something looks like and I have to say, I've never felt this good, felt this strong and healthy, and never thought that after two kids, my body would look better than it did when I was in my 30's. (Right? I remember lamenting on my apartment floor about how having kids was going to make me fat and I would lose my figure... as I ate pizza and drank barrels of wine!) Direct quote from my husband, "You're so much hotter after two kids!" Another round of applause please ;)

In closing, I really do my program, I really do the workouts, and I really eat the food I recommend. And those of you who know me, up close and personal, know that I also really do cheat at times! That's what it's about, balance and staying sane while trying to be your best you yet! Spend 28 days with me and begin your journey to create a new, healthier, hotter you ;)

 

Go Nuts.. Free That Is!

I have to make school lunches now. Two of them actually. (I know, you feel bad for me right?) And as a personal trainer and weight loss specialist, I'm all too well aware that the days of pre-packaged ham slices on wonder bread with a smear of margarine, and a fruit roll up don't cut it anymore when it comes to school lunches. (Please tell me that sounds all too familiar to you as a product of the 80's! Back then nuts were everywhere, flavored milk was super healthy—with Tang and Kool-aid running at a close second—and pop-tarts were a superfood!)

Life was good back then. However, smiling mom faces have since then been replaced with judgey-eye mom faces, and you can't sneak a graham cracker into a lunch box without getting the sideways WTF glance. I see you. 

So I give in, not because of them, but because we all just know better now. We grew up on some sh*t food, but hey, I think we all turned out ok. (Because we no longer eat that sh*t food ;) Which brings me to the nut-free snack packing that takes place now because both schools my kids attend are nut-free. Reading labels is SUPER imperative because not only can there be no nuts, or nut oils, but even seemingly innocent ingredients, sans-nuts, may have been produced in a facility that has nuts. (C'mon!)

Listen, I'm over 40, and my arms have to do that thing now where they extend almost fully so I can read a freakin label. So the fine print, that's just not fun for me to read anymore. Pre-packaged foods are slowly becoming a thing of the past—that is until I buck up and buy a pair of reading glasses. (But who wants to try on reading glasses in your neighborhood drug store? You may as well be holding a megaphone while asking the cashier if the glasses make you look old. And yes, they do.)

So homemade snacks are the only snacks making it into my kids lunch boxes these days and I have a really good one for you... that your kids will eat... I hope :) Mine did. 

Date Ball with Seeds (I could come up with a more creative name I realize, but it's just not coming to me at the moment. You'll have to deal with my transparency.)

They're good, trust me :)

They're good, trust me :)

 

Players (because I like how that sounds better than Ingredients)
10 pitted dates (I like the big Medjool ones)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
... and that's it

Method... (man)
Place dates in your food processor and pulse until mashed up. Add in the seeds and spices and process some more until well combined. (Here you may have to stop and start so you can scrap down the sides so it all mixes well.) Get out a cookie sheet and place a piece of parchment paper over it. Then roll out the mixture into little balls and let sit in the fridge for a few minutes to set. (I actually just leave them in the fridge so they'll last for the week.)

That's it! 

 

Coconut & Turmeric Crusted Chicken Fingers Your Kids Will Eat!

I feel gooooood about these chicken fingers. Like real good. Like, I can't believe it went so well, kind of good. When everyone in your house eats up everything you've made for dinner, there is a little happy dance going on in my head. I'm like Bobby Flay and you can't beat me. Everything is awesome... for a moment.

Then I'm smacked back into reality with the fighting, crying, and tattle-tailing that goes on endlessly around here... but I did have a moment. Yay for that. Now my glass of nay-nay please :)

So here's the recipe, and a pretty ok pic I took of three pieces (I hid from little hands so I could at least get a shot of my feel good moment maker!), and also to be able to show you how it can easily turn into a healthy lunch for your kiddos. Pack with a fruit and veg and your little ones are all set to conquer the world. 

Ingredients
1 lb chicken breasts, sliced into strips
3 Tbs coconut oil (for sauteeing)
1/4 cup coconut flour (to dredge)
1 egg (for a little egg bath)
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp kosher salt or sea salt, or pink himalayan - whatever salt train you roll with
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp dried oregano (or Italian seasoning)

Method
Over medium heat, add coconut oil to the pan and let warm up. Meanwhile, dredge the chicken strip into the flour, then carefully give it a wash in the egg bath, try not to lose the flour coating. In a separate bowl, add together the shredded coconut, salt, garlic powder, turmeric and dried seasonings and mix well. Place the wet chicken strip into the mix and coat it well. Let it roll around in there and enjoy it!

Place coated chicken onto your heated pan and cook on either side for about 3-4 minutes, and then flip it. Let it cook another 3-4 minutes (or until no longer pink in the center... but you knew that!), and then place on a plate and let cool before diggin' in! Simple. Just how I like it. 

Leg Burner Baby!

Today it's all about the legs baby and if you're ready for a burner, this one is for you! Trust me, you're going to hate it, but you're really going to love it ;) Isn't that how it always happens? You have every excuse not to workout, but then somehow you muster up the mojo and by the time you're done, you're a new freaking woman. Luuuuuuuuv when that happens! (And you know when you're trying to type as fast as your brain is thinking, and you end up getting jammed up on the spelling of one simple word? Like "every". Literally, 9 times. Why this platform doesn't have auto-correct is beyond me! Totally reliant on it, I can admit that.)

Jump into your Fabletics, your Lulu's, your CALIA's, whatever sporty gear you roll with, and give this workout the old college try (it may be 20 years since those days, but c'mon girl, you can muster up the swag!) 

And pick up a weight too, it'll help jack up the intensity! 

ROUTINE

Watch the video, get the moves, then do the routine...

3-5 rounds
15-20 reps of each exercise each round
30 sec rest after each exercise
1 min rest after each round.

Got it?

Good. Now go get it!

Guilt-Free Chocolate Pudding

This is one of my favorite, all time recipes, because it feels indulgent without being guilt-ridden! When you find yourself with avocados that are on the brink of over-ripeness, pop them into your processor and give this recipe a whirl, you're going to love it!

Blueberry Choco-Coconut Pudding

Ingredients

1/2 avocado
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 Tbs cocoa powder
2 Tbs coconut milk (or another dairy-free milk)
1 Tbs maple syrup
pinch sea salt
½ tsp vanilla
tsp unsweetened shredded coconut to top

Process all of the ingredients until smooth. Top with the coconut shreds and enjoy!

A Strong Back for a Stronger Core

All too often we leave our back, well on the back burner. We're more concerned with our abs, our arms and our butts to name a few. What we're not realizing though is that without a healthy and strong back, we're nothing but whimpering, hunched over, smaller versions of ourselves. Varying degrees of Quasimoto. How debilitating is it when you pull a muscle in your back, or have an ache in your lower back? You're squirming in your seat, struggling to find some modicum of comfort that comes only in short waves. Strong backs assist in everything, even helping to build up ab strength. 

Next time you find yourself with 15 minutes of nothing to do (put the phone down), do this quick exercise and begin strengthening your back. Start with no weights and then work up to adding a little weight to really start noticing improvements. 

Try doing each move for 30 seconds, one right after the other. Once you do all three, rest for 1 minute, and then repeat again for 3-5 rounds! C'mon, you can do this!!

Quickie Workout!

No quickie ever felt so good... weeeelllllll, no quickie ever left you feeling so satisfied.... uummmmm, ok, no workout quickie ever left you feeling this awesome in a matter of minutes! This is the epitome of quick when it comes to working out, for reals! This workout can be done in-between applying your concealer and mascara. The only thing you'll notice different is your heart will be pounding! And you'll be smiling. You will. You're gonna feel good, and it didn't take much to do it. Maybe this workout is best saved for a Monday morning, so you can start your week off right with just a wee bit of effort.

For this quick and satisfying workout, I want you to grab your big boys.. you know the ones collecting dust in the back of your closet, or under your bed. The 5 pounders, the 6'ers, and maybe even the 8's you got packed away. Big dogs are needed for this short and intense burst 

Go get them. I'll wait...

Ok, this workout is only 2 moves, but you're going to work almost everything you've got, so get ready! The video is below so click on it and take a lookie'see. I'd like you to do 10 reps of each exercise, doing one right after the other with no rest in-between. Once you do both, wait 30 seconds and do them both again for 10 reps each. Wait another 30 seconds and repeat. Do this five times. That'll come to a total of 50 reps for each exercise. Booya! And you're done. Super strong workout done in mere minutes. Tell me you can't do this, just try! I'll come over and take your weights away. I will! 

 

 

The Anti-Gym Workout!

I'm sure you guys were all over my 1st partner workout vid and are now looking for another one because hey, variety is essential in this technologically driven world of ours... we can't be expected to sit through the same video twice, not with all these options at our fingertips! 

Well here you have it then, another fabulous partner workout you can do anywhere (besides the gym because if you can do a workout anywhere, why be in the stinky gym?!)

Here's what you're going to do:

3 rounds.
10 reps each exercise, rest 30 sec between each exercise.
Rest 1 minute after each round.

And here are the moves:
Side plank clap
Jump overs
Squat pass
Reverse lunge toss

Check out the vid to see the moves and then give 'em a go! Let me know what you think once you've finished all three rounds! :)