Sep 292013
 

At one point while I was rambling on during the raffle at the end of Saturday’s sessions earlier this month at the Healthy Living Summit, I mentioned how much I really love SparkPeople.com.  I said something about the fact that Spark People helped me to lose 50+ pounds at the beginning of my health journey and we all had a good hoot and holler over it.

I like to hoot and holler about the tools that have helped to make my healthy living journey just a tad bit easier.  In our day and age choosing health isn’t always as easy as it should and could be; if something has made me want to jump for joy along this journey, it’s only fair that I share it.  While health means something different to every soul, and it’s true that what works for one person definitely won’t work for every person, I share because I care.  And I want you to know about the things I love to love!*

And I love to love Spark People, for about a billion reasons.  Here’s just a few:

1 // Have a health topic you want to learn about? Spark People has TONS of articles and videos covering a wide range of specific health topics from experts to trust.

image0012 // Meal planning made easy with SparkRecipes.com; a site dedicated to healthy recipes for any and every occasion.  Spark Recipes is a tool I have been using for YEARS for meal planning inspiration and has recently received a beautiful facelift with wonderful photography and a focus on eating better with quick and easy cooking.  One of my favorite features of Spark Recipes is the ability to “Add/Calculate a Recipe.”  It allows you to input the ingredients of your own recipes to calculate the nutritional info.

3 // Spark People trackers are customizable; a dream for this self-proclaimed organization nerd.  You can track calories, fitness activity, weight gained and lost, plus any other goal you’d like to keep on your radar.  To this day when I want to work towards a specific health goal, I find myself logged on to Spark People to do some goal setting and tracking.

4 // Spark People was the birthing site of some of my greatest friendships. I am so thankful for the COMMUNITY aspect of Spark People. I’ve made some lasting friendships through that site.  As a matter of fact, Spark People is how I first started my friendship with Laura.

5 // Spark has gone mobile, and I love having the tracking tools at my finger tips when I’m on the go.  There is also a v. cool “scan barcode” feature in which you can scan a package barcode to upload the nutritional info.  Technology is uber-fun!

6 // Spark resources go beyond the web and onto my bookshelves.  I love Spark People founder Chris Downie’s book, The Spark, which is full of motivational stories, tips and suggestions of how you can find the spark within you to make positive changes in your life.  I’m currently reading The Spark Solution, the latest Spark People book release, and one of my favorite cookbooks in my kitchen is The SparkPeople Cookbook.

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The cookbook is such a fantastic resource for the kitchen, full of delicious, nutritious recipes, but also narrative on healthy choices, lots of cooking and food prep tips, and motivation to make your health a priority as you eat.  Some of my favorite go-to week night meals come of this book.  As a matter of fact, Nick and I had an at-home date night where we made dinner together using three recipes from the cookbook; Baked Chicken Tenders (love the cheesy panko crust,) Three-Cheese Macaroni with Broccoli(blanching the broccoli makes such a huge difference! it’s the perfect texture,) and Roasted Red Potatoes with Garlic Herb Oil(so flavorful – probably my favorite dish of the night.)

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All of the dishes were wonderful and I was stoked to have leftovers to use in other meals throughout the weekend.  I’ve used some leftover tenders for quick tacos using stuff I already had in the house: my favorite pineapple salsa, corn tortillas, mixed greens, and shredded cheese.  Other tenders and extra broccoli were used to top a big ole freggie filled salad and I diced up the roasted reds to make a potato egg hash for brunch.   And the mac and cheese was fantastic reheated on its own and also topped with a runny egg.

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I’ve marked at least a dozen recipes to add to our meal plan this fall from The SparkPeople Cookbook and I’m excited to offer you the opportunity to meal plan with a copy of your own, too.  In celebration of the gorgeous relaunch of SparkRecipes.com, Spark People has offered to give TWO of the friends of THS their own copy of The SparkPeople Cookbook!

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Update: Congratulations to Kelly from Living the Before and Rachel from The House Always Wins for winning a copy of The SparkPeople Cookbook.  Ladies, be on the lookout for an email to confirm shipping details!

To enter to win one of two copies of The SparkPeople Cookbook, leave a comment on this post answering one of the following two questions before Friday, October 4th:

  1. What cookbook do you use the most often? Mine is a toss up between The SparkPeople Cookbook and How to Boil Water, especially for technique how-to. 
  2. What cookbook feature is most important to you when you determining if it’s a “great cookbook?”  I love extra trips and tricks that go along side the recipes to help make cooking easier on the beginner, home cook.

 

*if you’ve read this blog for more than 5 seconds, you probably are already aware that this extends way beyond health tools and products.  I can’t stop talking about media recommendations, either.

Nov 072011
 

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Earlier this fall, I invited some friends to the apartment for a Badger Game Day get together.  The Badgers may have blasted Nebraska on game day, but it is possible that two other attractions were the stars of the Game Day show at THS Headquarters.

1. Benson.  Everyone loves snuggling with the little kitten.  Just ask Emily and Alicia.  

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2. The food. [Shocking, I know.]
Somehow, both Nicholas and myself failed to get a photo of the entire spread, but our cameras are filled with the photos we took testing the kitchen lighting moments before I finished putting the dishes on the table.  Oops. Here’s a photo of some of the delicious food we served at the party.

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The menu consisted of many blogstar recipes, all of which come highly recommended.

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I spent the majority of the morning preparing for the party, cleaning and cooking up a storm and was very thankful to have Nicholas over to help.  He even managed to make a specialized gluten free treat for our Gluten Free friend, April.

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 Explosion of Flavor
Gluten Free Cocoa Crispy Treats
Makes approx 12 2-inch squares

 Ingredients:

  • 1 box gluten free Cocoa Crispy Brown Rice cereal (we used Erewhon – one of my favorite GF brands!)
  • 1 stick margarine
  • 5 oz plain flavored marshmallows
  • 5 oz fancy caramel & vanilla flavored marshmallows, (we used Kraft Jet-Puffed SwirlMallows Carmel & Vanilla – a guilty pleasure treat I’ve been crazy about all year!)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

 

Instructions:

  • Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch dish.
  • Melt margarine in a large sauce pan on the stove top, over medium high heat.
  • When margarine is melted, turn heat to low and add plain mallows.  Stir until melted.
  • Repeat with the caramel vanilla mallows.
  • Remove pan from heat and stir in extracts.
  • Gently stir in rice cereal, coating with marshmallow mixture.
  • Pour mixture into prepared dish.  Use a buttered spatula or fingers to press rice cereal down into pan as evenly as possible. 
  • Allow to cool and cut into 12 pieces.

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THANKS! xo – heather
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Oct 102011
 

Remember that time I turned 28 and made a list?
A list of 28 goals of 28 things to get done during this golden 28th year?

I’ve been work on it.  Want proof? Check out the 28 in 28 pages, which is sort-of-kind-of-updated on a “regular” basis.  If by regular, you mean “whenever I remember to update them,” then yes.

One goal that I’ve barely touched the base of? Make 28 recipes from cookbooks I own.
I own A LOT of cookbooks. This is great, right?  Well, there is a little problem here.
I rarely make anything from the cookbooks. Usually I am either throwing things together on the fly, testing a recipe I or a friend wrote, or following the steps in an “OMG-I-MUST-MAKE-THIS-STAT!” blog recipe.

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I finally decided it was time to put this cookbook procrastination to an end.  I got out a semi-new cookbook and did some flipping. I received the Better Homes and Gardens Eat Healthy Lose Weight cookbook as a Christmas gift last year and have yet to make any of the recipes.  The Easy Oatmeal Bread caught my eye pretty quickly.

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It may have been the key word “easy” right there in the title.  Plus, I’ve used yeast in pizza dough and soft pretzels, but I’d yet to face the bread loaf making.  May as well jump into that pool now, right? Get all the procrastination out of the way at once – that seems like a pretty great plan.

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Can someone please explain to me why I have been cooking cookbook-free? This bread was AMAZING! Super easy to make, and pretty darn healthy, to boot.  [Plus, when friends came over that night, they seemed uber impressed and loved eating it up with some delicious jam I got from Kelly in August!] This bread was a total win.

Now excuse me while I go sit cross-legged on the kitchen floor flipping through each and every one of my cookbooks adding post-it notes to recipes to make STAT.