Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Brownies

I dream in chocolate.

I'm pretty sure that I would swim in the sweet stuff if possible. The darker the chocolate, the better. Dark chocolate, double chocolate chip ice cream, double chocolate chip cookies, and of course double chocolate chip brownies.

Brownies + Chocolate + Ice Cream =

Since I love my double chocolate chip brownies I can never have just a small bite. So I found a way to make a skinnier version so I can have my sweets and enjoy it too. I turned an average brownie into a guiltless tasty treat.

So today you will not only get a yummy recipe, you'll also learn a little bit about the health benefits of baking brownies my way.

The very first step of this brownie baking process is to actually buy the ingredients.

The ingredients!

Combine the brownie mix, water, and chocolate syrup into a large mixing bowl. Next is where the fat and calorie savings begin. Instead of using one large egg, it is replaced with 3 Tbsp of liquid egg whites and added to the bowl of ingredients

According to the American Heart Association, egg whites are better than whole eggs if a person is watching his or her cholesterol since all of the cholesterol is essentially contained in the yolk. One egg contains 186 mg of cholesterol whereas an egg white contains zero.

Once the heart-healthy egg whites have been added another crucial swap helps to greatly decrease fat and calories. Instead of using the called-for quarter cup of oil, use an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce in its place. Now you may be wondering, applesauce for oil? Have no fear! I’ve tried this brownie recipe with the oil and with the applesauce and could not taste the difference at all which is great since a quarter cup of oil has around 450 calories and more than 50g of fat whereas a quarter cup of applesauce is nearly fatfree and contains only 25 calories. These stats alone greatly show what a significant swap this is.

Add the ¼ cup of applesauce in the bowl of ingredients and stir until well-combined.

Time to stir!

Once all the clumps are gone, add the 6oz of semi-sweet morsels and mix once more.

The batter is creamy and smooth

Now is the time to reveal the third and final healthy swap of creating brownies that are a little more waist-friendly. Instead of using Crisco for greasing the 13x9 baking pan, cover with cooking spray. Crisco has partially hydrogenated oils which means that it has trans fat. The American Heart Association explains that trans fats raise the bad LDL cholesterol levels while lowering the good HDL cholesterol levels. Therefore trans fats have been associated with developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and has also been linked to a higher risk of stroke.

Once the pan is misted with heart healthy cooking spray, add the brownie batter and spread evenly in the pan.

Mmmmmm chocolate

Top with sprinkles and bake at 350°F for 23-25 minutes.

Brownies without sprinkles is like a pool without water.

After the timer buzzes, check to see if the brownies are completely cooked by inserting a toothpick in the middle, if it comes out clean and without brownie residue, then the product is completely cooked and ready to be devoured!

So now I have a question to ask you: do you want to deprive yourself of the foods you love to help lower cholesterol or decrease the chances of developing high cholesterol with a boring and bland diet? Neither do I. With a few substitutions in baking, one can have a brownie and not feel guilty by using egg whites instead of whole eggs, unsweetened applesauce instead of vegetable oil, and cooking spray instead of Crisco. Now the real challenge is about to occur. Bake these brownies and see if you can taste the difference.

Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Brownies
1 box brownie mix (I’m partial towards Betty Crocker Original Supreme which comes with a chocolate syrup pack)
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp liquid egg whites
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray

-Preheat oven to 350°F
-Add brownie mix, chocolate syrup, water, liquid egg whites, and applesauce to a mixing bowl. Stir.
-Add in chocolate chips. Stir.
-Spread the mixture evenly into a 13x9 baking pan that has been coated with cooking spray.
-Top with sprinkles and bake for 23-25 minutes.
-After 23 minutes check to see if brownies are done by inserting toothpick. If it comes out clean and without residue the brownies are done.
 There's no such thing as brownie etiquette

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Half Marathon Training (plus a recipe!)

This is the time of year when:

Graduations are commencing...

Graduated with honors! vacations are occurring...

My family goes to Hilton Head, SC every year!

...fireworks are bursting in the sky...


...and when I get antsy to sign up for a race.

I love training for a half or full marathon in the summer since I can wake up early and beat the heat and once race day comes, the weather is not terribly hot since it's usually a brisk autumn day.

The first step in training for a race is to find one that is of interest and sign up for it! Research shows that those who sign up for a race and pay to register are more successful than those who train without a goal in mind. Another perk of registering early for a race is that you'll most likely get the Early Bird fee which means the cost is cheaper! After picking and paying to partake in the race, training begins. I personally follow Marathon Rookie's program and have been quite successful with the half and full marathons that I have run in the past. The only thing I would add onto the weekly schedule is that on one of the off days take a nice long bike ride to help cross-train and also strength train. An easy way to help become stronger is to add these simple moves to your workout routine 3 times a week.

I'm thinking that my next race is going to be the half marathon at Presque Isle in Erie, PA. Now you're probably thinking, you want to run in Erie? Why in the world would someone choose that race?

The answer is simple: my extended family lives there and I plan on running the half with my aunt.

Cooking Easter dinner with Aunt Sandie!

I consider my aunt to be one of my role models in life. She is a marathon runner, a registered dietitian, and an amazing cook. In a way she has shaped me into the woman that I am today. She sparked my interest in running marathons and adapting healthy cooking practices in the kitchen. I know that by running the race with her I will definitely achieve my goal of breaking 2 hours.

Now comes the first step in the training process: signing up for the race and beginning the 10 week running schedule on July 8. It's going to both difficult and fun all at the same time. I can't wait!

And what better way to fuel up before a long run than with a hearty bowl of oatmeal?!

Blueberry and Walnut Oatmeal
1/2 cup Old Fashioned oats
1 cup water
Splash of vanilla extract
2 tsp brown sugar
Handful of blueberries
1/8 cup walnuts, chopped

-In a small pot, bring the water to a boil.
-Add the oats, give it a quick stir, and reduce the heat to low.
-After 2 minutes add the vanilla and blueberries. Stir.
-Cook 3 more minutes and right before transferring the oatmeal to a bowl, stir in the walnuts and brown sugar.
-Top with more blueberries.

Blueberry and Walnut Oatmeal


Question of the Day:  

What goal are you currently striving to achieve?

As I mentioned above, I want to break 2 hours at the Presque Isle Half Marathon. With hard work and dedication we can achieve all that we come across!

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Crockpot Zesty BBQ Chicken

Like many of us employed people, I am extremely busy. It's hard to juggle a job, exercise, and a social life all in one without going crazy.

Add on top of those eating healthy as well. It's not an easy task to accomplish. So to help decrease any stress and hassle I may have, I tend to opt for meals that are quick, simple, and healthy.

One of my favorite appliances that I own is my Crockpot. My parents bought it for me a couple of years ago and I have definitely gotten its money's worth out of it! What could be better than assembling a huge feast all in one pot? Turn it on in the morning, go to work, come back and the meal is ready to be consumed devoured.

It's true love

I have quite the list of Crockpot recipes that I cannot wait to share with each and every one of you! But unfortunately you'll only see them one at a time. I wouldn't want to overload you with yummy nutritiousness all in one sitting!

I stumbled upon this recipe on Pinterest as I do with many others. My version is slightly altered from the original since I added a few veggies and used Fat Free Italian Dressing to lighten it up a bit. I tried it out and loved it. I then shared the recipe with my brother and sister-in-law as well as my aunt who said it was awesome as well. I literally had to put the chicken in a container and into the fridge so I wouldn't keep eating it. It's that good people!

Yum in the tum

Not only is it a mouth-watering magnificent meal, it's also extremely easy to make. This recipe is definitely a go-to for whenever I'm in a bind to scrounge up something for dinner.

Crockpot Zesty BBQ Chicken:
4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (frozen)
½ (18 oz) bottle BBQ Sauce

¼ cup Fat Free Italian Salad Dressing
1/8 cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 green pepper, chopped
1 white onion, chopped

The ingredients!

-Place frozen chicken in the crock pot.
-In a bowl, mix the BBQ sauce, Italian Dressing, brown sugar, and Worcestershire Sauce.
-Pour over chicken.
-Top with the pepper and onion.
-After 5.5 hours use 2 forks to shred the chicken. Cover for about 20-30 min longer

Delicious and nutritious!

This is great over a salad, in between whole wheat buns, atop a bed of brown rice, or even by itself! The possibilities are endless.

Bon Apetit!

Question of the Day:  

What's the one vegetable you always seem to add to recipes?

I usually add green pepper and onion to all my slow cooker recipes since it is a great way to sneak in vegetables for those who are picky eaters and add flavor that is not overwhelming!

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Cleveland Color Run 2012

Picture this: A large crowd of thousands of people. Loud cheers. Smiling faces. The sound of laughter, excitement, and joy. Bright colors splattered everywhere. Congratulations! You’re crossing the finish line of what is deemed to be the happiest race on Earth: The Color Run. 

I love running, adventure, and color. So naturally, I knew that when The Color Run was coming to Cleveland on June 16, 2012, I had to sign up. What I loved about this race was not only the rainbow of colors being thrown around, but that it was very informal, noncompetitive, and non-timed. This was a great event to help spark people's interest to get up off the couch and exercise!

Some of you may not even know the history of this running event. Lucky for you I had to write a speech for one of my classes a few weeks ago and I chose to inform the audience on this race!

The Color Run in a non-timed, 5k run where colorful 100% food-grade cornstarch is tossed on the packs of people. This is an event for anyone. Partakers can choose to jog or walk the 3.1 miles course. As previously mentioned, this fun run is simply a way to motivate those to live a healthy lifestyle and have a blast while doing it!

My friends, Morgan and Emily, as well as my dad, signed up for this exciting event.

Before, all clean and pristine.

This event was only 5 minutes away from where I live so the girls met up at my place and we were at the starting line by 8:30AM. There was music blaring and over 8,000 people laughing and smiling everywhere. I knew then that this would be a race I would never forget.

Running buddies!

Along the course, there was a color blasting station every kilometer where the participants would become doused in this bright powder. By the end of the run, we were covered in colors.

It was a blast!

What could be better than running, colors, and friends?

After completing the happiest 5k on the planet!

So whether you’re an avid runner who simply wants a break from a competitive race, or want to try something new. Or if you’re not a runner and want to have fun while walking the course, The Color Run will surely be the non-timed run (or walk) for you! So be prepared to pick a city, register early, help out a good charity, and become covered in multiple different colors!


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Thursday, June 14, 2012

College Grad!

I am a college graduate.
I just graduated from college.
After 17 years, I am finished with school.

Graduated with honors from The Ohio State University!

No matter how I say it, I still cannot believe that I finally earned my college degree. It’s crazy to think that I’m now in the “real world” and now have to get a big-girl job.

So let’s start from the beginning. I graduated on Sunday, June 10, 2012 from The Ohio State University with a degree in Nutrition and a minor in business. Graduation was loooong but so worth it. Sure the weather was cloudless, breezeless and over 90°, but I wouldn’t trade sitting for those 3 hours to receive my diploma for the world.

Four of the most important people in my life came to celebrate this special occasion with me: my family.

Post graduation picture!

Jason and Alli drove up from Cinci and my parents came down from Cleveland. On Saturday night, we went out to an ahhhmazing dinner at the Cameron Mitchell’s restaurant in Easton, Ocean Club. My meal was simply indescribable. I had a fantastic filet with a side of sesame stir-fried snap peas, asparagus, and superb sourdough bread accompanied with one a few glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wine =

Sure the steak, veggies, bread, and wine were all excellent, but the real showstopper was dessert: Baked Alaska.


The menu describes this delectable dessert as follows: “Pound Cake w/Vanilla, Chocolate and Black Raspberry Ice Cream, Strawberry Jam, Toasted Meringue & Fresh Raspberries”

In layman’s terms: masterpiece.

I've been looking forward to this dessert for days months after I originally viewed the menu. I mean, what can be any better than ice cream, chocolate, and cake? Nothing. 

Baked Alaska!

This, magnificent, mouthwatering masterpiece was certainly an indulgence but one cannot simply go through life depriving him or herself of a treat every once in a while, that's a setup for a disastrous binge fest. So that's why I usually always have something sweet during the day (I have quite the sweet tooth).

Moral of the story: don't deprive yourself of anything. There is nothing wrong with a treat!

Moderation + Exercise = Success!

Question of the Day:

What's your all-time favorite dessert?

Mine is by far ice cream. Mint chocolate chip, black raspberry chip, dark chocolate, caramel swirl, moose name it, chances are I'll like it.

I wanted to lick the plate it was that good.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cooking with Companions

Question: What’s better than cooking?
Answer: Cooking with others!

My lovely friend Emily visited this past week to join me in some pre-graduation festivities here at Ohio State.

Love her!

I’ve known Emily for 8 years now and am so happy that we have stayed in touch! What I love about her is that she also loves running, cooking, and drinking wine. We have cooked together on a few occasions and have always had a blast during it.

Cooking with friends is a great way to grow closer and really learn about one another! When two people who have a passion for food come together in the kitchen, a masterpiece of food is created!

Ems and I had a fun night ahead of us so we wanted to make sure we had a hearty, nutritious, and delicious dinner. This is an extremely easy meal to create, so cooking with a companion makes it that much more enjoyable. What was on the menu you may ask? Well, I'll tell you.

Whole wheat pasta topped with everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sauce
Cheesy cauliflower and broccoli bake (slightly adapted from here)

 Pictures don't do justice.

As I mentioned before, this meal could not get any simpler to make! Today is also your lucky day! Instead of one recipe, you get TWO.

Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Pasta Sauce:
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
2 cups spinach
1 jar pasta sauce (I like Classico Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic)

-In a small pot, mix in all the ingredients except the spinach.
-After cooking on low for 10 minutes, add in the spinach. Stir.
-Continue stirring every once in a while.
-Top on a bed of whole wheat pasta of your choice!

Nutritious and delicious!
Cheesy Cauliflower and Broccoli Bake:
12oz bag of cauliflower and broccoli
3 Tbsp liquid egg whites (or 1 Egg)
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp fat free cottage cheese
2 ½ Tbsp reduced fat Parmesan
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp onion powder

The ingredients!
-Preheat the oven to 350°F.
-Place the room temperature vegetables in an oven-safe 9x9 dish (sprayed with cooking spray).
-In a bowl, beat together the egg whites and cottage cheese until smooth.
-Add the spices and mix until combined.

-Pour the cottage cheese mixture over the veggies and stir until evenly distributed.
-Top with the Parmesan and place the dish in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden.
Don't be nervous about the cottage cheese. Emily and I could not even tell! The cottage cheese helps add the creaminess and cheesiness to make this dish delectable. What can possibly be better than vegetables, garlic, and cheese?

Moral of the story: prepare meals with your friends! It's an awesome way to learn about each other and create fantastic food together!

Oh and I almost forgot...
Happy 3rd Birthday Roxie! 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fit for Free

I have an equation for you. 
You + the floor = ?

Do you give up? Okay, okay. I’ll tell you. When you add those together you get the perfect place to workout for free.

Now I don’t know about you, but I get extremely nervous at the gym lifting weights next to men The Incredible Hulk lookalikes who can probably bench a weight triple the size of me.


Yet, I don’t want to sacrifice the benefits of weight training. I also don’t want to pay to join a small, intimate gym. So being the money-conscious woman that I am, I found ways to incorporate simple exercises that I can perform right in my very own apartment!

I started incorporating a few of these easy bodyweight exercises after I injured myself while training for a race (I’ll talk about that another time). After a few sore days and a few short weeks, my injury started to subside and I began noticing the difference in my body. I actually had defined muscles!

So if you’re trying to be fit on a budget, incorporate a few of these quick exercises into your workout routine 3-4 times a week.

Every other morning I perform these three strengthening moves: side leg lifts, push ups, and crunches.

Here are a few short clips that demonstrate how to properly carry out each move so you won’t injure yourself.

Side Leg Lifts:

I started this bodyweight move to strengthen my hips since I was having IT band issues. Within a couple of weeks my injury began to subside!

 Start off with these push-ups for beginners!

Then gradually introduce these push-ups!

I began push-ups on my knees but after I felt stronger I started to incorporate both types into my workout routine.

The music in the first video makes me want to hit the dance floor! That's not the only reason why this mini tutorial is great. I love that it correctly tells you how to carry out the crunches without injuring yourself.

Don't forget the side crunches! Take note of his breathing technique. He exhales as he comes up and inhales as he goes down.

So now I urge you to take the challenge and incorporate these 3 simple bodyweight strengthening moves into your weekly workout routine. I promise you will not regret it once you see how great the benefits are!

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mocha Oatmeal

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Growing up I must admit that breakfast was not my favorite meal whatsoever. Waking up every morning and having a bowl of whatever cereal was in the house seemed so boring and bland. Breakfast was a dull routine cycle. Now, however, I shudder to think that I actually skipped breakfast periodically.

We have heard over and over again from our parents how important this morning meal is. However, I did not truly understand and come to accept this statement until I started taking my Nutrition courses at Ohio State. I learned that overnight our bodies are going through a fast so when we wake up our blood glucose levels are low. In layman’s terms: we need to replenish the nutrients and energy in our body upon waking.

I started eating a hearty breakfast religiously about a year ago when I wanted to become a healthier person. When I say hearty, I mean I am having about 350-400 calories every morning for breakfast. I have noticed that if I have a small, unsubstantial breakfast that I am ravenous within two hours. My family and friends know that a hungry Aly is not a pleasant one to be around…

I have come to love breakfast so much that as I lie in bed trying to fall asleep at night, I find myself thinking about what I will make myself in the morning. I always have a complete meal that consists of whole grains, dairy, protein, and coffee. The last part is crucial. I must have my Cup of Joe in the morning!

Coffee =

So that being said, one of my favorite morning meals is oatmeal. But not just any ordinary, run of the mill type. I love creating oatmeal masterpieces. Old Fashioned Oats are where it’s at people! I love eating my oatmeal with either a whole grain bagel or low fat yogurt topped with fresh berries. And what can be better than combining oatmeal with two of the best wonders of the world: chocolate and coffee.

Mocha Oatmeal:
½ cup Old Fashioned Oats
1 cup water
1 ½ tsp instant coffee
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Splenda packet

The ingredients!

-In a small pot, bring the liquid and instant coffee to a boil.
-Add the oats, give it a quick stir, and reduce the heat to low.
-After 2 minutes add the vanilla and cocoa powder. Stir.
-Cook 3 more minutes and right before transferring the oatmeal to a bowl, stir in the Splenda.

Sprinkling with mini semi-sweet morsels is a must!


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