Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hiking: Alum Cave Trail, Tennessee

Another month, another hike!

If you're not aware, my mom and I have set the goal to hike a new trail each month of 2018. We decided we were in need of a weekend getaway so we chose a destination with some great hiking nearby. We stayed in Gatlinburg, TN and the Alum Cave trail in the Smokies was just a quick 30-ish minute drive to the trail-head.






Note that the trail-head offers restrooms, HOWEVER, they were closed for the season. We got close with nature this hike.

I was a little disappointed that the weather wasn't cooperating. It was a decent temperature but there was a dense fog. One of the perks of this hike is the stunning views and our views were mostly of fog! It was still very pretty as you hike along the stream for much of the hike. There have also been bear sightings here!
Arch Rock

After 1.3 miles, you reach a dark staircase that goes up through a rock and this feature is called Arch Rock. After one more mile, mostly uphill, you reach the Alum Cave which is actually a concave bluff 80 feet in height. You can continue on to the summit of Mount Leconte but we saved that for another day. The trail was pretty wet so we used caution on the stairs and bridges.

The trail to Alum Cave is 4.6 miles round trip and rated as moderate to strenuous. There are quite a few stairs and a steep incline as you approach the Alum Cave. After looking at other's pictures, I wish it hadn't been so foggy! Perhaps, I'll go back!

Have you hiked anywhere new? What do you do when the weather doesn't cooperate - do it anyway or go back another day?
Before Hiking
After Hiking - We got hot!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Healthy Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies!

Did I just say healthy and chocolate dipped in the same breath?
Well, actually I typed it. But, yes. I think you can have both! Lakanto seems to agree with me. They are a company that utilizes monk fruit to sweeten some delicious chocolate bars! They also have monk fruit extract, sweeteners, and liquid sweeteners. The sweetness is derived from monk fruit (Luo Han Guo) which is a natural sweetener with zero calories and zero glycemic index.

Lakanto's mission is to create delicious sugar free foods that promote well-being and vitality.

I think chocolate is definitely good for my vitality.

So with that in mind, I created a low or no sugar shortbread cookie dipped in chocolate and sprinkles! The sprinkles are optional if you want to go completely sans sugar but I opted to add them because they're so cute and fun!

I was so happy with how these came out and they even got the seal of approval from my parents who usually resist my creations! Did I mention these are gluten, grain, egg and dairy free?

Healthy Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup banana flour 
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar/stevia blend*
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup ghee oil
  • 1/4 cup cashew milk 
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 bar Lakanto chocolate, chopped 

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the banana flour, sweetener blend, baking soda and salt. 
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the ghee oil, cashew milk, and vanilla. 
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into dry and mix until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  5. On a sheet of wax/parchment/prepared surface, roll or flatten the dough with your palms. Use cookie cutters to cut into small shapes (about 1-2 inches in diameter). The dough will be crumbly so I used my hands a lot. 
  6. Place the shapes on a silicone baking mat or parchment paper or prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. 
  7. Allow the cookies to cool before proceeding. Melt the chocolate bar (use a double boiler or microwave in 30 second increments, stirring throughout). 
  8. Dip the cookies into the melted chocolate and sprinkle with sprinkles or nuts if you desire. Place in the fridge to set quickly. 
  9. Enjoy!
Is it just me or do you have a desire to dip everything in chocolate when you melt chocolate?

*A note on substitions:
I haven't tried but I assume you could use all purpose/wheat/oat flour using 1 1/2 cups.
Cashew milk can be substituted with any milk of choice. 
Ghee can be substituted with coconut oil to make it vegan, however I would recommend adding imitation butter flavoring for flavor. (It's vegan!)
Sweetener can be your sweetener of choice but it may affect the sweetness of the end result. My only suggestion if you use a 1:1 sugar substitute and want to retain the sweetness of my recipe is to increase the sweetener to your liking and add a bit more milk. 

Let me know if you try these!
Check out Lakanto's products here: https://www.lakanto.com/ and enter my giveaway on Instagram!

Instagram.com/healthy_happy_and_free

Monday, February 12, 2018

Product Review: Truth Bars

"Gut health" seems to be a bit of a buzz term lately. Why is it important?

In short, gut health affects our overall well-being from autoimmune disorders, mental health, digestive issues, and the list goes on. 

One way to have good gut health is to include probiotics (good bacteria) and prebiotics (food for probiotics) in your diet. If sauerkraut isn't your thing, never fear - the Truth Bar is here!

Truth Bars have 1 billion probiotic CFU's, fiber rich prebiotics, micronutrients and healthy fats which will contribute to a healthy gut flora. 

With so many protein supplements abounding, many people are not suffering from protein deficiency. They may, however, be deficient in good healthy fats, carbs, fiber, or probiotics. That's what founders, Sean Fay and Diana Stobo, knew. Thus, the Truth bar was born, founded on the truth that overall well being starts in the gut. 

Here comes the but. But how does it taste?

Diana is a French trained baker and chocolatier and it is evident! These bars taste almost like candy bars (Let's not be crazy, a candy bar is a candy bar lol). 

They come in four flavors: Dark Chocolate Coconut, Mint Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Almond Crunch, and Chocolate Raspberry Coconut. 

Dark Chocolate Coconut

I heard this flavor compared to a Mounds bar and that is truly accurate. It has a pleasing dark chocolate coating (as they all do) and a sweet, moist, coconut interior. It was truly delightful!

Chocolate Almond Crunch

Another win! Obviously, I love that they are all coated in chocolate. This one had a chewier, nutty interior. The only criticism I have is that mine wasn't very "crunchy" so that part of the name seemed a little misleading.

I still need to try the Mint Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Raspberry Coconut but I have high hopes!




 Do you take probiotic supplements or try to incorporate probiotic and prebiotic foods into your diet? What are your thoughts on probiotic bars?


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Run Happy!

I went to many shoe stores. I searched high. I searched low. I scoured the internet.

Trying. To. Find. New. Running Shoes.

Honestly, I felt quite overwhelmed with the options and information available to me.

My current running shoe was the Brooks Ravenna 7 with an insert. With all the overwhelming information, I decided to go with Brooks Ravenna 8. Simple enough, right?

I first ordered my sneakers from Dick's Sporting Goods and was so excited to get them. I ran in them a few times and they hurt my feet so badly! I ended up with bruises all over my foot. I couldn't bear to run in them any more.
Embarrassingly Gross
I was very distraught because now I was back at square one. What to do? I tried on more shoes but I have to say I felt a weird loyalty to Brooks. I've only ever run in Brooks. 

I realized that the new shoes I had purchased were the wrong size! They were half a size too small! I got an email from Brooks about the Ravenna 8 being on sale for a great price plus free shipping. They have a 90 day guarantee so I decided to try it again, but this time in the correct size. 

Their motto is "Run Happy" and it's hard to run happy when your feet are killing you. I really do love the spirit and motto of the company. Also, I was able to get a color I preferred when purchasing straight from Brooks instead of Dick's. 

So far, so good! I've run in them several times pain free and even had one of my fastest runs since I can remember! #RunHappy!



Monday, February 5, 2018

Breaking Up With the Scale!

Pounds. Lbs. Stones. Kilos. 

How often do you weigh yourself? Weekly? Daily? Multiple times a day?

I can happily say that I don't remember the last time I weighed myself. The last time I was weighed was at the doctor's.

I don't think it's completely wrong to weigh yourself. As a matter of fact, it's a very simple and easy metric to gauge your progress toward whatever your goals may be. If you want to gain strength, you may have set the intention to gain weight because muscles weigh a lot. More muscle = more weight = more strength. Of course, that's just one example. 

However, weighing yourself can become an unhealthy ritual, especially if you struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating behaviors. Warning signs that you have an unhealthy obsession with weighing yourself: weighing yourself multiple times a day, allowing the number to dictate how your day goes, adjusting your diet or exercise regimen based on a daily fluctuation, allowing the number to affect your mood or day. Experts will recommend that you weigh yourself weekly if you are using it as a gauge for progress for your goals. Even then, weekly fluctuations are not clear indicators of your weight. Constipation, hormones, sodium intake, etc. can all affect fluctuations. 

Personally, I felt I was too obsessed with weighing myself and I wanted to break free. I no longer wanted to allow a silly number on a scale to dictate my mood for the day. It's amazing how much of an impact this number had on my mental well being. So how did I break free? It's pretty simple.

Hide, destroy, or remove the scale until you break the habit. 

Living with others who also use the scale meant that I could not destroy the scale (not to mention I find that a bit dramatic, but whatever works for you.) However, I would place the scale in an inconvenient location, perhaps in another family members bedroom. I would have to go out of my way and it would be obvious to other house members what I was doing. I did continue to "sneak" a weigh in every now and then but eventually, it became irrelevant. I broke the habit. This has truly been freeing for me. I remember feeling "light" and weighing myself only to be struck with the "horrible" news that I was, in fact, heavier. I remember questioning the accuracy of the scale and stepping on and off multiple times. I remember stepping on the scale and ending up on the ground crying because of the number. Did I hate myself to the point of tears before I weighed myself? No. So why should those digits on the cheap little scale cause me so much pain.

I am no longer enslaved to the scale. I am no longer enslaved to a weight. When I go to the doctor, they don't hide my weight from me, and they don't need to. I have realized that my value isn't measured in my weight.

I hope this can help some of you to break free from the scale and find the same freedom that I have found.


Friday, February 2, 2018

Friday Finds!

TGIF!

Time for Friday Finds! Here are some of the things I've been loving lately:


  • Keurig K-Elite Coffee Maker
Okay, I have been wanting a coffee maker (cue Sandlot quote) FOR-EV-ER. I always came up with a reason not to invest in one so I used coffee filter, stapled them shut and basically steeped them in hot water. It sufficed but it was a bit labor intensive and messy, not to mention, I'm not entirely sure I want staples touching my coffee. I'm a part of a program called Influenster where you receive different products to try and review and share your thoughts on the Internet. In previous years, I've received hair products, and accessories, etc. This time, they sent me the Keurig K-Elite with 2 boxes of K-cups. To say I was ecstatic is an understatement. This Keurig has a water reservoir that can make 8 cups without being refilled, it brews quickly, has a drip tray that removes so I can fit my knock-off yeti underneath it, has a temperature control to adjust it to your liking and who knows what other great features. It has been so nice to just pop in a K-cup, select my mug size so I can quickly get the caffeine running though my veins and start to function more like a human. 10/10 recommend from my use so far! 

To read more about the features and other reviews, check it out here: http://www.keurig.com/Coffee-Makers/Home-Coffee-Makers/Keurig%C2%AE-K-Elite%E2%84%A2-Single-Serve-Coffee-Maker/p/K-Elite-Single-Serve-Coffee-Maker


  • Hail Merry Snacks 
I've seen these sweet snacks all over the 'gram so when they advertised that they are now being sold at Publix, I went there and bought a pack of Chocolate Almond Butter Cups. They were so good! They were sweet, rich and creamy ganache in a almost pie-crust like cup. These snacks are all made with Kosher, non-GMO, vegan and gluten-free ingredients. They also have other flavors of cups, tarts, and bites. Let's just say, I'll be visiting Publix more often. 

Check them out here: http://www.hailmerry.com/

  • Fre Skincare
This skincare line is designed for active women. Women who SWEAT. That's me. I don't glisten or sparkle, I sweat. It does cause me to worry about my skin sometimes. They have a 1, 2, 3 system. I have been using 2 and 3 after my workouts as directed. From what I understand, the number 1 is primarily a sunscreen and since it's winter right now, I'm not feeling too much harsh sun on my skin. I can't say that it's improved my skin yet, but I'm excited to see if it will. I get occasional pimples and some bumps in my forehead area so I'm hoping this could help eliminate that. What I can say is that the face wash is exfoliating and feels great. My skin feels so clean and fresh so I am glad I am making it a point to wash my face after every workout. The number 3 product makes me skin feel soft and great. Let me know if you want updates on my skin! To top it off, their products are made from natural ingredients and are vegan and cruelty free. Wait, there's more. For every set of skincare sold, they plant an Argan tree. Visit https://www.freskincare.com/ to learn more about their products and mission. 


  • Know Better Chocolate Chips
Know Foods recently came out with a new product, chocolate chips. I love chocolate, so I jumped on the year end sale and purchased a few bags. These chocolate chips are sweetened with allulose and have no dairy aka vegan. They are only 40 calories per tablespoon and are miniature sized, which I love. Mini = more. I've been really liking these chocolate chips. They are not overly sweet similar to a semi-sweet chocolate chips. They are great for baking and I've loved sprinkling them on top of my oatmeal! It gets melty, chocolatey, and delicious! Check them out here: http://i.refs.cc/OUBtoEre
Slap Nutrition Fudge Pop Greens plus Know Foods Chips!
What have you been loving lately? Do you brew your own coffee or stick with Starbucks? Let me know!




Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Product Review: Quest Protein Cookies

C is for cookie and cookie is for me! 

I can't take credit for that fine poetry. Cookie Monster said it first but it applies to me as well. 

I'm usually not disappointed by Quest so I was excited to try their new protein cookies! They are more "macro-friendly" than other protein cookies, though they are pretty high in fat. They come in four flavors: Double Chocolate, Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, and Peanut Butter. 

The first one I tried was Peanut Butter. It seemed obvious. 

Macros: 250 calories 17f/15p/18c (5 net carbs)

I really enjoyed this cookie. It was big, sweet, and rich tasting. The ingredients are pretty solid, in my opinion. It is sweetened with erythritol and stevia. There's a almost sugary looking substance on top. It didn't blow my mind but definitely pretty good for a protein cookie. 







Chocolate Chip

Macros: 250 calories 17f/15p/19c (4 net carbs)

I liked this classic flavor even better than peanut butter! It's a tasty, chewy cookie and I loved the chocolate chips. Pro-tip: warm up your cookies. Seriously. It takes it to the next level! 













Double Chocolate

Macros: 240 calories 16f/15p/20c (5 net carbs)

I think I may have liked this one best of all! I enjoyed the chocolate flavor and  chocolate chips studded throughout. It wasn't too sweet or too dry. Warm it up and enjoy! 

I have yet to try the Oatmeal Raisin but I've heard it's very good as well! 

Have you tried Quest's new protein cookies? What do you think of them?

Check them out here: Quest Nutrition Cookies