Savory Sides For Your Labor Day BBQ

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Labor Day Weekend is here! I always look forward to a good BBQ, fun in the sun, and spending quality time with family and friends. During holiday weekends, however, it can be difficult to find a healthy alternative to traditional BBQ foods, which are almost too delicious to resist! That’s why this year, instead of putting my self control to the test, I introduced to our BBQ menu some healthy and delicious sides as substitutes.  Both of the recipes below adequately fed a party of three, and probably could have been plenty for four.  If you are looking to feed more than four, I suggest you increase each of the ingredients for the recipe to make sure there is enough.

Kale and Quinoa Salad

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For this recipe, you’ll need:

  1. 1 bundle of any type of kale
  2. 1/4 cup quinoa
  3. 1/2 bullion cube (optional)
  4. 3 cloves of garlic
  5. Olive oil
  6. 1 lemon

Boil the quinoa according to the instructions on the box or bag.  Add the half of a bullion cube to the water, if you choose to include this ingredient.  While you wait for the quinoa to cook, wash the kale really well and cut it into bite-size pieces.  Put it in a large pan or wok and drizzle some olive oil over it.  Sauté the kale until you are happy with its consistency (I like my kale a little crunchy, so I cooked it for about ten minutes).  While you are doing this (or you could do this first, as a preparatory step), mince the garlic and sauté it in olive oil until soft (approximately five minutes. This could take longer or shorter depending on how finely the garlic is minced).  When the garlic is soft, squeeze the lemon into the pan.  I saved two slivers of lemon for garnish.  Once the lemon is heated up, pour the garlic/lemon mixture over the kale.  Once the kale is cooked, take it out of the pan, or take the pan off the hot burner to prevent it from burning. Once the quinoa is cooked, drain excess water through a strainer if there is any, and combine the kale and quinoa into one bowl or container. You can garnish with lemon slices, and you can serve this delicious plate hot or cold.  Enjoy!

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Cucumber Salad

For this recipe, you’ll need:

  1. 3 cucumbers
  2. 1/2 vidalia onion
  3. 4 compari tomatoes (you can use whatever kind of tomatoes you like. The compari tomatoes are small, so that’s why I used four of them.)
  4. Olive oil
  5. Rice wine vinegar

This one is really easy! Peel the cucumbers (optional) and slice them into 1/4 inch slices, cut the1/2 Vidalia onion into strips, and cut the tomatoes into chunks.  Put all three into a large bowl, drizzle olive oil and rice wine vinegar to taste, toss, and enjoy!

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I hope you all enjoy your Labor Day Weekend! Stay fit and in the work force, all!

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Fuel Champion Restaurant – Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn, NY

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In honor of my most recent smoothie post, here’s another (brief) one dedicated to smoothies and healthy eating.  Just yesterday afternoon I visited Fuel Champion Restaurant in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.  Fuel offers health food and fruit/veggie smoothies, with the addition of protein powder by request.  The environment was very casual and most people took their food and smoothies to go, but there are some tables in the restaurant to sit and relax while you eat your meal as well.  In addition to health food and smoothies, Fuel offers a wall of refrigerators containing your choice of beverage, including Vitamin Water, Gatorade, energy drinks, and protein shakes.  In addition, there was also a large selection of packaged snacks such as nuts, trail mix, and protein bars, for a quick on-the-run boost.

The menu is extensive, ranging from breakfasts, wraps, and burgers, to salads and smoothies.  View the full menu here.  After much contemplation, I decided on the Fuel Energy Power Smoothie (which is actually not listed on the menu posted online but can be found on the menu on the wall of the restaurant), consisting of banana, blueberry, spinach, acai berry, and soy milk.  It was delicious to say the least, and even more satisfying because I watched it being made with my own eyes from all fresh ingredients.  Unfortunately, I have not tried the food at this spot yet, although I intend to try it soon; so keep posted on my Twitter and Instagram for more information!

Don’t live in Brooklyn?  That doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the delicious smoothie combinations on Fuel’s menu.  Check out the link above and try making some of them at home!  Then if you’re ever in the area, don’t forget to stop by to try your favorite recipes from their original source.

Fuel Champion Restaurant is located at 1715 Sheepshead Bay Road in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.  It is just around the corner from the Sheepshead Bay stop of the Q and B trains!

Stay fit and fresh, all!

Blended to Perfection – The Do’s and Dont’s of Smoothies

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A good smoothie can be the perfect breakfast, snack, or pre/post-gym pick-me-up.  Prepared carelessly, however, and it can be a source of unnecessary calories, sugar, and fat in your diet.  Here are a handful of tips and tricks that I follow religiously when I think about taking out that blender.

When thinking about what you would like your blended perfection to taste like, you should be thinking about the fruits that will go into it.  Then, you will need to choose a base, or liquid, to supplement the fruit.  Lastly, you’ll decide whether or not you want to add some dairy or extra ingredients to boost the protein content of your drink.

Picking and choosing which fruits to center your smoothie on can be difficult.  Some fruits, such as oranges and apples, can be high in sugar content, and hold most of their health benefits in pulp and skin, respectively, and might make it difficult to blend your smoothie to perfection.  I like to stick to berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, to name a few), because they are low/medium in sugar content and are high in antioxidants.  I also like to use kiwis, because though they are high in sugar content, they provide intense flavor even with a small amount of fruit, and are high in Vitamin C.  Lastly, I love bananas, which are high in potassium and low in sodium.  Beware, though, because bananas are surprisingly high in sugar.

With regard to choosing your base liquid, just keep an eye on the sugars in fruit juices.  I tend to stay away from all fruit juices and simply add ice, water, or skim milk.

The decision to add dairy to your creation is entirely up to you.  You can combine your base and dairy components by adding milk (preferably skim.)  You could choose to do without dairy altogether for a very light (but not very filling) snack, or you could add low or non-fat plain yogurt or kefir.  I like to add plain yogurt to boost the protein content of my smoothies and keep myself full for longer.  Sometimes I’ll add a little bit of honey or vanilla extract for extra flavor.  For a bonus protein boost, you can also add tofu, natural peanut butter, almond butter, soymilk, or almond milk.  Make sure that whenever you add dairy or a protein boost, it is a natural product, and it is nonfat or low-fat, and unsweetened/unflavored.

Protip: Craving the creamy milkshake consistency but want to ditch the calories of sugary and fatty frozen yogurt and ice cream? Freeze your fruit! I know it’s not the same thing… but after a while you’ll hardly notice a difference, and might even grow to love it.

A quick word on adding honey or sugar to your blended creation: Do this last, as fruit tends to be very sweet on its own.  A lot of times you won’t need to add any extra sweeteners, and doing so prematurely only adds excess calories and sugar that can easily be avoided.

Learn more tips about smoothie making here, here, and here.  Also, more about health benefits of certain fruits here, and here.  In addition, The World’s Healthiest Foods is a great resource if you need quick reference of nutritional facts for fruits, veggies, and more.

Recipes

I am always looking for unique smoothie recipes because I get tired of having the same smoothies over and over.  Here are a few of my favorites that I discovered this summer.

Magic Bullet

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First off, I use my Magic Bullet for all of my smoothies, with the 2 cup attachment and the four pronged blending blade.

Green Tea, Blueberry, and Banana

Green Tea Ingredients

Green Tea

This first one, and my personal favorite, is a green tea, blueberry, and banana smoothie. The ingredients include:

  1. 1/4 cup water
  2. 1 green tea bag
  3. 1 tsp. honey (you can easily forego the honey for this one)
  4. 1/2 cup blueberries
  5. 1 banana
  6. 3 ice cubes
  7. Skim milk (fill to top, or fill line of your blender)

Heat the water to a boil and steep the tea bag for approximately 3 minutes.  Then dissolve honey in the steeped tea.  Blend together fruit, ice, and milk until smooth.  Then blend in tea mixture.  Lastly, pour, and enjoy!

Banana Ginger

Banana Ginger Ingredients

Banana Ginger

This one is a unique blend of flavors, though is a little more tedious to prepare.  Also, if you’re not sure if you like ginger, make a small portion of this one for your first time.  The ingredients include:

  1. 1 banana
  2. 3/4 cup plain yogurt (I use Dannon)
  3. 1 tbsp honey
  4. 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  5. 1 to 2 drops of vanilla extract (Seriously, no more than this. Remember, you only put a spoonful in an entire cake.)
  6. 3 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients until smooth, pour, and enjoy!

Protip: Though delicious, the ginger makes this one not so great to have as a pre-gym snack, so save it for after the gym or for breakfast in the morning.

Strawberry, Kiwi, and Banana

Strawberry Kiwi Ingredients

Strawberry Kiwi

  1. 1 banana
  2. 1 kiwi, sliced
  3. 6 strawberries
  4. 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt (I use Dannon)
  5. 1 or 2 drops of vanilla extract
  6. Water (fill to top, or fill line of your blender)

Blend ingredients until smooth, pour, and enjoy!

Protip: There is no easy way to peel a kiwi.  Try this nifty method, or just peel it with a potato peeler like me.

For more recipes, check out these 20 Super Healthy Smoothies.

Stay fit and fruity, all!

When Your Backyard Is A Resort, Every Day Is A Vaca

Mercedes Club

Mercedes Club

 After a long day at work, you slip out of your day’s ensemble into a more desirable one – a bikini.  You take the elevator to the pool and relax on a lounge chair while the last rays of golden light turn into a pink and purple sunset.  You allow the day’s problems to melt away until the sun is down, and the only way to remove the evening chill from your skin is to spend some time in the jacuzzi before retiring to bed.  And then you wake up from this blissful dream, right?

Not so! Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the Mercedes House, one of New York City’s luxury Midtown rental apartments.  I was invited to the 2014 Pool Party hosted by the Mercedes House and Instrata, and was able to enjoy the luxurious amenities offered at the Mercedes Club, which is the apartment’s affiliated wellness center and health club.  The event was a lot of fun, and was catered by Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Yummy!

The Mercedes Club amenities include an outdoor pool and deck with lounge chairs; an indoor lap pool and jacuzzi; a spacious fitness center including a weight room, ample cardio machines, fitness classes, and personal training; and a lounge and living room area.

Mercedes Club

Mercedes Club

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Mercedes Club

Mercedes Club

Mercedes Club

Don’t want to move into the Mercedes House just yet?  The good news is that the Mercedes Club is open to the public with a subscription, and members have access to the previously mentioned amenities.

The Mercedes Club offers a unique experience centered around wellness and fitness.  It is located at 550 West 54th Street.

Stay Fit and Fab, all!

Mercedes Club