Is it okay to hate Quinoa….and chia??

Is quinoa better than brown rice?
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Is quinoa better than brown rice?

Is quinoa better than brown rice?

Is it me or is every other popular blog post recipe about something made out of chia or quinoa? Luckily, I like both… well, quinoa more than chia since I’m allergic to the latter. Still, what if you have never tried either OR if you have and don’t like them? is it even necessary to force yourself to try these so-called super foods? Well, let’s figure out why they’re super, shall we? Foods with that label typically have a higher concentration of antioxidants than on other foods in their category (fruit, vegetable, grain).

Take¬†quinoa¬†for example; can’t you just stick to brown rice and get the same benefits? Well, first: congrats on making the switch from useless, diabetes instigating white rice to it’s browner sister.¬†¬†Off the top of my head I know that brown rice is high in fiber but this handy infographic from the Prevention.com blog spells out why quinoa wins the competition. ¬†Hint: quinoa has more protein , fiber, and folate per cup than the same amount of brown rice.

Verdict: give quinoa a try. You might not like its nutty flavor as a newbie but you can start by mixing it with your brown rice or buying it that way. You can also cook it in low sodium chicken stock to add more flavor if you like.

The chia seed¬†is not only high in antioxidants but this little Mayan powerhouse is also high in protein, fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. Wait, didn’t we JUST fall in love with flax seeds for the same reasons? well, chia has higher amounts of the aforementioned nutrients than flax does AND you can eat the seeds whole ( flaxseeds need to be ground up in order to be absorbed). People that like chia usually sprinkle it on other healthy foods or mix it into liquids to make chia pudding as¬†the seeds turn gelatinous when¬†wet.

Basically, the ideas is that chia seeds can make a healthy meal even healthier by boosting its nutrient content but here is the catch I ¬†found:¬†There IS so much as too much of a good thing when it comes to the fat soluble vitamins ¬†(chia has 15 IUs of Vitamin A), allergy potential ( I got a bad rash) and tummy troubles ( chia with a side of bloating, anyone?). ¬†In short, try it sparingly first before throwing yourself wholeheartedly into it. Actually, this is a good rule of thumb for most “fad” foods!

Final Verdict: as our world gets smaller (AND bigger) new foods that make eating more interesting and beneficial will come and go. Your goal is to enjoy your meals while getting the most out of them nutritionally. Foods like quinoa and chia can boost your nutrient level quicker than their more traditional counterparts so explore your options.

How does Yolanda Sangweni stay healthy? (Interview)

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ImageLast week’s launch of New York African Restaurant Week yielded more than great food, sounds and smiles. It also allowed me to sit down and chat with Yolanda Sangweni, Senior Entertainment Editor for the Essence Magazine and Owner/Editor in Chief of ¬†the online magazine AfriPOP!. Yolanda is every bit of fiercely fabulous in person as she is in the photo but one of the first things I noticed was how kindly calm she was while being patient with her time. After all, she was MCing the launch of ¬†NYARW ¬†and was ¬†undoubtedly being pulled in many directions. When she mentioned being on day 2 of a 3 day juice cleanse I was even more impressed by her serenity as I’m not one to do well with food deprivation. Since we were surrounded by deliciously savory African food, I wondered how she was faring with so much temptation around her. Her cheerful ¬†answer of “fine” led me to¬†investigate further (clearly she was as super as her outfit suggested!)

SG:  So how long have you been a fan of juicing?

YS: The last 2 years, I started with a 3 day cleanse and have been doing them since then.

SG: I have tried juice cleanses but can only last 2-3 days?

YS: Yah, 3 days is my ideal too.

SG: So what do you do to stay healthy?

YS: I walk a LOT with the MapMyWalk app but want be more active.  As far as diet goes, I try to stick to a mostly raw diet, about 70% raw along with occasional juicing &  I make a drink made of ginger beer with anise and boiled lemon.

SG: Just make sure you drink a lot of water with all that raw food to prevent stomach upset! Have you had any struggle with nutrition?

YS: Well, I am just so busy that I find that the busier I get the worse I eat and I will just eat whatever is available!

SG: You’re not alone! Thats one of the number one complaint I hear from busy working women!

So there  you have it: Yolanda is just like all of us which clearly makes her even cooler, no?

It’s New York African Restaurant Week!

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ImageImageImageImageLittle old me had the pleasure of being invited along as press to the Edible Bazaar Benefit,¬†¬†the launch party for NY African Restaurant Week (#NYARW)! I knew I was in the right place when I opened the doors of Suite 36 only to be greeted with the most enticing aromas and music I’d experienced in awhile. Then there was the fashion! The textiles, patterns and bright colors were such a sight for sore eyes after such a hard, gray Winter, my friends! Upon entering I ran into Yolanda Sangweni, Entertainment Editor for Essence¬† Magazine and author of the AfriPop¬†online magazine. ¬†More on our conversation later but of note, she was one of 2 MC’s for the night.¬†

The Edible Bazaar Benefit was the kick-off event for the 2nd annual NYARW which is held in both Spring and Fall. In the spirit of community support, ticket sales benefited Keep A Child Alive and the Alliance of Hope for Lupus and the party was sponsored by Edible Communities, locally known for Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan magazines. While our palates were enticed with South African and West African flavors offered by restaurants Madiba and Accra respectively,  our ears were treated to the soulful sounds of Congolese songstress Rafiya. The owners of these restaurants also received awards for their positive impact in the African and African diaspora community.  

According to the NYARW website, 

“Most restaurants will be offering 3 course Prix Fixe meals at various prices (most restaurants offering at 28.95) visit BeUevents.com to buy tickets. Some restaurants will be offering the full menu at a 10% discount to all African Restaurant Week dinners”¬†

Brand Review: TribeSports

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ImageYou know when you randomly follow people on Instagram because you dig their photos and attitude ( just admit you do it!)? well, that’s how I came across TribeSports initially. This UK performance apparel brand started a KickStarter campaign to create functional fitness wear that is community sponsored. Something about a grassroots movement always impresses my entrepreneurial spirit so I happily said yes when they asked me to join their #RunWithMe campaign. To get me started, they sent me the lovely Performance Tech Tee & 2 in 1¬†shorts that¬†you see in the photo. Unfortunately Mother Nature’s weather tantrums ¬†don’t want me in shorts, so this review is mostly about the top ( I will add the shorts info later).

The charcoal grey and yellow¬†color scheme are really flattering and not too “girly” which I really liked and the reflective racing stripe down the back of the top is just plain bad ass ūüôā ¬†Not one to be outdone by rainy, cold Spring weather, I used the top as the bottom layer under my hoodie and headed out for a run over the Williamsburg Bridge.¬†

Results:¬†I cannot say enough about how soft, light and COMFORTABLE this tee is!! It was like I was wearing nothing, albeit ¬†a cushy, cozy nothing. The fit is snug but flatteringly so and the hemline hit just above hip level which I’m a fan of. More importantly, ¬†the armpits didn’t pull¬†against my muscly upper body and let’s face it: all girls like that.¬†My 3.5 mile run did work up a little sweat although there was little evidence of that with the wicking power of this sexy but functional top. So much so that I ended up wearing it under the rest of my gear ALL DAY. So yeah, I’d say Tribesports has a winner here: it is definitely a “must buy” and I cannot WAIT to try out these shorts!

Bikini Ready Tips from 7 of NY’s hottest female FitPros

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Jen Romanelli, Delida Torres, Lindsay Centonze, Amber Hirsch, Dorian Cervantes, Amira Lamb, Mary Onyango

Jen Romanelli, Delida Torres, Lindsay Centonze, Amber Hirsch, Dorian Cervantes, Amira Lamb, Mary Onyango

What time is it? Spring time! That time when in between being addled with ¬†allergies and taking Spring Break with the kids, you’re either (a) panicking because you fell of the resolution wagon (b) frustrated because you’ve plateaued or (c) have been consistent and happy withy your results¬†but know you can¬†do better.

Stacey Grant, MS Certified PT

It’s Me!

Just for you, I turned to¬†Gotham City Elites¬†¬†to find¬†some of the NY area’s (Jersey’s repped too!) most dedicated & experienced female FitPros to learn their top Bikini Body secrets.¬†As with most subjects, I have plenty to say & ¬†I recently posted my own 3 tips in this post¬†. ¬†Check out what my fellow FitPros are saying about getting Bikini Ready in a jiffy.

Lindsay  Farrington Centoze,  Maddogg Certified Cycle Instructor & NPC Competitor and Cross Country Coach.

I met¬†Lindsay Farrington-Centonze n Fall of 2013 when we both worked with another company. ¬†Not only is she gorgeous but she’s a sweetheart, smart¬†( she went to NYU too!) ¬†and pretty well accomplished in fitness at her young age. Lindsay has competed in and won 3 National Physique Committee (NPC) ¬†bikini competitions already! Not only that, she is a beloved cycling and group fitness instructor in upstate NY too. In short, she rocks! Listen when she says:

  1. Try switching up your cardio to more high intense intervals. I typically do little to no cardio or some steady-state at the least (long runs, etc). If I’m getting bikini ready I’ll add 1-2 extra cardio sessions to my fitness routine.
  2. Start to focus on quality over quantity when lifting. When getting bikini ready I increase my weight and make a point to focus on form. While my weight increases I do less repetitions but make sure each one has perfect form.¬†Stacey’s Safety Tip:¬†Unsure of proper form? Ask someone! ¬†A good place to start is t figure out which muscle group you should be focusing on and recruiting those muscles to do the job. As always, be careful with your lower back, knees and shoulders.
  3. Simply spend MORE time being active!!! Make a point to park your car in a further spot than usual, take stairs when you can, walk to the gym/grocery store/etc (basically anywhere within walking distance that you typically drive to). Walk more, drive less.

Mayy Onyango,  Certified  Zumba Instructor,  AFAA & Schwinn Certified Group Fitness Instructor

Mary Onyango and I go way back and I admire her deeply. If you know or work with her then you will know what I am talking about. She is thoughtful, compassionate and that physique speaks for itself! Here is what it is saying :

  1. A better bikini body starts with a good diet. If you can eat well at least 70% of the time i.e; lots of water, vegetables, lean meats, protein and healthy carbs (sorry guys this means limit the alcohol too), then you will be halfway to a flatter midsection (what everyone sees FIRST when you’re in a bikini!!)
  2. Incorporate different variations of planks into every routine. Some include modified (on the knees), single leg and single arm, pulses and even push ups. Push ups, my second favorite exercise, really target the triceps/biceps, chest, back (upper/lower), and surprise! even your thighs.¬†Stacey’s Safety Tip:¬†Watch that your lower body doesn’t sag and stays parallel ¬†to the floor even if you’re on your knees.
  3. I love lunges. Try Around the World lunges, an¬†exercise that combines front lunges, side lunges, and reverse lunges one after another for a set of 10-20 reps all done on the right leg and then repeat on the other. Lunges are great because they build the muscles without building size. They also lift and tighten the derriere for lasting results. Stacey’s¬†Safety Tip:¬†Watch that your knee doesn’t go past your toes when you lunge and that you keep your heels on the ground.

Jennifer Romanelli, RN NASM Certified PT & AFAA Certified Group Ex Instructr

I finally met Jen Romanelli, a.k.a. Trooper JRo at a Trooper¬†boot camp where she showed us her¬†high intensity ¬†prowess. Until then, I had only heard about her through her colleagues, students and partner in crime but let me tell you that it was all true: Registered Nurse+ badass boot camp instructor = yowza, my musclllleeeees!! ( at least she’s qualified to revive you after making your body cry uncle). With those qualifications and a body like THAT, listen when she says:

  1. Pull-ups: single most effective body weight exercise. Great for upper body and strong core! Practice with bands.¬†Stacey’s Training tip: Use the assisted machine or ask someone to help you if you’re inexperienced.¬†¬†“Diversity: we all hear about the dreaded plateau but make an effort to switch things up. Your body is a powerful machine and adjusts to whatever challenges you bring it so keep your body guessing”
  2. Squats with the bar bell: gets those legs firing from top to bottom with bar bell squats. This move helps to build a lean physique by engaging almost every muscle in the body.¬†¬†“Do more squats! Drop it like its hot to drop those lbs; ¬†practice with body weight or using the barbell for back/front squats.”¬†Stacey’s Safety Tip: Perfect the squat with your bodyweight before adding external weight and then upgrade to a body bar, then bar bell.¬†
  3. Kettlebell swings¬†are one of my favorite exercise to do with clients as they are the greatest total body killer. With proper technique you burn out your core, shoulders, quads, hamstrings, glutes and back! That’s a lot of bang for your buck!¬†Pick things up and put things down. “Tip: Ramp up your lifting game. Why aren’t women seeing the results they want? They are missing the key component in every athlete’s training program and that is strength conditioning and power”.¬†Stacey’s Training Tip: AGREED. Lift heavier, FabFans!”

Amira Lamb, IFBB Bikini Pro Athlete NASM CPT & Certified Nutrition & Holistic Lifestyle Coach (CHEK Institute) AFAA Certified Group Exercise

Amira Lamb aka the Holistic Hottie is an impressive human being and professional. I like to call her the Tiny Dynamo because she is who helped me mold my body for my first (and only) bikini body building competition in April 2013. She has so many bikini body strategies in her arsenal that we should call her Michelangela. Along with every woman on this list, I trust her implicitly when she says:

  1. ¬†Single Leg Dead Lifts combined with a bicep curl after returning to standing position. – You have to keep the core pulled in and up while working the entire backside of the body. Adding the bicep curls at the end will help to increase muscle mass in the arms which will help them seem more ‚Äútoned‚ÄĚ in appearance.
  2. Plyometrics are fantastic for burning a high amount of calories within a short time. Star Jumps can ramp up your metabolism while working every muscle in the lower body. This is a great exercise to mix into a series of lower impact exercises to maintain an elevated heart rate throughout a workout without doing traditional cardio on a machine.
  3. A basic push up is great. It works the entire body – primarily upper and including the abdominals when you exhale forcefully. As a variation try a Star Jack Push Ups –begin with your feet wide then jump the feet together and then apart. Next, bend only the elbows and then press away from the floor. Continue the Jack to Push Up sequence for as many reps as you can do flawlessly

Amber Hirsch, Barre Certified Group Ex Instructor, Maddog Cycle Instructor

Amber Hirsch is also petite in stature but big in energy and presence. Like with Mary, I cannot believe a child came out of her flat belly but after taking her Barre class at LocalBarre in Hoboken, NJ ( & seeing those quads in action), I will listen when she says,

  1. Don’t Wait Until the last minute! We always have some warning when the summer is coming or when we are planning a vacation. If you have a specific goal, make plans to make sure that you will achieve it! Give yourself time to build a consistent routine which will ideally keep you fit and lean all year.
  2. But if you don’t have a lot of time, hit the barre not the bar! Barre classes are a great way to lengthen and define your muscles and will most importantly target the core. You will walk out of just one class feeling stronger, longer, with improved posture and ready to rock that bikini!
  3. Push it baby! Push Ups are really a woman’s secret weapon to killer arms, tight abs and generally staying lean. You need to recruit almost all the muscles of you body to do them and they get you results. Start where you are comfortable but challenge yourself and upgrade to harder versions as you progress.

Dorian Cervantes,  Dancer & ACE Certified Group Ex Instructor, CPT

Dorian Cervantes¬†is first a dancer…can’t you tell? As with Jen, I knew OF her via the people in her life but the more I explored, the more I realized that she certainly knows what she’s doing in fitness.

  1. Plank with gliders- I am all about the plank all day everyday. You can do it anywhere and it requires no equipment. I love to add the use of Gliders on my feet to get an intense ab workout. I begin in plank position on my elbows and slide my foot in a half circle up towards my shoulder.
  2. One legged dead-lift¬†is another great exercise that doesn’t need equipment but adding weight can really take this exercise to the next level. I usually use a 10lb kettlebell or dumbell.
  3. Push-ups-love to alternate between a wide push press and a narrow. I do 20 push ups. The first position is wide, arms placed on the outside of shoulders and legs on the outside of hips I do 2 push ups chest all the way to the ground and back up to high plank position.
Master trainer for Jumpsport, certified group x and personal trainer.NYSC only

Master trainer for Jumpsport, certified group x and personal trainer.NYSC only

Delida Torres has been in the Rebounding game for  some time now. She recently completed her first bikini fitness competition and had this advice to share.

  1. Planks any kind with rotation especially side planks keeps the abs nice and tight.
  2. Torso¬†Hyper-extension with weights to create the curve in lower back and eliminate love handles & muffin top.¬†Stacey’s Safety Tip:¬†Do these carefully without weights as this is an advanced move.
  3. Booty¬†hip extension + leg abduction combo gives you a nice round high butt.¬†Stacey’s Training tip: you can do these with bands, cables or ankle weights!
Mika Oakes, Licensed Vinyasa Yoga Teacher & LMT

Mika Oakes, Licensed Vinyasa Yoga Teacher & LMT

Mika Oakes  is a beloved yoga instructor with what is by far the sparsest list with just these 3 Yogic points: ( So, so ZEN!)

  1. Listen to your body.
  2. Push yourself to the edge, not beyond.
  3. Slow and steady wins the race

 

My version of Thom ka gai

yummy coconut milk and tumeric soup.
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Should I even mention the weather? It’s been C-c-cold EVERYWHERE! That, plus nursing a nasty respiratory infection, means only one thing in Casa Stacey : soup! To be honest, this coconut based soup is what happened after I chopped some root veggies, added come coconut milk and chicken broth and realized I had no chicken. It came out so fragrantly because I really saut√©ed the half cup of chopped onions and tsp of garlic in a couple tsps olive oil; then added a bay leaf and a tsp of turmeric. Brought it to a boil, let it simmer for 30 mins and then added a handful of chopped kale and voila! I love happy accidents!

Recipe Remake: Chicken & Biscuits Cobbler (from Steak and mushroom cobbler from TheChew.com)

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Image‘Tis my season for cooking and baking! Winter? what, Winter? Cold, what cold? It’s warm and cozy in my kitchen and nothing boosts serotonin levels like biscuits, ya’ll! Make that biscuits, gravy and tender goodness. I saw the original recipe of flank steak, onions and mushrooms served with Michael Symon’s Elvis Biscuits on The Chew. The first thing I thought when watching the episode was ” Dang, Curtis Stone is HAWT!!” ¬†followed immediately by, “no way can I eat anything made with buttermilk and white flour without slipping into a food coma”. Yep, my general health ethos is to only eat foods that don’t make me sleepy and y’know what? it works for me. ¬†Cue this recipe make-over which replaced the red meat with organic chicken, the dairy in the biscuits with coconut oil ¬†instead of lard, a little coconut milk mixed into diluted Greek yogurt (instead of buttermilk) and a lower carb gluten-free flour blend.

Full Disclosure: Being the¬†” Inept Chef”¬†that I am, I accidentally wasted 2 cups of GF flour by using 4 when the recipe called for 2 and forgot the salt. Why? Please refer to my moniker: Inept Chef.¬† What can I say,¬†I sometimes go to a happy place while cooking and these accidents usually happen just as I think, wow ¬†I’m GREAT at this! Clearly I’m deluded. ¬†So yeah, my “test” batch of biscuits were inedible but ever the optimist, that mistake gave me time to perfect the batter the 2nd time around

Results: 57 Forks up, Folks. THIS WAS SOOOOO GOOD! I know I’m biased and think most things I make are ok ( no I don’t) so I invited a friend over to taste and even he said how yummy it was. Verdict:¬†You MUST make this especially if you have mouths to feed ( serves up to 8)

Pros: Highly flavorful comfort food. This remake is low lactose, gluten-free  and far healthier than the original (sorry Michael Symon, high five, Daphne Oz!)

Cons: Very filling so save the rest or make sure you have people to feed it to.

The sexiest apple butter you’ve probably ever seen

Slow Cooker Apple Butter
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Image….thought that would get your attention! ūüôā ¬†Can you believe 2.5 jars is all I got out of 3+ pounds of apples?? Backstory: So you might have heard that I went pumpkin and apple picking last weekend. Our trip to Warwick, NY was perfect upstate time with hayrides, tree climbing and rolling (carefully) down hills. Fast forward to me bringing back 15 pounds of apples and trying to figure out what to do with them. The first thing that came to mind was apple pie but I decided to start with something simpler instead and for me, simple means : crock-pot. I found this recipe from Cooks.com¬†and tested it in my mini sauce crock-pot. I figured the fact that I couldn’t stop spooning it into my face meant it was a go for the grown-up crock. So what IS apple butter, anyway? Well, apple butter is basically slow cooked apple-sauce that becomes really concentrated by that process.

Since it was me and I’m more of a mad scientist than a cook, a few things went awry with this plan. Nothing major other than the fact that I didn’t have cloves so I didn’t use any and what should have been a 9 hour cooking job became 12 hours since I was stuck in a meeting. I almost expected ¬†the apples to be burnt to a paste in the crock! Instead what I came home to was the warm (somewhat vinegary) smell of apple cider and cinnamon. When it’s cold because the sun has disappeared and you’ve worked a 12 hour day, coming home to that scent is enough reason to make this, trust me!

Review: 4 Spoons Up. Despite it being overcooked, there was still a lot of fluid in the pot so I just used my nut bag ( I do love typing that!) to strain the mixture. That left the buttery goodness  to put in my airtight jars.

A hearty cup of Make Stuff Happen!

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Homemade Coffee DrinkIt’s Monday and it was a fun but active weekend. What does that spell? Coffeeeeee! Now before the nutrition police go haywire with “she drinks caffeine?” judgments please note that… Yes, yes I do. I am a big time tea drinker and in the cold months I am also a big fan of a tiny bit off coffee swimming in a sea of warm almond milk. Caffeine in moderation is very good for you, especially if you exercise as much as I do! This particular concoction saves me oh I dunno, 300+ calories at the fancy coffee shop? As the title of the post indicates, it will start your day off on a peppy but not high calorie foot AND it has ingredients that are good for you! It’s:
8oz unsweetened almond milk, warmed
1 tbsp honey
1tsp pumpkin pie spice ( cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, lemon, cloves, all spice)
1tsp instant coffee.
Pour the warm almond milk into a mug filled with the other ingredients and stir. Voila, you just made 50 calories of awesomeness. Now go Make Stuff Happen!

Homemade Coffee Drink

Low calorie coffee drink