Oatmeal Banana Apple Muffins

Oatmeal Banana Apple Muffins

[Photo Credits to RockRecipes.com]
[Photo Credits to RockRecipes.com]
Checking the weather to see when the temperature will finally go down, getting excited at “78 degrees”, needing a jacket to walk to class only to be sweating by noon, seeing some of the bluest skies anywhere…any of these may hint at typical Fall season in Texas. As much as I love this state, I have given up on the weather and learned to accept that Texas weather is bipolar. This can be unfortunate for someone who loves Fall weather (Me!) There’s just something about a temperature of 60-65 degrees, that slight breeze and blue skies that gets me. Okay, maybe it’s the riding boots, scarves and sweaters that comes along with it. But, seriously my favorite time is October-December because with that comes Halloween and Thanksgiving and wonderful times. Unfortunately, with those times can also come 87 degree weather in Texas…like all next week.

I had expected to go home this past weekend to trade out my shorts and sandals for boots and long-sleeves, but that plan was dampened by the upcoming Texas temperatures. Despite this though, I decided to get into the “mood” by buying lots of fall clothes: ankle boots, sweaters, cardigans, peasant shirts, etc. Maybe I can’t wear them yet, but hey at least I have them to look forward to (and look longingly at), right? Anyway, I promise there is a point here, something that goes perfectly, hand-in-hand with Fall–BAKING! On top of shopping, I decided to find a yummy muffin recipe to try. And oh boy did I.

I found this recipe on rockrecipes.com and just the name alone informed me I had made the right choice. They are called Oatmeal Banana Apple Muffins and they taste heavenly. Added bonus: they are a healthier treat! (Yes, even when baking I look for healthy alternatives/options for myself. It’s the way I choose to live.) Seriously though, I bit into one and melted right into the warm, moist, and fluffy deliciousness. And don’t even get me started on the smell…they literally smell like Fall. And before you try and tell me that a season can’t have a smell, let me just say oh yes it can and it does. When I opened the oven to check on them, the waft of air smelled like cinnamon, nutmeg, apples, baking and made me so excited! Right away I knew I had to share this recipe because everyone needs these muffins. So if your feelings towards Fall are like mine yet your state’s weather doesn’t seem to back you up, here is the recipe for these Oatmeal Apple Banana Muffins. You can thank me later (preferably at a time when you’re not stuffing your face with these muffins).

OATMEAL APPLE BANANA MUFFINS

Prep time: 15 minutes     Bake Time: 25 minutes     Total time: 40 minutes

Yields: 12-15 muffins (12 big muffins or 15 medium muffins)

[Photo Credits to RockRecipes.com]
[Photo Credits to RockRecipes.com]

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour (can use all-purpose if you prefer)
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 eggs (I used 1 egg and 1 egg white)
  • 4 tbsp. canola oil (can sub 4 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce)
  • 6 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 large banana)
  • 1 cup grated unpeeled apple (approximately 1 large apple)*

*If you don’t have a grater (I didn’t) you can just chop/dice the apples up into tiny pieces and it still works perfectly. This is especially tasty with apple chunks in the muffins!

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a small-medium bowl, mix together the oatmeal, whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. In a medium-large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil and sugar until fluffy. Blend in the milk.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients. When the flour is almost incorporated, fold in the mashed banana and grated apple.
  5. Do not over mix. Fold in only until the fruit is mixed through the batter.
  6. Spoon into paper lined muffin tins. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

muffins-2These are best served warm! They can also be stored in an airtight container for about a week and then heated up in the microwave, if desired. Have fun playing around with ways to eat them. For example, for a pre-workout snack I had a muffin drizzled with plain Greek yogurt–so good! But no matter how you choose to eat these muffins, you’ll sure be glad you did! Happy baking!

[Thank you rockrecipes.com for showing me this awesome treat!!]

 

The Importance of Breakfast

importance-of-breakfast

According to statistics, only 44% of Americans eat breakfast every day. That means that over half our population skips out on the most important meal of the day. Now, I know you’re probably tired of hearing about how breakfast is so important, but it’s honestly the truth–one that no one should skimp out on. Some of the excuses people give as to why they can’t eat breakfast are “there’s no time”, “I’m not hungry”, “I don’t like it”…the list goes on and on. And while you may rather hit snooze 5 more times than get up 10 minutes earlier to eat, eating breakfast is a key aspect in living a healthy life and jump starting your day.

My grandma used to always tell me to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a prince. So, what’s the big deal about breakfast to call it a “king’s meal” in terms of importance? The first reason you should eat breakfast is that it provides your fuel for your day. No breakfast is like trying to drive a car with no gas in it, it just doesn’t run efficiently (if at all). In the same way, eating when you wake up kick starts your metabolism–which has been slowed down as you slept overnight–and begins to feed your body’s fire. Breakfast can also be a great way to start your day off with nutrients such as fruits, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats. In fact, people who eat breakfast regularly, get more vitamins, minerals and other key nutrients in their diet as a whole. Breakfast eaters also less likely to not overeat and over-snack on junk food (or any food) later in the day and evening. This can be very good news and helpful because often overeating can lead to weight gain, even if it’s “healthy” foods you are eating.

Breakfast isn’t only about helping to improve your physical self, but your cognitive abilities too. Studies have shown that eating breakfast may enhance memory and improve cognitive abilities and concentration. One reason for this could be that eating breakfast helps stabilize blood sugar, which has been lowered overnight, and low blood sugar negatively affects our mental concentration and abilities. (This is exactly why you always read to eat a good breakfast before interviews, tests, and other big events.) Eating in the morning, after a long slumber, also provides glucose to your “starved” brain. This improves brain functioning, increases mood and lowers stress levels. This means that those who eat breakfast are more likely to be happy and less likely to be grouchy (Hangry anyone?).

Lastly, eating breakfast has numerous long-term health benefits. It can reduce obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Having a healthy breakfast also sets you up to eat cleaner and better the rest of the day and to intake all your needed nutrients. And speaking of nutrients, the importance of breakfast only applies if you eat a healthy meal. If your breakfast consists of donuts, pop-tarts, sugary cereal or other unhealthy foods, you are just reversing all the good you are doing by eating breakfast in the first place. Find healthier alternatives that are delicious, nutritious and easy to make that you can eat. You wouldn’t want to fill your car’s tank up with water instead of gas, would you?

If you want to live a healthier lifestyle all around, eating breakfast could be one way to get there. And for those who say they don’t have time? Make time. Wake-up 15 minutes earlier, prep the night or week before, or find healthy breakfasts on the go (this does not mean Starbucks or fast food…if you have time to stop in for a McMuffin you have time to make a healthy meal at home). There are so many different ways to prep your meal before the morning of. Try overnight oats, freezer breakfast burritos or breakfast sandwiches, smoothie packs, etc…the list goes on and on. Remember breakfast is the “king”, the most important meal, the key start to your day. So find and make a way to eat breakfast every morning–your future, and current, self will thank you!

What are your thoughts? Do you make the time

A Taping of The Big Bang Theory

So today I’m going to veer slightly off the topic of exercise, nutrition and what you would think when you hear “healthy living”; however, this is a very important part of living a truly happy, healthy life you love. And that would be passions and interests. Part of living a healthy life is to find things you love and are passionate about and fill as much of your time as you can with those things. For me, one of my favorite things is the show The Big Bang Theory. If you’ve never seen it, I would HIGHLY recommend it. When I was first introduced to it, I thought I would hate it and would only watch one episode to appease my sister. Flash forward a few hours and we have finished the first two seasons and I am begging her to borrow the third from her friend.

So anyway long story short, I have been obsessed with the show for about 7 years now. I had always dreamed of watching it being filmed, but thought that was too far-fetched to ever happen. Well, not the case. This past August my parents and I got to go watch the 2nd episode of season 10 “The Military Miniaturization” (just aired on September 26) being filmed…and it was one of the coolest things I have ever experienced. In case this is the dream for anyone else (or if you’re just curious), I am going to explain how all of this was made possible, and tips for anyone else who ever does it.

The Tickets:

First off, tickets are free…yes you heard me right, free! They go “live” for grabs 30 days prior to the day of filming. For example, our filming date was August 16th, so our tickets went live July 18th. Once they’re live, however, they go quickly. Tickets were sold out in 13 minutes for us. This means that if you want more than one person, especially a group, to get tickets, you need to have multiple computers up and trying. They typically go live at 8:30 am PT (California time schedule) and once time hits, refreshing your computer to get to the screen can be slow, but be patient. Once they’re up, you fill out your information and snag a ticket. If you are able to do so, make sure you print your confirmation before going back in to try and get a ticket for another person. If you don’t get a ticket, there is stand-by, although I am not 100% how all of that works because my family got tickets.

The Day Of: Arriving

Finally, after all of your awaited anticipation, the day has arrived–it’s time to go watch them film The Big Bang Theory! Unfortunately, it is not as easy as walking up two hours before the show and going in. As it says on your ticket, the ticket does not guarantee admission: it all depends on when you get in line and the number of family/friends of the actors and crew show up too. The show suggests you show up 3-4 hours in advance prior to the show starting (started at 7 pm for us), but if you want a closer, better spot, get there earlier. We arrived 6 hours in advance and were numbers 21-23 in line. When you arrive, you’ll park in the parking garage that they give you directions to. As you go get in line to wait, make sure you understand their rules that you can have cameras, phones, electronics and big bags while waiting, but none of that inside of the studio (I will discuss this in more detail later).

The Day Of: Waiting

So now the waiting in line begins! An earlier post we had read about this said that they had to wait outside for a long time before being brought inside; however, we only waited inside. A security guard told us that if other shows are filming at the same time, they get precedent over The Big Bang Theory for being inside. Luckily, ours was the only show filming at the time. This just means you have to be prepared to possibly wait outside in the sun for a few hours. And even if you are inside, it is a hot and humid parking garage, so bring something to fan yourself with. Also, bring things to keep yourself entertained because 3-4 hours of sitting around waiting can be incredibly long. We brought books to read, but I also saw people with cards, small board games and other electronics to keep themselves occupied. Although there is no outside food or drink allowed in the studio, bring it with you in line! They feed you a small (kinda crappy) piece of pizza and a water bottle in the middle of filming, but otherwise you’ll go from 1-10 pm with no food if you don’t bring some in line. (Don’t worry you’ll have time to return food and drink to your cars before heading inside.) We got really amazing sandwiches at The King’s Deli, which is right around the corner from the studio, and snacked on them throughout the afternoon. (Seriously though, their veggie sandwich with avocado is probably the most amazing sandwich I have ever eaten!!)

The Day Of: 3 hours before

About 3 hours before showtime, studio employees and coordinators came out and started checking tickets and lining people up in two different lines–tickets and stand-by. Once in line, someone came through again and gave you each a number. Once you have your number, this is the time to run back to your car and return your phone, electronics, camera, food, drink (unless you plan to consume it in the next 30 minutes) bags, etc. Do not worry about putting your things away until you have a number. This was one thing we kept being anxious about, but you have plenty of time once you receive your number. Plus your number is your golden ticket saying “you are in and have a spot”, so don’t ruin that chance by running back to your car too early. At about 2 hours before the show, they started taking the lines of people across the street to the studio stage. At this point, you go through metal detectors so be careful of what you bring. There is still some waiting around at this point; however, you are getting so close it doesn’t matter as much. When you are walking across the street and through the stages at the studio, make sure you take the time to look around and really enjoy the experience of it all. Most likely this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so make sure you really take it all in for the memories.

Going In and Watching:

Finally, you get walked into the studio, handed a pamphlet, and assigned a seat. The pamphlet will have the name of the episode, the cast, crew, etc. on it which gives you something to look at while you wait. When you walk in, the stage is all in front of you; however, it is covered with curtains so you can’t really see much of anything. If you really look hard you can tell what some of the rooms are though. It can also get cold inside, so bring a light jacket. Enjoy the last minutes of waiting because then it is finally time! 30 minutes before start time, they show you the previous episode so that you can have an understanding of what is going on and what has happened. Then…it’s show time! The cast is introduced and the taping begins. The stage is quite big, which makes sense since there has to be space for all the different sets and rooms. This means that sometimes you may not be able to get a good view of the taping of the scene, but not to worry. There are television screens in front of you that show what is being taped so you always have a good view. There is a guy who’s job is to keep the audience’s moral up and to communicate to the audience what is happening on set in between scenes. He was funny at first; however, he got really annoying really fast. In between takes, I wanted to be watching how the actors interacted and prepared rather than have him distract us, but that is his job and he did it well. Lastly, about half-way through they will distribute water and pizza. A previous review said the pizza was bad and I thought how can pizza be bad? Well it can and it was; however, I am grateful they gave us something to eat because I was starving. When the filming is done, the cast will wave to everyone and then you are escorted out to leave.

Overall it was one of the best experiences to see my favorite show being filmed and all the actors being so close. Unfortunately, they do not give autographs afterwards, but seeing them in person made it all worth it. It was even cooler to watch that episode aired on TV and know that I saw it in person. Even if it isn’t The Big Bang Theory, try and get tickets to watch your favorite show being filmed–if offered–because it is definitely a very cool, once-in-a-lifetime experience that is well worth it!

10 Healthy Snack Ideas

10-healthy-snack-ideas

I love snacking. Whether it be post-workout, mid-afternoon or every now and then late-night, I love any chance to eat extra food especially in snack form. Unfortunately though, most of the food on the snack aisle and in our pantries is over-processed, sugary, not-so-good-for you packaged goods.  There is no reason to completely cut out snacking (even if it is that midnight snack); however, to better care for and fuel your body, it is important to know what you are putting into it. Eating healthier foods can certainly energize you and make your whole body feel great! Try these 10 ideas next time you want to reach for that handful of greasy potato chips…

  1. Veggies and Dip

As a kid you were probably told to eat your vegetables and at the time it seemed like the worst possible thing ever. Well, vegetables are still just as important, but now they can easily be turned into a delicious snack! Try dipping cut up vegetables, such as broccoli, bell pepper, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber into either hummus or guacamole for an insanely delicious and nutritious deal! One of my favorite things is Whollylarge-chunky-avocado Guacamole individual 100 calorie packs because they really pack the flavor punch without being overly high in calories. Plus, avocado is really, really good for you and your body. Hummus also adds a bit of protein to your snack to keep you full until your next meal. Or perhaps just raw veggies is more your style…go for it! To help prepare, cut up a bunch of veggies at the beginning of the week (say Sunday?) when you have time so that they are easily reachable to munch on when your stomach begins to grumble!

2. Fruit

Fruits contain many vitamins, minerals and fiber, which helps keep you feeling fuller longer. This is why it is always a good idea to have an assortment of fruits on hand to snack on. Try cutting up apple, orange, nectarine, peach or pear slices, munching on some grapes, or making a fruit salad with bananas, apples, and a mixture of berries. If you want to enhance your fruit, try making a healthy fruit dip. One of my favorite things to do is melt peanut butter and mix it into plain low-fat Greek yogurt. This makes the perfect dip for apples or bananas. Check out your local farmer’s or super market to find out what fruits are ripe, in-season, and waiting for you!

3. Nut Butters

Nut butters are a healthy fat that should be included into any healthy eating plan. The good news too is that there are lots of different kinds out there-anywhere from peanut butter to almond butter to cashew butter…the options are almost endless! Spread peanut butter on celery with raisins and make a good ol’ fashioned ants on a log, top a piece of whole wheat toast with your choice of nut butter, dip fruit into it, or heck go ahead and eat a plain spoonful of it, no one’s judging! We’re probably all guilty of doing that at some point…I know I am!

4. Oatmeal

No, oatmeal is not just a morning breakfast item. In fact, it can make a very tasty, and filling, morning or afternoon snack. Try to stay away from buying the prepackaged oatmeal which can have non-nutritional added ingredients not to mention a high sugar content. Instead, make oatmeal using the rolled oats (what comes in the canisters) and adding your own toppings to control the amount of sugar. Even with making your own be careful of the amount of brown sugar, syrup, honey, etc. that you put in-it’s even better to add fresh fruit for the sweet taste instead of sweeteners. Some examples are adding fresh berries or orange slices to the top, stirring in peanut butter (yum!) and topping with a banana or mixing in Greek yogurt, fruit and a dash of cinnamon. Sometimes convenience is necessary however, so when buying oatmeal in the to-go cups make sure you check the nutrition label for the ingredients (should be minimal and no added corn syrup, oils, sugar, etc) and check that the sugar content is low (below 10 g).

5. Nuts

Nuts are super healthy for you and can be a very easy, portable and delicious snack for on the go. *However, watch out for portion size because the calories and fats, although good fats, can easily add up.* Nuts can be great in trail mix, by themselves, or mixed into foods such as yogurt and oatmeal. Instead of buying trail mix, make your own with an assortment of nuts, seeds and raisins (yes, sadly, that means leaving out the chocolate candies, BUT it also means more room for deliciously nutritious nuts!). Even a handful of almonds or walnuts work perfectly as snack too. Here is a link to the many health benefits of nuts and which kinds are the best for you.

6. Whole-Grain/Whole-Wheat Crackers

Although crackers may get a bad rap, they can be a great snack depending on a) what kind and b) what you pair with them. When looking at the ingredients list, look for the words Whole Wheat or 100% Whole Wheat. If it says “enriched, unbleached wheat” or anything like that, I hate to break it to you, but its not actually whole wheat (think pretzels, goldfish, cheez-its, etc.) Also, look for a small ingredient list: basically if it is packaged and has 30 ingredients, it’s not your healthiest choice. Some examples of good, nutritious crackers are Triscuits, Mary’s Gone Crackers, Kashi Pita Chips (or make your own pita chips for even better snack!), Blue Diamond Nut Thins, any brand’s brown rice crackers, black bean chips and kale chips. Try dipping the crackers in hummus or guacamole or pairing them with some lunch meat and cheese to add some protein to your snack!

7. Greek Yogurt

Greek Yogurt has become a big trend over the last 5-6 years and for a good reason! It typically has less sugar, less fat and more protein-all which makes for an absolutely delicious and nutritious snack. As was the case for the oatmeal, try to stay away from the flavored yogurts; instead gearing more towards the plain and adding in your own sweetness and flavoring. Excellent add-ins are healthy granola, fruit, nuts, or a dash of cinnamon or honey. If you do get flavored, check the ingredient list again for those added sugars (cane juice, any ‘syrup’, honey, etc.). Some of my favorite brands are Chobani Plain Greek Yogurt and Oikos Triple Zero Plain Greek Yogurt…but taste-test around and find the yogurt and toppings that work and taste the best for you!

8. Eggs

Again, eggs are not just a “for-breakfast” item and can be incorporated into a healthy snacking plan. Eggs provide a good source of protein as well as many of your daily vitamins and nutrients needed. And while it may not always be possible to whip yourself up an egg or two in the middle of the day, hard-boiling eggs for the week certainly can be done. If hard-boiled isn’t your thing you can try soft-boiled eggs too. Or if possible, such as for a post-workout snack, whip yourself up a vegetable omelet or scrambled eggs. However you eat them, eggs are a great snack to have.

9. Smoothies

One of the great things about smoothies, besides their nutrition and health benefits of course, is that there are so many different possibilities to mix in and change up your afternoon snack! If at work or school, you don’t need a full-on blender either, a magic bullet works perfectly fine. Some examples of good things to add to your smoothies are frozen or fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, almond milk, nuts or nut butters, spinach or kale…the list goes on and on! You can even add 1/2 a scoop of protein powder or some chia seeds to increase the nutritional value of the smoothie! Avoid going the easy way and buying yourself a smoothie at a fast food or smoothie place though, especially without checking the nutrition labels. Some places do have healthy smoothies; however, most smoothies you’ll find will be filled with sugar and other non-nutritional ingredients. But whenever making a smoothie at home (or work or school) is so easy, healthy and delicious, why wouldn’t you go with that option?

10. 1/2 a Sandwich

Last, but certainly not least, the simple half a sandwich can be a filling afternoon hunger-buster! Make sure you are using whole wheat bread (again look for whole wheat or 100% whole wheat…none of that enriched stuff) for your sandwich and then be creative with your add-ons! Try a peanut butter and jelly (easy on the jelly due to its high-sugar content) sandwich, peanut butter and banana sandwich, turkey, roast beef, or chicken sandwich. Top the meat sandwiches with veggies such as lettuce, tomatoes, onion and cucumber…or go straight for the complete veggie sandwich! Or ditch the bread if you prefer and use a lettuce wrap or wrap lunch meat around a cheese stick or slices of cheese. Any combination of these will provide you a filling and healthy snack option!

So there you have it! Snacking doesn’t have to be so bad or complicated, and in fact, it can be fun and delicious too! What’s your favorite healthy snack that keeps you going?