Two Part Post: Healthy Baked Apple Chips and a Handmade Cutting Board

Today’s post features a healthy snack recipe AND a beautiful wood handmade wood cutting board to use for it! First off, the baked apple chips…!

Baked Apple Chips

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I love making baked snacks. We all know kale chips even rival potato chips, and there’s no limit as to the other fruits and veggies that you can dehydrate and snack on throughout the day. The secret to making baked fruits is to bake them on low heat for a longgg time. Simply slice up a few apples (I like the tart, baking ones), sprinkle some cinnamon on top, and pop them on a baking sheet for one hour at 275 degrees. I flipped about halfway through so they’re even. Take them out of the oven when the edges start to curl.

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5 Health Benefits of Cinnamon

SISTER TIP: The apple chips won’t be crispy until they are completely cool, so place them carefully on a wire cooling rack & be patient! :)

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The second part of this post is to share an AMAZING handcrafted butcher block that was sent to me by Annie Housewife; an incredible company that specializes in modern, yet classic, handmade home decór products! These cutting boards are handmade from local New York State lumber and constructed using maple with end grain walnut inlays.  I was told that the boards are substantial enough for every day use and will last many years if they’re taken care of properly!

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The board itself, which has walnut polka dots!, is incredible. It’s chic and sturdy, and the perfect addition to my kitchen. I imagine this being a beautiful and thoughtful wedding gift for someone special, or for yourself! I use my cutting board in 90% of my cooking, so it only makes sense that I spend the extra money and buy an excellently handmade block.

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logoFollow Annie Housewife on Twitter here!

Three of my Favorite Workout Moves I Stole from CrossFit (AND a Giveaway!)

CrossFit, although the butt of many a joke, is an awesome organization. I had a brief 3-month stint with CrossFit, where I actually did modified boot-camp style workouts instead of the regular weight training ones they’re famous for. (I was too lazy/cheap to go through the fundamental training classes.) Don’t get me wrong though, these boot-camp classes were extremely rigorous and used various elements of unmodified CrossFit workouts and moves.

So while I’m no CrossFit stud, I do consider myself an expert in 9 or 10 moves that are guaranteed to make my muscles work and see results quickly! Here are my three favorite moves I stole from these CrossFit workouts: (And read to the bottom for a product giveaway!!)

CrossFit Moves

Wall Balls

Hold a medicine ball, 15 lbs or more, below your chin while facing a wall. Squat (hips below knees) and stand, throwing the medicine ball in order to make contact with an overhead target of at least 8 feet on the wall.

Try: 5 rounds of 20 reps

SISTER TIP: Try to catch the ball on the way down to your squat position to increase speed!

Rowing

If you’ve never tried a row machine, find a gym that has one, and DO IT today! I absolutely LOVE this workout. At Crossfit, they incorporate rowing into daily workouts, as well as during warm-ups. Instead of trying to describe the motion myself, here’s the steps from MuscleandFitness.com:

From the start, or “catch” position, keep good posture and aggressively drive your legs through the footpads in a fashion similar to a leg press. When your legs become almost straight, lift your chest up and lean back while pulling the bar towards your chest. Pause for a brief second and straighten out your arms, hinge forward and the waist and then bend the knees heading back to the catch position.

SISTER TIP: Think “legs, body, arms”

Try: 4 rounds of 250 meters at a steady pace; one minute rest in between.

Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell (no, not kettleball) swings develop strength and power and although you’re swinging the bell with your arms and hips, it’s really your legs that are getting the tough workout. Here’s a CrossFit video showing how to do the perfect kettlebell swing!

What CrossFit moves have YOU tried?

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My friend Breanne has recently become a rep for AdvoCare, which provides energy drinks, cleanses, and nutrition bars for active folk. I’m usually wary of energy packets or drinks, but I’m in good health and down to try anything, so she sent me a few products and they were all great! The nutrition bar was DELICIOUS, and kept me full for hours, really. I drank the Slam energy drink one morning instead of coffee, and honestly? This stuff WORKS. I was wide awake (a little jittery), and although I wouldn’t drink it every day, it seems legit for once in a while use, or “slamming” one before a hard workout!

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Breanne was generous enough to offer a giveaway basket to TWO lucky Pepperminting readers! Just enter below and she’ll ship out a variety package of awesome AdvoCare products right to your door. :)
Click here to enter the Giveaway!

DIY Wall Lyrics

I always like to include a DIY gift in my sister Angelina’s present each year, and this year, I made a mental note back in October when my sissy told me “Man, I wish someone would take my favorite song lyrics and make them posters for my wall.” Cool. Done!

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I had my friend sneakily ask Angelina what her 4 favorite rap songs were, and then I got to work. I created the lyric posters, and a couple of other cute pics of singers, with PicMonkey, using fun fonts and colors. Then I printed the 8×10 and 5×7 pictures through Target Photo, which has a 25% coupon right now (code NEWYEAR) if you get them shipped to your house.

Lyrics Poster Collage

I placed the pictures i these cheap-y Walmart picture frames, which is fine because I figure they’re only going to hang in a closet or spare room to brighten it up a bit. :)

 

Beyonce Roller Skates

What DIY project have you done this month??

 

“You Won’t Even Miss the Meat” Black Bean Lasagna

This past fall, I posted a vegetarian lasagna recipe, and it was wonderfully delish. I tried out a NEW meatless lasagna this week and holy cow, is it GOOD! I love experimenting with different types of lasagna; let’s be honest, pretty much anything will taste good between noodles and cheese. This lasagna variation incorporates healthy black beans, spinach, and tomato sauce, and just as the title promises, you will not even miss the meat!

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I found the recipe at Food.com, but there was no picture, and I’m always wary of recipes without a photo. But it all worked out perfectly because my picture is making my mouth water and trust me, this recipe is a must-make. :)

Black Bean and Spinach Lasagna

SISTER TIP: Always ask your mommy if you’re not sure about how to make a recipe…

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Grab this scrumptious black bean and spinach lasagna recipe here!

Easy Meatless Greek Breakfast Mug

This feta-infused egg mug I found in my Hungry Girl cookbook is the perfect weekday breakfast. You cook it right in the mug, so there’s no extra dishes to do. It’s packed with nutrients and is ready to go with you on your way to work in 5 minutes flat!

Greek Egg Mug

Whatcha Need:
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute
2 tablespoons diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Whatcha Do:
Spray a large microwave-safe mug with nonstick spray. Add spinach and onion, and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes, until soft.

Add egg substitute and mix well. Microwave for 1 minute.

Stir gently. Add all other ingredients and lightly stir. Microwave for 1 minute, until scramble is set.

Gently stir, and then allow to cool slightly. Enjoy!

Tips for a New Year’s Fitness Plan (without falling off in two weeks)

New Year's Fitness Plan

January 1st brings promises of a new year, new memories, and new beginnings. It’s totally natural to want to get healthy when the new year starts, and why shouldn’t you?! 2015 can definitely be the year of the new healthy YOU! The first three weeks of January in any gym are absolutely jam packed with resolution-ers, but then they slowly start to dissipate and go back to their old unhealthy ways. How can we avoid that from happening?? It’s all about making a realistic and persoMEMPIA09_2nalized plan and STICKING to it!! :)

I’m headed to the tropics for my birthday this year, and I thoroughly plan on looking like a BEAST on the beach! I have three months, and believe you me, I’m ready for the challenge.

Use any of my ideas to inspire your own health plan, or leave comments below on any tips you have to get in shape!

1) Set an achievable goal

As a classroom teacher, I always preach to my students to set goals that are obtainable, reasonable, and measurable. Our fitness goals should be the same! Be specific about your goals, and write them down so they become concrete and real.

Not great: I want to go to the gym more often.
Better: I will go to the gym 4 times a week.

Set yourself up for success with specific fitness goals that help keep you accountable, and allow you to celebrate small wins!

MY FITNESS GOALS: I want to be able to do 50 push-ups without an extended break, run a 10-minute mile, and attend Pilates/Yoga classes 4 times a week.

2) Make green smoothies

The saying “abs are made in the kitchen” isn’t some conspiracy against you, it’s true! This is probably the hardest part for me personally but gotta start to cut out the sweets, refined foods, and some carbs on a consistent basis if I want to see serious changes. I have a green smoothie every morning because it’s a great way to check off vegetables and vitamins first thing in the morning. They fill me up, and instead of depriving myself of things throughout the day, I add in wheat germ or flax seed to my smoothie to make my morning even healthier.

MY FAVORITE GREEN SMOOTHIE: Mango Avocado Smoothie

3) Buy new stuff

Seriously! What better way to get motivated than new workout shoes, a new blender for smoothies, a cool pedometer or a fresh pair of yoga pants? Simple idea, but it works. I am totally into Kate Hudson’s new workout gear, Fabletics.

MY NEW YOGA PANTS: DASH $25

4) Do FUN workouts!

Running sucks, people. God bless those of you who can just run for an hour, but I am not one of them. Dance, do Zumba, Pilates, Yoga, hike, bike, whatever it takes to get moving. I personally think that Pilates is the most fun workout I’ve ever done. It’s like a fast-paced Yoga with all of the flexibility benefits and a cardio burn. I see the fastest results from dancing, though. Any dance or Zumba class that your gym may provide, snag a spot ASAP!

MY FUN WORKOUTS: Pilates, Zumba, and biking

5) Reward yourself in creative ways

I’m a big believer in rewarding myself, even for small gains! Who cares, you only live once (is that a saying already?)If I meet my weekly goal, I may treat myself with a pair of shoes or that new scarf I wanted, or if I ate clean all week, I may…. continue to eat clean! (That was a trick question, there is no such thing as a “cheat day” if I wanna look good!) No, but seriously, give yourself a pat on the back, post your achievement on Facebook, have a glass of wine, or do your happy dance, whatever it takes to keep yourself motivated and celebrating wins. Click here for some ideas!

MY FAVORITE WAY TO REWARD: Get a pedicure :)

6) It’s ok to start SMALL

If you start big with your New Year’s goals, you have the possibility of burning yourself out in just a few short weeks. Try substituting your morning frappuccino with a cup of plain black coffee, or decide to walk around the block three times after dinner. Small differences can go a long way, and are more sustainable and less overwhelming than promising to rip two hours at the gym everyday.

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What tips will you use to get in shape this year??

DIY Birthday Postcard Project

My beautiful mother turned 55 in early December (she doesn’t look a day over 30, obviously), and I knew I wanted to do something unique and fun to celebrate her birthday. If you have any milestone birthdays this year for a family member or loved one, try out this DIY  and make it a birthday they’ll never forget!

DIY Birthday Postcard

Step 1: Brainstorm a list of people that are important in that person’s life.
Family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers etc. People that she would feel happy to hear from on her special day! I brainstormed 55 people so she would receive a postcard for each year of her life.

Step 2: Gather addresses for each person on your list.
My sister and I (nerds) started a Google Doc spreadsheet to keep track of names, addresses, and whether or not we had sent them a message to confirm.

Step 3: Order postcards from Vistaprint
Create a cute postcard that goes with your loved one’s style. You can have postcards that share a great memory, a funny memory, a piece of wise advice, or anything else you think would be fun to share! Design a postcard that says happy birthday, or it may even be cute to have a number on each one, #1-55, one for each of her years.

I decided to order the postcards from Vistaprint for two reasons: a) I started this project 2 months before her birthday, so I had plenty of time to wait for them to ship b) Vistaprint is 1/2 the price of Staples or Walgreens, and the quality is excellent! **Don’t forget to add on plain, white envelopes for only $3!**

SISTER TIP: Use promo code VPTOPDEALS for a 25% off :)
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Step 4: Print out explanation notes to put inside the envelope
I created a little note that explained the postcard for family members and friends. I printed them out on my regular computer (4 to a page) and popped them right into the envelope so everyone understood what to do! Here’s a link to my Word document if you want to use it as a template! :) Birthday Postcard Explanation

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Step 5: Send out postcards 3-4 weeks in advance
Pop the explanation card and the postcard into the white envelope, and send them to the people on your list at least 3 weeks ahead of time, so they have enough time to write a nice memory and send it back to the birthday celebrator. I suggested they send their postcard back anytime 5-7 days before her birthday so she would be surprised with staggered notes throughout the week.

Step 6: Send out a reminder 2 weeks before
I sent out Facebook messages or texts to friends and family to make sure they received the postcard (one got lost, wah!) and shared a friendly reminder to send the postcard within the next week. Everyone was so incredibly nice and understanding, and it was easy to get excited about this cute gift!

The postcards started pouring in about 3 days before my mom’s birthday, and continued to come the entire week. My mom loved seeing postcards staked up in her mailbox that shared fun and meaningful memories from close family members and friends. DIY thoughtful birthday gift achieved!

Will you try out this DIY for a birthday this year??

LUNA let me try some of their new gluten-free bars and they’re DELICIOUS! Plus I’m giving some away!

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LUNA is going gluten free! And their lovely team decided to send me some of the new protein bars they’ve come up with to share with all of you! I always love LUNA bars because their flavors are so unique and different … Continue reading