After hearing about Blue Apron (and the many other meal-delivery services out there), I finally decided to try it. I picked Blue Apron because I had a discount code for three 2-person meals for $19.99 ($59.00 regularly) and because I've been in a recipe rut and hate grocery shopping. Note: this is not a sponsored review, just my honest opinion in case you were curious about these meals. Friday my first box of food got delivered in a large box filled with ice packs to keep the food cold. I wasn't home at the time but Jordan unpacked it all and put everything away, so it was in the fridge when I got home. They sent three recipe cards, along with labeled ingredients, indicating what goes with which recipe. Last night I decided to make the Basque-Style Cod. On the back side of the recipe card, there are step-by-step instructions on how to cook the meal. I followed it as I would a normal recipe, it was super easy. If you have any basic cooking knowledge at all, it will be be a breeze. The grain in this recipe was freekeh, something I had never heard of before. Similar to farro, it is an ancient grain made from durum wheat. Freekeh is a good source of protein and fiber, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids important for eye health. It is also great for the gut--it's a prebiotic that can increase the healthy bacteria in your intestines which improves digestion. While the freekeh was cooking, I chopped up the pepper, onion, garlic. Unfortunately when chopping the pepper I found some mold inside. Yikes! But I actually had some peppers in the fridge so I didn't have to miss out on that ingredient. I took a picture of the mold and immediately emailed Blue Apron. They responded quickly and provided me with a $9.99 discount on my next delivery. That was pretty awesome of them! Next I made the parsley and almond relish. The directions said to chop it up into a paste-like consistency, which I found difficult to do with a knife, so I threw it in my food processor to get the appropriate texture. The relish called for olive oil, but I didn't have any on hand (that's one of the few ingredients they don't give you, along with salt and pepper), so I used almond oil instead! Then I made the sauce, cooking the onions, garlic and pepper, adding in the vinegar, spices they provided, and oil. It called for olive oil and since I was out, I used avocado oil instead. It came out great! Next I added the can of tomatoes they provided. Then I quickly cooked the cod with a little bit of salt and pepper. In about 45 minutes, the meal was complete! The verdict: it was delicious! The flavors were bright and everything was very fresh. The meal served two very generous portions. I plated them both and put one in the fridge for Jordan and enjoyed mine for dinner. Overall, I was really happy with my first Blue Apron meal! I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves to cook and wants to try new recipes but hates shopping for random ingredients.
Our last full day of the trip was an action-packed one. Jordan and I were on the fence about renting mountain bikes during the trip, but decided to go for it on the last day. We were in Moab, after all, where some of the best and most famous mountain biking trails are located. Our hotel was also right across from the best bike rental shop in Moab, Poison Spider. The night before we picked out and got fit for our bikes. I chose an Ibis Mojo HD3, an extremely high end, 27.5 wheel size, carbon fiber, full suspension mountain bike. We asked our friends who had come to Moab previously on a mountain biking trip where the best place to go would be. They recommended Klondike Bluffs, just outside of Moab. The guys at Poison Spider installed a suction-cup bike rack on our rental vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee, while we picked out the bikes. We brought them home for the night so we could get up early and hit the trails the next morning. We parked at the North trail head off of 191 since the South Entrance was closed. The trail names are dinosaur themed because dinosaur footprints can be seen on the trail. Crazy! Here is a great description of the trails. It was unlike any mountain biking I've ever done! It was so different out here because it was so wide open! I'm so used to riding through the woods, afraid of hitting trees, I actually enjoyed riding these open trails much more. Riding the Ibis Mojo was amazing. I can see why it is such an expensive bike. I felt comfortable on it and it rolled over every rock effortlessly! I was worried it would be hard to find the trail, but they were marked very well. We stuck to mostly beginner/intermediate trails and rode 11.3 miles total in about 1 hr, 45 minutes. We were so glad we decided to rent bikes. We got out early (around 7:30) to beat the heat. It started to get hot fast, and by the time we were done it was in the high 80s. For lunch we went to the Quesadilla Mobilla, a food truck in Moab serving what else--quesadillas! They were delicious! We liked them so much that Jordan and I ate lunch here two days in a row. Yum! When can we move to Moab?
The nutrition field is super exciting. I feel like every day there is a new health food trend on social media. I find it all fascinating and the first thing I do is go to the research to see if these health claims are true! (PS: I found a great resource called Cleveland Clinic's Supplement Review that gives you evidence-based information on popular supplements!) Anyway, recently I’ve been seeing MCT (or Medium Chain Triglyceride) oil making an appearance on social media. I thought it was interesting because we learn about MCTs in metabolism. Now it is on my facebook feed! MCT oil is being sold in health food stores claiming miraculous health benefits and it’s pretty expensive. What is a Medium-Chain Triglyceride (MCT)? First of all, a triglyceride is what makes up fat. It is molecule made up of a glycerol backbone with three fatty acid chains attached. Medium-chain triglycerides are those with medium-sized fatty acid chains attached to the glycerol backbone. The difference between MCTs and short and long chain triglycerides is the process that they undergo when they are broken down by the body. MCTs are absorbed directly into the liver from your intestines to be used as energy, while the others have to pass into the lymphatic system first. MCTs don’t require bile to be digested, while the others require bile for breakdown. Palm kernel oil and coconut oil are both rich sources of MCTs. Dairy fats (like from butter, cheese and milk) also contain MCTs. This feature is why products claim they are a good source of energy. Are there any health benefits? MCT oil is usually used for those on a ketogenic diet. This diet is used to treat neurological diseases like epilepsy. MCTs are also used as a supplement for those with malabsorption problems like inflammatory bowel disease. But chances are you are seeing MCTs because they claim to help you lose weight! Some studies show that use of MCT oil can promote weight loss because keeps you full longer. But most other studies have been inconclusive. Calories are another thing to consider. One tablespoon of MCT oil contains 115 calories, which is something to keep in mind if you are watching your intake. Cleveland Clinic Supplement Review states that MCT oil is a “safe and effective short-term product for weight loss, metabolic syndrome, obesity and improving inflammatory markers. This is a high-calorie food, however, and it is quite filling, so it may act as a replacement for other calories in the diet.” I am a proponent for getting your nutrients from actual food versus supplements, so I’d recommend to get your MCTs from foods, such as dairy, cheese or milk, rather than oil. I know I’d rather eat real food than to just eat a tablespoon of oil. Also, keep in mind that MCTs are a saturated fat, and eating too much saturated fat can lead to heart disease. So unless you are eating a very healthy diet most of the time, I wouldn’t go crazy with MCT oil. My Plate recommends that 20 to 35 percent of your daily total calories come fat, which should include unsaturated fats, those healthy fatty acids like omega-3s and omega-6s we get from nuts, seeds, olives, avocados and fatty fish like salmon. These are important for improving HDL (good cholesterol) and lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and pertinent to heart health! I enjoyed researching MCT oil and I hope that you are now better informed. If there is anything other hot nutrition trend you'd like to me write about, leave a comment or email me!
Are you looking for a grab-and-go protein bar that is also super easy to make at home? Tonight I made these chocolate peanut butter protein bars and they are delicious and filling! The addition of oats makes these bars a good source of fiber and iron, a perfect pre-or post-workout snack. Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Protein Bars Ingredients 1 cup natural peanut butter 1/2 cup maple syrup 3 scoops of chocolate protein powder* (or equivalent of 3 oz) 1 tsp. vanilla 2 eggs 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes 2 cups of raw oats 1/2 tsp. baking soda Instructions 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F 2. Grease a 9x9 baking pan 3. Mix together peanut butter, maple syrup, protein powder, and vanilla in medium bowl 4. Add in eggs and mix well 5. Stir in oats, baking soda, and coconut flakes until completely mixed 6. Spread "batter" into bottom of pan with a spoon (it will be thick!) 7. Bake for 15 minutes until top of bars seem dry and they are brown on the edges 8. Let cool in pan and cut lengthwise to make 15 bars *I used Designer Whey Chocolate protein powder, which has 18 g of protein and 100 calories per scoop. I packaged them up in individually to make it easier to grab one on my way out the door. Nutritional Information for one bar *Recipe adapted from PopSugar's Gluten Free Oatmeal Protein Bars
Have you heard of farro? It is an ancient grain that is part of the wheat family. Farro, when cooked, is a dense and chewy grain with a nutty flavor. Warm Farro Salad Farro bowl with crispy salmon & toasted sesame spinach Farro with mushrooms One-pan farro with tomatoes Farro and herb pilaf with sausage, mushrooms & spinachFarro can be added to salads, eaten on its own as a side, or baked into bread. It packs a nutritional punch. It is a great source of complex carbohydrate (great fuel for athletes!) meaning it takes the body longer to digest, keeps blood sugar levels stable and lowers cholesterol. Other health benefits of farro include: High in fiber Farro contains more fiber than other complex grains, like quinoa and brown rice. Fiber is important in maintaining bowel health and assists in weight management because it keeps you full. Great source of protein One cup of cooked farro contains 8 grams of protein, which is important to help rebuild muscle after intense workouts. Combine farro with lentils or beans for a dish with a complete source of protein. Contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants Farro contains vitamin B3, also called Niacin, which aids in metabolizing carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It is also a great source of important minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium. Farro also contains lignans, polyphenolic compounds that may prevent cancer. How to cook farro You can find farro pre-cooked in packages in stores like Target. However, you can also buy it dry and cook it yourself on the stove. Simmer one cup of farro in two cups of broth or water for 45 minutes to one hour. Check out these recipes featuring farro: