Monday, April 27, 2015

Sweeten with Honey

In my efforts to eat more real foods and rely less on sugar, I've been using honey in my baking!  Honey is known primarily for its sweetness and can replace white sugar in almost anything.  In fact, honey is so sweet (25 - 50% sweeter than white sugar), that you need less of it to enjoy the same flavor!

Image courtesy of artur84 at freedigitalphotos.net

More than sugar: However, unlike white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other such man-made, refined sweeteners, honey is a more naturally-occurring substance containing over a hundred different compounds, including plenty of vitamins, amino acids, and minerals. When you consume honey, you're getting so much more than just a hit of sugar, and, for that, honey is a much healthier sweetener than refined sugars!

The best kind of honey you can use is raw honey, which can be found in most farmer's markets (bonus points for local!) and health food stores today.  Or, if you're so inclined, visit a local bee farm or raise your own!  That's another dare for another day...

[Sidenote: I've also used a lot of maple syrup in my baking, but that's actually less sweet than regular sugar and so comes with different benefits.]


Next time you are baking or sweetening your tea, dare you to swap out the sugar for a bit of raw honey! 

According to AllRecipes.com, you can adjust a recipe as follows: 
"Use ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon honey in place of 1 cup sugar, and reduce the other liquid ingredients by 2 tablespoons."
Other sources say you can do a 1:1 swap, but I'd simply experiment with your favorite recipe until you find the sweet spot. :)



Some of my fellow FitFluential Ambassadors kindly shared their favorite honey-sweetened recipes!! Check them out below:

Gluten-Free Recipes
- Honey Sesame Almonds and Spiced Roasted Almonds by Rachel at Little Chef Big Appetite
- Matcha Chia Pudding with Sweet Dukkah by Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen
- Cranberry Swirly Snack (yogurt and fruit snack) by Be Mindful, You're Creative
- Honey Dijon Daikon Radish Fries by Healthy Helper
- Slow Cooker Honey Turkey Breast with Butternut Squash also by Healthy Helper
- Gluten-Free Chocolate Nut Granola by Almost Getting It Together
- Pumpkin Cacao Brownies by Running Girl Maiah Miller
Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls (Vegan and Gluten-Free!) also by Running Girl Maiah Miller

For the Non-GF folks:
- Whole-Wheat Apple Honey Muffins by Rachel at Little Chef Big Appetite
- WW Pumpkin Muffins and Blueberry Muffins by A Mindful Mom

Some of my favorite paleo cookbook authors also have some great honey-sweetened recipes for you!
Chocoholic's Chocolate Mousse by Primal Palate
- Apple Pie Tartlets by PaleOMG
- Chicken Thighs with Honey-Mustard Sauce by Diane Sanfilippo
- Gingersnap Cookies by Danielle Walker

Last but not least, my own Apple Crisp recipe! (Gluten-free and paleo-friendly)


Paleo Apple Crisp

So go! Enjoy! Dare you to indulge your sweet tooth with nature's sweetener.

What's your favorite way to use honey?  


Sources: LiveStrongMark's Daily Apple, AllRecipes

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Prevent Paper Waste (5 Tips for Earth Day)

Tomorrow is EARTH DAY!   On April 22, 2015, we'll celebrate our planet Earth and all it does for us. Let's give back and make sure we take care of it, too.

Image courtesy of digitalart at freedigitalphotos.net

In honor of Earth Day, I dare you to prevent paper waste and offer you several ways to do so below! 

Proper papering is one of the simplest things we can do for our planet, but it's also so ingrained in our culture that we waste a lot of paper every day, without meaning to.  We can all pay a bit more attention to the paper that is printed and wasted on our behalf.

As a teacher, I do my best to use paper efficiently (like tip #3), but I could probably still do less printing in general (#2 is something I'll work on).  Check out the tips below to see what you can do to limit the amount of paper that YOU use!

Five Simple Ways to Prevent Paper Waste:

Image courtesy of iosphere at freedigitalphotos.net

1. Opt for Online.  Still getting bills in the mail?  Opt-in to email notifications and online bill pay whenever possible. This is a simple way to reduce the amount of paper and postage that gets used on your behalf.  If you like to keep copies, you can always download the PDF and save all bills and receipts in the cloud. (Bonus: This will also help reduce your household clutter!)

2. Avoid Printing. Think before you print; is it really necessary to have a hard copy?  Will this quickly become outdated and rendered useless? Will you have to print a new version soon?  If you can, avoid printing until it's absolutely necessary.  Most of the time, you'll find you can easily send or work on the document online, no paper needed.

3. Print Double-Sided. If you must print, configure our printer or copy machine use both sides of the sheet. On copiers, this option is often identified as "1 --> 2 sided" or "2 --> 2 sided" (depending on the original copy) on the machine and is easy as pressing that one little button. This will halve the amount of paper every copy makes!

4. Use the Web. So many things that we do via snail mail or office memos can easily be done more efficiently online.  Google Apps (Docs, Sheets, Forms) are a godsend for these types of things. Instead of printing and editing and printing again, we can just virtually share files with coworkers, friends, or relatives to get things done. Instead of distributing voting cards or paper surveys, send a Google Form. (It will even automatically put your results in a nice spreadsheet!)  Instead of sending printed invitations to an event (work or social), send a nice e-vite online. Keeping track of the guest list will be so much simpler!!  Whatever it is you think you need to print and share, think again and consider how modern online tools can help.

5. Re-use.  When you've finished with a sheet of paper, can you re-use it?  If one side is blank (someone didn't follow tip #3!), save the sheet and use it later on as scrap paper. I do this all the time, because I love to handwrite my to-do lists and agendas (and then cross items off!).  Keep a bin specifically for tossing re-usable paper, and then when you later need a scrap of paper to jot something down or make a quick list, you know where to find it.

Bonus #6. Recycle!! Finally, when you've followed all the tips above and the paper is no longer re-usable, recycle it.  This is a no-brainer and comes with no excuses!

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There you have it!  Five (really SIX) easy ways to reduce the paper we use and trees we waste.  I'm really good about numbers 1, 3, 4, and 5, but definitely have room for improvement on tips #2 and 6.

What about you?  Where can you improve?  Let me know in the comments what you already do or what you'll aspire to do from here on out! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Don't Check

Tracking your mileage is great... except when it's not.

Today, when my evening activity got cancelled and the sun was still strong, I decided to lace up and go for a run. My plan was 20-30 minutes, another nice jog, although this time I wanted to take fewer walking breaks than last week's runs.  I set my Nike running app on my phone to start, and when I heard the music, took off.

Gorgeous day for a run!

After a long day at work, I was tired, not expecting much from my legs.  Instead, I started out strong!  I felt great. My shins were bothering me a bit, but breathing was steady. The gorgeous weather was the perfect pick-me up and my old 10k playlist had me going with the beat.  I actually think I was going quickly, probably closer to a 9-minute mile than last week's 11-minute joggers.  I kept looking forward to the moment the app would tell me my first mile was complete and what the time was.... except it didn't come.

I passed the spot that I know to be about a mile in my regular run, but no announcement by Miss Nike; the music just kept playing.  After one more song, I finally took out my phone to see for myself what was going on; I wanted to know my pace!

NOOOOOooooooo. It didn't track. Even though my music was playing, the run was paused for some reason, never really started.  I felt so bummed, as though the whole mile was a waste!  WAHHHHH

Except duh, I still ran it. It happened. My heart and legs got whatever benefit they would have regardless of whether my phone recorded my mile or not.

Still, that little mishap put a damper on the rest of my run.  Further, my shin pain got worse, and I gave in to it and started walking.  Then, I reached the section of my run with excess construction dust and car pollution -- NOT pleasant.  So the rest was a bust!  I did another mile and a half, but it was slow and involved a lot of walking. I'd lost the drive that powered my first mile.

Had I not checked my phone, would my shin have still hurt and the dust clogged my throat? Probably. Would it have bothered me as much?  Probably not.  Maybe I wouldn't have noticed the dust, and maybe I'd have powered through my pain. Maybe the rest of my run would have been as powerful as the first mile.

MAYBE! Who knows. I let my app failure spoil my fun. 

Don't get me wrong; I love the app. I'm all for tracking and celebrating and improving. But maybe, once you're in the zone, don't take the risk of spoiling it by checking in. Instead, eyes on the road! 



And if all else fails, shake it off with some calming chamomile :)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Make a Comeback

Excuse me while I dust off this page...

HELLO!!!!  The sun is coming back, and so am I.  As April finally appears to be letting spring in, I'm finally returning to some of the things I love: running, drawing, reading, and BLOGGING!  Time for new posts, new dares, new updates, and more.  In the fall and winter, I was feeling beat and fatigued, and blogging was simply not my priority. This time away has made me miss writing, dares, and you, so I'm back!

And with new toys!

I'll be bringing a combination of dares for you and updates from life over the past few months as I catch up.  While I don't think I've taken on any new huge challenges since the fall, I've been working on maintaining the dares I began way back when, and maintenance matters.

One thing thing that I did not maintain was running.  After my first 10k race in September and then backing off when I was sick, I simply stopped running.  It got cold, and after months off it, the treadmill just didn't feel like a good option.  I did ease back in to exercising (I've been doing BODYPUMP once-twice/week), but not running.



This week, the sun was shining and the temperature passed 50, so I laced up and hit the road.  It certainly was a "first run back" and I struggled at times, but it also felt great to be out in the open air again, flying on my feet with the sun on my face.  I don't always love running, but I do love running outside.



That was Monday, and I hit the road again this morning.  Both times were a steady jog (about 11-min/mile pace), and I had to stop and walk a few times, but I have faith that I'll regain my endurance and (moderate) speed with time.  Spring, I'm ready for you!



And I promise I'll keep updates here :)

Happy Spring!