PECAN PIE BARS RECIPE- VEGAN, EGG FREE, GLUTEN FREE, DAIRY FREE, LOW CARB/LOW SUGAR

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INGREDIENTS

Crust:

  • 1/3 Coconut Oil or Vegan butter such as Earth Balance
  • 3 Tbsp Maple syrup- sugar free or Agave Maple
  • 3/4 Coconut flour
  • Pinch of Salt

Pecan filling:

(Flax and Water is how you create an egg- this meathod can be used or you may use a premix such as “The Neat Egg”)

  • 2 Tbsp flax meal
  • 5 Tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Coconut Oil or Vegan butter such as Earth Balance
  • 3 Tbsp Maple syrup- sugar free or Agave Maple
  • 1/2 Coconut sugar, brown sugar, or half and half of sweeteners of choice
  • 1 C Pecans
  • 1/4 tsp Salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use  8×8 inch baking pan & line with parchment paper. Generously rub or spray the sides of the pan with coconut oil or olive oil.IMG_5286
  1. In a bowl mix maple syrup and coconut oil together until creamy and well combined. Stir in the coconut flour and salt until it forms a dough.
  2. With your fingers/hands, press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan and bake until the edges  re a deep golden brown, and the middle is lightly golden, about 14-15 minutes. Let cool for 1 hour before starting the topping- this is important and you may speed up the process by placing it in the fidge.IMG_5293
  3. As that is cooling, mix the flax meal with the warm water and refrigerate, so the egg can gel upforthe hour that the crust is cooling.
  4. While that is in the fridge, place the pecans onto a baking pan and bake them into the oven until  hey darken and smell “nutty” about 8-10 minutes- Be careful NOT to let them burn. Let cool and then roughly chop and setaside.
  5. Take the cooled crust out. In a pot on the stove, combine the remaining IMG_5301pecan filling ingredients  oconut oil, maple syrup, coconut sugar and salt. Use medium heat and
  6. bring to a boil. Bol for 1 min. stirring frequently and then remove from heat. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 5
    minutes.
  7. Once it has sat, add the chilled “flax eggs” and mix well. Finally, stir in the chopped pecans until they are coated in the sugar mixture.
  8. Pour the topping over the crust, using a spoon to spread out and make sure the sugar mixture and IMG_5307pecans are evenly coating the crust. Press the pecans lightly so they lay flat.
  9. Bake until the filling looks set, about 20 minutes. Let stand until it comes down to room temperature. Then, refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours or – overnight **

 

  • Chill before eating so they set & they can be serves cold or warm.
  • When cooking, make sure your crust is golden & the filling is firm!
  • SHARE your treats with friends and family! :)

In my experience of not only coaching competitors for shows but competing & turning pro myself, I feel that it’s an investment in more than just your hard earned dollars. Competing is not necessarily about getting on stage in posing trunks, board shorts or a figure suit or bikini; but it’s about making a mental commitment to challenge yourself beyond your wildest imagination, developing a discipline you’ve never experienced, & sacrificing a period of time in your life that will ultimately help you succeed in reaching your goals!

When you’re truly serious about this venture & ready to take on this challenge full force, you’ll find the means to do it…BUT, that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank to get there. The reality is, that will only cause you unnecessary stress & the competition process can be stressful enough in itself. Over the years I’ve had many clients who come to me asking for idea’s on how they can make competing a reality when they are nearly broke- I personally feel that you can make ANYTHING possible & I’ve never let finances stand in the way of getting exactly what I want out of life! Money, money, money….oh money! The reality is, LOOKING GOOD COSTS MONEY! It’s part of the commitment, right timing in your life, & the sacrifice you make to attain your ultimate mental & physical transformation. From hiring a trainer/coach, to purchasing the food & supplements, there is no way around it but there are many ways to cut corners & get the most out of your hard earned dough!

Necessities for competing: 

Register for your competition & Purchasing your Membership Card (ex.NPC, IFBB)

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First let me say, the sooner the better, as once this happens your goal becomes REAL & you’ll be more likely to finish what you started. The cost can be around $80-150 depending on the show & the amount of categories you’ll be entering. The nice thing is you can usually wait up to two weeks prior to the show to register without incurring late registration fees- so you can budget yourself accordingly…but like I said, don’t wait too long to commit! The NPC membership costs around $80 & doesn’t need to be purchased till the day of or day before the actual competition & once paid for it’s good for up to 1 year!

Check out WWW.MUSCLECONTEST.COM for a list of current California competitions put on by Los Angeles’s best, Jon Lindsay.

Hiring a Competition Coach, Personal Competition Trainer, Competition Nutrition Specialist

My Disclaimer: I may be a bit biased with this subject as I am a trainer, nutrition specialist, competition & athlete conditioning coach, stage posing coach, #1 body transformation expert in Los Angeles, & I also provide personalized diet & nutrition programs for clients with other needs as well! :) 

I personally feel that proper guidance prior to getting on stage is ESSENTIAL especially when you’re new to competing! I had been a trainer & nutrition consultant for about 8 years when I decided to do my first show but even then I hired a coach to get me to my goals as I needed to know the in’s & out’s & all the details of getting up on stage. It’s definitely the perfectionist in me but in my head I had to know that I was doing everything I needed to to be not only ready but absolutely flawless on that stage! The fact is about 40% of my clients are trainers or athletes themselves but the only way to truly be prepared for your competition both mentally & physically is with a coach to guide you!

Decide whether you’re the type of person who needs in-person one-on-one support or if you can follow an online type plan without that in-person contact. I actually offer both to my all my clients, some of who are out of the area, some who can’t meet weekly, or for those who want to come in as much as possible- whatever your situation you want to be successful in your program. It takes two things to be successful in your choice of a plan: 1) YOU have to make the “plan” fit/work with YOUR lifestyle. Meaning, you need to be ready to implement & make things work. And 2) Your COACH needs to be 100% confident in their abilities, education, & skills to help you reach your goals.  Without those two parts working together, you will not be successful…nobody wants that so think & choose wisely! :)

An in-house LA Fitness trainer isn’t going to cut it- no offense to those trainers but you need to FIND SOMEONE WHO SPECIALIZES IN COMPETITION PREP. If you can, find someone who you you “click with”, someone who does it ALL (nutrition, training, posing, etc.), someone experienced (not necessarily a Pro but someone with Pro qualities), & someone who does it well (not just as a side job to make extra money but a coach who truly treat this like the business that it is) , Someone Like ME! LOL…That would be the best plan of action as you’ll need a specific & constantly changing diet, a training program to follow or a trainer to guide you, along with the details & prep for the stage posing, etc, & of course the mental part of it all- real support, inspiration, & motivation throughout the duration of your journey.

Coaches & Trainers prices vary & can cost a good chunk of change. I feel that you can’t judge a trainer on their rates- choose wisely based on what you’ve heard about them, their proven results with other clients, & the connection you have when you meet with them. You shouldn’t be charged for a consultation & they should be willing to walk you through your program without additional charges as well. My total competition prep rates vary depending on your needs & the duration of your competition prep but I do not charge extra’s. My total programs rates are the true rates- no extra hidden charges: I teach the stage posing & stage presence etc. until you get it right without additional charges, you have full diet planning & support throughout the entire program & as your body changes I change your plan (to avoid plateau’s), I also offer a weekly progress check-in where we train together in person, discuss how things have been going, take pictures, etc… I also offer payments plans & I give all sorts of discounts/reduced rates for referrals! For more information contact the Body Transformation Specialist & IFBB Pro, Michele D’Angona: Email: Micheles.world@yahoo.com

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Other Things to secure down before you commit to taking your body to the next level:

1. Gym Access/Membership- You need access to a gym that is fully equipped to accommodate you. Of course there are plenty of ways to get in shape that require no equipment, no weight, etc…but we’re not just trying to get fit, we’re taking it a step up & actually going to compete which means you’re going to require weights, cardio equipments, & at least some weight machines. (I think the Smith Machine is a must!)

2. Workout Clothes/Shoes- Comfy shoes are a must & one or two gym outfits won’t cut it unless you plan of doing laundry daily! Now you don’t have to go all out & buy brand name crap but you do want workout clothes that fit well, comfortable, & you are going to want to feel good when you’re wearing them- trust me…when you FEEL that you LOOK good in your workout clothes, you will actually feel good mentally & you’ll become your own daily motivation- ready to hit the gym hard! ;)

3. Supplements- The nice thing is once you purchase the basics they should last you throughout your prep- buying in bulk is definitely worth it so watch out for sales on specific products. Again, your coach should be advising you on at least the basic supplements to be taking if not the actual brands they recommend. A word of warning: Walking into a GNC or Vitamin Shop can be dangerous if you’re not quite sure what to purchase. The sales associates are just that, SALES ASSOCIATES…LOL, not that they are ALL sharks out to sell you the next big commission product but some of them may be, so it’s best to walk in with a budgeted list & specific products & only purchase that. One of my favorite ways to shop is online because I can do my research, read reviews, find the best prices, & I don’t have to leave my house. WWW.BODYBUILDING.COM is one of my favorite places to shop for supplements because I can not only read the reviews & see ingredients & nutrition facts, but they constantly have special sales, free shipping, & all sorts of great deals.

4. Food- Grocery shopping will become (if it hasn’t already) a weekly thing. If you haven’t noticed, the foods that are organic, all natural, & healthier for you are more expensive but again, where there’s a will there’s a way! Check for sales- those “buy one get one free” on packages of extra lean turkey, etc…those are the times/sales to stock up & have a freezer full of fresh proteins. Buying in bulk from COSTCO for let’s say, eggs for instance is a great idea or even going to a local farm is worth buying gallon size containers of fresh egg whites. Many times the 100% egg whites gallons purchased from farms come frozen & honestly last a long time! Veggies are best fresh but if you had to buy frozen veggies you could substitute for the fresh stuff. Frozen can save money & time- I always have frozen veggies in stock in my freezer for those days I run out of the fresh stuff & I’m in no mood to go to the grocery store for the 10th time that week! LOL! Stores like TRADER JOES can also be fairly priced & much better of a deal then a traditional market. Also, look online for places you can order your proteins from, bison, chicken, etc…there are more websites than you can even imagine that will deliver fresh, grass-fed meats,etc. right to your door within days!

5. Suits, Heels, Bling, Hair, Make Up, Tan…the little details that make all the difference!

If you’re a bikini competitor, bodybuilder, or men’s physique competitor then the suit/trunks/shorts can be as easy or as complicated as you make it. Figure suits can get very pricey as can bikini’s if you want that extra special touch or bling. I have a lot of great, inexpensive, & custom suit places to shop at both online & local southern california locations..these are just suggestions & if you have other company’s you feel have done a great job on your suit, please contact me so I can add them to the list!

FIND A CUSTOM COMPETITION BIKINI: 

MY TOP CHOICES (In no particular order)

Barracuda Bikinis, http://www.facebook.com/barracudabikinisMermaid Mafia, 

Mermaid Mafia, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mermaid-Mafia-Swimwear/202473173098356Chynna Dolls, 

Fresh Peaches, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fresh-Peaches-Swimwear/8902184261

Other websites to checkout:

www.suitsyouswimwear.com, 

www.teenyb.com, 

www.beachbunnyswimwear.com, 

www.passionfruitdesign.com 

FIND A PROFESSIONAL COMPETITION MAKEUP ARTIST, HAIR STYLIST, & TANNING SERVICE ON SITE IN CALIFORNIA & AT NATIONAL SHOWS: MY TOP CHOICES

I’ve put together a great local team of the best of the best when it comes to the finishing touches needed to get on stage. They take their businesses & work just as serious as I do & their artistic skills & perfectionist ways make them the #1 choice to use when looking your best at your competition on the west coast. These are a MUST for your show & you will not be disappointed with the results. I don’t put my guarantee on just anyone or any company but these are the trusted officials who have made TEAM SASS look like the champions that they are!

  • Professional Make Up: Contact Safoura “FouFou Makeup” www.foufoumakeup.com, www.facebook.com/FouFouMakeup
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Whether your goal is competing in your first show, improving your placing for the next, earning your pro card, or just achieving your own personal level of fitness; nothing should ever stop you from reaching your full potential! You deserve to have all that you want in life & I believe that with strategic planning, the will to success, & with ambition put into everything you think & do you can achieve anything! 

Quinoa has not only become a staple food in my diet, it is my absolute favorite go-to food!

Quinoa is extremely high in protein, fiber, magnesium, & iron, & is filled with essential amino acids making it the most unique & complete protein source among all plant foods. Although it closely resembles wheat or rice, this grain-like seed is actually more related to beets, spinach, & tumbleweed!

Besides the nutritional value & superb delicious taste, it turns out that cooking with quinoa is just as fulfilling & adds character to any every meal. From sweet dishes to more hearty & savory meals, in my opinion, the versatility of quinoa is unmatched by any other food.

A lesson in Quinoa Variety:

1. If you’ve never tried quinoa, don’t start with the “flakes”. I made the mistake of eating the flakes which sort of resemble grits or potato flakes that come out of a box (I remember eating mashed potatoes this way as a kid- trust me, those flakes are way tastier than quinoa flakes!). I found that the flakes are much better utilized in cooking/baking rather than as a morning cereal alternative to oatmeal or cream of rice. Perhaps if I wasn’t such a hardcore dieter adding brown sugar, cinnamon, & milk might spruce up the flakes a bit. To each his own, but I’ll pass & just stick with my many varieties of quinoa seed in a bowl!  *recipes below*

2. Quinoa Flour is enlightening! When I discovered the flour version I was thrilled & needed to go home and bake immediately to test out the goods. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked for baking all sorts of goodies but at the same time a bit disappointed at the “raw” taste of the batter when I used it. If you know anything about me it is that I L-O-V-E batter! Half the time I cook or bake, it is so that I can taste the process…I’m constantly craving dough-ish sort of sweets even more so than the finished product like cookies, cakes, etc. The batter is what I get excited about- licking the spoon & the bowl is pure pleasure to me. Once it’s baked I feel like it doesn’t taste as good!LOL! Soooo my point is, quinoa flour has a nutty flavor. It tastes nice but not for my “raw batter binging”! :) But like I said, it bakes great & can be combined with a variety of flours or almond meal/peanut flours, etc. for a low carb & gluten free alternative to regular white flour!

3. The quinoa seed comes in many different shades of ivories, pinks, brown, & reds! Grind it up & you’ve made your own quinoa flour- great for baking, breading foods, or adding protein to any meal!

Quinoa Mint-Lime Cold Salad- DELICIOUS & VERY SIMILAR TO THE MIDDLE EASTERN DISH, TABBULI

1 cup dry quinoa
2 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 2 limes
2-3 fresh mint sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves or parsley
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup sweet and ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons diced red onion- or use 2 chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, minced
1. Rinse your quinoa.
2. Cook the quinoa as you would raw rice: in 2 and 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups fresh salted water, covered, until all of the water is absorbed. I personally cook mine in the microwave for a quick & perfectly fluffy batch of quinoa!
3. Scoop the cooked quinoa into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, tossing lightly with a fork until combined.
4. Taste test and adjust seasonings. Cover and chill- the longer, the better. In fact, I think this salad tastes better the second day- so plan ahead and make it the day before.
(Makes 4-6 servings.)

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers- GREAT AS A SIDE DISH OR BY ITSELF FOR ANY MEAL

1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 ribs celery, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 Tbs. ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
3 cups of Spinach or 1 10-oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups chopped Hot House Tomatoes or 2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 cup cooked black beans or 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup quinoa
OPTIONAL: 1 1/2 cups grated fat free or reduced-fat pepper mozorello, divided
4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed
1. Rinse your quinoa.
2. Cook the quinoa as you would raw rice: in 2 and 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups fresh salted water, covered, until all of the water is absorbed. I personally cook mine in the microwave for a quick & perfectly fluffy batch of quinoa!
3. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in spinach and drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.
4. Stir in black beans, quinoa, and 2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Stir in 1 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.
6. Fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 Tbs. remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.

Quinoa & Chicken Fried Rice- HIGH PROTEIN FOR ANY MEAL!

(Tastes just like fried rice minus the rice & sodium & fat! LOL!)

1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. onion chopped
1/3 c. chopped mushrooms
1-2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (low sodium) or Hot Sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
6 egg whites (1-2 whole & 4-5 whites or just 6 whites)
1. Heat Olive oil in a frying pan & add onion & mushroom. Cook till they begin to soften & brown slightly.
2. Add cooked quinoa, mix up in pan on medium heat.
3. Add eggs/whites & continue to cook & fry up. Flatten the mixture & spread out into the pan then let it cook for a few minutes.
4. Add the Worcestershire sauce & use spatula to chop up & flip over mixture to combine.
5. Let cool & enjoy! Serves 1-3 (depending on appetite! )

Quinoa Breaded Chicken Nuggets- Eat your heart out McD’s!

3-4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
2 Egg Whites
1/2 cup quinoa flour (or 1/4c. whole raw quinoa ground in a coffee grinder)
1 T. Mrs.Dash “Garlic & Herb” Flavor
2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
Dash of Salt & Pepper to taste; optional
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees & prepare a baking sheet covered in foil & sprayed with olive oil. (Optionally you can fry the battered chicken nuggets in a pan on the stove- use 2-4T. of extra olive oil)
2. In a bowl add egg whites & whisk lightly, set aside.
3. In a large ziplock bag add the quinoa flour & seasonings, shake up to combine mixture.
4. Cut the raw chicken up into 2″ pieces- nugget size.
5. Dip/soak the raw chicken breast first into the egg whites then place them into the ziplock bag of seasonings. Once in the bag shake up the mixture to coat the chicken pieces with the seasoning. Follow & repeat these steps until all the chicken pieces have been breaded.
6. Place coated chicken breast pieces on a prepared baking sheet & into the oven for approximately 25 minutes or cooked through, flipping the chicken over once. (If cooking in a frying pan, add breaded chicken into the preheated heated olive oil & fry in pan about 6 minutes each side- watch carefully so they don’t burn)
7. Makes 4-6 servings depending on chicken breast sizes. Enjoy your chicken nuggets with low sugar ketchup or mustard! YUM!

Butternut-who?

Many people shy away from even attempting to cook up some butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkin, or any squash for that matter. I can understand the fear as most people in general don’t cook or don’t know the basics of anything more than popping something in the microwave. That is why I’m writing this- it’s a simple How-To for cooking up butternut squash, pumpkin, acorn squash, or any of the squash variety.

Why Butternut Squash?

This versatile veggie is packed with more than just taste possibilities; it’s also loaded with vitamin A. 1 cup of cooked squash has 457% of the recommended daily allowance — and is a good source of fiber, potassium, and magnesium. And like most vegetables, it’s fat-, cholesterol-, and sodium-free.

Fat and Calories: One cup of raw butternut squash only has 63 calories. The majority of those calories come from the carbohydrates. The same serving of butternut squash only has .1 g of fat. It can be added to meals to add flavor and fullness without adding fat.

Dietary Fiber: Dietary fiber regulates the digestive system. It can also help to lower cholesterol levels in the body. There are 3 g of dietary fiber in every serving of butternut squash, 11 percent of your daily recommended value.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A is an important part of cell reproduction and it’s important to maintaining healthy eyes. Butternut squash has 298 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin A.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an important antioxidant for the body. It can help to prevent certain kinds of cancer and can help to keep the immune system working properly. Vitamin C has also been shown to possibly help prevent certain types of heart disease. Butternut squash accounts for 50 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin C at 29.4 mg per one cup serving.

Minerals: One serving of butternut squash has 14 percent of your daily recommended value of manganese, 12 percent of magnesium and 14 percent of potassium. Potassium is important for healthy muscle action. Magnesium is important for cell formation and manganese is important to metabolizing proteins and fat, according to NutritionData.

HOW TO PREPARE & ROAST A BUTTERNUT SQUASH

Start with a nice size

Butternut squash! Not too big, as the larger the size, the harder it is to handle…

(That’s what she said! LOL…had to say it!)


I use a super sharp serrated knife (my bread knife works perfectly for this). Begin by cutting off the two ends- the pumpkin looking top and the core bottom.

The next step would be to slice the squash in half Length wise- right done the middle. This can take some muscle power so hopefully your been hitting the weights building those biceps! You can “saw” into it on all sides till eventually you’ll cut through the center.

Using a spoon, scoop/scrape out the inside pulp which is similar to carving the flesh out of a pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds & pulp so that it is clean & hollow like the squash pictured.

After this step you can skip right to the marinading & seasoning of your squash or you can continue preparing your squash into cubes for roasting!

To skin a butternut squash is a job within itself. The safe way To do this is with a peeler but if your’re a pro with a knife, Feel free to skin the squash with just a knife in hand. Be Careful not to take off too thick of layers of skin as you will

Be taking away the delicious squash rather than the outer Skin if you cut too deep!

The next part of the process would be to chop up the squash. Now at this point it shopuld be a fairly simple step as the hard Outer skin has been removed. Begin by cutting about 1″ slices All the way down the squash. Then dice up the strips into cubes About 1″ or bite size. At this point you will be ready to season &/or Marinade your squash & prepare the roasting process!


There are two ways to prepre the butternut squash for roasting. Here I have done the preparation process of skinning the squash, then chopping it up into cubes.


Here I have simply left the skin on the squash, cut it in half length wise, scooped out & cleaned the inside pulp/seeds, & I’m beginning to add my herbs & merinade to the squash. I’ve placed it on a pan lined with foil.

For both of the squash pictured here I have made a deliscious & super flavorful Balsamic Rosemary marinade.This is not an exact science. In fact a majority of the time I don’t even go off of a recipes for measurements, I just wing it! So get creative & come up with your own.

BALSAMIC & ROSEMARY MARINADE

- This can be used for squash, veggies, even on your proteins like chicken/turkey/fish, etc.

1-2 T. Olive Oil

1-2 T. Balsamic Vinegar

1 T. Dried or Fresh Rosemary (Use a bit more if it’s fresh)

1 tsp. black pepper (Fresh cracked pepper is best)

Dash of sea salt (optional)

TIME TO COOK EM’ UP!!!

  • PREHEAT OVEN TO 400 DEGREES. ROAST CUBED BUTTERNUT SQUASH IN A BROILING PAN OR ON A BAKING SHEET LAYED OUT TO ONE LAYER. OR IF YOU’RE ROASTING IT WHOLE, PLACE ON A BAKING SHEET. THE WHOLE BUTTERNUT SQUASH WILL TAKE SLIGHTLY LONGER TO ROAST THAN THE CUBED.
  • ROASTING THE BUTTERNUT SQUASH HALVES: 400′ OVEN, 45-60 MIN. OR UNTIL SLIGHTLY BROWN & TENDER.
  • ROASTING THE BUTTERNUT SQUASH CUBES: 350-375′ OVEN, 40-50 MIN. OR UNTIL SLIGHTLY BROWNED & TENDER.

If you haven’t figured it out already, cooking is my therapy! It sooths the soul & mind while putting my cravings to rest. During times (like this) when I’m dieting hardcore prepping for my next competition, I find cooking more exciting! It’s like a puzzle- very challenging because I have so many more limits to my experimentations than when I’m not actually dieting! My restriction, and those of most competitors, consist of the following (or should I say the following foods are a NO-NO when dieting for my show): NO WHEAT, SOY, DAIRY (except Whey), SUGAR, GLUTEN, & lower sodium choices……The Yes-yes’s include: only “good fats”, starchy carbs, whole grains/oats, lean proteins, veggies, & well there is no AND, that’s just about it! LOL! Cravings during these “hard times” are more of TASTE cravings rather than hunger. So most of the time while baking goodies within the boundaries, I find satisfaction in just mixing up some batter, licking the spoon, & taking a sample bite of the finished product- for Blog posting purposes only of course! ;)

My brain works like a food diary/calculator/nutritional facts bank when it comes to eating, cooking, or when the cravings begin! I immediately go into problem solving mode figuring out how to fit in the flavors I’m looking for without compromising my clean competition diet, meaning without taking away any of my much needed proteins, without adding additional carbs or empty calories, etc…

This sick, twisted, torturous, masochist body of mine chooses to head to my kitchen. I live all by myself (except for my two lady friends…the mutts!) but I swear to you, it feels as though my kitchen is alive- no joke, this room talks to me! LOL! The cabinet doors, oven doors, the microwave, & fridge come to life- like something out of a Muppet show- I’m telling you! HAHA! Hey, I’m not going nuts here- if you love food, &/or cooking the way that I do then I know you feel the vibe I’m talking about when you enter the one room in your place that truly comes to life. My imagination runs wild in here & turns my thoughts & ideas into reality. It’s refreshing & scary at the same time because in the blink of an eye I could literally self destruct & sabotage all the work I’ve put into my body in this one little room. It’s frightening & I Love it! I’m a live-on-the-edge kind of girl! I like to play with fire…and food! HAHA! Okay so if I haven’t scared you away then please read on because we can all relate to the cravings….dieting or not, we are all human, & who doesn’t enjoy a lil flavor in their life, Right?!

HERE ARE TWO DESSERTS & TREATS- SIMPLE & TO THE POINT…NO ENTRÉE MENU HERE, JUST STRAIGHT UP YUMMY SWEET TOOTH CRAZING FIXES…

-NO BAKE-

This spawned from the traditional “whey-in-a-shaker” meal. I wanted to BITE into something & this did the trick!

MICROWAVE HIGH PROTEIN CAKISH-CUP

  • 1 SCOOP WHEY (I used Pro5′s cookies & cream flavor)
  • 1 T. 100% PUMPKIN
  • 2 EGG WHITES
  • 1/8 tsp BAKING SODA

Mix ingredients in a coffee mug or small bowl. Pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Check consistency- I like it a lil mooshy/watery around the the bottom & cupcake-like on top. But if you’d prefer ours a bit firmer put it back in the microwave for another 15 seconds or so (total of 45 seconds). Then EAT! If you need a fat in this meal you can add peanut butter on top when it’s done or sprinkle flax seed or if you’re not dieting top it with a glop of Cool Whip free! ENJOY!

MAKES 1 PROTEIN CAKE-CUP

PER SERVING: 200 CALORIES, 40g PROTEIN, 1g FAT, & 4 CARBS!

-OVEN REQUIRED-

Don’t let the zucchini throw you off! These are yummy chocolate-y brownie bites that will satisfy you plus they only have 3 carbs per serving & less than 1g of fat!

CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BROWNIE BITES

  • 2 SCOOPS WHEY
  • 1 CUP 100% PUMPKIN
  • 4 EGG WHITES
  • 1/8 tsp BAKING SODA
  • 1/8 tsp BAKING POWDER
  • 1 CUP of SHREDDED ZUCCHINI (ABOUT 2 SMALL OR 1 LARGE ZUCCHINI)
  • 1/4-1/2 CUP COCOA POWDER (More, ½ cup, for a richer chocolate flavor OR less, ¼ cup, for a milder chocolate flavor)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
  3. Pour the batter into a cupcake pan lined with cupcake papers or spray with a non stick olive oil spay/PAM. (12 CUPCAKES) OR you can use a

    greased 8X8″ brownie pan. Place in the center of the oven rack for 30-45min.- check if they are done by poking the centers with a

    toothpick or wooden skewer or chopstick- if it comes out clean (no batter moosh on it) then they are done.

  4. Remove from oven & let them cool slightly.
  5. Remove from tray then EAT! If you need a fat in this meal you can add peanut butter on top when it’s done or sprinkle flax seed or if you’re

    not dieting top it with a glop of Cool Whip free! ENJOY!

MAKES 12 BROWNIE BITES

PER SERVING: 50 CALORIES, 8g PROTEIN, 1g FAT, & 4 CARBS!



Healthy Thanksgiving, Holiday, & Year-Round Dishes!

I always look forward to the holiday season but at the same time fear the feast! But thanks to these recipes Thanksgiving & other holiday dinners don’t have to be a nightmare. You can actually eat guilt-free in moderation of course. These dishes are low/no sodium, low/no fat, low/no sugar, & low carb choices, safe for all!

Here are some basic tips to eat your way to health around the holidays & those special occasion meals:

  1. Choose Fat-Free, reduced/low-sodium chicken broth as a great flavorful way to cook many foods. Use this broth for making mashed potatoes, making gravy, as a base for boiling rice, or for the liquid when cooking stuffing instead of butter!
  2. Veggies should be roasted or steamed & you can add tons of flavors by topping them with toasted almonds or walnuts, herbs, & vinaigrette dressings!
  3. Turkey is an excellent choice over ham or even chicken! The white meat of the turkey is the leanest part & is a great source of vitamin B. Always remove the skin & keep your serving portion size around 3 or 4 oz. Again, many herbs, spices, & salt-free seasonings can be used when cooking your turkey to perfection!
  4. Desserts & Sweets can get tricky but there are many things you can do to keep those foods low fat & low carb- no need to deprive yourself of the treats. For sugar-free choices try sugar substitutes such as Splenda or Stevia. Choose egg-white over whole eggs, fat-free milk or evaporated milk over whole & gluten/wheat-free breads & crusts as a better choice for desserts.

Tips for eating on Thanksgiving Day:

  • Still eat small meals leading up to your Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t skip meals because you’ll be hungry & more likely to overeat on Thanksgiving.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day-this will keep you hydrated & keep you feeling fuller longer. A light, low sodium soup is a great choice as a lunch meal before dinner, asparagus, romaine, & zucchini are also good choices of veggies to munch on throughout the day as they will act as a diuretic!
  • If you’re not in competition mode or strict dieting you can enjoy a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage… While everyone is socializing & sipping on cocktails choose to drink water or soda water in the beginning so you can control your drinks at dinnertime or after….all in moderation.
  • Use a Teaspoon or Tablespoon to serve yourself rather than the large serving spoons that we usually use to dish out food. You will have better control & be more aware of your portion serving size.
  • Wait about two hours if you can before going up for seconds on dinner. Or have you dessert at that point. Avoid the crust of pies, choose cool whip “free”, or my recipes as an alternative to high carb & high sugar foods.

RECIPES:

  1. CRANBERRY SAUCE
  2. GRILLED ZUCCHINI STUFFED WITH QUINOA
  3. STUFFING WITH FRUIT
  4. GRAVY
  5. CAULIFOWER MASHED POTATOES
  6. CANDIED YAMS
  7. TURKEY
  8. TURKEY SEASONINGS HERBS & SPICES (3 WAYS)
  9. BUTTERNUT SQUASH PIE
  10. BUTTERNUT PIE CRUST


SUGAR-FREE CRANBERRY SAUCE

12 oz. fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 cup Splenda or Sugar Substitute of choice
1 cup water
1 teaspoon each orange zest
cinnamon
nutmeg

Uncover and stir. Turn heat to low for another 10 minutes. The cranberries will burst open releasing pectin. Pectin is a natural gelatin contained in the berries. This will allow the mixture to thicken. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

Bring water to boil, add Splenda and spices & add cranberries and bring to boil again, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the water has reduced somewhat.

It won’t be as thick as if it was made with sugar, but it’s a very small price to pay for fresh, healthy, & delicious cranberry sauce.

Grilled Zucchini with Quinoa Stuffing

1 huge zucchini
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped grape tomatoes
16 almonds, chopped and toasted
1/2 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Parmesan, plus more for sprinkling (Optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and most of the flesh, leaving about 1/4-inch of the zucchini husk.

Combine quinoa, beans, tomatoes, almonds, garlic, Parmesan, oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into zucchini. Sprinkle with parmesan. Grill 5 to 10 minutes over medium-high heat, or until zucchini is cooked through, but not falling apart.

Gluten-Free Stuffing With Autumn Fruit

Stuffing is a Thanksgiving favorite, and you should not have to go without just because you can’t have gluten. Packed with fruit and nuts, this simple recipe makes for a great balance of sweet and savory flavors. I recommend using heavier gluten-free bread, such as brown rice bread, because it will stand up against toasting, mixing and soaking without falling apart. You can find brown rice bread in many health food stores and major supermarkets.

Makes 8 servings

1 loaf of heavy gluten-free bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes to equal 5 to 6 cups

1 1/2 cups walnuts cut into pieces

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, diced

2 teaspoons dried sage, or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh sage

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups stock (vegetable, chicken or turkey)

2 persimmons, chopped coarsely (optional)

2 pears, such as Bartlett or Asian pears, cored and chopped coarsely (optional)

Additional salt and pepper for seasoning (optional)

3 tablespoons butter (optional)

Place rack in middle of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread gluten-free bread cubes evenly on a baking sheet. Toast in oven for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove from oven and set aside. Raise oven heat to 375 degrees.

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat and add walnut pieces. Toast for 4 minutes, agitating every 15 seconds to allow for even toasting and to prevent burning. Walnuts are done when they are fragrant and have turned a few shades darker. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet over medium flame, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil until it shimmers. Add onions and sauté until they are translucent and slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Add sage and thyme, sautéing for 30 seconds, then celery, sautéing for 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper and bread cubes and mix well. Drizzle in stock and remaining olive oil, mixing until bread cubes are coated. Remove from heat and allow to soak for 5 minutes, mixing once halfway through.

Gently stir in persimmons, pears and toasted walnuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then pour the whole thing into a lightly greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Dot the top with butter and bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Simple & Healthy Gravy

To make delicious gravy for your stuffing, whisk some cooking stock and the drippings from your turkey with a spoonful of brown rice flour, salt and pepper and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil for about a minute, until the gravy begins to thicken.  Season it with some fresh herbs if you like.

Now you can have your gravy and eat your stuffing too!


Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes”

1 head cauliflower

1 clove garlic (optional)
1/8 cup skim milk, plain yogurt, or good butter
Salt & pepper
Paprika

This is a great, low-carb alternate to mashed potatoes, & it tastes surprisingly good.

Steam cauliflower (optionally with a clove of garlic) until tender. Cut the cauliflower into pieces and place in a blender with the milk, yogurt or butter. Season with salt and pepper and then whip until smooth. Pour cauliflower into small baking dish. Sprinkle with paprika and bake in hot oven until bubbly.

“Candied” Yam Casserole

5 medium sweet potatoes rinsed & peeled
¼ cup olive oil or 10-20 sprays of I can’t believe it’s not butter
3 T cinnamon

2 T Vanilla
7 packets of Splenda/Sugar free sweetener or 2/3 cup Brown Sugar Blend

Chop sweet potatoes in large chunks. Microwave for 3-6min. or until tender (not too mushy).  In a bowl combine cinnamon, olive oil or spray with I can’t believe it’s not butter, vanilla, & “sugar, “mixing extremely well until consistency of mashed potatoes is achieved.  Add mixture to Pam sprayed baking dish.  Bake for 40 minutes at 325º. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts completely with marshmallows & place in oven until melted & ever-so-slightly toasted.

Holiday Turkey Basics

1 tablespoon brown rice flour

  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced

    Oven Bag

  • 12 to 24 pound turkey, thawed

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare your oven bag: Shake flour in Oven Bag; place in large roasting pan at least 2 inches deep. Spray inside of bag with nonstick spray to reduce sticking, if desired. You can also add mixed Vegetables to the bag such as onion & celery for additional flavor. (Tips for stuffing are below)

Prepare Turkey: Remove neck and giblets from turkey. Rinse turkey; pat dry. Brush turkey with olive oil. This is the time you will want to add your herbs or seasoning of choice. I have listed a few options below!

Place the turkey in oven bag & close with a nylon tie, cut a few small slits in the top of the bag & insert a meat thermometer through slit in bag into thickest part of inner thigh. Tuck ends of bag in pan.

Bake 2 to 2 1/2 hours for a 12 to 16 lb. turkey, 2 1/2 to 3 hours for a 16 to 20 lb. turkey, and 3 to 3 1/2 hours for a 20 to 24 lb. turkey, or until meat thermometer reads 180°F.For easy slicing, let stand in oven bag 15 minutes before opening.

These turkey roasting oven bag instructions come from the: REYNOLDS KITCHENS TIPS

- For stuffed turkey: Lightly stuff turkey with your favorite stuffing recipe before brushing with oil. Add 1/2 hour to bake time.
- If turkey sticks to oven bag, gently loosen bag from turkey before opening bag.

Turkey Seasoning & Spices

After rinsing turkey; pat dry. Brush skin of turkey with oil. Gently lift skin & rub oil between skin & turkey meat as well. Choose one of the following combinations of herbs & spices to use. Combine Seasonings/herbs, sprinkle & rub beneath skin & all over turkey, & inside cavity, turning evenly to coat.

Fresh Herb Turkey:
1 tablespoon each chopped fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme. Coarse salt and ground pepper

Moroccan Style Turkey:
1 tablespoon garlic powder or 1 fresh garlic clove minced, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, & ¼ teaspoon salt

Traditional Turkey with a Tangy Twist:
Squeeze 1 orange over turkey. Season outside of turkey generously with salt, and sprinkle with pepper.


Butternut Squash Pie

2 medium butternut squash, cut in half, seeded
3 tablespoons butter or grape seed oil
3 egg whites
1/3 cup splenda or sugar substitute

1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of pumpkin spice

1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Bake squash in the oven at 350° for 40 minutes, until soft. Scoop squash out of skin, discarding skin. Place squash in food processor with butter (or oil), eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Puree until smooth and creamy. Place in a Pam sprayed, 9 inch tart pan or a casserole dish- you can make this pie crestless or use the oatmeal crust recipe below. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. Serve!

Sweet Oatmeal Pie Crust

2 cups oats (ground to flour)

½ cup Splenda or sugar substitute

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg white (optional)

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 to 4 ½ tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and oil a 9-inch pie plate. Stir together all ingredients with a fork except water. Slowly add water one tablespoon at a time to get a thick semi dry paste. Transfer to pie plate and gently press into bottom and sides. Use a fork and poke a few holes in the bottom crust & place in oven for 10 minutes. Remove & ad pie filling & bake according to pie directions. If baking pie crust alone, bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden.

One of the biggest delemas I had to face when getting serious about cleaning up my diet was taking out the condiments & snacks that seemed to add spice to everything I ate. Really, cleaning up your diet is all about forming a new habit. Right now maybe your habit is salting everything, soda’s n’ sweets, & ranch dressing. There are many alternatives and NEW healthier habits you can develop that would change your body in no time!

Food had never been such an issue for me until I was deprived of it. Yes, I liked to eat even before my first competition & the dieting. And my gosh, if you know me know, you know that I am in love with food…my new nickname is lil’ piggy! HAHA!

I guess I’m a masochist & enjoy the torture because when I first started dieting, even now when I’m preparing for competition, I kept everything plain & boring…or as I prefered to call it, simple! I mean the way I prepared my food was so clean and bland that I would literally be able to pick it up & eat it with my bare hands- no utensils required! Now that I’m in my off-season and won’t be competing until March 2010, I’ve decided I need to liven things up. With no boyfriend in sight, my Friday & Saturday night’s are spent experimenting with recipes that are salt-free, gluten-free, & sugar-free.

Simple changes can make all the difference. We have all developed habits, both good & bad, that are ingrained in our heads as “our way” of doing things. Sometimes all it takes is learning something new & being open to change for us to build better habits. I grew up with an Italian/Mexican chef, caterer, & restraunt owner for a father & lets just say although delicious, his food was far fom healthy. I learned at a very young age how to cook & what tasted good with no reference to cooking healthy. If you know me now, you know that I am in love with food…my nickname is lil’ piggy! HAHA! (If I’m going to be called a piggy at least haveing the “lil” in there doesn’t make it so bad! LOL!)