Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Make Ahead Fish: Lemon Caper Tilapia

Do you want to eat fish more often to get all of the awesome health benefits but you do not want to waste all of the time cooking for just one or two servings? Then you need to try this make ahead lemon caper tilapia recipe! I found this recipe on and it is perfect for a busy professional single woman- I can make 6 servings ahead of time and freeze them individually-  then when I am in the mood for fish, I just pop out one of the foil packets, pop it in the oven and voila!

6 tilapia filets (fresh or frozen is fine)
-  1 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
-  1 1/2 tbsp capers
- 1 1/2 medium garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 c olive oil
- 1-2 medium lemons, juiced
- foil

1. Cut foil into 12 squares. Lay out six squares and put aside the other six squares of foil aside.
2. Put 1 tilapia filet on each of the six squares.  Lift up the edges, divide all of the remaining ingredients among the six filets. 
3. Put a second square of foil on top of each tilapia filet and roll the foil edges together tightly to form a packet. 
4. Place each packet flat into a freezer bag and freeze until ready to serve.
5. When you are ready to have a serving, thaw, bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes until fish is firm.

6. Add some veggies, rice or quinoa, and you have a fabulous delicious and healthy meal!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Our First Contest Winner!

The winner of SmartSassySisters decorate your mirror/scale contest is Heather Lane!  Heather is from Cincinnati, Ohio and is a fantastic mom and person.  According to Heather, her inspiration comes from her two awesome children- Lexi and William and her life goal is to be happy and healthy. Heather will receive a $10.00 gift card to Subway- because with kids we all know fast food sometimes happens- we highly recommend the veggie sub or salad!  Congrats Heather!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

From Trash to Treasure: Creating your own compost bin

Why Compost?

Finished compost bin!
Why not take something that you are already going to throw away and use it to save money with minimal effort required?  Composting is a great way to take your leftover food and yard waste and turn it into fertilizer for your plants or gardens- think of it as putting leftovers back into the earth for the next cycle of growth.  The use of compost improves soil structure, adds essential nutrients, and is a disease suppressor- and it eliminates the need for buying expensive bags of chemical fertilizers or potting soils!  You can certainly start an open air compost pile, but if you live in a neighborhood or urban area like me, your neighbors might not necessarily appreciate that. The good news is that you can make your own compost bin relatively inexpensively!

Materials needed:
-          Large garbage can (dark colored is best)
-          Drill
-          Bungee cords
-          Bricks

Kate helping Brayden drill the holes
1.      Pick out a good location for your compost bin- make sure it is in an area that gets lots of sun
2.      Drill holes in the compost bin: The more holes the better! You are going to want enough holes along the sides of the bin to allow air to circulate as well as holes in the top of the bin to allow rain to get inside the bin.  Don’t forget holes in the bottom for drainage! 
3.      Place compost bin on a square base of 3 or 4 bricks to raise the compost bin off of the ground- this will allow air to circulate and allow drainage to escape.  Also, if you set a tray directly under the compost bin in the space created by the bricks you will be able to catch the “compost tea” that is created and can use that on your gardens while you are waiting for your compost to develop.
4.      Start filling your bin with compost. Add grass clippings or straw first to add drainage. Then add the compost material in layers, alternating between moist and dry ingredients.
5.      Secure the lid of the garbage can with bungee cords.
6.      Make sure to keep the compost moist- if there is not a lot of rain, lightly water.
7.      Every week or two,  turn the compost.  With the garbage can this is easy to do- just make sure the lid is secure, turn the can on its side and roll it around the yard!
8.   If your compost pile starts stinking, add some more dry material (grass clippings, hay, etc) and give the pile a good turn!
Turning the compost is easy!
What to compost:
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Table scraps
  •  Egg shells
  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings (as long as it is not treated grass)
  • Straw or hay
  • Pine needles
  • Flowers
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea leaves
  • Newspaper and shredded paper (avoid using glossy paper and colored inks)
  • Paper napkins/Paper towels
  • Pet hair
  • Popcorn
  • Stale bread/potato chips
  • Nut shells

What NOT to compost:
  • Meat, bones and fish
  • Dairy products
  • Oils
  •  Diseased plant material
I    It will take a few months for your compost to be ready to be used, and when it is ready all you need to do is add a scoop or shovel of it to your soil or pots! Do you compost already? Leave us a comment or send us a picture of your compost pile/bin!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Water does a body good….

I am sure you have heard that you should drink 8) 8 oz. glasses of water daily, and that can be intimidating.  If the thought of drinking 2 standard Nalgene Bottles seems impossible, keep reading for tips to help you get over your fear of floating away.

First and foremost, Water is essential to weight loss!

Water in the body:
  • regulates body temperature
  • removes wastes
  • carries nutrients (food) and oxygen to cells
  • cushions joints 
  • dissolves nutrients to make them available to the body
If you aren’t swayed by the fact that water minimizes the risk of heart diseases, it also leaves you with better looking skin.  My face cleared up and I just have healthier and younger looking skin all around, no botox needed!  When I am starting to get hungry I drink a glass of water.  It gives me a sense of feeling full without any calories or fat.  Then about 20 minutes later I will eat, but my stomach won’t be empty and ravenous.  And the cheapest way to rid your body of extra toxin's, fat and whatever else you want to get rid of, is to flush it out with water.      
I have always drank a lot of water, but I would have at least 1 can of Diet Dr. Pepper or Diet Coke daily, and loved Kool-Aid, Crystal Lite and Sweet Tea.  We always had cases and liters of soda in the house, and now we just don’t buy it.  At first it was just to not have the temptation in the house and now our taste buds have changed.  If you didn’t catch my post earlier on Soda is Satan, read it here Skinny Bitch Book Review. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes in the afternoon I hear a co-worker opening a can of soda and it sounds so refreshing and crisp.  Brian and I opened a can of Diet Coke about a month ago and we couldn’t take more than 1 sip each.  It tasted like terrible chemicals, surprise, that’s what it is!

We buy distilled water in the 5 gallon jugs and it’s so convenient to always have cold or hot water ready. You can certainly drink tap water if you can't budget for water delivery, but it’s not that expensive (we pay $6 for a 5 gallon jug).  We were concerned about the chemicals and medications that get into our water system and it was just safer to go the distilled route. Click here to read about the drinking water in your community.  The EPA has determined 129 chemicals in tap water including Arsenic, Alumunim and nitrates.  They also add chlorine & fluoride to water.  So inside of sticking a straw in our pool water, we just drink distilled water. 
Either way, drinking ½ gallon plus of water everyday can get monotonous after awhile.  Sometimes I will make iced green tea (since it’s naturally decaffeinated) but mostly we just drink water. Here’s some tips to jazz it up……

Monica at did a great post on making your own flavored water, cheaper and healthier than what you can buy at the store. I make a big pitcher of these and just keep them chilled in my fridge or take them in a bottle to work.  I can't wait to try her blackberries & sage. Some of my favorites are:

·     Strawberries & mint
  • Orange, lemon and lime- I thought that lemon wedges were just served at restaurants to be fancy, but it turns out they aid in digestion.
  • Blueberries, raspberries
  • Cucumber & mint
I know it's all mindset but I love drinking out of a pretty or fun glass and there are all kinds of examples out there. Right now I'm in love with these Lily Pulitizer cups and I drink my water quicker when I am using a fabulous pink straw.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Eating Organic is Not Just for Hippies! A Review of “Organic Manifesto: How Organic Food Can Heal our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep us Safe.”

Up until a few months ago, I was pretty sure that only “hippy crunchy granola” types of people ate organic foods and that putting a “certified organic” label on a product was just a clever marketing tool used to justify a higher price.  However, after reading Organic Manifesto: How Organic Food Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep us Safe by Maria Rodale, I am more committed than ever to consuming mostly organic foods!

In Organic Manifesto, Rodale explores the historical development of synthetic chemicals, the current practices of both organic and chemical farming, and the detrimental impact that the increased dependence on synthetic chemicals in modern farming is having both on our health and our environment. While that may sound like extremely dry subject matter, the author's writing style makes the subject matter enjoyable and accessible; her analysis of even the most complicated scientific terms or processes seemed much more like a conversation than reading a scientific textbook. In fact, while reading Organic Manifesto, I “dog-eared” more pages than I have in any book since college!

Some of my favorite takeaways from the book were:
  •  Pesticides are poisons. While they are manufactured and used to kill insects, rodents, fungi and weeds, they can also kill people. Organophosphates- one of the most common types of pesticide- were developed in Nazi Germany to be used as chemical weapons. It was only later that it was recognized that the  same sort of nerve gases formulated to attack enemy soldiers could be used against agricultural pests. Even low-level exposure to these chemicals can pose threats to our immune, hormonal and neurological systems.
  •  Increased rates of autism, diabetes, asthma, ADHD,  and childhood food allergies correlate with the increased use of chemicals to grow our food. (This makes sense to me- when I was in elementary school, I did not know anyone with a peanut allergy and now it is so prevalent that kids have to be extremely careful with what types of treats they bring to school and some schools even have ‘peanut-free’ tables.)
  • The Agricultural Heath Study has established a definitive link between pesticides and Parkinson’s diseases, certain cancers and diabetes and it is also believed that the increased use of pesticides is one of the causes for the recent rise of infertility rates in America.  
  •  Atrazine, one of the most commonly used herbicides in the United States, was banned in the  European Union due to significant health risks. Farmers in Switzerland, where Atrazine's maker is based, are banned from using the product made it their own country, while in America over 76 million pounds of atrazine is still applied to fields each year. 
  • The use of high fructose corn syrup and genetically modified organisms (GMO's) are banned in Europe because of concerns over the damage that these products have on humans and yet these same products have become staples in American food products
  •  Surfactants in Roundup (and potentially other herbicides) allow the chemical to actually get inside the plant- thus you cannot just wash off the contaminants- you are ingesting them.  Despite research that shows that Roundup (glysophate) causes birth defects, 40% of farmers still plan on increasing their use of it!
  • Monsanto started producing saccharin in 1901, followed by polycholorinated biphenyls (PCBS), Agent Orange, RoundUp, GMO's and invented bovine growth hormone.  According to Rodale, “every single one of the company’s lines of business have wraught disaster and yet it still survives and thrives.” In fact, Monsanto was named Forbes company of the year for 2009!
  • Though obesity has become a worldwide problem, chemical and biotech companies still claim that there is not enough food to feed the world- and that the only way to feed the world is with chemicals and GMOs…yet the problem isn’t food scarcity, it is too much food! Even in countries where there are people who are starving, studies have shown that it is the instability in political systems which control the distribution of food that cause this problem, not an actual shortage of food supply.
  • Without the farm bill and government subsidies, organic food would cost less than chemical food. Instead, the government provides payment incentives to farmers to keep growing crops like corn and soybeans chemically and they have made it almost impossible for farmers to switch to growing organic crops. 
  •  Certified organic products are the only foods available that have a government-backed guarantee that no chemicals, antibiotic or gmos were used in growing or processing the foods and that risky  practices like feeding dead cows to living cows or applying contaminated sewage sludge to fields were not used.
  •  Even the CEO of Monsanto, Hugh Grant, eats organic food!
One of the things that I really liked about Organic Manifesto, was that the author does not just leave you with a sense of doom and gloom, but instead suggests practical solutions and ways that the American agricultural system can be changed. According to Rodale, at the end of the day, “you have a lot more power to create the world than you think.  Every choice you make creates your world. Every purchase you make rewards either the good or the bad.  Every time you choose cheap, chemical food over organic, you are rewarding the bad. You vote with every dollar you spend.  Companies and governments count every purchase you make and make almost every decision based on your purchases.” 

I do not know about you, but I am willing to spend 10 cents more to eat an apple that has not been sprayed with deadly chemicals, especially considering the long term health costs!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Applesauce-Easy as 1,2,3

When was the last time that you looked at the ingredient list on the back of a jar of applesauce? Even some of the “healthy” ones at Whole Foods have stuff in them that I cannot pronounce, let alone tell you what it is! If you are an applesauce lover, do not fear, once you realize how easy (and cheap) it is to make your own applesauce, you will never buy it in the store again!

What you will need:
Step 1-Simmer the apples
-Food Processor
-Large Stock Pot
-Cinnamon (optional)
Prep Time: 45 minutes

Step 2-Pour into Food Processor
I used 14 apples of varying types and colors. This is also perfect for apples that are bruised. If you have more or less apples, don't worry, just adjust the water level. First I removed the core and sliced them into wedges.

I brought about 1/2 cup of water to boil in a stockpot and threw in all the apples, turned it down and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. It smells delicous. You can add blackberries, strawberries, pears or any other combination you like, just put them in with the simmering water.

Step 3-the Magic happens
When it's all squishy and mushy pour it all into your food processor and turn it on. No need to drain it. Adjust your time processing it if you like it chunky or smooth. It should only take about a minute. I added some organic cinnamon and there is no need to add any sweetener, the apples are sweet enough.

 From this batch I got enough for 1 pint & 1 quart mason jars. Make sure to refrigerate them and eat them quickly since there aren't any preservatives. It should last for about 2 weeks.  


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why I Bought a Scale and Quit Weight Watchers

I want to preface this post by stating that even though I am writing about my decision to quit weight watchers, I in no way want to imply that I am anti-Weight Watchers- I still think it is a sound program, was instrumental in my success this year, and would recommend it to anyone looking to start a weight loss journey.

Around February I started feeling like I was “done” with weight watchers, but for the next six weeks I kept pushing that nagging feeling aside  and would go weekly to at least “weigh in” (up to this point I was adamant about not having a scale at my house because I did not want to become obsessed with the scale or be weighing myself constantly).  Being the analytical lawyer that I am, I decided to lay out the pros and cons of ending my $40/month WW membership.  I started with the list of reasons for quitting WW:
  •  I was no longer really getting any new information from attending the meetings so I was only going to WW for the weekly weigh-in.  While the leaders and staff were friendly and excited about my progress, my true support was coming from Lexy and my friend Sarah and also from the accountability I had by posting weekly updates on facebook.
  • I was not using the weight watchers “points plus” system or using their “etools” to track my food anymore. While the points system was good for me originally, along the way I had switched to counting calories/nutrition info and tracking that information on myfitnesspal since WW only allowed you to track ‘points’ on their website. I wanted to be able to determine the health value of what I was eating without relying on having to convert the nutritional information to a point system.  Particularly as I became an athlete and started increasing my mileage, I needed to make sure that I was getting the proper “fuel” for my body, which I did not feel like the point system was providing. 
  • I started eating non-processed, organic, real food- while weight watchers stressed good nutrition, they also focused a lot on trying to sell their own products and low-point value diet food- which I disagreed with. A 32 oz diet Coke may be 0 points, but it is still terrible for you!
  • I did not want to have to pick a goal weight.  To achieve lifetime membership in weight watchers you have to pick a goal weigh which is under your BMI (for me that was under 150) and to keep your lifetime membership status you  have to stay within 2 lbs of that goal weight.  While I have no desire to stress my body out and try to get to a size 2, on the other hand I really have no idea where my body will plateau since I never remember being this small as an adult and I do not want to sell myself short by picking a goal weight right under my BMI and immediately starting maintenance. Instead of setting a goal weight, I want to listen to my body and see where it naturally stops.  
As I started to list out the reasons to NOT quit weight watchers, I realized there was really only one reason that was preventing me from moving on: I was afraid I would eventually gain the weight back. The truth was that I was like a scared child, who even though she knows she can ride her bike on her own, there is something comforting about having the training wheels still on the bike. 

I sent all of this in an email to Lexy and she sent the following reply: “You know how to run, work out, eat the right foods. You don’t need to sit in a circle and have someone tell you to eat more fruit or take the stairs. You got that! Stopping weight watchers does not  make you a failure or a quitter!! A quitter doesn’t lose over 100 lbs and keep going.”

 And you know what? Lexy is absolutely right. It is easy to get so paralyzed by potential failure that you don’t even envision that success might be an option.  While WW was a tool that I used along my journey, it was not weight watchers that made me lose 114 lbs over the past 16 months- I did that.  I lost that weight by deciding I wanted to change my life, summoning up every ounce of courage that I had to take the first step, being vulnerable and allowing others to help me, through determination, commitment and dedication, and by finally deciding that I was worth it.  I am not saying that I expect maintenance to be easy or that I never expect the scale to move up an ounce; it is just that I am choosing to believe that I am strong enough to face and overcome those obstacles. I am going to trust that I have accomplished what so few people are able to do, which is that I have actually made a life change versus just successfully completed a diet.

So I bought a scale for my house, because this journey has taught me that I am more than a number on a scale anyway and the scale just provides information, it does not dictate my worth.

And I quit weight watchers. Because I was ready to move on.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sugar-How sweet it isn't!

Hi, My name is Lexy and am a recovering Sugar-aholic.  Cotton candy, cupcakes, kool-aid, you name it, I sugared it.  I even loved sugary sweet lotions and perfume. 

Thanks to my dear friend Corie for sharing this sugar video with me.  It's 14 minutes, but I promise it will make you look at sugar differently. 

Of course I knew that sugar was in ice cream and cookies,  but I didn't know it was hidden in bread, salad dressing, canned baked beans and peanut butter.  Seriously, sugar in my beans?? And don't be fooled, just because the ingredient list doesn't say "Sugar" look for it under it's other names like brown rice syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltodextrin, and just about anything else ending in -ose.  As Americans we consume 1/3 pound of sugar everyday and can be actually addicted to it.  If sugar was a new product, the FDA wouldn't even approve it, there is nothing beneficial about it.

Once I cleansed my body of toxic sugar I actually stopped craving it.  Food that I never would have found sweet, like carrots, now taste sweet to me.  Now, a fresh juicy peach will normally satisfy my sweet tooth.  Don't get me wrong, if I am having a craving for dessert I will have a small piece of dark chocolate, or some homemade kettle korn (be on the lookout for that upcoming post!)  We no longer keep regular white sugar in the house, and definitely not the chemical filled sweet'n low or splenda.  There are so many naturally occurring sugars in many fruits (and vegetables) so we use the following in moderation:
  • Stevia-25-30 times sweeter than sugar, and far more healthy
  • Truvia-made from the stevia plant, 2 times sweeter than sugar (We use this one the most, it is the most comparable in flavor to regular sugar)
  • Agave Nectar-consistency of honey and is naturally sweet (perfect to squirt in Carrie's oatmeal recipe, or a smoothie)
  • Succant-looks like brown sugar but still has the vitamins and minerals that are normally lost during processing.  (I use it in baking)

Thanks to the wonders of Pinterest I found a new best friend, she just doesn't know it yet!
It's an amazing healthy dessert blog.  I made a chocolate chip cookie dough dip and a giant baked chocolate chip cookie, with garbanzo beans!  She's super creative and has lots of healthy alternatives for traditionally sugar laden desserts. 

How did you kick your sugar habit and what natural sweet treats do you like?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Healthy Food and Cocktails for Summer Fun!

Summer cocktail in a size 6 sundress
Zinnias from my garden as decor!
While I am not always Suzy Homemaker, one thing that I really do enjoy is entertaining people at my house.  I love making my home feel cozy and welcoming and having it filled with laughter and good conversation.  So when one of my dearest friends Sarah (who is getting married in July!) asked if I would be willing to host a lingerie shower at my house, I was more than happy to oblige.

As I started planning this shower, I realized that my whole concept of eating and drinking had changed since my last party.  My standby refreshments had always been bowls of chips, French onion dip, pretzels, brownies, cookies, and 2 liters of soda.   Instead of feeding food to my guests that I would not eat, I decided to take on the challenge of throwing a clean and organic party, without sacrificing taste!

The plan was to have an outdoor evening gathering and so I decided to have the following “finger food” appetizers: 
Appetizers & Gluten-free cake made by Catie!
  •    Sweet potato chips  with cinnamon yogurt dip 

    •  I cheated and bought the sweet potato chips since I have yet to successfully make my own, but they were organic and only had 3 ingredients all of which I could recognize and pronounce.  The dip was awesome and so healthy/easy: 1 cup of organic non-fat plain greek yogurt, 1 tsp of cinnamon, and 1 tsp of vanilla extract.  If it is not sweet enough for you, simply add in a touch of honey or a packet of truvia. 
  • Fresh Veggies/hummus 
    •  I have found it is so much cheaper to make my own hummus- all you do is throw garbanzo beans, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and tahini (sesame paste) in the food processor. You can add whatever spices you want to get different flavors- I love cumin in mine, but if you want spicy add some red pepper
  •  Caprese bites
    • Create a skewer by putting a fresh basil leaf, one grape or cherry tomato, and pearl sized mozzarella (use a toothpick to hold it together) and drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar/extra virgin olive oil
  •   Mixed Nuts
  •  Cheese/Crackers
    •   Sarah is allergic to gluten so we had NutThins almond/rice crackers- they were delicious! I just cubed some organic sharp cheddar and pepper jack cheese
Now for the fun part- summer cocktails! I am more of a cocktail girl than a beer drinker, but the problem is that so many cocktails can easily have 600-700 calories (not to mention sugar and other fake ingredients). Luckily, I found two delicious cocktail recipes that were both under 200 calories each!
  • Southern Style Grapefruit and Gin Cocktail: who would have known that gin, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and mint could be so delicious! I have a huge sweet tooth, and even I didn’t need to add sugar to this recipe! Plus the lite pink drink looked super cute in the small mason jars I served them inJ This recipe from The Realistic Nutritionist is definitely a keeper!
  • Sparkling Strawberry-Mint Limeade: This creation by Kelly of was fantastic and refreshing! Simply combine 3 c sliced strawberries, ½ c fresh mint leaves, ½ c fresh lime juice, ¼ c water and ¼ c agave in a food processor or blender until smooth. Take the strawberry mixture and mix it with a bottle of champagne; for 163 calories per serving you have the perfect summer drink!
First clean/organic party was a success!
Besides being fresh, healthy and delicious, the best part about these cocktails was that I could make up a bunch ahead of time, put them in labeled mason jars, and throw them in a cooler, which let me enjoy my guests versus having to constantly refill glasses!

What is your favorite healthy party food or beverage?