Summer is almost here!

With summer just around the corner what better way to get in the mood than whipping up some healthy and delicious homemade popsicles! Here’s a recipe I’ve adapted from the People’s Pops recipe book.  You can substitute any fruit - just be sure to use the ripest ones as they have the most flavor/sugar content (mushy and bruised is good!).

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You’ll need to purchase a popsicle moldpopsicle sticks and guar gum (optional, but this helps keep ice crystals from forming and makes for a smoother pop - you can also use this to thicken sauces instead of cornstarch. Just don’t use too much or your pops will feel slimy!). 

Fruit Mixture:

  • 1 c. fruit puree
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • ½ c. simple syrup
  • ½ Tsp. guar gum 

Yogurt Mixture: 

  • 1 c. greek yogurt 
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ c. simple syrup
  • + any spices 

To make simple syrup combine equal parts sugar and boiling water - stir until the sugar dissolves. If you’re just making enough for one batch combine ⅔ c. sugar with ⅔ c. boiling water (= 1 c.). This is the time to infuse your simple syrup with flavors like, mint, ginger, lemon etc… Get creative! 

Once you’ve combined your fruit and yogurt mixtures separately you’re ready to fill the molds (I like to use a spoon). Starting with the fruit mixture fill each mold ⅓ of the way full then add your yogurt mixture until it’s all gone. Top with the remaining fruit mixture.

Now take a popsicle stick and gently blend the fruit and yogurt together. This will create nice a swirled effect. Afterwards, place the top of the mold on and insert your popsicle sticks so there is about 1 ½ inches sticking out. Place on a level freezer shelf and freeze for at least 4 hrs. 

Once frozen, just dip or spray the bottom part of the mold in hot water for 15-20 seconds and firmly pull the pop from the mold.

Viola! Perfectly made pops - enjoy!  

- Jessica

Failure can be Part of Success

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.
— Robert F. Kennedy

How we deal with failure plays a huge part in whether or not we are successful in achieving our goals.  Have you ever tried to change something about your everyday life?  Maybe you’ve tried to add a workout into your schedule, or maybe you’ve resolved to start making better food choices.  How successful were you?  If you were successful, how long were you able to maintain that change?  If you are like the majority of people out there, you were able to make the change for a short time.  Then something happened.  Maybe you had a rough day at work, maybe you had an unexpected conflict.  You might have had a child get sick, or maybe you caught a cold.

Life is very unsympathetic when it comes to making big life changes.  Don’t let the inevitable obstacles of life derail what you are working towards.  Definitely don’t beat yourself up over a missed workout, or a cheat that might have happened on your meal plan.  Whatever the obstacle take the following steps:

1.  Distance yourself from the moment.

2.  Realize that you aren’t a slave to your emotions or impulses.  They may be a part of you, but they aren’t YOU.

3.  Focus on the long term goal you are trying to achieve, and imagine how it will feel when you get there.

4.  If you end up taking a step back instead of forward, move on and focus on how you can do a better job tomorrow.

Significant improvement is the product of small steps taken every day.  Every successful person in the world, has had to endure some sort of failure.  Even the worst failure can be seen as a positive if you learn from it, and become better because of it.

Recipe of the Day | Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili

There’s nothing better than curling up with a hot bowl of homemade chili on a cold rainy day. Traditionally made with hight fat (60/40) beef it isn't exactly the healthiest option. So here’s a recipe packed full with flavor, nutrients and a fraction of the fat that you can feel good about next time you want something warming on a cold day.

This is by far one of my favorite recipes discovered on Pinterest (via http://www.milkfreemom.com).  I like to add whole cumin seeds to the oil once it’s heated but before I add the onions and garlic - the seeds become extremely aromatic and add depth and almost a meat-like flavor found in traditional beef chili, more so than just adding the ground cumin. You won’t even miss the meat - trust me! Then I top it off with freshly made pico de gallo, avocado, sharp cheddar cheese (optional) and either low-fat sour cream or non-fat greek yogurt (which tastes surprisingly similar with more protein and less calories). I also like to serve this with Trader Joe’s cornbread - substituting the oil for water (yes, it works just fine - promise!). 

Vegan Quinoa & Sweet Potato Chili - makes 6 hearty bowls of chili

one 29 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
one 6 oz can tomato paste
32 oz vegetable stock
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks (I usually use two!)
1 cup dry quinoa
salt and pepper to taste
avocado, cilantro for garnish  (optional)

Heat the oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium low heat. Add onions, and cook until soft and they start to turn brown (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic, and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and oregano and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the beans, stock, and potatoes, and season with salt and pepper . Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the quinoa. Continue cooking for about 15 minutes – 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until quinoa and potatoes are cooked and the chili has thickened. Add a bit of water if the chili becomes too thick for your liking. Top with avocado and chopped cilantro. Scrumptious!

Click HERE for the original link and nutrition information.

 

Why Learning is so Important

Ok, so I guess I wanted to post a picture of our kitten, but I also wanted to point out something that I’ve been noticing as he’s acclimated to our home.  Outside of the obvious cuteness factor, I’ve also seen how his behavior contrasts with our other cats.  We’ve had our two other cats for a few years, and they pretty much had their routine down until this little guy showed up.  While the initial couple of weeks were a little tenuous, it seems like our new addition has taken them out of their comfort zone, and changed their lives for the better.  Our more active cat now has a playmate to rough house with and our other cat has a buddy to enjoy his cat toys with. I also get to see this cat learn new things and be utterly fascinated with different types of stimuli no matter how mundane they might seem to me.  

At some point in our lives we start to settle in to a routine and if we’re not careful we stop actively learning new things. We avoid the situations where we might be uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean that you should cut back on the important priorities in your life, (definitely take care of your family and kids), but make sure to take time and challenge yourself regularly.  

For many years it was thought that after a certain age, our brains were pretty much finished changing.  Recent research has shown that our brains are capable of change throughout our lives.  This is referred to as neuroplasticity.  Learning and repetition causes the neurons to build stronger connections with one another.  After enough repetition these connections become more efficient at conducting signals.  Through learning, or a thought, we are able to physically change our brain.  The idea that you can’t change who you are is simply not true.  

Imagine if you could keep all of the ideal parts of yourself, and improve on the parts of your self that you felt you were lacking? Well, you can. You don’t have to imagine it.

Our kitten Marley seems to be learning something new every day and enjoying every second of it. We can be the same way if we continue to find new things that allow us to grow. Recapture that excitement, strive to learn more about yourself, find a subject or activity that interests you or take up that hobby that you always wanted to try. Don’t give up on learning and improving on yourself - you won’t regret it!