Wake Up, Water!

I was excited to try this flavored water the other morning before my workout. Avitae is a 0 calorie, naturally caffeinated water; perfect for those mornings when you need a little boost- without cream, sugar, chemicals, or calories! img_4460

Avitae: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! This is a great alternative to a morning cup of coffee or a pre-workout energy drink laden with sugar. I like Avitae because it is simple and the flavored varieties are subtle, but have just enough flavor to tickle your tastebuds. Plus the amount of caffeine is comparable to one cup of coffee. I finished my bottle of strawberry-guava during my workout and made it through a busy day at work without an afternoon slump. Have you tried Avitae? What is your favorite energizing beverage?

Back on Track with Butternut Squash

I had a very fun end to 2016 – a trip to New Orleans (despite a dislocated shoulder), cruise to the Bahamas, and holiday celebrations with friends and family. All of this fun (and physical therapy) however, meant that I lost sight of my healthy eating and exercise habits. Like most of us,  I decided that the New Year would bring about a reset to my habits and it just so happens that this reset is in the form of the Whole30. (Look out for a Whole30 recap in about…you guessed it – 30 days)

I did my research and planned to prepare a few recipes in advance for the week (definitely the way to go if you decide to do this plan). I perused the Whole30 book and found this recipe:

Butternut Squash Soup

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 3 cups butternut squash (I used packages of cubed squash)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Melt the coconut oil in a large pot, when the oil is hot, add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the squash, garlic, and ginger and stir for another minute. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Boil the squash until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and blend the soup with an immersion blender (or transfer the soup in batches to a traditional blender) until smooth. Return the pureed soup to the pot and heat over medium-high heat until it thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. img_4353-1

Butternut Squash Soup: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! I was excited to try out my new blender with this soup and I was very happy with the results. The recipe listed above serves 2, so I doubled everything to increase the number of servings (and even had extra to freeze). The soup was deliciously creamy and flavorful, but not too rich. I would suggest substituting coconut milk for some of the chicken broth if you like a richer, thicker consistency. To make this soup a complete meal, I added diced cooked chicken and on a separate occasion added chicken apple sausage (my favorite combo). I even ate a bowl of this soup for breakfast one morning with my eggs! I’m excited to use my immersion blender for some other recipes – what are some of your favorites?

Roasted Black Radishes

Have you ever tried a black radish? I didn’t know black radishes existed until the other day when I spotted them in the produce section. I’m used to brightly colored red radishes and was surprised to see these dark, dirty looking vegetables among the other colorful selections. With a little help from Google, I learned that black radishes can be roasted in the oven and decided to give them a try with that night’s dinner.


Roasted Black Radishes with Snap Peas:

  • 4 black radishes
  • 1 lb snap peas
  • 1/4 c green onions, sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Wash the radishes, ( I wanted to scrub off that black-ness so badly, to no avail) and chop them into large pieces. I halved the radishes, halved them again and then once more to get bite-sized pieces. Trim the snap peas, toss them with the radishes in a bowl, and drizzle the vegetables with olive oil. Spread the vegetables onto a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Top the vegetables with the sliced green onions and serve.

Black Radishes: Tara Tested, Tara and family approved! When I first bit into the roasted radish, I couldn’t quite put my finger on the flavor. After another bite or two, my parents and I determined that they tasted a little like brussels sprouts – a favorite of ours! Radishes are a great source of vitamin C and are also high in potassium, iron, and magnesium. Try adding these radishes to your next dish – they can be served raw in a salad, roasted, sautéed, or prepared like turnips.


Sunday Night Salmon…featuring Roasted Black Radishes and Snap Peas with Quinoa

Brain Food Potluck – Blueberry Avocado Muffins

We recently had a “Brain Food” themed potluck at my office – I love potlucks! Everyone was encouraged to bring in a food or dish that featured an ingredient shown to improve memory or cognitive function. I knew that I wanted to use blueberries – a fruit packed with antioxidants that has been shown in some animal studies to protect the brain from oxidative damage. Blueberries may also help reduce the effects of age-related cognitive conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.

I browsed Pinterest for fun recipes and stumbled upon a recipe for Blueberry Avocado Muffins – jackpot! The healthy monounsaturated fats in avocados contribute to healthy blood flow and low blood pressure, both of which are important to brain health and cognitive function. I couldn’t wait to give this recipe a try, I had never used avocado in baking before and was eager to see how they would turn out.

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Blueberry Avocado Muffins

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional – I thought it added a nice touch!)
  • 1 ripe avocado, seeded and peeled
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

For the streusel topping:

  • 2 tbsp melted butter, slightly cooled
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners (this recipe made about 14 muffins). In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mash the avocado with a fork (or use a mixer to beat) until smooth. Add the sugar and stir until well blended. Add the egg and continue to mix until thoroughly combined, then add the yogurt and stir until just combined. Add half of the dry ingredients into the batter, mix together and then add the second half. The batter seemed pretty thick so I added a few tablespoons of water to thin it out a bit. Gently fold the blueberries into the batter using a spoon. To make the streusel topping, whisk all of the ingredients together until crumbly. Use a large spoon to portion the batter into the muffin cups and sprinkle with the streusel topping. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean! Cool for 5 minutes before removing.

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Blueberry Avocado Muffins: Tara Tested, Tara, Roommate, Colleagues  and Parents approved! I was worried these muffins would look super green or taste funny because of the avocado, but you couldn’t hardly tell that it was a main ingredient. Everyone at worked loved the muffins and learning about the brain benefits of blueberries and avocado. Who knew the two would go together so well in recipe?! I was able to snag a muffin each for my parents to try – my mother was skeptical and exclaimed “Eww” when I first told her what recipe I was going to try. I couldn’t wait to show her, and without a doubt she loved them! The muffins were very moist and hearty – not super cake-like, and the streusel topping definitely added an extra sweet touch. If you are looking for a healthier muffin recipe with some brain boosting benefits definitely give this recipe a try! Perfect for a Mother’s Day brunch!

Sunday Morning Boot Camp

One of the perks of waking up early on a Sunday morning is making it to the early fitness classes at LA Fitness. This morning I gave the 8:30 am Boot Camp class a shot! I arrived a few minutes early to set up my area – I followed what everyone else was doing and grabbed a yoga mat, an aerobic step bench, and two sets of dumbbells. The class was pretty full with a great mix of people, older couples, younger adults, men and women alike. I didn’t know what to expect. When I hear “Boot Camp” I think of push-ups, jumping jacks, and sit-ups until you pass out – not with this class. This class worked your entire body, utilizing the step with almost each move and incorporating moves for your arms and shoulders as well. A happy medium between boot camp and aerobics! Our instructor John was great, demonstrating the moves, yelling to keep going, and walking around the class making sure no one quit. He also had a solid playlist which is crucial. The squats we did towards the end of the session really pushed me to the limit; I felt the burn for sure! After about an hour of non-stop working and dripping with sweat, we stretched and cooled down. I feel great now and would definitely go back to that class again – we’ll just have to wait and see if I am able to lift my arms over my head come tomorrow morning 😉
Sunday Morning Boot Camp: Tara Tested, Tara Approved!
This class gets a 10 out of 10! It is a great way to start the day, especially at the end of the weekend when you may be feeling guilty about Friday and Saturday night indulgences. Just an hour out of your morning and you have the rest of the day to feel great knowing you kicked butt (yes, kicking your own butt). I want to try every group fitness class while I have a membership to LA Fitness, so stay tuned for more workout reviews!