Sunday, October 31, 2010

E: Becoming a Group Fitness Instructor & Pumpkin Seeds

Hello and HAPPY HALLOWEEN! And a very special Happy Birthday to my awesome Daddy! We are going out to celebrate this morning at brunch- can’t wait.

Since I started this blog, one of the questions I get most often is:  How can I get certified to teach group fitness classes? I wanted to share my experiences/what worked for me.

Christmas 2009 009

(sweaty mess during a Body Attack Launch)

Why did I want to become an instructor? I have been taking group fitness classes for a very long time! My Mom has always been big into group fitness and encouraged my sister and I to be active. When we lived near San Francisco, our gym offered group fitness kids classes and my sister and I would go every now and again. I still remember doing our first “number” to Cold Hearted Snake. Anyways, these first experiences taught me to love group fitness and I have been addicted ever since.

P1080332 (Body Step launch)

How did I start out? When I lived in MD, the head group fitness instructor at my gym asked if I would be interested in training to become an instructor and, of course, I jumped at the opportunity. I started with Turbo Kick & hip hop and then moved onto the Les Mills programs. I am now certified in and teach Body Step, Attack and Pump.

(group shot from another Body Step launch)

How do you get certified? Certification requirements depend on upon the gym you're teaching at. I would recommend that you talk to whoever the group fitness manager is at your gym and find out what their requirements are. Most gyms require you to be CPR certified. Some also require first aid training. If you're teaching free style classes, they usually require you to have general group fitness certification which you gain through either an online/study at home or in class program. You can check out ACE, AFAA, and AFPA for more information (there are tons of other associations that offer this type of certification as well, but these three are more well known).

(Body Pump)

Les Mills classes require you go through a full weekend certification for EACH of their programs. When you are done with the weekend, you receive one of three grades (pass, pass withheld, or re-sit). Given you get a pass or pass withheld, you will go back to your gym and team teach with other already certified instructors for a given period of time. Then you have to submit a video of you teaching a full class and then you get another score (which either requires you to continue to team teach, resubmit your video, or allows you to teach fully on your own). My gym does not require general group fitness certification if you teach Les Mills because their requirements are so high.


(Red, White & Blue Body Attack launch)

Teaching is SO much fun! But it is A LOT of work (especially when you're first starting out). If you're interested in trying it out, I think you should definitely give it a go! Again, this is just general information that worked for me. Let me know what questions you have!

As a side note- how has your weekend been? Ours has been pretty good. Josh is a little sick, so we’ve mostly been hanging around the house. Luckily, this has allowed me to get a lot of cooking/baking & cleaning/errands in. We finally carved our pumpkins (they are pretty sad looking- Josh and I are not artistic ;)). The best part of pumpkin carving is cooking up the seeds. I rinsed & dried mine, covered them in a little olive oil, chili powder and a pinch of salt and baked them at 250 degrees for one hour:

pumseeds 002 
Party time tonight! Details to come :).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

M: My Best Friend's Wedding and Tomato-Balsamic Chicken Meatballs!

Can we please talk about how excited I am about Conan O'Brien coming back to TV in November? Ok, I had to get that out.

So, I have this friend...she's my best friend really...we've been best friends for about 14 years now. No, seriously...that's like unheard of, right? Pretty rare (especially for women!) to find even just one friend in your life that you can call a true best friend - like bail you out of jail (not that that has EVER happened!), drive across country if you're in trouble, do anything for you, know you better than anyone best friend. I am so lucky to have one of those! My incredible husband, Mom, two sisters, and brother are of course among those special people - I do have one exceptional family of wonderful people.

I think I have found some genuinely fantastic women in my lifetime to have as friends who are also really good people, strong, and just all-around know one of them well, I think =)

So, this best friend of mine, Jen from Savannah, has just gotten engaged to a wonderful guy and I will be Matron of Honor along with her sister. I will also be heading to Savannah today to help her with some of those good ol' wedding plans =) I am super excited! I tell you this because you may be hearing a little bit about miss Jen in future posts...I mean, how exciting is planning a wedding, right?! Just for kicks, here is me and Jen right before my wedding =)


Ok, so I've gotten my whole I have great friends and family thing out of the way...Now onto the FOOD! So, I am actually mildly allergic to beef...I know right?...How weird is that? Well, it requires me to get a little more creative with dinners since beef is out of the question. When I came across this yummy looking recipe for Tomato Balsamic Glazed Chicken Meatballs from Sydney at the Crepes of Wrath, I knew I must try them! If you have not visited her blog, please do! Her recipes are truly fantastic!

This was actually the second time I've made these, and both times they have turned out wonderfully. They have such a good taste - lots of flavor from the parsley and parmesan cheese and can we please talk about how AMAZING this tomato balsamic glaze is?! SO good. I ended up doubling the glaze recipe this second time around. I served the meatballs with some thin spaghetti tossed with some EVOO and a little parm sprinkled on top. But I can imagine this would also make a great appetizer as well!

Alright, let's do this.


Whisk together the egg, parsley, tomato paste, garlic, milk, salt, and pepper until the tomato paste is completely dissolved. Add in the chicken, parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs and mix well. With this step, it's always best to just get your hands in there! Roll into medium sized balls - about 2 1/2 TB big - and place onto greased baking sheet.


Make your glaze by mixing together the tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and sugar. Brush on top of the meatballs or spoon on top. Then bake for about 30-35 minutes.


Then serve with noodles, or as an appetizer, or on top of a salad, or however you would like (sorry, that was a lot of or's)!


Tomato-Balsamic Glazed Chicken Meatballs

from the Crepes of Wrath

for the meatballs:

1 egg

2 tablespoons dried parsley

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 pound ground chicken

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Italian seasoned bread crumbs

for tomato-balsamic glaze:

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3/4 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, parsley, tomato paste, garlic, milk, salt, and pepper. Be sure the tomato paste is completely dissolved.

2. Add in the ground chicken, cheese, and breadcrumbs. I used my own clean hands to mix it up! Form medium size balls (approx. 2-3 TB big) and place onto a lined and/or greased baking sheet.

4. Make the glaze by whisking all of the ingredients together in a small bowl, then brush or spoon over meatballs. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball registers 160 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can just test one of the meatballs with a fork. Remove from oven and serve immediately with whatever accompaniment suits your fancy! I served with noodles tossed with olive oil and parmesan cheese. Makes about 15 meatballs.


Friday, October 29, 2010

E: Oatmeal Coconut Sunflower Seed Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Whoop, whoop for Friday! I have exciting plans this weekend including: a blogger brunch, hanging out with my Dad for his birthday & a special party on Halloween with Ms. Mandi! What about you?

The rest of my week has been really pleasant. Josh and I ended up going out for an impromptu date on Wednesday night to Rio Grande. It was a beautiful 80 degrees out, so we decided to eat outside. I got the vegetarian fajitas without tortillas. I ate  them with a green salad, tortilla chips & guacamole. Delicious:

date 001 

Josh (why yes, his shirt does say “Frank the Tank”) & I:

date 004

I love to bring the special people in my life treats when I see them. I have a hair appointment today and always bring my stylist a little something. This time, I used a recipe from the Whole Foods Market website for Oatmeal Coconut Sunflower Seed cookies as my inspiration. I made quite a few adjustments to their oatmeal base (to make it more like my big oatmeal chocolate chip cookies) and I added chocolate chunks. They’re pretty easy to veganize (earth balance, soy or almond milk, and egg substitute (1 tablespoon flax mixed with 3 tablespoons water)). 

 cocosun 001


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup grated unsweetened coconut (or sweetened if that is what you have on hand)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips or chunks


  1. Heat oven to 375°F.
  2. In large bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well.
  3. Stir in coconut and sunflower seeds.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine oats, flours and baking soda & powder, then add to butter mixture, stirring until thoroughly combined.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips
  6. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  7. Bake until lightly browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, then set aside to let cool. Store tightly covered.

 cocosun 004

cocosun 002 

Enjoy your weekend!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

E: Vegan (or not) Peanut Butter Chili

Wednesday! Halfway through the work/school week. This week has been flying by (in a good way) for me. Yesterday, I walked the bridge in Charleston with my friend Jill. I wanted to share just a couple pictures from the walk.

  bridge 003

 bridge 004

For more gorgeous shots of the Charleston area, check out Mandi’s post (and drool over her cookies) or Christina’s post. I just love Charleston!

I’ve seen intriguing recipes for almond butter/peanut butter chili on both HEAB and the Broccoli Hut. I was very curious and wanted to make some of my own. I made a vegetarian/vegan version and then added shredded chicken to Josh’s dish. I relied heavily on Caroline’s recipe.

Vegan (or not) Peanut Butter Chili


  • ~1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Spicy V8 Juice (can use tomato sauce or salsa here as well), amount depends on desired thickness (disclaimer: I received this product for free to taste test)

bridge 001

  • 1 cup canned beans (your choice, I used pinto)
  • 1 cup frozen corn, defrosted (or fresh)
  • 1 cup chopped frozen yellow squash, defrosted (or fresh)
  • 1 t chili powder
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 2 T natural peanut butter


1. Over medium heat, cook onions in olive oil until tender.

2. Add tomato juice (or salsa), beans, corn, squash, and spices. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for ~10-60 minutes (in my opinion, longer is better- brings out the flavor-but whatever you have time for).

3. Add peanut butter, place a lid on the saucepan, and allow peanut flavor to infuse throughout the chili (5 minutes).

4. Remove lid, and stir thoroughly. Serve and enjoy!

The results:

Veg version:

 chili 002 

And with chicken:

chili 005 

The peanut butter added a really interesting flavor to the chili. And the V8 added some nice kick. Next time, I want to try adding some peas or other green for color.

Plans for Halloween? Mandi & I are having a special party!

Have you heard about Krista’s Thanks & Giving Food Drive? I am participating and you should too!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

M: Weekend and Fall Cookie Love!

Allow me to rave about my weekend just a little before getting to these scrumptious pumpkin chocolate chip cookies! First, as you all have read, Tosh was friggin hilarious and worth our little road trip to see him! But, my Saturday was also so much fun. I volunteered with my rescue Daisy's Place at Daniel Island Park Day for a bit in the morning, which ended up being one of the most beautiful days we've had here in Charleston! A pic of my ridiculously awesome friend Kelly and me (with our mascot):


The turnout was great and we may have even gotten a couple of adoptions out of the event! We are so excited =) Here is a picture of our little Rosey, who still needs her forever home!


And, this was our view as Bryan and I had a picnic style lunch outside at the park (have I mentioned how much I love living in Charleston?!):


After the event, Bryan and I took the rest of the day and walked around downtown and stopped at my favorite shops (of course they are both kitchen shops) Williams-Sonoma and Charleston Cooks. We also got some froyo along the way and a couple of coffees and just strolled along the beautiful streets of downtown Charleston:


We ended our day with a pre-dinner cocktail at one of the MANY restaurants of Charleston and then picked up Jimmy John' heard it right...nothing fancy...nothing crazy...nothing that says "Hey we ate dinner in downtown Charleston"...nope...subs from Jimmy John's. And dinner outside in our screened in porch it was!

OK, onto these crazy good pumpkin butterscotch chip cookies that I found from Joy the Baker's blog. I've seen pumpkin cookie recipes everywhere lately so I'm sure there are others that are also fantastic, but this recipe looked so good and super easy so I gave it a go. These cookies turn out incredibly moist and cake-like. They are perfect for a dessert or even in the morning with a cup of coffee!

Stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, at medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add in oil, vanilla, and pumpkin at low speed until well blended. Mix in the flour mixture and then mix in chips of your choice (I used chocolate):


Scoop mounds of dough by the 1/4 cup onto a baking sheet, spacing 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake about 16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
(from Joy the Baker's Pumpkin Butterscotch Cookies)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup canola or corn oil

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup preferred chips (I used chocolate)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven . Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and butter the paper (I just sprayed the baking sheets with my baking spray with flour as I didn't have any parchment paper on hand).

Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix the oil, pumpkin, and vanilla until blended. Mix in the flour mixture to incorporate it. Mix in the chips.

Using an ice cream scoop with a 1/4-cup capacity, scoop mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 1/2-inches apart. You could also simply use a 1/4-cup measuring cup if you don’t have a scoop. Use a thin metal spatula to smooth and flatten the rounds.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, about 16 minutes. Cool them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust the cooled cookies lightly with powdered sugar, if desired. The cookies can be stored in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Enjoy! And just cuz, here's a little more puppy love for ya (these are my crazy babies Ziggy and Marley) =)


Monday, October 25, 2010

E: Tosh & Pumpkin Biscotti

I hope your week is off to a good start. Lots to cover, so I am going to let the pictures do most of the talking.

Sunday, Bryan, Mandi, Josh & I headed up to Columbia, SC for the Tosh Tour 2010. The boys chose the Flying Saucer for dinner pre- show due to the large amount of beers on tap:


Me & Mandi:


The tap wall (which was 4x’s as long as shown- the backing is a wall of pennies):


and some of the many personalized saucers on the wall of the restaurant:


Although the atmosphere was very cool and the beer selection was impressive….the restaurant was not good. The staff (minus the bartender who was AMAZING) were incredibly rude. We sat down at a table to have a waitress come over to us and tell us they were too busy basically to serve us. She suggested we go to the bar…

I got a goat cheese, walnut & craisin topped salad:


Mandi ordered a chicken salad wrap. They ran out of wraps and Mandi ended up with a chicken Caesar salad.


Flying Saucer on Urbanspoon

Onto the show! Adorable Mandi & Bryan:


Josh & I (whats up with my hair?;))


Tosh…I can’t say enough. He was HILARIOUS. The show was worth every dime. If you get an opportunity to see him- DO IT!




A friend of mine’s husband is having surgery soon. To try and help cheer them up, I decided to put together a little coffee and biscotti gift for them. I used this pumpkin biscotti recipe and just decreased (slightly) the amount of sugar and added raw pumpkin seeds into the mix. Pre-oven:

  biscot 002 Post first bake:

biscot 003

Post second bake:

 biscot 005

 biscot 007

biscot 006

and last, but not least. The winner of the Fresh Express coupons & Itzy’s Kitchen baked goods is…


Heather- send me an email with your address and we will discuss which baked good you would like.

Enjoy your week!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

E & M: Nature’s Pride Review & Oatmeal Apple Butter Toffee Chip Cookies

E: Hope you guys are enjoying your weekend. Mine has been wonderful so far! I had a date night with Josh, taught body step, went to brunch with Lindsay at Charleston’s Cafe:

linds 002

and had a great time at the party we attended Saturday night.

Nature’s Pride & Food Buzz recently sent Mandi and I two of their new breads to review, Oven Classics Oatmeal and 100% Whole Wheat (disclaimer: we received the bread for FREE, but the opinions are our own). I sampled the Oatmeal:


(source: Nature’s Pride Website)

and Mandi took on the 100% Whole Wheat:


(source: Nature’s Pride Website)

Friday night, I used the bread to make “fancy” grilled cheese for Josh and I. I toasted the bread up under the broiler and topped his with hummus, artichokes, spinach and sharp provolone cheese:

    bread 006

 bread 007

My open faced sandwich consisted of tomatoes, avocado & sharp provolone (the cheese melted and made the sandwich look a little weird, but I promise it was awesome): bread 008

We also had fruit and V8 butternut squash soup on the side.

bread 010

A delicious and easy Friday night meal. Now, maybe I’ve been eating too many Arnold’s thins, but this bread was awesome. Thick and flavorful. It tasted super fresh and even Josh commented on how awesome it was (he asked for a second sandwich when he was done with the first).

 bread 004


M: Seriously, the minute I opened the bag, the first thing I noticed was the smell of sweet nutty bread! The second you pick up a slice, you can see this bread is super soft and smooth. So, let's say it's a Friday night and you have nothing planned for dinner and it's already quickly approaching dinner time. You don't want something too heavy or greasy. What do you do? You take some of this incredible, all natural bread and make some good ol' BLT's!

I usually always have some bacon, tomatoes, and lettuce laying around. So, I quickly cooked up slices of bacon, thickly sliced some yellow and red tomato, and tore off some LARGE leaves of butter lettuce. I thought I wanted to throw in a little something extra, so instead of the normal mayo, I whipped up Ina Garten's basil mayo - it was the perfect compliment to the tomatoes and the nutty bread!


The final product - and let me say, these slices are slightly larger than the normal slice of bread, so it held our sandwiches verrrrry nicely!


All in all, we loved this bread. It was smooth and soft, was perfect toasted, slightly nutty, and had such a great taste that I can definitely imagine anyone with kids would easily be able to get them to eat whole wheat very easily with Nature's Pride Whole Wheat =) The added bonus to their whole wheat loaf is that it has 25% less sodium than regular whole wheat bread, 19 grams of whole grains, and 5 grams of protein per SLICE! I will definitely be making Bryan's sandwiches for work this week with the rest of this yummy loaf!

E: A BIG thank you to Nature’s Pride & Food Buzz for letting us give this bread a go! I will definitely be purchasing in the future.

As a side note, I made up three cookie recipes for the party on Saturday night: My own Peanut Butter Flour Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Jessica’s (Not) Red Velvet Cookies, and a fun new Oatmeal Apple Butter Toffee Chip cookie. I have made notes below on how to veganize the cookies. They are really delicious and perfect for fall.

Oatmeal Apple Butter Toffee Chip Cookies



  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or earth balance), softened
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup apple butter

linds 001

  • 1 egg (or 1 tablespoon flax mixed with 3 tablespoons water)
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla


  • 2 cups uncooked oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • 1 cup toffee or cinnamon chips (or vegan chips of your choice or nuts)



Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Use a mixer to blend together wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, hand mix together dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet and use mixer to combine. Hand mix in chips.


Spoon rounded tablespoons full of dough onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Makes ~ 2 dozen big puffy cookies.




And the final plate:

 finished 002

 finished 001

finished 004 

M & I are off to the Tosh Tour! Back tomorrow with a full report.

Don't forget to enter our Fresh Express and Itzy’s Kitchen baked goods giveaway! Just leave a comment in this previous post!