aruba, jamaica, ohhh I wanna take your smoothie to bermuda

I’ve been on a huge smoothie kick lately! Probably because we’ve been getting a snap shot of what is to come this summer….think 80-90 degree days with a decent amount of humidity. Mmm mmmmmmm, nothin’ like a Michigan summer! Stack that up against doing workouts and long-runs, and a girl’s bound to crave something frosty and cool.

I don’t really have a set recipe for making smoothie-deliciousness. Basically, I  just take an inventory of what is in the fridge and go from there. However, I aim to have these goals in mind:

Components for Smoothie Success

1. Fruit (fresh or frozen)

2. Protein (yogurt! milk! milk alternatives!)

3. Calcium (from the yogurt and milk)

This guy had fresh strawberries, pineapple, non-fat plain yogurt, and a few drizzles of honey. Another smoothie that I made the other day, and fell deep in love with, consisted of an orange, some more pineapple, a strawberry yogurt, and ice. Woweeeeeeee, I felt like I was on vacation with that tropical drink melting in my hand. All I needed was an umbrella in my drink.

Smoothies also make an excellent post-workout snack since they are like a mini-meal in a glass with a great source of carbohydrates and protein! After strenuous exercise, it is important to consume carbohydrates as soon as possible to jump-start an important process called muscle glycogen synthesis. There is a 15 minute window after exercise where our hungry muscles are able to quickly take up carbohydrates, breaking them down into smaller parts so it can be stored in our bods to use as energy for future workouts. Waiting to consume carbohydrates several hours after your workout makes this process up to 50% less efficient, resulting in tired, unfed muscles. Not good, especially if you do this day after day, which means you are also compromising the quality of your workouts!

And one more tip with smoothie making: I like to try to use frozen fruit instead of ice so my smoothie doesn’t get watered down as it melts a little. Sooooo delicious!!

my love: on feeling strong

I just have a few words to say to y’all:
I love weight-lifting.
Like a lot. Not that I’ve just started weight-lifting, mind you, its beginning goes back to the good ol’ high school days. The days when I didn’t want to lift more than 30 lbs x 3 sets per weight machine for fear that I would begin to look like a man. Which is totally impossible, by the way. That’s what steroids are for, which are no where near my bod. I don’t know what high-school-me was thinking.
Anyway, since my transition back into suburbia, I was unable to run during the daylight hours since I was at my rotations during the few hours of sunlight that we get in the oh-so-lovely Mitten winters. Leaving me with a few solutions:

 1. Running in the dark alone after work. (not happening. I is a scaredy cat.)
2. Running in the dark with my man after work. (sometimes happened, but I couldn’t see him everyday, so what’s a gal to do?)
3. Becoming a gym rat.
I chose option 3 and tried out a slew of gyms before settling on Planet Fitness. And that’s when I began to fall in love with weight-lifting those fateful, bleak December days.
Weight-lifting is awesome – especially when you’ve been at it for a few months – because you can see such measurable changes in how much more you can lift, the tone of your abs, your legs, your arms, your boo-tay, THE IMPROVEMENT IN YOUR RUNNING!!! (most important measurable change, in my opinion), the list could go on and on. Way empowering, my friends, for real. Do be warned, however, that if you take up weight-lifting, you may gain a pound or two or three or a few more. But do not fret, for these are muscle-pounds! Pounds that make you feel strong and go RAWR!
I love feeling strong, and I encourage you to feel and be strong, too.

Also, apparently pure barre is all the rage these days. And apparently there is a studio in Ann Arbor. I’m contemplating on trying out a class for kicks because it sounds like a pretty intense cross-training workout. However, as I watch the testimonial video, I hear words like “pilates” and “yoga”…two things that I cannot tolerate…or perhaps I never gave them a fighting chance. Regardless, I think I will give pure barre a try because it sounds pretty swell. If anyone out there has any pure barre testimonials of their own, I’d love to hear ’em!

Photo creds: Rocky

it’s the most wonderful time of the year

No, it’s not Christmas yet, but….FARMERS MARKET SEASON! Well, soon, at least. The time where beautiful produce and homemade treats strut their stuff and beg to be bought and devoured. Farmers markets are a fun and nutritious way to include foods that are locally grown or prepared into your life! Most of them take place on the weekend, but some also are open during the week, as well. So get out in the sunshine, grab the fam or a friend, and take a trip out to one of these markets. Or make a point to hit up all of ’em during the summer. Better yet, bike or walk there if you live in the vicinity. And don’t forget your reusable grocery bag!

Most cities in Michigan seem to have their own local farmers market these days, but here is a crash course of some to check out in the area:

Washtenaw County
Westside Farmers Market – Ann Arbor
This is an all-volunteer run farmers market that opened its doors in 2005. Located in front of Zingerman’s Roadhouse, this market has about 30 stalls of delicious produce to try. Vendors here tend to have free samples, too! Make sure to stop by Inchworm Microgreens to try some sunflower sprouts, Dick and Diana Dyer’s (two favorite people of us UM-SPHers 🙂 garlic booth, and Food Gatherers’ Super Carrots! (pictured to the right). Open June 7-September 27.

Kerrytown Farmers Market – Ann Arbor
This market is extremely popular with University of Michigan students and faculty due to its convenient vicinity right smack in the heart of Kerrytown. You’ll get a good Ann Arbor vibe from this market as well as some delicious local offerings from farms in the area. Open year ’round, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Check their blog for hours since they change throughout the year. While you’re there, be sure to take a peek into Sparrow Market and maybe even have lunch or a sweet treat at Zingerman’s Deli – but expect a line, especially during football season!

Ypsilanti Farmers Market – Ypsilanti
In the words of one of my former classmates, the Ypsilanti Famers Market is “the best farmers market in the world.” It’s a great snap shot of public health in action since it stemmed from a community needs assessment revealing that Ypsilanti needed increased access to local foods. Since 2006, the Ypsilanti farmers market keeps getting bigger and better. Open from May-October, its vendor’s stalls opened this past Tuesday.

Oakland County
Home Town Harvest Farmers Market – Royal Oak
Open Thursdays 8am-2pm at Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital. Ideal for your lunch break if you’re in the area! Check out the Market Memos on their website for a low-down on what’s fresh each week.

Auburn Hills Farmers Market – Auburn Hills
Opening June 7, this is a small farmers market to hit up after work since it’s open from 3-7:30pm. Enjoy cute lil downtown Auburn Hills as your peruse the vendors that are selling soap to jewelry to produce!

Wayne County
Eastern Market – Detroit
I like to call this one the Mother of All Farmers Markets simply because it: 1. Draws in the most people each Saturday – over 40,000 market goers each week!      2. Has about 250 vendors     3. Is an awesome Detroit tradition. This market has been up n’ running since 1891. The Eastern Market is open year ’round on Saturdays from 5am-5pm. And you can get some wicked-good steals if you’re there in the last half hour when vendors are trying to get rid of their goods before closing time.

Wyandotte Farmers Market – Wyandotte
Opens June 14 and will be providing local foods to the Downriver area until October 18! This market also offers many entertainment perks, such as kids activities, live music, cooking demos, and even a bakeoff on Farmers Fair, the last market day of the year!

Do you have any favorite farmers markets you like to frequent?
I’d love to hear about them!
Happy farmers marketing!

if all the raindrops were hot chocolate, oh what a rain that would be

It’s been raining for most of the day in the Mitten today. I actually love rain during the day (though sometimes it can get to be a little much), and the perfect rain seems to be the one that comes on those Saturday mornings, the ones where you magically don’t need to do any work that day and can justify laying in bed for an extra hour or two.

Yeah, yeah, keep dreamin’, I know.

Rainy day about a month ago à la my backyard.
So what is one of the perfect companions to any rainy day? Rainy hot chocolate, of course! Standing outside with my mouth open wide….ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah! 
Erm…..anyone else out there familiar with this song?
Anyway, this hot chocolate tastes creamy and is absolutely delicious. Today when I made it, we had this guy in the cupboard:

Mr. Hershey’s Special Dark! So I decided to whip up a mug – dark chocolate style – and man, was it GOOD. Not to mention full o’ antioxidants and flavonoids. There is research floating around, however, that consuming dark chocolate with milk reduces your body’s ability to absorb the antioxidants. Also, Dutch processed cocoa usually is lower in antioxidant content than naturally processed cocoa. And the jury is still out whether or not dark chocolate successfully reduces blood pressure. Many studies out there are either inconclusive or have determined that you would need to eat a lot of dark chocolate to experience those health benefits.Regardless, dark chocolate is known to promote feelings of satiety since it’s so rich and oh-so-satisfying, so why not include it in your balanced diet today? And as always, it’s important to watch your portion size since it’s easy for the fat content of chocolate bars to add up!
Honestly, when I make this hot chocolate, I always eyeball the proportions and make it “to taste”. Feel free to play with it and make it your own!

 Creamy Hot Chocolate
2-3 tsp. Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
  1-2 tsp. sugar
3-4 tsp. hot water
12 oz. almond or soy milk (this is what makes it creamy and delicious!)

In a small bowl, mix together cocoa and sugar. Add hot water and mix to make into a chocolate-y paste. Heat in microwave for about 10-20 seconds. Pour chocolate-y mixture into microwave-safe mug of milk. Mix vigorously to combine, and heat mug of chocolate-y goodness in microwave, about 2-3 minutes. Devour.

A splash of vanilla or peppermint extract would also make this hot chocolate amazing. Or a dollop of whipped cream!
Nutrition Information
I usually don’t like to focus on calories, but wanted to include this to prove that this hot chocolate is better than the rest 😉
Made with Silk original almond milk, 2 tsp. sugar, and 3 tsp. dark cocoa powder:
Calories –  140 kcal
Fat – About 4g
Protein – 2.5g (Use soy milk or skim milk for a protein boost!)
Sugar – About 19g (If sugar is a concern for you, try preparing with unsweetened almond or soy milk)
Fiber – 3.5g
Iron – 16%
Calcium – About 65% DV