What I learned in Italy: The Food Edition!👩‍🍳

What I learned in Italy: The Food Edition!👩‍🍳

Coming off a 10-day vacation in Italy with a 9.5-hour plane ride, a couple of blog ideas were bound to happen. For starters, the trip we had truly was a trip of a lifetime.

My family and our significant others rented a villa in Tuscany for 8 days.  We took day trips to the local towns, Florence, Luca, and Cinque Terre.  Then we ended the trip with two nights in Rome.

We were toured around by locals, taught how to cook pasta and pizza by a local chef, had multiple wine tastings at local Chianti wineries, and had some really interesting tours in the big cities.  We drank unlimited wine, Aperol Spritz’s, and ate homemade pasta and bread and oil Every. 👏Single.👏 Day👏.

img_4914.jpg

 

The best part was that the wifi and service at the villa totally sucked and I didn’t buy an international phone plan.  Therefore, for 7 nights I had little to no access to the internet, email, texts, and social media.  At first, it was infuriating but by day 2 I started to appreciate the lack of service because it truly forced me to unplug, focus and soak in all my surroundings.  It ended up being my blessing in disguise.

Being completely out of touch with my life back home, while experiencing new places, people and things, really makes you start to think about things more clearly.  It opens your eyes to another way of life and allows you to learn new things.  It’s one of my favorite parts about traveling.  Everything seems to get really clear for me.  Really simple. That happened on this trip.

 

I started to notice several things were different from my own lifestyle and the states back home, and since I am a blogger, I, of course, wanted to talk about it! 😊

There were two major differences I noticed when comparing Italy to the states.  As I am sure you can guess, one was the food because it’s Italy. Then the other was the lifestyle because again… Italy. I wanted to break it up and into two blogs so I can break down what I saw and learned!

 

Since Italy is most known for its food, I thought I would start there.

 

IMG_8407To give you a quick back story on me.  I am a food and health junkie; I love to eat healthy delicious food and I am passionate about living a healthy lifestyle.  At home, I don’t eat any dairy and little to no meat and primarily fish and eggs.  For carbs, I mainly eat sprouted bread, quinoa, and sweet potatoes.  I even try to buy oil sprayers so that I don’t use too much oil.  I try hard to make as many healthy choices as possible in my day to day life.  I’ve watched one too many documentaries and have read too many books on the topic do otherwise.

So when I was heading to the pasta, bread, meat and cheese capital of the world, I was a little nervous about how it would affect my body because I obviously wasn’t going to pass up on any of it while I am there.

Not to mention that the last time I went to Italy with my best friend I gained over 10 pounds and it took months to work off.  Granted we were fresh out of college and totally reckless eating Gelato at 11 am, but it still happened!

Though, I had heard multiple times from a lot of people that the food is different in Italy.  The ingredients are fresher, and they don’t use the chemicals that we do.  I believed all of that to be true, but I still questioned how my body would react.

Would I still get breakouts when I ate the dairy products? 

Would I get bloated and sore after eating the bread and pasta like I did at home?

 Would I get super hungover from 2 glasses of wine?

 

But once I got there and ate and drank ALL of the things… I didn’t.  I didn’t have any reaction at all. I was perfectly fine, the entire time.

 

This was my first lesson.

The food is LEGITIMATELY better in every single way.

When I say we ate pasta, bread, and cheese every single day, I am not kidding.  But it img_8784.jpgwasn’t because we were in Italy, but there really weren’t that many other options.  Salads were available, but nothing fun like we do in the states with craisins, nuts, quinoa, and other veggies.  It was straight up lettuce tomato and maybe some cucumber.

It was the same with the vegetable options, they were very limited. They DID have unlimited options for cheeses, meats, bread, and pasta, so that’s what we ate.  So, as a result of my surroundings, I ate all the things that I almost never eat, every single day, and I was totally fine.  I didn’t have one break out or a hangover and never felt the bloated achy feeling that I get when I eat bread at home.

I want to say it was mind-blowing… but it’s really wasn’t.   I knew exactly where all the cheeses, meats and wines were coming from and how they were being made.  Then the bread would start to go stale after being out for just a couple of hours. You couldn’t even bite into day-old bread.  Compared to the states, where I have no idea how they make the cheese, preserve it or where it comes from, and then the bread lasts for weeks without going bad…sketch.

One morning we went on an olive oil tasting and the woman who gave us the tasting said that she stopped buying chicken from the store because she didn’t know where it was coming from or how the chickens were being treated. It mattered to her to know what she was eating was coming from.  I think that is a major difference. We DON’T really know where our food is coming from or how it’s being prepared.  So much of what we eat, and buy is made for convenience, speed, and cost.  But because of that something gets lost (or added) in between and we are physically affected because of it.

The whole experience just made me stop and think about the foods I was putting into my body in an entirely different way.

IMG_8592

Speaking of the lady from the Olive Oil tasting, she made a huge impact on me in the short time we were together so the next two lessons are from what I learned in my conversations with her.

To give you back story on her, she and her husband own an olive tree farm.  The farm was passed down to them, it has been in the family for hundreds of years.  It is 99 acres of olive trees that his family would organically produce into olive oil.  They continued to keep that tradition alive and produce thousands of cans of olive oil every year.  So, she clearly knew a thing or two when it came to olive oil.  What I found most interesting was what TYPE of olive oil you should buy.

 

My next lesson was on Olive Oil Purchasing.

She taught us that once olive oil is made it needs to be kept in cold and dark places so that it doesn’t oxidize and lose the nutrients and vitamins.  Because of that, we should NOT be buying any olive oil unless it is in either a tinted glass bottle or a tin can.  She told us that anything that ISN’T in a tin can or tinted glass bottle is NOT 100% real olive oil and has some sort of chemical or additive in it to keep it the golden yellow color, and it doesn’t have the same vitamins and nutrients that real olive oil has.

She also said that you should NEVER buy olive oil that is in a plastic container because the chemicals from the plastic seep in.  After she said that we all gave each other a guilty look because we all knew that we ALL buy the jumbo plastic olive oil containers from Costco…

So pretty much all the olive oil I have ever eaten hasn’t been the best quality…which is nuts to think about because I pride myself on buying high-quality foods but at least we all know now so we can make better choices moving forward!

 

Moving on to my next lesson learned…

During our tasting, the woman told us that she gave cooking lessons, so I was excited to hear about the different meals she made.  In that conversation, she mentioned how in Italy the foods they cook change every season and went on to describe the foods that they eat in each season.

They ate for the season.  That was my next lesson.

They ate what was available to them at that point in time-based off of what was growing IMG_4550that season.  They ate tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer, and then the peppers and eggplant in the fall, and broccoli and cauliflower in the winter months.

They didn’t have a grocery store full of cauliflower crust pizzas or a plethora of options of vegetables, fruits, and foods to choose from. They primarily ate what was grown and picked last week from the farms.  For whatever reason, that made me stop and think for the first time when should I be eating certain foods.

Is a tomato you eat in summer as flavorful and full of nutrients and vitamins as the tomatoes you eat in the winter?  Where are the broccoli and cauliflower coming from that I am eating all summer long when it’s not in season until wintertime?

I am not a nutritionist and I didn’t try to go find the exact scientific answer to these questions. But if you look at it simply, we probably should be eating fruits and vegetables when they are in season, local, and freshly picked because that IS when they are at their best.

From that conversation, I am much more interested in not only learning more about eating for the season but also, what vegetables and fruits are best in what seasons so I can start to implement more of that in my own life.

 

 

Then the final thing I noticed, which ended up being my last lesson was that there was,

NO Snacking.

If you think about a typical US grocery store there are aisles and aisles dedicated to different snack bars, to-go packets of nuts, chips, cookies, and crackers. There are loads of it and we are constantly craving it.  Partially because it’s filled with sugars that we are addicted too, but more so because it’s a part of our culture.  Snacks between meals is a common thing that most people do in the US.

In Italy, they don’t do snacks.

There were few snacks available to buy at small-town grocery markets or at the convenience stores of the side streets.  They didn’t have chips for you to buy or bars or snacks.  They had meals.  They had bread, pastries, a slice of pizza, and all types of sandwiches with prosciutto, but there is very little else to buy outside of that.  They are more focused on eating meals and more “real foods”.   Think about how differently your own day would be if your only option for food was “real” food.  Food that didn’t come out of a package or freezer…

 

IMG_4612

Overall, I truly believe that submerging yourself in another culture is one of the best educations you can get because you are seeing and experiencing it firsthand.

 

Those were just a few of the details I noticed and the lessons that I learned while we were away.  I hope that you were as intrigued as I was, and it taught you something new or simply was just some food for thought. 😉

 

What is your Legacy? – Notes from my talk with the Miss Connecticut Contestants

What is your Legacy? – Notes from my talk with the Miss Connecticut Contestants

Good Morning!

Today I wanted to share with you a speech I prepared for the Miss Connecticut 2019 contestants.  As some of you know I was Miss Connecticut in 2012, and that experience changed my life entirely.  I was a totally different person and looked at the world in such a different way before I was a part of the Miss America Organization.  

 

I went into the organization thinking small, not really realizing the impact that one person can make in their own world.  I came out with big audacious dreams, having a better understanding of the ripple effect from one small positive event. But the best part was, for the first time, I really believed in myself and my ability to achieve my dreams.  I believed in my ability to make a difference in our world.

 

I talked a bit about that with the contestants who were running for the Miss Connecticut 2019 title.  I talked about a legacy, and what that really means. I talked about what I wanted my legacy to be as Miss Connecticut but how I continue to live that legacy every day.

 

My hope in sharing this speech with you is to help you remember that we all have a legacy we leave behind.  A way that we all are remembered when we phase in and out of people’s lives. How we show up and what we do every day really does matter.  

 

At the very least, this may give you a little glimpse into my world the year I was Miss Connecticut. 😉

 

Enjoy!
FA692932-2562-44DD-8FC3-FFFA8A1A6391

“Hey Everyone,

I am Emily Audibert McGrath, and I was Miss Connecticut in 2012.  To those of you who don’t know me, I won Miss Connecticut the first year I ever ran in a pageant.  It’s kind of a fun fact about me, but also gives me a good bird’s eye view of the pageant system as a whole.  


To give a quick background on me, I ran for Miss Connecticut in the first place because my dance teacher, Miss Amy, suggested that I ran in our local pageant. She was my biggest role model growing up, and I hoped I could have the same impact on other young girls the way that she did on me, so I decided to run. I ran in the 2012 Miss Wolcott pageant and ended up winning.

Once I won I didn’t even want to run for Miss Connecticut, I was perfectly content as Miss Wolcott because being Miss Wolcott was a really BIG deal in our town.  I actually asked my business manager if I HAD to run, and she said yes. I was contractually obligated to run unless I wanted to step down as Miss Wolcott and I didn’t want to do that, so I started to prep for the Miss Connecticut 2012 pageant.  I ended up winning that title as well.

That’s a quick cliff note version of how I got to where I am today.  

 

But today, I wanted to talk with you all about that final question on your Miss Connecticut paperwork, the question that asks, “What do you want your legacy to be?”

 

I remember when I was filling out my paperwork for the first time I felt like that was such a deep lofty question, and I didn’t feel like I ever a good enough answer for it.  It always stumped me just like the question, “why should YOU be the next miss Connecticut?” My thought always was “ I don’t know! I just want to be and I think I will be good at it?!”

For both of these questions, in my heart, I knew I wanted to be Miss Connecticut and would be a good one, just like I knew I wanted to leave a good legacy behind, but I always had a hard time articulating exactly what that was.

 

What do I want my legacy to be?

 

Looking back now I can see it a bit more clearly, and even though at the time I really couldn’t explain to you what I wanted my legacy to be, I always knew what kind of Miss Connecticut and person I wanted to be in my life.  Now I see, that is exactly what my legacy was.

 

My year as Miss Wolcott and then Miss Connecticut was a bit of a whirlwind, but throughout that year I always had the same mindset and goal in mind.  I wanted to make an impact on the young women and girls that I met, and I wanted to be the role model that I would like to see in the world.

 

That was my mantra for the year.  What kind of impact can I make? How can I show up as the role model I want to see in our world?  For me the answer wasn’t a big extravagant goal, to run a huge event or really anything major where I was the main focus.  Instead, I wanted to help enhance events for other people and when I went to an event to really see and interact with the people I met.  I wanted to make everyone I met feel comfortable and special, and then maybe even inspired after met me. I didn’t want to be thought of like someone on a pedestal, but as someone that you would feel comfortable talking to in any setting.  Someone who when you walked away from our conversation, you not only felt better about yourself but you also left thinking, if she can do it, then so can I.

 

That was the person I wanted to be remembered as.  That was the impact I wanted to make.

 

I got a glimpse of that impact at one particular event as Miss Connecticut.

I was asked to be the keynote speaker at a Superintendent’s Award Ceremony.  To give you some context these were students that were hand-selected by the teachers in the entire school district as being a “top student”.  They were picked because of their academics because they were a good student and role model in the classroom and they gave back to their community.  

The age range of the students was wide, there were some in elementary school and others about to graduate and head off to college.  I had to present a topic that would be applicable to all of them at all of those drastically different stages of their lives. I decided to make my theme, “Never Give Up”.

I told them stories about how at various points in my life, I was the underdog or was told that I wasn’t smart enough or experienced enough to succeed but I didn’t listen, never gave up, and prevailed.  I told them about the time where I worked really hard for dance scholarship at my studio, it was based on improvement and I made sure I went to extra technique classes and was constantly helping and working hard to get better.  Then the end of the year came and I didn’t get it, and I talked about how much that crushed me. But then the following year, I got back up tried harder and won the scholarship. I told them of the time my Chemistry teacher told me I wasn’t smart enough to take AP Chem, but I did it anyways and then won the AP Chemistry award at the end of the year, over the top students in my class.  I told them how about no one pegged me to win for Miss Connecticut. No one even thought that I was a top contender, but I didn’t listen, worked hard and won the title. Every time when I was told I wasn’t enough, I didn’t listen, I kept going and came out on top because I never gave up on myself.

I told the students how they were all already so much more successful than I ever was at their age and that I knew that they could do anything that they set their mind to, as long as they always stood back up, and never gave up on themselves.  I was so emotional at that end that I totally cried, in a very non-public speaker way. But when I looked up I noticed everyone else had tears in their eyes too. Parents, students, teachers. They all felt what I felt, and were reminiscing in their own minds of times that they overcame because they never gave up.

Then at the end of that event, I was signing these autograph pads for some of the students, and I saw a little girl out of the corner of my eye, with light and feathery blonde hair, hiding under her dad’s arm but looking my way.  I smiled and she turned away. Then I continued to sign for the other students and then there she was in line to see me, shy and sheepish next to her dad. She must have only been in 1st or 2nd grade. When it was finally her turn she came up to me, I smiled, asked her name and started signing.  As I was looking down signing her name I heard this little voice say “My mom always told me to never give up. And I promise I will never ever give up.” At that moment I looked at that precious little face, full of hope and at that moment I totally lost my marbles and gave her a huge hug with tears in my eyes.  I told her I was proud of her, she was a good girl and that she would do such great things.

 

I wanted to share that story because it was one of the best experiences of my life, not just as Miss Connecticut.  But I think that story really shows what this organization is all about and what our legacy really is, being a role model and encouraging others to be the best version of themselves.

 

Being in the pageant system it’s easy to get lost in the politics, the small minute details of your hair, makeup, and clothes, things that don’t really matter.  The only thing that really matters is understanding that you have a platform and an avenue to make an impact on other people’s lives. You have the opportunity to use your voice, and share it with your community to help make it a better place in any way that you can.

 

Even though there will only be two of you walking away from tonight with a new crown, it doesn’t mean that the rest of you, or any of us ever really take off our crown and stop spreading the good word.  It doesn’t mean we stop being a role model for others or stop giving back to help others in whatever way we are most passionate about.

 

I think the true spirit of Miss America never goes away and lives on in all of us in some way or another, beyond the time that we are wearing a crown.  That is our legacy.

 

When I think back on the women I competed with at the National level, so many of them are still embodying the title and they have been for years.  Many of them are in our own pageant system.  Acacia, Alyssa, Kaitlyn, Morgan, Eliza, Miss Amy, these are just a few who are all still give back to their community in some way.  They all STILL make you feel comfortable and seen. They STILL make you feel special every time you see them or talk to them at any event. They truly are STILL wearing their invisible crowns.  

 

It’s so cliche to say “invisible crown” and I hate myself for it but that but at the end of the day it’s true and being here on the official pageant day, I think it’s important for you all to remember that.   You don’t need to be a Miss Connecticut to make that type of impact. You can do it every single day, with or without a crown. This organization has armed you with the tools to be a powerhouse of a woman. Take those tools and never stop using them for good.  Never stop trying to make an impact on your world, even if it’s just your family and friends. Be the role model that you want to see in this world. That is the true spirit of the crown. That is the legacy you will leave behind, not just as a titleholder, but in your lifetime.

 

 

Reasons why you SHOULD take a recruiting call …

Reasons why you SHOULD take a recruiting call …

Last week I was going through a status update on one of the jobs I am working on with a hiring manager.  We were going over some candidates and he saw my note that one hung up on me. Once he saw that he asked, “Do people really hang up on you?”.  My answer, “Unfortunately, yes, and depending on the job, it happens often.” He was in shock and couldn’t believe that people would hang up on a recruiter.


I obviously hate when people hang up on me, call me names, tell me to never call them again and that they will never need a recruiter (not true, but good luck with that).  This does not happen to me all the time, and if it does it is mostly for more junior level positions.  Most of the people I talk to are kind and politely decline my offer, but it does happen, that’s just part of the job.  

 

I totally get that if someone is cold calling you at an inappropriate time, it’s easy to get pissed and we are all getting a bazillion robocalls. We are in a world of information overload, and hanging up the phone just seems like the easiest solution.  

 

I want to tell you WHY you SHOULD always pick up a recruiting call or at the very least give a nice brush off…

 

First I will start off with WHY recruiters are calling you and HOW we work. Companies, like the one you work at now, hire us to help them find top talent.  It is a necessary service, especially in today’s economy. If a company values its’ people, the company will pay us to find the best talent that is out there.

 

Now that we understand why recruiters are calling we will move onto the reasons WHY you should pick up the call…

 

1. You don’t know who has asked us to call you. Recruiters are often given direction as to who the best talent is and are given suggestions as to who a client would like us to reach out to on a company’s behalf.  Sometimes we get exact names to reach out to. If the hiring manager then follows up to see how the call went, having to let them know you hung up is not a poor reflection on us. A recruiting call truly is a compliment. It means you are in demand and someone wants you.

 

2. The top recruiters in the industry make cold calls I recently got asked by a reader if cold calling was dead. I was trained by one of the top recruiting trainers in the nation, Danny Cahill at According to Danny.  He is a big believer that cold-calling is vital and being comfortable making calls and being on the phone is imperative and humanizing. Everyone is so heavily relying on LinkedIn message and email and having a conversation with someone is the only way to establish a true relationship.

 

3. Top recruiters (who get there by making cold calls) have the best opportunities.  In our profession, the best recruiters are choosey with the positions they invest their time in.  They are only going to work jobs that they believe are “hot jobs”. A hot job is a job that a company has an urgency to fill the position and a great opportunity.  It has to be a win-win, a win for the company AND a win for the person taking the job. This is never overlooked by a recruiter before they start working something.

 

4. Even if you are not actively looking for a job, you never know when you will need to work with a recruiter again. -While I am sure you have a great network, you can NEVER have too many connections and people to network with.  Almost every senior person I call recognizes this and takes the time to call me back and have a conversation. They understand that there are NO guarantees in life and it is always a good idea to have an established relationship with a recruiter.

 

 

5. Speaking of help, when you work with a recruiter you receive career advice and interview help at no charge. –  When working with a recruiter you pay nothing, it is completely free of charge Recruiters to have a vested interest in your ability to succeed.  Because of that, they are more than willing to take the time to review resumes and give feedback, to prep you for interviews and to just give general career advice.  So TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT!!!

 

 

 

6. Your resume gets put right in front of the hiring manager.  -When you apply online or through a website, who knows if anyone has ever looked at your resume.  It’s put in through the system and a keyword search has to retrieve it.. A recruiter is your own personal marketing and sales rep.  

 

 

When working with a recruiter, what’s most overlooked is that a recruiter who you have established a trusted relationship with really does want the best for you.  They are invested in your next career step and are calling you to help get you there.

 

So just think twice before you hang up on them. 😉

My Top 10 Trader Joe’s Treasures

My Top 10 Trader Joe’s Treasures

If you follow me on social media, you would know that Trader Joe’s is totally my jam.  For those of you who are not familiar, Trader Joe’s is a neighborhood grocery store. That’s where I do all of my grocery shopping every week and I freaking love it. I am lucky enough to have one in two of the neighboring towns and I take FULL advantage of it.

 

It’s my favorite place ever because it’s so fun inside, they always have tons of beautiful flowers, your typical grocery store staples, AND “fun” food.  Fun food is something I totally made up, but it will make sense soon.

 

My definition of fun food is healthy food that has a fun twist!  For example chips, queso, pizza, and candy are all junk food.  They are fun to eat but they are junk and do nothing for us. Trader Joe’s has created different “fun” food that is similar to junk food except that it is actually good for you and you don’t have to feel bad after you eat it!

 

I am always on the hunt for the next fun food that I will find at Trader Joe’s, there is ALWAYS something new.  It makes shopping there even more enjoyable because it’s like you are on a treasure hunt every time you’re there, trying to find your next piece of gold.  

trader-joe-flower-display.jpg

The best part is that the fun food they have is not only good for you, it actually tastes good too.  In life, I am generally always on the hunt for the “fun” food and am more than often disappointed. The “fun” food I find typically tastes terrible or they put a million bad ingredients and chemicals into it making it not even worth trying.  For the most part, that doesn’t happen at Trader Joe’s. The food there is fun and different tastes great and is good for you.

 

Today I wanted to share with you my Top 10 Trader Joe Treasures.  These are ten of the gems that I have found during my shopping escapades at Traders that I truly can’t get enough of and I need the whole world to know my love for them!!

 

So here they are…

 

1.Red Lentil Pasta  

  • Before I found this pasta, I pretty much swore off pasta at that point in my life.  It’s red-lentils-pasta.jpgsad and my Italian grandma is probably rolling in her grave right now, but it’s true.  I try to eat very little to no gluten products, and normal pasta and even wheat pasta just didn’t give me the return I wanted after eating it.  Yes, I am thinking of the ROI I get from what I eat, I take my health very seriously. So when I found this pasta and saw that its only ingredients were red lentils and water, I had tears of joy in my eyes which was immediately followed by a happy dance in the middle of the aisle. Because….. PASTA!!!! I COULD EAT IT AGAIN and NOT feel guilty!!! Best.Find.Ever.
  • I now buy 1 or 2 bags every single week. #sickomode

 

  1. Cauliflower Pizza Crust
  • This find was another game changer for me.  Pizza was another food that I just didn’t eat anymore.  I love pizza with my whole heart and soul, but I don’t love how it makes me feel after.  I have tried gluten free crust but very few places make a cauliflower-pizza.jpggood one, so I just didn’t eat it.  Or I should say I drastically cut down how often and how much I ate it. I can still remember the day I found their Cauliflower pizza crust.  I read the ingredients and it wasn’t perfect but still pretty freaking good.  Then, I looked around me to see who was looking, like a total sketchy criminal, and then I quickly put three crusts into my carriage and then abruptly walked away.  I truly felt like I was stealing because I couldn’t believe that it existed and I couldn’t get my hands on enough of them.
  • This is now a weekly purchase, and what my sister and I base our Friday nights around. Pizza Friday is back.

 

  1.   Almond Cheese
  • I can’t talk about pasta and pizza without cheese.  Over the past two years, I have come to the sad, sad realization that I can’t eat cheese or really any dairy products. almond cheese Two years ago I like suddenly realized I had as much acene as a high schooler and wanted to clear up my face for my wedding.  My sister read an article about the correlation between dairy and breakouts, so I tried to cut it out to see if it would help and it did, drastically.  Since then I really haven’t eaten much dairy, which is the most depressing thing ever, especially when making pizza. I have tried vegan cheeses and other weird stuff I have found and it tasted like garbage.  Then, I found the almond cheese and felt like my prayers were answered! Now I must preface that’s still not normal cheese, it doesn’t get gooey and oily deliciousness but it does melt, taste goods and is perfect for pizza.
  • This is also a weekly purchase for me.

 

  1. Cauliflower Gnocchi
  • This was another fun find because it’s also in the pasta group and gnocchi was another delicious pasta that I wasn’t eating.  I was super skeptical when I first cauliflowe gnocchifound this one because I just didn’t understand how they could make gnocchi out of cauliflower, granted there is flour in this find, but I still couldn’t wrap my head around it so I totally thought it would taste terrible.  I bought it regardless but held off trying it. When I finally did I was kicking myself for waiting so long. It tastes GREAT! You just need to make sure that you follow the instructions on how to cook the gnocchi because you saute it frozen which is much different than normal gnocchi. Besides that, it tastes amazing with sauteed onions and mushrooms.
  • This one is perfect for a dinner date night at home. =] I always have a bag in my freezer but save it for special occasions.

 

  1. Eggplant Garlic Dip and Red Pepper Dips
  • Growing up, Happy Hours on Friday’s were a religious ritual.  My aunts and my mom would sit at the counter talk about the week while eating appetizer/picky pepper dipfoods and drinking wine. It’s my most favorite memory growing up.  Because of that tradition, anytime I see friends we ALWAYS do some kind of happy hour spread. Sometimes it’s a pathetic attempt, and other times we get fancy. Trader Joe’s Eggplant and Red Pepper Dip is perfect for both types of Happy Hour!  To start it is FREAKING DELICIOUS and you can eat it with crackers and cheese or, cut up bell peppers or cucumbers to dip into it. One time I even put it on a sandwich as like a condiment spread, and my goodness that was delicious.
  • I don’t buy this every week, but I almost always buy it if I am going to or hosting a happy hour.

 

  1. Almond Jalapeno Lime Dip/Spread
  • Since we are on the topic of dips and spreads I can’t NOT talk about my most recent find that I can’t get enough of… THE Almond Lime Jalapeno dip.  As I mentioned, I almond dipam always on the lookout for fun foods at Traders and was near the hummus section hoping that I would find some kind of non-hummus hummus dip.  I knew there were edamame dips and other bean dips in the world so I wanted to see if they had anything similar there. I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for but I was NOT disappointed.  This dip is like the combination of hummus flavored jalapeno dip with the consistency of the alloete brand cheese. I can’t get enough of it right now. I haven’t played around with the different ways to eat it yet, but for now, I am FULLY satisfied just eating it on a cracker.  I have done that every day since I have bought it.
  • This will be a staple in my home.

 

  1. Date Bites
  • I am a total sucker for Lara Bars and dried fruit.  These date bites are like mini Lara date and nut bitesbars. They are individually wrapped in little small squares and are a perfect snack before a workout class or if you need a little something to hold you over until your next meal.   I used to make these protein ball things that I would eat before a workout, but when I found these they were essentially the same thing and lasted longer and I’ve been completely addicted since! They come in three different flavors and I have tried and like them all. My favorite is the citrus flavored one.
  • This is a staple that is ALWAYS in my home, that I eat before every morning workout class.

 

  1. Oat Bran Vegan Blueberry Muffins
  • Now I am not much of a baked good person.  I pretty much never ever buy them but that’s mostly because I love them so much I won’t be able to stop myself from oat-bran-muffins.jpgeating all of it.  Growing up my mom would always buy my dad muffins from Stop n Shop as a Saturday morning treat. She would always buy bran muffins because that was his favorite and because they were always around we also ended up loving bran muffins.  So one day when I was on my treasure hunt in Trader Joes I found these Vegan Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins. My first thought was, “no way these actually taste good, that would be too good to be true”.  I bought them anyway because I had friends staying over that night and my GOODNESS they were amazing.  These muffins are nice and dense and have the perfect berry ratio.
  • This would not be an every week purchase for me, but definitely, a once in a while treat.

 

9.Chocolate Coconut Almonds

  • I couldn’t write this blog without slipping in at least ONE chocolate treat. =]  If you chocolate coconut almondshave been to Trader Joe’s you will know that they have an incredibly tempting sweet’s and treats section.  I have also purchased a number of those “just to try” and then accidentally ate the whole thing in a weekend, so I try to steer clear.  But when I do splurge, I get the Chocolate Coconut covered almonds. They taste like a mini Girl Scout Samoa Cookie, and they are completely addicting.
  • As long as you like coconut you absolutely need to try these the next time you go.

 

  1. Everything but the Bagel Seasoning
  • This isn’t necessarily a food, but I promise you this seasoning makes everything IMG_7302taste better.  I have friends that actually have this in their purse at all times, just in case there is an opportunity to use it, and I totally get it!  It literally makes anything you eat taste like an Everything Bagel, and I don’t know anyone who DOESN’T love an everything bagel. Throw it on roasted veggies, chicken or steak, avocado toast, eggs, the options are endless.  
  • When it comes to cooking healthy, half the battle is trying to make regular bland vegetables taste delicious.  This seasoning is a solution to that. Because of that, I have this seasoning with me at all times, one in my house and one at my desk at work.

 

Bonus Buy: The Flowers

  • Walking into Trader Joe’s you are always immediately greeted by their beautiful display of flowers.  There is no better welcome. Trader always has flower arrangements and different flowers for each season.  Some you can even mix and match to get Pinterest worthy bouquets.flowers.jpg 
  • I always buy flowers because they make me really really happy.  To me, they are like a ray of sunshine in my home.
  • Besides the fact that I just love them, one of the main reasons I love buying flowers from Trader Joe’s specifically is because they are so affordable, have a great selection and once they can no longer sell them, they donate them locally to different hospitals and senior centers.  
    • One of the workers at Trader’s told me that they always donate everything that they can’t sell while most grocery stores just throw them out.  If that doesn’t melt your heart and make you believe that Trader Joe’s is the best place around, I don’t know what will.

 

So there you have it!  My Top 10 Trader Joe’s Treasures and my Bonus Buy.  Next time you go to Trader Joe’s try to have a little fun with it.  Take your time and look around to see what treasures you can find. 😉

Until next time, happy treasure hunting!
trader-joes-groacery-cart.jpg

P.s. Keep your eyes out for some fun recipes I have made from these fun foods!

My Top 3 Healthy Work Habits

My Top 3 Healthy Work Habits

Health and Wellness is extremely important to me. It has been and always will be a top priority for me in my life.

At home I have (almost) perfected my healthy habits and created a healthy environment to live in. I clean my house weekly, workout daily, have a Britta pitcher always filled with water, buy lots of fruits and vegetables, keep my pre-packaged food to a minimum and do not buy things I don’t want myself to eat, not even for a “treat”.

Your environment and habits play a huge part in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Believe it or not, it’s easy to make those changes at home. The question here today is how do we keep that up at work?  The place that many of us spend more time than our actual homes. A place that you don’t own or have total control over.

When I first started working, I was at an accounting firm and people bought lunch often. There were candy bowls everywhere for a midday “pick-me-up” and everyone worked long hours.

I am sure to many of you this sounds very familiar.

At first I thought nothing of it and fell right in line, following the habits and ways of others. I bought lunch at least once a week, would go for random sugary coffee breaks, took an M&M break every day at 3 pm, and sat on my a** all damn day.

I was still following my home life healthy habits of waking up at 5 am every morning to make sure I got my workout in before lunch and was eating (mostly) healthy foods. And yet, after a couple months on the job I started to notice that I was actually gaining weight, was always tired, and couldn’t keep a clear mind all day. At first I thought this is just what working in the real world felt like, but after reading different articles about health and habits I realized I was wrong.

At that point I started making small changes like no longer eating the 3 pm candy and no more fun sugary coffee breaks. On top of that, I began researching the topic of healthy habits at work and eventually started implementing what I was learning to my daily work habits.  I found that those changes had a huge impact on my energy levels and my production at work.

 

Today, I have 3 core healthy habits that I always follow to ensure I stay on track with my health goals and increase my productivity and energy levels at work.

 

 

  1. Track your water intake

bottle-drink-glass-113734.jpgThis is so important for many different reasons. For starters, being fully hydrated makes you more awake and alert than coffee actually does. We are all roughly 60% made up of water and we need sufficient water intake to ensure our body performs at its best.  A lack of water leads to fatigue, a foggy mind, and hunger.  Yes, I said hunger. Believe it or not most of the time when we think we are hungry we are actually just thirsty. Drinking enough water will actually make you less hungry and help you realize when your body actually does NEED food. As a test drink a bottle or glass of water and see how hungry you are after.

How to do this?

  • We should be drinking at LEAST half our weight in ounces of water each day.  If you weigh 120 pounds then you should be drinking at least 60 ounces of water.  Make sure you always have a water bottle on you (preferably a reusable one so we can save our planet!) and refill it as many times as needed.

 

  • You can even make a mental note of how much you should be drinking throughout the day.  
    • For example, I always try to drink a full water bottle before I get to work, a full bottle after my coffee is gone, two more full bottles before 5 pm, and then 1 or 2 at night.  Having that mental map of when and how much I should be drinking keeps me on track and helps me get back on track when I am behind. I would be lying to you if I said that I do this perfectly every day because I absolutely do NOT. But, it does put me in a way better place than if I didn’t try at all.

 

  1. Pack and prep ALL of your snacks and meals

When I leave the house for work in the morning I’m typically out the door at 6:30 am and most nights I won’t return until 8 or 9. In that time frame, I eat my breakfast, two lunches, and dinner. I never skip a meal, so when I leave at 6:30 am I have all of my food in tow.

Prepping and packing those meals ahead of time ensures that I am eating healthy foods, that I am eating the correct portion size of foods, and that I don’t snack on anything else in the office.

When you eat out at lunch or grab those little snacks / treats in the break room you can close-up-colors-container-1640767.jpgeasily lose track of how many calories you are actually consuming in a day and are likely eating things your body really doesn’t NEED. Even though we all know we don’t NEED M&M’s, if you are drinking enough water to stay hydrated and have your healthy snacks already packed you are less likely to go for that mid-afternoon treat.

Another thing to consider is that most days we are just sitting at our desks all day long. You really aren’t burning through THAT many calories so you don’t NEED that many calories or snacks to get you through the day. If you have a desk job it’s not like your lifting anything or moving much at all. What your body NEEDS is nutrient dense foods to keep your body and mind moving and grooving all day long without any roadblocks or detours.

The How:

If you need help on how to meal prep or what to meal prep check out my previous blogs “Meal Prepping 101” and “Meal Prepping 102: What’s inside?” for ideas.

 

  1. Move more and take mindful breaks

adult-autumn-casual-663437.jpgI can’t stress the importance of moving more enough.  Think about the daily pattern of a typical 9-5 job. You are sitting on the drive to work, siting once you get to work for 8 hours or so, sit on the drive home, sit for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and sit on the couch at night.  Maybe you have an hour or 30 minutes of movement for some kind of exercise.

Our bodies are designed to move.  And yet, it’s so easy to forget the importance of that. We get lost in our work and caught up in the idea that we “don’t have enough time” to take a break. I am here to tell you that is all simply not true. It will actually do the opposite. Taking a break to move will increase your productivity later. Trust me, give it a shot, you might be surprised.

There are studies that demonstrate the average brain loses concentration in 52 minutes and taking a break increases your productivity by 30%.  Research says that we should take a 1-7 minute break every 25, 52 or 90 minutes.    Yes, it may take a few minutes to pick everything back up, but you will come back recharged and ready, producing better results than you did before.

Now how will you put this into play?

  • What you can do is set an alarm on your phone for an hour and then take a quick break where you are physically moving. It really doesn’t matter where or for how long, just that you are actually doing it.

 

  • Walks during your lunch breaks is another great opportunity to move your body.
    • This is something I put into practice two years ago and I’ve become totally addicted. Every day at lunch when the weather permits, I will walk for 30 minutes to an hour outside. I’m to the point where I will make sure I get to work earlier and use my time more wisely so I can get this break in.

 

Those breaks do so much for me mentally and physically. It gets my body moving, puts me out in nature, and really forces me to shut off my brain and emotionally detach myself from my work for a minute.

I am the type that can get very emotionally attached to work and am always battling the fear that I am not doing enough. In some ways this can be a very painful trait and a thought process that is hard to get out of.  When I physically remove myself from a situation, taking time away and then coming back, it clears my mind and makes me less emotionally charged so I can look at a situation more objectively. Plus, who doesn’t love seeing a little nature after hours in an office?

It truly is a gift that I give to myself.

 

Which brings us to a perfect place to end this blog.  Taking care of your physical and mental self, inside and outside of work is one of the best a gifts you can give yourself. But, it takes work.

Prepping your meals and snacks takes time. Constantly reminding yourself to drink water throughout the day takes dedication. Allowing yourself to take a break and move your body seems like a lot of extra work, but I promise you it will all pay off.  You will feel better and you will produce better work.

These are all changes that YOU have to DECIDE to do and then COMMIT to doing it. They seem hard at first and you may be wondering how you can actually put these habits into practice. But remember, everything seems hard at first until it’s not.

These habits have increased my productivity, my overall health and my peace of mind in the workplace.   Apply these three healthy habits to your day and I promise you, you won’t be sorry. =]

 

Your Q1 Review – A step by step guide

Your Q1 Review – A step by step guide

This past December I noticed that all of my favorite podcasters were doing a year end review on their shows.  A year end review is when you would take a moment to reflect on what went well and what didn’t over the past year. The pod casters would go over what they accomplished and where they failed so they could learn from it.

At first I really wasn’t into the episode because I didn’t feel like it was something I could benefit or learn from. But, by the end of that first episode I realized just how wrong I was.  The whole concept of what they were doing was such a GREAT tool for improvement. Taking a minute to stop and reflect on the past year to get a better “birds eye view” of what ACTUALLY happened, rather than evaluating it while your in the middle of it.

I am not kidding when I say this, every single December I eat too much, I party a lot, and then January comes and I’m NOT happy and at that point I’m already starting to think about the year to come. Not once have I ever taken a minute to stop and evaluate the year that just happened.  It sounds bizarre, but I truly never take time for reflection. I am always too focused on how to fix everything I just screwed up in December and am looking forward to next years goals.   

Also, a year is a long ass time and I can confidently say I forget most of it.  I can barely remember my social security number and that never changes, let alone my weekly and monthly accomplishments over a year.  When an obstacle comes up I will figure out how to overcome it or just trudge my way through it. Whether  I fail or succeed, in the end it is over and I move on. I don’t really dwell on things too much, that’s how I have learned to survive.  I never take the time to stop and reflect on what just happened, unless there was a major blow up or something really bad happened.

But seriously, how often do we all do this?  How often do we not take the time to stop and reflect on what just happened in our life and just keep soldiering on? Sometimes that is completely necessary, even vital, but I think once in a while it’s good to force yourself to stop and think about what REALLY just happened.  Taking the time to pat ourselves on the back or figure out how we can do better is essential

As I mentioned before, a year is a really freaking long time and because I really do so easily forget everything I do, I thought it would make sense for me to try to do this quarterly.  The reason I thought of this was because in February/March I started noticing how “off course” I was in some of my goals and how “on course” I was in other areas of my life, and I started to change my ways a bit.  That’s when I started thinking that we should all being doing this quarterly review, so give ourselves credit where credit is due towards accomplishing our goals and then getting ourselves back on track in the area’s we were lacking.

Today, I am going to go through what I did for my quarterly review and will share the steps with you so that you could do the same.

Continue reading “Your Q1 Review – A step by step guide”

Courage is Contagious: GIRL POWER

Courage is Contagious: GIRL POWER

Recently, I finished listening to Brendon Burchard’s book High Performing Habits.  It’s actually my second time listening to it because it is THAT good.  I tend to listen my favorite books on tape multiple times and every time I walk away learning something new that I missed the first time around.

This time it was the saying, “Courage is contagious”. As soon as he said that phrase it really hit home, and I instantly wrote it in my phone so I wouldn’t forget.  Courage is contagious. It’s a saying that has been used for a long time and after Googling it last night I saw that there are MANY books with that phrase or something similar somewhere in their title.  I know I had heard it before, but for some reason when he said it that day it really resonated with me. It made me stop and think about the times in my own life where I’ve been courageous and impacted others, on top of the times I’ve watched someone be courageous and was inspired by THEIR courage.

While I was Googling the phrase “Courage is contagious”, I stumbled across Brene Brown’s extended version of that where she says, “Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.”

Since last week was International Women’s Day, I can’t help but think about all of the amazing, powerful brave women that I look up to.  Women who have moved mountains, whether everyone can see those mountains or not.  I have been lucky enough to watch women change lives and inspire others to do the same.  

When I think of courage, I think of them.   Continue reading “Courage is Contagious: GIRL POWER”