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Thursday, May 30, 2013

For the Love of Greek Yogurt

In March, I could no longer squeeze into my jeans. I had run a half-marathon in September, and lost a ton of weight during my training. But after the run, I kept eating as if I were burning that extra 500-1000 calories per day. Except I wasn't running anymore.

I started back into my routine of cardio classes at the Y three times per week (a big shout-out for the free child care included at the Y during my workouts!), and that definitely helped. But my eating was still out of control.

In April I committed to really getting back on track and back in my skinny jeans. The biggest change I made was incorporating creamy, protein-packed, fat-free Greek Yogurt. I was thrilled when, a few weeks ago, Bzz Agent offered me the chance to join the FAGE Total campaign.

I had tried a few other brands of Greek yogurt, and I have since switched to FAGE Total 0%. It is creamier than some of the others, and has a more mild taste with less tang. And it tastes delicious in just about everything!

Not sure what to do with Greek yogurt? Here are a few of my favorite ideas, just to get you started:

Blueberry Oatcake for Breakfast
To make one huge blueberry oatcake, whisk 1/2 cup of rolled oats and 3 ounces of egg whites in a small bowl. Heat a small skillet with a spritz of vegetable oil; add the batter and cook 3 minutes; flip; cook 1 minute more. Enjoy topped with 1/2 cup FAGE Total 0%, 1 tablespoon of sliced almonds, 1/2 cup sliced bananas, and a drizzle of maple syrup. All that for just 400 calories!

Reduced-Calorie, Reduced-Fat Salad Dressing
Greek yogurt makes my salad-lunches super. Simply mix 1/2 teaspoon of any vinaigrette with 1 tablespoon FAGE Total 0% and 1 tablespoon of water. I did this with Greek dressing to change it from 100 calories per serving to just 16! Check out the salad below: 2 cups of spring mix, 1 cup of leftover tabbouleh salad, and 16 calories worth of dressing (bottled Greek dressing + FAGE Total 0%).

Snack Attack: Veggies & Dip
Greek yogurt is my go-to replacement in recipes that call for sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese, even butter. It's fantastic in dip recipes! In the afternoon, I love crunching on fresh veggies with spinach dip. To make a single serving, mix 1/4 cup FAGE Total 0%, 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed), and 2 teaspoons of sun-dried tomato pesto. Enjoy with a bunch of fresh veggies for about 150 calories. Add some whole-grain crackers, low-fat cheese, and some fruit for a light, fun summer lunch. (NOTE: I couldn't get my camera out quickly enough; the photo below was taken after I had devoured about half of the dip and vegetables.)

Don't Forget Dessert
When I want a treat that feels indulgent, I whisk 1/2 cup FAGE Total 0% with 1 tablespoon of any flavor sugar-free fat-free instant pudding mix (I keep a few flavors on hand to change things up) and 1 or 2 tablespoons of reduced-fat soy milk, all for about 95 calories. If you have an extra minute and don't mind cleaning a kitchen appliance, try using a hand-mixer or blender to whip up your treat and transform it from "pudding" to "mousse." Want something more? Try mix-ins:

  • use lemon pudding and mix in a handful of blueberries or raspberries
  • use white chocolate pudding and mix in some sliced strawberries & half of a graham cracker, crushed
  • use chocolate pudding and mix in 1 teaspoon of chocolate chips or butterscotch chips
  • use banana pudding and mix in sliced strawberries
  • use vanilla pudding with some chopped pineapple and a sprinkle of shredded coconut

You can even pop your creation in the freezer for 45 minutes or so for a frosty treat.

Greek yogurt is probably the biggest single contributor to my weight loss. I'm counting calories, but thanks to this protein power house, I never feel hungry after a meal or a snack. My eating habits are back on track and have allowed me to lose 10 pounds in 6 weeks. You can do it too! 

Be sure to Post a Comment and let us know about your favorite way to enjoy Greek yogurt. As always, thanks for reading.

Disclaimer: While I received FAGE Total 0% Greek yogurt for free through Bzz Agent, I was not compensated for this post. The ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Turn Last Year's Sunblock into Play Dough

Have you been Spring Cleaning? If you have come across any expired sunblock or lotions, or a half-used bottle of conditioner, save them. You can now put them to good use and keep the kiddos busy. At least for a few minutes.

A few days ago, I came across a recipe on Pinterest for ice cream dough from the Play Create Explore blog. It seemed easy enough: 1 part conditioner and 2 parts corn starch. The dough can be colored and scented to look and smell like ice cream, and kids can make pretend ice cream sundaes.

We made the dough and had a blast with it yesterday, but we found other uses rather than making faux sundaes. Then this morning, my three-year-old asked if we could make more messy stuff. Rather than use up more of my conditioner, I looked through the bathroom closet and found a tube of baby lotion from 2007. We experimented with that with success. As long as you keep the 2:1 ratio, this basic recipe will bring new life to most creamy, expired toiletries.  

Here's a closer look at this activity. First, we took this project outside and mixed the Ice Cream Dough:
Ice Cream Dough

1/2 c. corn starch
1 c. conditioner (any brand; we used Nature's Gate)

Simply mix the ingredients until they are fully incorporated and you have dough. You may add a few drops of food coloring and/or flavor extracts to make colored and/or scented dough. This dough will dry out faster than the store-bought kind; be sure to place in a plastic baggie or container immediately after playing.

NOTE: ICE CREAM DOUGH IS FOR PLAY ONLY. DO NOT LET THE KIDS EAT IT! Hopefully that goes without saying.

If you are concerned about using the measuring cup from your kitchen for sunblock or conditioner, there is an easy solution: make your own.

Fill a measuring cup with 1/4 cup of water and pour that into a disposable clear plastic cup. Use permanent marker to draw the 1/4-cup line. Add another 1/4 cup of water to the plastic cup; mark the 1/2-cup line. Keep going until you have the 3/4-cup and 1-cup lines marked. Voila! Instant measuring cup for messy backyard fun.
You may want to make two cups while you're at it so you'll have one for dry and one for wet ingredients. 

The kids chose to add blue food coloring and raspberry extract to our dough. It smelled so good and was soft and smooth.
While the original intent of the dough was to make pretend ice cream sundaes, my boys had other uses in mind. My five-year-old played hockey with balls of ice cream dough.

My three-year-old had a blast making balls of dough and either rolling them down the slide, or throwing them at the slide to watch them "go splat." 

Mixing a second batch of dough, this time with old baby lotion and cornstarch.
I hope you and your kids have fun with this simple dough recipe. Please Post a Comment and let us know what new uses your kids found for the dough. Or, let us know your favorite scent for the dough! As always, thanks for reading.

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