February 13, 2014

How Betsy Got Her Groove Back (my favorite fitness apps)

In the quest to find my fitness groove again, I use a bunch of tools to help me out. Some of those greatest tools are apps I have downloaded to my phone. I'm able to track calories, steps, or exercise wherever and whenever. Here are two of my favorite fitness apps I can't live without right now.


MyFitnessPal has been essential to my success so far. If you looking to lose weight, the most helpful thing you can do is track or journal everything you eat. It's amazing how counting up the number of calories really puts things into perspective as to how much you are really eating.

This app/website sets up a personalized diet plan when you pop in some information about yourself and your fitness goals. After crunching the numbers based on the information you provided, you're given the number of calories to eat daily to reach your goals. From there, you add your foods and exercise in your daily diary and it tallies up everything for you. Out of all the fitness sites I've used in the past, I find their food database to be the most extensive, including lots of gluten free foods. There is also a scanning option, where all you need to do is scan the bar code of the food you are eating instead of searching in the database. It couldn't get any easier.

Added benefits are that you can add your friends to cheer you on, join communities to find users with the same fitness goals as you, and write blog entries.

Jawbone UP

Wearable tracking devices are all the rage right now, with Fitbit bracelets, Nike Fuel bands, and the Jawbone UP wristband. The Jawbone UP was my tracker of choice and I love it. It's slim and comfortable to wear and tracks my steps, activity, and sleep. I just open the app on my phone and plug the bracelet into the headphone jack to sync up the activity the wristband tracked.

With the Jawbone UP, I can set step and sleep goals. From there, UP will track your steps and sleep and let me know how well I did at achieving my daily goal. One of my favorite things about the UP wristband is that I can set alarms. I have it wake me up in the morning as well as letting me know if I've been sitting for too long. It will vibrate when the alarm goes off (it's completely noiseless). I can even set it to take a little power nap.

The Jawbone UP syncs with other apps, inputting activity to other trackers. I have it synced to MyFitnessPal and I never need to enter exercise on that app or site because UP will automatically do it for me.

Some of my steps, sleep and activity

Do you use fitness apps to track your diet or exercise? Which ones are your favorite?

February 12, 2014

Nutella Truffles For Your Gluten Free Valentine


After yesterday's post mentioning Annie's Valentine's Day fruit snacks, I got the itch to make some homemade Valentine's Day candies.

Years ago, I bought some candy molds and made these Weight Watcher's Raspberry-Chocolate Cups. I dug those molds out and decided to use what was in my pantry instead of buying raspberry jam to make these delicious treats. What'd I come up with? Nutella.

Luckily I had a package of the new Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Morsels they sent me to use as my melting chocolate. It's dairy, nut, and soy free and 69% cacao. Obviously they are gluten free, and just like all Enjoy Life products, free of the Top 8 Allergens. These morsels are also verified by the non-GMO project. So bottom line: These morsels are amazing. I don't normally have chocolate chips in my home, so I want to thank Enjoy Life for making these truffles happen.

Using Nutella defeats the purpose of making allergen free truffles, but you can use whatever safe-for-you filling you'd like. SunbutterDandie's marshmallows, fruit jam...whatever! That's the joy of chocolate...it goes with everything!

Although I used candy molds, you don't need them, you can also use the candy cups as the original recipe does.

Nutella Truffles
adapted from Weight Watchers Raspberry-Chocolate Cups
Makes 24 truffle hearts

4oz Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Morsels
1/3 cup Nutella

Melt chocolate either in a double boiler on the stove or in a microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments stirring after each 30 seconds until chocolate is completely melted.

Spoon a small amount of melted chocolate into the candy mold or a foil candy cup. Use a small paint brush to spread chocolate evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the mold or cup. Fill and brush the remaining molds/cups and place them in the refrigerate for 3-5 minutes or until chocolate is firm.

The paint brush step is pretty important...and kinda fun.
Just be sure to use a new paint brush!

Spoon about a teaspoon of Nutella into each chocolate-lined mold or cup and use a knife to smooth tops.

Reheat remaining melted chocolate so it's smooth again. Spoon just enough of the melted chocolate to cover the top of Nutella in each mold or cup. Use the paint brush to spread chocolate to sides so that it seals in Nutella. Repeat with remaining molds or cups.

Refrigerate 3-5 minutes or until chocolate is firm. Gently pop out truffles (if using molds) over wax paper, plate 'em, and enjoy!

Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate + Nutella = Love

Not a chocolate fan? May I suggest my Heart Shaped Butter Cookies?

What's your favorite treat to make or give to your Valentine?

February 11, 2014

Annie's Gluten Free Granola Bars and Valentine's Day Fruit Snacks

Last month I was given the opportunity to sample a couple of the new products from Annie's Homegrown, gluten free chewy granola bars. They are available in two flavors: Oatmeal Cookie and Double Chocolate Chip.

Now I've tried many a gluten free bar in my day, but the attempts of making chewy granola bars gluten free hadn't quite made it yet. That chewiness has never been there, leaving the bars dry and tough. This was not the case with the Annie's gluten free granola bars. They are very soft and chewy, as they should be. They're the closest to the Quaker granola bars I remember as a kid. (My favorite Market Day item....along with the string cheese.)

Not only was the taste and texture there, but they are full of the good stuff like:
  • 8g of Whole Grains per serving; great source of fiber
  • No artificial flavors, synthetic colors or preservatives 
  • No GMOs
  • No high fructose corn syrup
If you are looking for a more natural treat for Valentine's Day, Annie's has organic fruit snack Valentine's packs for the sweets-filled holiday. Complete with a teacher card, they are perfect for passing out at school. Unfortunately they are not sold online, but word on the Facebook is that you can buy them at Whole Foods, Sprout, Wegman's, and other natural food retailers.

Have you tried the new Annie's gluten free granola bars yet? What do you think?

February 10, 2014

Cider Summit Success

As I mentioned in my last post, this past weekend was the 2nd Annual Cider Summit in Chicago at Navy Pier.  The improvements they made this year were much appreciated; mainly splitting the event into two sessions to lessen the crowds and distributing tasting glasses that were made of glass not plastic (now my new favorite juice glass).

All grown up!

I headed out there with my girls, Alexandra, Tahnee, and Annie. Here's what we tasted and what we thought:

Black Star Farms - Sirius Maple Dessert - Betsy liked this one. Strong, smooth and boozy!

Farnum Hill Ciders - Farnum Hill Extra Dry: Alexandra said, "not sweet, dry, crisp"

California Cider Co. - Ace Apple-Honey: Betsy loved it! Not too sweet, but that touch of honey makes it work.

Ciderboys - Mad Bark - Our apple pie jam!! This apple cinnamon cider was so good Tahnee went back for seconds.
Ciderboys - Magic Apple - Tahnee gave this Strawberry Cider a whirl and liked it (but not as much as Mad Bark)

Citizen Cider - The Dirty Mayor: Betsy hated this ginger/lemon cider. (it tasted like lemon Pledge)
Citizen Cider - The Full Nelson: Alexandra didn't like (too hoppy)

Doc's Draft - Doc's Hard Raspberry: Betsy and Alexandra liked. Tahnee and Annie give it a so-so.

Orchard Gate JK's Organic Scrumpy - JK's Neighbour: Tahnee liked, Betsy gave it so-so (too floral tasting)
Orchard Gate Thistly Cross Whisky Cast: Annie says meh
Orchard Gate Thistly Cross Ginger: Alexandra says meh

Sietsema Cider - Red Label Bourbon Barrel - All liked this! (sweet cider)

Tandem Ciders - Cherry Oh Cherry Cider - Meh all around (more like a juice or a wine)

Tieton Cider Works - Apricot Cider: Everybody loved! (subtle apricot flavor, no aftertaste...delicious)
Tieton Cider Works - Cidermaker's Reserve Cider: Alexandra loved!

Two Rivers Cider Co. - Blood Orange Cider: All liked, but not loved. Sweet.

Virtue Cider - The Mitten: Betsy and Alexandra liked.

The winner of Cider Summit? Ciderboys Mad Bark, of course!

Binny's was a sponsor this year and they were passing out 10% off cider coupons. I may have been a bit overzealous when shopping, but I picked up my two favorites from the summit: Ciderboys Mad Bark and Tieton Apricot, as well as a favorite from last year: Julian Hard Cider Cherry Bomb, and one with a really cool lookin' bottle: Maeloc Blackberry Cider.

Are you a hard cider fan? What's your favorite maker or flavor? 

February 7, 2014

Cider Summit Chicago - It's Almost Here!

Who cares about craft beer when there is delicious hard cider to be had?

The 2nd Annual Cider Summit Chicago is taking place tomorrow, Saturday, February 8th at Navy Pier's Lakeview Terrace Room.

I went last year (and failed to blog about it!) and it was fantastic. A bit crowded, but this year they decided to split the event into two sessions: 11am - 3pm and 4pm - 8pm. This should break down the massive amount of people and hopefully lead to shorter lines and more space to move around.

How does it work? 

When you turn in your ticket, you will get a tiny tasting glass and 8 tasting tickets (don't worry, you can always buy more tickets, which are $2 each). When you visit a cider booth, you redeem your ticket(s) for a pour in your tasting glass.

Last year's cup. It's plastic, and not really souvenir-y

This year there are over 90 cidermakers, with your more common ciders like Woodchuck and Angry Orchard to vendors from England, Scotland, France, Spain, and even New Zealand!

The event will also feature specially selected food pairings (last year they had squares of chocolate and a little meat plate of salami and cheese), an author’s corner, and an event store featuring Cider Summit t-shirts and other merchandise.


Get tickets online as they might be sold out by the time you get to the door. New this year is the option for a designated driver to get a ticket for $5. They get a bottle of water. (and should get a special sash to proudly wear around to show how awesome they are for driving their soon-to-be tipsy friends.)

It's a great event and hopefully you will discover a new favorite cider! My favorite discovery at the past event was Julian's Cherry Bomb cider...so good!

See you there!

February 6, 2014

How Betsy Got Her Groove Back (aka finding my fitness groove)

I'm putting it all out there with this post, but I'm sure a lot of you can relate to my story. Especially when we indulge in a few too many gluten free cookies!

Before I began this blog, I rarely ate gluten free "goodies", mainly because they weren't readily accessible. This was the pre-Udi's days, people. I stuck to my diet of meats, fresh produce, and lots of corn shelled quesadillas. My big treat was an Enjoy Life soft baked cookie.  I was never a thin person, but was always trying to be one.

I discover gluten free pretzels.
I would work out sporadically with friends over the years and at one point I joined Weight Watchers with my mom (twice). I really got serious about getting fit the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2007. Coming back from stuffing ourselves silly over the Thanksgiving weekend, my co-worker and I looked up the nearest Weight Watchers and joined that day. It was a slow start, but it got the ball rolling.  It wasn't until a couple months later when I joined Jazzercise with my bestie (and then eventually with my GFF) that fell in love with exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

This is what six weeks of Jazzercise will do.
The weight finally started to come off. I began running and things were good. Someone even convinced me to run a half marathon with them. I was thrilled with the idea and started training. When I got to my final long distance run (10 miles), I fractured my foot. The urgent care doctor wrapped it up and told me no running for 12 weeks. Annnnnd that's where my fitness adventures ended.

I ran a couple 5Ks in 2008 also
Twelve weeks "on the bench" and a woe is me attitude led me give up on exercising all together only to pack on the pounds again. Over the course of a few years I managed to put on a ridiculous amount of weight. This sucked (and continues to suck) on so many levels, but mainly, I feel like crap. I don't have a lot of energy, my joints hurt, I get out of breath walking up stairs, etc. You get the idea.

April & October of 2013.
I knew I needed a change, but after seeing one of my favorite bloggers, Gluten Hates Me's Transformation Tuesday photo on instagram, I became totally inspired. I decided that my new year's resolution would be to "take more gym selfies". It was pretty much a joke, since I don't take selfies, let alone a gym one, but it would force me to start working out again.

For the entire month of January, I mainly did workouts from my exercise DVD collection and posted my gym selfies on instagram with the #HowBetsyGotHerGrooveBack. I've since stopped taking pictures and will only post workout photos here and there. I don't post that many pictures on instagram as it is and I don't need my account to be all me looking gross after workouts. However, I'm still hanging in there and going strong!

One month in...forever to go.
To see more of my workouts, check out my instagram.
I'm hoping to share more healthy recipes, workout playlists, my favorite fitness apps and my progress as I get my fitness groove back.

Have you struggled with your weight? What are your favorite workouts and healthy meals? Inspire me!