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This post brought to you by V8 Protein. The content and opinions expressed below are that of A Dash of Soul.

Happy Friday to you all! Since I’ve started exercising a lot more in the last couple months I’m always looking for new and delicious sources of protein. So I was excited to learn that V8 just released a new line of protein shakes and protein bars, and I was even more excited when they sent me some of the products to try out!

V8 is offering a variety of flavors in both the shakes and the bars. The shakes come in Chocolate, Vanilla, and Chocolate Raspberry flavors. And check out these awesome stats: 12 grams of protein3 grams of fiber, and a quarter cup of vegetables in each shake! There’s no high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners in there either! My favorite was the Chocolate, it’s the perfect thing for after a workout. I really loved the bars as a post-workout snack too:

The bars come in Chocolate Peanut Butter, Chocolate Pomegranate and Oatmeal Raisin. Awesome numbers here too: 10 grams of protein5 grams of fibera quarter cup of vegetables and no high fructose corn syrup in sight! It’s so crazy that there’s so many vegetables and good ingredients like quinoa packed in there, you can’t taste them at all. Jason and I both loved the Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor, it tastes like dessert!

I enjoyed all my bars and shakes as post-workout treats, but they’d also be great for an energizing breakfast or an on-the-go snack. They’re available on Amazon and at your local grocery store (I found them at my local Kroger). Check the V8 Protein site for more info on them or to see where you can get these goodies!

Learn more about V8 Protein bars and shakes

Buy now!

They are super convenient and I highly recommend them, I’m so glad that I got the chance to share them with you. I’d love to know if any of you tries them, come back and let me know!

-Lauren

I was provided free V8 protein products and compensated for my time to write this post. These are my honest opinions on the product and I ONLY post on products that I enjoy and would spend my own money on. Thanks for your support!

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A fresh and delicious alternative to pasta!

As you might have noticed, I’m having a pretty good time with my vegetable spiralizer (check out the video I did with Teriyaki Zucchini Noodles if you haven’t already). Since I already did a cooked zucchini noodle recipe, I wanted to do a simple raw one. The sauce isn’t 100% raw because the peppers are fire-roasted (which gives the sauce great flavor), but if you’re a raw foodie you can use raw red pepper instead. I like to use the thinnest blade for eating raw zucchini noodles, they are so tender and tasty!

A fresh and delicious alternative to pasta!

Zucchini Noodles with Roasted Red Pepper Marinara
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 2-3
Ingredients
  • 5 large organic zucchini
  • 3 c. organic crushed tomatoes
  • 1 roused organic red pepper, peeled and seeded
  • 2 t. fresh lemon juice
  • 1½ t. salt (or more to taste)
  • ¼ t. pepper
  • ¼ t. garlic powder
Instructions
  1. Spiralize the zucchini and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor (or you can use a blender) pulse the roasted red pepper until it's a chunky sauce.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the red pepper sauce with the remaining ingredients. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  4. Pour sauce over zucchini noodles and enjoy!

A fresh and delicious alternative to pasta!

 

I specify in the recipe to use organic vegetables, and that’s because I think it’s especially important in a dish where it’s going to be eaten raw and (in the case of the zucchini) with the peel still on. If organic is not available to you, you can certainly use conventional  vegetables! It’s a super nutritious meal either way!

A fresh and delicious alternative to pasta!

 

I think I’m going to experiment with spiraling some different vegetables next…hmmm what should I try?

-Lauren

P.S.- There’s no cooking video this week because there’s been a loss in Jason’s family and we’re leaving town in a few hours to be with his family. I have a fun post scheduled to share with you guys tomorrow and then I’ll be back next week. I know you guys will understand. :)

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Another week, another little chunk of training under my belt! I really like doing these weekly check-ins to stay accountable and self-assess my progress, so I think I’m going to keep doing them! I enjoy reading these kinds of posts on other blogs so I’m hoping at least a couple of you do too! I think for every check-in I’ll focus on a different topic that was relevant to my training that week. Here’s what’s happened since I last posted:

runningpiclr

Wednesday: 2 mile interval run/rest day (guess which one I chose…)

Thursday: Cycling

Friday: 3 mile run + strength training

Saturday: rest

Sunday: 4 mile run

Monday: strength training + stretching

Today: 3.5 mile run

Yet again, I skipped the interval run in favor of sitting on my butt. But that was the last time I slacked off all week! Thursday I went on the stationary bike for a quick 2.5 miles and then did some upper body machines at the gym. Friday’s run on the treadmill was actually AWESOME. I started out strong and ran the first 20 minutes without stopping to walk. That’s a huge deal for me, quite an improvement from a month ago. And I finished the 5K distance in 37 minutes, which is a couple minutes faster than than I did on the first day of training. I know that is still really slow for most people, but all I care about is seeing improvement! Sunday was the only day I ran outside, and I went back to the preserve that I’m growing to really love more and more.

runningpiclr-2

I took a slightly different path this time which involved almost entirely trail running, which is so fun! Jumping over logs and dodging the occasional tree branch is way more interesting than running on a sidewalk! It was a beautiful sunny day too, which certainly didn’t hurt. I stopped along the way to take some pics and show you guys the scenery!

runningpiclr-3

My pace was very tortoise-like, and I’ll go ahead and show you my splits to prove that to you. In my defense, Atlanta is a hilly place to run. Also in my defense, no matter how slow I go it’s still faster than sitting on the couch. :)

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 3.56.08 AM

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 3.55.48 AM

But I did have an 11(ish?) minute mile in there, woah! My fastest mile so far! Hopefully by this time next month that can be my average! Most of my time problem is that I’m taking some really long walk breaks, and I’m okay with that for now. It’s rough for me to see how slow I’ve gotten but I’m staying POSITIVE. I believe in myself and I KNOW I can get back to the pace I used to run a few years ago.

So the OTHER thing that made my runs this week better was that I tried something new called “story running”. Have any of you tried this? I get the stories off Runtastic (which is the app I use to track all my workouts), and it’s basically an interactive way to run. You’re told a plot through your headphones which involves you running to do certain tasks or complete certain missions. My favorite one so far is called “The Journey of Iomluath” which is a fantasy story where you are running to find the cure for an illness that is plaguing your ancient tribe. I’m a total fantasy nerd so this was right up my alley. Here’s a quick trailer of that story to give you a little taste:

 

It sounds silly but it REALLY made my run go by faster! I love the idea of interactive running. We’re naturally built to run towards and away from things…real things like animals and other people, but that element of it is completely lost in 2015. For that reason to me it feels very unnatural. Sometimes I have this mental block of “Why am I putting on these clothes and forcing my body to run around in circles (or literally in place on a machine) for no reason?”. To overcome that I like pretending that I’m actually running away from real danger–it’s fun! There’s an app with a zombie plot (so you’re running away from zombies basically) which sounds really fun and I think I’ll check that out next. For now it’s just me and my iPhone, running away from monsters and chasing fairies in the forest. Totally normal. ;)

-Lauren

So I’m wondering…

Have you been making any progress in your fitness that you’re excited about? Have you heard of story running or tried it before? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

Recent fitness posts:

The Running Bug

Half Marathon Training Begins

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A creamy pimento cheese ball rolled in smoky roasted almonds! #sponsored #GameChangingSnacks

This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds.

A creamy pimento cheese ball rolled in smoky roasted almonds! #sponsored #GameChangingSnacks

With game day coming up I know lots of people are looking for delicious snacks to share with friends and family. I have to admit that food is the part of the game that I’m most interested in. So when Blue Diamond invited me to share a Game Changing Recipe for this year, I was ALL in. Of course I wanted to do something with a little Southern twist to it, so my mind went straight to pimento cheese (my mind often goes straight to pimento cheese).

A creamy pimento cheese ball rolled in smoky roasted almonds! #sponsored #GameChangingSnacks

Your standard cheese ball is usually rolled in chopped pecans, but I had an idea that it would be way more epic coated in a crunchy layer of smoky, roasted almonds. Holy deliciousness. The smoky almonds have so much flavor that they take the pimento cheese to a whole other level, it almost tastes like the cheese itself is smoked. Oh yeah. As good as it sounds.

Smokehouse Pimento Cheese Ball
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 8 oz. package neufchâtel cheese
  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 t. worcestershire sauce
  • 1 t. soy sauce
  • 1 t. lemon juice
  • 3 T. chopped pimento peppers
  • ½ c. Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds
  • 1 box Blue Diamond Artisan Nut Thins (the Multi-Seeds flavor goes perfectly)
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the cheeses, worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, soy sauce, and pimento peppers until everything is well incorporated.
  2. Empty the mixture in one large lump onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Wrap it tightly in the plastic and form the mixture into a ball with your hands.
  3. Put the ball into the fridge for 2 hours (or the freezer for about 20 minutes) to harden a bit.
  4. Either hand chop the almonds or put them into the bowl of a food processor and chop finely. Transfer the chopped nuts to a shallow dish.
  5. Remove the cheese ball from the fridge/freezer and roll it around in the chopped nuts until it's completely coated on all sides.
  6. Return to the refrigerator until ready to eat. Serve with Nut Thins and your favorite vegetables!

A creamy pimento cheese ball rolled in smoky roasted almonds! #sponsored #GameChangingSnacks

You can use any type of cracker or vegetable that you want to serve the cheese ball with, but I would recommend Mutli-Seeds Nut Thins. I discovered Nut Thins a few months back and have been obsessed ever since, they’re quite addictive.

A creamy pimento cheese ball rolled in smoky roasted almonds! #sponsored #GameChangingSnacks

If you add this to your game day menu I can promise that people will come back for seconds! Now I have to figure out a way to stop myself from eating the whole ball…

-Lauren

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I wrote this post for Blue Diamond as a part of their Game Changing Snacks campaign. All opinions are my own. For more Game Changing Snacks, visit Blue Diamond Almonds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Homemade Nutella

Rich, velvety chocolate hazelnut spread that you can make at home!

I made this recipe for the first time over Christmas and it was pretty much love at first taste. I think most people love the flavor combination of chocolate and hazelnuts, but if you thought you liked Nutella JUST WAIT until you try this homemade version. Check out the video below where I show you how to make it!
 

And here’s the full recipe:

5.0 from 1 reviews
Homemade Nutella
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1½ c. peeled hazlenuts
  • 1 c. milk chocolate chips, melted and cooled
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • ½ t. salt
  • 1 T. coconut oil
  • ½ c. powdered sugar
  • 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
Instructions
  1. Toast hazlenuts in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes to toast. Set aside to cool.
  2. Blend the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor until the mixture becomes a spreadable consistency (should take around 5 minutes).
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to process until everything is very smooth and creamy, scraping down the bowl a couple times as necessary.
  4. Can be stored on the counter if you plan to use it within a few days, otherwise it can be stored in the refrigerator up to a month.

Rich, velvety chocolate hazelnut spread that you can make at home!

If you really want a treat, spread a little of this on some toast along with your favorite nut butter…just heavenly. I cannot promise that you won’t eat the whole jar with a spoon before you have a chance to try that though. ;)

-Lauren

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I hope you all enjoyed your weekend! I had a nice relaxing one and it was great to have Jason home for the holiday yesterday. As many of you know, I posted a couple weeks ago that I’m going to be running a half marathon at the end of April! Since I’m not a super experienced runner, I knew I should get started training as soon as possible. Per the recommendation of a couple friends I decided to go with Hal Higdon’s training plan. His website has free plans for different race distances and different fitness levels, so I’m following the Novice 1 Program for the half marathon. It’s a 12-week plan, which means that I had to get started this past week! First thing I did was to make my own training calendar to actually fill in what I would be doing on what days and just to make it a little more colorful and interesting.

January Half Marathon Training

The first week was a little challenging because frankly I’m not in a regular exercise routine and I can’t even remember the last time I worked out more than once or twice a week (it was probably this past summer during the Tone It Up bikini series). So it was a little hard to get my butt up and get moving! I’ll be honest and say that I actually missed my Wednesday interval run because I was lazy. It’s an optional rest day on Hal’s plan so I think it’ll be hard to motivate myself to do it knowing that. BUT on the flip side of that, I ran out of time to run on Friday but instead of skipping it I went to the gym and hit the treadmill at midnight. A little crazy? Yes. But I’m determined not to let laziness/time management ruin me! No excuses.

running square pic

In terms of the actual workouts, I’m starting with a pretty low fitness base. Not so low that it’s dangerous for me to be attempting a race this length, but low enough that it’s going to kick my butt realllllyyy hard. It’s painfully obvious to me how weak my cardiovascular system is, and I’m really looking forward to getting stronger and being able to run without feeling completely exhausted and winded all the time.

running ecard

I also need to work on my breathing techniques! I feel like I’m breathing properly (at an efficient pace and from the belly), but apparently I’m not because I get SLAMMED with side stitches on every single run. Anyone who follows me on Twitter has probably noticed that I’m desperately seeking a solution.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.18.16 PM

The way the training is mapped out you have one “long run” on the weekends and then shorter ones during the week. My first long run was on Sunday, and I was supposed to go 4 miles. I was actually blessed with a beautiful sunny day on Sunday so I ran down to the nature preserve near my house and had what was probably my best run yet! The scenery was so beautiful and serene and I was just feeling really good (next time I’ll remember to take photos!). A lot of it is unpaved routes through the woods so I got some trail running in, which I LOVE. I felt so good that I miscalculated my route and ended up doing 5 miles instead of 4! I was SHOCKED when I got home and realized, and I’m pretty pumped that I was able to go that far and not feel dead afterward. It gave me a glimmer of hope for the 13 miles ahead! Like I mentioned in my last post, I’m choosing to believe that I can do this.

This was a little long winded (I could talk forever about this!) but I hope that some of you enjoy these kinds of posts! This is a big part of my healthy lifestyle goals right now so I would like to keep writing here about my progress and my thoughts along the way.

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2-Minute Chili Oil

A super quick and easy recipe for homemade hot chili oil!

I’ve got a special guest post for you today! From none other than my honey bunches. He’s a spicy food FIEND and is here to share some of his spicy wisdom. I’ll let him take it away!

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Almost two years ago, I brought you a recipe for hot chili oil. That stove-top recipe, which I still use, takes about 15 minutes and makes a pretty large quantity of oil.  But sometimes you’re in a pinch and just need some chili oil right away.  As in, you’re preheating the pan for your stir fry and realize you don’t have any chili oil to sauté your vegetables in!  (Surely this happens to everybody???)  Well, ladies and gents, I have a fix for that: Two-Minute Chili Oil!  Yes, this is not exactly rocket science, but it makes a fantastic chili oil to use in a pinch.  I have used this recipe countless times to make a small quantity of super spicy chili oil almost immediately.

A super quick and easy recipe for homemade hot chili oil!

2-Minute Chili Oil
 
Author:
Serves: ¼ c. chili oil
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup oil (vegetable, canola, or peanut)
  • 1 tablespoon dried thai chili pods, crushed or broken (approximately 8 pods)
Instructions
  1. Pour oil into a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup tempered to withstand extremely high heat (i.e. Pyrex).
  2. Break, crush, or chop dried chili pods into small pieces, exposing inner membrane and seeds.
  3. Add broken chili pods to the oil and stir briefly so that the pods are not all floating on top of the oil but spread throughout.
  4. Microwave oil and chili pod mixture on power level 7 (or 70%) for 90 seconds.***
  5. CAREFULLY remove HOT oil from microwave using a potholder and put in a safe place (i.e. away from children and pets). CAUTION: Bowl or measuring cup will be HOT!
  6. Allow mixture to cool, leaving the chili pods in the oil and stirring occasionally.
  7. Enjoy!
Notes
Of course, you can alter the ratio of oil to chilis to suit your spice level. I like mine very potent and spicy. For a milder oil, use half a tablespoon of crushed pods. For an even spicier oil, use an extra half a tablespoon of chilis.

Tips and Warnings:

*** Some people advise against microwaving oil, as it can reach extremely high temperatures (over 300 degrees) in a very short amount of time.  Please be safe when attempting this recipe!  I always keep an eye on the oil when it’s in the microwave, and I never microwave more than 1/4 cup at a time.  As noted above, please only use a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup tempered to withstand extremely high heat (i.e. Pyrex).  Do not use anything that might melt or shatter! ***

 

I typically use a 1-cup Pyrex measuring cup, which gives you plenty of room to spare for stirring and also gives you a nice handle to grip onto with a potholder (note: even the handle will get extremely hot in the microwave).  You don’t want to use something too shallow, as the oil will be scalding hot and you don’t want to burn your fingers when removing it from the microwave.

You can break the chili pods in a variety of ways: break them up with your hands (caution: use gloves if you choose this method), chop them in a mini chopper/food processor of some sort, slice them with a paring knife, or even crush them with a mortar and pestle if they are brittle enough.  The goal is simply to break them up enough that the inner membrane containing the seeds is exposed to the oil during the heating and infusion process.  This will allow the oil to take on the full flavor and spice of the chilis.

A super quick and easy recipe for homemade hot chili oil!
You can use the oil as a topping or to sautee ingredients for other recipes.  You can also strain out the chili pods and seeds if you wish.  I leave mine in because I like to eat the pods.  Store in a cool dry place for up to a week, or in the refrigerator for up to a month.

A super quick and easy recipe for homemade hot chili oil!
I hope you find this recipe as useful and delicious as I have!  Thanks for reading.

-Jason

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Zucchini and carrot noodles in a sweet teriyaki sauce!

It’s Thursday which means time for my next cooking video! I got a spiralizer for Christmas and I’m IN LOVE with the zucchini noodles it makes so I thought it would be fun to do a recipe with them.


 

Teriyaki Zucchini Noodles (VIDEO!)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 1-2
Ingredients
  • 3 large zucchinis
  • 1 small carrot (or half of a large carrot)
  • ¼ c. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1½ T. mirin
  • ¼ t. garlic powder
  • 1 T. cornstarch + 1 T. water
  • 2 t. sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Spiralize the zucchini and carrots to make thin noodles. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the soy sauce, honey, mirin, and garlic powder over medium heat until it simmers.
  3. Add in the cornstarch and water mixture, stir and simmer until the cornstarch dissolves and the sauce thickens.
  4. Remove from the heat and toss in the vegetable noodles until they are completely coated. If you prefer the noodles to be more cooked, sauté them in the sauce over low heat until the noodles soften.
  5. Sprinkle sesame seeds over noodles and enjoy!

If you haven’t tried zucchini noodles yet, you’re missing out! They are SO good with a simple tomato sauce too and I imagine would be awesome with pesto. So many possibilities!

Zucchini and carrot noodles in a sweet teriyaki sauce!

I hope you guys are enjoying the videos, there’s another one coming next week!

-Lauren

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A rainbow of fruits drizzled with a sweet and creamy limoncello dressing!

How is everyone doing with their healthy eating resolutions? I’m feeling good and still doing pretty well keeping things on track, but I’m trying to stay creative with my meals so that I don’t lose motivation. As you might know, I LOVE a good fruit salad as a healthy meal/side dish option. And this, my friends, is a REALLY good fruit salad.

A rainbow of fruits drizzled with a sweet and creamy limoncello dressing!

Of course you can use whatever fruit you like, it’s the dressing that’s really the crucial part here. If you aren’t familiar with limoncello, it’s an Italian lemon liqueur that has a million different uses but is incredible paired with fruit. I like to use it twice in this recipe, once to soak the fruit and again in the Greek yogurt based dressing. I used 0% fat Chobani to keep things light and healthy!

A rainbow of fruits drizzled with a sweet and creamy limoncello dressing!

Rainbow Fruit Salad with Creamy Limoncello Dressing
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 6 oz. raspberries
  • 6 oz. blackberries
  • 6 oz. drained mandarin orange slices
  • 2-3 kiwis, peeled and diced
  • 3 T. limoncello
  • ½ c. plain greek yogurt
  • 1 T. meyer lemon juice
  • 1 T. sweetener of choice (I've tried honey and powdered sugar, both work well)
Instructions
  1. Very gently toss all the fruit together with 1 T. of the limoncello. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 2 T. of limoncello, greek yogurt, lemon juice, and sweetener. Stir until the dressing is completely smooth.
  3. Remove the fruit mixture to a large serving bowl and drizzle with the dressing.
  4. You can garnish with mint leaves or some lemon zest. Serve and enjoy!

 

A rainbow of fruits drizzled with a sweet and creamy limoncello dressing!

If you can find Meyer lemons, they really are worth the purchase. Their juice is much sweeter and less bitter than a regular lemon, and they have beautiful golden rinds that make a wonderful garnish for the salad. This would make such a gorgeous healthy dessert, don’t you think? You could even serve it with a little chilled limoncello as a cordial on the side! I’ll be right over!

A rainbow of fruits drizzled with a sweet and creamy limoncello dressing!

Hope you enjoyed this, I’m having a lot of fun coming up with healthy recipes to start out this new year! See you tomorrow with a cooking video!

-Lauren

 

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superfood smoothie_

It’s my first recipe of the new year! Seems only fitting that I start out the new year with trying something fresh. My very FIRST cooking video!
 

 
Well, you can’t really call making a smoothie ‘cooking’, but you know what I mean. :) I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time and I really hope you guys like it! I’m a super awkward person (ask any of my girlfriends) so this isn’t the easiest thing for me, but I’ve had this feeling for a long time like video would be a way for me to take this site to the next level. I tried vlogging our daily lives and doing favorites videos and stuff but that wasn’t really feeling it 100%. I have a much better feeling about doing these kinds of videos! I’m planning to do one every week on Thursdays, and then sprinkle my usual posts in during other times of the week. Okay enough blabbering, here’s this super awesome nutrition packed smoothie that you should definitely try:

Superfood Pre-Workout Smoothie
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 c. frozen strawberries
  • ½ c. frozen blueberries
  • ¼ c. frozen guanabana
  • 1 packet frozen acai berry
  • 1 T. chia seeds
  • 1 ripe banana (I don't use a frozen one since the rest of the fruit is frozen)
  • 1 c. almond milk (or as much as you need to get to desired consistency)
Instructions
  1. Blend all the ingredients together and enjoy 1-2 hours before your workout!

I’ll need lots of these in the near future!

-Lauren

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