On a roll!

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I first came across foam rolling on Pinterest when I was looking for a way to relieve my sore muscles. Once a little pain sets in, it can put a HUGE damper on motivation, and it’s easy to forego workouts altogether. In one respect, soreness means you’re doing something right. Too much, however, could indicate dehydration or the need for a good old-fashioned stretch.

Recently, a friend of mine posted a photo of her foam roller and said that it was one of her greatest investments. After that, rollers kept popping up everywhere – Instagram, Facebook, you name it! To be honest, that first one only caught my eye because it was bright pink, but after a little research, I knew I had to have one.

What is foam rolling, anyway?

Foam rolling is a soft massaging therapy that you can do on your own with a roller made of – you guessed it – foam! It’s also known as self-myofascial release and is a hell of a lot cheaper to do at home.

The “real” myofascial release that you would go to a licensed therapist for is a pretty expensive treatment that involves applying pressure to your connective tissue to reduce pain and increase motion. To get the best results, a series of 4 sessions are recommended. For a full treatment, including info session and diagnosis, you could pay upwards of $600. Yikes!

GRID Foam Roller

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The roller you choose makes all the difference. It may be painful to roll at first, but once you form a routine, you’ll start to experience great results. Some of the benefits include better sleep (kiss those restless legs goodbye!), increased flexibility, and reduced muscle pain. My recommendation is the GRID foam roller by TriggerPoint. For just $39.99 (plus shipping), you’ll be well on your way to feeling better. Compare that to what you’d pay for just one session at a wellness center!

The GRID is designed to replicate an actual massage, and as you roll, you can feel the different pressure points rubbing against all of your tight muscles. Unlike most rollers that have a foam core, this one has a hollow core that is wrapped in a thin layer of foam, making it firmer with the ability to withstand up to 500 pounds of static weight. At just over a foot long and less than six inches wide, you can literally take your GRID foam roller anywhere! And the best part? The product is backed by a 30-day guarantee and one-year warranty, so roll your heart out!

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As part of my cooldown after each workout, I roll my back, glutes, hamstrings, I.T. band, hip-flexors, and calves, for about 30 seconds on each body part. It feels so good. Plus, I’ve never slept better! Around nighttime, I was getting aches and odd sensations in my legs that would wake me up at odd hours, especially after a tough workout. Since I started rolling with the GRID, I haven’t had any trouble sleeping through the night. I’m seriously amazed.

Bottom Line

This is a must-have purchase for everyone who works out. If I could only choose one recovery tool, this would be it. The only decision you need to make is which of the five fun colors you want!

Check out TriggerPoint’s website for more information and to view the entire product line, including massage balls, DVDs, guidebooks, and more!

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by TriggerPoint. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Diary of a Snacker successful. All opinions are my own.

I know you know, but I have to say it anyway…Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise or fitness program (yes, even foam rolling!). Use this roller and all other fitness tools at your own risk.

Eat hole foods

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I debated whether or not to try The Dough Bar’s protein-packed doughnuts for far too long. They look delicious with all of the yummy toppings and flavor combinations, they’re a healthy alternative to my favorite Dunkin’ glazed, and there are only 150 calories and 16 carbs per (plain) doughnut. So, why the wait? Well, I just couldn’t be sure that they would taste as good as they looked.

The problem with “healthy alternatives” is that there are plenty of phonies out there. You know the food that claims to be healthy and good tasting, but really just resembles sugared cardboard? I didn’t want to waste my time or money on any more of that. But, I figured, if I didn’t like them, I would just leave a scathing review and be on my way – JUST KIDDING!

I can honestly tell you that when you try The Dough Bar’s doughnuts, you won’t be disappointed. At all. They were so good that I wanted to cry tears of joy. I finally found a good one!

The texture is similar to a moist cake doughnut – like something I’ve made in my Babycakes donut maker, not like the apple cider cake doughnuts you can find practically everywhere in the fall. They have a hint of vanilla and cinnamon (even though that’s not one of the ingredients – hmmm) and aren’t overwhelmingly sweet. They definitely don’t taste like cardboard.

Gimme all the doughnuts!

The Dough Bar designed their doughnuts to be eaten every day – you don’t have to, of course, but why wouldn’t you want to?

Froot Loops, PB Puppy Chow, and Carrot Cake are just some of the creative flavor combos. I’m ordering Froot Loops next because it comes with double the glaze and the classic cereal definitely takes me back to my childhood. (Did I mention double the glaze?)

 

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This is literally an everything doughnut!

If you aren’t very adventurous (or you prefer to make your own glaze and toppings), you can purchase a 4 or 8-pack of plain doughnuts.

I see a plain doughnut sliced in half with almond butter and banana topped with cacao nibs in my future! That would be a serious enhancement of my typical Tuesday night snack.

A new variety of the month 8-pack appears every month, so be on the lookout!

What’s included?

When you order a standard 4-pack (not plain), you get four individually wrapped plain doughnuts with their doughnut holes, four cups of glaze, and four cups of toppings. The fun is in how you decorate them. Check out Instagram for ideas.

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JunkBanter Pack

I really couldn’t decide which flavor I wanted to try first, so I went with the JunkBanter Pack because it included four different ones: Cinnamon Glaze & Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cocoa Cookie Butter Glaze & Crushed Oreos and Chips Ahoy, Nutella Glaze & Kit Kat Crumbles, and Reese’s PB Glaze & Mini PB Cups. Plus, a portion of each sale was donated to the National MS Society. Double win!

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I love Cinnamon Toast Crunch!

The bottom line: I would recommend these to a friend. The doughnuts taste great, and they make a nice “cheat” treat. The only downside is the shipping cost – $9.00 for those of us on the East Coast. Ouch! But, I’ll allow it every so often. While the company only ships out each Monday, you do get your items quickly after.

Happy Snacking!

 

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored by The Dough Bar. All opinions are my own.

Get your chocolate fix

Looking for a chocolate fix? Go Dr. No.

I (virtually) met Amale, the woman behind this amazing chocolate, last year. We chatted via email a bit and I learned that she wants to help people suffering from cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses live happier lives. She really wants to make a difference in our world and has a heart of gold. And really, what better way to spread the happiness than with good-for-you chocolate?

What makes it different?

How cute is this stamp?

Dr. No Chocolate is 75% cocoa and organic with a rich and smooth taste. It makes a perfect treat for diabetics or those eating low carb because it’s sugar-free and void of artificial sweeteners. It’s also gluten free and doesn’t contain artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

The chocolate comes in three delicious flavors: Dark Chocolate, Pumpkin Seed & Sea Salt (my favorite!), and Almonds. I love the salty-savory combination that the pumpkin seeds and sea salt add to the sweet chocolate – such a unique and delicious treat! If you have a HUGE sweet tooth, I recommend the variety pack so you can try one of each and pick your favorite!

Great for gifts, baking, or snacking when you’re craving something sweet. You won’t believe it’s sugar-free!

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by Dr. No Chocolate. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Diary of a Snacker successful. All opinions are my own.

Grab ’em and go

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What do you grab when you’re in a hurry? If you’re like most people, it’s junk. I can remember walking to the corner store armed with a pocket full of change and a desire to check off everything on my list – Laffy Taffy, Hot Fries, Slim Jims, and Blow Pops. My 10-year-old self was shining in the glory of it. Why? Because it tasted good, was convenient, and the packaging screamed: “EAT ME, NOW!”

Flash forward almost two decades, and I still revel in all things easy and convenient, but I pride myself on making better food choices.

That’s why I love Bricks Bars. The ingredients are clean and sustainable, and the on-the-go packaging suits my busy – at times, hectic – lifestyle.  Great for hiking, biking, traveling. Just throw them in your bag, and you’re good to go.

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Bricks organic meal bars are paleo and soy, gluten, and antibiotic free. The company uses grass-fed meats, and sustainably sourced GMO-free veggies, fruit, and seeds. Now, that’s something I can stand behind.

My favorite is the organic beef, uncured bacon, cranberry, and sunflower seed bar. Such a unique combination of flavors that makes your senses go wild with adventure. There’s something about the salty-sweet blend that gets me every time.

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Runner up is the organic turkey, sweet potato, cranberry, and pumpkin seed bar reminds me of Thanksgiving. Actually, if I’m honest, it reminds me of Willy Wonka’s factory. Anyone remember the 3-course meal in a stick of chewing gum? I always wondered what that would be like. You get the yummy, savory main course, the side dishes, and pie at the close. What nostalgia attached to this!

Don’t just take my word for it. To taste just how delicious these bars really are, head over to bricksbars.com. You can get a variety sample 3-pack of Bricks Bars for $8.99 and FREE shipping.

Happy Snacking!

 

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by Bricks. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Diary of a Snacker successful. All opinions are my own.

A post-workout bite

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Recovery is an important part of fitness. Sometimes you don’t realize that until you’re so sore, you can’t even get out of bed the morning after an intense training session. Never underestimate the power of the cool down and a good post-workout meal.

A couple of months ago I stumbled across a company, ToYou Healthy Snacks, that makes – you guessed it! – healthy snack bars, including a delicious Post-Workout.

According to CEO Sergio Font, the company was created to “share passion for both a nutritious and active lifestyle.” If this doesn’t resonate with me, I don’t know what does. In fact, it aligns right with my mission to “inspire others to live fit, healthy, and happy lives.”

What you see is what you get.

There are no additives or preservatives, and the bars are gluten free and filling. The perfect post-workout snack to fuel the day and calm hunger. Easy on the go (and an excellent topping for yogurt), these bars help speed up my recovery time.

Each of the seven simple ingredients serves a purpose and complements each other. Salty, savory, and subtly sweet – you won’t even taste the veggies!

Cashews

My favorite! These nuts are high in fat (the good kind) and protein and rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The magnesium supports healthy bones and nerves.

Dried Spinach

This veggie is packed, and I mean PACKED with vitamins. It’s rich in iron, vitamins K, A, B12, & C, folic acid, manganese, and magnesium. The question here is what doesn’t it do for you?

Hemp Protein Powder

A great source of digestible protein. It’s loaded with calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and more. It’s also a great natural anti-inflammatory.

Mint Chips

These chips add a burst of sweet flavor to the bars and give it a desserty feel. Mint promotes digestion by easing inflammation and prompting our glands to secrete digestive enzymes. It’s a good post-workout herb because it aids the circulation of energy and helps calm inflammation.

Sweet Potato

I am obsessed with sweet potatoes. Not only are they completely yummy and versatile, but they are filled with vitamins that help keep us healthy. Vitamin C produces collagen, which reduces cellulite and keeps our skin looking young and fresh; vitamin D builds strong bones and boosts our energy levels; magnesium helps keep the calm and aids in muscle repair. These are good carbs.

Chia Bran

Chia is fun. You can use the seeds to grow a funky kind of pet – think about those 90s commercials! Or you can eat it and nourish your body with some good stuff. It’s gluten free and has more fiber than plain old bran cereal. Chia is also a good source of healthy fat and has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. It’s known to improve mental focus.

Brown Rice Syrup

When I spoke to a representative from ToYou, I specifically asked about this ingredient. It’s a sweetener created from brown rice, somewhat similar to maple syrup or honey. There are trace amounts of minerals, but it’s just a binding agent that is minimally used in all of the bars.

Tell me, how do you recover?

For more information about the Post-Workout bars and ToYou’s entire line of healthy snack bars, visit toyousnacks.com

 

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by ToYou Healthy Snacks. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Diary of a Snacker successful. All opinions are my own.

Smooth or crunchy?

It’s the age old PB question, but it fits with almond butter too. I’m a smooth gal myself, and my mom likes crunchy. There’s no compromise here; it’s either one or the other.

Fortunately, most companies have caught on. One of these, Barney Butter, has so many awesome flavors and unique combinations such as Vanilla + Espresso, Honey + Flax, and Cocoa + Coconut. Whether you’re looking for super smooth, chunky, or somewhere in between, they’ve got you covered.

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One of my favorite afternoon snacks.

Barney Butter’s almond butters are made with fresh California almonds in a peanut-free and Certified Organic facility. They are also Certified Vegan, Certified Gluten-Free, and Non-GMO Project verified (other than the Honey + Flax). I love that the company uses recycled, BPA-Free jars that can be reused for on-the-go snacking.

Barney Butter comes in snack packs (perfect for on-the-go) and jars (perfect for every day, baking, and eating with a spoon!) Check out their site for a full list of products.

Sometimes you just need a cookie!

Here’s a recipe that’s easy to whip up with ingredients you probably have on hand.

Vanilla Espresso Almond Butter Cookies

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1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, sofened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/3-1/2 cup Barney Butter Vanilla + Espresso Almond Butter
1 cup gluten free flour blend
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, beat sugars and butter until smooth.
3. Whisk in vanilla and egg, then almond butter.
4. In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
5. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined.
6. Form dough into 1″ balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet, flatten. (Dough may be sticky.)
7. Bake for 6-8 minutes.
8. Let cool and enjoy!

Visit Barney Butter online for fun recipes with all of the creative almond butter flavors.

 

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored, in part, by Barney Butter. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Diary of a Snacker successful. All opinions (and the recipe) are my own.

In an instant!

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Birthday present from my mom!

Last year I kept hearing about the Instant Pot and how amazing it was. “Cook pulled pork in record time!” “Hottest kitchen item around!” “You need to buy this NOW!” I did a little research and was, at first, a bit turned off by the hefty price tag. Then I started to see all of the amazing foods that could be cooked in the pressure cooker, and all of the time saved by using it, and knew I had to have it.

When my mom surprised me with the Instant Pot for my birthday, I was ecstatic. Seriously an amazing gift for a cook (or want to be cook)! I used it that day. And I’ve used it every week since.

It’s taken me a while to actually write up a review because I wanted to make sure I covered everything. I had a lot of questions in the beginning and if you’re on the fence about the purchase, I’m sure you have a ton too.

Below you’ll find some of the basics.

Pronunciation

Instant Pot, not Instapot – for some reason I keep seeing that one floating out there. Two words – okay?

Who is it for?

This product is good for people with 9-5 jobs, those who want to meal prep but just don’t have the time, people who hate cooking, people who love cooking, people who love gadgets. On second thought, this product is good for people.

Is it worth the money?

I get this ALL the time. If you look at the Instant Pot as just a cooking tool, it seems hella expensive. Retail price for the 6 qt 7-in-1 (IP-DUO60) is $99.99, albeit a step down from last year’s going rate of $129.99.

But, in essence, you’re not just buying a cooking tool. You’re getting a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, and warmer complete with a sauté/browning feature, neatly packaged into one item. That’s big. As much as I love my Crock-Pot, I haven’t used it once since getting the Instant Pot.

Instead of wondering if it’s worth the money, think about how much your time is worth. If this device can cut cook time by 50 or even 75 percent, would it help you out? Would you be more inclined to cook?

What does it do?

Literally, everything described above. It cooks good meals in record time – think 7 minutes for easy-peel hard boiled eggs, 35-minute shredded chicken, 15-minute chili. If you’ve made your own bone broth, you know it can take 24-48 hours on the stove top and 8+ hours in the slow cooker. With the Instant Pot, you can have it in two.

What are all those buttons?

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Ha. There are a lot of controls and that can be intimidating. You typically won’t use all of them. On any given day I tend to use the bottom 8 and the – + buttons because they really cover everything. The Soup, Rice, etc. just take the guesswork out of manual programming.

  • High Pressure – most meals are cooked on this setting
  • Manual – I make most of my dishes in this setting because I get to control the time (and have found that some recipes require more or less than recommended)
  • Timer – changes the input so you can adjust the time for manual cooking
  • Less & More – adjust the time needed for a particular dish
  • Keep Warm/Cancel – stops the cooking and keeps your dish warm until you’re ready/shuts off the Instant Pot entirely
  • Sauté – a good feature to brown meat before adding the rest of the ingredients to the pot
  • The other buttons are not used as frequently, but I would like to include a video of how and when to use them.

How much liquid do you need?

Rule of thumb is 1-2 cups of liquid for every recipe. So, if you are cooking two chicken breasts, 1 cup of chicken broth (or water) would be sufficient. Add more if you want extra juice. The nice thing about the Instant Pot is that liquid under pressure does not evaporate – if you start out with 1 cup, you’ll end up with 1 cup.

Is it safe?

This isn’t your grandmother’s pressure cooker. You know, the one that used rattle, whistle, and shake like it was going to explode? Now, that was scary.

There are 10 proven safety mechanisms including lid close detection (unit will beep and not start until the lid is properly fastened and locked) and high-temperature warning (pressure will not build up in the pot if there is not enough liquid or moisture).

After reading through your user manual and seeing how it works, you should feel completely comfortable using it.

Note: It is important to only use/buy items and accessories that are manufactured and tested by Instant Pot. In particular, the sealing rings have been tested and passed UL, FDA, and LFGB safety tests. The same cannot be said about 3rd party companies/products.

Does it really cook that fast?

Yes. And maybe not. I don’t want you to get discouraged here, but I have to be honest. Many of the recipes don’t account for the time it takes to pressurize the chamber. So, while hard boiled eggs only take 7 minutes to cook, there is an extra 10-15 minutes of pressure time that must be factored in.

But the unit is amazing and will cook a lot of your slow cooker favorites (think pulled pork) in record time.

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So easy to peel – I wanted to cry tears of joy!

How do you clean it?

It’s easy to clean out the Instant Pot. Just remove the stainless steel cooking pot, scrub with hot soapy water and dry. Clean the lid with a damp cloth or sponge, then remove the inner flexible sealing ring and clean in hot soapy water. The cooking pot and sealing ring can also be placed in the dishwasher. I always wipe down the surface of the unit when done in case there are any spills.

Note: After the first use the bottom of my pot was stained. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but couldn’t get it back to its original state. This has not affected cooking in any way but is worth mentioning in case you experience something similar. If this really bugs you, you can purchase a new pot for around $34 on Amazon.

What items and accessories are available?

There are a number of different accessories made especially for the Instant Pot, including sealing rings, cookbooks, tempered glass lids, silicone safety mitts, etc.

Check out Amazon for a full listing and to purchase.

Why I like it

The Instant Pot is very helpful to me when I’m meal prepping on the weekends and if – no, when – I forget to take the meat out of the freezer before I leave for work.

I’ve never been able to cook anything so fast, so good, and so tender. The meat falls off the bone and shreds easily, meals are more flavorful, and there are so many fun recipes online or you can easily adapt your own. Check Pinterest for ideas. Some of my favorites include Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole and Crack Chicken by Adventures of a Nurse.

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Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Thanks to the Instant Pot’s growing popularity, there are now several cookbooks specifically for pressure-cooking. My favorite it is Paleo Cooking with Your Instant Pot by Jennifer Robins, one of my favorite girl bosses. Her recipes are easy to follow and taste great.

Besides the normal slow cooker favorites, you can make all sorts of dishes including soup, bread, cheesecake, yogurt, and rice pudding. It’s really a lot of fun!

Bottom Line

This is one of the best investments you can make – and THE best investment for your kitchen. The Instant Pot is a HUGE time saver. That fact, alone, should have you running to Amazon (figuratively, or course) and buying one for you and a friend. If you use it regularly, and you will, it will quickly pay for itself. If you still have hesitations and are uneasy about the price, Amazon has two big sales where you may be able to snag one for a lower price – Prime Day and Black Friday. Be on the lookout!

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Chili in the making!

 

Please Note: This post is not sponsored by Instant Pot and I am not affiliated with the company in any way. I also do not receive any compensation from the Amazon links included above. All opinions are my own.