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Shannon Can’t Cook, But That’s Changing, Thanks to ‘The SparkPeople Cookbook’ Editor’s Note: Shannon (DARSHAN130) recently reached out to The Link me with an idea for a new blog series. She suggested “a review of ‘The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight’ from a member. Kind of a ‘Julie and Julia’ kind of thing where someone with lackluster cooking skills goes through the cookbook from front to back making all the recipes and blog about their experiences along the way. I am awaiting my cookbook to come in the mail and can’t wait to start cooking.”I loved the idea, and Shannon’s blog series starts today. She won’t be sharing every recipe, but instead she will be sharing some highlights from her journey to a healthier self–and a better cook! Take it away, Shannon!I would like to start by telling everyone a little bit about myself. I have been married to my lovely husband, D, for over 15 years. I love to read, garden, and Goods Shipped-Air Jordan 6 Retro Dynamic Blue Shoes ID 8899623 spend summers at the lake or in my backyard oasis in the city. We spend as much time with family and friends as possible and have two large dogs that complete our immediate family. I work full time, attend school and share in the household responsibilities. I am quite proud of what I can accomplish some days, while others I wish I could get more done. In general, I would say that I am in a good place right now.However, that was not always the case. About two years ago I was depressed. I felt alone despite being surrounded by loving people. I was unhappy with myself, my looks, my career and my weight. Being in such a miserable place, unhappy with my life I was not sure what direction to head. It was then that a co-worker introduced me to SparkPeople. I have been hooked ever since.And so my journey began.When I started SparkPeople I was 270 pounds, morbidly obese and in deep denial. I didn’t think I was that big. After all, I am “big-boned” and 6 feet tall. (And I gave any other reason I could come up for excusing my size.) It wasn’t until I saw pictures of myself at my brother’s wedding that I realized how big I actually was. Was that me in the picture?No way, the camera adds 10 pounds (more excuses). Well, I must have had a lot of cameras on me that day because I not only looked big, I was big. I started interacting on SparkPeople, reading articles and inspirational stories.I realized that these are real people, and if they can do this, why can’t I? I found and still find the site infectious–even addictive. The positive attitudes, the fact that people don’t put each other down, and the encouragement make it simply an amazing place to be. It took me a little bit of exploration and courage before I started to take steps toward my healthy lifestyle, but I am sure glad that I did. In the last year and a half I have lost 70 pounds. The Unique Colors Air Jordan VIII Retro Bugs Bunny 2013 Shoes ID 8899623 When I started I was a size 24 and now I can wear a size 14. All through portion control, getting active and improving my outlook on life. I credit SparkPeople with it all. I do still have some more weight to lose and would like to break the 200-pound mark. My goal weight is 180 pounds, which would put me into my healthy weight range for my height and age. It also would put me at a smaller size than I was in high school.In the past year I have changed so much physically and emotionally that people I have known and had worked with for years don’t even recognize me.Once they realize it’s me they cannot believe the transformation and say that there is a light in my eyes they had never seen before.Despite all of my SparkPeople success I have one problem I am still trying to overcome and it is about time that I face it.I CAN’T COOK.There I said it. Now you are wondering how I managed to lose so much weight by not knowing how to cook. I’ll say it again portion control and getting active. I am lucky in so many ways including the fact that my husband and I take turns cooking.His meals are wonderful, but not always diet friendly, and consist of a lot of pastas with cheese, Mexican delights and the occasional superbly made dessert, such as four-layer chocolate mocha cakes with hand dipped almonds.My fare, however, does not fare so well and consists greatly of pre-packaged meals where very little skill is involved. Although this is not the best or healthiest meal plan, I have been able to stay within my calorie range most days and am 20 pounds away from my goal weight loss of losing 90 pounds. But as my calorie range has been steadily decreasing I have found my appetite increasing and am finding it harder and harder to stay within those ranges. Enter the need for healthier, fewer calorie-laden foods, no fillers, no by products, no artificial colours or flavours.So, I thought what better way to learn how to cook than by reading a cookbook. However, I soon realized that I can read about being a doctor or surgeon but in doing so it does not make me a doctor or surgeon.So on to Plan B, Cooking. I have decided to go through The SparkPeople Cookbook testing out recipes and trying techniques in the hopes to become a better cook. This means no more pulling the tab to rip open dinner. Real ingredients, real food cooked by me.I warn you there may be fires, there may be famines but in the end, by George, I hope to acquire some good cooking skills, knowledge and recipes.I have started out on my journey by reading The SparkPeople Cookbook, learning about the different techniques. I have also made an inventory of key ingredients and tools I need to do justice to the recipes. I have also scheduled in time on Sundays to review my weekly meal plans and shop for fresh ingredients. I must say so far it is a very interesting read. Just like the website, it is full of helpful information and inspirational stories.For my first review I plan on making the highly recommended Slow-Cooker Salsa Chicken, which also includes preparing my own taco seasoning, for a dinner. I am also going to prepare Stepfanie’s Oatmeal Mix for a breakfast and the Crunchy Chicken Salad for a lunch. Wish me luck and I will let you all know how it went next time. Until then eat well and have fun.Which recipe from The SparkPeople Cookbook do you recommend I try next?We will be sharing monthly updates from Shannon on! Related Link:

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Dress for Success: Your Guide to Plus-Size Workout Clothes
If you’ve ever embarked on a weight loss journey, you’ll probably agree that the process can be overwhelming. Not only do you have to change the way you think, eat, and move, but you also have to set yourself up to succeed at those changes. One of the most underrated ways to keep up a steady stream of motivation and positive results is by buying proper workout clothes.Think about it: trying to adopt a healthy lifestylewithout quality, functional workout gear is like stocking your pantry full of junk food and then wondering why you can’t find anything healthy to eat in the house. Just as you have to set yourself up to succeed with your diet, there are certain things you have to do to help you meet your fitness goals. Chances are, if you’re working out in clothes that aren’t made for exercise, you’re not going to be comfortable or confident, and will ultimately end up hindering your results. It’s amazing what workout clothes can do to elevate your motivation, performance, and outlook on fitness.~INDYGIRL, a SparkPeople member who has lost over 160 pounds, agrees:”Before I started my journey to weight loss and better health, I thought that ”active wear” was only reserved for people who want to show off how gorgeous they already look. Well, my mindset has finally changed. Losing 166 pounds with SparkPeople has taught me that workout clothes are a must for getting fitter. Without them, it is harder to be motivated to work out. Workout clothes help get you in the mindset that you are a person getting better, getting fitter, and fulfilling your own dreams.”Like ~INDYGIRL, you might feel intimidated at first when you think about purchasing workout clothes. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Sure, buying active wear can be new and scary, but it can also be empowering at the same time. Not only are you investing in a pair of breathable workout shorts, but you’re also investing in your future health. When you put on those new exercise clothes, you’ll stand a little taller because you’re changing your body for the better, Nike Air Force 1 Shoes Shop inside and out— and you’ll look great while doing it!If you’re anxious that you won’t be able to find any workout clothes in your size, don’t worry– all it takes is a little research to discover that there really are attractive, functional, and high-quality plus-size exercise clothes available out there. You just have to dig a little deeper to find them! We had ~INDYGIRLprovide us with a guide to some of her favorite typical mall stores and chains that carry plus-size active wear.NameAverage PriceSizes Offered What They SellAeropostale$10 (top) – $30 (hoodie)W: XS –3XM: S – 3XTops and hoodies.Avenue$5 (camisole) – $50 (jacket)W: 14/16 – 30/32M: N/APants, tops, jackets, and shoes.Dick’s Sporting Goods$25 (shorts) – $250 (jacket)W: S – 2XM: S – 3XTops, bottoms, jackets, hoodies, bras, outerwear, running shoes. Brands: Adidas, ASICS, Columbia, Dolfin, Moving Comfort, Nike, Speedo, TYR.The Gap$10 (top) – $70 (zip-up jacket)W: XS – XLM: XS – 3XGapFit: tops, bottoms, jackets, hoodies, maternity, bras, outerwear.JC Penney$5 (t-shirt) – $55 (sports bra)W: S – 3XM: S – 5XLTops, bottoms, jackets, hoodies, maternity, bras, outerwear. Brands: Adidas, Glamorise, Made For Life, Nike, Puma, Xersion.Kohl’s$13 (t-shirt) – $135 (track jacket)W: S – 3XM: S – 4XBT-shirts, tops, sports bras, pants, shorts, jackets. Brands: Apt. 9, Arrow, Chaps, Columbia, Croft & Barrow, Dockers.Lane Bryant$30 (t-shirt) – $60 (capris)W: 14 (0x) – 32 (4x)M: N/ASkorts, pants, shirts, and jackets. Brands: Glamorise, Marika Miracles, Reebok.Target$10 (top) – $30 (jacket)W: S – XXLM: S – XXLJackets, tops, pants, shorts. Brands: Champion, Converse, Icon, Merona, Mossimo.Wal-Mart$6 (top) – $70 (jacket)W: S – 5XM: S – 5XPants, tops, jackets. Brands: Danskin Now, Dickies, Faded Glory, Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, Just My Size, Reebok, White Stag.Don’t feel like braving the mall crowds? You can buy online, too! Check out these sites for flattering, plus-size workout clothes:NameAverage PriceSizes Offered What They SellA Big Attitude$15 (cami bra)- $70 (combo outfit set)W: 1X-5XM: N/APants, capris, tops, hoodies, combo sets, camis, sports bras,jackets.AdoraOm$12 (headband) – $119 (jacket)W: 14-20M: N/APants, capris, tops,hoodies.Always for Me$28 (t-shirt) – $81 (shorts)W: 16-26M: N/ATops, pants, capris, sports bras, hoodies. Brands: A Big Attitude, Enell, Mt Borah.Catherine’s $22.50 (capris)- $58 (jacket)W: 16-34M: N/ATops, pants, capris, jackets, hoodies.Junonia$10 (tank top) – $90 (hoodie)W: 1X-6XM: N/APants, capris, tops, hoodies, jackets, sports bras.OneStopPlus$10 (sweatshirt) – $66 (sports bra)W: 12-44M: N/APants, tops, capris, jackets, hoodies, sports bras, jogging suits, tunics. Brands: All-American Comfort, Avenue, Torrid, Woman Within.Taffy$25 (tank top) – $60 (jacket)W:1X – 3XM: N/ATops, bottoms, jackets, hoodies.Where do you shop for your Retro Jordan 4 Shoes active wear? Have you found any plus-size workout gear you can’t live without? Via: please click here the website Connected Content Related Article Related Link:

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Chocolate’s Not Just for Desserts
Some refer to it as food for the gods, others like me, call it a saving grace! Why do we love chocolate so much? Is it the taste, memories, or an experience for the mouth? As you eat chocolate, it hits so many of the senses. As it melts, it covers your tongue and its smells enter into your nasal cavity. Soon your olfactory receptors and taste buds are all screaming in happiness. For me, that moment has a calming effect on the brain and body. Although I crave that feeling, I am not willing to buy larger jeans, so I choose chocolate that’s strong and rich. That way, you don’t need much, just a taste. But…that chocolate has to be full of flavor, so don’t give me that waxy variety from the supermarket. I want the real stuff: Dark chocolate with at least 60% cacao. Even better, the real stuff is actually good for us. The experts at SparkPeople agree: “Studies have found that dark chocolate helps prevent heart disease and cancer, and has also been shown to improve mood by boosting the brain chemical serotonin. Some even consider chocolate an effective diet food, claiming that a chunk of chocolate before meals diminishes your appetite.”What makes up the chocolate we eat? It is not just the bean. Chocolate, in its most basic form, contains cocoa bean solids and cocoa butter. Sugar, milk, and other ingredients can also be added. Depending on the variety, the ratios of the ingredients can vary. Dark chocolate contains less cocoa butter and more cocoa solids. Milk chocolate contains more cocoa butter and less cocoa solids than dark chocolate. White chocolate contains no cocoa solids, Jordan 3 Shoes Store just cocoa butter. I bypass the milk and white varieties for deep, dark chocolate when I want a sweet treat, but there’s another kind of chocolate that has a place in my kitchen: Unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder, which do not contain sugar. (Warning! Don’t bite into a bittersweet block of chocolate. Your mouth will not be happy.) Instead of eating these straight-up, I use them in savory dishes. I love to use unsweetened cocoa powder in rubs for pork. Try this one tonight! Chef Meg’s Cocoa-Coffee-Porcini Rub Use this rub on pork roasts or tenderloins. It gives the meat an earthy flavor and beautiful brown color. 2 ounces porcini mushrooms, dried 1/4 cup espresso powder 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powderCombine all in a coffee grinder.Or try this recipe which has a little more kick with the addition of chili powder. (Note: If you need advice on how to use the porcini rub, follow the directions in this recipe.) My Mole Sauce also contains chocolate. Other tips on cooking with chocolate. When melting chocolate, chop it into small chunks using a serrated knife. Chocolate will melt at about 98 degrees, so there is no need to blast it with heat. When melting chocolate, use a double boiler method. Place 1-2 inches on water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Place chopped chocolate into a metal bowl that is larger than the saucepan. Place the bowl over the simmering water and stir the chocolate until it has barely melted (it will continue to melt after you pull it off the heat). Microwaves work well too but make sure you use only 50% power and short 30 second cooking times, checking the chocolate often. Water is not a friend of chocolate. If a small amount of water comes into contact with chocolate during the Jordan 1 GS Shoes Store melting process, it will seize. The mixture will almost look grainy and dull in color. Chocolate doesn’t have to be sinful. Learn all about the good, the bad, and the delicious aspects of chocolate in this article. Do you ever use cocoa powder or chocolate in savory dishes? Via: please click here Connected Content Related Article Related Link:

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Editor’s Note: Since moving to Cincinnati in 2009, Sam Klontz has commuted from his downtown apartment to his office in northern Kentucky–about 25 miles round trip–via bicycle almost every day year-round. Co-founder of the Cincinnati-area amateur road cycling team BSM Cycling, Klontz sold his car last year and relies on his bike almost exclusively for transportation. Whether it’s 90 degrees and sunny or 20 degrees and windy, he rides to work. Despite the extra hour he must allot for bike commuting each day, the extra clothing and food he must carry, and the inevitable sweatiness upon arrival at the office, he remains committed to bike commuting, and he considers himself to be a bike activist. In honor of Bike Month (and Bike to Work Week), I asked him to share his story, along with some photos from his daily commute. Above, you’ll see the bike he rides daily, amid a parking lot packed with cars. Story and photos by Samuel C. Klontz, Bike Commuter and Co-Founder, BSM CyclingMy passion for cycling dictates most decisions I make. Transportation, vacations, clothing, 90% of my conversations with friends, and my spending habits can all be traced to a more than mild obsession with the bicycle. When I was asked to put into words some of the reasons why I bike commute it seemed like a simple and joyous task. Then I sat down and began to think hard on why I started, where my motivation came from during the 5 degree winter days when I could barely feel my face, and how much longer I can live car free.Creative juices did not immediately begin flowing as I had hoped. Then the proverbial lightbulb went off. I pumped up my tires, put on some BSM team spandex, and pedaled toward the deserted roads to get lost!Over the last few days of riding to work, riding with friends, and riding to explore I have compiled a list of reasons that help me to explain my love to riding to inquisitive people. So here it goes … I ride to work because it helps Cheap Air Jordans to enjoy my commute to work as opposed to the disdain of being stuck in traffic. I ride because for every honk, shout, near miss, or other safety concern, I hold the hope that one person comes to understand the importance of “sharing the road.”I ride because burning calories instead of gas costs less for everyone.I ride because even after almost 2 years of bike commuting, I still hold out hope that my company someday will provide in a locker room, shower, and place to hang my gear that is not all over my cubicle!I ride to develop an intimate understanding of my city, its contours, its shortcuts, and hidden routes. I ride because I am one against many, and like so many revolutions, it has to start with Cheap Jordan Shoes one!Perhaps some of these will strike a chord with you. Regardless of what your reason(s) may be to get on a bike, consider the option of biking to work or one of your various destinations during the day and night. I am of the opinion that even the most novice of bikers belongs on the roads with cars. The best way to conquer fears is to face them and beginning a bike commuting routine by operating in a small radius will start you on the path. Consider setting a goal for yourself of not driving 3 days a week after work. If you have to run errands, can you bike to the destinations? Can things to be picked up fit in a backpack? Perhaps most importantly, are you comfortable being sweaty upon arrival?! If you live in an area that is simply deemed not safe to ride on certain roads, look for multi-use paths that get you close. The more time you spend on two wheels, the more you will develop your path of “least resistance,” that is the best roads that are mostly free of cars, that pass by the best coffee shops, parks or other points of interest. To begin your adventure, you need to outfit your bike for the urban environment. Good tires are a must. Proper tread and tire inflation will not only help you stay upright, but absorb poor road surfaces to a degree. You also will want something resistant to punctures, because in our fast-paced environment, it can be aggravating and time consuming to stop and repair a flat. Flat repair brings me to my next suggestion. Carry a patch kit. Odds are we all know someone who will come get us in a pinch, but why not be prepared to change a flat tire when it happens? This is a simple mechanical skill, but one that improves with practice. Retro Cheap Jordan Store So expect frustrations and even making a few of those “HELP, I flatted” phone calls. Most local bike shops will happily show you how to repair a flat, even offering a basic class on how to maintain your bike. Invest in some bike specific gear depending on the distance you plan to commute. Those “funny” shorts with the “butt-pad” are engineered as such for a reason. Spend some time riding without them, (maybe 10+ miles) and you will understand. As in most outdoor athletics, layers are crucial. The weather in Ohio and Kentucky changes by as much as 20 degrees from my morning to evening commutes. Some mornings I have barely any skin exposed to the wind, and I may be in short sleeves and shorts on the way home. The MOST important is without a doubt visibility. If you will be riding at low light conditions equip lights to your bike. And always stock a spare set in case the batteries are low or they stop working for any reason. The brighter the better, those drivers need to see you! I do not go as far as the reflective yellow vests, or anything quite so bright. But when I see someone who is sporting their RYV, I have likely seen them before they have seen me. And thus their clothing did its job. Your senses will be heightened when you step into the drivers’ arena, and in most situations you will find yourself acting first to preserve your own safety. But as cyclists sharing the roads with drivers, we must make their jobs easier in seeing us, and being predictable in our movements. Finally, go forth and ride. If you take nothing else away from my musings, it is that riding a bike is incredible fun and great exercise for the body and mind. The best cyclists I know, whether they are competitive, commuters, young, or seasoned, have that commonality: they ride their bikes, as much as they can, and enjoy as many revolutions of the pedals as possible. Most of us who ride do double duty as drivers. We may see that “crazy” person biking to work throughout the year and wonder how they do it . . . I am here to tell you that one day they decided they would just give it a try and see how it felt. Best of luck to you in your cycling endeavors. (Check out SparkPeople’s article, “A Beginner’s Guide to Biking to Work.” Would you give bike commuting a try?