Fresh From The Garden Pt. 2

Another week, another garden based recipe. Nothing is better than some home grown veggies creating the perfect dinner or pre-dinner appetizer. One of my all time favorite garden recipes is Mini Eggplant Pizzas. I LOVE pizza so so much! I mean who doesn’t love pizza on a Friday night after a long week. So finding a way to make pizza a bit healthier, was a major plus in my book. This easy low calorie pizza recipe is a must try for the summer.

To start off we are gonna need some supplies

  • 1-2 medium eggplants (slice) *fresh from the garden if you have any
  • ½ cup marinara sauce
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • Toppings: mushroom slices, spinach, pepperoni, Italian sausage, and any other types of toppings you may want

Lets Get Cooking

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice eggplants about 1/2 inch thick. Place parchment paper on baking sheet. Combine olive oil, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning in small bowl. Arrange eggplant slices brushing with olive oil seasoning mixture Bake eggplant slices for 15 minutes. Eggplant will turn golden brown

Turn oven to 500 degrees and set to broil. Add 2 tsp of marinara sauce to eggplant slices, add shredded mozzarella, a sprinkle of Italian seasoning, and any additional desired toppings. Return to oven bake for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly golden.

Then its pizza time. Enjoy with some grated parmesan on top, or maybe even some ranch if you are feeling super Midwest. Hope you enjoy this fresh from the garden recipe.

With Love


Fresh From the Garden Week 1

Time has flown this summer. It feels like just the other day I spent the weekend planting my garden. Picking out the perfect plants, finding a good day to plant, and beginning to nurture them so they would grow and flourish.

Now that they are finally producing some fruits and vegetables, I figured it was time to post something with some fun recipes utilizing plants from the garden. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, this is going to be a fun series of post over the next couple of weeks.

To start off, lets utilize those zucchini and carrots we have in the garden, by making some mini healthy muffins packed with nutrients. The beautiful color in the batter makes me so excited for the powerful flavor punch I know is coming once they are baked. Also, I prefer golden raisins to dark colored raisins just because I enjoy the sweeter flavor but either can be used in this recipe.

Kids especially love these muffins. My younger cousins are constantly asking to have them for breakfast. Mini food is always a hit with the young ones. By adding in some zucchini and carrots, you can sneak in some healthy vegetables into these bite sized fun muffins.


1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp cinnamon

3 tbsp butter melted and cooled

½ cup maple syrup

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup grated zucchini

½ cup grated carrots

¼ cup golden raisins

  1. Preheat oven to 350, thoroughly grease a minimuffin pan
  2.   Combine dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, and baking soda)
  3. Stir in butter, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients
  5. Add in zucchini, carrots, and raisins fully combining
  6. Fill up pan, bake for 15-18 minutes
  7. Let cool then enjoy!

Around 62 calories per muffin. Enjoy for breakfast with your morning cup of coffee!

With Love


Happy Hour, Happy Summer

Once again, it feels as if summer has flown by. With the passing of July 4th, it seems as if summer is almost to an end. I know this sounds a bit dramatic, but in the blink of an eye it will be back to school and the leaves will be changing before we know it. Those long summer days spent lounging in the sun or engaging in outdoor activities will be a thing of the past. Instead we will be greeted by cool breezes, orange leaves, and the overwhelming smell of pumpkin. Don’t get me wrong, I love fall just as much as the next gal, but August is always bittersweet time realizing that summer is just about finished and pretty soon that cool damp Illinois fall will be upon us.

But before we get too caught up in that, I figured it was time for a last big hurrah of summer with some perfect cocktail recipes to round out the season. Included below are some of my favorite flavor combos. Enjoy by the pool, enjoy with some BBQ, or maybe enjoy while binge watching some Netflix. It is all personal preference after all. Just relax, unwind, have a couple sips and enjoy that happy hour vibe.

Starting off this list with the fresh fun taste of summer

  1. Hibiscus Lemongrass Spritzer
  2. 1.5 oz. Titos
  3. Can of lemongrass hibiscus sparkling beverage from Trader Joes
  4. 2 dried hibiscus flowers

Pour sparkling beverage on top of Titos, stir to combine, drop in those hibiscus flowers, and watch the fizz of flavor release into the drink. This to me really tastes just like summer, fresh light and just a bit of an underlying lemon flavor.

I mean look at that gorgeous drink it is just screaming patio sunset happy hour.

Coming in at number two is my personal favorite and go to summer cocktail

  1. Peach Moscow Mule
  2. 1 can Ginger Beer
  3. 3oz. Titos (double shot)
  4. 1oz.  lime juice
  5. Splash of peach bitters

Combine ingredients and enjoy! Add a few ice cubes to chill it and sip away. Traditionally served in a copper mug but unfortunately was running short of those in the house so I had to serve and drink in a wine glass. Oops sometimes you just have to improvise for that at home happy hour.

Had to mix things up a little and stray away from the vodka, so this next one is a Kentucky bourbon based drink for all you southern guys and gals.

  1. Bourbon Peach Lemonade
  2. 1.5 oz Bourbon
  3. Lemonade to taste (I prefer the zero sugar Minute Maid lemonade because of its tart flavor)
  4. Splash of peach bitters

This was an interesting flavor combo, but it actually was quite good. A nice summer drink and a good choice if you are not a vodka fan.

Finally, number four. Nothing screams summer like some sweet juicy pineapple.

  1. Pineapple Gin + Tonic
  2. 3 oz. pineapple juice
  3. 1.5 oz. gin
  4. Splash of lime juice
  5. Tonic to fill

Add the pineapple juice to a glass with ice. Combine in gin and lime juice, then top with tonic to fill. This one unfortunately is not featured, I got a little to excited and drank it before i forgot to take a picture. But take my word for it, it is definitely one to try.

Over the coming weeks, I will be posting a Thirsty Thursday post to the Refresh Instagram + Facebook to highlight individual recipes to help kick off the remaining weekends of summer. Some will be from this list and some might just be a shocking surprise, so stay tuned and give us a follow @RefreshPilates or like us on Facebook to keep up with all that is going on in studio and in our wellness community.

Self Care Sunday

Sometimes we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and checking off all the “to-dos” on our list that we forget to stop and take time for ourselves. Every once in a while we need to hit refresh on our lives in order to reconnect our mind and body so we can truly be our best.

Here are 5 suggestions for your next self care day.

1. Go For a Long Walk

I had to put this as number one on the list, because this is such a great thing to do in order to reset your mind and body. It helps to strengthen muscles by promoting movement and forcing engagement. Walking increases blood flow and promotes circulation throughout the body. It can even improve brain function by increasing blood flow overall throughout the body. Get those legs moving and get the brain going.

Mentally and emotionally a long walk can increase serotonin levels leading to an increased sense of happiness and boosts over all well-being. So, go outside get some fresh air and get those happy juices flowing. 

2. Creat a Gratitude List

It can be short just list 5 things you are thankful for in that moment in your life. Things that bring you joy and fill your heart.

3. Watch a Movie

This always seems to work best when it is one of your favorite movies. That one movie that makes you feel good, happy, and excited. Everyone has that one movie they just love to watch no matter what. If you LOVE Christmas movies than watch a good Christmas movie, if you’re a romantic comedy type of person than watch one of those. Personally, for me Risky Business always seems to put a smile on my face. Pick your movie out, grab a cozy blanket, cuddle up and enjoy that time for yourself.

4. Do a Face Mask

The avocados in the face mask help to pull dead skin cells, oil, and dirt from the pores for a clean feeling with a soothing aspect due to the texture and creaminess of the avocado. The honey provides moisture to the skin to help with any dryness from the extra time we may be spending in the sun this summer. Oats are the perfect addition to this mask to help soothe any redness or irritation in the skin. Simply apply the mask to a dry face, allow to sit for 15-20 minutes and rinse off. For a fresh, clean, and soothed face.

5. Read a Good Book

Unplug from social media, put down that phone, and re-center yourself without technology by cracking open a good book. When I take a self-care day, my favorite type of book to read is one that causes a sort of reflection or thought-provoking process. I love positive affirmation books.

the sun and her flowers – rupi kapur

You Are a Badass – Jen Sincerno 

The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down – Haemin Sunim

Overall, just enjoy yourself. Do something that is going to make you happy and relaxed. This self-care day is all about YOU. Re-center, refocus, and allow yourself to recharge.

With Love – Nora

Easy One Pan Sheet Dinner

Sheet pan dinners are by far the greatest dinner invention since the Crockpot. Being able to just chop everything up, throw it on a pan and pop it in the oven is such a convenient time saver, especially for those super busy weekdays.

It is also perfect for when you’re running behind, on time or just want a quick meal with minimal clean up involved. This is one of my favorite Sunday night dinners to then use for extra meals throughout the week because it heats up so well.


Kielbasa sausage

Bell peppers (assorted colors)

Green beans


Garlic salt

Avocado Oil (or any cooking oil of choice)

Rotisserie chicken seasoning (can be made with a combo of thyme, lemon pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder)

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees F

This recipe is simple and easy. Just chop and rinse all vegetables, chop sausage, lightly coat in oil and seasonings. Place in oven and bake for 28-30 minutes or until potatoes are browned.

There are so many other vegetables you can add into his sheet pan dinner as well. Such as broccoli, zucchini, and Brussel sprouts. Even other meats are great to experiment with such as chicken or steak. Here’s to yummy quick meals. Happy cooking!

With Love


Healthy + Fresh Blueberry Crumble

The best part of the beginning of each season is all the new flavors for cooking and baking that come along with it. The fall brings pumpkin and spices, the winter brings peppermint and nutmeg, the spring brings fresh mint and lemon, and the summer brings berries and fresh fruit. Each of these amazing flavors creates a bold and exciting experience for every season.

In the summer all the access to fresh fruit creates a wide variety of options when it comes to baking. Farmers markets and grocery stores seem to be packed with fresh, ripe, and juicy fruits that cannot always be found in great condition year-round. So, the summer is the perfect time to take advantage of there availability.

One of my favorite summer desserts is a good cobbler or berry crumble. But this modified gluten free and vegan blueberry crumble delivers all the perfect berry taste as a healthier alternative.



  • 3 ½ cup frozen wild blueberries (keep frozen they will thaw as they bake)
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup natural or organic maple syrup
  • 1 tsp of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ cup melted refined coconut oil
  • ½  tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

  1. Spray 8-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, add blueberries along bottom spreading evenly, and drizzle with vanilla.
  2. In bowl, combine almond flour, oats, pecans, cinnamon, maple syrup, coconut oil, and sea salt. Add crumble to the top of blueberries, gently packing down the crumble on top of the berries.
  3. Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes until topping is hard and a golden brown. Let cool for 10-12 minutes then serve. 

This dish is great plain or with some vanilla ice cream as a nice added bonus.

* I chose to use wild blueberries as a flavor enhancement because of the intense flavor they contain. These blueberries contain a higher pulp to skin ratio allowing them to deliver more flavor in the flesh of the berry and the juice they release upon cooking.  They tend to be juicer than normal blue berries and have more antioxidants as an added health benefit which makes them one of my favorite fruits to use in baking. They help lower cholesterol and are a heart healthy food making them a good addition to any diet.

With Love


7 Must Plant Fruits + Vegetables For Your Garden

One of my favorite things about living in Illinois, is the beginning of May when we can finally start planting our backyard gardens. Growing up, my parents used to take my brother and I to the garden store every year. We were each allowed to pick out two fruit or vegetables that we wanted to grow, and it would be our job to care for these plants throughout the summer. Some years we were both super practical and we would pick plants we knew would do well in the Midwest weather, other years we tried to be a bit too ambitious and we would pick plants doomed to die in the Midwest summer. Even now, as a college student I love coming home and being able to pick my two plants to care for throughout the summer. This tradition taught my brother and I how to garden, grow our own food, and to really be responsible for something. Or at least we used the responsibility line when we convinced our parents to let us get a dog a few years ago, but that is a story for a different time. Focusing on the list however, out of all the various fruits and vegetables these are some of the easiest and most practical to grow in the midwest since they do not require a lot of extra work. They are also very adaptable and can be used in various recipes.

1. Tomatoes

These bright red fruits, yes fruits, are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium and folate. Tomatoes are a large source of the antioxidant lycopene which can lead to a reduced risk of heart disease. The wonderful thing about this fruit, is that there are so many subspecies each with their own unique flavor, shape, and sometimes even color. The beefsteak tomato which are large often very juicy, with a mild flavor are great on top of a hamburger. Cherry Tomatoes are bountiful plants and often the perfect plant to grow if you want a quick snack or a good addition to any salad. My favorite however and the plant I chose to plant in my garden this year, was the Roma Tomato. This tomato is extremely bright and flavorful. It is not to meaty, so it is great for cooking, turning into a sauce, or even using in salsa.

Some quick tips for growing the tomatoes. They are vining fruits so they will require a cage structure to allow them to grow properly and expand as much as they need to. This is also a plant that prefers a lot of sunshine, the more sun they receive the more fruits they produce. If you plant more than one, leave room between as they plants like to grow and they need there space.

2. Cucumbers

Cucumbers are a very refreshing vegetable. It is high in water content, allowing for it to have rehydration qualities. Additionally, it is a high nutrient food, it provides a lot of nutrients are body needs, without a high number of calories. They are the perfect addition to a quick on the go snack or added to some water with lemon for a nice flavor.

Cucumbers do come in two different varieties. The bush cucumber is more compact and does not require a trellis, however, it does not yield as many vegetables and they can often be smaller in size. A vining cucumber plant will need a trellis and a good amount of space to grow in because it does spread out. This spreading yield more vegetables.  In the long run it depends which plant you would prefer and how many cucumbers you will end up wanting.

3. Eggplant

Eggplant offers quite a few health benefits that I had not previously been aware of before doing research for this article, for instance, eggplant is a high fiber food and can be great aid in digestion. They are a great source of multiple vitamins and minerals, vitamin C, K, multiple vitamin B’s, magnesium, phosphorus, folic acid, and potassium just to name a few. The deep purple color of this plant is pretty to look at, but also comes from its iron and calcium content making it a great aide for bone health and preservation.

Eggplants are best planted when the temperatures reach a solid 60 degrees or high 50s. Since these plants are very particular about the temperature, I tend to plant them in pots so I can move them indoors if needed. You can also start them as seedlings indoors and move them outside once temperatures wise.  Eggplants also rely on a lot of water, the first 2-3 weeks after planting they need a high intake of water typically 1-2 inches, but they need to dry out in-between to prevent mold form growing. They also need support for their vines by use of a trellis to promote proper up growth.

4. Bell Peppers

This is such a fun plant to grow because of the different colors they come in. These also make another good snack because they can be eaten raw or cooked. A great snack is some bell pepper slices with hummus. These plants are super high in vitamin A and one red bell pepper actually exceeds the daily vitamin C intake requirement. Bell peppers also have a high carotenoid content making them great for the skin and beneficial for fighting acne.

Peppers are a relatively easy plant to grow but because peppers become so heavy on the vine, they often require a cage for support, which is easier to insert when planting. Pepper plants should be planted with a small amount of space in between, once the plants mature, their leaves should be touching. You can start to harvest bell peppers in the early stages such as when they are green or purple, but the longer you let them mature they sweeter they will get. The sweetest end stage color is typically red.

5. Onions

Onions contain anti-inflammatory properties which has been linked to a decrease in high blood pressure. They also contain antibacterial properties making them helpful in the digestion process. Onions are the perfect little flavor booster for almost any dish due to the various varieties and flavors they take on.  Yellow onions are pretty standard and great for cooking. Sweet onions are the best for when you want raw onion on a salad, a hot dog, hamburger, or as any sort of garnish. Red onions tend to have a bi of spice behind them and I love to add those to any salsa, or spicy dish I’m making.  There are so many onions that provide different uses and flavors in the kitchen.

I chose to grow red onions and sweet onions because I tend to use those the most. Because onions are root vegetables, you have to dig a hole and place the bulb in and fully cover with soil. As the onions begin to grow a top of thin onion leaves begin to appear. Typically, onions aren’t pulled up until the tops begin to fall and turn yellow alerting you that the bulb is ready, this normally occurs near the end of summer. These are also a good vegetable to be store during winter in a cool dry place because they have a long shelf life.

6. Carrots

Everyone has heard that carrots are good for your eyes and that is true due to their high level of beta-carotene which supports eye health and gives them their bright orange color. Carrots are also a good source of vitamin K, fiber, and antioxidants. Overall, carrots are a pretty versatile vegetable. They can be eaten raw, or steamed, or roasted, and baked allowing them to have a wide variety of use.

Carrots are another root vegetable that need to be planted relatively deep in the ground. Because they come in a hard-seeded shell, the soil has to be kept moist for the first 2 weeks after planting to allow for proper germination. They prefer sun but a cool soil, so they would do well planted in a place that receive sun during peak hours and shade throughout the day as well. I plant mine near a tree so as the sun moves, they receive light and shade. The more moisture the carrots receive during growth, the more flavor they have upon harvest, it is typically recommended that carrots receive about an inch of water a week. They are typically ready for harvest mid to late summer depending on when planted.

7. Zucchini

Zucchini are rich in water and help with digestion along with rehydration of the body.

Recently, there has  been research  to support the regulation of thyroid hormone levels from nutrients in the zucchini peel. Zucchini is high in vitamin B and can help to boost energy as well. The large vitamin A content also makes them a good anti-inflammatory food. One of the best zucchini cooking combos is a carrot zucchini muffin. The best vegetable combo if you ask me. 

Zucchini like most vining plants, tends to take up a lot of space in the garden. They should be placed with adequate space and have a trellis added during planting for use once thy mature. Once they mature, the trellis will help support the heavy fruit on the vine. This plant relies on a lot of sun and does well in a bright spot with direct sunlight for a majority of the day. Zucchinis tend to be a bountiful plant which makes it a great addition to any garden.

*Planting herbs in a small pot on the back porch is also a great way to get a few extra homegrown ingredients. My favorite are always basil, chives, parsley, oregano, and mint. A quick wash and chop make them the perfect addition to enhance the flavor of any meal.  

Once all these plants start blooming, I am planning on creating a few posts with recipes that utilize these yummy vegetables. So, keep an eye out and happy gardening.

5 Recipes to Spice Up Your Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo!! It may still be a few days away, but that gives us plenty of time to prepare. These five fun food ideas are a great way to add some color and flare to your celebration.  Before we get into the food though, let’s start by talking about what Cinco de Mayo celebrates. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the surprising victory of the Mexican army over Napoleon III’s French forces on May 5, 1862. Now that we have had our quick history lesson, lets dive into the food, because there are plenty of tacos, quesadillas, salsa, and margaritas to prepare.

Let start off our celebration with this fresh appetizer that will have you reaching for the tortilla chips all night long.

1.) Pineapple Salsa


  • 2 cups pineapple
  • 2 cups tomatoes (I prefer using Roma they seem to have the best flavor)
  • 1 cup bell peppers
  • 2 habaneros
  • ½ cup onions
  • 1 large lime (juiced and zested)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp Adobo
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro

Chop the pineapple, tomatoes, bell peppers, habaneros, and onions. Combine into large bowl. Add lime juice and spices. Mix with spoon to combine ingredients. Then enjoy the combination of the fresh sweetness of the pineapple and the spice of the habanero with some crunchy tortilla chips or on your favorite Mexican dish.

2.) Veggie Chicken Quesadilla


  • 10-inch flour tortillas
  • Bell peppers
  • Original Hummus (this is optional, but it keeps the inside of the tortilla soft and creates a creamy quesadilla while adding extra protein to the meal)
  • Shredded Grilled Chicken
  • Shredded Chihuahua Cheese
  • Chopped onions
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms

Start by heating the skillet to warm the tortillas. I typically warm each side on the skillet for 15 seconds each. Remove tortilla from skillet and spread hummus on half the tortilla to desired thickness. Then place desired amount of vegetables and chicken on half of tortilla. Top with shredded cheese as desired. Fold other half of tortilla over. Cook on each side for 5-6 minutes until tortilla is warmed and slightly crisped on the outside. 

*All vegetables in this quesadilla are optional and open to change. Feel free to experiment with the flavors you feel will best excite your taste buds.

**For the shredded grilled chicken, I like to use the Tyson frozen grilled shredded chicken just to save time. But you can also grill chicken breast a head of time and just shred those for your quesadilla.

Next up is my favorite taco twist. It is the perfect summer adaption of fresh fun tacos.

3.) Coconut Shrimp Tacos with an Avocado Lime Crema

Ingredients for Tacos

  • Frozen Coconut Shrimp (My favorite types are the ones from Trader Joes or Meijer)
  • 6-inch flour or corn tortilla
  • Shredded Chihuahua Cheese
  • Avocado Lime Crema

*Add any other desired toppings for these wonderful tacos. I recommend a good Pico de Gallo maybe even some avocado slices.

Cook the coconut shrimp. I recommend for the best crunch to cook in an air fryer if you have one. But the oven will work great as well. Warm the tacos on the stovetop. Fill with coconut shrimp and add toppings as desired.

Ingredients for Crema

  • 2 large ripe avocados
  • 1 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic

Combine all ingredients in a blender. I recommend serving immediately for best taste. But this can also be stored in an airtight container for up to 48 hours.

Now, onto the best part the drinks. Lets start off with a fruity twist on a classic margarita.

First off, my favorite margarita mix is the Tres Agaves Organic Margarita Mix. It is on the lower side when it comes to calories which is great and is available at most grocery stores.

4.) Might Mango Margarita


  • 2 oz. tequila
  • 2 oz. Tres Agaves Organic Margarita Mix
  • ½ cup of frozen mangoes
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup ice (use sparingly until you reach the consistency you want)
  • Margarita salt
  • Lime wedges

Blend ingredients together. Salt the rim of your glass add a lime wedge garnish. Pour your margarita in and enjoy.

This is one of my favorite cocktails of all time. It is low in calories and has amazing subtle fruit flavors. It really is the best summer drink to sip on your back porch while soaking up the sun or even floating around the pool.

5.) Paloma

  • 2 oz. tequila
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 7 oz. grapefruit soda (or whatever is needed to fill remainder of glass)

Place desired amount of ice in glass. Salt rim place lime wedge on side. Combine all ingredients and sip away to happiness.

*For grapefruit soda you can use diet squirt, grapefruit fresca, or my all-time favorite the ICE sparkling grapefruit water.

These five flavorful fiestas inspired dishes are sure to bring a smile to your Cinco de Mayo celebration. I hope these foods help to spice up your Taco Tuesday and you all have a safe fun family fiesta.

Meditation Apps To Help With Stress

We live in a world where almost any information we want, or need can be accessed or obtained through our cell phones and the internet.  Lately, every time I look at my phone, I find myself becoming so stressed with the constant news updates about COVID-19, quarantine protocols, and even the idea of a country wide lock down. We as people often fear the unknown and this virus is one giant unknown. No one knows how long it will last, no one knows if we are being overcautious or not cautious enough. No one knows. Those three words are very nerve wracking. What we all need right now, is to try and find some ways to calm down, de-stress, and keep on pushing through. This will pass we just have to ride it out. I have been working on this blog post about meditation for a few weeks and was saving it for a future post. But right now, I think we could all use a little sense of calm and peace in our lives. So, here is my review of 3 meditation apps.

Meditation sounds so easy doesn’t it. Meditation is the process in which we train our minds to focus and redirect our thoughts to help increase awareness to ourselves and our surroundings. Just sit breathe and clear your mind. I have tried and failed many a time to just freely meditate on my own. I don’t know what it is, but I just need the verbal queuing for breathing and relaxing otherwise, my mind starts to wander to the list of things I have yet to do. As a busy bee in today’s society, I always struggle to fall asleep at night. So, a big thing I was looking for in these meditation apps was a section that focused on sleep and calming patterns before bed. I was open to sleep sounds for bed, meditations before bed, and breathing techniques. All three I had the chance to try and all three brought a sense of calm before bed allowing me to slip into the slumber, I needed to recharge for the busy days ahead. How lucky are we that there are apps that will guide us through meditations, breathing exercises, and act as sleep aides?

Simple Habit

This is by far my favorite of all the meditation apps I have tried. The free version of the app offers a lot of different types of meditations. It offers series of meditations. The best one I have encountered so far is the introductory 7 session series that focuses on body awareness and breathing. Both things that re basics when it comes to mediating. I am looking forward to doing more series and continuing to learn more about meditation and how to improve my practice.  Another nice thing about this app is it logs what you recently listened to and even pauses the meditation and saves your spot so you can pick up where you left off for the next time you are ready to meditate.

I especially love the sleep section of this app. It offers 20+ sounds and music’s that help lull anyone into slumber whether it be the soft pitter patter of rain or the gentle rolling of waves, there are plenty of sounds to help even the most restless sleeper find the calm. This app also offers a few stories which are good for kids at bedtime such as the “Velveteen Rabbit” and “Cinderella”, after all, what is better than a quick story time before bed.

Head Space

This app does have some free content that is helpful when meditating but the best aspect I feel of the app is the live meditation sessions which unfortunately are a premium feature.  The free app, however, is packed with plenty of great content. The basics course in meditation teaches a lot about the basic concepts that are vital to meditation. I really appreciated the section that focused on breathing patterns and getting the most out of your breath, it felt the most effective in creating a calming sense while meditating. I wish this app did have more free content, but my favorite content of this whole app is the ‘Doze” section of the sleep music. The nice thing is this app does allow you to track your journey and even invite friends that might want to journey with you. You can take part in shared meditations series so even apart you can meditate with those you love.  


 To me, the biggest draw of the Oak app was the simplicity. It offers only three sections sleep, meditation and breathing. The meditation section was helpful for beginners and experienced meditators. It offers basic courses that are guided along with unguided meditations for the more experienced people. The nice thing about this app, is it allows you to choose a background noise if any for the meditation along with a female or male narrator and the duration of the session consisting of 10 minutes-30 minutes.

I like the adaptability of this app the most. The sleep section of the app was also highly adaptable allowing the user to choose the length of the soothing noises they need to fall asleep and stay asleep. Most of the other apps capped at about 45 minutes to an hour. The Oak app maxed out at 24 hours. If you’re looking for an app and your main focus is soothing sleep noises, then this app is the one for you.

The breathing section of the app offers changeable breathing countdowns for inhales, exhales, and rest to provide the ultimate sense of relaxation during these stressful times. Breathing exercises are helpful aids for providing a sense of calm to the nervous system.

Bonus: Eternal Sunshine

This app unfortunately is not a meditation app. But it is a positive affirmation apps that regularly sends sweet short positive affirmations to add a bit of sunshine to the gloomy days. I really like this one because it sends at a variety of times so when I get the notification and I am not expecting it I can’t help but smile down at my phone. It forces me to take a second and just refocus my day on the positivity I receive and the positivity I give out to other people.

Another Added Bonus:

A sweet 10-minute guided meditation video from none other than are amazing yoga instructor Taylor. We sure do miss her relaxing voice during the soothing yoga in studio, so this is a special treat during the quarantine.

With Love,

Nora Czupek

Best Green Health Foods For St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! This is one of my favorite times of the year. Every promotional ad, store and restaurant just seem to radiate green. Wherever we look we see green. It surrounds us in the Shamrock shakes, the dying of the Chicago River, green donuts, and Green Soda – everything is green. Getting in the spirit of the holiday is so fun and exciting but all that green food contains artificial dye to brighten up the color. However, there are plenty of other natural healthy foods that can create the same beautiful green color while packing a full flavor punch. Let’s paint the plates and cups green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day with these three amazing green recipes that are sure to delight all the lucky leprechauns in your life.

Green Smoothie

The power of the greens creates an invigorating wake up drink to kick start your full day ahead. Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods we can fuel our body with. It provides us with plenty of antioxidants and Vitamin C. This healthy green smoothie is the perfect way fuel up for those long St. Patrick’s Day celebrations ahead.


1 cup kale

1 cup frozen peach slices

½ cup frozen mango

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk vanilla

Combine in blender

*You can use any milk substitute I just prefer the flavor of the unsweetened vanilla coconut

milk with the mango and peach – it gives this smoothie some amazing flavor

Kale Gnocchi with Pesto

This bag of gnocchi comes from Trader Joes and it is one of my favorite dinner choices and it is quick to make. They also come in other flavors, such as the cauliflower gnocchi which is one of my regular dinner choices. Growing up, my favorite dish in Italian restaurants was always gnocchi, it was so good, but it only kept me full for a short period of time. This Kale Gnocchi is an amazing twist on a classic Italian dish that is healthy, will leave you feeling full and packs a flavorful punch. I typically use Beyond Meat Plant Based Meatball for my dish, I have also used Turkey Meatballs in the past and even Italian Sausage chunks as additional sources of protein for my dinner. For this recipe, however, I made just the Kale Gnocchi.

*One bag serves about two people so double recipe if needed


1 bag Kale Gnocchi

2 tbsp. avocado oil

¼ tsp onion powder

1/4tsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. pesto

½ tbsp. shredded parmesan


Heat avocado oil + onion/garlic powder in pan. Add gnocchi and cook for 8-12 minutes (or until cooked through)

After cooked, transfer to bowl then add pesto + parmesan

Then enjoy!

*If you prefer crisper gnocchi you can always cook in air fryer at 325 F for 6-8 minutes checking to prevent burning

Gluten Free Brownies with Matcha Frosting

These brownies really are the ‘pot of gold’ at the end of the rainbow. The flavors are not overpowering, and they complement each other so well. My favorite part of these brownies however is the frosting. The frosting is made with cashews and maple syrup and no added sugar. Normally I am not a huge fan of frosting, it tends to be too thick or sugary and just leaves me feeling ‘bleh’. This frosting is perfect. The lack of excessive sugar and the way it is whipped together creates such a light, yet flavorful topping, for these already amazing brownies.


IMPORTANT! Start soaking the cashews before you do anything else (listed in frosting)


– ½ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled (microwave for about 35-40 seconds)

– 1 cup almond flour

– ½ cup cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s because it packs a lot of flavor)

– ½ cup coconut sugar

– 1tsp. baking powder

– 2 tbsp maple syrup

– 1 tsp. vanilla


-1 ½ cup raw cashews (soak for four hours then rinse) *

– 3 tbsp maple syrup

– 1/4 cup coconut oil melted

– 1/3 cup almond milk

– ½ tsp. vanilla extract

– 2 tsp. matcha powder

*Certain websites will tell you to soak cashews for a frosting base overnight, I have found

through trial and error that it makes them to soggy. I would recommend for best results soaking

no less than 4 hours and no more than 6 hours.


– Preheat oven 350 F line 8×8 pan with parchment paper

– Whisk together eggs, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla

– In a separate bowl combine almond flour, coconut sugar, cocoa powder, and baking


– Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients combining thoroughly

– Pour batter into pan. Bake for 22-25 minutes

– For frosting, add all ingredients into a blender (NutriBullet type of machine works great)

– Add frosting to cool brownies and enjoy your treat

– Store in fridge to prevent frosting from oxidizing

I got my matcha from Meijer and it was perfect. It did not have any added sugar which is something to look out for when purchasing matcha. Some companies will add additional sugar to sweeter because it tends to be a somewhat bitter powder. However, when mixed with the maple syrup in the frosting it creates a balanced flavor that pairs well with the chocolate.

With Love,

Nora Czupek