Peppermint Dark Hot Chocolate Mix

Okay…my kids are obsessed with Peppermint Hot Chocolate. The past few weeks we have been visiting Starbucks more than often to savor their craving. Since I have been working on my Christmas list, I decided to create my own homemade version of Peppermint Dark Hot Chocolate Mix that will make the perfect holiday food gift. I used dark chocolate instead of milk or semisweet chocolate, but feel free to use your favorite. It has been said to lower blood pressure, work as a powerful antioxidant and even help release endorphins to boost your mood. It’s super easy and inexpensive to make, and everyone loves it.

10 Health Benefits of Blackberries

While at their peak season, indulge in blackberries for a nutritious snack or dessert. One cup of fresh blackberries has 62 calories, 1 gram of fat, 15 carbohydrates, 8 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein and only 1 mg of sodium. Here are the top 10 health benefits of eating blackberries:

1. Blackberries are one of the top ten foods containing antioxidants.

2. Blackberries are packed with polyphenols helping to prevent cancer and heart disease.

3. Blackberries are filled with anthocyanins (antioxidants which give blackberries their deep purple color) which help in memory retention and the risk of hypertension.

4. Blackberries are said to strengthen blood vessels, help fight heart disease and help improve eyesight.

5. The high tannin content of blackberries help tighten tissue, relieve intestinal inflammation, and help reduce hemorrhoids and stomach disorders.

6. Ohio State University found that blackberries may protect against esophageal cancer, a cancer caused by gastric reflux disease.

7. Blackberries have shown to protect against other types of cancers. They contain phytoestrogens (plant estrogens), a compound believed to play a vital role in preventing breast and cervical cancer.

8. Blackberries are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Manganese and fiber.

9. The high fiber content of blackberries help reduce risk of intestinal disease and the risk of developing diabetes.

10. Blackberries are a healthy food choice that kids and adults love. They are a great way to refuel after a hard workout and help aid in fighting obesity. See a recipe for Blackberry-Blueberry Cobbler from my site last year.

Easy Grilled Italian Romaine Salad

Perfect for a busy weeknight or Sunday afternoon, this Easy Grilled Romaine Salad is so flavorful. Use a store-bought balsamic vinaigrette to marinate the vegetables, and then grill them to bring out their flavor even more. Gorgonzola tastes great sprinkled on top, but you may substitute feta, Parmesan or goat cheese if you wish. Feel free to add grilled chicken, steak or shrimp for a main-dish salad. Serve with some crusty bread and olive oil, and dinner is ready.

How to Choose a Yoga Mat

I am so lucky to have Jennifer Berman, Owner of Jennifer Berman Corporate Yoga, as a friend. She is always there to answer all of my yoga questions. I was in desperate need for a yoga mat, and she was a wealth of knowledge. I thought I would share my interview with her recently. If you’re considering a new yoga mat or curious about the differences, read on. For more information on Jennifer, see  Jennifer Berman Corporate Yoga.

1. Why is a yoga mat important?

A good  yoga mat will provide you with cushioning and traction for your yoga practice.

2. What should you look for in a yoga mat?

Just like most things, the type of mat people prefer is a personal preference. I have tried just about every type of mat, and my preference is a basic, no frills mat. The basic mats are lightweight, easy to carry and provide enough cushion for most people. The more expensive mats, like “Manduka“, are thicker, have extra cushioning and provide more of a textured non-slip surface. If you have knee issues, you might choose a thicker mat. Also, when you choose a mat, you might select an eco-friendly mat that is free from PVC or latex. If you do Bikram or Hot Vinyasa Flow, then a Yogitoes Skidless towel is helpful for slipping and to absorb sweat.

3. What is your favorite brand?

I like Gaim and Hugger Mugger.

4. How do you clean yoga mats?

The thinner mats can be put in the washing machine on gentle cycle with a mild detergent. In fact, when I first get my mat, I put it in the wash to get rid of slickness and any rubbery odor. You can also make a simple water/vinegar spray that is a natural antibacterial spray using 1 part warm water and 3 parts white vinegar. Spray the mat, wipe it down with a sponge or towel, and hang your mat outside to dry.

5. How should you store a yoga mat? hung up? rolled? why?

If your mat is dry, then it’s fine rolled up. However if you sweat a lot, make sure you wipe it down each time you practice yoga and then hang it to dry.

6. What is your favorite thing about teaching corporate yoga?

I love bringing health and wellness to people that normally would not have time to get to a yoga class. It is so rewarding to watch my students transform their overall well-being.

7. If you could purchase any yoga mat, which would it be?

I like the Gaim Eco Reversible Yoga Mat (pictured below). It’s not too thick, it’s versatile and it’s made from nontoxic TPE, which contains no PVC or latex.

From Alison: The Breathe mat (pictured above) is my new favorite a mat and towel all-in-one which is so easy to wash.

Easy Pork Fajitas for Cinco De Mayo

It’s been a wild week in Alabama. So many heartbreaking stories and scenes of destruction just a mile or so away. We are very lucky even though it’s 6 days and no power. Work and life continues, and I’m headed to Nashville on Friday to be on Newschannel 5 “Talk of the Town” at 11 a.m doing a sandwich show for my new book “400 Best Sandwich Recipes: From Classics & Burgers to Wraps & Condiments”. Before I go, I thought I would leave you with one of the easiest recipes for Pork Fajitas. I like to use thinly sliced pork tenderloins that can be found at the grocery store. These are thin, healthy, low-fat and cook very quickly. Happy Cinco De Mayo everyone!