New summertime recipe

Naked Greek Feta-Zucchini Turkey Burgers

In my never-ending attempt to eat healthy I have become bored with my staple menu of low-cal, low-sodium, low-carb, low-fat, easy-to-make recipes. While each was beloved at first, they’ve lost their appeal with repetition. I decided it was time to spice things up. (Oh the joy of cooking puns…)

Seen here grating zucchini. A more treacherous exercise than I first gave it credit for. After the zucchini is grated you have to squeeze a surprising amount of liquid out of it  as it is mostly made of water.

Grating zucchini is a more treacherous exercise than I first gave it credit. After, you have to squeeze a surprising amount of liquid out of it as it is mostly made of water.

My first stop in search of a new recipe is always SkinnyTaste.com, curated by Gina Homolka. In nearly two years of experimentation, her dishes have never disappointed. She uses healthier ingredients and methods but still manages to retain full flavor. I’ve also pushed myself out of my comfort zone trying my hand at some of her recipes, ultimately improving my skill in the kitchen.

Searching for inspiration last night I happened upon her post for naked Greek feta-zucchini turkey burgers. Feta cheese, burger, naked…how could I resist?

This had me tearing up more than I'd like to admit.

This had me tearing up more than I’d like to admit.

Worried at first having never used grated zucchini in a dish and never making a burger, Gina walked me through the steps with grace and ease (on her end seemingly at least…mine however involved a few narrow misses of grating my fingertips and breaking one of the patties mid-flip…)

In the end, the burgers and the Greek salad were absolutely fantastic! A perfect mix of garlicky goodness in a moist burger, which Gina says is due to the zucchini. This is one of my favorite cooking adventures that I have taken with Gina to date.

The hidden gem of this recipe is the Greek salad you make to go with the burger. I'll be making this with many meals from now on.

The hidden gem of this recipe is the Greek salad you make to go with the burger. I’ll be making this with many meals from now on.

What I’m reading these days

Photograph by Kate Ter Haar

Photograph by Kate Ter Haar

So far the summer has given me a wonderful opportunity to catch up on my reading. I’ve had time to escape into fiction, discover new fitness trends and follow stories that pique my interest. In the event you’re looking for some light distraction from the Monday grind, this is what I have been reading by as of late.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

This fantasy fiction novel is the perfect read for anyone who waited for their Hogwarts acceptance letter or hoped to travel to a magical land through their bedroom closet. I was introduced to the trilogy while working with Syfy network on the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Upfront. Syfy will soon premiere a TV show based on Grossman’s series that looks fantastic. As any true bookworm can attest, I had to read at least the first installment before the show began and, let me say, I am now a big, big fan.

10 Cool Podcasts Every Woman Should Know by Madison Feller

There’s no doubt about it, radio is making a comeback in the form of the podcast. After falling victim to NPR’s Serial, as many did, I have a new found appreciation for the medium. This article from Levo League highlights 10 podcasts that are especially appealing to women. First up on my list is Dear Sugar, featuring the one and only Cheryl Strayed.

Blast Calories With This Full-Body Tabata Workout by Anna Renderer

To say that I’m addicted to Popsugar Fitness would be an understatement. Their daily email newsletter is the first thing I check in the morning and my go-to lunch time debrief. They have great health and fitness tips, videos, recipes and routines. Lately I’ve been varying my workouts, focusing on exercise classes and HIIT routines because plantar fasciitis has me taking a break from running. Anna Renderer has nearly every type of fitness video you can imagine and is a fantastic virtual trainer. My goal is to some day work with her in person.

Lauren Conrad Bans the Word “Skinny” from her Website by The Hollywood Reporter staff

Hooray!! I was thrilled to read that style and lifestyle icon Lauren Conrad banned body shaming terms, such as “skinny,” “slim,” and “thin” from her popular site. Whether you like LC or not she is an influential figure to women and girls around the country. Many covet her site for tips on fitness, health, cooking, fashion and home decor. In my opinion, this is a win for the fight against negative female body imagery found all over the media, especially on health and fitness platforms. Conrad is taking a step in the right direction to give young girls positive, healthy role models to look up to.

Which Social Network Should You Advertise On? by Olivia Allen 

Olivia Allen breaks down the pros and cons of using LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook for advertising and when companies should focus on which platform.

Diversifying my workout

Since high school I’ve been a self-proclaimed gym rat. I am not a fan of team sports, lack great hand-eye coordination and do not generally enjoy exercising outside during the warmer months. This laundry list of limitations left me staring at a gym membership.

WeightsIt turns out that the air conditioned climate, complete with TVs and an endless supply of water within reach is just what I needed to get active.

Not too long ago I noticed  that I had been doing pretty much the same routine all these years. It was a combination of 45 minutes of moderate to decently intense cardio (usually running on the treadmill or elliptical), 10 minutes of stretching, 15 to 20 minutes of abs finished off with 15 minutes or so of weights.

This is nothing to scoff at. It is a balanced workout (I think…?) and typically left me with a sweat. However, I noticed I started to plateau after a while. The runs that used to leave me panting and clenching my side now barely made me break a sweat. Crunches that once caused me to wake up with a sore stomach the next morning were gradually a piece of cake.

I realized I wasn’t varying or increasing the intensity of my workouts.

Flat-belly workout courtesy of POPSUGAR Fitness.

Flat-belly workout courtesy of POPSUGAR Fitness.

My goal as of late has been to change this. I downloaded the POPSUGAR Fitness app, which I open every day at the gym for new ideas and routines, and started tracking my workouts with MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun. These apps help me stay focused and quickly identify when I’m slipping back into my old ways. I’ve challenged myself to do interval runs at an incline to  amp up the intensity of my daily cardio fix. And, I’ve started mixing in more weights and circuit training.

So far the results have been great. I’ve noticed my endurance has shot up and my muscles are more sculpted, thanks to the weight training. The best outcome is that I’m having more fun at the gym because I’m not doing the same tired routine again, and again.

Today I pushed myself to try two new workout plans, a flat-belly workout that combines cardio and crunchless abs and a circuit training workout for legs. I felt them target muscles that I hadn’t hit before and push others further than I normally do. It was also just fun to try a new set of exercises. I lost track of time in the gym because I was working to get a grasp on the new routines.