Friendly Food – Mediterranean Feta Lamb Burgers

This was mFriendly Food Logoy second “Friendly Food” and I have to say that I really think I am on to something here. Catching up with great friends, learning new cooking skills and recipes and getting to feast on tasty food is as close to a perfect night as it gets in my book.

This particular night had me at my friend Ariane and Darren’s house. I have known Ariane for over ten years, we became fast friends at work and even had the opportunity to travel to Spain together. I have known Darren for approximately the same amount of time, having met him through mutual friends. I remember going to a birthday party for these mutual friends and seeing Ariane walk through the door, color me confused! It turns out two spectacular people in my life found each other and were soon to be married, become parents to Sienna & Blake and have me over to cook dinner with them!

After some cuddle time with Baby Blake and a scene which had Darren giving Sienna a mint in the other room without us knowing and then us chasing after her to get the “little blue pill” that she had just popped in her mouth we decided to get down to some serious cooking business.

Ariane had laid out all the ingredients in little dishes which again had me mentally pretending I was on my own cooking show. We started by making homemade tzatziki sauce out of greek yogurt, lemon, garlic, cucumbers and dill. We tested the mixture before deciding that it could use a little more garlic which I remedied with four more cloves, perhaps a tiny bit of overkill. I was next instructed to put on gloves to dice the jalapeno pepper and mix the ingredients into the lamb. I have NEVER liked the feeling of raw meat on my hands or the burning of my eyes after rubbing them after playing with peppers, these gloves are brilliant! We rounded out the meal with sweet potato fries and a everything but the kitchen sink salad.

I left with a full stomach and a happy heart and some new tricks up my cooking sleeves.

Big thanks to Ariane and Darren!!


Ariane & Darren

Lamb Sliders

Tzatziki Sauce

Baked Sweet Potato Fries


What is Friendly Food?

“Friendly Food” is a blog feature; combining social hour with hands on learning that culminates into a well crafted meal, an expanding recipe collection and ever growing knife skills.  I am inviting myself over for dinner at friend’s houses (or at least heavily hinting until they invite me), asking them to pull out their favorite healthy recipe and playing the role of sous chef.











Introducing Friendly Food!

Friendly Food Logo

What may at first seem like me inviting myself to dinner is really a solution to more than just my hunger. I often times find myself scheduling happy hours to socialize with my friends while the healthy groceries I purchased over the weekend sour in the refrigerator, and when I do make it home I am at a loss of what to make for dinner. Enter my brilliantly designed “Friendly Food” blog feature; combining social hour with hands on learning that culminates into a well crafted meal, an expanding recipe collection and ever growing knife skills.

I am inviting myself over for dinner at friend’s houses (or at least heavily hinting until they invite me), asking them to pull out their favorite healthy recipe and playing the role of sous chef.

Up next…my first “Friendly Food” experience with my friend’s Marco and Jayden Godina. On the menu…Cauliflower “Bread” Sticks and Eggplant Pizza!













Know Your Body

Know Your Body…..I am almost forty years old and I am still trying to figure it out, you can imagine I was excited for the opportunity to meet and chat with Joanne DiMauro, Founding Director of Know Your Body, when I was recently in New York City. Joanne was introduced to me by one of my friends in Seattle who danced with her as a member of the Rockettes in NYC.

Prior to meeting Joanne I reviewed her website and immediately was intrigued when she spoke of intuitive eating. I have never been able to approach food in an intuitive manner, I find myself struggling to figure out satisfying meals staring blankly into the refrigerator or slowly walking grocery store aisles hoping that my cart magically fills itself. Learning how to be more intuitive in my eating is very….appetizing.

I met Joanne at her home office and quickly relaxed into conversation with her. We spoke of my personal journey, past, present and future and her history with health and nutrition. Joanne approaches a healthy lifestyle through a natural and holistic approach which is a path that I am trying to align myself more with since starting this journey. A common theme I have heard when researching and speaking with health and wellness professionals is “clean eating” which I know even by its name is the right way to eat, clean!

During our conversation we began speaking about meditation and I excitedly told her how I learned from a Reiki practitioner years ago how to “ground” myself, using it many times over the years to calm myself or to aide a sleepless night. When I spoke she smiled in response and told me that my entire face lit up and my eyes sparkled when I spoke about the practice.. It reminded me that I need to spend time healing not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well.

I continue to be blessed in meeting so many people along this journey!

Joanne D2


From Stressed to Stretched

I took a deep breath before entering the building. I have said this before and nothing has changed I am always nervous to try a new workout. Classes in New York have an even greater level of intimidation to me, but there really is no reason, I have had only one uncomfortable experience when I was told by two incredibly skinny 6 foot model types that I was doing an exercise wrong and I have been scared ever since.

This day I was trying Lastics, a class designed by Donna Flagg, that consisted of various stretching techniques. I’ll be honest, I chose this workout because I thought I would breeze through with little sweat and exertion, I was wrong.

Within moments of the first stretch I was shaking, it was as if all of a sudden my legs were plugged in to an electrical outlet somewhere. We were seated on the floor, legs stretched out in front of us,  instructed to push our legs down until they were flush to the floor, no matter how hard I tried to push the back of my wobbly knees to the floor I couldn’t. Donna was very in tune to what everyone in the class was doing so I couldn’t hide. She came over and pushed gently on my knees helping them to finally touch the floor, she told me to keep them there and when she let go they popped back up, I had no control.

At one point we were instructed to pull our leg up behind us with our heel touching our butt, I struggled, leaning against a wall trying to grab at my ankle. I know from plenty of workout classes that I am one of a few who can’t successfully do this without holding on to a wall or kicking my leg up behind me and praying that my hand connects with my shoe laces so I can hold on to something other than my actual foot to do this stretch. What makes this move so difficult for me? I have no clue, could be extra padding, could be lack of flexibility, it’s definitely a lack of coordination.

There were plenty of other moves that were equally as challenging for me but in the end I left feeling good, my muscles were awake, I had exerted plenty of energy and had learned a new form of exercise.

Donna is a no nonsense instructor who calls you out when you aren’t hitting the perfect form, needless to say I got a lot of attention. I normally would have been embarrassed by so much attention but I was not alone and while direct, Donna is very friendly.

The workout is meant to aide your body in creating lean, limber and elongated muscles. I knew that taking one class wouldn’t get me to a dancer’s body but I am definitely intrigued. If you have interest in learning more about Lastics you should check out Donna’s collection of books and dvds for home practice.

The images below were taken from









Aqua Cycle NYC

Taken from Aqua Cycle on Facebook

Taken from Aqua Cycle on Facebook

I had my eye on Aqua Cycle in New York for over a year. A spinning class done in the water on submerged bikes seemed pretty spectacular, couple that with an ambiance of classical music and candles and I was sold.

I had several awkward moments, the first happened before I even got to the pool. I was trying to sneak by a naked woman in the locker room without rubbing up against her and I fell against the wall hitting the light switch which in turn cast part of the locker room into darkness. Thankfully my friend Emily was with me and I got to share a laugh with her, one of many to occur in the hour long class.

It’s rare for me to purposefully put myself in a situation where I am in a swimsuit in a pool with strangers. I remedied this by wearing a tank top and workout pants, which worked fairly well until the crotch of my pants snagged on the seat during a move that had us placing our hands on the bike seat and and lifting ourselves on to the bike from behind.

The class instructor Emma Galland, is a certified holistic health coach and nutritionist as well as the author of “Feeding Success” and the owner of Goji Fitness, and if that wasn’t enough she has also co-created a vegan, organic superfood protein powder called Zenberry. I was very impressed with Emma, her entrepreneurial endeavors as well as the way she effortlessly led our class with a cast on her arm.

She adjusted my bike for me, and due to my height I stuck out of the water far past my neighbors, it felt a bit like I was back in elementary school towering over my classmates in our school picture.

The bike has no resistance dial like in an above water spinning class, the resistance is solely up to the rider, at first it felt like riding a bike with a broken chain with my pedals spinning fast and in an uneven jerky sort of pattern but soon enough I got into a rhythm and must have been doing something right because my leg muscles were on fire! We moved our way through three positions, sitting, standing and finally pedaling while floating behind the bike.

Aqua Cycling is popular in Europe but currently the only place to spin in a salt water pool is in TriBeCa. The classes are a bit pricey but if I lived locally I would try to find a way to support the habit.

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And she’s back!

I know, I know you haven’t heard from me in quite awhile, for that I apologize. My trip officially ended when I drove into Seattle at the end of June. I was a mix of emotions; nervous, anxious, ecstatic, scared, happy, sad, excited…the list could go on.

The drive across the pass into Seattle highlighted the end of an amazing year, the completion of a huge goal.  I had found success in so many ways; navigated my way across the US, stretched my trip from the original six month plan to a full year, lost weight, met new and old friends, saw parts of the country I had never seen and yet there was still a small cloud of disappointment that it was all over.

When I left for this trip I had very distinct dreams of what this trip was going to mean to me and how it was going to end. I was going to come back refreshed, with a clear idea of who I was and what it was I wanted in life, oh and I was also going to be 80 pounds skinner and tan.

The reality was that my year on the road allowed me to step out of my daily routine, give some time and attention to the emotions I had surrounding the loss of my Mom and the resulting changes to my family. It allowed me to connect with amazing people, revisiting important relationships, moving them beyond the superficial occasional text and Facebook updates to a deeper connection.

I didn’t come back to town knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up but I did come back with the knowledge that what I do for work is just a small part of who I am, it is a tool which provides me a means to the end goal…living.

And since this blog is called “Losing Weight Off the Interstate” I should report that I lost 45 pounds, not the 80 I had dreamed of but 45 stubborn, difficult to lose pounds.  I am maintaining this loss and working towards losing more but for now I am going to stop apologizing that I only lost “45 pounds” and be proud for the huge accomplishment of this past year. Oh and if you were wondering, no, I am not tan either. I guess the next round of “Losing Weight off the Interstate” will be in warmer climates.

Until then, I will update my blog with more frequent posts about life and loss and most importantly…Living.

Up next: A trip back to NYC! (I type this as I am sitting in “my” apartment in Chelsea)



A New York State of Mind

NYC Empire State Building 1

I have always dreamed of living in a big city and this trip seemed like the perfect opportunity to get a taste. I will be in New York City from now until the beginning of December.

I have quickly learned some of the rules to big city living. The toughest for me has been to quit smiling at strangers on the street. I can’t help it, I am a friendly lady. It turns out that those smiles here are more of an invitation to interact than they are at home. I have successfully wiped the smile from my face but I didn’t throw it away because I am planning on smiling at strangers again after my departure.

I have had the opportunity to catch up with some amazing people with hopes to catch up with even more. Some of my favorite people live here and being in the same city as so many wonderful and supportive people has been very good for my soul.

Working out and healthy eating are still very much at the forefront of my mind, I am taking two separate fitness classes this week and will be excited to share my experiences with you. I am reaching out to various food and fitness professionals and hope to stack the deck with some amazing experiences and some more weight loss!

Chat soon!

NYC Collage Friends 1

I saw a Banksy my first weekend here!

I saw a Banksy my first weekend here!

An Introduction to Danielle Prestejohn, Emotional Eating Specialist

Danielle Prestejohn

Love your body. It is an easy enough statement but can be a difficult concept . We are all plied with images of “beauty” on a daily basis and it is easy to compare yourself negatively. Enter Boston located Emotional Eating and Weight Loss Specialist, Danielle Prestejohn. Danielle has created a business around helping individuals find joy in living in the body that they have now. No more waiting to lose those last few pounds to take that trip you have been dreaming of, she encourages you to stop obsessing and start living.

Danielle struggled with her weight for a good portion of her life, starting her first diet at the age of twelve. She has tried various diets, lost weight, gained weight and felt miserable. She was ready to take her life back from food and weight obsession and so she started lifting the layers to her emotional issues around weight.

What I really enjoyed about my discussion with Danielle is there are no hard and fast rules. She recognizes that every person is unique and encourages them to participate in activities that will help them. Some people find value in journaling, some find it stressful and unhelpful. She encourages everyone to ditch the scale, and instead of focusing on a number have them pay attention to how they feel. Instead of putting food off limits keep them in your diet but practice moderation.

I asked Danielle what would be in her cooler if she was taking a long road trip she shared her list with me: Deli Turkey, Hard Boiled Eggs, Almond Butter, Peanut Butter, Avocado, Fruit, Veggies, Protein, Trail Mix and Unsweetened Fruit.

I am going to be in New York for several weeks and my host’s refrigerator is just a little bit bigger than my cooler so I think I will go grab some of these “cooler” items.

Danielle has created varied programs from 30 Day guides to one-on-one coaching. You can find additional details on her website where you can also sign up for her informative newsletter.

Website:    Facebook:

Love my Body

Dustin Maher, America’s Trainer to Moms


Chalk one up to my Pro Sara Dean for suggesting I meet up with Dustin Maher in Madison, Wisconsin. I was at first hesitant to reach out to him as his his tag line is “America’s Trainer to Moms” and I am not a Mom, however, I knew that moms sweat the same as me and figured I would be in good company, plus they would be use to it if all of a sudden I fell into a tantrum or started crying suddenly.

I reached out to Dustin to introduce myself and tell him about my journey and he immediately responded with an invitation to his boot camp and this nice note ” I just checked out your website, really awesome. I always encourage people to live extraordinary lives and do things that others only dream of… You taking this trip fits right in line with my values”. With a proud bounce in my fingers I quickly replied and accepted the invitation.

I arrived at the park nervous and excited to work out hard, it had been awhile since I worked out in a group setting like this. I immediately spied a large hill and my heart sunk, I had a feeling we were going to run that hill. I hate running. I despise running in fact. I don’t know if it is the pressure on my knees, the jiggle in all my jiggly bits or the fact that I am ALWAYS and forever the last person to finish.  I fought my desire to flee and walked out to join the people warming up in the field. The group was very friendly and welcomed me with open arms. This group was so friendly in fact that no one made mention when a man (also not a Mom) showed up with his workout shorts with built in underwear on inside out. This was a very accepting group, which I was thankful for.

We finished our warm up and did some partner exercises on the children’s play equipment to include park bench dips, arm rows on the parallel bars and some humiliating bar work that had us hanging off a high bar while trying, and I emphasize trying to pull our knees to our chest. I grabbed the bar and hung for a minute while my partner waited to “aid” me in my knee crunch. I continued to hang there. I truly think that if my life depended on me getting my knees to my chest while hanging like a monkey, with my hands burning from the pressure of gravity I would not be here to tell the story. My partner was very encouraging, and essentially lifted my legs to my chest for me while I sweated through the humiliation and the realization that I hadn’t shaved my legs in days.

We transitioned from one humiliating moment to another when we started our cardio on the dreaded hill. Now it is important that I emphasize both Dustin and the others were very encouraging and were not the cause of any humiliation this is something I struggle with every time I work out in a group. Dustin had us running up the base of the hill, turning around and running backwards and then repeating until we were at the top of the hill.  Once we were at the top of the hill we did sprints (my movement could have looked like fast walking with arms pumping furiously) combined with jump squats. This worked me and I quickly wondered what the elevation was, hoping that was part of the reason I couldn’t catch my breath. When everyone was done waiting for me to finish my reps we all gathered at the bottom of the hill to do planks and end in some relaxing yoga stretches.

I left the workout proud of my accomplishments and even more proud of this journey, it is not easy to reach out to strangers, share with them your personal journey and then show up and do some hard work. A little personal pat on my own back, it looks less strange than giving myself a high five.

In addition to training over 350 people at his 10 fitness locations around Madison, Dustin is also busy creating home workout DVDs (30 to date) and driving a pretty special program called the “Million Mom Movement” through his Fit Mom for Life program. His initial goal is to create 14,000 fitness support groups nationwide.  These groups are comprised mostly of moms in communities throughout the county who connect with one another to train, support and motivate one another. If like me, you think 14, 000 is an odd number to begin with it will make sense when Dustin shares that this is the current number of McDonald’s in the USA and he feels that getting healthy should be as accessible as fast food is in our society.

I think it is pretty cool that Dustin is working so diligently to provide Moms all over the US the opportunity to gather and work towards a common goal.

I verbally asked Dustin my trainer questions and they are listed below “The dreaded hill picture”.

To connect with Dustin check him out here:  Facebook   Pinterest   Twitter   YouTube

Dustin Hill

The dreaded hill, objects are larger than they may appear!

Q. Why did you become a strength coach/personal trainer? 

A. When he was in high school Dustin did resistance training, which changed his body and helped with his confidence level. He wanted to share his knowledge so he started training friends and family and as they were showing positive results he knew he wanted to continue to help others.

Q. How do you customize your program to adapt to different fitness levels? 

A. Dustin discusses with his clients their goals and analyzes where they are currently in their fitness, he believes that everyone benefits from and should strength train. If a client is new to exercise he will focus on stability and plyometric moves, which are a slower and more controlled way of exercising.  As the client is ready he will gradually increase the reps, sets and the length of the exercise.  When he has different levels working out together he will do timed workouts and if some finish early he has them do additional exercise until the class has all finished.

Q. What do you do in your community to stay in shape outside of the gym?

A. Dustin runs stairs on a regular basis, plays basketball 1-2 times a week, plays Frisbee golf 5 times a week, volleyball, road bike, play tennis, competitive ping pong and ski hill jumping.

Q. Do you have a success story you are most proud of?

A. As with most trainers it was difficult for Dustin to choose one as he has had many success stories in his career. The one that stood out in particular was his client Becky, who is the only client that Dustin trains 1:1 as she is dealing with specific health issues.  Becky has lupus, arthritis, endometriosis and other autoimmune diseases that make it difficult for her to move her legs. When they began training Becky was a size 18, today she is down to a size 4. They have accomplished this all by focusing on upper body strength training and nutrition changes.

Q. What is your favorite workout soundtrack or song?

A. Dustin likes Hip Hop & Rap as well as Eminem “Lose Yourself” because of its fast beat.

Q. What is your most embarrassing gym moment?

A. When Dustin was in college he worked at a gym in Vale, CO. where Ryan and Trista Sutter, former contestants on The Bachelorette worked out. Ryan would always come in to the gym without a shirt. One day Dustin approached Ryan and asked him if he would be willing to take a shirtless picture to share with his friends back home. It turns out Ryan didn’t appreciate that and talked to his supervisor who had a discussion with him that it was very un-professional to ask.  While Dustin agrees that it wasn’t the most appropriate question to ask he thought it was a good lesson in getting out of your comfort zone.

Meet my new “Pro”: Anna Dvorak, Nutrition and Wellness Guide

Anna D Profile

I had no intention of going to Minneapolis. It wasn’t because I specifically didn’t want to go there I just had never thought of it as an option.  When I set out on this journey Sara Dean, one of the pro’s on my support team notified her clients of my blog through her newsletter.  One of her clients forwarded my blog to her friend, Anna Dvorak who reached out to me and invited me to her home in Minneapolis.

Who is this lady Anna and was she a serial killer was one of my first thoughts. I know that sounds dramatic but this was my first invite from a stranger and a girl can’t be too careful when traveling! It turns out that Anna is the furthest thing from a serial killer, she actually has made it her life’s purpose to help people live healthy, thus actually prolonging their life.

My first night in town Anna invited me to have dinner at the home she shares with her husband Chris. One of the things that I have been excited to do on this trip is to break bread with people, learn from what they put on their table and that night was a great lesson in how to eat.  We dined on a make your own salad of sorts complete with salad greens, quinoa, beans, cilantro, roasted corn, cucumber, red pepper, shredded carrots, sunflower seeds, salsa verde and a picco de gallo, this combination was amazing and something I would have thrown quite a bit of money down for in a restaurant. It was so exciting to know that I was nourishing my body while enjoying the food that I was eating. I never once felt deprived, never once yearned for bread, cheese or salad dressing which is not a normal occurrence in my diet. I was truly inspired by my dinner with Anna and Chris, the conversation and food were amazing and I left inspired.

Anna is putting her love and knowledge of food and nutrition to good use in her three Nourish e-cookbooks.  Each of her cookbooks focus on healthy yet flavorful foods that are geared towards those with food sensitivity, they all are 100% refined sugar free and mostly gluten and dairy free. Currently she is testing every recipe with a handful of people of all cooking levels to ensure the instructions are written clearly and easy to follow.  Her fourth cookbook is titled Fall which will complete the seasons when it joins Winter, Spring & Summer.

I am so excited to have Anna as part of my team and will look to her for guidance and inspiration when it comes to my diet, something that I desperately need. I hope to learn the skills to properly nourish myself on the road and can’t wait to increase my cooking skills for all of the amazing dinner parties I plan to host when I am settled back in to my daily life.

It will be good to be known for a tasty and healthy meal or two as opposed to just specialty cocktails and jello shots as my friends know me now.