Healthy Eating on a Budget? We’ve Found a Chocolate Cake That’s Good for Your Wallet and Your Waistline!

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BY MARSALIE MACKENZIE

Since starting my new job downtown, I’ve been guilty of going out to eat a lot more than I should. In my defense though, it’s really freakin’ hard to say no to cappuccinos and Double Chocolate Cake at Rare Sweets Bakeshop – especially, when your co-workers are always game for a mid-day coffee break.

However, I’m fully aware that my current eating habits are taking a serious toll on both my wallet and my waistline – so I’ve started to consider new ways to get excited about food prep. On a recommendation from my food-loving Aussie friend, Susan, I’ve recently started following a handful of food bloggers who make eating healthy on a budget look easy and delicious.

In an effort to be more conscious about what I consume, I decided to try my hand at recreating a *relatively* simple recipe from my favorite blog, Not Quite Nigella (a reference to famed TV chef, Nigella Lawson). I picked the wholesome vegan chocolate cake with sweet potato frosting because it’s similar to my beloved Double Chocolate Cake, making it easier to compare how many dollars and calories I save by making it myself.

The Shopping Trip:

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I had a few of the ingredients at home (salt, bicarb and safflower oil) but had to buy the rest. This particular basket of goodies cost me $17.22 at Harris Teeter, plus an additional $7.99 for raw cacao powder (which is harder to find than you might think).

At a total of $25.21, this isn’t an insignificant investment, but when you consider that the recipe serves 15, it ended up being $1.70 a slice – $3.30 cheaper than the Bakeshop.

The Process:

I’ve never been a great cook, and, until recently, I lived by myself with no one around to judge me for my lack of domesticity. Luckily, Susan was a great sport and agreed to provide some adult supervision as I made my first foray into vegan baking.

With her help over the course of 2 hours, we baked a delicious cake made entirely of natural ingredients. It wasn’t the most difficult thing I’ve ever made, but I certainly learned a few things in the process that I think would be useful for anyone looking to try this at home.

1. 2 cups of steamed or roasted sweet potato is 2 large sweet potatoes (or 275g). For best results, wrap in tinfoil and bake for 50 minutes, cut open and scoop out the insides.

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2. You need a food processor. Even with a high quality food processor, I still had small lumps of sweet potato in the icing.

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3. Maple syrup is a powerful sweetner. Use liberally until you’ve reach the desired frosting sweetness. That said, taste as you go to avoid adding too much; you can always add more, but you can’t take it away.

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4. Don’t be fussed about the decoration, unless of course you’re baking this for a party. Below is a picture of Lorraine’s cake, which is beautiful; however, bagged cacao nibs work perfectly fine as sprinkles and take absolutely zero effort.

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Picture by Lorraine Elliott

The Verdict:

The cake had a brownie like consistency that was moist and decadent. The sweet potato frosting was also delicious, and allowed us to avoid the 6 cups of sugar typically added to commercial butter cream frostings.

How did it compare to the Double Chocolate Cake? Let’s be honest, no amount of cocoa and maple syrup tastes as satisfying as real sugar, but it was pretty darn good, and more importantly – good for us. At $25.21 for 15 servings, you get 3 times more bang for your buck, without worrying about your sugar intake. I’ll definitely be making this again, but next time I’ll make sure to share!

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Which ‘Best Gym’ in DC is Right for You

BY DANIEL GOMEZ

Now, even though here at On the Glow we promote a savvy fitness lifestyle, we’re aware that saving money all the time isn’t a practical option for working professionals who prefer to go the gym instead of exercising outdoors, or people who enjoy buying smoothies instead of recreating them at home with grocery store items. That’s why for this post I am going to review and rate some of the most popular gyms in DC, places where you can maximize your spending dollars and find the workout that works best for you.

For the sake of this post, I won’t be reviewing boutique gyms (CrossFit, cycling, yoga studios, etc.), just those that offer monthly memberships and have become part of the lifestyle of many Washingtonians: Washington Sports Clubs, VIDA Fitness, and Balance Gym. I will break down what each gym offers, assess their accessibility, outline their pros and cons, and determine which is the best based on their value.

Balance Gym

Balance. It’s a word you hear a lot on Capitol Hill. It does not all have to do with balancing budgets as much as it has to do with Balance Gym, the workout place of many congressional staffers and DC residents. Balance has been consistently rated DC’s top gym because of its numerous classes, convenient locations, and community-like atmosphere, and we find no reason to disagree with others’ assessment.

Hours: Weekdays 6:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m., Weekends 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.

Locations: Four: Thomas Circle, Glover Park, Foggy Bottom, and Capitol Hill.

Amenities: Crossfit, Pilates, Dance Trance, and Physical Therapy (one of the only gyms in DC with in-house physical therapy services)

Offers memberships ranging from: $64- $89 per month

Pros: Reasonable pricing, great locations, Zumba, barre, and Piloxing (Pilates-boxing-dancing combo), high customer satisfaction

Cons: Only four locations, can get overcrowded

Grade: A

Balance is DC’s best gym for a variety of reasons, and at the end of the day it all comes down to customer satisfaction. How many gyms do you know with a weekly barbell club where its members routinely schedule happy hour together? Or a gym that offers a slew of classes in yoga, pilates, Crossfit, barre, and Zumba, and is also reasonably priced per month? Balance just proves how committed Washingtonians are to fitness, and how much they’re willing to throw down to get the most bang for their buck.

VIDA Fitness

While I have heard mixed reviews about VIDA, I tend to meet more satisfied than dissatisfied members from the popular gym. Memberships don’t come cheap here, but you won’t hear a lot of complaints from members in a gym that offers candlelight yoga, scenic ride cycling, kaishido kickboxing, and an hour-long boot camp program. The Yards location looks like something out of a Ridley Scott movie, and the intensity and liveliness of group classes are enough to keep anyone from leaving.

Hours: Weekdays 5:00 a.m. – 11 p.m., Weekends 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Locations: Six: City Vista, Metropole, Renaissance Hotel, U Street, Verizon, The Yards

Amenities: Studios, Aura Spa, Smoothie Bar, pool, quality weights and machines

Offers memberships ranging from: $70- $129 per month

Pros: Top-notch amenities, highly rated group classes, current members receive discounts at several businesses in D.C., including Bike Rack DC, Chop’t, and U Street Music Hall.

Cons: Pricey memberships, can get crowded

Grade: B+

Although VIDA is one of the pricier gyms in DC, many of its members love everything it has to offer. Many young professionals frequent the gym’s six locations and remain extremely loyal to the brand VIDA’s built in DC. If you can afford $70 a month and are serious about getting a good workout 4 to 5 days a week, this gym will definitely be one of your better options.

Washington Sports Clubs

When I first moved to D.C., I did not have the luxury of weighing the benefits between a $70/month or a $250/month gym membership. I did what most people do; I explored nearby gyms and found the one that was not too fancy, not too expensive, and allowed me to get a good workout every day. The winner was Washington Sports Clubs, a neighborhood gym with several locations in DC.

Hours: Weekdays 5:00 a.m. – 11 p.m., Weekends (Varies, usually 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.)

Locations: Seven, including Columbia Heights, Downtown, Dupont Circle, F Street, Gallery Place, Georgetown, Glover Park

Amenities: Sauna, Spinning Studio, 24/7 Personal Trainers (with fee), Pool (depends on the location), 59 different types of classes

Offers memberships ranging from: $29.99- $69.99 per month

Pros: Multiple locations, easy accessible, friendly environment, reasonable pricing.

Cons: Not fully loaded like other gyms, some locations lack enough space, staff-friendliness varies from gym to gym.

Grade: B

WSC is one of the more reasonably priced gyms in DC. It has the essentials, but not some of the fancier stuff you might see at VIDA or Balance. Its multiple locations and numerous classes make it extremely accessible. And although the club is not universally loved by Washingtonians, it is still a great option for anyone who wants to save a few extra bucks on a monthly membership.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree/disagree with my grades? What are your favorite gyms in DC and why? Leave your comments down below.