laurenlikestocook

Archive for the ‘Oats’ Category

Ate Days a Week

In Beans, Bread, Breakfast, Brunch, Challenge, Fruit, Healthy Lifestyle, Holiday, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Nuts, Oats, Party, Pasta, Pizza, Quick Meal, Rice, Salad, Saving Money, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on February 24, 2015 at 7:04 pm

When it comes to healthy eating, I find there is a fine line between two philosophies: 1)Variety is the spice of life and 2)Consistency is key.  How does one stay in balance without getting bored of the same 10 meal repertoire?  When it comes to diversification, I’m always looking for inspiration.  I often look at healthy eating blogs/sites, fitness magazines, and even get sucked into the articles on the latest celebrity eating crazes.  There are definitely common trends (who else is sick of seeing kale everywhere?), but there is also a lot of differing and conflicting information.  Some people eat the same exact breakfast and lunch every day because it helps them stay on track, while others will cave into candy if they have another egg white fritata.

IMG_1355

Could you eat THIS every day?

Where do my habits fall on this spectrum?  It’s kind of hard to say.  There have been weeks where I definitely fall into the same lunch rut, and others where I order take out every night.  It really depends on what else is going on that hour/meal/day/week/etc.  In an effort to better answer this question, I decided a couple of weeks ago to keep a log of my food/water/alcohol intake every day for 7 days.  This practice helped me to reflect more accurately on my habits and identify trends, which is something I hadn’t done in several years.  Back in my days of working with a personal trainer, I had been required to turn in a nutrition log at the beginning of each session, which gave me so much anxiety.  If I was honest about every morsel, I’d get ripped apart for having even one cookie, even if the other 98% of my intake was perfect.   I would end up omitting anything that I knew was “inconstant” and veering away from my “goals”, just to avoid the wrath of someone who subsisted on protein shakes, whey, and hardly any fresh fruits or vegetables.

IMG_1118

Homework…

It’s been a long time since I’ve followed any sort of “diet” or meal plan, so this time I took a different approach to the journaling process.  I didn’t focus exclusively on calories, macronutrients, or obsessively counting and measuring.  While I did note approximate amounts (I have a very good sense of portions and volumes, so that’s how I was able to quantify all the ingredients), I didn’t use any measuring devices (scale/cup/calculator), except when required by a recipe (baking).    I just wanted to get a sense of 1)the main components of my meals, 2)some idea of ratio (is the meal 1/2 veggies, 1/4 each protein/carb), 3)how often/frequently I eat, 4)what kind and how often I was having alcohol and “treats”, and how 5)much water I was consuming.  For water, I used the same size glass throughout the day (usually a 17 oz size, which I’d note as 2 cups), and I didn’t include cooking water.  I also noted times I ate/drank to understand the frequency better.

Here’s a high level overview, which I’ll follow with more details and pics.  This particular week had a busy weekend (Valentine’s Day, birthday parties, 2 big family dinners), so it’s an example of more splurging than usual.

  • Breakfast is the most consistent, usually some combination of protein (eggs or yogurt) with whole grain (oats) and lots of veggies
  • Lunch is usually leftovers or a simple salad
  • Dinner is the most varied, usually freshly cooked, and has carb heavy options for the other members of my family
  • I’ll have 1-3 in between meal snacks or bites
  • I drink a minimum 12 cups of water a day, but usually 16+ (especially on days I exercise).  This equates to about a cup/hour.
  • 1-2 glasses of wine 4 times a week; 1 night of cocktails.  None of that bothers me. 🙂
  • A piece or two of chocolate 3x; ice cream 1x
  • During the week, frequency is 2-3 hours; Weekend eating frequency is less, but more indulgent

That’s the basic gist of the week’s trends.  Some of you may want more information, the same way I look at other blogs as I mentioned earlier.  For those who want more details, here they are, along with some photos when I remembered to take them.

  • Monday
    • Water total: 16 cups
      • 530: 2 cups water before/during barre workout
    • 7 am grande coffee w 1 oz milk
    • 7:45 am: 2 cups water; porridge – 1/2 cup oats, 2 cups water, 1.5 cups kale, 1 tsp miso, 2 eggs, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
      • 2 more cups water btwn meals
    • 11:15 Carob spirulina energy bite (1)
    • 12:30 pm: 2 cups water; salad of 3 celery stalks, 1 small gala apple, 1/3 cup chickpeas, lemon juice; 1 brown rice cake with 1/3 avocado and 1/2 oz sharp cheddar
      • 2:30 2 cups water
    • 3:15 whole wheat banana nut bread
      • 4:30 2 cups water
    • 6:00 low fat string cheese 1 cup water
    • 7:15 2 cups water; whole wheat pasta with honeynut squash olives capers and almonds (1 cup)
      • 1 cup water after dinner
IMG_1077

Porridge

IMG_1082

Lunch

IMG_1083

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

IMG_1084

Pasta.

IMG_1085

My itty portion.

  • Tuesday
    • Water total: 16 cups
      • 8:30 am: 2 cups water
    • 9:00 – pancake (1.5 eggs, 6 tbsp oats, 3 tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt, 1.5 cups flower sprouts [like kale]). 2 cups water
      • 10: stroller strides (interval full body workout) 2 cups water during workout
    • 11: 3/4 cup Greek yogurt with 1 tsp pb 3/4 apple and cinnamon
    • 11:30 – grande coffee w 1 oz milk
    • 1:00 pm – 2 cups water; 1 whole wheat pizza slice with broccoli and spinach topping
      • 2:45 – 2 cups water
      • 4:15 – 2 cups water
    • 5:15 – 1.5 clementine 10 raw almonds
    • 6:15 : 2 cups water, 3 bell pepper slices
    • 7:30 2 cups water. 2 (really big) glass red wine. 1/3 cup sprouted brown rice, 1/3 cup mushroom stroganoff, 1/2 cup roasted sugar snap peas in 1 tsp Evoo, 1 small bell pepper stuffed w 1/2 cup chickpeas w lemon zest and juice; 2 choc truffle
IMG_1086

Pancake with a hot sauce smile.

IMG_1087

Yogurt parfait.

IMG_1088

  • Wednesday
    • Water total: 16 cups
      • 9:15 am 2 cups water
    • 9:30 – smoothie (3/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1/2 banana, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1.5 cups broccoli, 1/4 cup oats, 1 tbsp pb, 1/2 cup water, vanilla and cinnamon)
      • 10:30 2 cups water
    • 11:15 cup of coffee w splash of milk
      • 11:40 2 cups water
    • 12:15 pm 1 cup coffee
      • 1:00 2 cups water
    • 1:15 leftover snap peas stroganoff and rice, kidney beans 1/2 cup each
    • 2:45 2 cups water. 1 oz sharp cheddar
    • 5:15 thin slice whole wheat banana bread
      • 6:30 2 cups water
    • 7:00 carrot ginger coconut soup (1 cup), sesame noodles (1/2 cup brown rice quinoa pasta with pb and sesame sauce (pb, molasses, sesame oil, ginger, garlic,etc), 2 cups water, 1 piece dark chocolate w raisins and pecans
      • 10:30 2 cups water
 IMG_1089 IMG_1090

IMG_1091

Finished smoothie.

IMG_1092

Sautéing veggies for the soup.

IMG_1093

Soups on!

IMG_1095

Sesame noodles, with some modifications on this recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/cold-sesame-noodles-recipe2.html

  • Thursday
    • Water total: 14
      • 9:30 am 2 cups water
    • 10:00 1/2 cup oats, 6 oz baby spinach sautéd in 1 tsp Evoo and garlic, 2 scrambled eggs, 2 cups water
    • 10:45 2 cup coffee w splash milk
      • 12:30 pm 2 cups water
      • 1:30 2 cups water
    • 2:00 leftover carrot soup (1.5 cups) rice beans and mushroom (1/2 cup each;) 1 cup water
      • 3:00 1 cup water
      • 5:15 2 cups water
    • 6:15 2 cups water. 1 small sweet potato with skin and sprinkle cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup white beans cooked in sriracha sauce, 1 cup slaw (napa cabbage carrots onion pepper apple celery lemon juice avocado), 1 glass red wine
IMG_1096

Breakfast.

IMG_1097

Leftovers. Again.

IMG_1098

Slaw.

IMG_1099

BBQ(ish) Dinner.

  • Friday
    • Water total: 17 cups
      • 5:30-7am 3 cups water before/ during barre
    • 7:00 grande coffee with splash milk
    • 8:30 2 cups water. Miso soup (1 tbsp miso w 2 cups water) with 1/2 cup leftover sprouted brown rice, 3 cups flower sprouts, 2 poached eggs, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil and hot sauce
      • 9:30 2 cups water
      • 11:15 2 cups water
    • 12:15 2 cups water. 2 cups leftover slaw w 1/2 cup kidney beans, 1 small sweet potato w sprinkle cheddar
      • 4:00 2 cups water
    • 4:30 2 clementines 15 raw almonds
      • 530 1 cup water
    • 7:00 pm – FAMILY DINNER. 1 cup water. 1/4 cup guac w 10 scoops, 2-3 oz white fish, 1/2 cup black bean, 1/2 cup cabbage, 2 margaritas. 1 piece salted caramel dark chocolate, 1 scoop vanilla ice cream
      • 10:00 2 cups water
IMG_1100

Another take on Breakfast.

IMG_1101

  • Saturday
    • Water total: 16 cups
      • 9:45 am 2 cups water
    • 10:15 2 cups water. 1/2 cup oats cooked in water, 3 oz baby spinach in 1 tsp Evoo, 1/3 avocado, 1 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
      • 11:00 am – 1:00 pm 4 cups water before/during/after barre
    • 1:00 pm grande coffee splash of milk
    • 2:30 pm salad w romain eggplant roasted red pepper cucumber tomato chick peas fresh mozzarella 1 tbsp vinaigrette, 10 French fries, 5 bites broccoli cheddar omelet, 1 cup water
      • 7:00 pm 4 cups water
    • 8:30 VALENTINES. 2 glasses red wine, 5 slices baguette 1/2 inch thick,  5 crackers, cheese (3ish oz), cherry jam, 10 olives, 2 cups water
      • 1 cup water before bed
IMG_1102

More savory oats.

IMG_1103

VDay with my love.

  • Sunday (Busy day, no photos)
    • Water total: 12
      • 9:30 am 2 cups water
    • 10:30 am 16 oz americano w steamed milk (1/2 cup?), 1 slice whole wheat banana bread, 1 cup water
    • 12:30 pm BIRTHDAY BRUNCH PART 1. 3 cups water, 1/2 cup brown rice 1 cup sauted Chinese broccoli,  2 bites tapioca custard, 2 bites dessert bun
    • 3:30 BIRTHDAY BRUNCH PART 2.  1 cup water, 2 poached eggs, 1/2 biscuit, 1/2 cup sauted kale, 1 cup mixed green side salad, 1/2 Bloody Mary
    • 6:30. BIG FAMILY DINNER.  3 cups water, 2 glasses red wine, 1/2 cup mixed greens, 1/2 slice fresh mozzarella, 1 bite bread w butter, 1 cup whole wheat pasta w arabiata sauce, 1/2 cup green beans, 1/4 cup sauted spinach, small piece eggplant parm (3 bites), 3 bites sole oreganata
      • 9:00 pm. 2 cups water

To answer my initial question, what does all of this mean? After this experiment, I think I can say that I am consistent with adhering to the healthy habits I’ve developed over the years, all while spicing things up with twists and changes.  And even if I do indulge a smidge, I don’t have to worry about hiding it from anyone, because I don’t consider it something off limits.  How else do you expect me to muster up the energy to cook (or chase a toddler) without a glass or two of wine?

wine-parents-drink-mother-kids-family-ecards-someecards

And if you’d like to see any of the recipes from this week, comment and let me know.  They could be included in a future post.

Advertisements

It’s Almost Bikini Season (?)

In Challenge, Fruit, Healthy Lifestyle, Oats, Quinoa, Rice, Vegetables on December 5, 2014 at 4:02 pm

A line I’ve heard far too many cliched times.  I’ll be in a fitness class, performing some G-d awful maneuver, and the instructor will chime in with the motivational “C’mon, it’s almost bikini season.”  Have you been there, too?  This usually starts sometime in the Spring, but I’ve heard it all year long.  The most surprising time was a few years ago in a late November or early December yoga class.  I remember thinking I wanted to Warrior 3 back-kick that teacher in the face.  Seriously?  This was smack in the middle of the season of eating (Halloween-New Years).  But you know what?  I always remember that class, and that message is so very clear and meaningful to me now.

It’s always bikini season, or at least that’s what your eating/fitness routine should reflect.  Don’t starve yourself a month before summer, or spend 3 hours at the gym everyday, then turn around and subsist on fast food and couch potato-ing the other 9 months of the year.  Balance and healthy habits are a 365 day-a-year prescription for what you seek.  Something important to remember during this current season, or any time in your life.  Which brings me to a topic I’ve been toying with discussing on this blog.  Another 9(+) month period that opens you up to the advice and opinions of even the faintest stranger.

I’m talking about pregnancy, and specifically how it affects “bikini season.”

I know this topic can strike a nerve in a lot of people, which is why I’ve been procrastinating addressing the topic.  Several people have asked me to give tips for losing the baby weight and getting back in shape.  I could have wrote a post about this over a year ago.  Honestly, if I wrote some of the things I’d been thinking in my head, I’m sure I’d get a lot of backlash.  I have lots of stories and anecdotes to add to this topic, but really the common theme is this: treat everyday like you’re prepping for bikini season.  Before, during, and after pregnancy.  What does that mean?  Eating healthfully and exercising, plain and simple.  There’s no secret or mystery plan behind it.

Okay, so that may seem like a pretty generic piece of advice.  Plus, not everyone has the same criteria for what constitutes healthful eating and physical fitness routines.  For reference, I’ll talk about some of my healthy habits, but really the bottom line is to find what works best for your body and lifestyle.  I may have been able to run 3-5 miles into my 8th month of pregnancy, but somebody else could benefit just as much from walking their dog for 30 minutes.  It doesn’t make me better, it is just what suits me best.

Recovering from pregnancy weight gain for me really started before even trying to conceive.  I had a healthy lifestyle before becoming pregnant, which set a good foundation for prenatal and postpartum maintenance.  Mind you, I was no skinny super model with “naturally fast metabolism”, nor a fanatic celebrity with a nutritionist/chef/personal trainer at my disposal.  Through trial and error, I found what worked best for me and incorporated these changes into my lifestyle.  I found exercises that I liked (running, full body dvds, yoga, bike riding) and scheduled appointments in my calendar to make sure I didn’t cancel on myself and fitness goals.  I didn’t treat my nutrition in a diet-focused manner, but rather with a holistic approach.  Basically, how do certain foods make me feel?  Do they give me energy or do they make me sluggish?  Are the ingredients naturally occurring or are they frankenfoods?  Do I need a whole plate of an indulgent food, or will just 2-3 bites satisfy my cravings?  You get the idea, but here are some of the food habits I developed and have remained unchanged:

  • Drink 10+ cups of water a day.  No soda or juice.
  • Breakfast is the biggest meal of the day, with no added sugar
  • Eating lots of vegetables, especially leafy greens
  • Maxing out at 2-3 fruits/day
  • Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, steel cut oats, whole wheat, etc)
  • Organic when possible (although when I prepared the foods it was 98% likely to include organic ingredients)
  • No sweets in the house (hardest by far, and not always kept)
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • Avoiding GMOs, hydrogenated oils, and chemical additives, such as high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, and MSG
  • Minimizing convenience and processed foods (pre-made sauces, crackers, snacky type foods, etc)
  • No eating after dinner

Those are my eating guidelines.  They didn’t change when I became pregnant or after giving birth.  I’ll share one little anecdote about how important that is.  When Rocco was 6 weeks old, I was wearing him in a baby carrier while walking the dog, and I was stopped by a woman who had a 6 month old baby.  She was just being friendly and wanted to chat with another mom.  She expressed interest in walking/exercising to lose her baby weight – which was 80 pounds.  You know how that happened?  She told me that before the baby she worked out like crazy and “dieted” so much, that when she became pregnant she just wanted to eat ice cream every day.  Where did she think that ice cream was going?  What goes up must come down, and it doesn’t exit in the L&D ward.  I think that example really drives home the point about healthy habits, not dieting.  I don’t mean to point fingers at this woman, but I think it’s more common than others admit.  Before pregnancy, I wouldn’t keep ice cream in the house and would only have desserts on special occasions.  The same rules applied during pregnancy.  Okay, so one time I sent Nick out for ice cream, but it was a rare occurrence.

Maintaining my habits during pregnancy was not hard at all.  In fact, it was more motivation than fitting into a bikini, because my nutritional intake went directly into my baby’s growing body.  I was especially more careful about chemicals/gmos, etc, and while that’s all fine and hippy dippy, the positive side effect is I ended up eating a lot less junk.  That junk just goes straight in the trunk, and we all know the baby is in the front.  I also maintained my fitness routine, but just modified for pregnancy.  I biked and did personal training through the first trimester, I ran 2-3 times a week until the 8th month, and then adjusted by going for longer walks with the dog in the last few weeks.  I also increased the frequency of my yoga practice, just avoiding poses not suitable for a growing belly.  Up until 2 days before I went into labor, I was going to the yoga studio 6 days in a row that last week, which was when my monthly pass expired.  The day I went into labor, I took my dog for a 4 mile walk.  That same day was my 39 week appointment, and my weight gain was 24.5 lbs.  My healthy habits carried me through a healthy pregnancy with minimal side effects.

Then the smoking mirrors of pregnancy shattered as reality set-in.  Or so I thought.  This is specific to my experience, so I can only speak to what I know.  The next day when I gave birth, I had 15 minutes of pushing (which I like to think is all thanks to yoga).  Shortly after delivery, I had to take a shower and noticed how flat my stomach was, compared to my expectations based on what everyone was telling me to see (a 6-month-pregnant looking belly).  9 days later I was down 16.5 pounds, and I had one pair of regular size 28 jeans that I could zip and button.  3 months postpartum I was wearing 26/27 again and only 3 pounds from pre-pregnancy weight (I’d like to think those 3 pounds are lactation related).  I’m not saying I looked like the aforementioned super model/celebrity, but I looked like me, not a new mom version of me.  I’ve also definitely improved my shape since then, but having that solid foundation both physically and mentally enabled me to improve myself instead of trying to “bounce back.”

I continued with those nutritional habits in the trying weeks as a new mom, despite the exhaustion and every other excuse in the book.  The foods were the same, just more as I needed them, and also DEFINITELY more water for lactation.  I exercised as my body allowed and was safe for a postpartum recovery.  I started walking 3 days after delivery.  It started out as 15-20 minutes, but within a week I was running errands, walking the dog twice a day for 2-3 miles each time.  It was that simple.  At my 5 week checkup, I was cleared for exercise, and the next day I went to baby and me yoga.  I returned back to running, training for the NYC marathon, but only lasted a month and 14 miles.  Pregnancy taught me to know my physical and mental limits, and clocking in 30-50 miles a week on a collection of 2 hour naps throughout the day was not something I was prepared to continue.  Once the baby was sleeping for longer stretches, and finally through the night, that’s when I would wake up early to run or go to a 7 am class.  Until then, I just tried to keep moving.  I’d wear Rocco around the house as I did chores.  I’d keep going to baby and me yoga, despite time after time dealing with a screaming infant hanging from my boob.  Eventually, I’d catch a break and he’d sleep, allowing me to get in an hour of vigorous practice without paying for a baby sitter.  All of those small efforts, combined with healthful food, strongly contributed to returning to my post-baby measurements.

Like I said before, these accounts are of my personal stories.  I’m not trying to say that if somebody hasn’t accomplished those results there is something wrong with them or what they’ve done.  A healthful life can be challenging, and motherhood is even more so.  My hope is that by sharing my experience, the tips I incorporated into my life could help others to achieve a year-round healthy body, instead of struggling towards some fleeting and unrealistic goal.  Just remember that you don’t need to “diet” or hardcore exercise to achieve those results.  It’s about the journey, not the destination.  Simple, small, and lasting changes will put you on the path to 4 seasons of bikini wearing.  Even if it is still December.

Going Green: Breakfast Edition

In Breakfast, Oats, Quick Meal, Quinoa, Salad, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian on October 28, 2014 at 6:18 pm
Part of ANY well-balanced meal.

Part of ANY well-balanced meal.

We all know the importance of filling that 5-a-day veggie quota.  However, many a day may come and go without coming even close.  Even with a fridge full of produce, I’ve found myself on some busy mornings running out the door eating a rice cake for breakfast, followed by a sandwich for lunch.  By the time dinner rolls around, I’ve realized I haven’t eaten any veggies, let alone some leafy greens.  As a result, I’ve been making an effort at breakfast time to include leafy greens and other green vegetables.  With a little preparation, ingenuity, and thinking outside of the box, here are 10 of my tips and tricks for incorporating a healthy start to the day.

  1. Smoothies

    More of a trick than a tip.  Make your favorite fruit smoothie.  After everything is combined, add 1-2 cups of greens – kale, spinach, chard, beet greens, even lettuce – and blend until combined.  I also like to add mint and/or raw cacao to cover up any bitter taste.  You can also try my protein-packed green smoothie.

  2. Pancakes
    Apple, Pumpkin, and Kale Oat Pancakes

    Apple, Pumpkin, and Kale Oat Pancakes

    Make your favorite pancake batter.  Then blend in a cup or two of leafy greens.  My new fave for fall: 1/2 cup oats, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin, 1/2 chopped apple, vanilla/cinnamon to taste, 1 cup kale.  Blend all except kale.  Once combined, add kale and blend for a few seconds.  There’s the batter, cook like normal pancakes.  You won’t even taste the kale, trust me.  Great for kids and kids at heart.

  3. Pesto/creamed greens

    Using your favorite pesto recipe, substitute some or all of the basil for spinach, broccoli, broccoli robe, kale, you name it.  Get creative.  I’ve made one with spinach, garlic, chickpeas, and nutmeg.  Use on toast, in an omelet, or to make savory oatmeal (think risotto).  Same applies to creamed spinach.  When you’re making dinner, double up so you have some leftovers for breakfast.  You can also use Indian-style spinach (saag) to spice things up.

    Leftover creamed spinach is great the next morning.

    Leftover creamed spinach is great the next morning.

  4. Soup

    This is a new one for me.  A couple times a week I start the morning with a miso-based soup.  I boil some water with whatever greens I have – raw or leftover sautéd (I really like bok choy).  Once warmed up, I add chickpea miso (since I have some soy intolerance) and stir for another minute.  To make it a complete meal, I’ll add some leftover grains and/or beans.  Maybe even some poached eggs.

    IMG_0613

  5. Salad/Slaw

    Not just for a light lunch.  Have a side salad with your eggs.  This can be as simple as arugula and lemon juice.  Add an avocado or nuts.  Really easy.  Same with coleslaw.  If you make some for dinner or over the weekend for a bbq/tailgate, just add a big scoop to your plate.  It may be weird at first, but you’ll feel much better later in the day for being 20-40% done with your veggie requirements.

    Arugula with avocado and lemon juice.  Paired with a quinoa omelet.

    Arugula with avocado and lemon juice. Paired with a quinoa omelet.

  6. Quiche/egg cups

    A little more obvious/traditional.  Make a crustless quiche with lots of sautéed greens.  This will last 3-ish days in the fridge.  You can also pour the batter into muffin tins and freeze for pre-portioned future meals.

    Spinach, mushroom, goat cheese.

    Spinach, mushroom, goat cheese.

  7. Omelets

    A stand-by.  Use any kind of fresh greens.  Ever try an arugula omelet?  It’s really good.  You can also shave some broccoli florets and save the stems to roast for another meal.

  8. Breakfast grilled cheese

    On toast or a bagel.  Add greens to your cheesy sammie.

    IMG_1034

  9. Side of sautéed veggies.

    You can make them fresh in the morning, or you can take leftovers from the day before.  Some mornings I sauté 3-4 big leaves of kale and share them with Rocco while I prepare the rest of breakfast.  It can be as simple as some water/olive oil, or you can add garlic and herbs.  You can also finish with a miso sauce – 1 tbsp miso paste added to a cup of water, add to pan once veggies are cooked.

    Munching on some greens.

    Munching on some greens.

  10. Leftover roasted veggies

    Broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, you name it.  If I have leftovers, they are sides or appetizers for breakfast.  Same principal as the sautéed greens.  While I prepare the rest of the meal, I unload 1-2 cups of roasted veggies on Rocco’s tray, and I nibble while I’m cooking.  Broccoli stems are a particular favorite.

    Roasted cabbage.

    Roasted cabbage.

Those are some of my go-tos.  I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me.  Who doesn’t want to be more more Green?  Especially first thing in the morning.

A Little Sumpin Pumpkin

In American, Breakfast, Fruit, Nuts, Oats, Quick Meal, Shopping, Vegetables, Vegetarian on October 24, 2013 at 4:16 pm

The past month or so has been super busy.  We’ve been prepping to sell our place, and needless to say I never want to step foot into Lowes, Target, or Ikea ever again.  Aside from the obviously dos during this process, there were some unexpected don’ts.  I won’t bore you with those details, but basically I’ve been living in a beautiful showroom and not allowed to use or touch anything for fear of making dirt or imperfections, especially in the kitchen.  With the process having moved along, I am finally getting back into some normalcy.

This past weekend I finally made it to the farmers market to do a pretty decent shopping.  Prior weekends I either couldn’t make it because of household duties, or I would just pick up a few necessities if I happen to be passing by.  I was happy with my bounty, but not happy with the crowds of people.  I don’t know if it’s just the time of year, or if my neighborhood is really overpopulated, but it was so frustrating to navigate through the half block stretch.  But I digress.

photo 1

Although the majority were green, I managed to diversify the rainbow of produce.  Clockwise from top left:

  • Red (really purple) cabbage
  • Yellow and purple beans
  • Chocolate mint (my new best thing!)
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Kale
  • Some new leafy green I forgot the name of
  • Heirloom cherry/grape tomatoes
  • Long Island Cheese Pumpkin
  • Honey crisp apples
  • Fennel
  • Broccoli
  • Rainbow chard
  • Sweet potatoes (not pictured)

I originally wanted a butternut squash, but every one was huge, like 5+ lbs.  Hence, my newest squash – the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin.

photo 2

So named for it’s skin’s resemblance to cheese rinds, this pumpkin is grown to make pies.   I’m not really a pie baking kind of gal, but I wanted to do something with this thing.  Before deciding what to make, I figured I should at least go through the process of roasting and pureeing.  Hey, at least this is good practice for making baby food.

Cut in half, before scooping out the seeds.

Cut in half, before scooping out the seeds.

It was pretty easy.  I preheated the oven to 400.  Then cut the pumpkin in half, scooped out the seeds, and placed the flesh in a roasting pan with an inch of water.  An hour later it was done.

After roasting and scooping out the flesh.

After roasting and scooping out the flesh.

Once it was cool enough to handle, I scooped out the flesh into my blender, then blended for a minute.  This 3.5ish lb pumpkin yielded 3.5ish cups puree.

photo 1

photo 2

It took me 2 days to decide what to make first.  I was inspired by my local bakery to make muffins, only not the kind that are essentially un-iced cakes the size of a human head.  Now that it’s Fall, they have been in full pumpkin mode, and pumpkin muffins are no exception.  After many trips to this cafe for breakfast (just to avoid making a mess in the kitchen), I have to admit there were a couple of times I purchased such muffins and tried to only eat half, knowing very well the damage heading my way – white flour, white sugar, butter and/or oil, etc.  Hence, my attempt to remedy myself with some whole grain breakfast appropriate muffins.

I searched the interwebs for some recipes, and finally settled on one with some substitutions and additions.  You could easily make these vegan by using banana instead of egg, and nondairy milk/yogurt instead of buttermilk.  I happened to have Greek yogurt, so that’s what I used.  You can check out the original recipe here, but just to clarify anything in bold was not the original recipe/ingredient.

Whole Wheat and Oat Maple Walnut Pumpkin Muffins

Adapted from Kitchen Treaty

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats + 2 tablespoons for topping
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 6 oz nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup 1% milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
 It’s pretty simple.  Oven at 400.  Mix wet and dry separately.
Dry

Dry

Wet

Wet

Add wet to dry just to incorporate.  Then mix in the nuts (that was my own little addition).

photo 5

Spoon the mixture into some 3 oz muffin tins with some paper muffin cups in there.  This recipe makes 12 of them.  Sprinkle the top with some oats, then bake for 15-20 minutes.  The original recipe said 15, but mine were still wet.

 photo 1
Let them cool for 10-20 minutes, and then enjoy with a cup of joe or tea.
photo 2
These were pretty good.  Not as moist as a cake version, but what do you expect from something made from whole wheat, oats, and mashed fruit/veggies?  Normally, I have no issues subbing in apple sauce for oil.  However, if I make these again I might try to follow the original recipe’s oil suggestion.  I will say though that I totally dig my addition of walnuts, and the caramelization produced by the maple syrup was a nice touch.  Overall, these are a much better quick option than anything I’d find at a bakery.
I still have 2 and 1/2(ish) cups left of puree, so I either need to make something in the next day, or freeze it for a rainy day.  While I’d love me some pumpkin ravioli, there’s also about 6 weeks until Rocco starts solids, so I may just save a lil sumpin pumpkin for my little pumpkin.

Slow as Molasses

In American, Breakfast, Fruit, Nuts, Oats, Saving Money, Vegan on April 12, 2013 at 2:55 pm

When I posted last time about all my new recipes, I emptily promised to reveal and detail the winner the following week.  Well, let’s just say a week is apparently equal to nearly 2 months in the energy level of a pregnant lady.  It takes me a lot longer to do simple tasks, such as walk to the subway or go grocery shopping, so please bare with me.

The recipe with the highest votes was unsurprisingly the truffled mac ‘n cheese.  I have to say I am slightly disappointed, only because that is the least wholesome dish I offered in the poll.  Regardless, I will at least give you a snapshot of the story behind the glory.

Maybe 5 or so years ago, I was watching Barefoot Contessa, which you may or may not know features Ina Garten, the poster child for Hamptons culinary indulgences.  Don’t believe me?  She is basically the Yankee version of Paul Dean.  I’m surprised she hasn’t announced any critical medical problems herself.  Anyway, on that particular episode she had whipped up some of said truffled mac ‘n cheese.  I was mesmerized, and of course made it for my hubby (then bf).  It was a winner.  Since then, I only make it for special occasions.  Most recently, this included a potluck Superbowl party.  I’m not going to go into too many details, so here’s a link to the recipe.  I followed it to a T.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/truffled-mac-and-cheese-recipe/index.html

Here are some pictures.

Shredded Cheddar and Gruyer

Shredded Cheddar and Gruyer

Sauteed Mushrooms

Sauteed Mushrooms

Truffle Butter

Truffle Butter

Bechamel

Bechamel

Pasta, Sauce, Cheese, and Mushrooms

Pasta, Sauce, Cheese, and Mushrooms

Breadcrumb ingredients

Breadcrumb ingredients

Assembled

Assembled

In other news, I’ve been refining my diet even more since switching from an OB to a Birthing Center midwifery practice.  The former gave me no nutritional information other than avoiding undercooked animal products.  The latter sat with me for 30 minutes reviewing my diet, and suggesting what nutrients to increase.  The biggie was iron.  There’s a big misconception that as a vegetarian you are at an iron disadvantage.  When we went over a list of foods to eat, I would say 90% on the print out were plant based.  These foods include leafy greens, whole grains, legumes (beans, lentils), nuts, dried fruits, and blackstrap molasses.  She said that molasses is great to use in baking instead of brown sugar (which I’ve done in the past), but also to add to cereal, yogurt, beans, you name it.  One tbsp has 20% daily value of both iron and calcium.  Mind you, pregnant women need double the iron, but still.  Even 10% from switching a tbsp of sweetener for the molasses goes a long way.

There was one recipe I had in my archives that I found a few years ago on a blog for granola bars.  Oats, dried fruit, almond butter, almonds, seeds.  All tons of iron.  I decided to swap out the brown sugar and replace it with molasses to boost the iron factor even more.  I had intended on making these for 2 straight weeks, but I either was missing an ingredient, or once I bought it was too tired to assemble and prepare.  Let me tell you, once I finally got my act together I was happy to have them lying around when I was in a pinch for a snack.

Almond Fig Granola Bars
Adapted from In Praise of Leftovers

1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 c. chopped raw almonds
1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1 Tb. flaxseeds
1 Tb. sesame seeds
1 c. unsweetened crisped brown rice cereal
1/3 c. dried tart cherries
2/3 c. dried figs, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. creamy almond butter
1/4 c. blackstrap molasses
3 Tb. brown rice syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt

I followed the directions accordingly, just with my substitutions: brown rice cereal instead of kashi, cherries instead of cranberries, blackstrap molasses for brown sugar, and brown rice syrup for honey.  The last bit makes this recipe vegan, for all my vegan friends.

Oven preheating to 350, I spread the oats, almonds, and all the seeds on a tray for toasting for 8 minutes.

IMG_0483

While toasting, I combined the rice cereal in fruits in a bowl.

IMG_0482

Once the toasting items were done, I combined all the dry ingredients and prepped wet to simmer in a saucepan for 5 minutes: almond butter, molasses, brown rice syrup, vanilla, and salt.

IMG_0485

Then when the goop was done, I poured it over all the dry ingredients, and pressed the mixture into a pan.

IMG_0486

After 30ish minutes in the fridge, I cut mixture into 12 bars, and placed each one into an individual ziplock.  Those packages were placed in an airtight container.

IMG_0488

IMG_0489

And voila!  Protein, fiber, calcium, and iron.  I may be slow as molasses, but my metabolism sure isn’t thanks to these bars.

Why I’m the Worst Photographer. Ever.

In American, Beans, Bread, Breakfast, Brunch, Chinese, CSA, Dessert, Fish, Greek, Italian, Meat and Pultry, Oats, Pasta, Quick Meal, Rice, Salad, Shopping, Vegetables, Vegetarian on July 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I’m a pretty awful photographer, both in skill and frequency.  Until I started this blog, my camera was used maybe 1-2 times a year on a vacation or for a grandparent’s birthday.  Even when I do take some photos of my food, I never edit them, nor organize them, because I just get too frustrated trying to learn the programs on my Mac Book.  I just don’t have it in me to constantly snap photos, which is really such a shame.    There have been plenty of missed opportunities to capture both amazing and ordinary moments in my life.  I’m not talking about kissy faces, popping bottles, or a circle of friends’ shoes.  Just the simple pleasures, like walking around my neighborhood or documenting my restaurant experiences.  A whole fun-filled weekend will pass, and I’ll have nothing to show for it.  That’s how I feel about this past weekend.  A picture is worth a thousand words, so looks like I have a lot of writing ahead of me….

Filling in the gaps with some CSA goodies.

Saturday was CSA distribution.  It was also my volunteer week.  There are two options: man the stand from 9-12ish during distribution, or drive the leftovers to a local church.  Since I have a car, this was definitely the better option.  I had planned on getting there at 10 to pick up my share to bring home, clean up, etc. before the drive.  However, my morning run took longer than anticipated.  Turns out, I didn’t have enough time, so I quickly made an oatmeal pancake when I got home, showered, and shoved my produce in the fridge.

As somewhat of a reward for volunteering, you can take a few extra items.  I grabbed some extra zucchini, cucumbers, and berries.  The original share included:

  • 1 head lettuce
  • 1 head cabbage
  • 1 bunch beets
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 2 huge stalks dill
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 5 small or 1 large zucchini
  • 3 sweet corn
  • 2 pints blueberries
  • 1 quart sugar plums
  • 12 peaches

This is the first time all season I felt a real value in the fruit share.  Don’t get me wrong, I love 3 pints of blueberries, but it’s nice to have some variety.    Since I had a fun filled weekend, I neglected my “put everything right away” rule and got around to cleaning up on Monday.

From left: Lettuce packed and washed, beets and greens separated, fruit in a bowl to ripen, cucumbers sliced and “pickling”, zucchini and cucumber cleaned, onions sliced, leftover dill cleaned

I froze most of the blueberries for smoothies, and half the peaches and plums as well.

But this was on Monday.  All weekend I had so much fun, mostly with my husband.  It was nice to have a summer weekend without appointments, social obligations, trips, or chores.  Like I said, reflecting back in my head I wish I had more photos to show you.  Perhaps I can borrow some from restaurant and shopping sites to give you a better picture.   Pun intended.

Friday

A newish restaurant opened in Park Slope near my office.  I’ve passed by it a couple of times on the rare occasions I take the subway to/from work and never thought anything of it.  Whenever I’d catch a glimpse of food, it was usually noodles or dumplings, so I just assumed it was East Asian, although the name was Talde.  Turns out, it was opened by former Top Cheftestant Dale Talde and is super popular.  I mentioned the place to my husband and in-laws, and we decided to get there at 5 on Friday to give it a try.  We sat at the bar for a few minutes to have a drink; I shared an Obama Punch with my F-I-L, and it was super yummy.  Then 15 minutes later we sat to eat.  The vacancy gap between 5:15 and 5:30 PM is non-existent.

Photo of Hawaiian Bread Buns from http://taldebrooklyn.com/food-photos/

I had heard a lot about the Hawaiian bread buns, so I got an order of the market veggie version (it was marinated shitaki mushroom).  It was so flavorful, even my meat-eating companions loved it.  They shared a wonton soup.  For my main, I got some chilled soba noodles and a side of green beans.  Both really full of umami.  Everyone else got the fried chicken, ribs, and shrimp fried rice to share.

For dessert, we shared Halo Halo, which was a mixture of ice, bubble tea, fruit, coconut milk, and captain crunch.  It was good, but I think I prefer chocolate cake more :).

Overall, I really great dining experience.  It was a nice change from our typical repertoire of Mexican, Italian, or bar appetizers.

Saturday

When my husband suggests a day of shopping, I never turn it down.  Hence my household negligence this Saturday.  After dropping off the veggies to charity, I went with Nick to get bagels for lunch, and then we were off to SoHo.  Nick’s initial goal was to get some new casual sneakers.  What he ended up getting was 3 pairs of work pants, 2 pairs of jeans, and a partridge in a pear tree.  I got 2 new dresses to wear for weddings and special occasions, one of which is for an upcoming event this Saturday.  It is super bodycon and has cutouts, so I haven’t eaten since Sunday.  Just kidding.

The next thing we knew, it was 7:30 and we were starving.  I mentioned another restaurant I’d been meaning to try in Chinatown called The Fat Radish, and figured it may be plausable to get a seat on a Summer Saturday.  Luckily, we were able to sit at the bar, which was actually kind of nice and intimate.  I say that because the seating there is comprised of a few long communal tables, whereas the bar has 6 seats.  Also, our bartender made awesome drinks and was really friendly.  I got seared tuna and the fat radish plate, which is basically a bed of rice topped with whatever veggies are at the markets that week and prepared in super flavorful ways.  Way up my alley.  Nick got crab gratin and the burger with truffle duck fat fries.  Way up his alley.

The mirror “board” where specials and fat radish plate are listed. From their site: http://snapwidget.com/view/?id=220874731547124849_54018704#.UA7Ga6Ahgeo

From there, we walked over to Little Italy to get some gelato from this placed called La Cremeria.  It’s the closest, most authentic Italian style gelato I’ve had this side of the Atlantic.  Mind you, I live in a heavily Italian neighborhood.  I got pistacchio and delirium, which was butter cookie flavor with chocolate chunks.  Nick got his usual combo of cioccolato and nocciola (chocolate and hazelnut).  And then we waddled to the subway to head home.

Sunday

I rose bright and early to bike over to TriBeCa to support a newly certified yoga teacher married to a childhood friend of Nick.  It was an intimate class, and I felt great all day after.  I only had 2 anxiety attacks on the bike ride back over the Brooklyn Bridge.  Next time, I’ll go out of my way to take the Manhattan Bridge.  When I got back, I showered and got all purty looking to get brunch.  I went with Nick to one of our usual spots, Prime Meats.  This is comical for 2 reasons: 1) a vegetarian loving brunch at a place with “meats” in the title, and 2) it is owned by the same people as Frankies 457, a restaurant I despise.  I know I digress, but I will take this one small opportunity to vent.  I don’t know why Frankies gets so much hype.  There is always a wait, and the food is AWFUL.  All these Manhattanites swear by it, saying how it’s better than all the other authentic Italian joints in the hood.  BS.  And the people who work there are so rude and elitist.  Now, I generally have a 3-strikes-you’re-out rule with restaurants; Frankies definitely struck out looking.  Backwards K style.  The pasta and gnocchi are watery with little bits of low-flavor sauce, the drinks are overpriced and weak, and the waitstaff refuses to acknowledge any complaints.  It’s really such a shame, because they’d be getting a lot more of my business.

Anyway, back to Prime Meats.  When they first opened, I was skeptical about going, primarily because of my Frankies experiences.  I was also slightly turned off by the forced dress code of suspenders and mandatory mustachery for all male staff.  However, their brunch is excellent.  They make excellent coffee, never burn their eggs, and their bread products are to die for (that’s coming from someone who usually has oats for breakfast).  They used to be a little bit more flexible with their menu, but the chef has made some stricter rules for substitutions.  You’d think that would keep me away, but I’ve found my new love:  Their avocado sandwich.  Multigrain bread with avocado, lettuce, sprouts, shallots, and spicy mayo.  They will happily keep the mayo on the side for me, and I can also add an egg to the sandwich.  Perfect.  And again, another example of the missing shutterbug gene.

The rest of the day, we just relaxed.  I took a nap and watched Game Change on cable.  Nick got busy cleaning up his mancave.  Then I made a simple dinner of dill pasta salad and a garden salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pepper, avocado, and chickpeas.  A simple end to a wonderfully eventful weekend.

Super long post.  Next time, I’ll save a few thousand words by using my camera.

Oat Say-What-A?

In American, Breakfast, Fruit, Oats, Saving Money, Vegetables, Vegetarian on July 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm

I have oats for breakfast at least 5 times a week (hopefully 7 if I’m a good girl).  Whether it’s a quick bowl of rolled oats, muesli with yogurt, or the slow cooked steel cut variety, my days always go way better when I start off with these grains.  Paired with some eggs [whites] or milk, the complex carb/protein combo keeps me fullest the longest without feeling sickly stuffed or greasy (as I would with an egg/cheese sammie or breakfast burrito).  When I’m in a real pinch for time, I’ll blend some oats with egg whites, Greek yogurt, vanilla, and cinnamon, and make some pancakes.  However, I ideally like to eat the grain as minimally processed as possible.  Hence, the oat frittata.

That’s right, a frittata.  You know, the omelet’s fancy cousin.  I first saw this idea on a daytime talk show, and I’ve been hooked since.  The basic recipe is 1/2 cup oats, 2-4 egg whites, 1/2 cup berries.  This is exactly what I had been eating, only it required one pan and 1 plate.  Genius.

Berry Oat Frittata

Serves 1

1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
3 egg whites
2 tbsp unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup blueberries OR 1 cup strawberries, OR  half and half

I use a nonstick pan and nonstick canola oil spray, but you could use a griddle if you have one.  I combine all the ingredients in a bowl just to mix everything together, and then pour everything into the pan on medium high heat.

I cover the pan with a lid so that the steam can cook through the mixture.  After about 2 minutes, I flip it over to cook on the other side.

Just another minute, and this baby is done.  How simple is that?  It’s also extremely nutritious, and a great way to introduce oats into your diet if you fear the usual goopy suspect served to you as a child.  If you can tolerate more sugar in the morning, top with some maple syrup or jam, but you don’t really need it.  If I’m really craving a little extra kick, I spread a teaspoon of raw almond butter on top.  Yum.  But the fun doesn’t end there.

Did you know oats can be prepared and enjoyed with savory flavors instead of sweet?  Take the basic oat frittata recipe I just explained for example.  Egg frittatas are generally filled with veggies, cheeses, and savory meats, so why not translate those flavors to the oat version?

Cumin Spiced Kale, Zucchini, and Oat Frittata

Serves 1

2-3 kale leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup zucchini, chopped
2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped
Non-stick olive oil spray
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
3 egg whites
2 tbsp 1% milk
Cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper to taste

First, chop up all those veggies so you can begin to sauté them with the nonstick spray.

While they sauté, combine all the other ingredients in a bowl.

After the veggies have cooked for about 2 minutes, top them off with a couple more sprays and then the egg/oat mixture.

The rest of the process is the same as the berry version.  I actually made this for lunch last week and topped it with salsa.  It was super good.

You could add any fillings you like really!  Let’s say you want an Italian version – tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella would be perfect!  Go Greek with Feta, dill, and sun dried tomato.  Or make it American with bacon and American cheese[like product].  Any way you serve it, you’re doing your body and heart good by increasing your oat consumption.  Who knows, the cholesterol lowering properties may even wipe out all that extra bacon and cheese.

Winning! – A Week in Review

In American, Beans, Breakfast, Chinese, Fruit, Indian, Lentils, Mexican, Oats, Pasta, Pizza, Rice, Salad, Saving Money, Shopping, Uncategorized, Vegetables on May 29, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Last week (Saturday-Friday) was incredibly busy and successful.  I accomplished a lot on the road, in the field, at home, and in the kitchen.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Saturday – Why I Love Brooklyn, Part I

Unfortunately one of the more photogenic race images. At least the Cyclone is in the background.

Starting near the Brooklyn Museum, circling through the familiar Prospect Park, and heading down Ocean Parkway to the Coney Island Boardwalk:  I dazed through my third half marathon.  The first one was so exciting because it was my first, whereas the second was an exciting opportunity to actually achieve a decent time.  This third one felt more like a chore than an achievement.  The first few miles were slow and steady.  I just wasn’t feeling like myself.  And the familiar routes gave me little site-seeing material.  However, the second half perked up!  We got to run down the usually bumper-to-bumper Ocean Parkway, only completely open for the weekend warriors.  The best part was around mile 11, when my hubby came to cheer me on and run with me for a block to push me to speed up for those last 2 awful miles.  I managed to not only finish, but beat my previous time by almost a minute!  Many people rewarded themselves with a Nathan’s hotdog, but I made the trip to Buschenschank for a mustardy bloody mary, some beet salad, and a pizza di verde, which was like a regular pizza topped with bruschetta tomatoes and pesto.  Hey, I deserved it after the extra 1300+ calories burned running through Brooklyn.  And then it was nap time.

Sunday – Why I love Brooklyn, Part II

Both Saturday and Sunday were extra special in my borough, not just for me but for the community at large.  Foodies and music lovers alike flocked to Prospect Park for The [Partially Not so] Great Googa Mooga.  Apparently, Saturday was a mess.  Luckily for me I had Sunday tickets, and I learned from the mistakes of Saturday’s Past.  Slathered in sunscreen, with blanket and water bottle in tow, I made sure to get to the park just after they opened at 11:00 AM.  My strategy was to a) avoid lines, b) find a spot to park and c) make sure I got my fill before my impending football playoffs.  I was pleasantly surprised to show up, enter without a bag check, and see so many food stands sans lines.

Calexico is one of my hubby’s favorites. Can you say Crack sauce?

I grabbed a beer, spread out my blanket and enjoyed some tunes while basking in all the googa glory.

Before heading out, I procured a mango chili popsicle, and watched an air guitar competition on the Hamagaddeon Stage.

Hamageddon, of course, was adjacent to BaconLand.

If only I consumed pork, I would be in heaven.

All in all, I personally had a great experience.  I really hope the festival becomes annual!

It was on to Fort Greene, to compete for the Zog 2-hand-touch coed football championship.  This meant wining the playoff game against Pink Socks, and immediately playing The Parents in the championship game.  Of course, we won, and we’re number one!

Go buttonholes! Not to be confused with button hooks.

We celebrated at a nearby bar called Hot Bird, which is next door to a super good bbq place.  They actually have several vegetarian/vegan dishes.  I got some mac, collard greens, and baked beans.  And beer.

Delicious food covered by even more delicious beer.

Such a great weekend!  Full of fun, food, and fantastic accomplishments.  And then there’s the workweek…

Monday – It’s “Business” Time

Luckily my schedule at work has been more flexible.  I can actually take Mondays off most of the time.  This makes for great chore-doing, grocery shopping scheduling.  Monday is not only laundry day, but it’s also supposed to be my blogging, recipe writing, and creative brainstorming day.  Unfortunately,  I haven’t had a real workspace of my own at home.  I usually work at the dining table, or sitting on the couch, which isn’t great for productivity.  Then this past Monday, between laundry and grocery shopping, I stopped at Ikea to pick out a small desk and chair.  Let me say, going to Ikea at 1:00 PM on a rainy Monday is the best time to go.  Nobody was there, and I could just navigate to the workspace station and try out the desks and chairs.  I picked out a fun black/white desk with a red swivel chair, brought it home, and even put the chair together myself!  The desk is conveniently placed near our “bar”.  How very Mad Men of me.

I love this chair!  It’s so bright and will hopefully pull me to the desk to write some more.

Dinner that night was my baked falafel with Israel salad, which was also lunch for Tueday.

Tuesday – Thursday – Back in the Groove

After a long weekend filled with events, it becomes really hard to feel rejuvenated for the week.  I often find that weekends like those lead to workweeks of takeout.  I was determined to complete the week with homemade breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, and coffee for myself and Nick.  My usual breakfast was my oatmeal/fruit combo and egg whites with spinach and salsa, whereas Nick preferred cereal with strawberry yogurt.  I tend to eat yogurt for my snack, whereas nick likes actual “snacks” of pretzels and the sort.  His lunches were egg salad, mine were leftovers from dinner.  Here’s what we ate each night:

Tuesday: Chili relleno, rice, and black beans


Wednesday: Cheddar and Broccoli brown rice macaroni and cheese with a slide of beet slaw

Thursday: Chicken and veggie “fried” brown rice.  I was pretty exhausted and didn’t eat any official “dinner”.  This is also due to gorging on Trader Joe’s triple cream brie with wild mushrooms on crackers.  OMG.  You must try this cheese.

A pretty good variety for the week.  Middle Eastern Monday, Mexican Tuesday, American Wednesday, and Chinese Thursday.  And not an extra penny spent, even on coffee!

Friday – Working for the Weekend

We continued to have some nutritious meals for most of Friday.  I worked so hard all week, in the office, at the gym, and in the kitchen, and I didn’t want to lose my momentum.  Since I hadn’t made myself any dinner the night before, I was left to MacGyver me some lunch.  I did have some leftover plain rice from the night before, so I put together my new favorite quick lunch!  It is kind of Indian inspired, and is quick, easy, delicious, and uber healthy!  It includes:

1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup lentils or chickpeas (I used lentils this time)
1.5-2 cups fresh chopped kale
1/2 bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp chopped red onion
1 plum or two campari tomatoes, diced
Fresh Cilantro or parsley
Sprinkle each of cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, salt, and pepper

Combine everything in a microwaveable bowl or tupperware bottom.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes with the lid on top but not sealed (or you can use a paper towel).  Mix to combine, and enjoy!

 You can also add some raita or avocado after cooking for a yummy cooling affect.

Once the day was over, it was definitely time for some 3-day weekend Happy Hour fun!  A stein of beer was exactly what I needed to end this very successful week.  Hope you all enjoyed your holiday weekend, I know I surely did!

…and I Thought I Wasn’t Crafty

In American, Breakfast, Fruit, Holiday, Oats, Saving Money on March 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I’ve always been a great gift-giver.  I think long and hard about what the recipient doesn’t have and would surely want or need (Ferraris excluded), and their satisfaction with my efforts makes me feel good about myself.  What I suck at is “packaging” – a word that reminds me of the 4 Ps of Marketing 101’s past.  You can have an awesome product, but if you don’t package it well, you’re brand can be doomed to failure.  And I want to be an Oreo, not a Hydrox.

I constantly try to improve my wrapping and bow-tying, paying close attention to the gift wrappers during the holiday season.  However, my packages never look clean, crisp, or pretty.  It basically looks like my husband wrapped it.  I never get the tissue paper in a gift bag perfectly angled and crinkled.  I can’t even curl ribbon with a scissor.  I am in awe of people who can do all of that.  Or scrapbook.  My ideas of creativity flow through my fashion and my food.  The latter medium actually does involve some re/construction (unlike my sister, I have not successfully mastered turning old jeans into jean shorts).  Unfortunately, a plate of hot food doesn’t stay hot for very long in a gift box.

Last month was a friend’s birthday, and I struggled to think of what to gift her.  Like with many of my friends, we often talk about food and what we love to eat.  She was a particular fan of Starbucks oatmeal.  I would constantly tell her how she could make it herself for a fraction of the price and calories, but like the rest of busy professionals she couldn’t find the time.  Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  I know; I’m in the future also.

I figured I could assemble a mix of oats, fruit, nuts, and spices that my friend could easily pour into a cup and nuke at the office while checking emails.  However, I wanted to make this look pretty.  There’s a big difference between wrapping a box of instant Quaker and packing wholesome ingredients in a pretty container.  Thanks to Google, I found this recipe as a base: http://blogs.familyeducation.com/parenting/moms/sweet-pea-chef/gifts-from-kitchen-20.  I changed up some of the ingredients, subbing dried blueberries for cranberries, and dried dates for brown sugar.  Anyone can use cranberries, but blueberries are so much more special!  They are also full of fiber.  Same for dates.  I also made 1.5 times the quantity, because bigger is better.  Except for your tush.

Using my faux slap chop, I chopped up the walnuts.

Then I finely chopped the dates with a knife.  They are way too sticky for the chopper.

I measured out the rest of the ingredients and created an assembly line.

Then I grabbed a large mason jar and added one third of the oats.

Then I added 1/2 of the blueberries…

…nuts…

…dates…

…and cinnamon.

I repeated the layers again, and then topped it off with the last third of oats.  Look how pretty the layers look!

Then came the craftiest part…the label…and a bow!  I fumbled around in Word to find the pretties font and type uo the instructions.  I also typed up the ingredients and nutrition information.  Then after 5 attempts with templates, I finally got the business card stock to print out right.

I found a piece of ribbon to use (must have been from a gift I received) and looped it through the hole I punched in the tag.  Then I wrapped it around the rim of the jar and tied a bow.  I cried I was so proud.

When I met my friend for dinner for the birthday celebration, I passed her a gift bag filled with this jar and some other goodies.  She was so happy and couldn’t believe how crafty it was.  She said she wished she could be so creative.  I laughed and said I wish for the same thing.  She even applauded me for adding the professional touch of including ingredient and nutrition labels, just like a real retail product.  I didn’t take a photo of this info.  However, I did save the Excel spreadsheet I used to calculate the nutritionals.  Just for my own curiosity, I also summed up the Starbucks version with all the addins.


Can you believe it?  Not only do they steal your hard earned 3 dollars, but they also add in a bunch of sugar and calories to boot.  If you want to spare yourself from highway robbery (exaggeration, I know), just spend 5 minutes prepping a jar at home and keep it at your desk.  And if you want to be a good friend, you can do the same for your pal at holiday time.  You don’t even need to have good handwriting (another skill a lack) or REALLY know how to tie a bow.  All you need is some TLC, the internet, and a big smile.  It worked for me :).

“Skinny” PB&J Pancakes

In American, Brunch, Fruit, Nuts, Oats on February 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Peanut butter and jelly.  A humble pair, yet pleasantly powerful.  We’ve all had it in our lunch box rotation (unless you have a peanut allergy).  Especially, if like me, you grew up vegetarian.  It was either PB, PB&J, or provolone cheese with lettuce and mustard.  Even as an adult I can appreciate a PB or AB and J sandwich.  It’s a quick sammie that can last in your purse for many hours without refrigeration.  The only other PB companion that blows J out of the water is chocolate.  Nothing beats chocolate and PB.  NOTHING.

Anyway, with all of our differences, my husband and I can both agree on our favorite jelly – Strawberry.  Most people prefer grape, but to me it reminds me of children’s tylenol and all the horrific tastes and feelings associated with being sick as a child.  Thus, strawberry is my go-to.  I also love blueberry, apricot, peach, you name it.  Just no grape.

A couple of years ago, I had been watching Food Network and came across Sunny Anderson’s Cooking for Real show.  This particular episode featured a recipe for PB&J pancakes.  Of course I made it that weekend and it was delicious.  Back then, I wasn’t as educated about swapping ingredients, especially in baking.  And yes, I consider pancakes baking because cake is the root of the word.  There is also baking powder.  Enough said.  This past weekend, I decided to treat my hubby to these pancakes, only I would be making some substitutions.

I don’t normally type out the recipes in my posts, but since I substituted most of the ingredients, I will spec everything out.

Skinny PB&J Pancakes Adapted from Sunny Anderson

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 egg whites
6 oz nonfat plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup skim milk
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (I used Brad’s)
Cooking Spray

Strawberry Syrup

1 10 oz bag frozen strawberries (or 2 cups fresh)
3 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp Orange zest

The first thing I did was to mix up the peanut butter.  I keep it at room temperature, and since it’s natural there is settlement and separation of the paste and the oils.  I nuked it for 30 seconds while I prepared the dry ingredients.

I used my Vitamix for this recipe.  I thought it would work wonderfully in grinding and combining flours, as well as easily mixing the wet and dry.  However, next time I think I will use a hand mixer because the batter was really thick and I had to spoon it out instead of pouring.  I lined the bottom of the blender with the oats.

Then I measured out the whole wheat flour, using a knife to level off the cup.

I added the baking powder and salt, and blended for 10 seconds.

I layered in the rest of the ingredients (agave through the PB).

I let it all blend for about a minute or two while I prepped the strawberry syrup.  I emptied the bag of frozen berries in a saucepan.

Then I added the agave and the water.  I actually realized after the fact that I forgot the zest.  Oh, well!

Once the pan rose to a boil, I lowered to simmer for 10 minutes while I cooked the pancakes.  I used two nonstick pans and some cooking spray.  Measuring out about 1/4 cup per cake, I dropped the dough in the pans.  They were very hard to spread!  I got better gradually, and learned to drop, let it cook for 10 seconds, then flip over and press down with the back of the spatula.

After about 3ish minutes, I flipped them over.

A couple of them burned on one side because I let the pan get too hot!  It set my smoke alarm off and made my dog crazy.

This batch should have rendered 12 total, but due to my inexperience with this batter, and picking at the dough while cooking, it only made 11.  The syrup reduced down to a jelly like consistency.

Then I served myself 2 pancakes.  Had a been a good and patient girl I would have had 3 on my plate.

Here’s a close-up.  Doesn’t that look amazing?

Okay, so now on to my nutrition lesson.  This recipe is by no means a healthy or diet meal.  It is slimmed down to save some calories and fat, use whole ingredients, but still be a yummy treat for weekend brunch.  Just to give you an idea of how much was shaved off, I did a little nutritional calculating in Excel.  I used Calorieking.com as my data source, since it’s a pretty consistent site.  Here are the stats for a serving of 3 pancakes with 1/4th of the syrup.

Original Recipe

Calories: 758
Fat: 39.3
Carbohydrates: 93.1
Fiber: 10.4
Sugar: 57.25
Protein: 17.25

“Skinny” Version

Calories: 445.25
Fat: 18.275
Carbohydrates: 52.175
Fiber: 6.7
Sugar: 25.775
Protein: 20.675

In Summary: Wow.  I didn’t realize how much I was saving.  More than half the fat and sugar, almost half of the carbohydrates, and more than 300 calories skimmed off.  The only category the original wins is fiber, and that’s only because blackberries have more fiber than strawberries.  Just looking at the pancake, there was double the fiber in the whole grain version than in the original.

I also didn’t realize still how indulgent it was. Maybe next time I will only eat one or two and share an egg white omelet.  Or not.

What are some of your favorite indulgent brunch treats?