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a special day

25 Oct

Hello!

Today has been a very special day.

This morning when I rolled out of bed, I decided that today would be one of the best days of the year. And it was!  It was!

For starters I booked it to the gym and made a leap towards getting out of my workout rut.  After sadly taking a step back from marathon training, I’ve had a hard time getting back into a groove.  This morning I stopped making excuses and got my be-hind in gear!  Right after popping 3 dried apricots for some energy.

I kicked things off with a 25 minute interval run on the treadmill.  IMO intervals make the time go by so much faster.  Well, that and a killer playlist.  Anyway.  Instead of focusing so much on getting through a 25 minute run, I was able to break it down and focus on getting through each interval. Here it is:

walking warmup
–  2 min. at 6.0
–  1 min. at 6.5
–  1 min. at 7.0
–  1 min. at 7.5
–  2 min. at 6.0
–  1 min. at 6.5
–  1 min. at 7.0
–  1 min. at 7.5
–  1 min. at 6.0
–  1 min. at 6.5
–  1 min. at 7.0
–  1 min. at 6.0
–  1 min. at 6.5
–  1 min. at 7.0
–  1 min. at 6.0
–  1 min. at 6.5
–  1 min. at 7.0
–  1 min. at 7.5
–  walk for 5 min.

Felt so great when it was over.  Exhilarating:)

Next up: the weights.

I’ve been avoiding the iron for months.  But not today.  I started with free weights, working my arms; then moved to machines to work my legs.  And I finished it all off with some serious plank action on the mat.  Serious plank action, I tell ya.  Hardest part of the entire workout.

Once I got home, I refueled with a green smoothie.

1 scoop Vega powder, 1 cup almond milk, 2 handfuls spinach, 1/2 banana, chia seeds and ice

Lunch was leftover vegan spinach enchiladas from last night.  Just as good the second time around.

And then it was off to tutoring!  As you guys know, I adore the students I tutor.  Okay, okay.  Nada sometimes drives me a little batty, but other than that they always bring a smile to my face.   Not only that, but I almost always come away a wiser person.  Here’s what I learned today:

from Hey-Kyoung: Korean people keep two refrigerators.  One for regular food.  And one for kimchi.  An entire fridge for kimchi!  Are you, my fellow nut butter lovers, thinking what I’m thinking? muahahaha.

from Nada: the cookie monster (you know the one – from Sesame Street) no longer eats a lot of cookies apparently.  Have you all heard about this?  Somehow it was decided that he was partially to blame for childhood obesity, so now he eats veggies and says that “cookies are a sometimes food.”  What?!

They never cease to entertain.  My students that is, not Sesame Street.

By the time I got done tutoring it was past 5:30, and I was famished!  I had snacked on a Larabar between meetings, but it was quickly wearing away.  I decided to keep dinner simple and quick.

I chopped up a kabocha squash into thin wedges and then brushed them with coconut oil before putting them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.

Next, I drained and rinsed some canned chickpeas, spread them on a cookie sheet and shook cumin, garlic powder and seasoned salt all over them before sticking them in the oven as well for about 15 minutes.

I also cut up one flax protein pita into triangles and baked it for about 10 minutes.

Our oven was full of love tonight! ha.

Everything was going great until I opened our fridge and was attacked by a soy yogurt.

Time to clean out the fridge, folks.

Anyway, dinner came together nicely.  A bit random, but it worked.

spread with a little bit of Earth Balance

I had so much leftover squash tonight that I couldn’t help but come up with a tasty way to use it…well, besides the obvious of slathering it with EB and eating it straight up, but you already knew that.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the creamiest vegan squash soup you’ve ever laid eyes on.

Now that’s special.

G’night!

Did you watch Sesame Street when you were a kid?  What was your favorite childhood TV show?  Mister Rogers? CareBears? My favorite was My Little Pony.  Every day after we took my sister to school, I would run straight to the TV and ask “is it 43 or 34?”  I never could remember which channel, but I had to have my pony fix:)

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sunday

5 Sep

I love Sundays…especially when there is no work on Monday.  There’s nowhere to be, no pressure to prepare for the week ahead…plenty of time to just be:)

Our go-to quick and easy lunch

Joseph’s whole wheat lavash wrap, broccoli slaw, spinach, homemade hummus, Morningstar black bean burger

Prime example of how flavors aren’t just about the actual food.  They implicate environment, memories, seasons and tradition.  I couldn’t resist a Pumpkin Spice latte…but ordered it iced because it’s still 90 degrees.  It just wasn’t the same:(

However, it still warmed my heart just seeing the sign.

Creepy face.

Dinner was a combination of two favorites.  Mexican Pizza.

Whole wheat pita spread with vegetarian refried beans and topped with all the goods – soy cheese, black beans, diced green chilis, onions and drizzled with green enchilada sauce.  mmmm.

The husband was sweet enough to let me lead him through a yoga class tonight.  And even extra sweet by pretending he enjoyed it!  He’s my guinea pig throughout this whole “learning to be a yoga instructor” process.  I’m so lucky. We worked up quite a sweat actually, and it left me feeling really energized and much more ready for our run than I was before.  Three cheers for yoga!

And then I went out with a bang tonight when my bedtime snack turned into this


That would be Oikos greek yogurt and Kashi Go Lean crunch splattered on my kitchen floor.  Tasty, no?

I’m off to bed – we’ll be starting Labor Day off right with a nice long run!

Hope you are all enjoying your long weekend!

perfect pepper puzzle

2 Sep

This morning Jon and I rolled out of bed just in time to head out for a run.  I was absolutely determined to have a good run…which can actually be quite dangerous:)

The weather was decent this morning – in the high seventies with a very light breeze – so off we went.  And praise the Lord – it went well!  I have been feeling so discouraged about our training, even to the point of thinking to myself “why the heck are we doing this?”  Have you ever been there?  Thankfully this morning restored my faith in believing that I really can train for and run a half marathon.

Before we headed out I honestly didn’t have a clue what I was going to do to help matters, but throughout the course of our run I tried several different tactics.

What worked:

Paying extra attention to my form.  Sometimes when I’m running, I find that I sort of hunch over and stoop my shoulders and back.  Today I kept checking in to make certain that my back was straight and my shoulders were down away from my ears.  I used a move that I do in my PiYo classes often: scrunch your shoulders up toward your ears as high as you can, and then release them down and back towards the floor, elongating the neck.  This helped tremendously today!

Break up the run into smaller segments. Not rocket science right?  The thing is that I usually do this with longer runs, but never with shorter runs.  I go into shorter runs thinking “well, it’s short already!”  But I have to say – in certain conditions, three miles can almost feel like a long run.  In fact, I’d rather do a long run over a short run anyday.  That’s anyday…not everyday, mind you. ha!  This morning, however, I kept telling myself things like “only .4 more miles until one mile is left.  You can run one mile easy!”  Sounds kind of silly, but it totally helped my mindset.  And Jon’s.

Frequent updates on mileage.  Sometimes I try to just zone out during a run and not think about the time.  Today, however, Jon and were both starting to struggle, so I was giving updates every half mile, and then every .2 miles towards the end.  I was somewhat doing this for Jon, since he wasn’t wearing the Garmin, but it totally helped keep my motivation and energy up as well.

Breathe.  Again, rocket science I know.  But sometimes I really truly forget to breathe.  I’ll realize that I’m either holding my breath or breathing very short and shallow breaths.  Today I focused on getting frequent deep breaths in, and I didn’t get near as winded throughout the entire run…even at the end.

Stretch.  We all know it’s important to stretch after a run, but what about during?  At about the halfway point, we both agreed that our legs felt pretty much like lead.  So, we stopped and stretched it out for about 30 seconds.  When we took off again, I felt much lighter and faster.

I’m not saying these tactics would work for everyone, but they definitely helped change my game this morning.  We finished in under 30 minutes including a short walk/stretch break.  For us, this was a great improvement!

After our run, I waited awhile for breakfast because I just wasn’t that hungry for some reason.  Very uncharacteristic of me.  When I finally got hungry awhile later, all that sounded good was a bowl of cereal.  I usually shy away from cereal for breakfast because it seems to go right through me, leaving me hungry soon after.  But I decided to go for it anyway.

Kashi Heart to Heart, Peanut Butter Puffins, sliced banana and soy milk

I love cereal so much…I wish it just was a little bit more filling.  A couple hours later I was already ready for lunch.  Jon had to work through lunch today, so I was flying solo.

I decided to throw together a quick concoction – and stuff it in a big bell pepper!

Bell pepper first.  I cut the top off, cleaned out the insides and set it on a cookie sheet in the oven at 400 degrees.

For the stuffing, I decided to start with a grain as a base, and after some inspection of the cabinets decided on bulgur.  Bulgur is one of my favorite grains because it’s easy to cook and so nutty!  Plus, 1/2 cup has only 75 calories but boasts 3 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber.  Into the boiling water it went.

After studying the fridge for a moment, I pulled out some leftover canned corn and leftover chickpeas and dumped them in the skillet.

Protein…check!

Hmmm….I still need some greens.  That’s an easy one.

Oops!  Leaf overboard!

Lastly, I added 2 tbsp of homemade hummus for creaminess and flavor + 1 tsp oregano and a sprinkle of salt and ground red pepper for a little kick!

By the time this mixture was cooked through, my bell pepper was nicely browned and wrinkled.  I carefully (it’s hot!) filled the pepper with the creamy bulgur mixture, stuffing it in deep to make it all fit.  Then I stuck it back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so, turning on the broiler for the last couple.  I just love the broiler.  It soothes my impatient soul.

While I waited, I cleaned up the skillet and cutting board and said hello to this little visitor:)  She’s not dead, I promise.

When the pepper appeared super brown and wrinkled, it was ready to go!

Perfect.

With a sweet and juicy peach on the side.

So, so good.  Sorry dear…you totally missed out on this one;)  The pepper was perfectly soft and somehow the random flavors I threw together fit like a perfect little puzzle.  And I love the way the boiler makes the exposed part of the stuffing a little crispy!

After lunch I decided to book it to the coffee shop.  Without some lunch company, the house gets a little too quiet.  I’ve gotta get some work done and prepare for a call with an Outbox client this evening.

Hope you’re all having a great end to your week – let’s finish strong!

Random Question – what are you most looking forward to about fall?

how to make an epic salad

31 Aug

Thanks for all the sweet and encouraging comments on yesterday’s posts.  Every single comment on this blog truly means so much to me!

Today has been pretty uneventful really…I’ve spent the morning working away on the blog and Outbox stuff, breaking just long enough for breakfast and lunch.   I do, however, have a new “eats” page at the top to show for it – so go check it out if you get the chance!

Jon and I did go out for a run this morning, which unfortunately turned into a half run half walk.  We intended to crank out 3 quick miles, but the return of the heat and humidity plus Jon running late for work got the best of us.  I think we may start hitting up the treadmill for our short runs until this heat lets up a little bit.  I am not a big fan of the treadmill, but I’m even less of a fan of sweltering heat.

Breakfast this morning was one of my all-time favorites

Cinnamon raisin Ezekiel muffin with 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter and half a sliced banana

And lunch was one of my favorites from last year.  When I was a teacher, I would make my lunch before I went to bed every night.  A version of this salad was one of quickest, easiest, healthiest and most popular meals I ever took!  Popular because several of my coworkers would always ooh and ahh over it’s color and beauty.  Now that I am at home for many lunches, I don’t make it as much, seeing as how I don’t have to worry about being on-the-go…but today it was resurrected!

So, in honor of our last few weeks of summer, here is a quick little tutorial on how to create an awesome salad.  Salads don’t have to be just lettuce. I’ll be the first one to say “I don’t like salads” if we’re talkin’ lettuce and a few tomatoes thrown on top. I know some people really dig that, but for me – they’ve got to be loaded with different flavors, textures and colors to be enjoyable and to keep me going throughout the afternoon.  So, here we go.

Pick your base

  • spinach
  • spring mix
  • romaine
  • kale

*Next, chop your greens and put them in a large bowl. This salad could get big, so leave plenty of room:)  I always chop mine up because I want every bite of salad to have a bit of everything.  Plus, I try to avoid shoving giant lettuce leaves in my mouth in front of my lunch buddies (which granted, now mainly include Olive).

Choose and chop your veggies. I like my salads to be bulky.  Lettuce really ends up being a smallish part of the overall masterpiece.  But you definitely want to create volume by tossing in lots of different veggies.  I usually use anywhere between 3 and 5 of the options below.

  • squash
  • zucchini
  • mushrooms
  • artichoke hearts (a must in my opinion!)
  • onions
  • celery
  • carrots
  • bell pepper
  • broccoli
  • snow peas
  • sprouts
  • corn
  • cold peas
  • asparagus
  • beets, shredded
  • green onions
  • tomatoes

Choose your protein. Every good salad has to have protein.  I’m going to stick to vegetarian suggestions.  For beans, I usually add in about 1/3 – 1/2 of a cup.  Sometimes I’ll go with 2 different types of beans and add 1/4 cup of each.

  • beans (kidney, black, chick peas, navy etc)
  • chopped egg
  • nuts (sliced almonds, walnuts etc)
  • tempeh
  • tofu

Choose your healthy fat.

  • avocado
  • nuts/seeds
  • olive oil

Choose your dressing.  Now we all know that a bad dressing can ruin the most healthy and delicious salad.  The great thing is that with all the flavorful elements you’re adding to this salad, you don’t need much of a dressing!  Here are a few of my personal favorites – just to add a bit of moisture.

  • balsamic vinegar, straight up.  I poor on about 1-2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and call it a day.  It adds the perfect amount of flavor, in my opinion.
  • olive oil
  • lime or lemon juice
  • salsa
  • hummus

And now for what I consider to be the best and final add ins. These are things that really add a huge punch of flavor or texture.

  • dried fruit without added sugar (cranberries are my favorite)
  • chia seeds
  • fresh fruit (apples, mandarin oranges, strawberries, blueberries, pears, grapes)
  • seasonings – sometimes just a sprinkle of ground red pepper or oregano can add the perfect touch

Now that all of your ingredients are in a huge bowl, it’s time to mix it up!

This is one of the most important steps because if you just add everything onto a plate, layer by layer, then you won’t get a little bit of every ingredient in most bites.  And we definitely cannot deal with that.  So mix it up really, really well!

Lastly, dump it all out either onto a plate or in a to-go container. Now off you go with a super healthy, filling and tasty lunch that will make you the envy of everyone you know! ha.


Note: obviously some of these suggested ingredients can serve for more than one category.  For instance, olive oil could serve as your healthy fat and your dressing.  Or chia seeds could serve as a fun, crunchy add on or as a source of healthy fat or protein.  You get the picture.

If you’re someone who is always in a hurry when making lunch like I was was, I suggest using some time on the weekend to pre-chop your veggies that need it (rocket science, right?).  Then reserve a small space on one shelf of your fridge for “salad fixins.”  That way, when you get ready to create your salad, everything is ready to go – you can just snatch it out of the fridge, toss in a little of this and a little of that, throw a lid on it and go!

Along with creating this salad for lunch today, I also made a new and improved batch of hummus.

Spicy Garlic Hummus

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp water
  • 1/4 tsp ground red pepper

Directions

  • toss everything into a food processor minus 1 tsp minced garlic and process until smooth
  • transfer hummus to a small bowl and add remaining tsp of garlic to the very center
  • garnish with a sprinkle of ground red pepper

Well, I’m off to have a (hopefully) productive afternoon!  See you all later;)

What is your favorite salad topping?

a really, really, really good dinner

25 Aug

Don’t forget to enter the chia seed giveaway!!  Am I sounding like a broken record yet?

Last night I was a bit MIA.

Just a little word of advice for anybody who may be silly enough to go down the same path I did: Do not buy a DSLR camera, and then continue loading every giant sized picture you take onto your poor, unsuspecting little macbook.

I’m in the process of moving all of my photos from iPhoto to Flickr.  My computer has become so slow that I can’t bear to work on it anymore.  I spend way more time staring at that evil little spinning pinwheel (mac people you know what I’m sayin’) than I do working!  So, I’ve transferred my working space to the husband’s desktop temporarily, and my computer is being used solely for the purpose of photo transferring.  Unfortunately, at night the husband also has to work, so that leaves me computerless:(  I should be able to have enough photos moved over by the end of today to be able to resume using it.  Fingers crossed.

Last night that meant I spent my time doing non computer things, which was almost kind of nice:)

First order of business was dinner.

I promise I’m not going to start bombarding you all with tofu recipes every day, but after finally conquering my first tofu recipe the other night – I was itching to go at it again!

Orange Sesame Tofu from Eat Drink and Be Vegan

Ingredients
2 tsp arrowroot powder (cornstarch also works)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
3 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (I used jarred:)
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 pkg extra firm tofu, sliced 1/4 – 1/2 in thick squares
1/4 cup green onions, thinly sliced for garnish
1-2 tbsp sesame seeds, for garnish

Directions

  • An hour or so before you’re ready to cook, cut tofu in half to make two thin slabs.  Lay it on a cutting board, cover with a towel and place heavy books on top.  This helps soak up the excess moisture.

time to get creative!

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • In a small bowl, combine arrowroot powder with 2 tbsp orange juice and stir until fully dissolved.

  • Into a 9×13 inch baking dish, pour arrowroot and orange juice mixture and then add remaining ingredients except for tofu, green onions and sesame seeds.  Stir to combine.
  • Add tofu and turn to coat both sides.

  • Cover and refrigerate to marinate for 1 hour (highly recommended!) or bake it immediately.
  • To bake, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Turn over tofu, gently stir to cover tofu with sauce and bake again, uncovered, for another 15 minutes, or until sauce thickens and bubbles at the edges (sauce will thicken more as it cools).

  • If you like you’re tofu well done like I do, go ahead and turn on the broiler and broil for another 10 minutes, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn!

**I did not marinate mine and I didn’t broil it long enough.  Next time I will definitely marinate it and broil it for another 5-10 minutes.  I like it crispy!

This meal honestly was delicious. The husband had never eaten tofu before and was pretty skeptical, and he loved it!  One of his favorite Asian dishes is sesame chicken, and he claims that this is a very close replacement.  And he is always brutally honest (which I appreciate!).

I also want to say if you are anything like I used to be you may not have a few of these ingredients on hand.  I used to never want to try new healthy recipes such as this because I didn’t have the ingredients, and I either didn’t know where to find them or didn’t want to spend the money.  Most of these ingredients can be found at your local grocery store, but for those that can’t (arrowroot powder, toasted sesame oil etc), take a trip to your nearest health food store.  It may be a tad pricey the first time, but you really use very little of these ingredients for each recipe, so you’ll have them for weeks/months to come.  I felt so much freedom to explore new meals once I just bit the bullet and accumulated some of the ingredients.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for tonight!  Hope you all had a lovely day:)  G’night!

tofu redemption

20 Aug

So, last night I finally sat down to eat my long awaited tofu dinner at about 9:30pm.  You guys already know – it was not good.

But I’m not the type who gives up easily.

My mom can attest to this story:

When I was a wee four years old, still using a pacifier mind you, I had a bike with training wheels.    I would pedal that bike as fast as my little legs would go, trying to keep up with my big sister at all costs.  Until one fateful day when one of my training wheels bit the dust.

I’m not one to give up easily, though.  Despite my mother’s constant scoldings, I perfected riding the three wheeled bike.  She would constantly be yelling out the door – “Candice, get off that bike!  You’re gonna get hurt!”

I’d stop momentarily…but then I’d be right back at it.

Until the next fateful summer day when the other training wheel gave out on me.

My mom was so relieved.  She sighed “at least now she won’t be able to hurt herself trying to ride that bike with broken training wheels.”

Like I said, though.  I’m not one to give up easily.

Not many days later, my mom glanced outside to check on me, and there was little four-year-old me, flying down the road after my big sister on my two wheeled bike, with pacifier in tow.

To this day, determination is something I don’t take lightly.

As evidenced by this

So, you’re probably wondering what the heck happened right?

After I finished blog venting about my tofu fail last night, I walked back into the kitchen where my tofu was still gloating smugly atop the stove.  In a moment of sheer rage frustration I grabbed the dish, punched the broiler button on the stove, and threw it back into the stove.  Take that!

I honestly figured I’d be trashing those mushy little tofu cubes in less than ten minutes, but I figured “hey, it can’t get any worse, so I might as well make one last ditch effort!”

Ten minutes later I pulled out a sizzling batch of perfectly browned, crispy on the outside, but chewy on the inside tofu.

And that my friends…is how it’s done;)

Apparently it just needed cooked longer, as I would have found out by reading all the awesome comments from last night’s post.  Thanks for all the tips – with the help of them hopefully I’ll be able to get it right the first try next time!

Now I’m off to bake some vegan cookies – don’t wait up for this one;)

Well, I ate it…

19 Aug

…but that doesn’t mean it was good.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1.5-2 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1.5 tbsp tamari
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 2-3 pinches chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pkg firm or extra firm tofu (frozen or fresh) cut in half lengthwise then sliced 1/4 to 1/2 in thick squares, and patted to remove excess moisture
  • 2-3 tbsp raw or pre-roasted pumpkin seeds

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In an 8×12 in baking dish, combine lime juice, agave nectar, tamari, cumin, curry powder, chili powder, and salt and stir to mix.
  • Stir in oil.
  • Add tofu and turn to coat each side
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven to turn tofu over, sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, and return to oven to bake uncovered for another 13-15 minutes, until tofu has soaked up most of marinade.
  • Serve warm, pouring any remaining oil and/or spices over tofu.

recipe adapted from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan

It’s not you, Dreena, it’s me.

Tofu and I have never gotten along.

We have a love/hate relationship.  As in love when we meet at Pei Wei and hate when we meet anywhere else.

Not sure what went wrong to be honest.  The flavor was not bad, but the texture was not good.  Maybe I should have bought extra firm instead of just firm?  Any suggestions?  I need help!

This is not the last you’ll see of me, tofu.  I’ll be back.  And eventually I will win.

That’s all.