Walk it off

This past winter, I got a great deal on a watch. This was no ordinary watch, but one of those sporty heart rate monitor exercise watches. The only problem with these watches is that the battery doesn’t last nearly as long as a regular watch as they are working so much harder and tracking so much more. So, the battery died about 2 months ago. Last week, Brian was trying to change the battery and accidentally broke the LCD screen on it. He very kindly bought me a new watch, which might actually be an upgrade to my old watch. This one also had a pedometer, calculates the calories you burn throughout the day based on your heart rate and you can set daily goals on it. I really like. It’s also very motivating to move more.

I had a lot of errands to run this weekend and by run, I mean walk. Since we don’t have a car, I do a lot of walking, especially on the weekend. Motivated by my watch to walk a little more than usual, I logged about 20 miles this weekend. How did I fuel all of this walking?

Big breakfasts! And lots of coffee.

Saturday morning, I was very indecisive about what I wanted for breakfast, so I had a little bit of everything. Strawberries and watermelon, an egg with sriracha, and a piece of cinnamon toast. Half with pumpkin butter and the other half with mashed banana and a little cookie butter.

w1

After a morning trip to the store and an exciting sale on homemade guacamole, I had a lunch of lots of fruits, veggies and an open-faced chicken and guacamole sandwich.  I love homemade guac, but when they sell the good stuff for less than I can make it, I’ll take it!

w2

A dinner of more chicken and guac, veggies, hummus and chips. I’m really trying to take advantage of the last of the fresh veggies while I can.

w3

Saturday night, I made some falafel with an extra helping of greens.

w4

w5
Then I spent a night in with a glass of wine and my sewing machine doing some mending for Brian.

w6

Sunday’s breakfast was a helping of toast, guac, bacon and eggs with a pumpkin pie muffin.

w7

w8

That was a very finger-licking and runny yolk! Mmm!

w9

Brian had a banana and chocolate chip muffin reheated with a smear of cookie butter on top.

w13

After running errands, a long shoe shopping trip for Brian, lunch at Native Foods(salads for both of us), and buying fabric for me, I did some more sewing. I sewed a yoga mat bag for myself. I have lululemon’s big mat. It is no longer available on the website, but is wider and longer than the average yoga mat and great if you are taller than average and struggle to stay on your mat during classes. Hence it being bigger than average, it doesn’t fit in most yoga bags. So, I loosely followed Kick Stand Fitness’s directions to make a bag. It took me about and hour, start to finish. I even added an interior pocket. Super easy and functional. Definitely work the 1 yard of fabric and one hour of work.

w10 w12

Sunday’s dinner was fruit, salad and veggie lasagna. I bought the lasagna pre-made and thought it was great. Packed with flavor and protein, I’d definitely buy it again.

w11

With falafel and leftover veggie lasagna, it looks to be another veggie filled week! And what is great is that during this week’s heat wave, we can live on leftovers and I won’t have to heat up the kitchen!

Advertisements

Goodbye, summer

Friday seems like so long ago that I can hardly remember what we  did.  We had plans to go out to eat, but with some torrential down pours right after I got home from work, we decided to order in. We ordered in some chicken shawarma from a new restaurant. It was so-so. So far, I haven’t found a place that competes with a a restaurant by my work. Then we set up an assembly line and put together our wedding invitations. After that was done, we rewarded ourselves with some couch time and started watching Orange is the New Black. Is everyone else watching this show? You should be! It’s great.

Saturday morning, I got up and made a veggie loaded breakfast with homemade tomato sauce, spinach, and eggplant. It was so delicious.

LD1

Then I headed out for a busy day of going to the post office, hair cut and eye exam. The lovely lady at the post office gave me multiple kinds of misinformation including that we needed more postage for our invitations and that they don’t sell the stamps we need at that post office. Being that I needed to get to my hair cut, I delegated the other post office run to Brian. He had a pleasant post office experience, unlike mine, and the man at the other post office said we didn’t need extra postage, hand stamped our invites and mailed them for Brian. After having several unpleasant experiences with the post office closest to us, I will never be going there again. I will happily go out of my way and take extra time to go to a different office. Before my haircut, I stopped at a burger place by our wedding venue and tried out the Hurt Burger. It was supposed to be incredible spicy, but I didn’t think it had much of a kick, despite having jalapenos on it. The fries were really good though. My excuse for eating a burger and fries for lunch is that I need to be able to give wedding guests accurate information about eating establishments around our hotel. Ha!

LD2

Sunday morning, I experimented with a new pancake recipe for Brian. They were incredibly dense and not the proper color, but he said they tasted great. Maybe it was all the cookie butter I slathered on them.

LD3

Frustrated by his wonky pancakes, I didn’t pay much attention to my breakfast cooking and botched my eggs. I spent a good while at my garden then went to my last class of aquatic exercise of the summer. IO am saddened that I will have no more opportunities to be in the pool.  We had a quick “clean out the fridge” lunch before going to buy groceries and run errands. We stopped at Target and goofed around in the toy aisle. I spent the rest of my evening planning Monday’s cook-a-thon and watching more episodes of Orange is the New Black.

LD5

Monday started off with a bang and an open-face egg sandwich. I headed into the kitchen to make black bean brownies, pumpkin muffins with pumpkin pie filling tops(they taste much better than they look), homemade, bbq sauce, curried ginger pumpkin soup, sunbutter and ended the day by grilling steak, burgers, chicken and veggies. We should be eating well all week!

LD6 LD7

LD4

LD8 LD9

My long weekend was wonderful and productive with plenty of fresh air and exercise. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Tarragon chicken salad sandwiches

ct6

This is an easy and flavorful recipe that I lightened up. Perfect for a quick lunch for unexpected guests or as smaller sandwiches/roll-ups for a party.

I lightened up the recipe by substituting plain Greek yogurt for the mayonnaise and Brian didn’t even notice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise(regular or low-fat)
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons tarragon
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries(I used strawberries)
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts of choice(I used almonds sunflower seeds and cashews)
  • 6 oz of shredded chicken

Mix everything except the nuts, dried fruit, and shredded chicken in a bowl.

ct1 ct2

Taste and adjust flavors as necessary.

Stir in nuts and dried fruit.

ct3 ct4

Toss with chicken. Let refrigerate for about an hour(if you have the time) to let the flavors mingle.

Serve on delicious bread or in pieces of lettuce for lighter fare.

ct5

Fun and fantastic

This past weekend was awesome. The weather was great and Brian and I ended up doing some spontaneous things and really taking advantage of the city. Something I need to do more often. That’s why I live here, right?

Brian took me out to dinner on Friday night because our fridge was bare! We hadn’t really gone grocery shopping in 2 weeks and we had been squeaking by on pantry staples and freezer meals all week. The upside to this was that, our fridge was bare. How is that an upside? It was the perfect opportunity to pull everything out and wipe down the shelves. A task that was long over due! Look at its glowing beauty afterwards:

friday10

After my speed cleaning fridge session, I headed out the door to walk to meet Brian for dinner. The weather was perfect for eating dinner outside and this place had a patio(no coincidence). We started off our meal with the bone marrow appetizer which came with a great arugula salad and pickled cherry. It was the perfect flavor combination.

friday1

I had a delicious and dark beer made with 3 different types of coffee beans:

friday2

And was only able to eat half of my Legend’s of the Daal wrap(very tasty):

friday3

The place is mostly known for their burgers. Brian got Elvis’ Last Supper with house made peanut butter and bacon. Surprisingly delicious.

friday4

On the way home, we decided to walk through Ribfest, which was happening right down the block. There was this sign:

Friday6

To which, Brian reacted like this to the thought of a deep fried Snickers:

friday5

We continued walking, until we saw this sign:

friday7

To which the possibility of deep-fried Oreos was too much for Brian to resist. We headed over to the ticket line and within 10 minutes had a tub of fried Oreos. To which, the man next to us in line got a deep-fried Snickers and insisted I take his picture.

friday8

Because deep-frying candy and cookies isn’t enough, they top them off with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar:

friday9

I tried one of the Oreos. It was actually pretty tasty. Like a funnel cake married and Oreo and made tiny funnel cake Oreo babies. Brian was in heaven.

A Friday night of indulgence meant a healthy breakfast and exercise Saturday morning.

saturday1

Followed by a trip to the garden. A very exciting trip where I would learn that all of my radishes had matured and were ready to be picked. I also got a few handfuls of kale and spinach and a lone strawberry. I think I’ve gotten more produce from my community garden plot in one month this year than I did all last summer!

saturday9 saturday10

After lots of errand running we grabbed lunch and then hit up Margie’s for a scoop of ice cream. They were switching out containers on Brian’s chocolate peanut butter and he got a mega scoop. That got all over his beard and mustache, but loos at those abundant ribbons of peanut butter. I had some serious ice cream envy and Brian happily shared with me.

saturday2 saturday3

Saturday we ate mostly vegetable for dinner. I grilled a ton of them for us to devour and a little chicken. I also made a delicious salad with the kale and spinach from the garden with a vinaigrette, hemp and sunflower seeds and blueberries.

saturday11 saturday12 saturday13

Sunday was to be filled with rain, but we were surprised by a sunny day instead.

I had a breakfast taco to start the day. The eggs ended up overwhelming the tortilla, but it was delicious!

saturday6 saturday7 saturday8

I slow cooked brisket in a marinade all day to make some delicious barbacoa for our tostadas for dinner.

sunday1 sunday4

While that was cooking and making the house smell wonderful, I got to work on a big batch of pumpkin and chocolate chip waffles to use as breakfasts in the upcoming days:

sunday5

Made a tasty batch of tarragon chicken salad(can’t wait to share the recipe) that was the perfect meal of protein to sustain us on our 12 mile bike ride by the lake.

sunday6 sunday7

I don’t think we could have packed much more into our weekend. It was a great one! Hope everyone had as much fun as I did.

Meal Planning 101

I’ve had a few people ask me lately about meal plans. I’ll give you a run down about how I plan our meals.

Brian and I pack and take our lunches to work most days of the week. It’s way cheaper and healthier. Even if you are getting an inexpensive meal out, just keep in mind that restaurants charge you at least 3x or more what it costs them to make it. Meaning: You can make it sooo much cheaper at home. Let’s do the math. If you spend $5 on lunch everyday eating out(which if you live in Chicago you spend more), that means that it’s costs that restaurant at most $1.66 to make your meal.

So $5 x 5 days per week is $25 per week on lunches.

If you made that same thing at home for $1.66 x 5 days a week, you would have spent $8.33.

$25-$8.33= a savings of $16.67 per week. Times 52 weeks per year = A savings of…

$866.84 per year

Wow. It really adds up, doesn’t it? Save almost $1000 per year just by packing your lunch instead of eating out. I bet you’d like an extra $1000 per year.

And really, it’s not that hard. It just takes a little planning.

I really like using paper and pen. Notice there is hardly any processed food on the list.

meal plan

First, break it down. How many meals do you need for the week? Check your fridge and pantry. What do you already have that you can use?

We both eat our breakfasts at work. So those need to be packed, too. Do you stop and buy donuts and coffee everyday? Don’t even get me started on how money wasteful that is. Make your own donuts/breakfast sandwiches/oatmeal and coffee for PENNIES. Seriously people. I bet it would take less time to make your coffee at home in a Keurig(yes, you can afford a Keurig if you stop buying your coffee everyday) than to stop, stand in line, order and buy it. So what do we eat for breakfasts? Cold oats, oatmeal bakes, tofu scrambles, egg bakes, donuts, muffins and waffles. Yep, make extra donuts, waffles, pancakes ahead of time and reheat. Just as good as the first time.

donut

Brian and I combined need 12 lunches. I only put 10 because I don’t usually plan the weekend out as strictly as the weekdays. The weekend is when we will eat 1 to 2 meals out. And if we are out running errands or have other obligations, we sometimes eat separately or we just have the leftovers from the week. I try to do one crock pot meal on the weekends. It saves time and makes a lot all at once. I don’t care if you are cooking for one or four, most recipes freeze well. Utilize your freezer, people. So, what are some of my favorite crock pot meals to make? Buffalo chicken, chicken curry, pulled pork, pork tinga, soups…or anything on pinterest. Start it in the morning. When it is done cooking, eat it for dinner. Then portion the rest out. Put a few containers in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.

bust a gut

I have also made a very conscious effort for us to eat meat less. A lot less. I make veggie burgers often. They are simple, fast and incredibly inexpensive to make. They are also filling, low in fat, high in fiber and protein. Win, win, win, win.

Another thing that Brian and I love are macro bowls. I steam kale, cook black beans, roast sweet potatoes, cook quinoa and bake tofu. Then I divide it out evenly between bowls. These bowls pack a punch in the flavor department, are super healthy and filling. They are really easy to customize, too. You don’t like tofu, substitute meat of your choice. You hate black beans? Throw in any other bean or lentil. Don’t have quinoa, use rice. Kale grosses you out? Use broccoli. You get protein, fiber, veg, and antioxidants. Yes these take a little while to make since you cooking everything separately, but they come in at less than $2 per bowl, using all organic ingredients.

weekend12

Two other dishes that we love are rama chicken and orange chicken. Healthier versions of take out food, made at home. Both pack great for lunches, too. Substitute tofu for the chicken and they are vegetarian. Most things you order at restaurant can be made fairly simply at home.

rama5

orange

Are these too healthy of options? Make a pizza. Make your own crust. That’s an option that takes less than 10 minutes to make. Spread on some sauce, cheese and toppings. This makes a very large pizza or two, so you will have a few days of left over pizza, too. Another fast option. Kraft whole grain macaroni and cheese… add a source of protein and vegetables(a lot) to it when it’s done cooking. It saves you from eating the whole box, makes it much more nutritious and gives you 1-2 meals worth of leftovers. Win, win.

pizza3

Need a fast weeknight meal? Well, that pizza and mac and cheese come together in about a half an hour. Do you know what else cooks really fast? Fish! Seriously, it takes less than 10 minutes to cook most fish. While that is cooking, saute or steam some of your favorite vegetable(s). Tired of your same old, same old tuna sandwich? Make a tuna melt. Leave the sandwich open-faced, throw on a slice of cheese and broil it for a few minutes.

grouper

Another thing I do that saves me a ton of time during the week is to prepare a lot of vegetables a head of time. It’s easy to cut root vegetables, potatoes, or brussies up and roast them while doing other things around the house. Then I have a quick side to go with any meal throughout the week. Or put some potatoes or sweet potatoes in your crock pot. I also peel and cut up the entire bag of carrots at one time to snack on throughout the week.

I also take full advantage of my weekends and get most of my cooking done then. Take 4 hours one day and see what all you can get accomplished. I bet you will be eating well for days. This weekend, I am going to try to make about 10 days worth of food so there are things in the house through next weekend.

What’s on the list? Crockpot buffalo chicken(some will go in the freezer), a batch of veggie burgers, macrobiotic bowls, pizza, grilled burgers, tilapia and asparagus packets and some sort of breakfast(donuts or waffles) to pack for Brian. There you go. Six recipes that will feed 2 people for 10 days, plus some fresh fruit and vegetables. Getting some done ahead of time sure beats scrambling to make dinner every night.

I can make all of that with less than $70 worth of groceries for about one week of food. That’s $10 per day for 3 meals for 2 people. That makes each meal average out to $1.66. Way cheaper than eating out. And much healthier.

You’ve asked. I’ve answered. A weekly meal plan to save your waistline and pocket-book!

Beet burgers and rosemary potatoes

beet2

After getting into roasting beets from the farmer’s market a few summers ago, I decided that I liked beets. Since then, I have had a hot and cold relationship with beets. During one of those hot streaks, I bought 2 cans of them from the grocery store. I have no idea what I was thinking. So, they’ve been in the pantry for months now and I decided that they needed to get used up.

Fortunately, Neverhomemaker posted a beet burger recipe. I substituted fresh beets for canned beets and black beans for white beans and the burgers turned out delicious!

Dare I say that it might be my new favorite veggie burger recipe? Well, it might. It holds together better than most veggie burger recipes that I’ve made and the burger was nice and crispy on the outside and flavorful on the inside. Topped with goat cheese and it was to die for!

beet1 beet3

On the side I made some rosemary roasted red potatoes. Say that 10 times fast! Whoa, tongue twister.

These potatoes were better than usual. I tried out Gwyneth Paltrow’s method of no-fry fries, but used red potatoes, cubed them and added rosemary. Soaking them in cold water made a huge difference. They tasted much crispier and more delicious than roasted potatoes I’ve had before. I’m sold on adding in the extra step!

beet4

So, there you go. A healthier burger and fries that you can make at home.

Lazy Saturday

At the last minute last night I met a few of my old co-workers out for drinks. As you know, I rarely go out anymore, especially on Friday nights, but was really glad I did. We had a blast and tons of laughs. Being up later than usually has made me a little tired today, coupled with some congestion, I’ve felt like an all out bum.

I was mildly productive in the kitchen, but I just can’t seem to tackle that ever growing pile of laundry.

I made a half dozen hard boiled eggs to have as snacks throughout the week.

20130216-165242.jpg

A batch of slightly disappointing healthy chocolate and peanut butter granola. Oh, and I severely burnt the other tray of it. Meh granola + burnt granola= granola fail.

20130216-165409.jpg

And now I’m working on some beet veggie burgers.

20130216-165455.jpg

While I was being lazy today, Brian did the grocery shopping. Now I can make pork tinga tomorrow! That makes me very happy. Thank goodness for Brian!

Bread maker bagels

bagel12

I’ve made homemade bagels before. They were delicious. I wanted to make them again. But not the same ones.

So, I began scouring blogs for good bagels and kept running across recipes for bagels that started the dough in the bread maker. I was intrigued. I was also a little worried that they wouldn’t turn out well. They turned out great. I’m not sure making the dough in the bread maker simplified the recipe all that much. The only change I made to the recipe was that I used half regular and half whole wheat flour.

Here are some pictures from the process:

In the bread maker:

bagel1Out of bread maker:

bagel2bagel4 bagel5bagel13 bagel14 bagel15

Bagel toppings. Everything and rosemary/sea salt:

bagel6 bagel7

Top those bagels!

bagel8 bagel9

What about making a breakfast sandwich with one of these beauties?

bagel10 bagel11

Chicken pesto sandwich

The inspiration for making fresh pesto…the chicken pesto sandwich.

Take some nice bread for your boyfriend. And a slice of sprouted grain for yourself.

Heat cast iron grill pan until nice and hot.

Slather some fresh pesto onto the bread.

Layer on some fresh mozzarella.

Top with some nice chicken.

Add some tomatoes(optional for boyfriend) mandatory for me. Add some more pesto to the other side of the bread.

Butter outside of bread. Place in grill pan and place something heavy(and non-flammable) on the other side to weight it down a bit. I used a heavy dinner plate.

After a few minutes, flip sandwich. Replace heavy object on top.

After a few more minutes, take off stove and pair with homemade tomato soup. So hot and melty inside with crisp and crunchy bread on the outside.

Capresedillanini

A what? It’s a cross between the caprese salad, a quesadilla and a panini. And it’s AWESOME!

Do you know what else is awesome? Going to a White Sox game with your coworkers:

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole wheat tortilla
  • fresh mozzarella
  • 1 home-grown tomato
  • fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

I essentially make a caprese salad down the center of a tortilla.

Just layer slices of tomato with slices of fresh mozzarella. Add basil and salt and pepper.

Then I folded the rest of the tortilla over it. I put it in a hot skillet with a little oil to make it hot and crispy and melty. I put a heavy plate on top of it in the pan to help press it down.

After a few minutes, I flipped it over(be careful, the plate will be hot) and put the plate back on top of it for a few more minutes.

Slice and eat. I had it with a side of berries.

It was the ultimate summer meal. The tomato was from my garden and the basil was out of my living room. Yum.