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.

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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!

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Monday, back at it

It’s already Monday again? My weekend was so full of fun activities that it feels like I haven’t been to work in a week!

Thursday night, I was incredibly happy to eat a very summery meal of a half of a BLT with fruit, veggies and a few chips. See that sweet corn? It was my last ear from a batch I received from Iowa. Possibly the best sweet corn of my life. So sweet and tender it made my heart sing.

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Friday night we picked up our wedding invitations and envelopes. Eeek! It’s coming so soon. I’m so excited! Brian and I grabbed dinner at Native Foods. He had a curry bowl and I had the indo salad. Both were amazing. We loved our own choices and each other’s so much that we switched bowls half way through. Sharing is caring. After running some more errands, I got home and collapsed on the couch for the night.

Saturday I got up early, did laundry, worked out and watered the garden before heading to a bridal shower in the burbs.  I had a surprise strawberry waiting for me when I got there to water:

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Brian and I had a nice breakfast together before I left for the day. I made him cinnamon streusel French toast with caramelized bananas for breakfast. I had eggs and toast.

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I got to hang out with some fun Hawkeyes at Sarah’s beautiful shower:

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The rest of the day was full of bachelorette fun.

Sunday morning I slept in and headed to water aerobics. Only one more weekend left of getting to be in an outdoor pool and get exercise. Booo! I wish I could have this weather and schedule all year round. The rest of Sunday was filled with making food for the week and folding and putting away laundry. As much as I hate laundry, I love starting out the week with a full and clean closet.

I made another round of macro bowls(spinach, kale, zucchini, quinoa, lentils, beans and sweet potato) for us to have for lunches this week:

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Took a break to have a lunch of leftover pizza, salad, tomatoes and chips.

 

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I felt like I haven’t made us a proper dinner in a few weeks. When I said this, Brian gave me a strange look like I was a crazy person. I just felt like I hadn’t put a lot of time or effort into a meal lately. Which is the direct result of it being summer and using a lot more fresh food that doesn’t need as much preparation. Anyway, I having a strong yearning to do a little more cooking and use our early wedding gift. Look at her. She’s a beauty. I named her Camille, because she’s French, you know. And she can make honey, almond, rosemary roasted carrots with the best of them.

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I also made a simple and quick tomato sauce, which had tons of great flavor:

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With some seasoned green beans, the meal came together kind of like this:

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Brian gave the carrots two thumbs up. I really like the almond carrot combo. Delightful. It would probably be a recipe better reserved for cooler temperatures, but those are probably right around the corner. And the tomato sauce on the chicken really jazzed it up.

 

Two weeks, one post

This summer is going way too fast, but it sure has been a lot of fun!

Last weekend, I had a girls weekend at a friend’s lake house and they surprised me with a mini bachelorette party. We had a lot of fun, took in a lot if good food, drink and time in the water. I love to build a nice fire.

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While having our coffee out on the dock Sunday morning, two trumpeter swans swam right past us.

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This week I made my second batch of homemade Greek yogurt. This batch turned out even better than my first batch. I really need to blog that recipe. While I was making the yogurt, I also started the base for some homemade ice cream.

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I took a night off from the kitchen to celebrate National margarita day with my friend Katie.

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Thursday night I spent making really good banana bread and the homemade ice cream.

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My parents came into town on Friday and we introduced them to ice cream at Margie’s Candies after dinner. We all left with full and happy bellies. Saturday morning we participated in the Big 10 5k. After last years sweat fest, this years cooler temperatures were much appreciated.

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We spent our afternoon making important decisions on our wedding food menu by trying lots of food. It was all really delicious.
I spent Sunday creating a meal plan for the week with the goal of having to buy as few groceries as possible and use up what we have. I am a visual person, so I had to map it all out in writing.

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Being that my parents brought me a bunch of tomatoes from their garden, I knew that BLTs were in my near future. I spent $8.37 on groceries for the week(most of that was on bacon) plus leftovers we had from buying groceries this week and we should have stuff for more than enough meals this week.
Today’s lunch for me was a mustard, feta and veggie open faced sandwich, chips and fruit.

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Supper was an AMAZING BLT, pretzels, fruit and super 7 salad. This meal made me incredibly happy.

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I’ve also been enjoying the fresh flowers my parents brought to us out of their yard.

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And I spent time at my garden multiple days this week. I’ve started getting cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, pulled the last of my radishes, gotten a few carrots and am continuing to get kale. I’m getting really anxious for my full-size tomatoes to ripen after indulging in my parents home grown tomatoes.
Fresh food in the summer makes me incredibly happy!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Greek tuna salad

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When I was traveling in December and dreading the unhealthy airport food, I ran across a really cute fresh and healthy restaurant/stand in the Houston airport called Camden Food Co. Right across from an organic pizza place. What? Two decent options right by each other in the airport? I love that it’s not impossible to get good food while traveling anymore.

Well, they had a Greek tuna that was so delicious. It was fresh flaked tuna with kalamata, cucumber, diced tomato, feta, herbs and a Greek vinaigrette. I bought a container of that and put in on a bed of fresh mixed greens from their salad bar and topped with a few chickpeas. So delicious.

I’ve been thinking about that tuna ever since. So, I had to attempt to recreate it as I don’t know when will be the next time that I am in the George Bush International airport to get more. It’s so good, it’s almost worth the trip just to get some.

Here’s my attempt at the remake. I also threw in some diced yellow and orange bell pepper. A great way to jazz up plain old tuna. It would also be great as a dip on crackers or in a pita. Mmm. Ican’t wait to make it again.

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Hunker down vegetable soup

With Sunday’s pending ice storm, I decided that a big batch of piping hot soup was in order. I had been drooling over blog posts of vegetable soups all week, so I decided to clean out the crisper drawer in the fridge and transform it to soup. What a good decision.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, sliced or diced
  • 3 large carrots, sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 zucchini, cut in quarters then sliced
  • 1 14oz can diced tomatoes(preferably fire-roasted)
  • 1 15oz can of beans of choice(I used butter beans)
  • 8 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • fresh ground pepper

Heat oil in dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes until glassy. Then stir in garlic and cook for about another minute.

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Then add in carrots and celery. Cook another 5 minutes until celery and carrots start to soften.

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Stir in zucchini, oregano, parsley and basil. Cook another 3 minutes.

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Add in can of tomatoes, beans and broth.

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Cover and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Add pepper to taste. You can add salt, too, but I didn’t think it needed any.

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This soup is so good, filling and hearty. A huge dose of vegetables in every bowl! I absolutely love it!

Homemade tomato soup

I have been in soup mode lately. I think it’s the perfect starter, side dish or even main course. I like tomato soup, but not really a fan of the canned stuff. I like mine nice and thick with a lot of flavor, not just a bowl of boring acidity.

Since I have never made tomato soup before, I started out by googling things like “the world’s best tomato soup” and “best tomato soup ever.” I quickly eliminated several of them based on the amount of cream they used or the lack of flavor in the ingredients. When I saw this recipe I knew it was similar to one of the favorite bowls of tomato soup I have ever eaten.

Ingredients:
8 baby carrots, diced
1 stalk of celery with leaves, chopped
1 small onion diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons butter
pinch of thyme
pinch of oregano
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar(optional)

Preheat oven to 450F. Separate tomatoes from their juice. Reserve juice to the side.

Place pieces of tomato in a roasting pan, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roast for about 20 minutes or until deep red and caramelized.

While the tomatoes are roasting, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep pot. Add in carrots, celery, onion and garlic.

Cook until onions translucent, about 7-10 minutes. Make sure you get those nice and tasty little brown bits.

Then add roasted tomatoes, tomato juice, vegetable broth, butter(use Earth Balance to keep it vegan), thyme and oregano. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables softened.

At this point, taste the soup. If it’s too acidic or you prefer a sweeter taste, add the sugar. If you add sugar, simmer 5 more minutes. Next, use immersion blender or carefully transfer soup to blender and blend to desired thickness. I put the soup in a blender and left the spout open a little to let the steam out then pulsed until nearly smooth.

This soup is so good that I might have to make another batch. Roasting the tomatoes really gives it depth and complexity of flavor. The added vegetables really help to cut the acidity, too. Even my tomato hating boyfriend loved it.

A very farmer’s market breakfast

I hit up a total of 3 different farmers markets this week, leaving me an abundance of fresh and tasty produce to craft meals from.

My favorite table at the farmer’s market is the mushroom guy. They grow tons of mushrooms and they are 10 million times more flavorful than any mushroom that you buy in the grocery store. He had fresh garlic this week, as well. He told me that most of the garlic sold in the US is grown in China. What? Did anyone else know this? His garlic is insanely garlicy. But in a mellow, wonderful way. And it is crazy huge. Take a look at it:

Just one clove:

I knew I had to use some in my breakfast on Saturday morning. I sauteed some mushrooms and garlic. Some of that wonderful garlic. While that was cooking these were waiting in the wings:

I tossed the spinach and the tomatoes in at the last second to wilt and warm them.

Then I cooked two farm fresh and local eggs to top off these veggies.

Now that is the perfect way to start off the day and pack a punch of antioxidants while eating better food and supporting the local economy.

Italian roasted vegetable quinoa

Quinoa is a staple in our house. I had a slight panic when I went to the pantry to grab some the other day and we were out. How had I used the last of it and not replaced it?

This called for a trip to the store.

An emergency trip fueled by a Trenta Iced Green Tea from Starbucks. While I am not a big fan of Starbucks coffee, I do love their iced green tea.

Fueled with a little caffeine and a lot of antioxidants surging through my veins, I headed home to make some quinoa salad that is delicious hot or cold.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of quinoa, dry
  • 1 vegetable broth cube
  • 2 medium zucchini, halved and  sliced
  • 1 small onion, halved and sliced
  • 2 portabella mushroom caps, cut in 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • Italian seasoning
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 425

Cook quinoa according to directions, except add one cube vegetable broth into the water…or cook it in liquid vegetable broth instead of water. This will help to give the quinoa more flavor.

Cut all vegetables into similar sized slices/chunks so they all roast evenly. Place on foil covered pan.

Toss with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and a little less than a tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and Italian seasoning.

Roast for 20 minutes or until starting to brown. Toss once about 1/2 way through. I wanted my veggies al dente incase I decided to eat the final product up later so they wouldn’t get too mushy. But who am I to tell you how to cook your vegetables. You just cook them how ever long your want.

Take roasted veggies and cooked quinoa and combine. It’s perfect for a full meal or a side dish and can be enjoyed hot or cold.

Avocado salad

It’s detox day 3!

So far, so good. I mad a mega headache for the first day and a half and was very tired and sluggish feeling. Today I am back to my normal energy levels and am headache free. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how tasty and simple some of the recipes are.

Like my lunch today of this avocado salad, which is a close rendition of the detox recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • pinch of cayenne
  • coarse salt
  • 1 avocado, halved and seeded
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • thin slice of red onion, diced
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

In a small bowl, whisk together oil, lime juice, garlic, cayenne and coarse salt. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, combine the bell pepper, onion, tomatoes and cilantro. Scoop meat out of avocado halves and chop. Add to bowl and gently stir.

Drizzle with dressing. For a nicer presentation, scoop into avocado shells and serve.