Monthly Archives: March 2012

Tomato Sauce Freak

If someone were to ask me what my all-time favorite meal is, I’d probably say a dish of capellini pomodoro, along with ample amounts of wine and just baked bread (hello delicious carbs!). When fresh and well-flavored, I just love a dish centered around a simple tomato sauce.

Out of all of the good food that my mom makes, her homemade sauce is one of my favorite things. She’ll make a ridiculously huge pot, and I seriously can eat (and have eaten) a bowl of it on its own.

Though I already was a fan, my love for tomato sauce (and tomatoes in general) only grew when I studied abroad in Italy. I frequently would eat a pomodoro pasta dish for dinner there, and I never got sick of it. I looked back at my Italy photos to find picture proof of my mild obsession, and though I couldn’t find just a lovely tomato sauce shot, I did find a few pasta pics:

Drool.

Today when I noticed a few vine ripe tomatoes in my kitchen starting to wrinkle, I knew exactly what to use them for. An easy to make, delicious tomato sauce it is!

Classic Tomato Sauce

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 vine ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 28-oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • About 1/4 onion, chopped
  • Chopped basil, to taste (I used 6 leaves)
  • 1/2 TBSP olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, and whatever additional spices you desire

Warm up olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat.

Add garlic and onion, and cook for about 2 minutes until they start to brown. Meanwhile, put the can of tomatoes in a blender or food processor and pulse until tomatoes are liquified.

Add canned tomatoes, basil, and seasonings to the skillet. Let it boil, then add fresh tomatoes.

When it boils again, put the lid on the skillet, lower heat to low/medium low, and let it cook for around 20 minutes.

Per 1-cup serving: 80 calories, 2 g fat, 2 g protein, 13 g carbs

I ate some of the sauce for dinner with whole grain angel hair pasta and grated cheese. It felt like I was treating myself to a decadent meal, but the dish was only around 400 calories, low in fat, and high in antioxidants. Sweet!

Now that I’ve mentioned my time in Italy, I feel the need to share a few pictures of beautiful Sicily:

Oh the memories, I cannot wait to get back there one day!!

No Bake Homemade Granola Bars

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a huge fan of bars – protein bars, granola bars, cereal bars, I love em all! I always keep one in my purse in case hunger strikes while I’m out, and love to eat them pre-workout as a snack.

When I saw the other day that the phrase ‘granola bars with Kashi’ was searched for a bunch of times on my blog, I thought, What a brilliant idea!

Kashi GOLEAN Crunch! is one of my favorite cereals. I love how 1 cup has 9 grams of protein. I frequently eat it with blueberries + almond milk or top my yogurt with it, but why not incorporate it into a granola bar recipe?

I peered into my pantry to find what I thought were granola bar worthy ingredients. I wanted them to be wholesome, sweet, and under 200 calories a serving. The recipe I threw together is easy, and they turned out so good! I love that they can be eaten as dessert, like when I ate one last night, or as part of a meal, like when I had one at lunch today with a yogurt and fruit.

Homemade Granola Bars

Makes 9 bars

What you Need:

  • Food Processor
  • 8 x 11 pan (or a smaller one if you prefer your bars to be thicker)
  • Wax paper

Ingredients:

  • 1 c Kashi GOLEAN Crunch! cereal
  • 1 c old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 c sliced almonds
  • 2 TBSP wheat germ
  • 1.5 oz pitted dates, roughly chopped (I used 6 Sunsweet California dates)
  • 2 TBSP ground flaxseed meal
  • 3/4 c honey
  • 1/4 c chocolate chips

Put cereal, oats, flaxseed, and wheat germ in the food processor and pulse about 10 times.

Add almonds and dates and pulse a few more times to get everything mixed up and chopped a bit more.

Warm up honey in microwave or stovetop.

Pour cereal mixture into a large bowl. Stir chocolate chips in. Add honey to the mixture, and stir everything with a wooden spoon until well combined.

Line your pan with wax paper, then spread the whole mixture into it. Press everything into the pan well with a wooden spoon or cup.

Stick in the fridge for at least a few hours before cutting into bars. Then try not to eat half of them in one sitting!

Nutrition facts per bar: 190 calories, 5 g fat, 4 g protein, 35 g carbs

I just got back from hiking with Harley. Here’s a shot of the view from the top:

About 75 minutes into the hike, Harley decided she’d had enough and plopped down for a breather…and then refused to get up for a couple of minutes. At least I tired her out!

Hope your weekend is off to a wonderful start!

A Few of This Week’s Workouts

Now that my LivingSocial boxing membership is over (NOOOO!!) and I can’t justify spending the full monthly fee when I have multiple gyms I can use for free, it’s up to me to kick my own butt during workouts. It’s been awhile since I posted workout ideas, so I thought I’d share 2 routines I’ve done this week:

Workout #1: Circuit Training that focuses on biceps and shoulder muscles, but also works just about everything else! Including stretching time before & after, it took me about 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete.

How it Works:

  • Warm up with 5 minutes of cardio. I usually bike but jumping rope, doing jumping jacks, boxing, the elliptical, running, dancing like a maniac, or anything else that gets your heart pumping works!
  • Do 3 sets of each strength training move, with ab exercises in between sets for 30 seconds per move.
  • Unless otherwise noted, I used 15 lb free weights. Adjust your weight usage depending on your strength level.
  •  After each round, do 5 minutes of cardio. Take minimal breaks after each cardio circuit.

Workout #2: Running Interval Routine

Looking for a 30 minute workout that will leave you nice & sweaty? Do you kinda sorta find running to be a slightly torturous activity? Then this workout is perfect for you to try! Today was my first time on the treadmill in months, and I actually didn’t hate it! Switching up my pace every few minutes made it go by quickly. I covered 3 miles and my heart rate was between 65-90% the entire time, torching a lot of calories in a short period of time.

“You will never regret a workout. You will never wish you hadn’t spent that time improving your health and confidence. Make yourself a priority.” -Katrina Hodgson and Karena Dawn, Trainers & Founders of Tone It Up, in April’s Self magazine

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

According to a Yahoo! News article I read the other day, 40% of food in the U.S. is wasted. This equated to $43 billion of wasted food in 2011. That’s a whole lot of grub getting thrown out!

I have to admit, sometimes food goes bad in my kitchen. I think it has to do with a few things:

A.) The majority of the eats I buy are perishable (yeah, I’m produce obsessed) and only stay good for a short period of time.

B.) When you cook a lot as I do, you tend to use a little bit of this and a slice of that, leaving you with open jars and half-eaten foods to remember to eat later.

C.) I’m mostly living by myself right now. This makes it harder to buy the right proportions of food, especially because I measure out a lot of what I eat and don’t consume all that much (despite the fact that I’m constantly talking about food on here!). This is a big adjustment from when I have my hubby home, who eats probably 3-4x the amount that I do.

Though I don’t think it’s realistic to say that another piece of food will never going bad in my kitchen again (it’s bound to happen once in awhile..), I think that wasting food is a bummer and I’m trying to be more conscious of what’s in my kitchen lately.

That being said, I had an open can of pumpkin in my fridge after making pumpkin oatmeal muffins last week. When I looked at it and saw that the pumpkin wasn’t bad yet but probably would be soon, I decided to whip something up with it. Thus, a new cookie recipe was born!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

Makes 6 cookies

  • 1/2 c pure pumpkin
  • 2 TBSP light butter
  • 2 TBSP chocolate chips
  • 1/2 TSP vanilla extract
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 TSP baking powder
  • 1/2 TSP cinnamon
  • 1/2 TSP pumpkin pie spice
  • Pinch of salt

In a small bowl, beat pumpkin, vanilla extract, butter, and sugar until mixed well.

In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.

Pour the pumpkin mixture into the dry mixture, then stir chocolate chips in.

Spoon 6 balls of dough onto a baking pan, then bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned. Mine were in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Per cookie: 80 calories, 4 g fat, 1 g protein, 13 g carbs

I had the brilliant idea of making a pumpkin cookie sandwich, putting two together and spreading cool whip and Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter in the middle:

YUM! I’m happy I only made half a dozen (for the sake of my waistline, as I doubt I would allow these to go bad!).

Now, what to do with that open can of black beans I’ve had sitting in the fridge…

Homemade Minestrone Soup Makes Life Better

The past few days I’ve had a cold – the kind that makes your head feel like it’s 100 pounds, where all you want to do is lay on the couch and watch movies so your brain doesn’t explode. I’ve been eating a ton of fruits and veggies and doing all the normal cold remedies to try to kick it ASAP. But there’s one thing in particular that I want when I’m under the weather, and that’s homemade minestrone soup. Packed with tons of veggies and vitamins, this soup is delicious and nutritious – and luckily I have tons of leftovers!

I typically make this soup in a slow cooker, but this was no longer an option when my crock pot crapped out on me earlier. Plan B:  throw the ingredients in a large pot over a burner instead. I found out today that this method works just fine too.

Homemade Minestrone Soup

Makes 5 servings

  • 6 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1-28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1-15 oz can of white beans, drained (I used garbanzo beans)
  • 2 carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 4 oz of dry short shaped pasta
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 2 cups frozen green beans
  • 2 TBSP chopped basil
  • 1/2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/4 yellow onion, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt, pepper, thyme, sage, and any other seasonings to taste
  • Grated parmesan cheese, optional

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced onion and cook until lightly browned.

Next, combine broth, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, seasonings, and bay leaves in a pot. If
using a crock pot, put on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. When cooking over a burner:
simmer on low for about an hour, or cook over medium heat for about half an hour.

About half an hour before you want to eat the soup, add spinach, green beans and zucchini to the pot. Add the pasta about 15 minutes later, and cook until pasta is cooked al dente. Remove from heat, sprinkle with cheese, and enjoy!

Nutrition stats per serving: 200 calories, 1 g fat, 9 g protein, 39 g carbs

Moving onto my hilarious puppy, Harley is in love with her blanket and keeps wrapping herself up in it. Case in point, this is how she was hanging out earlier:

She then proceeded to get up and walk around with it still around her.

She’s quite an entertaining dog to have around!

 

 

 

Words of Wisdom + Frozen Berry Bowl

As I just finished a yoga workout a little while ago and am in a yoga-inspired sort of mood, I wanted to share the following phrases that I jotted down awhile ago and find myself constantly looking at. I can’t actually remember where I got it from, but I find these words to be calming and inspiring:

7 Zuda Yoga Axioms/Universal Truths:

1.) You are exactly where you are supposed to be.
2.) Fear and pain are life’s greatest teachers.
3.) Laughter and play are the keys to the fountain of youth.
4.) Exercise and rest are the keys to vibrant health.
5.) Touch and intimacy are basic human needs.
6.) Everything is impermanent.
7.) Everything is connected.

I especially love the phrase everything is impermanent as a reminder to just breathe and keep on pushing through tough times, and to really treasure the times when life feels just great.

Moving onto food..

Post-workout, I wanted something sweet but also wanted to eat some protein. Instead of making a typical smoothie, I pulled out my food processor to make what might just be my new favorite nighttime snack:

Frozen Berry Bowl

Serves 1

What you need:

  • 1 cup of frozen strawberries (Dole)
  • 1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder (Designer Whey)
  • 1 TBSP cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate soy milk (Soy Slender)
  • A dash of sweetener (I used Stevia)
  • A dallop of Cool Whip

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined well. You might need to scrape the sides once to get everything completely mixed. Pour into a bowl and top with cool whip.

Nutrition stats: 175 calories, 21 g carbs, 5 g fat, 15 g protein

I’m off to wind down for the night. Hope your week is off to a good start, and remember, you are exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Crostini Combos

At the farmer’s market yesterday, a loaf of fresh bread was calling my name (and so were berries, broccoli rabe, spinach, guavas, cinnamon peanut butter, granola, and the list goes on and on!).

When I came home with a French baguette, I decided that experimenting with crostini combos sounded like a good idea. After slicing the bread, brushing them with olive oil, and throwing in the oven for a few, I began pulling out random things from my fridge to top my crostini with. This was the result:

From top left going clockwise, here are the toppings:

  • Goat cheese, fig butter & drizzled honey
  • Fresh mashed raspberries, brie cheese & slivered almonds
  • Arugula, roasted pepper & fresh Burrata (a ridiculously creamy cheese I bought yesterday as well)
  • Sun-dried tomatoes with part of a Laughing Cow light mozzarella, sun-dried tomato & basil wedge
  • Chopped tomato, roasted pepper, sea salt & olive oil
  • Black beans, salsa & cheddar

They’re so much fun! But then I wished I had a hungry hubby or friends here to sample my creations. I think these will be my go-to appetizer next time I have guests over (or the next time a baguette calls to me!).

Onto my strange encounter of the weekend… 

Scenario: Harley and I are walking on our neighborhood trail yesterday morning. We are passing a guy walking his dog who looks vaguely familiar and then…

MAN: Hey, did anyone ever tell you that you look like Paris Hilton?

ME: Actually yes, YOU’VE told me that before.

MAN: Oh my gosh, you look EXACTLY like her! It’s crazy!

ME: I don’t think so, but have a nice day.

Yeah, the same exact guy who made this comment a few months ago said it again. And he apparently had amnesia of recently seeing a so-called Paris lookalike in his complex. Upon further review, aka me spending 10 minutes of my life I’ll never get back Googling Paris Hilton images, I still don’t really see it. There’s one scenario where I possibly bear a minor resemblance to her, and that’s with sunglasses on – which I was wearing yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at images of Paris, I’ve come to the realization that she’s actually pretty if you’re looking at her without hearing all the things she says and does. So to the random man in my neighborhood, thanks for the compliment, I think.

If anyone gets celebrity lookalike comments from strangers, I’d love to hear them!

And now I’m off to go for a hike with Harley because…

Hehehe, gets me every single time. I saw the movie yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it!

Fake it Til You Feel It

Mantra of the day:

Since I got back from my vacay, I’ve been in a bit of a I-got-to-spend-an-entire-week-with-the-love-of-my-life-and-now-we’re-living-on-separate-continents-again funk. I’m fully aware of how lucky I am to have been able to meet up with him during this deployment, but reminding myself that didn’t prevent the sinking feeling I had in knowing I was traveling 20 hours back to San Diego in one direction, and he was going thousands of miles in another. As my grandma reassured me on the phone when I admitted to being a bit bummed, it’s okay to not feel awesome 24/7. So, I let myself be a little sad for a few days as I recovered from jet lag and got back on track with my routine & sleep schedule (well, sorta.. still working on that part). Then on Tuesday night as I was going to sleep, I told myself that the next day, I would make a conscious effort to snap out of it and get back into the swing of things. Here’s how I’ve psyched myself up the past couple of days:

Harley keeping her ball close during naptime

1.) Start my day off right: I begin my morning on a positive note, taking a few moments to read a couple of inspirational quotes. I remind myself of all the things I’m thankful for. Harley and I also go for a walk or run. Taking the time to get outside first thing to get a bit of exercise and fresh air immediately lifts my mood. It also seems to help me concentrate better on work when I get in my office. Plus, it results in a sleeping puppy, which allows me to be more focused as well.

2.) Make a Small Change: Speaking of my office, I don’t always work in it. It started when I got Harley and everytime she came in my office, she’d have an accident. All of the wires in here also make it a danger zone for her destructive behavior. So, I veered away from working in here when she was little and sort of just stayed with that ever since. But, I decided to move myself back into the office all of this week. I really have felt like making this little change and working at my desk instead of my kitchen table or living room couch has made a difference in my productivity. I also realized that I like sitting by my office window with the sun shining in better. And the dog hasn’t peed in here yet this week! So, the idea is to alter something in your life a bit. Maybe it’s taking a different route to work, having a different lunch routine, trying a new workout, whatever.

3.) Make Plans: I touched base with a few girlfriends and set up get-togethers. I love having dates with friends but typically don’t mind doing my own thing, but when I’m in a funk, I like to fill up my schedule. That way I don’t have time to wallow in my pity. Instead, I’ll be out having fun with people I enjoy spending time with!

4.) Eat Right: Shoving my face with crap certainly doesn’t help when I feel bummed. Trying to resist the temptation to eat my emotions away, I’ve been planning out my meals and making sure to eat wholesome, nutritionally dense foods. My vacation food coma is now gone, and I’m feeling good about the choices I’m making for my mind and body.

My favorite professor in college used to frequently repeat all of these one-liner life mottos. The one that sticks out in my mind the most is ‘Fake it til you feel it.’ I think the phrase is very applicable to me this week. Do I feel 100% absolutely amazing right now? Not exactly. But in my effort to get out my blah mood, I honestly feel better. And I’m going to keep at it, because all we can do is be positive and try to put our best foot forward, right?

Question: What are the things that you do to uplift your mood when you’re feeling bummed?

Off to go meet a friend for dinner! And in case you live under a rock, The Hunger Games is out and you better believe that seeing it is on my agenda this weekend!

Mega Mexican Salad

This is the look of an extremely happy dog:

I had a killer workout yesterday and was feeling all kinds of sore today, so I decided to do low impact exercise & let my body recover a bit. After some days of raininess and cooler weather, it was gorgeous out today, so I figured I’d take advantage of it and head to the park with Harley. It was our first time going for a hike in almost 3 weeks, and she was psyched about it. Following our outdoorsy time, I did some stretching + yoga at home.

This evening for dinner I put together an awesome salad that turned out to be massive and filling. Between this salad (which I actually was too full to finish) and my other eats today, I consumed a good 10 servings of fruits & veggies. Whoa, go me!

Mexican Salad

Serves 1 hungry person

  • About 2 cups of lettuce (I used chopped romaine)
  • 1/2 cup black beans (Eden organic)
  • 2/3 cup fire roasted corn (TJ’s frozen)
  • 1/2 vine ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1 serving of Mexican shredded cheese (Weight Watchers)

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 avocado (2 oz)
  • 2 TBSP light sour cream (Daisy’s)
  • 3 TBSP salsa
  • A bit of lemon juice, I used about 1/4 lemon

Warm up the beans and corn in the microwave, then combine with the other salad ingredients.

Mash the avocado, then put in a bowl. Add the other dressing ingredients and combine well, then pour onto salad.

Nutrition stats: 480 calories, 21 g fat, 22 g protein, 55 g carbs

I’ll leave you with the awesome ending quote from the movie I just finished watching, Love & Other Drugs: “Sometimes the thing you most want doesn’t happen, and sometimes the thing you never expect to happen does… I don’t know, you meet thousands of people and none of them really touch you. And then you meet one person and your life is changed forever.” Oh how true that is!

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

Last night I was in the mood to bake, so bake I did!

I found 2 pumpkin muffin recipes I had scribbled down and tried before, and mixed & matched their ingredient lists to come up with a recipe of my own. So far, I love eating these babies 1.) warmed, along with some berries for breakfast and 2.) toasted, with a touch of butter, cinnamon & brown sugar on top for dessert.

Note: these muffins aren’t overly sweet, so if you’re looking to make them super sweet, just use more sugar and/or honey.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins 

Makes a dozen

  • 1 c old fashioned oats (Quaker)
  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat all-purpose flour (Gold Medal)
  • 1 TSP baking soda
  • 1/2 TSP baking powder
  • 1 TSP salt
  • 1 TSP cinnamon
  • 1 TSP pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 c brown sugar (Trader Joe’s organic)
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1 flax egg (a regular egg will work too)
  • 1 c pure pumpkin (Libby’s)
  • 1 c almond milk (Almond Breeze 40 calorie unsweetened)
  • 1/2 c melted butter (Land o’ Lakes light butter with canola oil)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then pour into a muffin tin lined with muffin cups.

Bake @ 325 degrees until tops are browned and a knife will go into the muffins and come out dry (took between 30-40 minutes for me).

Nutrition stats: 170 calories, 5 g fat, 3 g protein, 31 g carbs

Last night while eating one of these muffins, I watched a highly disturbing episode of my new favorite TV show, My Strange Addiction. It was about a guy who is in an intimate relationship with his car. The best video clip I could find to show just what I’m talking about:

I’m telling you, this show will render you speechless!