Monthly Archives: April 2012

Delightful Date Truffles

After I eat dinner, I tend crave a little something sweet. Lately I’ve been having some raisins, a piece of hard candy, or a few dates to satisfy my sweet tooth. They say that fruit is nature’s candy, and dates are the epitome of a fruit full of nutrient-rich sweetness. This is obviously why I love them.

While recently browsing through one of my cookbooks, The Vegan Table, I spotted a recipe for date truffles. When I saw that they were described as a lighter treat after a meal, I knew these would be a perfect little snack for me to have around as my post-dinner sweet fix.

Delightful Date Truffles 

Makes 10

Ingredients:

  •  1/2 c raw almonds
  • 10 large dates (pitted)
  • 1/2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for rolling truffles in
  • Zest from 1/2 orange
  • 1 TBSP agave nectar
  • 1/4 TSP ground cinnamon
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg
  • A pinch of salt

Grind almonds in a food processor until fine. Add dates, cocoa powder, orange zest, agave nectar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and process until mixture forms a thick ball. (You can add more agave if mixture doesn’t stick together.)

Form 10 balls out of mixture, then roll each truffle in cocoa powder. I also think they’d be yummy dipped in melted chocolate, which I might have to try next time!

Nutrition stats per truffle: 65 calories, 3 g fat, 1 g protein, 9 g carbs

Random fact about dates: The fruit has been cultivated in the Middle East since 4000 B.C., but nowadays, 2/3 of the dates Americans buy come from the California and Arizona deserts.

My Weekend in Photos

As this weekend draws to a close, I have to say that I had a lot of fun these past few days. The highlights were getting to see some great live music on Friday, and spending time hanging out in Balboa Park in gorgeous weather yesterday. Here is a picture recap, with a few food shots thrown in (obviously):

portobello mushroom stuffed with spinach & artichoke dip and cherry tomatoes

Awesome Dave Matthews cover band, Stepping Feet, performing at a bar in Solana Beach

My Saturday night dinner: tortilla chips, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and shredded Mexican cheese. A yummy treat!

Definitely the craziest car I've ever seen...

Best smoothie of the weekend: V8 fusion light juice, frozen banana, strawberries, and vanilla protein powder

Date truffles - recipe to come!

Quote for the week: “Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?” 

Friday Morning Hike at Cowles Mountain

As you may have noticed in my posts, I hike pretty often with Harley. I think it’s a great way to spend time outside and get some exercise in for the both of us. Earlier today, I decided to try hiking a mountain we had never been to before, called Cowles Mountain. It took us about 1 hour and 20 minutes round trip to hike 3 miles, with the highest point being 1,591′ above sea level. I’ve heard that it’s one of the busiest trails in San Diego, and I can definitely see why. As soon as you begin climbing the mountain, this is the view:

PROS: Compared to the other mountain we usually hike (which is also part of the same huge regional park, Mission Trails), Cowles was interesting in that it was sort of like a maze, with the trails weaving up the mountain. The hike Harley and I frequent just goes straight upwards, so I found it neat that as we were hiking up, we could see people at different points in front of us making their way up or down. Check out the specks of people:

Another pro of Cowles Mountain is the gorgeous views, especially from the top:

CONS: One downfall of hiking there is how crowded it is. Being that there were a lot of hikers there on a Friday AM, I’m sure it gets crazy packed on the weekends. Having a overly excitable puppy with tons of people around isn’t as relaxing of a hike as being able to walk with Harley on less populated trails.

A [probably purely coincidental] con is that this morning, people didn’t seem as dog friendly as on the other mountain we typically hike.

How you can see this smiling puppy’s face and not smile back or appease her and say ‘hi’ for 2 seconds is beyond my comprehension, but moving on…

Why do I just keep saying “our usual mountain” instead of naming the hike? Because I do not know the name of it and actually thought we had been hiking Cowles Mountain all this time! A random dog owner informed me of this yesterday. Whoopsies, I’m so observant! After some Googling research, I’m pretty sure the hike we usually do is called Kwaay Paay Trail and Summit.

Overall, I really liked Cowles Mountain. It was a good workout, though it didn’t seem quite as challenging or steep of a hike as Kwaay Pay. Hiking that trail, I feel as though I’m going to fall and bust my butt way more than I did today, which oddly enough, I think I like better than feeling more steady! I think I’d like to be more adventurous with our hikes and try going to different mountains in the area more often.

Post hike, I enjoyed a mini watermelon smoothie with the rest of the melon I had leftover from yesterday, whole wheat toast, Trader Joe’s Stilton cheese with apricots (OMG – it’s amazing!), and a chopped apple with sprinkled cinnamon.

The rest of my day is going to be spent getting some work done, heading to the gym, and going out tonight with a girlfriend. Hope your weekend starts off wonderfully!

Strawberry Watermelon Smoothie

When I blogged about my favorite eats & drinks on my recent vacation to Thailand, I gushed about all the fresh fruit I ate. My favorites were watermelon and pineapple, both of which are so refreshing on a hot day (which I needed since it was 100 and humid there!).

The only thing more thirst-quenching than plain old fruit is a fruit smoothie, which I also had in abundance on my vacay. My favorite flavor was watermelon. They tasted simple and delicious, like there weren’t added sugars or anything else. I made a mental note to try making a watermelon smoothie in the near future when I was home, and today, I did just that.

watermelon-smoothie-1

This 3-ingredient smoothie is my new favorite ridiculously easy thing to make! I love that it’s fitting as a small meal (it was my breakfast this AM), snack, or dessert. The best part is that it packs a fantastic 4 servings of fruit.

watermelon smoothie

Strawberry Watermelon Smoothie
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 smoothie
 
Ingredients
  • 3 cups of cold chopped watermelon
  • 1 cup of frozen strawberries
  • A pinch of Stevia or other sweetener (About ¼ TSP)
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, pulse until well combined... and enjoy!
Nutrition Information
Calories: 190 calories Fat: 0 g, Carbohydrates: 49 g, Protein: 4 g

 

Talking about Thailand is making me nostalgic, wishing I was laying on the beach there hanging out with my hubby right now…

Whew, that vacation was amazing…. Off to dream about traveling!

Ballet Boot Camp + Strawberry Arugula Salad

Happy Hump Day!

This evening I volunteered at the Humane Society and got to play with puppies like this cutie:

Because I had a full day of work to do and knew I wanted to make it to volunteering, I squeezed in a workout at home today. I’ve been wanting to try a barre workout, and I keep seeing The Barre Method studios popping up around here, but I just haven’t made it to a class yet. Today I tried a Ballet Boot Camp Challenge workout I found in Prevention magazine. The article claims the workout is so effective because: “It strengthens your deepest belly muscles, pulling in your waist like a corset, while lifting your butt, trimming your thighs, and toning your arms. It also whips into shape your perfect-posture muscles, so you’ll strand straighter after a single session.” Sounds good to me!

If you’re interested in trying it out, you can find the workout I did here. I warmed up with 5 minutes of cardio, where I did jumping jacks, skaters, mountain climbers, and jogged in place. Next I did all the exercises in the workout, followed by a few sets of pushups, and finishing up with a few minutes of stretching. This workout took about half an hour, and although it wasn’t a heart pounding type of sweat sess, I definitely felt like it was a good toning routine. Plus, I felt sort of graceful and ballerina-ish doing it! 😉

Someone obviously took out a bunch of her toys and was in the middle of my exercising. As soon as I put my dumbbells down, she laid her tennis ball on top of them, naturally…

Good Eats of the Day 

I always love me a big, flavorful salad. Today I threw together one, and chomped on it while I worked for at least a good half an hour:

Strawberry Arugula Salad

  • A couple large handfuls of arugula
  • 1 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 2 TBSP of slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 TBSP [blackberry] balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt

Nutrition stats: 290 calories, 21 g fat, 11 g protein, 20 g carbs

Off to relax a bit, good night!

Peanut and Broccoli Pasta & A Pizza Combo for One

Today’s Fitness Highlight

A lot of the time for the cardio portion of my workout at the gym, I cycle on a spin bike. My gym just got new spinners that are more high tech than the old ones, telling you how far you’ve cycled, how many calories you’ve burned, etc. I took advantage of this new training tool and instead of biking for a specific amount of time today, I set a distance goal… and I spinned 15 miles with the resistance set at a decently high gear. Go me!

Food

In case you don’t know, I’m crazy about fruit. My usual fruit staples include berries, bananas, apples, mangoes, and kiwis (and I suppose avocado is technically a fruit, and one that I eat often!), along with others that I will randomly buy in season.

I’m also a veggie fan (It only makes sense, as I am a vegetarian!), but I don’t eat them as often as fruits. I gravitate towards combining fruits with so many of the foods I tend to eat all the time – yogurt, cereal, smoothies, with peanut butter, you name it. In fact, sometimes the only time I eat vegetables is at dinner. In an effort to up my veggie intake when I feel like it’s lacking, I make sure to include some in my breakfast or lunch. When I realized that yesterday the only veggie I ate was corn in a tofu wrap (Unless salsa counts? Anyone?), I wanted to amp up my veggie count today. This afternoon for lunch, I did just that with some fresh broccoli. I had leftover Japanese noodles from my creation a few days ago, and came up with a super yummy combo. Luckily I have one more serving of noodles left, so I have a feeling that I will soon repeat this exact meal:

Peanut Pasta with Broccoli 

  • 1 cup of Japanese noodles (or 2 oz angel hair pasta will work), cooked
  • 1 cup of fresh broccoli, chopped
  • 1 TSP roasted sesame seeds
  • 1 TBSP seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 TSP soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP peanut butter

Steam broccoli in a small pot (with a few inches of water at the bottom) and let it cook for a few minutes under tender. Meanwhile, combine peanut butter, rice vinegar, and soy sauce in a small bowl.

Once broccoli is done cooking, take the veggies and strainer out of the pot. Scoop out 2-4 TBSP of the water used to steam the broccoli (depending on how saucy you want your pasta to be), and pour it into the bowl with the peanut butter mix. Whisk until everything is combined.

Combine broccoli with noodles, add sesame seeds, and pour sauce on top.

Nutrition Facts: 390 calories, 11 g fat, 16 g protein, 62 g carbs

To continue my goal of eating a good amount of veggies today, my (so delicious!) dinner also included some greens:

Arugula, Feta, & Cherry Tomato Mini Pizza

  • 1 whole wheat pocket bread (The brand I use is Goglanian’s. I also know that Whole Foods has em.)
  • 1 large handful of wild arugula
  • 1.5 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 TSP avocado oil
  • 1 TSP [blackberry] balsamic vinegar
  • Mixed up salt & pepper

First, I threw the pocket bread in the toaster to make it nice and crispy. Meanwhile, I sliced my tomatoes.

Once your “dough” is done toasting, top with arugula, cheese, and tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle oil and vinegar on top.

Nutrition Stats: 330 calories, 14 g fat, 17 g protein, 41 g carbs

I’ll leave you with a picture of probably the best part of Harley’s day – getting to lick the bottom of the peanut butter jar! I’m such a nice mom.

Surprising Reasons Your Diet’s Not Working

I just read an article in the April issue of Prevention magazine about the unexpected reasons why you might not be able to drop those extra pounds. I found it interesting, and am sharing the main points (and my own 2 cents!) because I think you will too:

7 Common Mistakes that Dieters Make 

#1 – You aren’t eating enough: Dipping below 1,200 calories a day and/or skipping meals causes your metabolism to slow in order to hold on to precious calories. You may need to bump up your calorie intake to stoke metabolism.

#2- You celebrate your workout accomplishments…with food: A lot of times people overestimate how many calories they burn during a workout, and underestimate how much they’re eating. Rewarding yourself for exercising by eating a high-calorie treat doesn’t add up to weight loss. I don’t really do this, but if you’re like me, you sometimes get home from a workout feeling famished. That’s why I think it’s important to plan out your meals. That way, you know exactly what you need to do to make a healthy meal once you get home… without staring into the cabinet or fridge for 10 minutes trying to figure out what to eat while scarfing down handfuls of cereal and unconsciously taking in too many calories (I’m guilty of this on more than one occasion!).

#3 – You slurp diet drinks: Now that artificial sweeteners have been on the market long enough for researchers to do long-term studies, the dark suspicion about them is starting to be confirmed… diet drinks may backfire and cause your body to hold on to calories as fat. Here’s how it seems to work: the taste of something sweet without the calories can actually raise your insulin levels and lower your blood sugar, which may stimulate hunger and move existing calories into storage in your fat cells. Although it’s probably best to totally avoid artificial sweeteners for this reason, it might not seem realistic to a lot of people (I definitely know a bunch of Diet Coke fanatics!), especially since they’re in so many foods and beverages these days. With this one, I think the key is to at least try to limit your intake and enjoy sweeteners in moderation.

#4- Your friends are fat: With every friend in your network who is obese, your chances of being heavy increases. This may be because being around overweight people causes your perceptions to change, and makes living larger seem more acceptable. It may also be partly due to a person’s lifestyle and behaviors subconsciously rubbing off on those in their inner circle. As my father says, you get like who you hang with. If you surround yourself with people who are active and eat healthy, you’ll be more motivated to live the same way.

#5- You’ve eliminated wine: (I think this is my favorite reason!) New research found that women who drank 1-2 glasses of wine daily gained less weight over 13 years, compared to those who did not drink alcohol. I’m curious to know more details about this research – how many women was the study conducted on? What about all the other decisions the women made throughout those years? How did other behaviors and choices affect their lifestyle and weight loss/gain? Oh hell, I’ll just take this one as golden and enjoy a glass of wine often. 🙂

#6- Your diet isn’t digitally enhanced: Simply writing down everything you eat has been proven to yield better results. But did you know that studies have shown that using a digitized program with positive feedback to monitor diet and exercise can help you lose even more? My app. of choice is MyFitnessPal.

#7- You’ve gone no-carb or fat-free: Drastically cutting back on any one food group – does the low-carb trend ring a bell? – can leave you short on nutrients and energy. While it might work as a short-term fix, the biggest reason low-carb diets fail is because most people can’t pass up birthday cake or a slice of pizza their entire lives, and so they tend to regain all of the weight back. Ideally, you should be eating a varied diet that includes healthy fats (hello avocado! nuts! dark chocolate!) and good carbs such as fruits and veggies. The biggest way to succeed is to make your diet a lifestyle. I think the only way to do that is to not be too extreme, and to be able to treat yourself sometimes (and hopefully allow yourself to do that without feeling guilty afterwards!).

The Perfect Sunday Dinner: Veggie Chili & Corn Muffins

Weekend Recap 

Yesterday I got to see my awesome friend Angi at her baby shower. I met her when I first moved out to San Diego, and she became my partner in crime when our Marines were deployed together. Last year her and her hubby moved to Arizona and I miss her horribly! It was great seeing her and getting to catch up a bit (and inappropriately touch her baby bump more than once!).

Did you know that it’s National Park Week?

Harley and I went for a long hike this afternoon at our nearby regional park. Usually it’s pretty busy there on a Sunday, but today, there was barely anyone around. Kind of nice, slightly creepy. My legs are still sore from my workout last Friday, and they were feeling seriously fatigued a bit into our hike. But we made it to the top! The puppy seemed pretty pooped (but happy) by the time we got up there:

awesome shadow shot!

I even saw a hummingbird on my way down the mountain. The best pic my iPhone could get:

Onto food… 

This evening I made a hearty & healthy meal that seemed perfect for a Sunday dinner – homemade chili and corn muffins! I mixed the cornbread batter up first, threw it in the oven, and then made the chili while the muffins were cooking.

Veggie Chili, adapted from this recipe for Insanely Easy Vegetarian Chili

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped 
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • A few TBSPs of water to sauté veggies
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, sliced
  • 2 c of Morning Star Grillers recipe veggie crumbles
  • 1 TSP chili powder
  • 1 15-oz can of whole peeled plum tomatoes, with liquid, chopped
  • 1 15-oz can of kidney beans with liquid
  • 1 c whole kernel corn (I used canned)
  • Vegetable stock to thin out mixture, optional (I used 1/2 cup)
  • Pepper, oregano, dried basil to taste

In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute onions, carrots, and garlic in a bit of water until tender. Add in bell peppers, celery,  and chili powder, and cook for a few minutes until tender.

Stir in tomatoes, beans, “meat” crumbles and corn. Add vegetable stock if you’d like, then season with pepper, oregano, and dried basil. Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Nutrition stats: 230 calories, 3 g fat, 16 g protein, 42 g carbs

To eat with my chili, I made the cornbread recipe from The Kind Diet. This cookbook has been getting some use lately! I made a few substitutions to the original recipe. One thing to note: the cookbook said to bake for around 25-30 minutes. When I checked on the muffins after 15 minutes, this is what they looked like:

Whoopsies. They were a little bit on the “well done” side, but still tasted yummy! Funny enough, the recipe notes that you shouldn’t peek on the muffins until the end of the recommended cooking time… well it’s a good thing I did! I think it had less to do with my subbing ingredients and more to do with my nutty oven. Nonetheless, I really like how they turned out a bit on the sweeter side, and they’re crazy easy to make.

Corn Muffins

Makes 6

What you need:

  • 1/4 c molasses
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 1/2 c unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 TBSP safflower oil
  • 3/4 c cornmeal
  • 1/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 TSP baking soda
  • 1/4 TSP salt

Preheat the oven to 400. Line muffin tin with 6 muffin cups.

Combine the molasses, syrup, milk, and oil in a medium bowl. In another bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry mix to the wet mix, and stir just until well combined.

Pour the batter into the muffin cups evenly, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean (for me, this would have been probably about 12 minutes, in the cookbook they recommend 25-30 mins).

Facts per muffin: 175 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g protein, 31 g carbs

Japanese Noodle Bowl

Up until recently, I had never made an Asian dish that I totally loved. Though I think I’m a pretty good cook, Asian food just isn’t my specialty. I think it has to do with the fact that I tend to eat other types of cuisine a lot more often. But this might be one of those situations where practice makes perfect (or at least better!), because lately I’ve been making Asian food more often, and perhaps not so coincidentally, I think I’m getting kind of good at just throwing together these kinds of meals on the fly.

When I spotted fresh Japanese style noodles at the food store earlier, I couldn’t resist getting them to try out. Paired with some tofu and veggies, including superfood soybeans, it quickly turned into a [delicious] Japanese noodle bowl dinner:

Japanese Noodle Bowl for 1 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Japanese style noodles
  • 3 oz extra firm tofu, cut into chunks
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1/4 cucumber, chopped
  • 1/3 c shelled edamame (I used frozen)
  • a chunk of fresh ginger (about 1 inch thick), grated or thinly sliced
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • salt, pepper, & garlic powder

Cook edamame according to directions. Boil a pot of water and cook noodles as directed.

Add tofu, ginger, and rice wine vinegar to a saucepan over medium heat. Let cook for a few minutes, then add in carrot and cucumber. Remove from heat.

Add in edamame to the tofu mixture, then stir noodles in. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Add soy sauce and mix well.

Nutrition stats: 400 calories, 7 g fat, 23 g protein, 65 g carbs

Happy weekend to you!

My Favorite Ways to Eat Avocado

Avocados are a good source of a slew of nutrients, including vitamin C, K, B6, folate, fiber and potassium. Though they contain some fat, that’s no reason to shy away from them – especially since it’s the heart-healthy unsaturated kind! The state I live in happens to be the biggest U.S. producer of the fruit, hence why I’m able to buy them locally to enjoy all the time.

My grandma just asked me how I usually eat avocado. She’s been eating them plain because she isn’t sure what else to do with them. My response was, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll blog about it!’ 😉

So here goes, here are my favorite ways to incorporate avocado into my diet:

#1 – In Salads:  I love eating a caprese salad with avocado , as pictured above. If I’m making a Mexican salad, I like to use avocado as part of my dressing by mashing up 1/2 of one with light sour cream, salsa, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Yum.

#2 –  Classic Guac: Sometimes I’ll make a super easy and light guacamole to eat with carrots, pita chips, celery or tortilla chips. All I do is mash an avocado in a bowl, add chopped red onion, squeeze some lemon juice in, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add a touch of olive oil.

#3 –  With Grains & Veggies:  To throw a quick meal together, I often make brown rice with tomato and red pepper. If I have avocado around, I’ll add that to the mix as well. Also pictured above is couscous with cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, sesame seeds and sliced avocado.

#4- In Grilled Cheese: I’ve talked about my love for grilled cheese with tomato and avocado before. So. damn. good.

#5 – In Wraps: Avocado is also a great addition to wraps. Shown above is a whole grain wrap with hummus, black beans, cherry tomatoes, roasted red pepper, lettuce and avocado. This wrap combo is a great lunch because it packs in the produce and is light yet filling.

#6 – In a Fruit Salad: I love to chop up some avocado with apple, mango, fresh basil, and lemon juice – what I call fruity guac. It’s great with some crackers or toast, or as a side with cheese quesadillas. Speaking of quesadillas, I throw avocado into those all the time too!

What’s your favorite way to eat avocado?