Monthly Archives: May 2012

Jujubes (Not the Candy)

One of my favorite things about the Little Italy farmer’s market is that I’m always finding new fruits and veggies I’ve never made myself, eaten before, or even ever heard of. Almost every time I go, I come home with something new to try.

Last weekend, I came across a stand that had fruit called jujubes. No, I’m not talking about the artificial candy.

Also known as the red/Chinese/Korean/Indian date, the dried fruit first caught my eye because of its dark red color. After reading the chart above them that listed all their nutritional benefits, I was curious to try one. High in antioxidants and various vitamins, including vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin B2, jujubes aren’t as sweet and sticky as the typical date. The inside of the fruit is sort of spongy.

Today I sliced some jujubes up and combined them with fennel, an apple, and toasted sliced almonds, for a super healthy salad:

When I took my fennel bulbs out of the fridge, Harley was freaking out trying to eat the wild leafy parts to them. Here’s the best shot I got of her nuttiness:

She cracks me up. Last night when I brought my surprise flowers inside and put them on my kitchen table, she kept sitting near the table, staring at them and whining. She thinks everything is for her (to eat)!

At the farmer’s market, I also got another new fruit I’d never heard of before that was heart-shaped and green:

Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of it. The inside is white with a ton of black seeds, and it tastes really sugary like a mango, but with a uniqueness to it that I can’t really describe:

Anyone know the name of it?? This kind of stuff drives me nuts, so please share if you do!

Need Reasons to Exercise?

Happy Hump Day!

Here are my favorites things today –

Chart of the day:

(source)

Mantra of the day: “Never give up on yourself.” 

Best moment of the day: Coming home from volunteering at the Humane Society and finding flowers on my doorstep from my marine. I haven’t been able to talk to Adam very much lately because of where his squadron is currently at. The communication has been difficult and that at times can be a bummer, so the flowers made me feel better!

Quote of the day: 

Good night!

Quinoa Salad, A Dog Fight, and Dark Chocolate Dreams

Hi friends! My random blog title is reflective of the mood I am in. Ever feel like your brain is going in 10 different directions? Then you get it! Before I get to my tasty quinoa salad dinner, here are some things I must discuss:

#1 – My Memorial Day evening hike turned out to be pretty adventurous, mainly because Harley got attacked by another dog! OK, attacked sounds sort of dramatic since there was no blood shed, but it was a bit scary at the time.

The situation: We were hiking at the toughest part of Kwaay Paay Summit, where it’s super steep and narrow, and came across a guy with his dog. Harley and I stopped a bit away to see how to go about this, as there’s no way that 2 people and 2 dogs can cross each other at this point in the hike. There’s barely room for 1 person really. The guy hopped up on this little ledge off the trail and picked his Pit Bull up and put him on the side as well. So, assuming we were getting the go-ahead, Harley and I started walking up past these hikers.

As we’re passing them, the other dog lunges past its owner and tries to attack Harley. Now, they say not to get in the middle of a dog fight, but realistically, that’s exactly what your gut reaction is… especially when your only other option is to let your dog go tumbling down a mountain with a dog who has probably 20 pounds on her trying to rip her eyeballs out.

If you can imagine it, I was trying to keep my balance on a tiny awkward dirt path while at the same time trying to break up 2 dogs who are going at it. And let me tell you, my sweet little friendly girl turned into ONE CRAZY BITCH! Her teeth were out all crazy, and she was making these horrific noises I’ve never heard her make before.

In the end, the guy regained control of his dog, and I picked up Harley and rushed past them. When I looked down at her after we were in the clear, she was looking at me like, “Let me at him mom, I can take him!” Yes, I know I personify Harley a lot, but seriously, if she could talk she would totally be saying that. 😉

So, although this was the second most scary thing that’s happened with Harley thus far (the first being her literally jumping out of my car window while I was driving one time…), I have to say, I’m kind of proud of her. It made me gain confidence that she’s my protector who would go all crazy ass on someone who tried to hurt me, and not just roll over to have her belly pet. She’s quite the character!

#2- I came across a jar of Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter at the store yesterday… and I’m already obsessed. If you see this at your food store and like PB and chocolate, you must try it!

#3 – If you’d like to check out a great collection of photos from Memorial Day, check out this. It features MDW photos from around the web, including one from my post yesterday.

#4 – I finally picked up the second Hunger Games book and have started reading it. I love it already! Speaking of books, I’m still refusing to read 50 Shades of Grey for now, as I heard the writing style sucks and am not really feeling all the hoopla surrounding the book. Oh Katniss, how I’ve missed you…

#5 – Last but certainly not least, dinner! Inspired from seeing a prepackaged quinoa salad mix yesterday, I whipped one up for dinner tonight. This salad will certainly give you your fill of produce and vitamins! I used a box of a quinoa blend from the brand Near East, which is a mix of quinoa and brown rice. You could always use plain old quinoa too, but I’m a fan of this mix:

Quinoa Salad

Serves 2

  • 1 box of Near East roasted red pepper & basil quinoa/brown rice blend
  • 2/3 c frozen fire roasted corn, thawed
  • 2 fennel bulbs, chopped
  • 1/2 c cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1-2 green onion, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado (2 oz), cut into chunks

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. After you add the spice sack to the pot, add the bell pepper into the mix.

Combine the corn, fennel, tomatoes, green onion, and avocado in a bowl.

Once the quinoa blend is done cooking, remove from heat and stir all the veggies in. Combine well.

This salad will be delish either hot or cold.

Stats per serving: 430 calories, 9 g fat, 12 g protein, 71 g carbs

Off to take Harley for a stroll!

Memorial Day at Fort Rosecrans

Hope you had a wonderful weekend! Mine was awesomely fun and a perfect mix of busy and relaxed.

In honor of Memorial Day, I went to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery today for their 112th memorial service. In the address given by a USMC Lieutenant General, he talked about the significance of Memorial Day. To a lot of people, it’s a glorious extra day off of work to lay by the pool, BBQ, get errands done and so on. Many think of it as the official kick-off to the summer. Though it’s all of these things, first and foremost, it’s a day of remembrance. A day to think about all of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. A day to honor those who have risked their lives serving in our armed forces. I hope that amidst your fun today, you took a second to think about this and be thankful for those men and women. Here are a few photos from the cemetery:

Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Bars

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Chocolate. Banana. Peanut butter. When your morning starts off with these things, you know it’s going to be a good day… but first let me back up to last night.

I had a girls’ night at my friend Jackie’s house, complete with good conversation, sweatpant attire, yummy food, wine, and playing of the game Apples to Apples. I put together a roasted red pepper hummus platter to bring to her house:

Roasted red pepper is my favorite type of hummus, so it only makes sense that I would try making this kind myself. I’m all about hummus these days! It’s really become my go-to appetizer to quickly whip up when having people over or going to a get-together. The recipe differs only a bit from my classic hummus, and I think this is my favorite hummus combo so far:

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Makes 1 cup/8 servings

  • 1 15-oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 TBSP tahini
  • 1 whole garlic clove, peeled
  • 2-3 roasted red peppers, each cut into a few slices
  • About 1/4 TSP dried basil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2-4 TBSP water for thinning out spread

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, and garlic, pulsing until smooth.

Scrape mixture from sides, then add peppers, basil, salt, pepper, and a few TBSPs of water.  Pulse until combined well. Add more water if needed to get desired consistency.

Stats per 2 TBSP: about 50 calories, 2 g fat, 3 g protein, 8 g carbs

This morning, I woke up in the mood to be creative in the kitchen. I had a new energy bar combo on my brain. I started pulling things out from around my kitchen…

And came up with these babies:

I started out thinking I was making energy bars, but wound up with what I think is more of a healthy version of a brownie. No complaints about that here! 🙂

Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Bars

Makes 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 mashed banana
  • 2 scoops (26g) of chocolate protein powder (Designer Whey)
  • 1 c chocolate soy milk (Soy Slender)
  • 1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 c old fashioned oats, dry
  • 1/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c peanut butter
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/4 c semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 TSP salt

Preheat oven to 350. In a food processor, combine peanut butter, banana, honey, salt, and 1/2 c soy milk until smooth.

Add the oats, flour, cocoa powder, protein powder, and rest of milk, and pulse until combined.

Add the chocolate chips and pulse for just a few seconds. If the mix is too dry, you can add a bit of water to thin it out a bit.

Pour the mixture into a greased 13 x 9 pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

Per serving: 200 calories, 8 g fat, 9 g protein, 26 g carbs

When Jackie picked me up today to go explore the downtown farmer’s market, she taste tested and approved of them!

Speaking of the market, I picked up an awesome shirt there:

Actually, Jackie and I each bought one, so one of these days we’ll be cool kids wearing matching I <3 veggies shirts. Oh yeah.

My day so far has also consisted of a long walk with the puppy, yoga, and treating myself to an iced chai tea at my favorite local coffee shop:

Yum. I’ll take supporting local biz over going to Starbucks any day!

Plans for the rest of my day: I’m off to have a Skype date with my marine, then will be getting ready for a night out with my newly engaged friend and some of her girlfriends. This is the first time I’m seeing her since her marine popped the question, so I’m looking forward to hearing all about it. Enjoy your Saturday night!

Sweet Potatoes, How I’ve Missed You

Did you know that it’s National Vegetarian Week? Well, technically only in the UK, but I feel the need to recognize a week that promotes a lifestyle I’ve been embracing for 15 years now, even if it’s not in the US. Shout out to any fellow vegetarian/vegans/veg curious/veggie loving people reading this! [Side note: I think the US has a vegetarian week later in the year.]

My morning just flew by, as I was super productive work-wise and got a lot done earlier in the day. Later in the afternoon, I decided to take a break, get some fresh air, and go for a hike with Harley.  One of the big perks of working from home is the ability to decide I’m going to leave my desk and go hiking at 2 PM! I find that I am way more productive and focused if I take a breaks. I’d rather be working at 8 PM and have taken a break to go walk my dog, run an errand, and/or workout, than work straight through the day. Hey, it works for me 🙂

I was on high alert for snakes during our hike, especially since the trail was pretty empty. Like a total creep, I kept thinking that if I got bit by one, no one was around to help me out. Harley kept trying to run into bushes for some reason, which only fueled my slight paranoia. But, luckily no snake sightings today!

Harley does this thing nowadays where she’ll refuse to look at me if I’m pointing a camera or phone at her. I was trying to capture her tongue out, exhausted, happy puppy face in the car on the way back, but she wasn’t having it:

What a little stinker.

Dinner

While surveying what to eat tonight, I noticed I had half a sweet potato leftover from making chickpea sweet potato burgers.  I suddenly remembered my love for them. During college I ate baked sweet potatoes all the time, but I haven’t really made them lately because my farmer’s market doesn’t ever carry them. Tonight I ate my sweet potato with leftover kale & ricotta ravioli. I dressed it up with a touch of butter, syrup, cinnamon, and chopped pecans:

YUM. 

Why sweet potatoes are awesome: They’re a good source of Vitamin A & C, calcium, potassium, fiber and iron. Frequently referred to as a superfood, sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, which is thought to help lower your risk of heart disease, fight cataracts and prevent cancer. The veggie is also believed to regulate blood sugar in those with diabetes. Not to knock em, but sweet potatoes are way better for you than white potatoes, calorically and in numerous other ways nutritionally speaking.

Now that I’ve rekindled my baked sweet potato love, I’m definitely going to be eating them more often!

Eating Pizza Before Noon

Today I ate breakfast early due to a conference call first thing this AM. Because of this, I found my stomach growling around 11 AM for lunch. I had pizza on my brain… and not just any pizza, leftovers from a new pizza recipe I came up with last weekend!

Instead of using tomato sauce as I usually do, I came up with a healthy pesto to spread onto the dough. Though I’m a big cheese lover, I let veggies take the center stage with this tasty pizza.

Veggie, Goat Cheese & Arugula Pesto Pizza

Makes 8 slices

Ingredients:

  • 1 ready to bake whole wheat pizza dough (I use Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 c arugula
  • 1/4 c fresh basil
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 3 oz goat cheese
  • 1 c zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 c cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 c purple cabbage, shredded
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 TBSP water
  • salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Roll out your dough on a flour-dusted surface with a rolling pan. Place on a pizza pan (I lightly spray mine with cooking spray beforehand).

In a food processor, combine arugula, basil, garlic cloves, lemon juice, oil, the water, and a pinch of salt & pepper. Pulse until a thin paste forms, then spread onto the pizza crust using a butter knife or spoon.

Evenly place zucchini, tomatoes, and cabbage onto the pizza. If you’re using creamy goat cheese as I did, spoon bite-sized chunks onto the pizza. If you’re using crumbles, simply sprinkle them evenly on top.

Lightly season salt & pepper on top, then pop into the oven until lightly browned, around 15 minutes.

Per slice: 190 calories, 8 g fat, 7 g protein, 27 g carbs

Where I was on this day… 

Sometimes when I realize the date, I start thinking about what I was doing on that day in past years. Today is the wedding anniversary of my brother and sister-in-law. Here are a few pictures from 3 years ago today:

with the lovely bride

Adam (my then boyfriend) and me

with my family

with my mama

The biggest changes since then: Adam and I were just dating. I obviously didn’t know it at the time, but he had already bought a ring and was just waiting for the right time to pop the question. 🙂 I had just finished my degree, and was still living in Jersey. I’m now a military wife, public relations professional, and mother to a very spoiled dog living in California. Plus we welcomed a new addition to my family last year, and I now have a little munchkin of a nephew. So much can happen in 3 years!!

Question: Do you ever think of what you were doing on that date in past years? 

Off to volunteer at the Humane Society!

Chickpea & Sweet Potato Burgers

Tonight I decided to ditch my typical weeknight routine and head to the dog beach with Harley. She obviously had a blast and is now passed out laying on my leg. Oh, it’s a rough life for my spoiled puppy!

Harley will run up and try to say hi to almost anybody, but at the beach, her favorite people are surfers. I think she has a special affinity for them because Adam’s a surfer. I swear, every time she runs up to one, she’s looking at the guy like, “Is that you dad?!”

my surfing hubby

Onto this week’s edition of “what this vegetarian ate today”…

Breakfast: cottage cheese, blueberries, &  Cascadian Farm dark chocolate almond granola

Lunch: a chickpea & sweet potato burger with dilly cucumbers

I spotted this recipe in Self magazine’s April issue and decided to give it a try.  I halved this super healthy burger recipe of theirs and made minimal changes to the original.

Chickpea & Sweet Potato Burgers with Dilly Cucumbers

Makes 2 burgers

What you need:

  • 1/2 c dried chickpeas
  • 2 TSP olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 1.5 TBSP tahini
  • A dash of black pepper
  • 1/8 TSP baking powder
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 sweet potato, peeled and grated
  • A slice of red onion, cut into thin slices
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh dill
  • 1 TBSP rice vinegar

Soak chickpeas in a bowl of water for 12-24 hours. Drain well.

Heat oven to 375. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse chickpeas, tahini, pepper, baking powder, and 1/4 TSP salt. Scrap down sides as necessary and pulse until mixture holds together.

Transfer to a bowl, then stir in sweet potato and combine well.

Form 2 burgers and place on baking sheet. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine cucumber, onion, dill, vinegar, and remaining 1/4 TSP salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Remove foil and brush top sides of burgers with 1 TSP olive oil. Throw back in the oven until crisp and golden underneath, 15-20 minutes.

Flip burgers, then coat other side of burgers with remaining 1 TSP olive oil. Bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Serve with dilly cucumbers. I enjoyed mine with ketchup, and think that next time I’ll eat it on a whole grain bun.

Stats per burger with 1/2 of cucumbers: 270 calories, 13 g fat, 11 g protein, 41 g carbs

Pre-Workout Snack: a chocolate strawberry protein shake, which included 1/2 scoop Designer Whey chocolate protein powder, a cup of chocolate soy milk, 1 cup of frozen strawberries, & 1 TBSP of cocoa powder

Dinner: Japanese noodles with peanut butter sauce & broccoli . I love this recipe!

Nighttime Snack: sesame pretzel crisps with avocado hummus

I’m exhausted, good night!

Minimizing Muscle Soreness

This morning when I got out of bed, my first thought was ouchhhhh, what workout did I do yesterday? 

(source)

The answer to that is NONE! I had taken yesterday off from exercising since I worked out every day last week, and knew I could use a rest day. The delayed onset muscle soreness (48 hours+ delayed) I’m experiencing is from my workout on Saturday, where I did some weight training exercises I haven’t done in awhile. Typically when I’m sore 2 days after a workout, I’ll first feel some aches the day after, but for some reason, that wasn’t the case this time.

I sort of have a love/hate relationship with muscle soreness. Obviously it’s not fun to have a hard time lifting my arms above my head (yes, that’s happening right now), but at the same time, it makes me feel like my workouts are challenging my muscles and making me stronger. I find myself sore pretty often because I’m constantly switching up my exercise routine.

The interesting thing about muscle soreness is that we don’t know a whole lot about it. There’s been an ongoing debate about both the cause and treatment of delayed onset muscle soreness. Though it was once believed to be caused by a buildup of lactic acid during an intense workout, we now know soreness occurs because of microscopic tears in muscle fibers and connective tissue, and is part of the adaptation process that leads to greater muscle strength and stamina.

Though I’m not an expert (and just admitted to feeling sore a lot!), there are some things I do often that I feel minimize the amount of muscle soreness I experience:

  • Always warmup – I start my workouts with 5 minutes of cardio and some dynamic stretching (such as arm circles) to get my muscles warmed up before jumping into intense exercises.
  • Eat post workout – I make sure to eat within an hour or exercising. I’ll have at least 15 g protein to help repair and rebuild my muscles, and also eat some carbs to boost my insulin levels (thus, helping my body to more efficiently utilize the amino acids from the protein I’m eating).
  • Ice, ice, ice! I’m constantly icing muscles post-workout (especially my nagging calf injury) and really believe in the power of icing to help with the amount of soreness I feel.
  • Stretching – It’s controversial if stretching actually helps with muscle soreness, but I do it after every workout. It can’t do any harm and feels great to stretch out after a hard workout.

Ok… maybe not that kind of stretching!

  • Rest, but don’t rest too much. The day after an intense workout, sometimes I’ll give myself a complete rest day. But then the day after that, I get back to it, even if I’m still sore. Other times I’ll do some low-impact aerobic exercise the following day, like a long walk with my dog, the elliptical, or my favorite sore muscle workout, yoga. Low intensity exercise increases blood flow and diminishes muscle soreness. So, even if you’re tempted to curl up in a ball in pain and not move for days, your body will feel better if you get moving.
  • Treat yourself to some heat or a rubdown. Getting in a hot tub, sauna, or hot bath is also thought to increase blood flow to your muscles. Better yet, a massage does that too. Unfortunately, with my marine deployed, I don’t have anyone to nag to massage my achy muscles! I’m not able to get a massage every time I have muscle soreness (though I wish I did), but it certainly makes me feel better when I do.
Because it was only my upper body that was feeling sore today, I skipped the weight training and was all about the cardio, setting a new max on the spin bike – 25 miles in 75 minutes 🙂 Here’s to hoping my butt and legs aren’t sore tomorrow! Off to get out my ice pack…

Kale & Ricotta Ravioli

Hi there!

My Sunday shaped up to be a pretty good one. I spent the morning taking Harley for a long walk and cleaning my place. This afternoon I had a much needed date with my friend Jackie, where we had lunch together and got our nails done. Then the highlight of my evening was making this fabulousness…

I’m just not a big kale fan. Kale chips? Bleh. Sautéing it with garlic and oil? No thanks. But knowing that it’s such a big superfood, I wanted to find a way to somehow like it.

A quick overview about why kale is a superfood: Recognized as a protector of many kinds of cancer, kale boasts high amounts of heart-healthy antioxidants, fiber, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, lutein and potassium. Over 45 different flavonoids have been identified in kale, offering a variety of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. See why I want to make myself enjoy eating it?

As a big carb lover, I decided that if I didn’t like kale stuffed in ravioli, I’m never going to like it in any way, shape or form. Well my friends, it’s safe to say that I have found a way to thoroughly enjoy kale! This is also the first time that I’ve ever made homemade ravioli, and I’m convinced  it might be my new obsession. I’m already eyeing the sweet potatoes in my kitchen and thinking of creating a ravioli recipe with them. Oh the ravioli possibilities! But I digress…

Kale & Ricotta Ravioli

Adapted from Skinny Bitch 

Makes 20 ravioli/4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 c finely chopped kale, with hard spine removed
  • 1 c finely chopped purple cabbage
  • 3 TBSP grapeseed oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 shallot clove, minced
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 20 wonton wraps (I used Nasoya brand)
  • 1 c light ricotta cheese
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 c water

Heat 1 TBSP of the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the kale, cabbage, garlic, green onion, and shallot, and cook for 5 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Add ricotta, salt, and pepper, and mix everything together well. 

Place a spoonful of the kale mixture in the center of each wonton wrapper. Fold the wraps in half, then seal the edges with moistened fingers.

Heat 1 TBSP of the oil in the same pan over medium heat. Add 10 ravioli to the pan and cook on both sides until lightly browned, 1-2 minutes on each side. Add 1/4 c water, cover, and steam until the water has evaporated (about 4 minutes). Keep a close eye and promptly remove ravioli from pan once water is evaporated, to prevent them from sticking to the pan. Repeat this process once more.

Top ravioli with butter, or enjoy them plain in all their yummy glory.

Stats per serving: 275 calories, 13 g fat, 10 g protein, 27 g carbs

I’m so happy I have leftovers!