Monthly Archives: June 2012

Baked Acorn Squash & Apple Chips

Happy Friday!

I’ve skipped a few weekly “what this vegetarian ate today” postings, but I’m bringing it back to answer the all too familiar question, “So exactly what do you eat?”.

My breakfast was cottage cheese + cantaloupe + almonds:

For lunch, I ate whole wheat toast + sliced banana + cinnamon peanut butter + sprinkled cinnamon:

Speaking of peanut butter, I have a very important question (I’m being only partly sarcastic). Does anyone else think that peanut butter tastes very different from brand to brand? This is the kind of thing I say that makes my hubby think I’m crazy (his taste buds are DULL, while mine are the opposite), but while I was at my parents’ house last week, I ate banana with Jiffy peanut butter and wasn’t a fan. I can even tell a difference between my store brand of choice’s regular version and reduced fat. The latter tastes better to me. Peter Pan reduced fat all the way baby!

Moving on, my mid-afternoon snack was a strawberry banana Chobani:

Right before I went to the gym, I felt a bit hungry and decided to have another snack – a peanut pretzel granola bar:

Dinner tonight was packed with produce, just how I like it. I tried out making acorn squash and apple chips:

It’s super easy! Here’s all you need:

Serves 2

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 apples
  • 2 TSP brown sugar
  • cinnamon

After preheating the oven to 375, I sliced the apples and squash widthwise. I placed the slices on 2 baking sheets coated with cooking spray, and sprinkled cinnamon and sugar evenly over top of them…

…and baked them for about 20 minutes.

I ate my veggie & fruit chips with 1/2 an ear of corn and a Mexican cheese + cherry tomato + whole grain wrap quesadilla:

Lastly, my nighttime snack was some Special K cracker chips:

Off to relax for the rest of the night!

My Favorite Yoga Poses

“Yoga is so universal in its principles and so holistically beneficial, it is possible for any person, young or old, religious or agnostic, to embrace and enjoy a practice.” – Christy Turlington

Ever since I can remember, my grandpa has been a yoga instructor. I used to participate in his classes when I was younger. But as I entered my teen years, I remember thinking that yoga was too boring and slow for my liking. In recent years, I’ve discovered more challenging forms of yoga that are more my style because they have me breaking a sweat, while making me feel long and limber.

I now do yoga a few times a week, and love to practice it on days when I’m feeling sore from my more hardcore workouts. I also enjoy doing a bit of yoga when I wake up feeling sore and stiff, and will do anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes of poses, depending on what I have time for.

The best part about yoga is that it’s meant to be a practice where you embrace your journey in progressing and becoming more flexible, balanced and strong. I usually rep most of the poses out to get my heart rate up a bit, holding the position at the end for a good 15 seconds or so. Here are some of my current favorite yoga poses:

Tree Pose is a good one to start with:

(via)

I always do a bunch of Sun Salutations:

(via)

Camel Pose feels great when I’ve got a sore back:

(via)

I like doing reps of Chair Pose to wake my legs up: 

(via)

Dancer Pose is fun for balance and flexibility:

(via)

I tend to throw some Reverse Triangles in in the midst of my Sun Salutations:

(via)

A fitting name I think, the Warrior 2 pose makes me feel strong and is tough to hold if I have super sore legs:

(via)

And lastly, Warrior 3 is all about concentrating on balancing:

I did some of these poses this morning after I awoke with a funny soreness on the right side of my neck and shoulder for the second day in a row. I felt better initially, but a few hours later, was experiencing a shooting pain from the top of my neck to my shoulder blade whenever I turned my head. It was distracting me from working, and I wound up getting a massage this afternoon in hopes of ironing it out a bit. After cringing in hurts-so-good kind of pain during my hour massage, the area now feels a little better and isn’t quite as tight. I rested it today by doing a strictly lower body workout of cycling 20 miles, and am off to ice it now. Fingers crossed that my tweaking muscles will resolve themselves quickly! 😉

We’re an Animal Crazy Bunch

“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Last week while I was back in my hometown in NJ, for some reason I was thinking a lot about humans beings’ relationships with animals. If you’ve read this blog before, you can probably tell how big of an animal lover I am. I’m the girl who feeds stray cats in my neighborhood; who almost hit a dog with my car once, then took him home with me for days while looking for his owner. I’ve always had a big heart for animals. Spend about 30 seconds in my parents’ home, and you can see where my love for animals originated…

There’s Rosco, our 12-year old dog that we adopted after he was found as a puppy in a drain pipe:

My favorite cat Molly…

…who was the tiniest little fur ball when we got her, weighing in at 1 pound:

Adam hanging with Molly

Beau, the kitty whose had a chronic upper respiratory infection since my family got him a few years ago (despite tons of meds and vet visits). The poor guy constantly walks around sniffling and sneezing:

The newest addition, my sister’s bearded dragon Zazoo:

The cat who we all believe has a serious psychological disorder, Sophie:

And then there’s one more cat who I can’t find a photo of. We call him LT, which stands for Little Tiger, because he looks and acts like a tiger.

Each of the animals have their quirks, but we love them just the same. My family sees its pets as part of the family. That’s why when I hear horrendous stories of people harming animals, or even people just treating their animals more like possessions than living creatures, I have a hard time fathoming it. I think that a big part of my adoration for animals is something I learned growing up, but part of me also believes that I was just born with an innate feeling to love them. How else can I explain why I was adamant on becoming a vegetarian at age 10 while everyone surrounding me was (and still is) a meat-eater?

Question: In the debate of nature verses nurture, which one plays a larger role in a person’s like/dislike for animals? 

I believe that overall, the environment you grow up in is the biggest determinant of your attitude towards animals and their worth. I think that as a general rule of thumb, people who grow up in homes where animals are present and treated well tend to like animals and treat them well themselves as adults. And the same is true for the opposite scenario.

A few animals I spent time with today –

Here’s a shot of my favorite dog from the Humane Society tonight, Jilly:

She had such a sweet personality.

This afternoon I had a bit of time to take Harley to the park to play. She obviously had a blast running around and basking in the sunshine (and refusing to look at me when I pointed my iPhone at her!):

“He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” – Immanuel Kant

Curried Chickpea Cakes

“True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are united.” – Alexander von Humboldt

While I was visiting my family, workout DVDs were my friend — Jillian Michaels’ DVDs to be exact. One day I was able to be a guest at my mom’s gym and take a class with her, but besides that, I did a good amount of jumping around in my parents’ living room the past couple of weeks (and looked really cool doing it, might I add).

My gym hiatus made me excited to get back into it once I got back to San Diego. Yesterday I really wanted to get to the gym, but a hectic day got in the way. I wound up hiking with Harley right before the sun set instead, so today was my first day back at the gym. I did a circuit workout that had me dripping sweat for 90 glorious minutes. I <3 endorphins from a great workout!

Dinner

This evening I made a recipe from the Skinny Bitch cookbook that I’ve had a few times before, curried chickpea cakes. I adjusted a few ingredient proportions from the original recipe, and thoroughly enjoyed this dinner:

Curried Chickpea Cakes

Makes 10 

Ingredients:

  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 green onion stalk, both white & green parts, sliced
  • 1/3 c light coconut milk
  • 2 TSP sugar
  • 1/2 c breadcrumbs
  • 1 TSP curry powder
  • 1/2 TSP ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 TSP ground cumin
  • 2/3 c brown rice, cooked
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 2-4 TBSP of sesame oil *In order to keep the calorie count down, I used 2 TBSP of oil instead of the recommended 1/4 c. Nutrition content is based on my oil usage.

In a large food processor, combine the chickpeas and green onions and pulse until combined.

Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the coconut milk, sugar, breadcrumbs, curry powder, nutmeg and cumin. Stir together with a wooden spoon until well combined, then add in rice and salt. Mold into 10 patties.

Heat half the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add 5 of the patties, and saute until they’re golden brown on the bottom. Flip and repeat on the other side. Repeat this process with the remaining 5 patties.

Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain off any excess oil.

Nutrition stats per cake: 110 calories, 4 g fat, 3 g protein, 15 g carbs

Dress the chickpea cakes up however you like. I ate mine over a bed of raw spinach with sliced avocado and tomato, drizzled with a touch of blackberry balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with sesame seeds:

It was a delicious and nutritious meal! 

My New Favorite Summertime Salad

Hello from the West coast! I got back to San Diego last night after having a fantastic stay in Jersey. My Monday has been nonstop, and started off with me picking up my very excited puppy from the pet resort. Okay, I might have been very excited too… I missed my Harley girl the past few weeks!

A few shots from last weekend at my family’s shore house:

the whole family

with my younger siblings

I’m happy I got to spend a good amount of time with my cutie pie nephew during my trip.

The last time I saw him he was just a little munchkin! I can’t even deal with his sun outfit:

I had an amazing time with my family and friends, and I think I miss them already. But let’s face it, the past 2 weeks of my life have included too much food and booze, and not enough working out and sleep. It’s not like I didn’t eat salads or exercise at all, but I’ve been taking in too many calories and not being as active as I like to be. That’s how vacations usually go, but I’m looking forward to getting back to my healthier lifestyle. I couldn’t wait to stock my fridge today with tons of produce to get back into the swing of eating as nutritiously as possible (and perhaps NOT having drinks every night 😉 ). I was craving a monster salad tonight, so I threw together this combo. It totally hit the spot, and I think I’ll be making it again very soon!

Summertime Salad

What you need:

  • 2 c chopped romaine, or other type of lettuce
  • 1/2 c fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 oz sliced avocado
  • 1/2 c sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 c canned black beans, drained and rinsed (I heated mine before adding to the salad.)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 slice of red onion, finely chopped
  • A handful of alfalfa sprouts
  • 1/4 c shredded Mexican cheese
  • 2 TBSP light ranch dressing
  • Mixed up salt

Nutrition stats: 400 calories, 15 g fat, 21 g protein, 51 g carbs

Well, I’m off to face plant into my bed. Good night!

In Heaven at Veggie Heaven

….and in hell in this NJ heat!

Okay, perhaps that’s a little bit melodramatic, but seriously, 100 degrees with awful humidity? Not my cup of tea. I’ve always gotten overheated easily, and living in San Diego has made me very SPOILED! Basically I’m melting right now, but moving on to my heavenly dinner last night…

In college, I became hooked on Veggie Heaven, an all-vegetarian Asian restaurant with a few locations. When I first saw it, I thought it didn’t look like anything special on the outside. I actually was reluctant to try it at all. What a perfect example this is of not judging a book by its cover, because this spot is awesome.

I’m a person who hardly ever orders take-out, but this place became a restaurant I picked up food from on a weekly basis. It’s that damn good. I’ve dragged all of my meat-eating friends and family (so, pretty much everyone I know besides my veggie sister!) there, and they all enjoy it too.

It’s become a place of memories really. My then boyfriend/now husband and I used to have date nights there while we were in school. It’s the place I had dinner at with my family after my college graduation. And last night, I got together with my girlfriends there.

The awesome part about Veggie Heaven is that it’s a healthier version of the Asian food you typically see. Their food has no MSG, artificial flavors or preservatives, saturated fat or cholesterol. It always seems like the vegetarian Chinese food dishes I get almost everywhere else are greasy and don’t sit well in my stomach. At Veggie Heaven, the noodles taste soft and fresh. The restaurant mimics real meat by using a blend of bean curd, taro root, wheat gluten, and veggies, and let me tell you, it is delicious! I wish there was one in San Diego, but since there’s not, I totally pigged out last night on all of this yumminess:

Appetizers 

vegetable spring rolls

steamed spinach dumplings

Entrees: “pork” fried rice, vegetable lo mein, General Tso’s “chicken” with brown rice, and (lots of) broccoli

It’s safe to say I ate enough food to get my temporary fix of Veggie Heaven! Plus I may or may not have had leftovers for breakfast this morning. 😉

I’m spending the last few days I have in NJ at my family’s shore house. Family, beach, boat, jet-ski, sangria… I’m looking forward to a relaxed weekend!

Life as a Military Wife: Songs I Love But Can’t Listen To

This post’s title might sound strange to you, but let me explain..

For the most part, I’m not an emotional person. I don’t cry very often, am pretty level headed, and don’t lose it all that much. However, what I’m usually like is sometimes not the same as how I am when my marine is deployed (especially when he’s been gone for all of this year!).

Nowadays, I tear up during movies and TV shows at times when it’s totally uncalled for. I pretty much have banned any military related media because it’ll either make me cry or give me nightmares. It’s a funny thing how being separated from your spouse makes you more of a basket case than usual! If you’re thinking I’m crazy, I know I’m not alone with this. My military wife friends and I joke around about randomly getting upset when our men are gone. I think it’s because I don’t really allow myself to sit around and wallow in self-pity, so the stress of it all will just randomly show up throughout the months in the form of bawling after a romantic comedy or Grey’s Anatomy episode. If I was ever pregnant and hormonal during a deployment, it would not be pretty (thankfully I’m not!).

On my plane ride out to the East coast, I read 200+ pages of the second Hunger Games book, Catching Fire (which not surprisingly, also made me want to cry). After finishing the book with some time left in my flight, I put on my iPod’s  “slow jams” playlist. I got to thinking about how I love all of the songs on there, but some of them are total Debbie Downers for a girl like me whose missing her man.

Actually, I’ve been ignoring certain songs for the past 6 months for that reason. In general, I just try to keep things positive and upbeat when I’m without my marine, and hearing lyrics about how I can’t live without him isn’t really beneficial to my well-being. However, in the midst of my plane boredom, I came up with the top 5 songs that I love but won’t listen to right now:

#1 – James Morrison – Wonderful World 

And I know that it’s a wonderful world
But I can’t feel it right now
Well I thought that I was doing well 
But I just want to cry now
Well I know that it’s a wonderful world
From the sky down to the sea
But I can only see it when you’re here, here with me

#2 – Tom Baxter – Better

See what I’m trying to say is, 
You make things….better.
And no matter what the day is,
With you here… it’s better.

#3 – Jack Johnson – Better Together 

It’s not always easy and
Sometimes life can be deceiving
I’ll tell you one thing, it’s always better when we’re together

#4 – Amos Lee – Colors

Yesterday I got lost in the circus,
feeling like such a mess.
And now I’m down,
I’m just hanging on the corner.
I can’t help but reminisce.

‘Cause when you’re gone,
all the colors fade.
When you’re gone,
no New Years Day parade. 
You’re gone,
colors seem to fade.

#5 – Pretty much anything Coldplay, including The Scientist: 

Nobody said it was easy
It’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
Oh, take me back to the start.

On the flip side, I listen to a lot of music nowadays that has the opposite effect on me and stresses hanging on and pushing through things, like this song:

I also think the key for me to be as happy as possible and get through deployments has been to have my own things going on and keep super busy, and to have a support system that I keep in close contact with. Right now, being with my family and friends is helping me skate through this last chunk of time I have before awaiting my hubby’s return. Speaking of which, I’m off to go have dinner with my oldest friend!

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.” – Sigmund Freud

NYC Ladies’ Trip + Pizza Night

Happy Father’s Day!!

It’s been a weekend full of fun for me thus far. Backing up to Friday, my cousin, best friend Meaghan, and I all met up at my other best friend Danielle’s house to get ready for a night out in NYC. We thought we’d be coming back to Jersey after going out, but D surprised us by getting a hotel room in the city for the night.

First, we checked into the hotel and got ready. We kicked off the night with some of my parents’ homemade wine…

…which eventually (and not all that surprisingly!) turned into this:

Keepin’ it classy. 😉

We had dinner at our hotel’s restaurant, Rare Bar & Grill, where I enjoyed this beautiful portobello mushroom burger:

The burger was topped with goat cheese, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, button mushrooms and a balsamic glaze. It was yummy!

After dinner, our first stop was the hotel’s rooftop bar, where the view was absolutely gorgeous.

Meg and me

a celebratory shot

 After spending some time there, we visited a couple other bars, one of which had awesome live music called Cafe Wha.

my best girlfriends

Meg and I also got to catch up with one of our college roommates, Marla:

We danced and laughed the night away, having many drinks and little sleep. Nights like those make for the best memories, and I love getting to see my girlfriends!

Inevitably, my Saturday turned into a lazy one. I hung out with family and teamed up with my mom to make dinner. We had store bought pizza crusts, and decided to make two pizzas on the grill: 1 with broccoli, ricotta, chopped tomatoes, and a white sauce; the other with shredded mozzarella, fire roasted tomatoes and sliced Roma tomatoes. After some Googling, I found a white sauce recipe from Completely Pizza to follow (original recipe here). I halved the recipe and slightly altered it, which made a perfect amount to lightly spread on the 1 pizza.

White Pizza Sauce

Makes sauce for 1 pizza/8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 TBSP light butter
  • 1.5 TBSP flour
  • 1/2 c low-fat or fat-free milk
  • 1 TSP Italian seasoning
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
  • A sprinkle of salt & pepper

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and mix together. Slowly pour the milk in, using a whisk to mix everything together well. Add the garlic, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper, and stir until well blended. Heat the mixture over the burner for a few minutes, frequently stirring until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat, then let it stand until it has the desired consistency to spread on the pizza.

Per serving: about 25 calories, 1 g fat, 1 g protein, 2 g carbs

Off to get ready for a family dinner at my grandma’s house. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

Hope you’re having a fabulous Thursday. I’m blogging to you as I sip my first glass of wine for the night – a yummy California Chardonnay:

Backing up to last night’s jewelry party, we had a fun relaxed ladies’ night. Besides the chocolate Kahlua cake I talked about yesterday, we had a few other goodies:

Roasted Red Hummus Platter –

Champagne punch bowl –

FYI, that fun ice/strawberry ring in the middle is pretty & decorative for the punch bowl, but not very practical. We had trouble getting it out of the way to scoop out punch with the ladle. [Note to self: come up with a smaller ice chiller next time!]

My best friends Meaghan and Danielle came to the party:

And this close-up photo of Meg and me is hilarious (Thanks for the photography styling, D!):

Moving onto today’s creation…

When I spotted a recipe for lemon muffins in the March issue of Fitness magazine, I ripped it out and threw it in my pile of  things to try. Knowing that my mom’s birthday would happen while I was visiting in NJ (and that she loves lemon), I brought the recipe with me to try out and make something fun for her. I’ve never baked with lemon curd before, and when I asked my grandma if she had any, at first she said she didn’t know what that was… and then she pulled it out of her fridge! Apparently someone gave it to her and she’s had it hanging around in her kitchen. If you don’t have a handy grandma to steal lemon curd from like me and can’t find it at your food store, you can use fruit preserves instead. I slightly modified the original recipe based on what I had available, and they came out very yummy!

Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

Makes 12 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c whole-wheat flour
  • 1 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1 TBSP poppy seeds
  • 1/2 TSP lemon extract
  • 1/4 TSP salt
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 c low-fat or nonfat milk
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1/4 c lemon curd
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 375. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with baking cups.

In a medium bowl, stir together flours, oats, sugar, baking powder, poppy seeds and salt.  Make a well in the center of the flour mix.

In a small bowl, combine egg, milk, oil and lemon extract. Add wet mix to dry mix, and stir just until moistened.

Pour batter into the muffin cups evenly. Spoon a bit of lemon curd on top of each muffin.

Bake until tops are lightly browned, 15-20 minutes. Cool muffins in pan on a wire rack for a couple minutes. Remove from pan, then dust with sifted powdered sugar.

Per muffin: 170 calories, 7 g fat, 3 g protein, 25 g carbs

I’m spending the rest of my night hanging out with my parents and younger siblings, drinking wine, and possibly going for a dip in the hot tub. We have a few bottles to choose from. 😉

If you’re wondering why I’m a wine lover, it’s clear that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!