Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition

Hi friends!

autumn leaves

Anyone else psyched for Thanksgiving? It’s 4 PM on Tuesday and I’m already done with my work week! Tomorrow my hubby and I are heading down to San Diego for the rest of the week, and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s crazy to think that I haven’t been back to San Diego since moving from there to the Bay Area earlier this year — which was already 7 months ago. I adore SoCal and my friends there, and we have a lot of fun things planned!

First up, my weekly autumn slim down recap:

With the exception of indulging a little bit more than I had planned on last weekend, the past week my eating has been super healthy and my workouts have been great.

Weekly WODs 11.26.13

I’ve really been enjoying writing down my workouts on a daily basis. It allows me to look back at the whole week and recognize how much time and effort I’ve put into exercising.

For some reason I didn’t lose an ounce of weight, but I’m not really stressing over it. My plan for this week is to be mindful but enjoy all of the good eats of Thanksgiving and San Diego in moderation, be as active as I can, and just to maintain the weight that I’m at. To me, it’s just not realistic to set a goal of losing a pound or two over a holiday week when I know I’ll be splurging. I think that after losing a couple pounds, I’m at this sort of sweet spot, comfortable weight, and have probably plateaued. But after this week is over, I’d like to kick it into high gear for a couple weeks before I fly to Jersey to spend a few weeks with my family and friends for Christmas (and my entire schedule and routine is derailed!). The holidays are such a hectic and fun time, but I set a goal to tone up a bit more, and I’m going to keep at it!

Secondly, I have news to share with you guys…. yesterday I enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition! Come January, I will be a student again. I figured I already have a full-time job, freelance work, a slew of activities I commit myself to on an almost daily basis like blogging, working out, taking Harley for long walks/hikes, and cooking, plus squeezing in a couple hours a week of volunteering at the Humane Society, so why not add school to the mix right?! 😉

IIN-logo

When I told my sister, a current college student, the news, she said, “Why would you do that to yourself?!!”

Well, I am so passionate about living a joyful, heathy life and sharing my knowledge & love of eating delicious eats that not only taste good but are good for your body, staying active, and pursuing the things that make you happy — and for me, continuing my education in this field is one of those things!

IIN-Mission

In a nutshell, IIN is a year-long online course to become a certified health coach. Ever since I completed my bachelor’s degree, I’ve wanted to go back to school. I’m actually a big dork who loves to learn and I’m a total overachiever (I graduated with a 3.96 GPA, thank you very much!), so I think that working this program into my schedule is just something that seems to fit and can only benefit my career and personal development. You all will be along for the ride, as I’m sure that I’ll be chatting about interesting aspects of the course on the blog!

Well, I’m off to get a workout in before getting ready for my trip to San Diego and coming up with a dessert for Thanksgiving. Wish me luck!

Question: Have you ever considered going back to school, and if so, what for? If you’re a current student, what are you pursuing?

Cheddar Rice Croquettes with Homemade Port Cranberry Sauce

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in my house!

Christmas Decor

I know I know, I’m a little bit early, but I’m traveling to see my family and friends for the holidays in Jersey mid-December, so I wanted to have a couple weeks to enjoy all of my decor. I put up decorations yesterday and decorated my tree tonight, so now I’m feeling all Christmasy.

Harley-bow

Plus Harley hates loves to wear a bow as if she’s a holiday present. Can’t you tell by the snarled look on her face? 😉 After dying laughing at Harley Claus in Petco the other day, I couldn’t resist superimposing a Santa hat on her in the above picture. Something about how big her ears are with wearing a hat just cracks me up!

And speaking of the holidays, this week us Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving. I thought it’d be fitting to post a Thanksgiving-ish recipe.

I’ve never really eaten cranberry sauce. Let’s face it, cranberry sauce typically goes with turkey or ham or maybe even tofurky (not a fan), so I’ve never really had a good reason to eat it. And my hubby said he never eats it because cranberry sauce from a can isn’t appealing to him, so when I recently saw a recipe for port-sweetened cranberry sauce in Vegetarian Times, I was intrigued. Besides, everyone knows that I jump on any chance to cook with wine.

Cranberry Sauce-3

The recipe is really simple: combine port, fresh cranberries, dried cranberries, grated apple and fresh ginger in a saucepan, and let it simmer.
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Cranberry Sauce-2

My only dilemma was deciding what to pair the cranberry sauce with. A light bulb went off when I saw cheddar cheese during my last grocery store trip, because I knew that making rice croquettes using a sharper cheese like cheddar would compliment the tartness of the cranberry sauce really well.

Cranberry Sauce-5 I spooned the warm cranberry sauce over the rice balls, and it made a great savory/slightly sweet combo.

Cranberry Sauce-4

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Cranberry Sauce-7

Cranberry Sauce-8

If you’re looking for a homemade cranberry sauce recipe to eat with your Thanksgiving entree or as a compliment to a dish throughout the fall and winter, this fresh version is for you.

Port-Sweetened Cranberry Sauce
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup tawny port
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup apple, grated
  • 1 TSP grated fresh ginger
Instructions
  1. Bring port, cranberries, apple, ginger, and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool a bit before serving.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 2 TBSP, Calories: 29, Carbohydrates: 7 g, Sugar: 5 g,

 
Cheddar Rice Croquettes
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 7
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup uncooked brown Jasmine rice
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • ¼ onion, minced
  • 1 TBSP light butter
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 oz cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
  • ½ cup Italian bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ TSP pepper
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and sauté until lightly browned.
  2. Add rice and mix with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add in broth and parsley, and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed.
  4. Remove from heat, and let cool for 30 minutes.
  5. Stir in slightly beaten egg, cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, and pepper into rice mixture. Pour breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl.
  6. Moisten hands with water and shape into 14 balls, each about ¼ cup of mixture. Roll each ball in bread crumbs. Moisten hands with water as needed, which will help prevent the rice from sticking to you.
  7. Heat 2 TBSP of the vegetable oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add half of the croquettes, and cook on each side until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes each. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon, and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat this process with the second half of rice balls. [The balls may fall apart a bit when you flip them over or remove from the pan, but just reshaping them with a spatula or spoon worked for me.]
  8. Place croquettes on a large plate and serve immediately.
Notes
Other kinds of cheese, i.e. mozzarella, gruyere, or swiss, will work fine in this recipe as well.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 2 croquettes, Calories: 220, Fat: 12 g, Saturated fat: 2 g, Carbohydrates: 22 g, Fiber: 1 g, Protein: 6 g

Harley Turns Three

This weekend there was a birthday in my household….

Harley-1

Wearing her Christmas bow earlier today

…my canine child!

Harley was born today — or at least approximately around this date. We aren’t exactly sure since we rescued her as a puppy after her litter and their mom were found on the street. In any event, my little pup is now 3 years old.

Back then:

Harley-8

Now:

Harley-5

About a year and a half ago, I wrote one of my favorite posts, titled A Year with Harley: Life Lessons from My Dog. In honor of her birthday, I’m adding 3 new things to the list of lessons that Harley has taught me.

Harley-2

Snoozing with her ball close by

  • #1 – Never forget something interesting

I’ve heard that the average dog has the intelligence level of a 2-year old child. One commonality I’ve noticed between toddlers and dogs is that they can be relentless when they’ve noticed something interesting and want to find out more. For kids, it can mean pushing the buttons on the DVD player or grabbing a glass off a table. For Harley, it usually has something to do with other animals.

Harley-11 One time while hiking at a park, I let her off the leash to grab water out of my backpack, and she darted at, and caught, a squirrel. It squeaked, which I think freaked Harley out, so she immediately let go. However, every time we a.) see a squirrel anywhere, or b.) pass that hiking spot, she frantically tries to find a way to have a second chance at catching a squirrel. Another instance is the time she found a skunk in a sewage grate in our neighborhood. I obviously pulled her away from the animal, but every single time we pass not only that grate, but any grate anywhere, Harley is sure to double check for strange creatures hanging out.

Moral of the story: Remember things that intrigue you. I’m constantly jotting down notes or using my iPhone’s notepad to write down random tidbits I don’t want to forget.

Harley-3

  • #2 –  A short, intense workout is just as effective as a long, lower-impact one

Sometimes Harley and I can walk for an hour, and she’ll still be pulling on the leash and bouncing with excitement. In contrast, when I let her run around outside, she’ll sprint like a maniac for a couple of minutes, immediately tiring herself out and plopping down in the grass content with life. The lesson here is that a shorter workout can be just as, if not more, effective than a longer one. So if you’ve got just 15 minutes to exercise today, make sure to turn up the intensity and get the best bang for your buck!

Harley-4

  • #3 – Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened

Us humans tend to be sad when good things end – say, a vacation or a weekend – rather than happy that it happened and was awesome. Harley simply basks in the happiness of it all — whether we’ve just left the house for a walk, or are walking back up my sidewalk at the end of it.

So live in the moment. Enjoy things while they’re happening, and when they’re over, be happy that you got to experience it.

Harley-10

 While Harley has grown up a lot since my first post on lessons that she has taught me, I think that she’ll always have her nutty moments that keep me both laughing and shaking my head.

Harley-9

Harley’s face stuck in an empty ice cream container

Two “Harley” moments from the past week:

– Last Friday I let her off the leash to do a few laps in my front yard, and she took the opportunity as a chance to roll in nasty dog poop and cover an entire side of her body in it. I know that dogs love to cover up their scent and it’s a natural tendency that goes back to their wild ancestors and yada yada, but come on now…. It was beyond disgusting!!

The usual shenanigans in my house

The usual shenanigans in my house

– My husband came home from work the other night while I was in the shower. For some reason, Harley, who is usually on high alert for anyone walking by my house on the sidewalk, if there are postal workers anywhere in my neighborhood, and if anyone dares to ring the doorbell, somehow didn’t hear him come in. Adam, in true form, ran up to Harley sleeping making scary growling noises at her, and you know what my guard dog did? Ran and hid beyond the couch as she whined….ha, well that makes me feel really safe!!

Harley-6

My crazy puppy has been my little buddy these past couple of years, and I love her to death!

What has a pet taught you? 

Share a funny story about your dog!

Total Body Rowing Circuit Workout

Happy, happy Friday!

As usual, I’m looking forward to the weekend. Then next week I have a 2-day work week, and then I’m heading down to San Diego to spend some time there and celebrate Thanksgiving. I’m excited!

Onto workouts…

You may have noticed that when I talk about the workouts I’ve done in a week, I often mention rowing. It’s a form of exercise that I started doing a lot of earlier this year. I find it to be really efficient and an awesome form of cardio, and I actually talked about some of the benefits of rowing in this Girls Gone Sporty article.

While I’ll sometimes do intervals of rowing/resting, I’ve recently gotten really into incorporating rowing into circuit workouts that last 45-60 minutes. I feel so sweaty and accomplished by the end of them, and I especially like them because it keeps your mind engaged the entire time (no mindless cardio exercise involved!). Below is a 5-round, total body circuit rowing workout I did last week. Hope that you’ll try it out!

Rowing Workout-11.22.13

And with that, I’m kicking off my weekend with a trip to the gym to work out my legs and get some cardio in — maybe some rowing! 😉

A Day of Detoxing

3 apples, 3 stalks of celery, 4 cups of kale, 2 Persian cucumbers, 3 large carrots, 1 cup of lentils, 2 cups of spinach, 1 cup of diced tomatoes, juice from 1/2 lemon.

That’s the awesome list of fruits and vegetables that I put into my body today.

detox-1

When I woke up this morning, I decided on a whim that this lovely Thursday would be a detoxifying day for me. Maybe it was because I felt like I needed a good dose of vegetables and fruits today, or maybe I just felt like a super healthy, self-love kinda day.

My workout of the day was an hour of yoga, working out all of my tight spots and giving my achy muscles some low-impact movement.

I juiced for breakfast and lunch, and surprisingly, wasn’t really even feeling like I was starving for a real meal with some chewing involved until dinnertime hit.

Breakfast juice: Green apple + celery + kale + Persian cucumber + lemon

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My lunch juice was an insanely simple mix that I hadn’t tried before: red apples + carrots + fresh ginger. Loved it!

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I broke my mini cleanse with my favorite chilly weather fare as of late: lentil, tomato & spinach soup, along with fresh bread to dip in…. because a hunk of bread is good for your soul, or mine at least!

soup

Because detoxifying involves ridding the mind, body, and soul, of anything negative, I made a point to discard any negative thoughts as soon as I realized I was having them. I was all about an abundance of positive thoughts. I’m usually a positive thinker, but today I made it a main focus to be so.

The-more-light-you-allow-within

While I didn’t skip working and visit a spa, I made my day more soothing in little ways. I worked with candles lit around me, with yummy smells of vanilla icing and pumpkin pie permeating my office.

Tonight I pulled some beauty loot out of my bathroom drawers to have a little pampering time. I put on a face mask, exfoliated my feet and body, used a leave-in hair conditioner I forgot I had, and moisturized with this body gel oil I recently bought but had yet to use.

With all of those things combined, I’m feeling rejuvenated, happy, and healthy as I sit here and type to you tonight. I really needed a low impact exercise day to let my (never-ending) achy calf and foot rest a bit. I also felt like I hadn’t eaten enough veggies this week — and after today, I think I can consider that to be solved. I liked my mini detox, and want to have days like this more often!

Tell me, what would your ideal detox day include? 

Autumn Slim Down Update & What I Ate Wednesday

Happy Wednesday!

Firstly, here’s my weekly update on my autumn slim down challenge: I think that taking a break from the scale last week was a great idea for me, and I continued to push forward with eating smaller portions of healthy, delicious food with some indulgences sprinkled in, and working out daily. I don’t think I could lose the scale completely, but I think I might ditch the scale for a week or more at a time more often. Since I first talked about wanting to lose 5-10 pounds a little over a month ago, I’ve lost 5 pounds. I feel great, and want to continue my weight loss efforts for the next couple of weeks to see if I can tone up a bit more and lose another couple of pounds.

success

(source)

For anyone out there reading this whose trying to lose weight, I know that it feels like progress is made so annoyingly slow, but I just want to say Hang in there! Your body composition and weight change little by little, and it’s really all about the day-to-day choices you make that will help form positive habits and get you to where you want to be. So don’t give up on yourself!

Past slim down posts you may want to check out:

Week 3 Recap

Week 2 Recap

Week 1 Recap

And with that, I’m joining the Peas and Crayons link-up party this week to share a What I Ate Wednesday post. I feel like a bit of a cheater because this is what I ate yesterday, but here goes:

WIAW-1

For breakfast, I whipped up some pumpkin spice pancakes, (minus the pecan topping but instead) drizzled with honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. Nom nom nom!

WIAW-2

For part of lunch, I tried making butternut squash hash browns for the first time. All I did was 1.) shred some butternut squash with a box grater, 2.) chop up a bit of onion, 3.) mix the shredded squash and onion together, along with some salt, pepper & paprika, 4.) melt a TBSP of butter in a pan over medium heat, and 5.) let the squash cook until crispy brown, flipping over occasionally. It took around 20 minutes, and I loved them!

I ate my hash browns with a bit of ketchup + a peanut butter & cherry preserves-topped English muffin:

WIAW-3

Pre-workout, I ate a cinnamon roll Quest bar…

WIAW-5

…as well as the salvageable pieces from an overripe pear. Boo for mushy pear!

WIAW-4

My dinner was a bit of a rare occurrence. On the vast majority of days I eat a real dinner, but every once in awhile, I come home from a workout not in the mood for dinner food (or am just feeling lazy!). I got back from the gym around 7 and was all Hmmm I think I’ll just eat a yogurt bowl, so that’s what I did. Cherry Greek yogurt + cinnamon almonds + an apple sprinkled with cinnamon + Kashi Go Lean cereal to be exact.

WIAW-6

And that’s all she wrote!

Have you ever tried butternut squash hash browns? 

Review: Lorna Jane Activewear

Confession: I’m kind of a workout clothing junkie.

Not only do I exercise nearly every day, I also work from home the vast majority of the time – where I mostly wear, you guessed it, workout clothes. I even sleep in comfy workout gear sometimes.

Since I sport activewear so often, I like my clothes to meet the following criteria: 1.) cute, 2.) fitted yet not too tight, 2.) allow me to move without feeling restricted or constantly falling down, 3.) comfortable, 4.) breathable. <– I have this one shirt that makes me feel like I’m immediately sweating in it, and I hate that!

lorna-jane

Now that you have an idea of my love for workout attire, you can understand why I was excited when Lorna Jane contacted me to try out some of their activewear. Lorna Jane is Australia’s #1 activewear brand, and they now have 20 stores open in California – including locations in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Huntington Beach and San Diego. Their mission:

At Lorna Jane our aim is to inspire women to live their best life through active living. We believe in a three pillared philosophy of MOVE NOURISH BELIEVE and it is this mantra together with our clothing that encourages and motivates women globally to be the best they can be. Lorna Jane is not simply a clothing label, it is a way of life.

Looking through their online store, there were so many clothes that I thought were adorable. Here are the pieces that they sent me to try out:

Lorna Jane-4

My favorite goodie is the blue long sleeved shirt – a piece they call a Maxum Full Zip Through. With the chilly weather these days, I’m loving the long sleeves for hiking, hanging out….

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….walking my dog….
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…going to yoga class…

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….and heading to the gym in. Bonus: This color is one of my favorites & perfectly matches my new Brooks sneakers.

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Another item I received is a pinkish crop top with a LJ crest on it. While I wouldn’t wear a crop top for strength training or rowing workouts because I feel like it’d ride up too much, it’s a cute style to wear for hiking, lounging around the house and running errands. It’s really comfy, and I even slept in it the other night!

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Lorna Jane-5

Lorna Jane-2

I also tried out 2 pairs of tights, including a fun blue pair (they call the color nightshade) and a black pair with a pretty inside print.

I have so many pairs of black workout pants and capris – all of which I frequently wear – but it’s nice to have a few colorful pairs and I LOVE this blue color. Below I’m wearing the blue pants with a black tank that Lorna Jane also sent me. As much as I want to, I tend to not wear tanks like this because I just don’t think they flatter me, but this tank was soft and really breathable, which will be great for workouts in hot weather.

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A photo of me practicing my yoga + balance skills wearing this LJ gear during a recent hike:

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And a gym shot of the fun inside print on the black pants:

Lorna Jane-3One thing to note about Lorna Jane’s pants: They kind of run small. I wear a size small most of the time, occasionally a medium depending on the cut and style. With these pants, even the mediums are on the snug side, though they still fit well.

Before this, I had never heard of Lorna Jane, and I’m really happy that I now know about the company. To me, Lorna Jane bears some resemblance to lululemon (who I also love) in terms of their company style and mission, sizing, and fashionable and high-quality yet practical clothes, so if you’re a fan of lululemon, you’ll love Lorna Jane too. Lorna Jane’s pricing is also comparable, which is on the pricey side by my standards, but I think it’s worth it to invest in some pieces you’ll enjoy for so many sweat sessions. If you spend a lot of time in your activewear as I clearly do, it’s completely worth the splurge! You can check out Lorna Jane’s styles here.

And a big thank you to Lorna Jane for sending me these awesome clothes! 🙂

Questions for you:

What’s most important to you when picking out workout gear?

What’s your favorite type of workout clothing to buy – pants, tops, sports bras, headbands, etc.?

Do you wear activewear as much as me (or do I need to get my butt in gear and put on some jeans more often?!)?

Banana Pumpkin Muffins with a Cinnamon Brown Sugar Topping

Hi everyone, happy Sunday!

I have a few updates for you all on the blog front. I’ve updated my recipe pages to include all of my latest kitchen creations. I also updated my workout page, which now includes a new section for my hiking spot posts. Lastly, I added a ‘travel & fun’ page so that all of my travel posts, restaurant and winery experiences, as well as random adventures are in one place. Fun stuff! And now onto food – banana pumpkin muffins to be precise…

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After a morning yoga session, running errands, and going hiking with my hubby and puppy yesterday, I came home and decided that a bit of baking was in order.

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Since I had an open can of pumpkin and some ripe bananas ready to be eaten in my fruit basket, and I’ve been loving muffins lately, I whipped up some tasty banana pumpkin muffins.

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As usual, Harley “helped” me by being underneath my feet the entire time in hopes of catching a good bite of something. 😉

Harley-helper

Pumpkin & banana really compliment each other well. I sprinkled a cinnamon & brown sugar topping onto the muffin batter to give it that extra flavor oomph. At only 135 calories per muffin, these babies are perfect as a snack or part of breakfast or lunch.

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Banana Pumpkin Muffins with a Cinnamon Brown Sugar Topping
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1 cup whole wheat all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup white all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup softened butter
  • ½ cup vanilla almond milk
  • 2 TBSP light brown sugar
  • 1 TSP vanilla extract
  • 2 TSP cinnamon
  • 1 TSP salt
  • ½ TBSP baking powder
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12 muffin pan tin with muffin cups.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flours, 1 TSP cinnamon, baking powder and salt.
  3. In another bowl, beat the banana, pumpkin, vanilla extract, honey, butter and almond milk with an electric mixer until smooth.
  4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
  5. Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin cups.
  6. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1 TSP cinnamon with 2 TBSP light brown sugar. Spoon the cinnamon sugar mixture evenly onto each muffin cup.
  7. Bake until a toothpick comes out of muffin center clean, around 20 minutes.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 muffin, Calories: 135, Fat: 2 g, Carbohydrates: 28 g, Sugar: 15 g, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 2 g

 

Hope that you enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Fit Crunch Bars, Real Food Talk & Rosti Potatoes with Goat Cheese & Arugula

Over the past few years, I’ve really made an effort to add more real food into my diet, and less and less processed stuff. I’ve always loved my fruits and veggies, but I realized that I was also eating foods with long ingredient lists more than I’d like. Don’t get me wrong, I eat things like protein bars all the time, but I’ve made an adjustment to eating things with more natural ingredient lists like this:

Zing-ingredients

(Source: Zing Bars)

And look less often like this:

Balance-ingredients

An awesome perk to blogging is that people like to send you samples of products to try and blog about. It’s always fun to get a package in the mail of a new product. As a personal rule, I only say yes to products that align with my beliefs and that I would consider buying in a store.

FORTIFX_CC_CRUNCH_PHOTO

Recently I received an email to try new meal replacement bars from Robert Irvine, celebrity chef and host of the Food Network series Dinner: Impossible. Being that protein bars are one of my favorite choices for on-the-go eats and the fact that I probably can be considered a bar connoisseur from all the kinds I’ve tried, I welcomed some samples. This was the description I received of the bars:

Fit Crunch Baked Bars are the world’s only six-layer baked protein bars, which are high in protein and low in sugar, without compromising on taste and texture. The bars are available in two flavors – Cookies + Cream and Peanut Butter, and are made of simple ingredients including whey isolate, high protein chocolate and peanut butter. They have a candy bar crunch and soft cookie center, and are the perfect on-the-go snack for serious athletes as well as the everyday, busy and active person looking for a delicious meal replacement option. 

CRIF_Pb_Wrap

I feel the need to say that I don’t like talking negatively about anyone, especially people who send me samples of products I’m sure they put a lot of work into, but I owe it to my readers and myself to always be honest. When I received the bars and looked at the first thing I always do – its nutrition content – I was immediately put off by its long ingredient list. I can’t help but think that one of the reasons why America is so overweight is because we’re eating too many chemicals and not enough real foods.

The ingredient list kind of reminded me of Balance bars, which I used to eat all the time and still eat on occasion, so I still would have given Fit Crunch a try, had it not been for the sneaky gelatin in the bars. As someone who tries to avoid gelatin, I have found it recently in some unlikely places like yogurt and these bars. Some people like eating gelatin because of its supposed benefits, including aiding in digestion and joint recovery,  but eating collagen from animal skins is on my list of things I say thanks but really, no freaking thank you to. This is the first time I’ve seen it in protein bars before.

Because of this, I didn’t try the bars, though I did give them to my hubby to test out. His feedback was that they were “just alright” and “not the best bars I’ve ever eaten.”

In their defense, the Fit Crunch people didn’t claim that the bars were all natural, though they did describe them as “made of simple ingredients,” which in my book, shouldn’t include a lot of ingredients that aren’t easily pronounced.

CRIF_Crunch_Bar_Stack_TWO

Along with the bars, I also received Robert Irvine’s Mission: Cook! cookbook. The book contains a bunch of appealing vegetarian recipes with short ingredient lists, a few of which I’ve tried already. The one I’ve really liked is the recipe for rosti potatoes with goat cheese and wilted arugula:

rosti potatoes

I altered a few ingredient amounts and lightened the dish up a bit using less oil and light butter. I also made smaller potato entrees instead of one large one as in traditional rosti potatoes, and it came out really tasty. Here’s the recipe:

Rosti Potatoes with Goat Cheese & Arugula
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3
 
Ingredients
  • 3 medium (around 8 oz) Yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 TBSP light butter
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. To prep the potatoes: peel them, then grate using a box grater or food processing grating blade. Place grated potatoes in a towel, then wring it out a few times to squeeze out excess liquid. Put potatoes in a large bowl.
  2. On low heat, melt the butter in a heavy saute pan. Pour the butter over the grated potatoes, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss together well.
  3. Form potato mixture into 6 patties.
  4. Heat vegetable oil in the saute pan over medium heat.
  5. Place 3 potato patties in the pan, then flatten them out a bit by pressing down with a spatula. Cook until brown one the bottom, then flip over. Place half of the arugula and goat cheese on top of each potato pancake, then place the remaining potato patties on top. Pat down to flatten again. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned.
  6. Using a large spatula, carefully flip over each potato pancake. Top with the remaining arugula and goat cheese, and cook for another 10-12 minutes.
  7. Transfer the rosti potatoes to a large plate, and serve while they're still hot.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: Per 1 rosti potato "sandwich", Calories: 340, Fat: 15 g, Saturated fat: 4 g, Carbohydrates: 46 g, Fiber: 4 g, Protein: 9 g

 

Question: What are your feelings on the use of lots of unrecognizable ingredients and chemicals in our foods these days? Is this something you pay a lot of attention to and avoid, consume in moderation, or accept as how the food industry is and don’t feel to be harmful?

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Pesto

Recipe creation can be a funny thing.

Sometimes I’ll come up with a recipe, jot down my ingredient ideas, easily throw it together, and it’ll turn out awesome. Other times a recipe will sound delicious in theory, but not turn out as great as I’d hoped for. When that happens, I either completely throw out the idea and call it a kitchen experiment defeat, or I keep thinking about how I can change the recipe to make it better. This week has been a case of the latter.

butternut-squash

cooked-butternut

When I bought a butternut squash recently and was trying to think of what to make with it, my hubby was the one who suggested ravioli. I took his good idea and ran with it, coming up with a meal idea of butternut squash, sage & parmesan ravioli with a buttery white wine hazelnut sauce.

Though it wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t crazy about the dish. The sauce was kind of overpowering, and I realized that I definitely prefer a buttery chardonnay over a buttery sauce.

squash ravioli-2

I didn’t want to give up on this recipe though, and a couple days later, the idea came to me to make the ravioli topped with a sage pesto instead.

squash ravioli-3

This time I tried cooking the ravioli in white cooking wine instead of safflower oil as I usually do with homemade ravioli. The difference is that the ravioli came out softer and more classic ravioli-like, but I had to watch them closely to make sure they didn’t burn or stick together. When sautéed in oil, they’re more like toasted ravioli. Personally I like them both ways.

safflower oil

You can also boil the prepped ravioli in a pot of water as you would with packaged ravioli, but personally I don’t trust my wonton folding & sealing abilities all that much and feel that the filling would wind up seeping out into the water. Maybe one day I’ll test that theory out.

squash

parmesan

squash ravioli-1

squash ravioli-4

As I ate the dish I thought Ah ha! This is more like it.  

It turns out that the second time’s a charm with my butternut squash ravioli creation.

squash ravioli-5

One thing to note: I think a small amount of pesto perfectly compliments the ravioli, but if you prefer your ravioli with a lot of sauce, go ahead and double the amount of pesto ingredients included in my recipe.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Pesto
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked butternut squash, cubed
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese plus 2 TBSP
  • ¼ cup light shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 24 won ton wraps
  • 2 TBSP yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup sage leaves
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 TBSP pine nuts
  • ½ TSP fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup white cooking wine, plus more as needed
  • ¼ TSP pepper
  • ¼ TSP salt
Instructions
  1. Combine butternut squash, ¼ cup of the parmesan, mozzarella, onion, ⅛ TSP pepper and ¼ TSP salt in a food processor, and pulse until mostly smooth. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Spoon a small spoonful onto the center of a won ton wrap. Fold the won ton in half, then dip fingers into a bowl of warm water, using them to seal the wrap. Pinch the corners, and fold them over if you'd like. Repeat until all of the squash mixture is used and all won tons are filled.
  3. Warm 2 TBSP of white cooking wine in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Add half of the ravioli to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, carefully monitoring the amount of moisture in the pan. You may need to add a bit of cooking wine to the pan when you flip the ravioli over. Once done, transfer ravioli to a large pasta bowl or plate. Repeat this process with the second half of the ravioli.
  4. To make the pesto, combine the sage leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, lemon juice, remaining 2 TBSP of parmesan, and ⅛ TSP pepper in a food processor. Pulse until well combined, then spoon over cooked ravioli. Serve dish immediately.
Notes
*You can double the pesto recipe if you prefer a saucier ravioli topping.*
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 6 ravioli with ¼ pesto, Calories: 305, Fat: 14 g, Saturated fat: 3 g, Carbohydrates: 34 g, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 11 g