Can you believe that it’s New Year’s Eve?! I feel like the holidays, and year in general, have just flown by! Since my hubby and I just arrived back in Cali on Sunday night, we decided to be low-key this New Year’s. I’m planning on making some fun grub and drinks, breaking out some games and music, making a fire, and lighting our tree for one more night this year.
My parents’ tree on Christmas morning
While I admit that I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, I do think that we all operate differently in goal setting and accomplishing those dreams. I say, if setting a goal for the new year is the motivation that works for you to achieve your goals, go for it! Regardless of whether you’re in the midst of completing a goal or are planning on just getting started tomorrow on the first day of the year, remember to take it one day and one step at a time. Whatever you’re striving for, persistence and consistency will get you there!
And speaking of consistency, if any of you out there have a resolution of exercising more often, I believe that one of the keys in keeping up with an active life is knowing that every little workout counts. Whether you have 20 minutes for a run or 2 hours for a hike, it all adds up. Every time you exercise, you’re making the choice to make your health a priority.
When I was on the East coast for over 2 weeks for the holidays, many of the days I only could squeeze in half an hour of exercise. I kept reminding myself that every little bit counts, and gave myself kudos for fitting in any type of workout. Below is a workout I did on Christmas Eve while staying at my father-in-law’s house. The only exercise equipment I had available to me was a treadmill, which I usually do not use, but I made it work and came up with a quick and sweaty workout by incorporating incline walking with body weight exercises. Check it out:
Wishing you all a wonderful New Year’s Eve, and I’ll catch you in 2014! 😉
After having an absolutely fabulous trip in Jersey, I flew back to California yesterday. Luckily my travels went nice & smooth (which is always appreciated!), I caught up on some sleep last night, and now I’m getting settled in back home today. With all of the plans, people, and excitement surrounding the past few weeks, I feel like we have some catching up to do! Today I’m recapping a fun night with my girlfriends in NYC.
Whenever I’m back in New Jersey, I always make sure to fit in time with my friends. Catching up and spending time with my girlfriends is important to me. This trip, my friends from college, Meaghan, Danielle, and Marla, decided to get together in New York City (They may sound familiar because I was lucky enough to have all 3 of them visit me this year in Cali!). Marla recently moved to the city, so we planned on going out for dinner, drinks, and dancing, then crashing at her place for the night.
We didn’t go to bed until 5 AM, which is something I haven’t done in quite awhile. It was totally worth feeling exhausted the next day, because I had a great time! As my friend Marla put it, it’s so nice to have friends that you know you can always pick up where you left off and have a great time with.
“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
― Muhammad Ali
When was the last memorable outing you had with friends?
My holiday was awesome – full of lots of quality family time with my father-in-law and his side of the family on Christmas Eve, and my family today.I can’t believe that Christmas is already over, but even though the holiday is technically done, we still have one more holiday celebration with my hubby’s mom coming up. Lots of fun times! More on that to come… but tonight, I thought it’d be nice to take a look back at some of my favorite blog posts of 2013 as the year comes to a close. It seemed like a fun way for me to reminisce, and for you all to check out any blog posts you missed that you’re interested in! 🙂 So here we go:
When life gets really busy, it’s easy to let your workouts take a back seat to the many other things you’ve got going on. But to me, I feel best when I’m exercising on an almost daily basis, so I make it a priority to fit in it even when I’m crazy busy.
I’ve been in New Jersey visiting my loved ones for the holidays for over a week, and although I’ve had a lot going on, I’ve managed to exercise 6 out of the 8 days I’ve been here. Here are a few tips that work for me for fitting in exercise during especially busy times (or just in general!):
Schedule it out. Be a planner! Every night when I’ve gone to bed while on the East coast, I think about my agenda the next day and where/how I could fit in exercise. I make a commitment to myself to just do it, and then I make sure to follow through.
Do it first thing in the morning. NormallyI don’t exercise in the AM, but I find that when I’m home in Jersey, it’s better for me to just workout right when I wake up. Usually things are quieter in the house, and then I can start my day off healthily and get it out of the way before my social engagements.
Have workout options planned. Jillian Michaels’ DVDs have been my go-to workouts here. I brought a bunch of her exercise DVDs home with me, and I’ve been squeezing in my sweat sessions in my parents’ living room. My favorite workout this trip has been her Ripped in 30 DVD. I did the 2 hardest workouts on the DVD this morning and was dripping sweat!
Be realistic. When it comes to exercising and healthy living in general, it’s not all or nothing. You don’t need to workout as frequently, as long, or as hard as you normally do to still be effective with your sweat sessions. For instance, I know that this week will be hectic between celebrating Christmas and staying at Adam’s dad and mom’s houses to visit them (my hubby flew into town yesterday, while I’ve been here since the weekend before), so I’ve set a goal of squeezing in at least 3 workouts throughout this week. While it’s not as much as I normally exercise, it’s a doable goal. I already worked out today so I’ve got one workout under my belt. 😉
Remember that every little workout counts. I’ve woken up an hour earlier, squeezed in short workouts if I don’t have time for long ones, and managed to get ready for my dates with family and girlfriends quicker if it means that I can get a workout in. Give yourself credit for every sweat session you do, and know that each and every one is benefitting your health.
Questions: What are your tips for fitting in exercise during the holiday madness or when out of town?
Long time no talk. I’ve been super busy all week enjoying the company of my loved ones, eating good food, fitting in workouts and working. As I’ve talked about before, I telecommute for my full-time job. So my office has been my parents’ kitchen all week, but I’m off all of next week for the holidays. Some of the things I’ve been up to this week include….
*A family tradition of baking massive quantities of Christmas cookies at my grandma’s house:
[with my mom, sister, aunt and grandma]
*Going to a martini bar with my baby sister & cousin, both of who turned 21 this year:
*A lunch date with my boss at Veggie Heaven, my favorite vegan restaurant:
Every time I’m in town, getting grub from Veggie Heaven is a must. They serve vegan Chinese food without the use of artificial flavors of preservatives, MSG, saturated fat, or cholesterol, and all of their dishes are filled with veggies and healthy “meats” made of taro root, bean curd, wheat gluten and mushrooms. Besides eating lunch there, I ordered takeout, which my mom and I have been eating all week.
*Relaxing by the fire with my family, including the 4 cats who live here and love to be their usual lazy selves and lay in front of the warm fireplace in ridiculous positions like this:
[Such a tough life right?]
*Meeting up with my best friend Meaghan for dinner and sangria at one of our old spots when we went to school at Montclair State University, Cuban Pete’s:
It’s an authentic Cuban restaurant where you bring your own wine, and they use it to make sangria. In fact, they offer a dozen sangria menu choices. That alone makes it my kind of place!
This downtown restaurant always has a festive atmosphere. It’s usually crowded and there’s always music playing. They don’t have many vegetarian menu choices, but the ones that they do offer are tasty. It’s not exactly a super health-conscious eatery, but I love it for a splurge of a meal. They have a big outside area to dine at, ya know, when it doesn’t look like this….
Both Meg and I had to drive through crazy icy roads and snowy weather to meet up, but once we sat down and began enjoying our pitcher of sangria, I knew it was a good idea to make the scary commute.
The restaurant is big on tapas, which I love because it allows you to enjoy small bites of different things. We tried goat cheese fritters and spinach empanadas:
The restaurant offers salads, soups, sandwiches, and classic Cuban dishes like chicken and rice. I ordered their garden paella, which had tons of sautéed veggies and plantains over a cilantro lime rice. Plantains are so good!
In contrast to their tapas, this paella dish was huge. Although I loved the plantains and really liked the dish overall, I ate maybe a quarter of it, then the rest came home with me as leftovers. I’ve never gotten to their dessert menu, but they offer a few traditional goodies like Cuban flan and rice pudding that always look yummy.
I had a lot of fun catching up with my girlfriend and dining at Cuban Pete’s! And speaking of girls’ nights, I have a fun one planned for tonight with a couple of my friends in NYC that I’m looking forward to. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!
I think that one of the reasons why I’m always cooking and creating recipes is because I had my mom and grandma as cook role models growing up. Both of them have always enjoyed spending time in the kitchen making meals for the family to enjoy. To us, food is love.
You still can frequently find my 80-year old grandma in her massive kitchen, complete with 3 ovens, 6 burners, and plenty of counter space to work, cooking up a storm. Her first questions when you walk into her house are always, “Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?” We’ve learned to never go to her house already full. She’s a persistent little lady, and even if you initially say no, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll somehow wind up with a plate in front of you.
Today I’m guest posting on My Own Balance (a blog I love and ready daily!), and I’m sharing a recipe that reminds me of my grandma: apple dapple pancakes. It’s one that she has whipped up for breakfast ever since I can remember.
Talking about apple dapple pancakes made me think of other favorite breakfast recipes of mine. While a lot of the time I simply grab a protein bar, eat a yogurt with fruit, or a bowl of cereal, I also like to take a few minutes to make breakfast on some days. Here are my top breakfast recipes these days:
One major staple appliance in my kitchen is a blender. Smoothies are one of my favorite healthy go-to ideas for a quick meal or snack. I also mix pancake batters in my blender, and I usually make pancakes a few times a week.
So when my blender finally conked out recently, deciding which new blender to buy was a big decision in my household. It was a blessing that my Kitchen Aid blender finally officially died, because honestly, the blender had been not been working well lately. I was getting frustrated with drinking protein smoothies with chunks of ice and frozen banana pieces in it. A foodie like me always gets excited for a new kitchen appliance, but I was extra excited for this one!
After some research, I decided on a Ninja BL740 blender. In the past few years, I’ve had a few Magic Bullets and the previously mentioned Ktichen Aid blender, and all of them 1.) were pretty cheap, and 2.) broke somewhat easily. Because of that, I wanted to go with something a bit nicer. I would love to get a Vitamix, but $500 for a blender is a little too pricey for me. The Ninja blender seemed like a nice balance between being a cheapo appliance and costing a pretty penny. It was priced at $140, and I got it at Bed, Bath & Beyond with a 20% off coupon.
One of Ninja’s proposed draw-ins is that it works as well as a Vitamix while being a fraction of the cost. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve put my new blender to the test.
One aspect of the Ninja that I’m loving is the single serve cup that comes with it. It includes a separate blade for blending using the individual cup.
Another thing I absolutely love about the blender is that the blades are removable. It’s easy to take the blender pieces out and clean them.
And speaking of blades, the most important pro of the blender that I’ve found…. It chops up your food so quickly and efficiently! Seriously, the Ninja blades are no joke. I would know, as I cut my finger on one of the blades about .27 seconds after I took the blender out of the box. Be careful to not be a klutz like me!
The blender also comes with measurements on the side, which is helpful and convenient.
(source of images: Amazon)
The only con I can think of is that there are limited blending options. There are just a few power mix buttons and a single serve blending button. It doesn’t have any puree, ice crush, etc. buttons, but honestly, I don’t feel like it’s that big of a deal. I pretty much always want things that I put into my blender simply blended, but if I’m trying to only mildly puree something, I use my food processor anyways.
My overall verdict is that this Ninja blender ROCKS! It’s not overly expensive and so far, has worked fabulously. If you’re looking for a new blender, I’d recommend checking it out. It might be perfect for you too!
Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. I purchased the blender myself and am simply providing my feedback so that it may be helpful to any readers looking for a new blender.
What are your must-have kitchen appliances/gadgets?
Happy Fridayyyy! I am super excited for the weekend, because tomorrow I’m flying out to New Jersey and will be there spending a few weeks there with my family and friends. I’m always a last minute packer, so I’ve got a lot of packing to do, some work to get done, a workout to fit in, and early Christmas presents to exchange with my hubby tonight… but first, let’s talk dessert, shall we?
With all of the sweets that surround the holidays – from baking Christmas cookies to holiday parties full of goodies – I find myself just in the mood for a little something sweet. Who am I kidding, I usually am craving something sweet anyways, but even more so lately.
I only made half a dozen on purpose (as with my original recipe) so that my hubby and I didn’t have to test our self control. I had 2, he ate 4 — sweet tooth satisfied in moderation! 😉
And earlier this week I whipped up these babies one night….
The ingredient list is simple.
Dates. honey. pecans. pumpkin pie spice. vanilla extract. a pinch of salt. And that is all my friends! Throw it all in a food processor, pulse until well combined, then roll into balls and enjoy.
It’s an easy and delicious dessert that can also be a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. And if you’re trying to resist unhealthy holiday work temptations, I say that you should just throw a few of these in a baby-sized tupperware to enjoy instead – without any guilt! 😉
The next time I’ll be blogging will be on the East coast! I heard that a snow storm is moving into Jersey this weekend, so here’s to hoping for a smooth, uneventful day of travel for me tomorrow, and a wonderful weekend for you all!
There are a lot of w’s in my post title huh? Apparently I’m in the mood for a good alliteration this evening!
Today I had a little “me” time and got a massage and a manicure. Thanks to Groupon, my hour-long deep tissue massage was only $25…how can you not love that right?!
Since I knew I wouldn’t feel like working out or have time to after my couple hours of pampering, I planned on doing a workout first thing in the morning so I could still fit exercise time in for the day. I rolled out of bed this morning and first did my favorite YouTube AM yoga video:
I’ve followed this video a bunch of times, and I always feel so stretched out and ready for the day after it!
Harley moved her blanket to be right on top of my yoga mat, and then she proceeded to just curl up and stare at me for my entire yoga session. Just the usual shenanigans in my house!
After yoga, I jumped around and did the workout below. It took me 20 minutes to complete, and according to my heart rate monitor, I burned 150 calories.
Since it has been so chilly in the Bay Area lately, I’ve really been enjoying sweating during my workouts and getting my body warmed up – hence the workout title. Exercising has felt even better than usual, and my workouts have been rocking lately!
Question: What time of the day do you usually exercise?
“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” – Luciano Pavarotti
As someone who loves to spend time whipping up healthy, delicious food in the kitchen, I own a number of cookbooks that I constantly flip through for recipe ideas and inspiration. And I’m always on the lookout for new ones to check out.
Recently, my friends at BenBella Books sent me a copy of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics, a book that came out a few months ago. The cookbook features vegan recipes from Laura Theodore — a host, writer, and producer on Public Television show Jazzy Vegetarian. Laura states her mission to simply be: making the world a better place, one recipe at a time, and describes her recipes to be, “based on fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes, nuts, and whole grains that are compassionate, nutritious, and great tasting!” I immediately thought it sounded like a book I could get behind.
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” – Albert Einstein
The book contains quotes like the ones above scattered in the book. As a quote junkie, I love this. Laura is a jazz singer (hence the title) and radio host, and the book integrates music into the text through some of the recipe titles and quotes. In the beginning of the book, they put together entire menus using recipes throughout the book, and for each of the 10 menus, Laura lists a “jazzy music pick” pairing and explains why she chose it. I think it’s a cute little touch that makes the book unique.
The cookbook features a lot of easy-to-make recipes without super long ingredient lists. It contains a lot of familiar recipes, but made vegan-style with healthy ingredients. I’ve made a number of recipes from it so far, and here are a few of my favorite Jazzy Vegetarian dishes:
[Keep in mind that I can’t help but modify nearly every recipe I come across, so the recipes vary a bit from the exact book versions. Recipes can be found at the bottom of the post.]
I’m not sure why I hadn’t made this before, but it could not be any easier: combine 1/2 cup cashews and 1/4 TSP of sea salt in a food processor, pulsing until the consistency is similar to parmesan cheese.
I generously sprinkled it on top of caesar salad, and am planning on topping broccoli with it sometime soon. It’s so tasty!
I posted this muffin recipe in this post after I went apple picking in the fall.
White Bean Cashew Dip
Great for dipping with crackers, carrots, celery and pita chips!
Butternut Squash & White Bean Soup
I just tried this recipe for the first time last weekend, and both my hubby and I loved it. It seems like it would be kind of plain, but it was simply delicious. Laura wasn’t kidding when she said that the soup is hearty and filling!
Party Potato Skins
I love spicing up potatoes by scooping out the flesh, combining it with other yumminess, then stuffing it back into the skins to bake. In this recipe, the potatoes are stuffed with cremini mushrooms, baby spinach and red pepper.
As far as cons of the book, the only thing I’m not crazy about is the number of recipes with tofu in the ingredient list, only because I feel kind of so-so about tofu. I’ll cook with it here and there, but I don’t like to use it as a “hidden” ingredient in recipes, because I feel like I can still taste it. The book includes tofu in a lot of salad dressings and desserts, which I tried, but it’s just not for me. With that being said, I’m still a fan of the book and that’s the only thing I didn’t like about it. There are some other recipes I’m looking forward to trying out from Jazzy Vegetarian Classics, including polenta pizza and apple tart with blueberry glaze. I’m sure that this book will come up again on my blog sometime soon! You can check out more about it here.
3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed, baked, and cooled
1 TSP paprika
2 cups diced cremini mushroom caps
1 medium diced sweet red pepper
1 cup lightly packed, finely chopped baby spinach
¼ onion, minced
1 TSP extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or vegan cheese, or no cheese at all if you choose)
Preheat oven to 375. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Slice each potato in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out pulp using a small spoon, leaving around ¼ inch of the potato skin intact.
Arrange the skins on a baking sheet, and sprinkle with ½ TSP paprika.
Mash the potato flesh up until there aren't any big chunks left, then place in a large bowl. Add the mushrooms, pepper, spinach, onion, all-purpose seasoning, olive oil, and remaining paprika in, and stir until evenly coated. If the mixture seems dry, add a bit more olive oil.
Spoon the filling evenly into each skin. Shape the mixture into the skins as you scoop it in so that it doesn't overflow out of the potato skin.
Tent with foil and bake 35-40 minutes, until the veggies are soft. Add the cheese, and bake until the cheese is melted and the potatoes are crisp and golden (about 10 minutes).
Put the potatoes on a large platter and cool a bit before serving.