Monthly Archives: February 2014

Institute for Integrative Nutrition: Month 1 Recap

I’ve mentioned it a few times since I started, but in mid-January I became a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. The school is a yearlong course to become a certified health coach, and so far I’ve really enjoyed every single week. Not only am I a bit of a nerd in general who loves school and learning, but at IIN, I’m learning about topics related to a huge passion of mine (which you may have figured out by now!): healthy living. I thought it’d be fun to do a monthly recap post where I share some of my favorite concepts and ideas from the lessons, so this is recap #1!

IIN-logo

First off, how the school operates: I love how classes are set up to fit into a busy schedule. The school has an app so that you can listen to the lectures on your iPhone or do work on your iPad on-the-go. Each week there are different video and audio lectures, discussion questions, workbook assignments, and quick quizzes, and I can complete them whenever I have time to.

Time management has always been a strong suit of mine. I think I really started to develop great time management skills in college when I was a full-time student who had an internship, waitressing job, and dog walking service all at once. Besides restaurant shifts and class times, everything else was flexible timing, and I learned to fit it all in well. These days, working full-time from home and freelance writing here and there, I mostly make my own schedule, so fitting in IIN has been pretty easy. I usually will do a bit of work one day during lunch, will devote an hour or two one weeknight to getting my learning on, and then spend one morning on the weekend completing the rest of the lesson. Some days I’ve felt like I’m crunching too much into the day, and when that happens, I give myself a break the next night to skip school and blogging and just relax. However, I like being busy and doing a lot, and so far so good!

IIN plate

Favorite Concepts: 

Bio Individuality – At the core of IIN is the idea of bio individuality, which recognizes that not one diet fits all. Every person is a unique individual with individualized nutritional requirements. Factors that shape our diet preferences include personal tastes and inclinations, ancestry, blood type, genetic background and metabolic rates. Though IIN stresses eating lots of fruits and vegetables in general, it doesn’t claim that one diet is “right” and teaches you about tons of different dietary theories that work well for different people.

Primary Food – Food is more than just what’s on your plate. The primary foods in your life – including your career, education, relationships, social life, spirituality, and physical activity – are what feed you the most. These things feed your soul and satisfy your hunger for life. I said it once before on here, but it’s worth noting again: You can eat all of the greens and nutritiously dense foods that you want, but if your primary foods are a mess, you are not going to be a happy, healthy person.

“Fitting Out” – This idea relates to maybe not feeling like you fit in with the norm of society, but accepting it and being your authentic self. I’m sure at some point or another we’ve all felt like we don’t fit in somewhere, and “fitting out” celebrates individuality and embracing personal growth. I think that “fitting out” is something I’ve been able to embrace in my adulthood rather than feeling like an outsider, and I don’t mind being different in some ways.

Positive Psychology – As someone who firmly believes in the power of attitude and positivity, I loved the IIN lecture on positive psychology. Basically it’s the science of focusing on positive traits and subjective experiences, centering yourself on the good things as pathways to happiness. One key idea that I took away from the lecture was the idea that our perspectives are broadened when we’re feeling good. Being in a positive mindset allows us to build our emotional, social and intellectual resources. Ever notice that bad days just seem to keep getting worse, or good days just keep getting more awesome? It’s because our mindsets and perspectives have a domino effect in our lives.

Deepak Chopra quote

(source)

Favorite Quotes: 

Being the quote junkie that I am, I’ve written several quotes down in my notes from lectures. Here are a few of them:

“Live in a graceful and grateful world.” Ever since I heard this, it has sort of become my life motto. What a beautiful thought, right?

“All living beings want to heal themselves by themselves.” This stresses the idea that us humans need to look more towards nutrition, rest, and the various factors in our lives, i.e. relationships and exercise, to heal us when we’re not well…and not just immediately be put on meds and look for quick fixes. Our bodies are intelligent and when they’re out of whack, they’re trying to tell us to change our behaviors.

“Clarity is key. The universe responds to clarity.” This came up in a lecture focusing on having single pointed focus in being an IIN student, but it can be related to anything in life. Figure out what your goals and intentions are, so that you can be clear about what you’re striving for and how to achieve it.

“Aim to eat food that is pure, simple, original and authentic.” This was said in a lecture about raw food and its effect on providing the body with nutrients, detoxification, immunity and cleansing. I ate a big bowl of fruit after listening to this lecture!

healthylifesign

(source)

IIN Ambassador Announcement: 

You may have noticed that I have a few IIN visuals on the sidebar of my blog, and that’s because I’m now an IIN ambassador! I didn’t want to discuss it until I’ve had some time as an IIN student, because I just feel like it wouldn’t be authentic of me to recommend you enroll at IIN without me actually experiencing it for at least awhile. Now that I’m into my second month of health coaching school, I can honestly say that it’s a great fit for me and I believe that health coaching is a movement that is going to dramatically improve the obesity epidemic. I am so excited to be a small part of that, and I can’t wait to positively impact people’s lives through my health coaching!

So in a nutshell, if you check out IIN through my sidebar visuals or the image right above and wind up enrolling, I get a kickback from it, which I would obviously appreciate. 🙂 If you have questions or want to know more about IIN, please do not hesitate to shoot me an email at nicole@foodielovesfitness.com. I’d be more than happy to chat!

Questions: Thoughts on any of these concepts or quotes? Have you ever considered health coaching? 

Cocogo Brand Ambassador

First thing’s first: It’s time to announce my Cocogo sports drink giveaway winner. Congratulations to Calista at A Fettle Fine Thyme! I’ve emailed you for your address so I can get a box of lemon lime electrolyte packets shipped to you very soon.

Cocogo ambassador

Speaking of Cocogo, I’m happy to announce that I’m now partnering with the company as a brand ambassador! As I mentioned in my post about their drink packets, I’m a big fan of keeping properly hydrated to feel my best and love electrolyte drinks. Grape is my favorite flavor of theirs!

And because I feel like keeping things short and sweet on here tonight, I wanted to share some words of wisdom that I absolutely adore and have yet to post:

respect yourself

 

I happen to believe that life’s too short to waste your time on activities/people/things that bring you down and deplete your happiness. If you agree, may you keep this quote in mind throughout this week and always to create a life filled with positive energy and joy. 🙂

Hiking at Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay State Park

Hi there!

I arrived home a few hours ago from my wonderful getaway to Lake Tahoe. It was the first time I visited the area, and just as everyone who has been there had told me, it’s breathtakingly beautiful!

Emerald Bay-7

I surprised my hubby by booking us a getaway to South Lake Tahoe. We own a timeshare, so I exchanged a few of our days for a stay at The Ridge Tahoe. Our room was pretty nice, and the resort was around a 15 minute drive from downtown. South Lake Tahoe is about a 4 hour drive from our home in the South Bay Area, which wasn’t a bad trip. We drove up there on Friday afternoon and zipped back home on this Monday afternoon.

On Saturday, we wanted to go snowshoeing to explore the mountains a bit. Much to my disappointment, the snowshoe rental guy told us that because the winter there has been so mild with not much snow, we didn’t even need snowshoes to go hiking. I was bummed for a few moments….until I got a look at Emerald Bay, at which point I became giddy with excitement at how gorgeous it is there:

Emerald Bay-2

Fun fact: This little piece of land situated in Emerald Bay, called Fannette Island, is the only island in Lake Tahoe.

Emerald Bay-3

Once we parked, put on what we now know were too many clothes for the unseasonably warm weather (turns out a puffy vest was not necessary!), and climbed on some rocks overlooking the bay, a photo shoot ensued:

Emerald Bay-4

Emerald Bay-5

I took a few moments to practice my balance skills on uneven surfaces and strike a few yoga poses, obviously.

Emerald Bay-6

There was a really cool rushing waterfall above the bay that we ventured over to.

Emerald Bay-12

Emerald Bay-13

Emerald Bay-8

Afterwards, we headed over to Eagle Falls Trailhead to do some hiking. Our original plan was to hike high up through Eagle Trail to what’s called Desolation Wilderness…but that idea was quickly abandoned once we walked over the bridge where the falls were, and attempted to hike up while slipping and sliding around what quickly became an icy trail.

“I knew we needed snowshoes!” I loudly muttered as I tried not to completely bust my butt going back down the bridge to formulate a plan B.

Emerald Bay-9

What we decided to do instead was hike up to the top end on the trail loop, then create our own hike of sorts…and by hike, I really mean free rock/boulder climbing our way up the mountain. It was definitely a bit of an adventure and adrenaline rush, and when we started to get to the top I was wondering how the hell we were going to get back down, but the view from up there was worth it. Photos just do not do it justice.

Emerald Bay-10

Emerald Bay-11

There was not another soul up there with us. I laid down on the mountain to rest my body and quiet my mind, and it was just so peaceful looking out at the trees, mountains, and Emerald Bay for a little while.

Emerald Bay-1After we (safely) climbed back down to the trailhead, we made a quick pitstop to the beach to check it out.

lake tahoe beach

Spending the day with my love amongst fresh mountain air and gorgeous scenery? It doesn’t get much better than that!

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Cookies [Gluten Free & Vegan]

Hi friends!

I am super excited because I’m heading to Lake Tahoe tomorrow for a getaway with my hubby! I’ve never gone skiing before, so wish me luck. We’re also planning on trying snowshoeing, and I found a bunch of restaurants that are my style — including a couple of vegan and gluten free specific eateries that I’m looking forward to trying out. I’ll certainly be recapping my trip next week, but today, let’s talk about another fun topic: cookies, specifically dark chocolate peanut butter banana oatmeal cookies. How’s that for a mouthful?

cookies-1

There are a few kitchen creations that are my go-to recipes when I’m in the mood for something specific. When I get into what I think of as a cookie monster mode, this is definitely one of my no brainers to make. When I felt the need to make them last week, I realized that I had yet to post the recipe on here…so I actually measured ingredients out and wrote them down as I was whipping them up this time so that I could share it with you. You’re welcome.

cookies-2

One of these days, I may try to sub some apple sauce for the oil, but every time I go to make these cookies, I decide that they’re just so yummy and perfectly fine the way they are. Due to my gluten free diet this month, I subbed my usual regular whole wheat flour for gluten free all purpose baking flour (made with garbanzo flour) and used certified gluten free oats this time. If you’re a fan of cookies, I highly suggest that you try these babies out!

4.0 from 1 reviews
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Cookies [Gluten Free & Vegan]
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 18
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups gluten free old fashioned oats
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • ¼ cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 TBSP gluten free all purpose baking flour
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 flax egg: 1 TBSP ground flaxseed plus 3 TBSP water
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup (vegan) dark chocolate chips
  • ½ TSP vanilla extract
  • ½ TSP salt
  • 1 TSP baking powder
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine banana, peanut butter, vegetable oil, flax egg and vanilla. Mix together well until mostly smooth.
  3. In another bowl, stir together oats, flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined well. Add chocolate chips and stir until evenly incorporated.
  5. Place spoonfuls of batter onto a large, greased baking sheet. Form 18 cookies.
  6. Cook for about 12 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom. Allow to slightly cool on a cooling rack before enjoying (if you can wait a few minutes!).
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 cookie, Calories: 107, Fat: 5 g, Saturated fat: 1 g, Carbohydrates: 15 g, Sugar: 8 g, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 2 g

 

Question: If you’re a fan of cookies, what is your favorite kind?

PS – Don’t forget to enter my Cocogo electrolyte drink giveaway!

Giveaway! Cocogo: Real Fruit Hydration On-the-Go

Happy Tuesday everyone!

I’m back this week participating in The Skinny on Health‘s Fit Tip Tuesday blogger party, and today there’s also a giveaway involved! Fit Tip Tuesday Button

One of my #1 health tips is to make staying hydrated a top priority. We all know that drinking water is important, and here are a few reasons why:

Drinking water…

  • Helps with alertness
  • Prevents headaches and fatigue
  • Keeps dry skin at bay
  • Improves performance during exercise or activity
  • Helps to control appetite

During exercise, dehydration can cause a slower reaction time, decreased coordination and endurance, higher heart rate, and impaired concentration – no thanks! – so I always make sure to be properly hydrated before I start exercising, and to frequently sip water while I’m working out.

I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, but I’m like a camel when it comes to drinking water. I require a lot of water throughout the day to keep my thirst quenched, and I pretty much always have a glass or bottle of water nearby. Post-workout, the easy way that I make sure to properly rehydrate is to drink an electrolyte drink.

Cocogo-1

Recently Cocogo sent me some of their real fruit hydration on-the-go packets to try out. Made from real freeze-dried fruit, coconut water, and monk fruit, Cocogo’s sports drinks replenish the body with sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and are also a good source of Vitamin B12, C, and D3, just to name a few.

Cocogo offers their drinks in convenient little packets and comes in grape (my favorite!), lemon lime and raspberry passion fruit.

Cocogo-5

My overall impression is that Cocogo’s hydration drinks add a little kick to water while providing a lot of electrolyte benefits. The hydration packs are not overly sweet, but more like a subtle addition of flavor to plain old water.

Cocogo-2

I’ve been adding a packet to a small cup of water at night, particularly after my evening workouts when I feel like I need something to replenish what my body lost during hard workouts.

Cocogo-4

The folks at Cocogo were nice enough to offer to send a box of their sports drinks to one lucky reader, so now it’s giveaway time! If you’d like to win some Cocogo, enter the giveaway with any or all of the ways below…

1.) Simply leave a comment below telling me which flavor you’re most interested in trying – grape, lemon lime or raspberry passion fruit.

2.) Follow Foodie Loves Fitness on Instagram.

3.) Follow Foodie Loves Fitness on Twitter.

4.) Tweet about the giveaway with a link (something like, “@foodiemtfitness is giving away @drinkcocogo electrolyte drinks! –> http://wp.me/p2Vzsi-2bO”).

Please leave a separate comment for each way of entry. Also, if you already follow me on social media, leave a comment telling me so!

The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. I will randomly select a winner next Tuesday, Feb 25. 

Also, if you shop at Cocogo, you can use the code 40COCOGO at checkout to get 40% off, or use the code FRSH4COCOGO for free shipping.

Sweet ‘n Salty Roasted Chickpeas

Hi friends!

Hope you had a fabulous Valentine’s Day weekend. My V Day was nice and low key. I made tomato basil soup and asparagus risotto for a cozy dinner at home, and we drank a bottle of California zinfandel from Cline Cellars….

V Day Dinner Collage

…and we enjoyed strawberries, chocolate and port for dessert.

dessert

My hubby got me gorgeous pink roses that I’ve been staring at all weekend, and I surprised him by booking a getaway to Lake Tahoe for this weekend. Adam has been there for work and raved about how beautiful it is, and I’ve never been there, so I thought it’d be an awesome spot to spend a long weekend. It’s actually totally coincidental that I booked the trip right around V Day, but we’re definitely looking forward to it!

pink roses

V Day dinner

Other yummy highlights of my weekend were a Mexican salad….

Mexican salad

…champagne with strawberries….

champs

…and what I’m sharing with you today, roasted chickpeas:

chickpeas-3I’ve been loving roasted garbanzo beans for awhile now, but last week was the first time I made them sweet ‘n salty…and I’m obsessed! I’ve been digging the combo of sweet and salty lately in general, and this recipe is awesome because it packs a protein, fiber, and vitamin  punch, while also satisfying my urge for something sweet.

chickpeas-4I’ve made these chickpeas twice in the last week, and both times I had planned on only eating half of them, and wound up eating the whole thing. They’re just so yummy and easy to keep popping in your mouth. I suppose in that way they’re addictive like your typical chips, only they’re healthy and afterwards you have a happy, full belly! 😉
chickpeas-1

chickpeas-2

If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that I’ll be making some sweet ‘n salty roasted chickpeas again this week. They may be my new favorite snack/lunch!

chickpeas-5

Sweet 'n Salty Roasted Chickpeas
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 TBSP cane sugar
  • ½ TBSP light brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • ¼ TSP sea salt, plus additional for sprinkling
  • ¼ TSP cinnamon, plus additional for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, combine chickpeas with vegetable oil, sugars, sea salt and cinnamon. Toss to coat evenly.
  3. Spread chickpeas out on a baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, toss chickpeas around and sprinkle with additional sea salt and cinnamon. Bake for 15 minutes more, or until chickpeas are slightly crunchy and browned.
Notes
Some of the sugar may melt away from the chickpeas while baking and burn on the pan. Don't worry, the chickpeas will still have some sweetness to them in the end!
Nutrition Information
Calories: 275, Fat: 10 g, Saturated fat: .5 g, Carbohydrates: 39 g, Sugar: 11 g, Fiber: 9 g, Protein: 11 g

 

Are you a fan of sweet & salty combos?

My favorite is dark chocolate with sea salt. So good!

Love Yourself First

Happy Valentine’s Day loves!!

V Day Pancakes

What better way to start my day than by eating heart-shaped chocolate chip pancakes with strawberries? 🙂

While many people frown upon this holiday, I am a romantic person at heart, so I love a day devoted to love by nature. Sure, it’s a Hallmark holiday where many people very stereotypically buy flowers and chocolate and go out to dinner, but I want to talk about what Valentine’s Day is really and truly about: celebrating love and relationships. So let me ask you, what’s the most important relationship in your life?

If you thought of your partner, child, or mother, yes, I’m sure they mean the world to you. But what I’m getting at here is that the most important relationship you’ll ever have in your life is the one you have with yourself. No matter what happens with your romantic relationships, your friendships, and your family, the one constant person that you can rely on throughout your entire life is you.

Love

So show yourself some love today, and every day of the year for that matter. Treat yourself to something special that’ll feed your soul (and maybe your belly — a Valentine’s Day cupcake works!). Embrace the unique person that you are and celebrate the wonderful things you bring to the world, and always remember that you’re worthy of love — both from yourself and from others. Knowing that and carrying it with you on a daily basis is life changing. From my experience, once you realize it, all of the stars seem to align and your life is never the same. As Lucille Ball said, “Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”

 

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Stuffed Strawberries

hazelnut strawberries-1

In honor of Valentine’s Day taking place in a few days, I have a delicious dessert recipe to share with you all today.

the-great-valentines-day-bake-off1

It all started when I heard about Davida‘s Valentine’s Day Bake Off. Naturally, I wanted to participate, but there weren’t any baking ideas immediately popping into my head….and then I thought of making a homemade version of Nutella. Since it’s V-Day, the idea of strawberries were also on my brain. Technically there isn’t any baking involved in this recipe, but I figure that there’s no room to be a stickler for rules when chocolate is involved, right? 😉

stuffed strawberries-2

I think many people would agree with me when I say that Nutella is heavenly tasting. I think it’s slightly ridiculous that people see it as a “nutritious” thing to eat for breakfast, but I do not pass up the opportunity to get a crepe stuffed with fruit and Nutella when given the chance. Random Fact: World Nutella Day just passed on February 5th. I kid you not, this holiday exists!

In recent times, I satisfy my chocolate hazelnut spread urges by buying Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter, which is deeeelish and also addicting, yet is better for you because the first ingredient is actual hazelnuts — unlike Nutella, where the first two ingredients are sugar and palm oil (Hazelnuts as the first ingredient in hazelnut butter?? Brilliant!). When I got the bright idea to try and make chocolate hazelnut butter myself, off to Whole Foods I went for some dry roasted hazelnuts….

Hazelnuts

You can also buy raw hazelnuts and roast them yourself if you’d like.

Other star ingredients in this butter include maple syrup, almond milk, sea salt and dark chocolate.

Spread Ingredients

To make the butter, first pulse all of the hazelnuts in a food processor. After a minute, they’ll look like this…

hazelnut spread-1

…but you’ll want to keep going until the nuts form a hazelnut paste as pictured here:

hazelnut spread-2

The next thing to do is melt the chocolate, almond milk, and vanilla extract in a saucepan. I used dark chocolate discs for this recipe. After melted, I combined the chocolate in with the hazelnuts in the food processor, and added sea salt, maple syrup, cocoa powder and vegetable oil. I thoroughly mixed everything until it looked like the deliciousness below.

hazelnut spread-3

At first, I attempted to use the hazelnut butter to stuff the strawberries right away, but then quickly realized that right out of the food processor, the spread is a bit too runny. Case in point:

stuffed strawberries

You actually could use the hazelnut butter as is if you’d like to simply dip fruit into it, or whatever else you people do with Nutella…

hazelnut dip

…but for the purposes of stuffing strawberries, what I did next was place the hazelnut butter in the freezer for about 15 minutes to let it harden up a bit.

While that’s happening, you’ll want to cut the stems of your strawberries off and scoop out some of the flesh in the middle with a butter knife, as your dog longingly looks on in hopes of nabbing one of the berries of course…

strawberry

After the butter has hardened up a bit, remove it from the freezer and scoop some into each of your strawberries.

The cutest grandma in the world (mine of course!) always sends me little things for Valentine’s Day. Last week she sent me toffee and cupcake decorators for the holiday, so I used some of my decor to spruce up my hazelnut butter stuffed strawberries.

cupcake decor

stuffed strawberries-3

I find this to be a very pretty, Valentine’s Day-ish dessert, don’t you?

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Stuffed Strawberries
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Ingredients
  • 12 large strawberries
  • 1 cup dry roasted hazelnuts
  • 6 oz dark chocolate discs, chips, etc. (You'll want to stay away from bitter baking bars though.)
  • 1 TBSP cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup, plus 3 TBSP maple syrup
  • ½ cup (chocolate) almond milk
  • 2 TSP vanilla extract
  • 1 TBSP vegetable oil
  • ½ TSP sea salt, plus more to taste
Instructions
  1. Place hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse for a couple of minutes until it forms a thick paste.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate with the almond milk over low heat, stirring often. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.
  3. Add the chocolate mixture to the food processor, and mix in the sea salt, cocoa powder, maple syrup and vegetable oil. Pulse again for a few minutes until everything is combined well.
  4. Place the butter in the freezer for about 15 minutes to allow it to harden a bit. You'll want it to be not runny, yet still very easily spreadable.
  5. Meanwhile, cut the stems of your strawberries off and scoop out most of the flesh with a butter knife. Once the butter is ready, remove from the freezer and use a butter knife to spread some into each strawberry. Serve immediately.

 

Question: What’s your favorite dessert?

This is a tough question for me! I love chocolate cake and ice cream/fro yo, but in recent time I’ve been liking fancy cupcakes. I think we can agree that for V-Day, strawberries and chocolate are where it’s at!

Weekend R&R: Wine Sipping in the Rain

Hi friends!

Hope you all had a glorious weekend and made it through your Monday well. The weekend here in the Bay Area was a dark, rainy one. We barely have gotten rain at all in the past year, and now it has been gloomy and rainy probably 6 out of the past 10 days. Crazy mother nature!

Clouds

Some notable eats of my weekend include this butternut squash enchilada casserole, recipe a la Sarah at Making Thyme for Health:

butternut squash enchiladas

A “quick run” into Whole Foods turned into me walking around for longer than expected, spending way more money than expected – but when does this not happen when I go to Whole Foods? I get a little too excited there, especially with my February gluten free diet. It’s like the gluten free food mecca! My favorite find was Kind Healthy Grains Cinnamon Oat Clusters with Flax Seeds: Kind Clusters

fruit bowl

A fruit and almond butter bowl with Kind clusters sprinkled in

Since I was hungry at Whole Foods and needed to come up with a quick dinner idea, I decided to nab a gluten free pizza from Against the Grain Gourmet. My verdict? Not bad, not amazing. I’ll probably attempt to make gluten free pizza dough sometime soon, but this was an okay quick fix for my pizza urge.

GF pizza

(Notice a certain puppy’s ears in the photo?)

Since I really beat up my muscles with tough workouts all of last week, I took the weekend off of any serious exercise for some R&R. The most activity I did was partake in long walks with my pup and a morning yoga session in my living room. Sometimes just taking 2 days off of working out can do wonders. I feel so much better today and had a great workout this evening at the gym.

Speaking of rest, I also got another massage at the National Holistic Institute to help loosen up some tight and achy spots. My student masseuse last time was better, but it was definitely worth the cheap price again.

massage benefits

On Saturday afternoon I got the chance to meet some of my classmates at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. One thing I love about IIN is that there are people of all different backgrounds and experience in the health industry, yet the constant commonality is that we’re all interested in health and wellness. All of these women live in Northern Cali and it was nice connecting with them. Group photo:

IIN Group

One of the women, named Madeline, is from Switzerland and now lives in Sonoma. At the very end of our meeting, I asked her how she wound up moving to the U.S., and she said that she first moved here to be a nanny in Montclair, N.J. I went to Montclair State University and lived in that town, which is 2,500 miles away from here, for 4 years! [Funny coincidence #1 of the weekend.]

Yesterday Clos LaChance winery had a pick-up party for its wine club members, so we headed down the street in the gloominess for a glass of wine.

Winery-1

Usually we like to enjoy these parties by having a picnic outside, so since the weather was crappy, we didn’t stay long. It was crowded inside, so we sat outside while it spritzed and sipped our wine. I then had a brilliant idea that we should go wine tasting somewhere else local – preferably indoors.

Winery-5

This handsome man and I wound up at a winery in our town that we had never even heard of before yesterday called Castillo’s Hillside Shire Winery.

Winery-4

Winery-3

Tucked away in a backroad was this beautiful little winery. The tasting room was this cute room in a cottage across from their mansion of a home. Inside the tasting room, we met some new friends: the owner, who literally stopped what she was doing in the tasting room to sing Italian opera to me as I sipped my malbec (I kid you not!); and a group of friends, 2 of whom currently live in San Diego in the complex that my hubby and I lived in there [funny coincidence #2!].

Winery-2

We didn’t love the wine, but did enjoy 2 of the varietals we tasted. We went home with a bottle of red and smiles on our faces. I love quirky boutique wineries!

“Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Questions: Has anyone ever sang opera to you? Anyone else have a problem with spending way too much $$ at Whole Foods? 

Avocado Walnut Pesto Tofu Salad

When I was younger, I didn’t eat nuts — no cashews, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, nada. I can’t decide which came first: me deciding that my tastebuds weren’t a fan, or me putting them on my silly can’t-eat-because-of-the-high-fat-content-list. Well my friends, I’ve gotten older and wiser, and now am a firm believer in including heart-healthy fats in my diet on a daily basis. Nuts (and most definitely nut butters!) are a frequent part of my eats. I’ll throw a half-serving on top of my yogurt, or eat a serving as a snack here and there.

So when California Walnuts contacted me asking if I’d like to try a bag of their walnuts to play around with in the kitchen, I gladly accepted. The nuts came in a kind of earthy feeling burlap sack, which I thought was a cute touch. To check out some of the benefits of eating walnuts, visit the company’s nutrition page.

Walnuts

When thinking of what to make first with my walnuts, the idea of pesto came into my head.

Separately, after seeing a friend of mine post a vegan “chicken” salad picture on Instagram, I picked up a container of tofu to make something similar with.

tofu pesto salad-2

I’m kind of iffy with tofu. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t, and when I don’t like it, I usually take a tofu break…. but then a few months later, a tofu container winds up in my shopping cart, and I’m back testing it out in some new way.

This recipe is my walnut pesto and tofu “chicken” salad ideas rolled into one. At the last minute, I threw some avocado into the mix to spice it up even more.

pesto tofu salad-1

A few things to note about this recipe:

If you want the tofu salad to be more pesto-filled, you can just reduce the amount of tofu you use. I used the entire 14-oz container and liked the light pesto flavor, but if you like a stronger pesto taste, I’d reduce the amount of tofu by 25-50%.

This recipe includes parmesan cheese, but you can easily make it vegan by using nutritional yeast instead.

pesto tofu salad-3

Avocado Walnut Pesto Tofu Salad
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 oz avocado
  • 7-14 oz of extra firm tofu, depending on how strong of a pesto flavor you prefer (I used the entire 14-oz container)
  • ½ cup natural walnuts
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese*
  • 2 TSP fresh lemon juice
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 whole clove garlic
  • ¼ TSP salt, plus more to taste
  • ⅛ TSP pepper
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, blend together the basil, olive oil, parmesan, lemon juice, 2 oz of the avocado, ¼ cup of walnuts, salt, pepper and the garlic clove. Pulse until well combined.
  2. Take the block of tofu and crumble it into a strainer, squeezing out excess water as you crumble. Place the tofu in a large bowl.
  3. Chop the remaining ¼ cup of walnuts and cube the remaining 1 oz of avocado. Add chopped celery, walnuts and avocado to the tofu.
  4. Mix the pesto into the tofu bowl. Stir the mixture together, and season with additional salt to taste.
  5. Enjoy warm or cold with crackers, on a sandwich, in a tortilla, or all on its own!
Notes
*To make the salad vegan, sub nutritional yeast for the parmesan cheese.

 

As I mentioned in my WIAW post yesterday, I enjoyed the salad with some Van’s gluten free crackers. A few days later, I wrapped some pesto tofu salad in a tortilla.

pesto tofu salad-4

Foodie fact of the day on walnut production in California: More than 99% of the walnuts in U.S. are grown in California’s Central Valley. Internationally, California walnuts supply 3/4 of the world’s walnut trade. That’s a lot of walnut growing in this beautiful state that I’m living in!