Monthly Archives: June 2014

Strawberry, Cashew & Apricot Salad with Strawberry Basil Vinaigrette

Hi friends!

Hope you that you had a great weekend. Mine was pretty low-key: did some schoolwork (got 100% on my second test!) and stuff around/for the house, went hiking, got some beach time in and just enjoyed the summertime weather.

And speaking of summer, today’s recipe is most definitely seasonally appropriate.

strawberry salad-1

I came up with this salad after having recently eaten a strawberry basil Greek yogurt. I loved the flavor combo, and when I picked up strawberries during my next grocery store run, I started thinking about pairing local strawberries with basil from my backyard for a dish.

strawberry salad-3

In general, I like to switch things up in the kitchen, but this just isn’t the case when it comes to salad dressings. My go-to dressing mix is extra virgin olive oil + fresh lemon juice + balsamic vinaigrette + mixed up salt. BOOM. I pretty much make it every time I have salad, but this time, I decided to get a little creative and make a strawberry basil vinaigrette.

Strawberry Salad

Simple enough to throw together in a jiffy, the dressing is the fresh and fruity star of this vibrant, vegan, healthy summer salad.

strawberry salad-4

5.0 from 1 reviews
Strawberry, Cashew & Apricot Salad with Strawberry Basil Vinaigrette
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients
Salad:
  • 6 cups of mixed greens
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 4 fresh apricots
  • ½ cup raw cashew pieces
Dressing:
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 2 TSP white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 TSP cane sugar
  • 2 TBSP fresh basil
  • 1½ TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ TSP sea salt
Instructions
  1. Place greens in a large salad bowl.
  2. Slice strawberries and quarter apricots. Place 1 cup of the strawberries and the apricot pieces into the salad bowl. Sprinkle cashew pieces in, and toss to combine.
  3. In a food processor, combine remaining strawberries and all other dressing ingredients. Pulse until the mixture forms a smooth dressing. Drizzle on top of salad. Top to combine. Divide evenly into 2 bowls.

 

Questions: Do you like the combination of strawberry and basil? What’s your go-to salad dressing?

PS – If you haven’t already, don’t forget to enter my KIND healthy snack bar giveaway before it ends Wednesday!

Veggie Pappardelle Bolognese

This lovely Friday marks what would have been my grandma’s 80th birthday.

2008 gram birthday

Before last month, I had never lost a person I was really close with. On one hand, I feel blessed to have lived nearly 27 years before experiencing the loss of a person that was so dear to my heart. I’m grateful that when I did lose a person so important to my life, it was one who had led a pretty long, happy life.

With my sister, mom, grandma, cousin, and aunt years ago

With my sister, mom, grandma, cousin, and aunt years ago

But on the other hand, it still hasn’t been easy by any stretch. As anyone whose lost someone close to them can probably relate, I think it may be the worst feeling in the world to have this aching that can never be satisfied, a hole in your heart because someone you loved has passed away. You wish you could talk to them and just hear their voice again.

grandma-wedding day

My grandma on her wedding day 58 years ago

I look for signs of her everywhere, and I try to fill that gap I feel by remembering all of her unique quirks and sayings, and all of our funny conversations and memories over the years. One thing I recently thought of was her comments about my being a vegetarian in the first several years of me nixing meat from my diet. She, an avid cook who showed her love with food, would say to me, “How are you going to find a boyfriend if you don’t eat meat? What would you cook for him? What will you eat on dinner dates, a salad?”

What can I say, as progressive as my grandma was in some ways, she was traditional in others. And her Italian ancestry and Brooklyn –> New Jersey roots dictated diet to include animal meat. I think it might have been said out of genuine concern… or perhaps frustration at my refusing her chicken cacciatore.  The funny thing about it is that I went on to become (as you all know) a food lover and passionate meal creator, and found a guy who loves my cooking, despite the fact that not one meal has contained meat.

Bolognese-2

After I created this blog, my grandma would often call me to discuss my recipe posts. She would talk about how everything looked delicious, and gush about how talented she thought I was, as only a grandma does. One time, I brought up her pestering me about my vegetarianism and asked her what she thought now.

She laughed her classic little chuckle and said, “I was wrong. You found a great guy and your food always looks so delicious!”

graduation.JPG

With my parents and grandma at my college graduation

And so, I thought it’d be nice to post a recipe today that reminds me of her. My grandma loved bolognese sauce. That would often be her choice when we dined out at Italian restaurants, and so it seems fitting to post a Foodie Loves Fitness veggie version of the Italian classic.

bolognese-3

I used Lightlife veggie protein crumbles as the “meat” in the bolognese sauce, and I picked up egg pappardelle pasta at Trader Joe’s for the dish. I’m not a big egg eater and I never eat them on their own, but once in awhile I enjoy something that contains eggs, like a quiche or these egg noodles.

Bolognese Ingredients

The calories per serving is a bit higher than I typically like for dinner (650 cal), but whew, this dish packs quite the protein (47 g!) and fiber (18 g!) punch while being low in fat (7 g per serving) and providing lots of yummy carbs.

bolognese-4

5.0 from 2 reviews
Veggie Pasta Bolognese
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 16 oz dry pappardelle pasta (or other long shaped pasta)
  • 1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1-6 oz can tomato paste
  • 12 oz veggie "meat" crumbles
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 large carrot
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 sprigs of fresh basil
  • 6 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Grated Pecorino Romano to serve, optional
Instructions
  1. Chop the zucchini and celery, grate the carrot, and mince the onion and garlic.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium low heat, and cook the garlic and onion until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini, celery, and carrot, and cook until slightly tender.
  4. Meanwhile, roughly chop the parsley and basil.
  5. Add the cans of crushed tomato and tomato paste to the pan. Add in the herbs, and season with salt and pepper. Stir well to combine, and cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions.
  7. Pour the red wine into the tomato sauce pan, and crumble the veggie "meat" into the mix. Mix together well, and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Drain the pasta once it's done cooking. Return to pan. Pour the bolognese sauce on top of pasta, and toss together well.
  9. Optional: Serve the pasta with Pecorino Romano cheese sprinkled on top. To keep it vegan: Leave the cheese off or add vegan cheese or nutritional yeast.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 650, Fat: 7 g, Saturated fat: 0.5, Carbohydrates: 91 g, Sugar: 13 g, Fiber: 18 g, Protein: 47 g

KIND Healthy Snacks Giveaway

Happy Hump Day!

Boy, do I have a fun giveaway for you guys today!KIND Blue

I love it when I discover a brand that I instantly am a big fan of, and I felt that way when I started eating KINDSnacks.

KIND

Not only does the company makes bars and clusters that are delicious, they’re also wholesome, containing all-natural whole nuts, fruits and whole grains. KIND products are made with ingredients I can pronounce and am familiar with.

KIND bar ingredients

KINDSnacks was named so with purpose, as the company’s focus is on making the world a kinder place, one act at a time. Their message of holistic kindness makes me like them even more.

do the kind thingSo when KIND reached out and asked if I’d like to try some bar and cluster flavors I hadn’t gotten my hands on yet, I was more than happy to oblige. I was already hooked on their peanut butter clusters, but the raspberry chia seed clusters they sent gave my favorite clusters some serious competition.

KIND Raspberry Clusters

KIND clusters are made with 100% whole grains. The 5 super grains they’re made with are gluten free oats, millet, quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat. My favorite way to eat my raspberry clusters is sprinkling some over my pancakes, as with the raspberry Greek yogurt pancakes pictured below:

raspberry pancakes

KIND also sent over some of their fruit & nut, nuts & spices, and PLUS bars for me to snack on. No surprise here, but I enjoyed every one of them.

KIND bar variety shot

I love to grab them as a snack while I’m out, or if I’m home, I like to break up a bar into chunks and top a yogurt with it:

Mocha bar-raspberry yogurt

[Raspberry Greek yogurt topped with a KIND dark chocolate mocha almond bar]

Another way I love to eat KIND bars is to make them part of a fruit bowl:
Apple Cinnamon Bar

[Apple + powdered chocolate PB + an apple cinnamon & pecan KIND bar + cinnamon]

I think that my favorite flavor may be the peanut butter & strawberry bar…

PB & Strawberry KIND bar

….or maybe the caramel almond & sea salt flavor… or their peanut butter dark chocolate protein bar….or perhaps the dark chocolate nuts & sea salt. Okay, I really can’t decide. Those are probably my top 4 favorite flavors, but they’re all seriously yummy!

Now comes the fun part — a KIND bar giveaway! One lucky reader will receive a mixed box of 8 KIND bars. 

To enter: Check out the KIND website and leave a comment sharing which of the bars sound the yummiest to you, OR if you’re already a KINDSnacks fan, tell me which of their products is your favorite!

*I will randomly select a winner next Wednesday, July 2nd.*

Disclaimer: I did receive free KINDSnacks products, but as always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Fruit Bowls, Bird Poop, Tennis, Oh My! Weekend Recap

Hi friends!

You can probably tell from my post title that I’m lacking some wittiness at the moment, but I keep having such fun weekends, so I’m back again this Monday sharing a recap of my last few days. My weekend kicked off with my cousin Michelle coming into town to stay at my place on Friday night. First we went for a short yet sweaty evening hike with Harley….

Elfin Forest

…and then went to a Mexican restaurant called Norte to grab some dinner. I ordered a plate with a veggie tostada, rice, beans and an avocado taco. It was my first time dining at Norte, and I would definitely go back sometime. I thought it had pretty good food and a nice outdoor dining area, plus it’s right next to the beach in Carlsbad.

Mexican dinner

Now that I’ve moved to the northern side of San Diego County, Michelle (who lives in Long Beach) and I are only about a 90-minute drive away from one another, so hopefully we’ll get to see each other pretty often.

pic with Michelle

On the eats front, there was (obviously) a lot of yumminess in my life over the weekend. As usual, I’ve been all about the fresh fruit, especially since I love pretty much every summer fruit. Apricots, strawberries, cherries, nectarines… I can’t get enough!   
bowl of fruit

I was also all about Quest bars and bowls of fruit & nut butter goodness. There was this meal of vanilla Greek yogurt, cinnamon almonds, banana with cinnamon raisin peanut butter, apricots, and Kashi Go Lean cereal…

yogurt bowl-1

…and there was also this bowl of chopped apple & banana sprinkled with granola and topped with Quest bar pieces and more cinnamon raisin peanut butter.  Quest fruit bowl

I also remembered a way that I love to eat chocolate chunk Quest bars: toasted in the oven until lightly crispy, then topped with a TBSP of almond butter. It doubles as a post-workout meal AND dessert!

Quest bar-almond butter

Other notable eats include an apple/carrot/spinach/ginger juice, which was very bright thanks to the gorgeous purple and yellow carrots I used…

purple carrot juice

…spinach ravioli topped with zucchini and cherry tomatoes sautéed in white wine and olive oil:  veggie ravioli

…and a very delicious Talenti gelato pop treat:

Talenti gelato pop

Chocolate with sea salt caramel ice cream? Dessert combos don’t really get much better for me!

Besides my Friday hike, workouts from the weekend included some at-home cardio and yoga DVDs, plus a tennis session with my hubby. The day goes down in history as the time I actually beat my hubby in tennis! Pretty exciting stuff, and you bet that I made sure to gloat about it a couple of times. 😉

tennis session

On Saturday evening, we took Harley for a long walk along the coast.

coast walk

We were having a nice relaxing time checking out the sun setting and walking around…

coast walk-sunset

…and then a bird pooped on us. It was pretty disgusting! The bird got all three of us, and I’m not sure who had it the worst because I had bird poop on my face, but the bird’s poop went down the back of my hubby’s shirt, which is pretty nasty as well. It wreaked of fish, and I couldn’t stop laughing because that’s the only reaction I have when things like that happen. It’s supposed to be good luck, right? Or is that a lie that someone told me to make me feel better when a bird pooped on me on my birthday as a kid?

On the couch potato front, I’ve really been enjoying watching the World Cup. I don’t normally watch soccer, but my hubby has gotten me into the World Cup and it’s so exciting, especially yesterday’s USA game. I nearly had a heart attack! Harley, on the other hand, has not been quite as thrilled about hours of soccer watching.

Harley sleeping

Speaking of Harley, Sunday evening we took her to the dog beach for some exercise. I ignored her dismay about my attempts to get a picture of the two of us hanging on the beach and finally got a somewhat decent photo.

dog beach selfie

Lastly, I spent some time gardening around my house. Besides flowers, we planted a couple of herbs and veggies, including heirloom tomatoes, parsley, and my favorite, basil. Whew, planting is hard work, especially when you live somewhere where it hardly ever rains and the dirt is as hard as clay!backyard rose bush

After a couple of weeks of watering bushes in my backyard that were looking pretty dismal when we moved in, a few beautiful roses have appeared.

On the topic of roses, I’ll leave you with a great quote about attitude: “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

Questions: Has a bird ever pooped on you? Are you into gardening? Do you like Quest bars?

IIN Chat: Deconstructing Food Cravings

Hi friends!

Want to hear something wild? I’m already halfway through my health coaching certification course at IIN! Time flies when you’re learning about topics that you’re super interested in and really passionate about, huh?!

If you aren’t familiar with IIN, here are previous posts I’ve done about the school and its teachings:

IIN Chat: What’s a Health Coach?

IIN American Health Facts

IIN: Month 1 Recap

Taking the Plunge: Why I Went Back to School

Pretty soon I’ll be looking for clients to work with as a health coach, and I am really looking forward to it! An aspect of being an IIN student that I’ve really enjoyed is connecting with likeminded people who share my passion for healthy living. I met some great people when I was living in Northern Cali, and now that I’m in the San Diego area, am definitely hoping to connect with people around here.

keep calm-HC

At IIN we choose a peer coach, which is another student that we can discuss school and throw around ideas with, and ask questions to. Mine is Hillary at Nutrition Nut on the Run. I found out that we’re classmates through reading her blog, and it’s fun having her as a fellow blogger peer coach to have phone chats with every few weeks!

Since I have a test to take soon, I was skimming through my IIN notes tonight (which I’ve got A LOT of at this point!) and found an interesting page that I wanted to share with you all, because I think it’s a topic that most people can relate to: food cravings. Understanding what causes your cravings is key to overcoming them or to satisfy them in a healthy, balanced way.

Think about the food cravings you may get. Are they usually for broccoli or oranges? Chances are, you’re more likely to be thinking about something sweet like ice cream or a donut, or something salty like chips or French fries. You may not have thought too deeply about it, but there are real reasons for your cravings besides just thinking that the food tastes good.

food cravings

In a nutshell, things like sugar and processed foods cause an opiate release, which are known as the feel-good chemicals. Opiates increase dopamine in the brain, aka the pleasure chemical. This is important in understanding why we crave sweets and junk foods. It’s not just that we like sugary foods; we’re craving those chemical highs from food.

Over the years I’ve learned moderation and have also come up with a lot of healthier substitutes to satisfy not-so-healthy cravings, which I’ll do another post on sometime. Coincidentally, tonight is a good example. My sister was telling me yesterday that she had eaten waffles & ice cream and it was amazing. Naturally, I started craving waffles & ice cream, so I made my own healthier version of them at home: whole wheat banana oatmeal waffles topped with dark chocolate chips, PB2 powdered peanut butter, and Arctic Zero chocolate peanut butter “ice cream.”

choc PB waffles

Yes, I had this for dinner tonight and it was fabulous…craving satisfied, no stomachache involved from too big of a portion or too heavy of a dish!

Anywho, besides being opiate junkies who want that high from the foods we’re eating/beverages we’re drinking, IIN has identified there to be 8 primary causes of cravings. Here they are:

1.) Dehydration, which can occur as mild hunger.

2.) Lifestyle. You may be using food to fill a void or to cope with dissatisfaction and stress with the primary food in your life (your relationships, career, spirituality, etc.).

3.) Yin/Yang Imbalance. Eating a lot of foods that are thought to have yin qualities (words used in describing yin include expansive and feminine) or yang qualities (word used to describe yang are contractive and masculine) can cause cravings. It’s your body’s way of trying to reestablish balance. For example, eating a diet too rich in meat (yang) can cause cravings for sugar (yin).

4.) “Inside Coming Out.” You may be craving foods that you ate in your childhood or that were eaten by your ancestors.

5.) Seasonal. Cravings may be an attempt of the body to balance out elements of the season. An example of this is craving watermelon or ice cream in the summertime.

6.) Lack of Nutrients. If you diet is lacking nutrients, it may cause odd cravings.

7.) Hormones. This includes things like menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and fluctuating testosterone levels.

8.) De-evolution. This one is really interesting to me, but they refer to as the “self sabotage syndrome,” in that we crave foods that throw us off of our balance when things are going well.

What types of foods do you typically crave? What do you think of the above causes? Do any of them resonate with you? 

*Interested in finding out more about becoming a health coach OR becoming my health coaching client?? Feel free to shoot me an email @ nicole[at]foodielovesfitness.com. You can also check out the IIN website, preferably via one of the IIN banners on my right sidebar. I appreciate it! 🙂 *

Dinner at Seasons 52 Fresh Grill

If you’re anything like me, you get excited when you receive gift cards. I’m all, “Sweet, I get to ____ for free!” However, this excitement usually wavers by a lot when that gift card is to a big chain restaurant.

Darden card

With the exception of Panera Bread, Chipotle, and PF Chang’s (whose food I enjoy, but want to croak on the food in my mouth when I check out their menu’s nutrition content!), I just do not like chains. If they’ve got more than a handful of restaurants, chances are I don’t care to eat there. I’m typically all about the local joints. That’s some brutal honesty for my loved ones who keep giving me Applebee’s gift cards. 😉

What tends to happen is that gift cards that I’m not crazy about will sit in my wallet for a couple of years before the right day comes around to use it.  This was the case last weekend, when I found a Darden restaurant gift card. The gift card included Red Lobster (no thanks), Olive Garden (ditto), Longhorn Steakhouse (I suppose I could go and get a salad…) and Seasons 52 Fresh Grill.

home_logo

 

Huh, what’s that last one? I looked it up and there was a Seasons 52 location nearby in
the beach town of La Jolla. Not only was it nearby, it looked like my cup of tea: a fresh grill and wine bar with a seasonally-inspired menu that often changes. Last Saturday after a happy hour at home…

Happy Hour collage

…my hubby and I were off to try out some dinner there.

Seasons 52 has an elegant piano bar kind of feel to it. Actually, there was live music with a pianist singer while we were there, which I enjoyed. He happened to start singing our wedding song right after we sat down (John Legend’s “Stay With You”), which was awesome because I’ve never heard anyone randomly sing that song live besides John Legend himself.

The restaurant had a nice wine and cocktail menu to choose from. I went with a superfruit martini, which had acai spirit, pomegranate and blueberry juice, plus agave nectar.

Seasons 52-5

A good martini makes me a happy girl.

Note to self: I need to try to recreate a superfruit martini at home sometime!

Let’s talk about one great thing about the menu: Every dish is under 475 calories. This is pretty much unheard of with chain restaurants! For an appetizer, A and I split an order of Sonoma goat cheese ravioli in tomato broth with roasted garlic and basil:

Seasons 52-1

I think odd numbers of things in appetizers are always kind of strange because I like to split an appetizer as just a little bite. In this case it was three ravioli, so I had one and A had two. Goat cheese ravioli have my heart, and these had some nice flavor.

(Another note to self: Make these goat cheese ravioli again soon.)

For my entree, I tried the vegetarian tasting option. It had a citrus quinoa salad, cedar plank tofu with a citrus salsa, a soft taco filled with veggies and feta cheese, broccoli rabe, asparagus, snap peas and mushrooms:

Seasons 52-2

Some of the veggies lacked a real flavor punch, but overall, it was tasty. I definitely got my veggie servings in for the night with this dish!

For all of your meat eaters, my hubby ordered the filet mignon with mashed potatoes, spinach and mushrooms. He ate every mouthful on his plate and said the meat was nice and tender.

Seasons 52-4

For dessert, Seasons 52 offers a variety of mini indulgences. I love these because it gives you a little taste of dessert without being a lot. A and I split a chocolate peanut butter torte…

Seasons 52-3

…which he claimed to want none of and then ate more than I did. Different day, same story!

Overall I thought that Seasons 52 was a positive dining experience. The service was spot on, the atmosphere was nice while still being casual, and the food was tasty and reasonably priced. This random chain restaurant gift card wound up coming in handy for a decent meal after all!

Have you ever heard of Seasons 52? What’s your favorite chain restaurant?

 

Mexican-Style Twice Baked Potatoes

It’s official, my favorite summertime food obsessions are back in full swing for the season.

Over the weekend, I made a strawberry watermelon smoothie not once, but twice. The first time, I made one to quench my thirst while lounging around in my pool for the first time since we moved in a month ago. It was awesome!    
smoothie by the poolThe second time, my hubby and I had just gotten back from a hike, and a watermelon smoothie sounded like the perfect way to rehydrate.

watermelon smoothie

I predict that this smoothie will be back many, many times the next couple of months. Also on the topic of fruit obsessions, I just love pineapple and snacked on it all weekend as well…

pineapple

And then there’s my somewhat recent summer food obsession: corn. I never really liked it growing up, and always felt like I could take it or leave it. While I don’t mind corn on the cob (which I ate over the weekend one night), what I became a big fan of last year was incorporating fresh sweet corn into salads and other dishes. I feel like corn is at its sweetest in the thick of summer, but I couldn’t help but nab some last week. And so, Mexican-style twice baked potatoes happened:

Mexican potatoes-2

This recipe is packed with yummy veggies — not just the corn, but the potato it sits in, plus bell pepper, black beans and chives.

Mexican potatoes-3

One thing you need to make sure of when making twice baked potatoes is that you thoroughly cook the potatoes just the right amount before taking them out and scooping the flesh out. If you overcook it, the potatoes are mushy and you can easily break the skins. If it’s undercooked, it’s difficult to scoop the potato out of the middle and you can wind up with your potatoes being harder than you’d prefer.

Mexican potatoes-1

Mexican potatoes-4

Mexican-Style Twice-Baked Potatoes
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2 large Russet potatoes
  • ½ cup shredded Mexican cheese
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • ½ cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 TBSP chives
  • 1 piece of corn on the cob
  • ½ TSP salt
  • ¼ TSP pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wrap the potatoes individually in tin foil. Bake for an hour, or until softened yet not too tender.
  3. Remove from oven and allow to slightly cool.
  4. Meanwhile, chop the bell pepper and chives. Shuck the corn if it isn't shucked already. Place the corn lengthwise standing up on a cutting board, and use a large knife to cut the corn off of the cob.
  5. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the potato flesh, leaving about ½ an inch of potato on the skin. Place the potato flesh in a large bowl. Add in cheese, pepper, black beans, corn, sour cream, chives, salt and pepper. Mix together until well combined.
  6. Place the potato skins on a baking sheet coated with baking spray. Evenly spoon the potato mixture back into the potato skins.
  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is lightly browned.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: Per potato half, Calories: 257, Fat: 4 g, Saturated fat: 3 g, Carbohydrates: 45 g, Sugar: 7 g, Fiber: 4 g, Protein: 11 g, Cholesterol: 12 g

 

Questions: Are you a fan of corn? What’s your favorite summertime food? 

Ways to Get Out of Your Fitness Comfort Zone

There’s nothing that sounds more boring to me than doing the same things day in and day out without variation. I like to be adventurous with pretty much everything – from the meals I make and the fun activities I partake in, to the workouts I do and even the walking and hike routes I go on with my dog. I think, Walking the same exact path every single day? How blah! 

I find that switching things up keeps life interesting, and also sometimes scary and exciting. Don’t let fear of the unknown freak you out…. Scary and exciting is a good thing!

daring adventure

(source)

I suppose I could talk a good amount about comfort zones in general. I’m a girl who landed a freelance journalist gig for a newspaper after randomly contacting the editor and telling him that I’d be a great writer for him… with no experience in that type of journalism whatsoever. I had little idea what I was doing (which I can say now that I’ve since moved and am no longer working there!), but I pushed myself to go for it and you know what? It was a challenging and fun experience.

comfort-zone-card

(source)

But I digress, because today I’m talking about getting out of your comfort zone specifically when it comes to fitness.

I’ve come to realize that while I do many different forms of exercise, I’m not exactly a seasoned expert in any of them in particular. My form in some yoga poses is probably nowhere near correct; I don’t tuck my hips under enough in barre; while I love to hike, I’m no Everest climber; and the instructor kept correcting my form in a boxing class last week.

But I also realized that that’s fine with me, because I feel that I’m consistently pushing myself out of my comfort zone and trying things that I may or may not be great at, yet I’m having fun and staying active. Who cares if I look like a momo hitting tennis balls completely out of bounds half the time (true story)? Getting out of my fitness comfort zone keeps my body sore and my mind interested.

comfort zone

(source)

And so, here are some ways that you can push yourself beyond your fitness comfort zone:

1.) Head outdoors! I find that getting outside for a workout tends to be a lot of fun and an instant mood booster. There are tons of options, whether you choose to go hiking, white water rafting or mountain biking in the warmer months, or snowshoeing or skiing in snowy weather. If you do it with a partner, it also provides an experience to bond with your significant other, friend or family member.

2.) Buy a Groupon or LivingSocial fitness deal. This is a great way to try a new fitness craze or workout facility on the cheap. Since I’m new to my area, I have yet to join a gym, so I recently bought a 5-class pass to try some workouts at a fitness studio. Last week was my first boxing group class in awhile, and this evening a girlfriend of mine and I went to a cycling class that whooped our butts. I also want to try a TRX class, which is something I haven’t tried yet! 

IMG_0014

3.) Take a page from the fitness mags. Sometimes I rip out workouts from magazines like Women’s HealthFitness, and Shape to try out. Sometimes I’ll learn new moves that I wind up incorporating into a lot of future workouts, sometimes they’re totally cooky exercises, but either way I’ve tried something different.

4.) Check out local fitness events. Chances are there are workout events happening near you that you may enjoy but don’t even know about. Keep your eyes open around town, do some Googling, and read local magazines or newspapers to find events that you can participate in. A 5K run/walk for a good cause is one good example. A few days ago I discovered that there are beach yoga classes near me that happen a few times a week. You better believe I’ll be attending one of those classes soon!

find your strong

5.) Take that class you always see going on. If you do belong to a gym and often see a group class taking place that you’re skeptical to try, just go for it! It could be a great way to switch up your routine and even make some gym buddies.

6.) Try new machines and equipment. Hop on one of those machines you feel intimidated by at your gym. Don’t be embarrassed to ask a trainer how to properly perform the exercise if you aren’t sure. It’s what they’re there for!

7.) Keep at-home workouts interesting. Just because you’re working out in the comfort of your own home doesn’t mean that you need to stick with the same DVD circa 1990 every week. Buy a new fitness DVD, get heavier weights, check out your On-Demand workout selection, or nab a kettle bell to play around with. If you’re on a tight budget, you can even just find some good YouTube workouts to try. The point is to just try things to switch up your workouts and challenge you!

When was the last time you got out of your fitness comfort zone? Any tips you’d like to add?

White Bean Bruschetta

It’s no secret that I adore farmers markets.

farmers market-1

The colorful fruits, veggies and flowers. The fresh food being cooked for the many hungry bellies. The local bakers, producers, growers, and artists all hanging by their stands offering samples and eager to talk to patrons. Everyone there seems happy to taste, happy to pay a bit more for the high quality foods being offered, happy to just be there.

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I love the vibe of farmers markets. Nothing screams weekend morning more than walking around at a nearby market, getting excited at the heirloom tomatoes and juicy nectarines as only a real food lover like me does.

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The last time I lived in SoCal, I used to go to the Little Italy farmers market all the time, and it’s amazing there, but it’s a bit of a hike from where I live now. So a few weekends ago, I made my first trip to a weekend market in the Oceanside area – the Vista Farmers Market – and I was not disappointed! The market offers a lot of options, with everything from strawberry baskets, vegan desserts and gourmet coffee beans to cheesecakes cups, herbs and plants. I got a little overexcited when I spotted my favorite local peanut butter company, Pacific Beach Peanut Butter. I obviously nabbed a jar of chocolate PB! farmers market-3

I picked up a ton of goodies, including asparagus, raw honey, plenty of strawberries, heirloom tomatoes and zucchini:

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One of my favorite things to do is to put together a meal using many ingredients I picked up at the market that day.

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On this day, the meal centered around a couple of ripe tomatoes and half of a monster of a loaf of whole grain bread I got from a baker at the market.

market bread

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basil

This recipe makes for a colorful, summery appetizer…

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…or, if you’re like my hubby and me, you make it as the main dinner entree on a lazy weekend evening to eat in your backyard, washing it down with a glass of wine as you laugh at your nutty dog circle around the pool barking at the pool vacuum.

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White Bean Bruschetta
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 7
 
Ingredients
  • 12 oz of a loaf of fresh whole grain bread
  • 1-15 oz can cannellini beans
  • ¼ cup grated Romano cheese (you can leave out or use nutritional yeast to make it vegan)
  • Lemon juice for ½ small lemon
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes (I used a combination of Roma and heirloom)
  • 2 TBSP fresh basil
  • ¼ red onion
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBSP white balsamic vinegar
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Chop the tomatoes into small bites and place in a medium bowl. Mince the red onion and chop the basil, and add to the bowl. Drizzle 1 TBSP of the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar on top, and sprinkle the mixture with salt and pepper. Toss together to combine well, then sprinkle more salt and pepper to taste. Let it sit while you continue prepping.
  3. Cut the bread into 14 slices. Use the remaining olive oil to brush onto the tops of the bread, then place on a baking sheet. Bake the bread for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the beans, Romano cheese, garlic clove, lemon juice, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  5. Once the bread is done baking, spread some of the bean mixture onto each slice. With a slotted spoon, top each crostini with some of the tomato mixture. Transfer all crostini to a serving platter and enjoy.

**Before I go, congrats to my Bondi Band giveaway winners: Arena Thompson, who has won the I Hate Running/I Love Running headband, and Emily, who is getting the pink Run Like A Princess Today headband! I’ve emailed you both for your addresses.** 

Weekend Shenanigans: Harley Wants a Dog Stroller

Hi there!

If you haven’t yet, don’t forget to enter my Bondi Band sporty headband giveaway. It ends tomorrow and doesn’t have a high amount of entries, so chances of you winning are good!

Hope that you all had a fabulous weekend. My weekend was great! Let’s delve into a recap of it:

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I kicked off my weekend with a hike with Harley at a nearby spot called Lake Calavera Hills Preserve. It’s a pretty area, and one pretty unique aspect of it is the 22 million-year-old volcanic plug that’s located there:

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The first time I went hiking here, we saw a rattlesnake. This time, towards the beginning of my hike, a man warned me that he had seen a couple of snakes there that day. Since Harley loves to stick her face in bushes and zigzag around exploring, I felt somewhat paranoid of her getting bit by one. Luckily we were all good, but eeeeek!

At the summit of the mountain, you look down into a field and a nearby high school. Check out this romantic gesture:

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Maybe the bar was set low for me from the boys I dated as a teenager, but spelling out, “PROM…?” into a yellow field is pretty clever for a 17-year old, don’t you agree?

At the top of the mountain, Harley laid down in the shade with this ridiculously funny face on and wouldn’t move for a couple of minutes:

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I’ve been here a couple times since moving to the area. It’s a pretty spot but, contrary to Harley’s dramatics, it isn’t all that challenging of a hike. I’m going to be looking for some new hiking spots coming up.

After cleaning, hanging decor up, unpacking and organizing in my house on Saturday  (Does it take anyone else what feels like forever to get settled when they move?), my hubby and I popped over to the beach for a quick hour of surfing (him) and reading (me).

sand between my toes
Saturday night we had another couple over for dinner. Leanne was my first friend as a Marine spouse (actually, at the time neither of us were wives yet), and her husband became good friends with my hubby when they were in military training together. Now for the first time ever, we’re all living in the same area! It’s going to be fun living so close to one another.

I made guacamole for us to nosh on at the beginning of the night (aka my go-to for a super easy, tasty appetizer)… 
guacamole

…and for dinner I made two whole wheat pizza pies:

Pizza Prep

The top pie had mozzarella, ricotta, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes, while the bottom was a classic margherita pizza. Both came out really good! Throughout the night, I had a few glasses of my favorite summertime wine varietal: riesling.

Wine Chiller

By the way, Fetzer is a brand that makes a crisp, refreshing, low-priced riesling that I buy all the time.

On Sunday, my hubby and I took advantage of the beautiful day and took the pup for a long walk along the coast.

Beach walk

I’m not sure what her deal was over the weekend, but again Harley was acting like she was so exhausted and laying down while we were walking. It wasn’t even that warm, and she’s only 3 1/2 years old with lots of energy. We joked around that she must have been hungover from having our friends over late the night before. I’m predicting that she is going to be one lazy pup when she gets older!

Towards the end, she laid down in the shadow of a car, and I tried to pick her up and jokingly carry her. Normally she wants nothing to do with being held, but my 50-pound dog tilted her head back and laid there like a happy baby as I carried her… for about 20 steps before I handed her off to Adam. I had tears streaming down my face from laughing at what she looked like. If there’s one thing Harley has, it’s character. She is such a nut!

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I’ve never seen this anywhere else, but people in California have strollers for their dogs, which I think is completely hilarious and ridiculous. We were joking that apparently Harley needs a baby stroller now!

Besides the pizza and guac, other notable eats of my weekend included this black bean burger topped with avocado, bell pepper, red onion & shredded Mexican cheese with sautéed zucchini on the side… Black bean burger

…an English muffin topped with peanut butter, banana, cinnamon, honey & chopped up cinnamon Quest bar pieces…

PB Banana Cinnamon English Muffin

…and trying out Siggi’s strawberry & basil Greek yogurt: Siggis

Siggis-back

I’m a big fan of Siggi’s. Their yogurts are low in sugar but are still sweet enough for me to like them. In a grocery store filled with products containing complete junk for your body, how can I not love a product like this?

There was also kettle corn in my life when my hubby and I went on a movie date to see Chef.

Kettle Corn

The flick was about this chef who followed his passion for food, cooking, and creating dishes that he loved. There was a lot of meat in the movie (which I obviously am not crazy about), but I loved the underlying message of the movie, and I came home feeling hungry from watching 2 hours of nonstop food on the screen, wanting to either make a second dinner or dessert. We wound up eating dark chocolate chip banana bread at midnight…

Banana Bread

…and had it toasted for breakfast the following morning with glasses of apple/carrot/spinach/orange juice:

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I was just thinking about how I always bring my own snacks to the movies. It’s definitely something my mom instilled in me as a kid. She always brings whole bags of popcorn in a big purse! I can remember having a girlfriend in high school who cared way too much what people thought about her, and she was embarrassed when I brought my own snacks to the movies with her once. I mean hey, it’s cheaper and healthier, so why not right?

Questions: Do you bring your own movie snacks? If you have a dog, is he/she as dramatic as mine?