gleaning the veggie drawer.

I went all crazy and wild with the vegetables, tonight.

First, I chopped up some butternut squash.  Then I sliced some mushrooms.  And then I decided—since I was at it—may as well chop the broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms and onions too.  Feeling deliciously wild and free, I squished and smashed a few cloves of garlic and spread them all over the top.  And then—as if that wasn’t enough!—I bathed it all in a little bit of olive oil.

It feels good to go wild now and then.

Inspiration for these vegetarian quesadillas came from Trader Joes, which is where I found these cute ‘n’ wrinkly sun-dried tomatoes.  I knew they’d be perfect for some impromptu pizza or maybe some scrambled eggs.

Or, as in tonight’s case, perfect for a veggie quesadilla.

(Or eaten as is, straight from the bag…yum!)

This fresh and local mozzarella was a bit on the pricey side as far as cheese goes, but it does make a fun splurge now and then.

Dinner was fabulous.

On the side, I roasted some brussels sprouts.  They came directly from the freezer isle and tasted sweet and amazing.

(But don’t tell their fresher cousins that I told you so.  They think they’re so much better than these guys, but they’re really not.) 

The Great Vegetarian Quesadilla

Serves 4

This is the “Great” Vegetarian Quesadilla because it requires a “great” clean up, as you glean your way through the veggie drawer.  If you have an extra stalk of broccoli, throw it in.  Half a red bell pepper?  Chop, chop, chop it.  A few mushrooms on their last leg?  Perfect.  Use it all up and don’t be afraid to try some of the more uncommon quesadilla additions, such as butternut squash or turnips.

Top these melty quesadillas with a scoop of fresh, zingy salsa and you’ll have yourself a delicious, easy meal in no time!  Enjoy!

  • Mixture of your favorite vegetables (I used mushrooms, broccoli, butternut squash, red and green bell peppers, and onions)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • 6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  1. Preheat oven to 425.  Spray baking pan win with cooking spray.
  2. Chop all of your vegetables into bite sized pieces and layer on the cookie sheet.  Sprinkle garlic over the top and drizzle with olive oil.  Stir lightly to combine.  Place in oven for 20-25 minutes, flipping once in between cooking times.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a nonstick griddle over medium heat.  Place tortillas down, place cheese on half of the tortilla, and fold over.  Flip tortilla once it has become golden brown on one side.  Continue cooking on the other side until golden brown.
  4. Once vegetables are cooked, unfold tortilla and fill half with the vegetable mixture.  Fold back and cook for another minute or so.  Serve hot with salsa.  Enjoy! 😀
QUESTION: What is your favorite quesadilla filling?

Healthy Living.

Healthy living means never eating fast food.  Never!  Not even subways.

Healthy living means skipping a meal now and then.  Especially if you “overdid it” the day before.

Healthy living means never eating fatty foods like olive oil.  Or avocado…

…or nut butters, for that matter.  Fat = fattening.  Avoid it!

Healthy living means learning how to take control of yourself and never—ever!—eating your favorite foods, ever again.  Just say no.

Healthy living means choking down a ton of tasteless, colorless veggies.

Healthy living means never taking another bite of anything with carbohydrates.  They’re bad for you.  Horrible.  In fact, they will instantly add weight to your thighs and butt, making you feel tired and sluggish.

You need to also look out for things like apples, carrots, and sugar beets.  Keep an eye out for these top three danger foods, which are sometimes seen at your local farmers market.

Healthy living means exercising for hours and hours…

…and hating every second of it.

Obviously.

Oh, and since we’re on the topic?

No.

Walking around and exploring a new city does not count as exercise.  I’m surprised you even asked.

Healthy living means never being satisfied with your body.  There’s always something that could use improving, and it’s your job to figure out what that something is!

Healthy living means packing yourself boring lunches that taste like cardboard.  Because it’s healthy and that’s what healthy people do.

As you can see, healthy living is pretty miserable stuff.  But a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do. 😉

TODAY’s CHALLENGE: Find a way to be more active aside from “exercising.”  Take two 10 minute walking breaks during the day.  Park your car in the furthest parking spot.  Take the stairs.  Walk around the mall two times before actually shopping.  Walk to the furthest bathroom at work.  Most importantly, have FUN with it! 😀

dancing the night away.

What pulled me through yesterday’s 12 mile run:

  • Your comments!  Talk about some serious motivation.
  • Mind tricks.  I pretended that I had a rope tied around my waist and that my dad was pulling me.  This didn’t work so well when he disappeared from view, but the visual cue was still there.  It worked!
  • Bottling some energy for the last 2-mile stretch.  Another mind trick.  I didn’t “open” that bottle of energy until I needed it the most.
  • Praying!  Random people popped into my head during the run.  Twelve miles offers a lot of time to think and pray. 😀
Everything ached by the end of the run, but I was incredibly ecstatic all at the same time.  I’ve never run this far before and I never thought I could do this.  THANK YOU for all of the motivation and inspiration! 😀
And then I partied the night away at my cousin’s wedding. 😀
AJ and Stacey’s Wedding: A Photo Montage

(p.s. The secret to wearing heels when you’ve never been a “heel wearer” is to invest in a pair of comfortable wedges.  The front of these shoes was a good 1 inch or so off the ground, so even though it was giving me height, there were no weird angles!)

There’s never a normal picture with my brother and I.  Somehow we always feel the need to make funny faces. 😉

Reusable place setting tags…LOVE it!

Love.

I. Heart. Wedding. Cake.  :mrgreen:

Congratulations, Stacey and AJ!!  The wedding was absolutely beautiful and everyone had such a blast!

QUESTION: What is your favorite thing about weddings (besides the food! 😉 )

Tomorrow? I’m ready.

Tomorrow, I’ll be attempting my weekly long run of 12.5 miles.  The longest I have ever—ever!—run.  (Please note: “attempting” is the key word here.)

Tomorrow, I’ll be wearing heels.  I mean.  High, high heels.  I never wear heels.  (Pray for me, please.)

Tomorrow, I’ll be up until well past 10.  (FYI, this never happens.)

Tomorrow, I’ll be dancing, eating prime rib, laughing, chatting with family, and indulging my love of frosting and cake at my cousin’s wedding.

Tomorrow, I’ll be going, going, going.  And then going (and going) some more.

And so, tonight I stopped.

Tonight, I ate grilled, wild caught salmon on a bed of garlicky swiss chard.  I ate slow.

Tonight, I visited and chatted with Pepere.

Tonight, I went to Whole Foods, bought some mixed nuts, drank a kombucha, and laughed with some friends.

Tonight, I took a bubble bath.  I read a magazine.  And then I plan on reading some more.

And so, tomorrow?  I’m ready.

Garlicky Swiss Chard

Swiss chard reminds me of kale.  But it also reminds me of spinach.  I happen to think that it has the delightful best of both personalities.  The leaves are soft and tender.  They will wilt and shrivel with embarrassment in just a few moments.  Of course, my favorite component of swiss chard is the flavor.  Where kale is strong and boisterous, swiss chard has a much more mild manner.  It’s slightly withdrawn, so to speak.  Which makes it perfect for showcasing your favorite choice of protein, be it grilled tofu, chicken breast, or–in my case–salmon.

Round out the meal with some form of starch.  I opted for potatoes, as that’s what I happen to have a lot of in my basement right now.  I think quinoa or brown rice or even a hunk of favorite, whole grain bread would pair nicely as well.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 1 medium bunch of rainbow swiss chard, tough stems removed, leaves chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • splash of red wine vinegar
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil in a medium pot.
  2. Add garlic and cook for about 1-2 minutes, or until garlic begins to smell fragrant.
  3. Add swiss chard.  Cook until leaves are beginning to wilt.  Add vinegar, salt and pepper.  Continue cooking until leaves are tender and wilted.  Taste to be sure that salt and pepper are to liking.  Plate and enjoy! 😀
QUESTION: What are YOU doing tomorrow?

my recent breakfast kick.

I have been on a French toast kick lately.

I think this is due in part to all of my frantic running around.  Not ever really knowing if I’m coming or going.

I mean, it’s one thing to wake up and forget what day it is.  It’s another thing entirely, to have my calendar virtually tied to my waist so that I will never forget where I’m supposed to be or where I’m supposed to go.

Yes.  This is exactly why I have been on a French toast kick lately.

Because there’s something—something—comforting about having a few spare moments in the morning to just…mmm…breathe.  I even read the newspaper(!!)

I can’t quite place my finger on it, but French toast, to me, signifies the very thought of slowing down.  It’s relaxed and easy.  Not at all fussy or needy.

Yes.  I have been on a French toast kick lately.  And I really don’t think I’ll be stopping any time soon.

French Toast

Serves 1

Everyone has a favorite French toast recipe.  This one is my favorite, go-to breakfast recipe for during the week.  It feels special.  It’s healthy.  And it’s as simple as they come.  Enjoy this breakfast with your favorite combination of fruit and nut butters.  Blueberries and strawberries would be a wonderful touch, as would a thick and creamy Greek yogurt.  Just have fun with it!

  • 2 whole eggs (or 1 whole egg + 2 egg whites)
  • splash of milk
  • cinnamon
  • splash of vanilla
  • dash of sea salt
  • 2 slices Ezekiel bread (or your favorite whole wheat bread)
  • 1 banana, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 Tbsp. almond butter
  • sprinkle of coconut
  1. Heat nonstick pan over medium heat.  Spray with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and sea salt.  Dunk in bread slices, flip to coat other side, and place on heated pan.  Place bananas in pan alongside french toast.  Let french toast cook until underside has browned.  Flip and continue cooking until desired doneness.  Bananas may be flipped at any time, as they begin to brown.
  3. Place french toast on plate, smash banana on top, and drizzle almond butter over the top.  Sprinkle with coconut and ENJOY! 😀
QUESTION: What is your current favorite breakfast?

a favorite kind of soup.

There are many recipes that I just don’t blog about.  Recipes that simply feel too…well…simple.  Overused and much overdone.

Like oatmeal.  Or hummus veggie sandwiches.

Or my daily consumption of peanut butter.  (Besides, I’d hate to think that I might scare you away.)

Soup is a pretty regular thing in my kitchen too.  Sadly, many of these recipes flitter and float around but never really get spoken of.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy them.  Or that I want to ignore them.  It’s just that.  Well.  They’re just nothing special (ouch!)

However, this recipe made me very, very happy.

And for that reason alone, I am blogging about it.  Because I think you’ll feel delightfully happy and content with it as well.  And that’s a feeling worth sharing.

Bountiful Black Bean Soup—as seen on the back of the package of Bob’s Red Mill Black Beans

This soup pairs perfectly with homemade corn bread or cheese quesadillas.  You could tweak it and make it your own by adding spinach, mushrooms, and other such veggies as well.  Or, spice it up with some cayenne or red pepper.  I absolutely love this soup and I almost always double the batch so that I can have some for lunch during the week.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 2 cups roasted corn (roast frozen corn in 350 oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally)
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, including leaves, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 package of Bob’s Red Mill black bean soup mix (or about 1-1/2 to 2 cups dry black beans)
  • 1-28 oz. can tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups butternut squash, cut into large, bite sized cubes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; add onions and celery.  Saute until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and saute for one more minute.
  3. Carefully pour in stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits.  Stir in black beans and tomatoes.  Add butternut squash and roasted corn.  Add herbs, stir and bring to a boil.
  4. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 1-1/2 hours, stirring every 1/2 hr.  Add more stock or water if beans and squash absorb too much liquid.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What is your favorite kind of soup?

fire up the grill.

Sometimes, it’s important to encourage summer along.  Coax it out of hibernation. Give it a little pep talk…a little one-on-one.

And since cookouts scream summer to me—especially when they involve burgers—dinner became an obvious choice.

The sun was out all weekend long, well into today.  It reached 75.  Seventy-five! That is shorts and t-shirt weather at its finest.  And I like to think that I played my part by firing up the grill.

Yes.  I fired up the grill.

Well.  Dad did all of the cooking, after I initially pushed that little green button.  But still.  This must count for something.  Right?

My Pepere, my parents and I didn’t talk much during dinner.

I think this had something to do with the juicy grass fed burgers, the warm weather and the sunshine.  Lovely.

Summer Squash and Zucchini Saute; on the grill

For health and wellness reasons, it’s a good idea to strive for at least 1-2 vegetarian meals a week.  However, don’t stop there!  And don’t feel that you need to exclude meat in order to reap all of those colorful benefits.  Try including more vegetables with each meal, regardless of whether meat is being served or not.  And then have fun sampling your way through all different kinds, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, turnips, spaghetti squash, kohlrabi, tomatoes, etc.   What you end up loving may surprise you! 😀

This is a simple way to include some extra veggies whenever you fire up the grill.  Cook up some extra, then layer it on top of your favorite pizza for the following night.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 1 whole, medium summer squash, cut or sliced
  • 1 whole, medium zucchini, cut or sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Mrs. Dash Onion and Herb blend…OR…garlic powder and sea salt…OR…italian seasoning
  • Pepper
  1. Preheat grill to medium.
  2. Place squash, zucchini and onion on a large, doubled sheet of foil.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with seasonings.  Stir gently.
  3. Fold edges of foil in and tightly seal the bundle.  Place on grill over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Cook until soft and tender, about 15 minutes.  Enjoy! 😀

QUESTION: What foods “scream” summer to you?

 

an unlikely pair.

No matter how unlikely it may seem, you just never know who you’re going to hit it off with.

Who might suddenly be your new best friend.

Chick peas and pumpkin are a very unlikely combination.  Slightly unexpected.  And while they’re not quite on the level of black bean brownies, they’ll still make you step back for just a moment or two.

Chick peas and pumpkin? Who would have thought.

I still haven’t decided if this is a smooth and creamy hummus or a sweet and spicy, gingerbread dessert spread.

I have decided that I love these flavors together.  That blackstrap molasses makes everything (yes, everything!) better.  That walnuts and molasses were meant to be.  And that next next year I need to stock up with one or two more cans of pumpkin.

Serve the spread on a crispy cracker.

Or swirl it into your yogurt with a sprinkle of Natures Path Pumpkin Flax Granola.

No matter how unlikely it may seem, you just never know who you’re going to hit it off with.

Who might suddenly be your best friend.

Gingerbread Hummus

Serve this sweet and spicy spread with crackers or yogurt.  Or, top off your morning bowl of oats (or pancakes!) with a scoop or two.  There’s not a trace of “bean” flavor to be found, and—like me—you will probably find yourself wondering why you didn’t stock up with more cans of pumpkin as well.  Enjoy!

  • 1-15oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp. blackstrap molasses
  1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients together.  Adjust salt and molasses to taste.  Enjoy! 😀

QUESTION: Hummus…yay or nay?  What is your favorite hummus flavor?

Fast Food.

Well.  I thought I’d let you in on a couple of my most recent, fast food favorites.

And no.  I’m not talking about that kind of fast food…

Recently, I went to a state dietetic conference, in which there were all kinds of free giveaways, goodies and snag bags.  Yep, just one of the many perks of going into a food-related job. 😉

I sampled my way through delicious (and, to be honest, sometimes not so delicious) chocolate, yogurts, and cheese.  Lots of cheese.  By the end of the day, I discovered a couple of new (to me) products that I plan on using in my kitchen if ever I need food fast.  Fast food.

Fast Food #1: Dell’Amore Tomato Sauce

Supposedly, this sauce is homemade in Vermont.  I’m not usually a fan of store bought tomato sauces, but I’m really, really liking this one.  The sodium content is reasonable and the flavor is as deliciously close to homemade sauce as I’ve yet to find.  Best of all, the ingredients are 100% pronounceable.

It is pretty pricey though.  I paid $5.00 for one bottle.  But considering how cheap pasta noodles are, this meal really comes out to be a pretty affordable deal.

I like to bulk it all up with some extra veggies: zucchini, mushrooms, onions

…and a crunchy side salad.

The sauce gets mixed with the cooked veggies and then I smother it all over a plate of whole wheat noodles.

There you have it.  Fast food at its finest.

Fast Food #2: Flat-Out Wraps

At the end of the dietetic conference, there were more and more giveaways, as companies tried to just get rid of their products before heading home.  I snagged a couple of these flat-out wraps to be used for quick meals and snacks.

The best serving method that I discovered for these wraps, was when I served them alongside bowls of homemade channa masala, which I had pulled from the freezer.

Fast food.

The taste and texture of the flat-outs are fun.  I liked them.  But I’m still not crazy about that long ingredient list.  I wonder if the non-light ones are a little shorter?

Fast food doesn’t have to involve drive through’s, greasy fingers or eating in 5 minutes flat.  A little planning can go a long way in preparing foods at home that won’t take hours and hours of your time.

Eating On the Road:

  • Stop at a grocery store and make a meal from the deli with a whole wheat bulkie roll, a couple slices of turkey breast, a slice of cheese and some lettuce and tomato.  BONUS: Park in the furthest parking spot and get some walking into your day.
  • Pack a sandwich into a cooler if you know your day will be a long one.  Chop up some chicken, mix it with a bit of mayo, add some grapes and walnuts, and tuck into a whole wheat pita with lettuce.  Serve with some fresh raw veggie sticks for crunch and a piece of dark chocolate for dessert.
  • Pack a substantial snack to hold you over until you can sit down and have dinner: half a peanut butter and banana sandwich, almonds with apricots, cheese stick and a piece of fruit, yogurt with fresh berries and granola, etc.

Quick Meals At Home:

  • Breakfast for Dinner: Scrambled eggs, whole wheat toasts with a pat of jam, and roasted veggies on the side with fruit salad for dessert.
  • Tuna Melts: Grilled cheese with tuna salad tucked in between.  Serve with raw or roasted veggies and fresh fruit for dessert.
  • Black bean burgers on whole wheat buns with avocado, lettuce, and tomato.  Serve with homemade french fries and side salads
  • Make big batches of soups, chili, stews, salads, etc. on your weekend and stash in the freezer or fridge for an upcoming busy week.

Healthy fast food.  What a concept.

QUESTION: What is your favorite “fast food?”

She’s Going Overboard.

I tend to go a little overboard-–a little over the top—with most things in life.  This can be very, very good or very, very bad, depending on the situation.

Depending on what we’re talking about.

The perk of this characteristic is that when I focus on doing something—for work, school, play, etc—I do it really, really well.  There’s no wishy-washing around or getting side tracked with something else.

I stay focused.  Mentally.  Physically.  Focused.  .

The other side of this characteristic, however, is that I’m constantly overbooking myself.  Going overboard with things that “need to get done.”  Never giving myself enough time or energy to fit it all in.  In fact, to be quite honest, my calendar just isn’t quite big enough to hold all of my scribble, to-do’s, and reminders.

By the way—since we’re on this topic—have you ever noticed that “me time” is the last thing to be penciled into the calendar, if ever at all?  It makes you wonder…why??? We all need some well-deserved “me time.”  Saying that there’s just not enough time in the day is like saying there’s just not enough time to ever be with a best friend.  If that’s the case, something needs adjusting.  You deserve (and need!) the time to catch up, rewind, unfold, and breathe.

Anyways.

This week I went overboard on the bananas.

Don’t laugh.  This is totally serious stuff.  I’ve decided that the only thing worse than the thought of eating three bananas every single day—every day—is the idea of having to throw them out.  So I squeezed some “me time” into the calendar, snatched that overabundance of bananas, and baked myself a batch of muffins for tomorrow’s breakfast.

Because sometimes going overboard is a very, very good thing.

Banana-Blueberry Muffins

This is a standard old favorite muffin recipe with a few changes, here and there.  I’ve been experimenting with using honey as my sweetener of choice lately, and these muffins were practically made for such an ingredient.  So this was the first thing that I changed from the original version.  I also added in some cinnamon, doubled the vanilla, and reduced the sodium content by nixing the salt altogether.  The baking powder has plenty of sodium and I found the extra addition of salt completely unnecessary, which is oftentimes true for many muffin recipes.

I recommend making these whenever you have a big ol’ batch of overripe bananas.  They are best served warm, straight from the oven.  But, of course, they freeze well too.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. honey (or sugar)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c. mashed, very ripe banana (about 1-1/2 to 2 bananas)
  • 1-1/2 c. frozen blueberries
  1. Whisk together first 4 ingredients up to nutmeg.
  2. Whisk together next 7 ingredients up to banana in a separate bowl.
  3. Add blueberries to dry mix; stir until blueberries are coated with the flour.
  4. Add wet mix to dry mix.  Stir just until moistened (do not overmix…this toughens the final product!)
  5. Pour batter into 12-muffin pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake for 17-20 minutes at 400 degrees F.

QUESTION: Do you tend to overbook your calendar with to-do’s and appointments?  How do you make sure that you still get some “me time”?