staying motivated

It’s important to roll with the changes when it comes to motivation.

Last week, I ran because that’s what kept me sane for the moment.  I blew off steam.  Fed my frustration.  Came home feeling like a brand new woman.

This week, I didn’t feel frustrated.  I didn’t need to blow off steam.  I didn’t feel motivated.

Once I realized why I didn’t feel much like running, I just decided not to.  In the same way that I’ll never force myself to eat a healthy food just because it’s good for me, I’ll never force myself to exercise.  Just because.

However, that being said, I also know that exercising makes me feel eons better.  So I walked.  Because it felt good and kept me energized for a busy week.  I mixed yoga in with my regular strength routine.  I mixed things up, focusing on the things that helped me relax, because that’s exactly what I needed.

Motivation.

I also ate out a lot this week, which is totally unusual for me.  Between the german chocolate cake, the date squares, the meatballs, the tenderloin tips, and the broccoli casserole, you could say that I’m feeling a little less than normal. 

Motivation to eat better?

Because I’ll feel better.  Energized.  Normal.  Healthy.  Strong.  Ready for anything. 

(p.s. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy ever. single. bite of all the delicious food that I was served, but it sure does feel good to be back to normal today!)

A big hunka salad, a steaming bowl of homemade beans and a warm slice of cornbread left me satisfied.

Motivated.

Motivation is always evolving.  Always changing, in all different areas of our life.  What keeps us motivated to exercise doesn’t necessarily keep us motivated to eat right.

Find what works and stick with it.  Don’t be afraid to experiment.  To fall now and then.  Getting back up, and trying something new.  Never beating yourself up but moving on.

One.  Step.  At.  A.  Time. 

Homemade Baked Beans

I’ve talked about these baked beans before, but it’s just one of those recipes that you need to talk about more than once. 

As much as my Pepere and I have in common when it comes to food, my Memere and I shared a deep appreciation for homemade baked beans.  She would serve them with a fresh batch of fluffy pancakes, smile, and say how much she loved this meal.  Sometimes she’d make some buttery scrambled eggs for the side too.  As a little girl in awe of her Memere’s cooking, I was pretty sure that life couldn’t get much better, and I still feel that way.  This meal is proof that healthy foods and comfort foods can oftentimes be one and the same.

  • 2 c. navy beans
  • 1-2 onions, finely diced
  • 3 T. molasses
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 c. ketchup (I use trader joe’s all natural brand)
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 T. packed brown sugar
  1. Soak beans overnight in cold water.  Simmer beans in same water until tender, approximately 1 to 2 hrs.  Drain and reserve liquid. (keep in mind that you don’t want the beans sooo tender that they’re falling apart on you…they should be a little firm)
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  3. Arrange the beans in a 2 quart bean pot or casserole dish and top with onions.
  4. In a saucepan, combine rest of ingredients.  Bring mixture to a bowl and pour over beans.  Pour in just enough of reserved bean water to cover the beans.  Stir gently with rubber spatula and cover dish with lid or aluminum foil.
  5. Bake for 3 to 4 hrs in preheated oven.  Stir at least every hour. 
  6. ENJOY!

Question: What are some of the things that keep you motivated?

Breakfast Bonanza Day 5

I needed a warm, comforting breakfast. 

I needed motivation to face the black, scary night (it’s not officially morning, you know, until the sun peaks out!) 

I needed something to convince me that getting out of bed at 5:30am was a good idea. 

While I have gone running in the “sort of dark” before, today I ran in the “so dark you can’t see your hand” kind of dark.  It was both exhilerating and scary.  There were moments when I questioned whether risking the broken ankle would credit me as being brave or very, very stupid.  I decided it was better not to answer myself.

(FYI, I still brought along a flashlight to alert cars of my presence, along with wearing good reflector gear)

I bundled up well for the chilly 20 degrees.  Running tights, three layers of shirts, and a hat for extra measure (first *hat run* of the year!)  With a bee bop of the head and a couple of Rocky dances to loosen myself up, I trucked out the door, ready to face both cold and dark.  

Nothing but footsteps.  Nothing but my own breath.  The occasional car light flashing as some poor soul drove to work (at 5:30!)  I quickened my pace, savoring the sound of crunchy pebbles and pavement beneath my feet.  I chased the moon into a deep, dark cloud.  On my return, the sun chased me home as it made its gentle appearance.  I love, love, love the start of a new day.  So simple.  So perfect.

Anyways, as I said earlier, I needed a warm, comforting breakfast.  Because the run itself offers nothing but bliss.  But throwing back the covers and getting out of bed?  That takes some serious effort.

I used to be a huge oat bran fan, but I fell off the bandwagon after rediscovering my love for the rolled oat.

Today, I decided that the extra comfort level of a creamy bowl of pumpkin oat bran was exactly—exactly!—what I needed.

Oat bran should most deifnitely become a regular participator in my morning meals.

Creamy Pumpkin Oat Bran

One of the things I like most about preparing oat bran (besides the v-v-volume!) is that it’s ready in record time.  Perfect for busy mornings! 

The secret to voluminous oat bran is the extra water!  Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond what you normally put in.  Adding in the extra 3/4 c. of water to this blend always gives me more than my nut jar can handle, but I’m okay with that. 😀  I like to give the oatbran a quick stir once it’s in the nut jar, just to get it all incorporated (especially with chunky nut butters!)  But scraping down the sides is part of the pleasure too. 

  • 1 c. milk + 3/4 c. water
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1/2 c. canned pumpkin
  • cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 1/4 c. oat bran
  • 1 tsp chia seeds (optional, but adds to the creaminess!)
  • 1 almost empty peanut butter jar
  • toppings: your favorite granola
  1. In a medium pot, add milk, water, banana, pumpkin and spices.  Bring to a boil.
  2. Add in oat bran and chia seeds, stir rapidly, and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring often. 
  3. Once oat bran is thickened to your preference, pour into an almost empty peanut butter jar. 
  4. Top with granola and any other favorite toppings! ENJOY!

Question: What motivates you to work out, stay active and/or be healthy?

**Two days left for the Breakfast Bonanza!  Don’t forget to let me know via comment (or email!) if there’s a particular breakfast that you’ve made and would like to see up on the breakfast post for Saturday! 😀

the start of a good day

 I ran my heart out this morning.

 

I ran in the dark.  I ran in the cold.  I ran with nothing but a flashlight.

I watched the sun rise from over the trees.  Gentle light.  Nature’s promise of warmth.

I watched the neighborhood wake up.  Lights flicking on.  The smell of sweet pancakes and warm maple syrup floating through the air. 

I was chased by a spunky black pug with an attitude.

I watched my breath float up and into the sky.  A wisp of smoke.

I ran my heart out this morning and then I realized that today was going to be a very good day.

 

I came home, showered, went to work, came home, went for a walk.

And then—at the end of the day—I baked sixty-five crackers. 

Yes.  Crackers.

Honestly, if you would have told me five years ago that I’d be baking my own crackers, I would have quite literally rolled on the floor laughing.  Even today, as I was poking little breathing holes into a bite sized cracker, I felt just a little silly.

Family members wanted to know “What’s cookin’?”  “Oh…well, crackers.”  With the lift of an eyebrow and the sweep of a grin, they reminded me that the store down the street is still selling crackers, as far as they knew.

But I was as determined as ever.  Determined to find a cracker that—much like yesterday’s plate of fettucine—wouldn’t need a plethora of toppings, just to make its point.  I wanted a cracker to be crunchy, flaky and just a little bit salty.  I wanted a cracker that could hold its own. 

I think I may have found that cracker.  Well, not exactly.  Not quite.  But almost.

This recipe still needs a little tweaking and some TLC.  So maybe I should have waited before running out and sharing it with all of you.  But I can’t, really.  Patience has never been one of my strong suits.

Besides, it’s pretty close to perfect.  And if I know you readers like I think I do, most of you like to play around with a basic recipe, transforming it into something new and exciting.  You like to take a recipe and go wild with it.  And these crackers are practically begging you to do just that.  Get creative.  Branch out.  Throw in your favorite flavors and make it your own.  Be daring with cinnamon.  Go bold with cayenne.  Simplify with specks of sea salt. 

And, as Julia Childs would say, “most of all, have fun!”

Whole Wheat Crackers—a basil and garlic variation

Be sure to roll the dough out very thin.  Otherwise you’ll end up with a thick, chewy cracker.  CRUNCH is what you’re after.  That being said, however, my dad actually preferred it a little on the soft side with crispy edges.  So—as always—go with what you like! 😀

I made this batch with garlic and basil, but you could nix that and go for a sweet flavor (chocolate? cinnamon?) or spice things up with cayenne.  The possibilities are endless. 😀

  • 3-1/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 T. basil

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Stir together flour, seasonings of choice and salt.  Pour in vegetable oil and water.  Mix until blended.

3. Roll dough as thin as possible (no more than 1/8 inch) on a lightly floured surface.  Place dough on ungreased baking sheet (may need to use two separate cooking sheets) and mark squares with a knife, but don’t cut through.  Prick each cracker with a fork a few times.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes in oven or until crisp and light brown (avoid undercooking).  Baking time varies depending on thickness of cracker.  When cool, remove from baking sheet and separate into individual crackers.

Question: What is your favorite kind of cracker?  I’ve always been a Kashi fan, but I also *love* Dr. Kracker’s Seeded Spelt.

stuffed to the gills.

Sometimes—when I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed, tired, or downright cranky—it feels good to chop an onion.

A lot has been happening these past few weeks.  Nothing really, really bad.  And nothing too crazy either.  Just—a lot.  I’m realizing that the weekends aren’t enough to bring me back to normal, and so I’ve been relying on my sharpest kitchen knives and a few good recipes, as my greatest form of stress management. 😉

Tonight I felt like making stuffed vegetarian peppers.

I’ve been wanting to make stuffed peppers for some time now.  Hesitation is what has held me back for so long.  Thoughts of my mom’s famous hamburg stuffed peppers, lingering in the back of my mind.  Memories of a recipe that was handed down from my mom’s mom’s mom, to my mom’s mom, and then to my mom (and eventually to me.)  That’s kind of a lot of pressure to put on a girl.

But I decided, after all, that I still wanted a vegetarian stuffed pepper to call my own.  And if I found a recipe that was unique enough, it could become a new recipe to add to my collection.  Not a replacement.  Never a replacement.  I’m sure the long line of French Canadian women wouldn’t mind hearing that I experimented in the kitchen (although there may be a few eyebrows raised at the idea of having a meatless meal!)  😉

To find a well deserving recipe, I pulled out my stack of magazines.  That’s when I stumbled across a Vegetarian Times Magazine, which proudly boasted pictures of stuffed peppers, smothered in a rich cheddar cheese.  I had all the ingredients on hand to make such a pepper.  It was obviously meant to be.

Recipe? Found.  Cooking utensils? Ready.  Apron? On.  Stress Management Class may now commence.

By this point in the recipe, you’ll have an onion and two stalks of celery simmering in a bit of olive oil on the stove.  For about 5 minutes or so.  The cumin and garlic are then added for a minute more of cooking (thanks to an informative reader for letting me know that this short duration of heat upon spice really does intensify the flavors…)

Moving on.  Drain the juice from 2 cans of diced tomatoes, but save it for later.  You’ll see why, later on in the recipe.

Add the diced tomatoes and 10-oz. of dethawed & drained frozen spinach to your onion mixture.

(I probably failed to mention this earlier, but you’ll also want to have a pot of brown rice going at this time, unless you’re taking the quinoa route (see recipe below for the details!) 

Meanwhile, grate 3 large carrots.  If you’re like me, you’ll want to peel an extra one for munching. 😉

Mix all ingredients together.

(All Ingredients = Cooked brown rice.  Spinach.  Tomatoes.  Black beans.  Carrots.  Cheese.)

Stir, Stir, Stir.

I’m pretty sure that any leftover filling (because this recipe does make extra filling) will find its way into a tortilla wrap or atop a salad.  The flavor is superb.

But a wrap or a salad was not meant for tonight.  Tonight, I forged ahead and decided to stick completely to the written recipe, halving and coring the freshest bell peppers that I could find, and stuffing them to the gills. 

After the procedure of stuffing the peppers was finished, I covered them with a tight seal of foil, popped them in a 350 degree oven, turned the timer to an hour and then I did something that I never do.

I left my mess behind.

Washing dishes is a little like brushing my teeth.  I can’t not do it immediately after a meal. 

But I came to the conclusion that the dishes could wait.  The sunshine could not.  So with an hours worth of time, I went for a walk.  And I’d recommend you do the same if you have a spare 30 minutes or so before your next meal.  It felt absolutely luxurious. 😀

When I strolled back in, there was a good 15 minutes left on the timer. 

Just enough time to melt a bit of cheddar cheese on top of the peppers.  Just enough time to braise some brussels sprouts.  Just enough time to get those dishes done and out of the way. 😀

The meal was fabulous and earned tablewide compliments.  The flavors were very complex and came together beautifully.  Next time I may try adding some salsa to the mix, or a jalapeno for some x-tra spice. 

Needless to say, I’ll be making these again. 

(Especially since they pack up nicely for next-day-lunches!)

Stuffed Peppers
Vegetarian Times, February 2009—plus some minor tweaking

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, finely choped
  • 1 T. cround cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1, 10-oz. package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2-15 oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1-15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 c. quinoa (OR, cook 1 c. dry rice as directed on package)
  • 3 large carrots, grated
  • 1-1/2 c. grated, reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 4 large red, green or yellow bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed

1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and celery, cook 5 minutes or until soft.  Add cumin and garlic, saute 1 minute.  Stir in spinach and drained tomatoes.  Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.

2. If using quinoa: Stir in black beans, quinoa, carrots, and 2 c. water.  Cover, bring to a boil for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender.  Stir in 1 c. cheese.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
If using rice: Stir in black beans, cooked rice, and carrots.  Stir, reduce heat to low and stir in cheese.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

3. Preheat oven to 350F.  Pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.

4. Fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa or rice mixture, and place in baking dish.  Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour.  Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 T. remaining cheese.  Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned.  Let stand 5 minutes.  Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.

Today’s Challenge: Do something that you really love and enjoy, as a form of “stress management.”  Go for a walk.  Brush your cat.  Paint your nails.  Bake some muffins.  Look through old pictures.  Make a cup of tea and do absolutely nothing for 15 minutes…(what is your favorite stress buster?)

Weekend Highlights

SATURDAY

Some weekends are made for relaxing and doing absolutely nothing at all.

Some weekends are made for going out with friends and family and just having fun. 

Some weekends happen to include the best of both worlds. 😀

Matthew and Kelsey came down for the weekend, so we (Nicole, Nate and I) went to meet up for drinks and appetizers on Saturday night.  

Nicole and I split the Mediterranean Hummus Plate.  It was filled with feta cheese, kalamata olives, and fresh veggies.  The grilled pita chips were so perfect; flaky on the surface but warm and doughy on first bite.  Perfect.

We ended up talking most of the night away.  I can’t remember the last time that I went to bed so late, but it actually felt really good.  Especially since I’ll have available catch-up time on Monday morning (not that our bodies can truly, honestly, ever “catch up” according to the sleep experts, but I gave a big *harumph* to that idea for this weekend! 😉 ) 

SUNDAY

I’m pretty sure God knew what He was doing when He decided to give us Sunday as a day of rest.  We all deserve the break, really, and it felt wonderful to have nothing on the ol’ to-do list.  

Nothing.

Nothing but a nice long walk with the family.  

Have I ever mentioned how in love I am with the fall?  I wish it would never end. 😀

We ran across a big black cow on our walk, and he (she?) was the sweetest thing ever.  I was hoping it would follow us home, but to no avail.  I guess he must have decided that the grass was much greener on his own side of the fence. 😉

Dad treated us to dinner from our family favorite pizza shop, and we all crowded around the table to indulge in a veggie pizza.  The perfect ending for the weekend, if I do say so myself. 😀

I love busy, fun-filled Saturdays.

I love, love, love lazy Sundays.

Love. 😀

Question: What made you *smile* this weekend? 

Lite-To-Love

First picture that I ever posted on an old-school food blog.  Location: McDonalds.  Year: 2007.  Food Choice: 1/2 of a southwestern chicken salad.

Second picture I ever took and posted on a blog.  Location: Back yard.  Year: 2007.  Food Choice: 1 lowfat hotdog on a bun with mustard.

If you would have asked me three or four years ago what I defined as healthy eating, I would have given you a completely different answer than the one I give you today.  I would have felt proud of the fact that my hotdog had only 2 g. of saturated fat.  Proud that my McDonalds lunch only contained 350 calories with milk included.  I was eating light.  Low fat.  “Healthy.”

And I wasn’t always a fitness gal at heart either.  I wasn’t out running the miles during highschool.  I thought strength training was only for a few vain Hollywood stars.  My parents dragged me for morning walks or day-hikes in the White Mountains, NH, because they liked being active and healthy with their family.  Sunday afternoons revolved around going for a group bike ride.  I hated it.  Absolutely hated it.  The pepperoni sticks and icecream treats only made it tolerable. 😉

And then, slowly—over time—I began to fall in love with the outdoors. 

I don’t know why or when it happened, but I haven’t looked back since.  Who was that outdoor loathing, fitness-hating girl, anyways?  I took up running, hiking, biking, backpacking, walking.  I craved the sunshine, a warm summer breeze, and the joy of a crisp morning run in the fall. 

Before I knew it, I was also falling in love with gardening.  Local produce.  Natural, wholesome foods that I could actually recognize and call by name. 

I soaked up the delicious pleasure of cooking.  Eating.  Socializing. 

Sometimes it’s fun to look back.  To see how much we’ve changed.  From then (light hotdogs) to now (loving life, food, fitness) I’ve gone through a whole lot of change in my life.  Just goes to show you that sometimes it’s not such a bad thing. 😉

Food is more than a number.  More than a gram.  More than a percentage.

Food is more than just the sum of what you see on a nutrition label.

Food is meant to be savored.  Enjoyed.  Appreciated.

Food is not meant to be analyzed, and it should never—ever!—be responsible for making you feel guilty.

Food is not meant to be feared or taken too seriously. 

Food should make you feel your best physically and mentally. 

Question: How have you changed over the years in regards to your cooking/eating habits?

ode to fall…continued

This morning I wanted pancakes, and only pancakes would do.

Puffy, fluffy, pumpkin pancakes. 

I’ve been dreaming of making pumpkin pancakes ever since I spotted a can of Libby pumpkin sitting on the grocery shelves.  It’s the fall weather that finally convinced me to do so.

This recipe (go way, way, way down to the bottom of this post to view it) is one of my all time favorites.  Not too sweet but filled with everything you want in a pumpkin pancake.  It’s light, fluffy, and fragrant with autumn spices.  I would have used white flour if I thought it would have produced better results; after all, a girl has only so many pumpkin pancakes in her life.  But in all honesty (and this is not just my nutrition side speaking,) the whole wheat flour does wonders for this recipe.  It’s all hearty and rustic without being dense.  You’ll love it.

They’re versatile too.  I served scrambled eggs, oranges and maple syrup for my parents…

…and slathered mine with almond butter and sliced bananas because it just seemed oh so right.

My craving for making (and eating) a plate of pumpkin pancakes = fulfilled.

The leftover pancakes (because this recipe makes at least 18 good sized pancakes) can be cooled on a wire rack, much in the same way you might cool a muffin or a batch of fresh cookies.  You’ll avoid soggy bottoms, and then you can pop them in a freezer bag for an easy weekday breakfast throughout the week.

With a belly full of deliciously energizing carbs, it was time to walk.

I have been absolutely and completely absorbed with fall lately.  The fresh and crispy air.  Colorful New England leaves.  Warm, cozy sweatshirts.  Comfy weekend jeans.  Spicy, pumpkin flavors.  Mmm…I think I want fall to stay around forever.  Do you think winter would oblige?

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes
As seen on AllRecipes by Ruth, with minor tweaks here and there
Serves 6

  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 3 T. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • dash of cloves
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 c. milk
  • 1 c. pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T. canola oil
  • 2 T. vinegar

In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar.  Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.  Stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine (do not over mix.)

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat.  Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 c. for each pancake.  Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Question: What is your favorite thing to serve ON THE SIDE or ON TOP OF of your pancakes?  As you can see, I am totally obsessed with all things fall and all things pancake lately.  Please forgive me.  :mrgreen:

Apparently, the weather doesn’t care if fall is official.  It would much rather be summer.  Who am I to argue?

My morning run consisted of all good things.

Feeling good for 5 miles…well.  Let’s be honest.  Feeling good for 4 miles.  That first mile seems to always feel a bit creeky.

Sunny sky.

And a running revelation.  Don’t you love when this happens? 

What was my running revelation?  Well, I’ll tell you. 

It occurred to me as I was running along on my third mile, that I used to beat myself up over taking a walking break during a morning run. 

“Sarah, where’s your endurance?”  “You’re giving up!”  “Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy!”

And now?  Now, I’m convinced that taking the occasional walking break is not only okay, but it can also be extremely beneficial.   It’s part of living intuitively.  We hear so much about intuitive eating, but what about intuitive exercising?  Whether you’re having an ‘off day’ or are increasing your mileage, plan on structuring in some walking breaks.  This doesn’t mean taking a break whenever you grow tired and it doesn’t mean never pushing yourself—which really does help to build endurance.  But it means respecting what your body is telling you. 

If you’re experiencing abnormal pain related to an injury, STOP running.  And if you find that you’re becoming tired or starting to slouch, take a walking break!   A slouched, tired running form can cause you to run differently, leading to injuries. 

BREAKFAST

Libby and I, we’ve been best friends lately. 

  • 1/2 c. uncooked oatmeal
  • cinnamon + nutmeg
  • 1 banana, thinly sliced
  • 6-oz. plain yogurt
  • 1/2 c. canned Libby pumpkin
  • topping: 2 T. walnuts, Natures Path Pumpkin Flax Granola

I chomped my way through this bowl of deliciousness before heading out for my run.  It was easy on my stomach.  Dairy used to bother me on my runs, but no more.  I think I’ve built up a tolerance level. 😉

Post run, I was starving. 

As in, “is it lunch time even though it’s only 10 o’clock” kind of starving.

One whole wheat tortilla wrapped with ricotta cheese later, I was again feeling like my normal self.

LUNCH

Chopsticks.

Whole wheat bunny crackers.

Deliciousness.

  • mesculin greens
  • carrot
  • cucumber
  • tomato
  • garbanzo beans (about 1/2 c.)
  • 2 T. dried cranberries
  • black olives, sliced
  • feta cheeese (about 2 T.)
  • olive oil

There’s something about having a day off that makes me crave Starbucks.  I’m so glad there isn’t one too close to my house.  I could foresee the following scenarios happening all too frequently:

“Oh, it’s Monday, I think I’ll treat myself to a morning latte.”

“Oh, it’s Hump Day, Starbucks would be a fun treat.”

“Oh, it’s Saturday, I think I’ll hit up Starbucks with Nicole for a coffee date.”

“Oh…”

You get the picture.  My entire paycheck would end up in Starbucks’ wallet.  It wouldn’t be pretty. 😉

Today I went with a grande soy misto with one pump of toffee mocha.  Mmmm….

Afternoon Snack: almonds and grapes

DINNER

If I had to choose just one thing to cook for the rest of my life, I would choose soups.  At least, for the time being.  Next month I may say differently.  But for now?  Soups!

This is one of my favorites.  It’s simple, rustic, and super hearty.  You could easily make this vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth.  That being said, however, nothing quite takes the place of a homemade chicken stock in this soup.  The next time you boil a chicken, save the broth specifically for this soup.  It is definitely worth it. 😀

Mushroom Barley Soup
from the Culinary Institute of America, “Book of Soups” with some minor variations

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 3 c. sliced portobello mushrooms
  • 2 qts. chicken broth
  • 1/2-3/4 c. pearl barley
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 T. parsley
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  1. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes
  2. Add vegetables up to mushrooms.  Stir, cover and cook on low for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Remove cover and add broth and barley.  Bring to a simmer and cook until barley is tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the parsley.  Stir in vinegar.  Serve in heated bowls.
  5. ENJOY! 😀

A pear for dessert!

I’m off for a walk.  Nothing celebrates the upcoming weekend like a relaxing after-dinner walk. 😀

Question: Do you take walking breaks during runs? 

AND/OR

Question: If you were to cook one type of meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

in the early morning

I have always been a morning runner.

There have been different reasons for this over the course of my life.  Originally—back when running a mile felt like absolute torture—I hated running.  My morning runs happened only because it was the thing to do.  A means to losing those freshman 15.  I wanted my runs to be in the morning and out of the way so I that could enjoy the rest of my day in peace.  Harumph.

And then—gradually, not overnight—I fell in love with running.  A morning run became my sense of peace.  An accomplishment.  My alone time.  The perfect way to start my day.

Now—as a busy Dietetic Intern—I literally have to run in the morning, if I want to run at all.  It doesn’t matter if the temperature is frigid.  Or if it’s too dark to even be considered the morning.  It doesn’t matter.  My schedule demands a morning run.  And since I’ve fallen so in love with running—it’s still my sense of sanity and peace!—I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to get me out of bed and on the road.  In the early morning.

First things first.  Breakfast.

There’s no such thing as a good run without the proper fuel to keep you going.

For some people, this means a quick snack and a “regular” breakfast upon return.  For others—that’s me!—only a big ol’ breakfast will do.  Do what works for you!  Just remember that our brains and muscles need the energy for every day living and for your running regimen.  Fuel up!

Secondly, let someone know when and where you’re going.

This is especially true if you’re a female runner (not that it’s not also important for the guy runners out there to practice safety too 😉 ).  Just give a heads up to someone that you plan on heading out. 

Third, bring a flashlight.

I don’t like carrying extra stuff on my runs.  But when I’m running in the early morning, a light source is a *must.*  Keep it small, and you won’t even realize that you’re carrying it.

Fourth thing, don’t run at the same time every morning on the same route.

This is just a safety precaution.  Don’t be paranoid but don’t be ignorant either.  Change up your routes or times to play it safe, never letting yourself become predictable.

Fifth point, carry a set of house keys.

This will ensure that you can get in your house safely.  You never know when a family member will accidentally lock you out.  On a cold winters’ day.  After an 11 mile run.  I’m not mentioning any names. :mrgreen:

Here’s an extra safety bonus: keys can be used as a weapon as necessary.  Just sayin’. 😉

LAST point.  Bring kleenex! 

I know some runners who have learned to blow their nose without kleenex, but I believe that is meant solely for the hardcore runner who doesn’t want to mess with carrying kleenex.  I’ll opt for toting along a couple tissues. 😉

And there you have it.  Running in the morning (or late at night) is totally doable with a few easy steps.  If you’re lucky enough to have a running partner who can join you on such a time, that’s great too.  Just be safe, stay cautious, and enjoy those gorgeous, early morning sunrises too!  Morning runs have soooo much to offer.  😀

Question: If you’re a morning/evening runner, what would you add to this list? 

orange you glad?

Prepare yourselves.  This post is about to explain to you why my hands are orange. 😉

Reason #1: It all started with a humble carrot.

Carrots never crossed my mind as a kid.  I ate them, yes.  But they were nothing special.  And then my tastebuds discovered carrot cake, which is when I realized that carrots were God’s gift to man.  And then—then!—a whole new world of flavor opened up, and I realized that carrots were not meant solely for cakes (although some might argue this fact.)  I ate them roasted.  Honey glazed.  Plain.  Raw.  With dip.  Grated in oatmeal.  Dunked in peanut butter. 

Yes.  I ate carrots.  Lots and lots of carrots.

Reason #2: After my newfound love for the carrot, I discovered canned pumpkin. 

I grew up hating pumpkin pie.  Absolute hatred!!  To this day, I can not eat it.  Which is such a shame, because I’m convinced that aside from a roasted turkey, pumpkin pie is the heart and sole of Thanksgiving. 

However, once I discovered that it was just pumpkin pie that I didn’t like, and not so much the actual pumpkin, a whole new world opened up.  Pumpkin bread.  Pumpkin lattes.  Pumpkin muffins.  And now that I’ve fully stocked up on Libby’s canned pumpkin, I’m including pumpkin in my breakfasts as well.

Breakfast Pumpkin Cookie—(the texture of this “cookie” most closely resembles that of “overnight oats”)

  • 1/2 c. uncooked oatmeal
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1/2 c. canned pumpkin
  • 2 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 T. peanut butter
  • 2 T. cranberries (I use ‘Craisins’)
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl, mashing well with a fork.
  2. Spread evenly across a plate.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. ENJOY! 😀

Reason #4: Lastly, I am obsessed with the sweet potato, which destroys any hopes of my hands ever returning to normal.

Tonight I opened up my Moosewood Cookbook and pulled out a recipe for Samosas.  Sticking mostly to the recipe, I did make some substitutions.  Like using all whole wheat flour in place of the white.

I also turned up my nose to the white potatoes and subbed in 1 large sweet potato instead.  I’m sure you would agree that the sweet potato makes for a much more colorful, tasty filling.  😀

The dough to these Samosas was so fun to work with.  It was super stretchy and flexible.  I pulled it, smashed it, rolled it, and stretched it. 

And then I preceded to fill, fill, fill these babies up.

I may have overstuffed these guys just a little, but the dough was very forgiving.

The results were worth the 2 hours of prepping and baking time.  So, so, so worth it!

It was love, my friends.  Love at first bite.

Reason #5: Eaten with herbed carrot soup.  Of course. 😉

So there you have it.  I have an obsession with all things orange, and there’s just no stopping me.

Samosa Recipe—from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook, as seen on the Food Network website

The Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups flour (used whole wheat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk or yogurt
  • Extra flour as needed

The Filling:

  • 2 large potatoes (the size of a large person’s fist)–used sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup finely minced onion
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried coriander (if available)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked green peas (frozen, thawed=fine)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Cayenne, to taste

Directions

Dough 1) Place the flour in a medium-sized bowl. Mix in the salt. 2) Make a well in the center, and add the buttermilk or yogurt. Mix first with a spoon and then with your hand, to make a smooth dough. 3) Add extra flour, as needed, to keep the dough from being sticky. The dough will be quite soft. knead in the bowl for about 5 minutes. Cover tightly and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the pastries.

Filling: 1) Peel the potatoes and chop them into 1-inch pieces. Place in a saucepan, cover with water, and boil until very soft. Drain and transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Mash and set aside. 2)Melt the butter in a heavy skillet. Add onion, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, coriander, and salt. Saute over medium heat about 8 to 10 minutes, or until onions are quite soft. Add this to the mashed potatoes, along with the remaining ingredients. Mix well, but try not to smash the peas. Cool for at least 15 minutes before filling the pastries.

To Assemble and Bake: 1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Generously oil a baking sheet. 2) Keep a small container of flour, a fork, a small bowl of water, and a pastry brush close at hand. Flour a clean surface, and, one by one, roll 1-inch balls of dough into 5-inch circles, using a rolling pin. 3) Place approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons filling in the center of each circle, and fold over, just like a turnover. Brush the inside edges of each circle with a little water, and fold the edges together to make a small hem. Crimp the edges firmly with a fork. Note: If you are storing the samosas to bake later on, place them on a heavily floured plate or tray, dust the tops with more flour, and cover tightly. Store in the refrigerator or freezer until baking time. 4) To bake: Place the samosas on the oiled baking sheet. Brush the tops with oil. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees F., then reduce heat to 375 degrees F. and bake for 10 minutes more. For maximum crispness, turn the samosas over when you turn the oven down. 5) Serve within 5 minutes of baking, with Dipping Sauce. A nice way to serve the sauce is in individual saucers or tiny bowls, so each person can hold both samosa and sauce directly under his or her face while eating, and the sauce bowl can catch the drips. (It does drip, but that’s one of the charms of this ritual.)

The Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt

1) Place all ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir until the sugar dissolves. 2) Heat to boiling, then let simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. it will reduce slightly. 3) Serve warm or at room temperature with hot samosas.

Question: If you turned the color of what you eat the most, what color would you be?