there’s always a first

Today was filled with FIRSTS.

#1: I decided to wake up 15 minutes earlier this morning, while also making my breakfast to-go

This gave me the lump sum of about 45 extra morning minutes.  I was able to blow out my hair and read and have some extra quiet time just for me.  Three things that I never seem to have quite enough time for.

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And, in the end, breakfast didn’t need “to go” at all.  With time to spare, I threw my pre-made pb and banana sandwich into the frying pan, toasted it to the ooey gooey state of perfection, and ate it before my commute to work.  This worked out quite perfectly.

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Note to self: wake up earlier, make breakfast the night before and reap the (many) rewards.

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#2: I ran 2 miles with a mission in mind and I enjoyed every single second.

I ran with speed.  Determination.  Excitement and enthusiasm.  And it felt good!  I normally have a really tough time with the shorter, speedier runs, but tonight, it just came natural.  I’ve already decided that I need to include more speed runs into my regular running routine!

#3: I ate breakfast twice in one day. 

 

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Okay, okay.  You caught me.  That’s obviously not a first.   What IS a first is that I finally decided to try PB&Company’s Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter on top of my bowl of whipped banana oatmeal.  The combination was simply divine.  A little like melting dark chocolate over a warm slice of banana bread.  Luscious. 

Who says you can’t have chocolate for breakfast?

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#4: I went against my state of normal, and ate a plate of leftovers without changing a single thing. 

Nothing.  Because, you see, some meals just aren’t meant to be messed around with.

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#5: I finished all of tonight’s homework/assignments before 9:00, which gives me at least one hour to read and relax before hitting the hay.  Time to start February’s book of the month! 

Question: What is something that you’ve never done but would really, really like to do?  Aside from my bigger dreams in life (i.e., visit Paris, own a goat farm, et cetera,) I’d also like to eat my way through Boston for the day.  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.  I think I need to hit up restaurant week this year! 😀

adressing the salad

I’ve been known to add random, unexplainable things to my salads.

For example, I like to fill my salads with lots of leftovers.  Christmas leftovers—I think—are especially good.  This did, however, raise some eyebrows at the dinner table.

But—really—you have to admit, brown sugar glazed carrots are good on anything.  Turnips too.

And then there is one of my most favorite combinations, which includes chicken, black beans, corn and avocado.  This also raised some eyebrows, but in a good way.

Roasted squash isn’t exactly your typical salad fare, but my tastebuds sure are happy with it.

When all is said and done, there is one thing that is always true.  One thing that the entire family continues to agree on. 

Homemade, viniagrette dressing.

I made it during the Christmas holiday, and one of my uncles declared it was the best viniagrette he has ever had.  I wish I could pat myself on the back, but the truth is that this recipe can be made by anyone.  It’s not at all stuffy or fancy, and can be made in under 5 minutes.  Ready for any ol’ time, when you just want a simple but snazzy homemade dressing to grace your salad. 

This dressing will turn strange salads into something normal. 

And it will turn boring salads into something extraordinary.

It’s kind of a win-win.

Family Favorite Vinaigrette Dressing

This dressing is a family favorite, hence the name.  It goes lovely with all kinds of vegetables and pairs well with strong cheese.  And considering how simple this is to put together, you can throw it together directly before your meal.  It does, however, taste even better with age.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 1/2 c. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. parsley flakes (or 1 c. fresh, loosely packed)
  • 1/2 c. chopped red onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Blend the above ingredients together in a blender, until smooth. 
  2. Drizzle over your favorite salad and ENJOY. 😀

Question: What is your favorite salad topping/mix-in?  I love feta cheese, cranberries, and anything that has been roasted!

something from nothing

My dad is normally the one who takes on the duty of “cleaning” out the leftover turkey or chicken.  He patiently plucks out each and every last piece of juiy meat from the bones.  Leaving nothing to waste—absolutely nothing.  Supposedly he picked this trait up from his mom (my Memere.)  She had the knack for making something from nothing.  For example, after a lobster dinner (lobster was cheap back then, you know) she would take any “throw away” lobster shells, clean them out further, and produce a mouthwatering lobster stew for the following day.  And so, from one generation to the next, this trait has been passed down. 

This past Thanksgiving, I felt quite honored to take on this highly important task of cleaning out the turkey.  And aside from asking the obvious question—why is there a whisk on my head?there was also the question of what to do with the leftover bones and those bits of meat that refused to come off the bone. 

The answer?  A homemade turkey stock, of course.

The bones—and those last peices of stubborn meat—hold a whole lot of flavor.  Together they make a broth that will wow your tastebuds, making you wonder why you ever bought chicken stock from the store in the first place.  Oh…right…probably because there isn’t always a bunch of chicken bones just sitting in the freezer at any given moment.  But this just gives you good reason to make a homemade stock whenever you can, so that you’ll always have it on hand for that opportune time. 😀 

The nice thing about making a broth from scratch is that you have complete control over what goes in and what stays out.  Personally, I like to keep things simple with the basics.  Garlic.  Carrots.  Celery.  Onions.  A few seasonings.  When all is said and done, after the broth has been drained and just the juices remain, you have the liberty of creating whatever soup suits your fancy. 

Since there was a big bag of leftover turkey meat, turkey stew seemed like the obvious choice.

With a whole wheat rosemary scone (click for recipe) on the side. 

These are quick and easy to make, and are wonderful served warm with soup or toasted and spread with butter and jam.

So there you have it.  The last of the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers.  With a closing reminder to always hold on to those scraps of meat which might normally face the trash.  You just never know how they might get put to use. 😉

Turkey Soup

This is a two step process, but you can definitely make the stock ahead of time and freeze for later.  It’s really nice to have homemade stock on hand, whether you decide to use it in a turkey stew or as a flavored broth to cook your rice, quinoa, or homemade stuffings. 

Some people will freeze their stock as icecubes so that it can be used in smaller amounts.  I tend to freeze it in bags of 2-4 cup servings depending on what recipe I plan on using. 😀

Stock:

  • leftover turkey or chicken bones with some meat still attached
  • onions, sliced
  • celery, cut into large slices
  • carrots, cut into large slices
  • a few clove of garlic, crushed or minced
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • pepper or a small handful of fresh peppercorns
  1. Place all ingredients in a large pot.  Pour enough water to cover at least 3/4 of ingredients.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and continue cooking for 1-2 hours.
  2. Take off the heat, allow to cool, and either use immediately or refrigerate/freeze for later use.

Soup:

  • turkey or chicken stock
  • carrots
  • potatoes
  • cooked turkey meat
  • oregano, thyme, garlic, and other seasonings
  1. Place stock, carrots, potatoes and preferred seasonings in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender but firm. 
  2. Add turkey meat and continue cooking until heated thorough.
  3. ENJOY! 😀

Question: Are you meticulous about putting anything and everything to use?  What are some of your favorite ways to use up the last of the last of the leftovers?

pumped with pumpkin

Pumpkin seems to be floating around blog land these days.

Some of us continue to eat it in everything.  Some of us are screaming “enough already!” 

And then there are those of us who still have a good dozen cans waiting in our pantry.  Just sitting there.  Lost, confused, alone.  Desparately looking for some way to be used and appreciated.

Now, I’ve always been one to err on the side of sweetness when it comes to pumpkin, which is why I always pair it with warm, creamy oatmeal.  Or yogurt topped with crunchy granola.  But now—with November being over and all—I felt that I needed a change.  A bite of something completely new.

With that in mind, my lunch evolved.

Thursdays require me to pack a lunch the night before.

I’ve learned to embrace this time spent alone in the kitchen at night, trying to think up what it is that I want to eat the following day.  I flick on some Christmas music, pull my comfiest of wool socks on, and dance around the kitchen while preparing my meal.  Speaking of which, whoever said cooking is serious business, obviously did not know what they were talking about.  The less serious you are, the better things will turn out.  Having fun and enjoying the creation of a meal is the key to success! 😀

First, I tossed a couple handfuls of baby romaine leaves with a tsp of olive oil and sea salt.  This is a simple way to up your veggie intake.  It also creates a nice bed for whatever foods are tickling your fancy at the moment. 

With pumpkin on the brain and a bag of leftover whole wheat pasta sitting in the fridge, I created what I now call “pasta with pumpkin and sage.”

I didn’t take any exact measurements, but I did taste a little as I went, just to be sure that the seasonings were exactly where I wanted them to be.  Remember, when you are cooking solely for yourself, there is no need to primp and ponder whether everything tastes exactly like it should.  If you love it, that is all that matters. 😉

The rest of my snacks and lunch itmes included a mini whole wheat bagel smeared with roasted red pepper hummus… 

…a handful of almonds…

…a mini luna white chocolate macadamia bar just for fun…

…and a container of pineapple and red pears.

I received this Luna bar at the recent nutrition expo that I went to.

My thoughts were that it was just “okay.”  Honestly, I don’t think I would actually ever buy one for myself, as all the flavors seem to blend and taste the same to me after awhile!  But it did make for a nice mini-sized snack, and I can see how it would come in handy for an “emergency snack.”  They’re small enough to stash in a purse or to have on hand before or after a visit to the gym.  Still.  I think I’d rather have a handful of almonds or a fruit instead.  Much more satisfying. 😀

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sage

 If you’re looking for a new way to use your canned pumpkin, give this simple, savory dish a try!  I never thought I’d live to see the day, but I can honestly say that I much prefer savory pumpkin to sweet!  There’s something wonderful about sage and pasta mixing and mingling with creamy pumpkin.  These three simple ingredients really do go very well together. 

The addition of lemon juice is a must in this dish!  It (along with the garlic!) gives the dish such a lovely bite, pulling it all together.  Feel free to change things up as you go!  I’m pretty sure nutmeg and/or thyme would be two interesting ingredients to play with as well.  

  • 1 c. cooked whole wheat pasta
  • 1/2 c. canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 c. canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • a few dashes of sage
  • one or two sprinkles of cinnamon
  • garlic powder to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • sea salt to taste
  • a few splashes of lemon juice (be semi-generous with this!  It offers a wonderful flavor)
  • lettuce, olive oil, sea salt (optional)
  • toppings (optional): walnuts, cranberries, pepitas, etc.
  1. Combine all ingredients from pasta to lemon juice together in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Toss together lettuce, oil and sea salt.
  3. Top the lettuce mixture with the pasta mixture.  Place in fridge for following morning’s lunch or eat right away.
  4. ENJOY! 😀

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My room is officially filled with Christmas cheer! :mrgreen:

This little tree stands a meer 2 feet tall, but it’s sending such a warm glow throughout my room.  I love it!  I can’t wait until the official tree is put up next week. 😀

Question: When do you usually put up your Christmas tree?

kaneech-ie-what?

I didn’t want a veggie burger.  I didn’t want a soy burger.

Today I wanted a quinoa burger.

Yes, a quinoa burger—pronounced “keen-wa” burger.  If you’re wondering what in the world this could possibly be, you are not alone.  When I first came across the little circles of grain-like seed, I wondered the very same thing. 

(As Memere would say, “kaneech-ie-what?”) 😉

If you’ve ever cooked with quinoa (and enjoyed it!) you will love this simple burger.  If you’ve never cooked with quinoa, then you’re in for a real treat. 

Quinoa is high in protein, completely gluten free, and filled with vitamins and minerals.  It’s also quick and delicious.  Where brown rice will take a good 40 minutes or so to cook, quinoa is ready in under 15.  This is important for people like me who want dinner on the table within half hour of arriving home. 😉 

I doubled up on the quinoa burgers last night, as I had leftovers sitting on the brain.  Because as delicious as a stuffed whole wheat pita can be, I’m such a sucker for leftovers.

A big green salad mixed with broccoli, red peppers, cucumbers and more.  Topped with a diced burger and drizzled with olive oil.  A simply delicious meal. 

Quinoa Burgers—as seen on Martha Stewart (serves 4)

With the habit of adding in garlic and cayenne to most of my meals, it felt a little strange to not add it in with these burgers.  But I’m very glad that I refrained.  The simple addition of cumin is lovely, and it really goes well with the subtle flavors found in the rest of the ingredients.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised. 

As an aside, these could easily be transformed into a vegan entree by replacing the egg with a flax to water combination, which would help to hold the mix together.

If you really want a quick meal, make this mix the night before and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook! 😀

  • 1/2 cup rinsed quinoa
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in large chunks
  • 1/4 a red onion, diced
  • 15 ounces great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Coarse salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 4 six-inch whole wheat pitas
  • sandwich filling ideas: avocado, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, radishes, sprouts, etc.

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water to a boil; add quiona, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes; set aside.
  2. In a food processor, pulse carrot until finely chopped. Add cooked quinoa, half the onions, beans, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; pulse until combined but still slightly chunky.
  3. Form mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick paties (dip hands in water to prevent sticking). If too soft, refrigerate 10 minutes to firm. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium; cook burgers until browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes per side.
  4. ENJOY! 😀

Question: What is your favorite *must have* food item at Thanskgiving?  Stuffing!  And homemade, chunky cranberry sauce. 😀

rice and shine

I’m convinced that leftover brown rice is the most quintessential item in my fridge. 

I like to think how economical I’m being when I eat my leftover rice.  How I’m saving nickles and dimes by not throwing it out.  By not eating something else instead.  But really, I don’t think this is exactly true.  Usually I end up making a double batch of brown rice, just so that I’ll be guarenteed to have leftovers.  😉

Brown rice is quickly becoming one of my most favored breakfast these days.  

It has the ability to soak up any of the flavors that you choose to mix it with.  Especially when we’re talking an actual overnight bath in the fridge!!  I like to focus on the sweet factor for breakfast, so bananas, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chopped apples became my flavors of choice for this morning. 

And, really, let’s be honest.  Leftover brown rice with pumpkin, bananas, apples, walnuts, yogurt, and spices is far more interesting and exciting than plain jane brown rice with your chicken.

Overnight Pumpkin Rice Pudding

This breakfast has the potential of becoming whatever you desire.  Focus on sweet by using blueberries, raisins, apples, pears, bananas, etc.  Eat it cold.  Eat it hot.  It’s delicious both ways.

OR, take the savory route by reheating the rice in a nonstick frying pan with some scrambled eggs, veggies, and chili powder.  Leftover brown rice is as versatile as you want it to be! 😀

  • 1 c. leftover brown rice
  • 1/2 ripe banana, sliced
  • 1 small apple, diced
  • cinnamon and nutmeg (plenty)
  • 2 T. soymilk
  • 1/2 c. canned pumpkin
  • 6-oz. plain yogurt
  • toppings: 2 T. walnuts, honey or agave to taste
  1. Mix together first 6 ingredients.  Let sit overnight.
  2. The following morning, mix together the rice mixture and yogurt.  Top with walnuts and honey or agave to taste.
  3. ENJOY! 😀

Question: What are your plans for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday? 😀

in the groove

I never set the alarm last night, as I was hoping to either (a) wake up naturally or (b) sleep in, thereby skipping my anticipated morning workout.  I had a doctors appointment at 8, so either way would have worked out just fine and dandy. 

I wasn’t expecting to wake up at 6 though.  But I did.  And I took advantage of this fact by pulling myself out of bed and staying true to my workout plans. 

Starting with a whole wheat bagel.  And topped with PB&Company Bees Knees peanut butter and almond butter.

And dipped and dunked into a mashed, warmed banana with cinnamon for a sweet bite.

I can’t think of anything that works better in my body for prerun fuel than a bagel with nut butter and a banana.  I cranked out 4 miles without the slightest hint of a cramp or side stitch.  And my legs felt fresh and rested from not running yesterday. 

Felt.  So.  Delicious!

Post-run snack: 6-oz plain yogurt with crushed flax and granola

The leftovers were pulled out of the fridge for a delightful, deckside lunch. 

Minestrone soup. 

Whole wheat bread, toasted, with a pat of butter.

A side salad, drizzled with olive oil.

Deliciousness!

Afternoon Snack: kashi crackers and almond butter

Sometimes I want to spend hours in the kitchen.  Simmering, sauteeing, blending, and whipping.

Other times (ahem…today), I simply want something…well…simple.

I literally spent all morning, afternoon and evening doing homework.  It was fun and interesting, but by 5:30, I was so ready to step away and get my mind back to normal.  Most of the homework right now has to do with carbohydrate exchange counting, for patients with diabetes.  I realized that I had been focusing on this for too long, when I started to count the carbohydrates of my own meal in my head.  Time for a break? 😉

Dinner came together in a breeze, thanks to leftover pasta salad, a lonely veggie burger, and some raw veggies (most of which are fresh from the garden!)  Simple.  Delicious.  Exactly what I wanted. 😀

Upcoming Weekend Plans:

  • Homework! Homework! Homework!
  • Yoga on Saturday, Run on Sunday
  • Finish a presentation that’s due for Monday
  • Cookout at Nicole’s house
  • Local craft fair!

 Let’s do the FRIDAY DANCE! :mrgreen:

Question: You have one word to describe your personality.  What is it? 

Livened up Leftovers

My morning included a chocolate mocha breakfast cookie, 20 minutes of strength training combined with yoga, and reading blogs.  I’m still getting through this cold/flu, but usually after the 4th day, I start feeling better *knock on wood*(!!)

Chocolate Mocha Breakfast Cookie:

  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1 banana, mashed (saving 1/4 for the top)
  • 1 T. Teddy peanut butter
  • 2 T. unsweetened cocoa
  • splash of soymilk
  • 1-1/2 tsp. instant coffee

Mmmm…totally loved this combo! 😀  It was so intensely dark.

Now that I know my teacher is completely okay with my eating lunch in class, I’ve been straying away from sandwiches as much as possible and including more variety through leftovers.  I like saving the sandwich combos as my “back up plan.”  As far as making these concoctions, I’m sure there will be a few flops along the way, but this lunch was not one of them.  So incredibly yummy! 😀

  • 1/2 large sweet potato—cooked and diced
  • 1/2 c. garbanzo beans
  • large handful of spinach
  • 2 T. dried cranberries
  • 2 T. walnuts
  • splash of balsamic

Awesome!  I loved the sweetness of the potatoes mixed with the tart cranberries.  And the balsamic added just the right note of flavor. 

Packed and ready to go!

I also brought a pear for dessert and an apple for the morning ride.  The packed almonds went uneaten, but they’ll be there for tomorrow. 😀

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my Nutrition Counseling class?  I feel as if I’m absorbing all the information from the class and wishing I could absorb more.  I love watching counselors in action and watching how they feel out different situations and different clients.  Still not sure if counseling is where I want to end up, as far as my future career is concerned, but it’s a fun idea to think about! 

When I came home from classes, I was worn out.  I hate to admit that I had two sets of leftovers in one day, but…ur…it happens. 😉

I put together a quick salad with the last of the lettuce greens, a carrot and some leftover roasted turnip cubes…

And reheated the frozen lentil taco ‘s (click for recipe), which I ate with a whole wheat burrito and some 2% sharp cheddar cheese.  This stuff really reheats well!

I was dreaming of oranges and ginger ale all day, so I was super excited when mom presented me with a couple of  oranges and some diet ginger ale from the store.  Refreshing!

This week is simply flying by!  I need to finish up some homework assignments before I can relax for the rest of the night.

Simple Question (since my brain does not function properly when I’m sick :mrgreen: ): Favorite Fruit?  I always say bananas, but I actually can’t eat them unless they’re in something.  Weird, I know!  My favorite fruit that I can eat all by itself would have to be the orange and fresh, summer blueberries. 😀