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?

a taste of france

Mold scares me.

I was a little more then concerned when I looked into my water bottle, only to see mold growing all over the sides and bottom.  It was a jungle.  An intensely dark, mold-infested jungle.  Thankfully, I’m still alive to tell the tale. 😉  But still.  Mold is scary and shouldn’t be fooled aorund with.  So, in celebration of the fact that I’m still alive (kidding…kind of), I’m sharing with you this warning to please check your water bottle.

Moving on…

Thankfully, there was nothing scary about breakfast.  Just the standard ol’ bowl of “un”overnight oats.  With coconut and a spoonful of almond butter.

These days, I’m enjoying my morning coffee with only a minimal amount of soy for color and froth.  Sweet breakfasts and bitter coffee go so well together.

AM snack: orange and almonds

If you’ve meandered your way around blog land, you have probably seen people eating salads topped with fried eggs.  At first I thought this was a completely odd idea.  I thought to myself, “fried eggs and greens do not belong together.”  And then I read a book on France, and discovered that eating a bed of greens with an egg on top is a pretty common dish after all.  One of France’s traditional dishes, the Salad Lyonnaise, is simply a bed of frisee lettuce, bacon, croutons and a poached egg on top.  I can’t decide if it was the fact that I was absolutely craving eggs today or if it was due to the fact that I have a not-so-secret obsession with France, but suddenly I wanted an egg on my salad.

I did, however, end up straying from tradition, and opted for a fried egg instead of poached. 

Greens, bell peppers, avocado, bottled beets, tomato, garbanzos, and the fried egg (1 whole egg + 1 egg white).  With a final drizzle of EVOO. 

Amazing.  I’ve officially been converted.

Dessert!!

Afternoon Snack: yogurt with flax and granola

Dinner

I literally spent the better part of my day doing homework.  I was researching various therapeutic diets for patients in the hospital setting, only to discover that I was starving by the time that dinner rolled around.  It was super nice having pasta salad in the fridge (made earlier in the morning), just waiting to be served with the roasted broccoli (2 tsp EVOO + sea salt…425 degree oven, 20 minutes, flip half way through).  So, so nice.  It was also nice being able to eat outdoors in 72 degree weather. 

Mmm…life is good.

This is one of my favorite pasta salad recipes because it’s brimming with crunchy veggies, tangy-sweet dressing, and protein-packed beans.  The flavor is right on the mark, it’s quick to throw together, and it makes enough to serve at least 8 people (probably more.)  Great for packed lunches too.

Pasta Salad Plus–Taste of Home’s Light and Tasty

  • 12 oz. whole wheat spiral pasta: cooked, drained and rinsed with cold water
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced
  • 3 celery ribs, sliced
  • 1 can (16oz) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15oz) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 can (6oz) pitted ripe olives, drained and sliced

    “Dressing”

  • 1/2 c. cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 1/2 c. canola oil
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 tp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  1. Mix pasta with next eight ingredients up to olives. 
  2. In a bowl, whisk dressing ingredients together.  Pour over salad and toss to coat.
  3. ENJOY!!!! 😀

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Question: Are you a routine coffee drinker?

it’s the sauce

New month.  New beginnings.  New goals. 

Goal #1: Create a strength training workout routine (at least 2 times a week) and learn to enjoy it.

Goal #2: No tv for the entire month of July.

I’ve got to be honest with you guys.  Goal #2 is going to be tough for me.  And it’s not that I watch a lot of tv, but it’s always on after 9 o’clock as a brainless source of entertainment.  What would life be without that, I wonder.  And now I’ll find out.  The hardest part will be nixing my regular Tuesday night fix of Jillian Michaels.  Ah well.  Maybe I’ll go out for a run instead. 😉

Any new goals for the month of July?

Breakfast

Hot apples ‘n’ oats just felt right this morning. 

I love this combination of flavors.  It feels very “autumn” which fit with this morning’s chilly 58 degrees.  YES!  58 degrees.  July seems to already be full of surprises.

  • 1/4 c. oatbran
  • 1/4 c. wheatbran
  • 1 c. milk + 3/4 c. water
  • cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 1 pink lady apple, diced small
  • toppings: 2 T. Galaxy Granola Maple Pecan Quinoa and a dollop of Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter

Morning Snack: A HUGE Grapefruit and a Handful of Almonds

And so my strength training goal has begun.  I spent 15 solid minutes of working out my arms, but I think I need a more structured plan.  And more ideas!  So if you have any strength training tips and tricks that you’d like to share, I would definitely love to hear them. 😀  The workout didn’t leave me begging for more (the goal is to learn to enjoy strength training too, after all ) but it did leave my arms sore and happy.

  • 3 sets of 20 one arm dumbbell rows
  • 3 sets of 15 bicep curls
  • planks…lots and lots of planks + side planks (for some strange reason, I love these )
  • 3 sets of 5 push-ups against the stairs
  • 3 sets of 10 chair dips

Lunch

Hummus sandwiches used to be my staple, go-to meal during college.  I love how convenient they are to make (as easy as pb&j!) and I love all the different hummus varieties out there.  Today I chose a garlic lover’s hummus which completely lived up to its name. 

I also scooped on some spicy black bean & corn salsa, along with two large tomato slices and some lettuce.  Hummus and salsa.  It’s a winning combination.

On the side, I added in some raw produce for c-r-u-n-c-h! 

Garlic.  Hummus.  Veggies.  Yum.

+ a square of 90% dark Lindt chocolate with a smear of Teddy chunky, salted peanut butter

Afternoon Snack: 6-oz. plain yogurt, 2 T. crushed flax, 1/2 banana, scoop of Pb&Company Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Dreams

Dinner

Here’s a confession: I’ve never been a pasta fan.  I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but to no avail.  And I consider this to be a downright shame.  After all, how can I consider myself a foodie, when I have such a deep dislike for something as innocent as a noodle?  What ever would happen if I visited Rome and left without ordering a giant plate of pasta?  *gasp* It’s basically a sin, and I know that full well.

But I can’t help it.  Pasta seems so boring to me.  Tasteless.  Stringy.  Nothing special.  It’s the sauce that people remember.  It’s the sauce that makes people bring their hands to their lips with a loud “smack”—mwuahh!—as they indulge with a deep sigh of pleasure.  It’s the sauce that makes an Italian restaurant famous.

It’s the sauce! 

And maybe the meatballs.

My mom is an expert at both, and she keeps her recipe tucked away like an ancient treasure.  It’s thick, it’s chunky and it’s top secret. 

As an aside, I’m sure some poor Italian would be crying right now if they saw that I used this sauce to top my sauteed zucchini and vidalia onion, along with some steamed baby lima beans.  What can I say?  It’s the sauce!  And the meatballs. 

Side Salad

+ two slices of homemade bread for dipping

Question: When it comes to spaghetti, is it all about the sauce, the pasta itself, or both?