Saturday, March 31, 2012

It's a Miracle

We have life!

A few days ago I noticed teeny tiny stems starting to emerge in some of my pots (okay, yogurt containers).  Yay!

Aren't they bee-yoo-tee-ful?  All right, they don't really look like anything yet, and there's no guarantee I won't kill them off soon (accidentally, of course), but at least something is growing!

And here's something that's also a "miracle" of nature, but completely terrifying:

AHHH.  Do you see the size of that thing??  It's practically a tarantula.  I drove down to stay with my parents for a night because we had some relatives from out of town visiting with their new baby (so adorable!) and I naturally brought my laundry with me to do free-of-cost.  I turned around to grab some clothes to throw in the washer, and found this scary spider staring me down.

Normally I'm not too freaked out by bugs (other than cockroaches, ick!!) and can take care of a rogue spider without a problem, but this one called for reinforcements.  Aka my mom.  Yes, that's right, I called to my mom that she needed to come downstairs immediately and save me.  Phew, close call.

I'll stick with nature's miracles of the pretty variety, thankyouverymuch.

As much as I love sweet potato fries, I saw some sweet potato wedges on Kath's blog the other day that inspired me to try a slightly different way of preparing them.

I cut a sweet potato into wedges, put them in a bowl with olive oil and cinnamon and made sure they were coated well, then put them on a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet.  I put them in the oven at 350* for 20 minutes, then flipped them over and baked them for another 20 minutes at 400*.

I'm glad I tried this because they were SO good.  Really tender and flavorful.

Eaten with some leftover vegetarian meatloaf and roasted broccoli, it was a great meal.

This morning I went to the gym with my mom for a special group exercise program.  It was a neat concept - there were 7 stations with different forms of exercise at each one: spinning, exercise balls, dumbbells/ total body strength, body bars/ lower body work/ TRX, zumba, TurboKick, and tabata.  There was also belly-dancing for a warm-up and chi gong for cool-down.  We were split up into groups and we changed stations about every 12 minutes.  The time flew by!  I didn't look at the clock once.

I think it was a great concept and a really good idea to be able to try out a bunch of different forms of exercise.  However, I did not like certain stations at all (the ones with equipment, basically) because it was way too rushed and there was no time to figure out proper form and focus on executing the moves well.  I really loved the cardio stations, though - zumba, TurboKick, and tabata were all great, and kicked my butt!

The tabata was especially challenging - we did multiple sets of 20 seconds as hard as we could go, followed by 10 seconds of rest, for high knees/ jump squats, then quick feet/ in and out feet on the step.  I've been reading about tabata a lot recently and have done it some on my own, but I find it to be a lot more motivating to have an instructor telling you what to do, and feeding off the energy from/ "competing" with the other participants.  This one really left me drenched.

I had a great protein smoothie the other day - 1 cup almond milk, 1 T natural peanut butter, 1/2 scoop vanilla Sun Warrior protein powder, lots of spinach, about 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, heaping 1/2 cup frozen pineapple, 1/2 a frozen banana, water to thin it out, and 2 ice cubes added after everything else was blended up.  This turned out to be a great combination of flavors!  I would definitely recommend it.

Adding nut butter to a smoothie really makes the biggest difference - it's so much tastier that way!

I hope you're all enjoying the weekend so far!

PS  If you want to enter a giveaway for lemon and orange NuNaturals stevia, go here!

Song of the day:

"Blue Skies Again" by Jessica Lea Mayfield.  She has a very pretty, quiet voice and I like listening to her album Tell Me when I'm in more of a mellow mood.  And she's from Kent, Ohio which is pretty close to where I grew up!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jotting it Down, Rocking it Out

One thing that is absolutely crucial for me in trying to balance a busy schedule with eating well and exercising regularly is planning.  I'm a Type A kind of person, and I love organization.  (Nerd alert.)  As a kid, I used to spend entire days organizing my sister's room, just because I couldn't stand her clutter (she grew out of that and is very organized now, though).  My love of to-do lists goes hand-in-hand with my love of organization.

Classic picture of my sister dressing up in a crazy outfit (an old dance costume of mine, actually), probably around the age when I would organize her room.  Really, I just wanted an excuse to post this.  
I have a "master" to-do list on my computer, but I also keep pads of paper everywhere (in my kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedroom, purse) so that I can jot something down right when I think of it.  I've found that incorporating healthy to-do list items into my master to-do list really keeps me on track.  This includes planning ahead for a lot of things like what recipes I want to make, when I can go to the grocery store, what I need to buy at the store, a general idea of my meals during the week (depending on how much time I'll have for prep), when I can exercise, and what kinds of workouts I want to do.

This is me, around 10 years old maybe?  Already an organizing fiend.  When I was really young I wanted to be a maid when I grew up.
I realize all that planning might seem a little extreme, but it's what works for me and it really helps me to balance my stress level while keeping me on track.  I'm sure everyone has their own system - you just have to figure out what's best for you.  I personally find that writing things down and/or having them on my computer keeps me sane because once they're out of my head and written down, I don't constantly obsess over all of the things that I need to do and remember.  And it feels good to cross things off, too!

When I have to wake up early, I like to have a lot of food prepped the night before.  This usually includes breakfast, lunch, and snacks.  As I've mentioned before, breakfast cookies are a great way to have breakfast ready and waiting first thing in the morning.

I recently made a breakfast cookie with 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats, 1/2 scoop Sun Warrior vanilla protein powder, a spoonful of natural peanut butter, a splash of almond milk, a glob (technical term) of unsweetened applesauce, some slivered almonds, some dried blueberries and dried cranberries, and cinnamon.

I mixed all of those ingredients together, flattened out the mixture, and put it in the fridge overnight.

And in the morning it was ready to be eaten - super quick breakfast, and very filling.

This morning I enjoyed the breakfast cookie above, which contained 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats, 1/2 scoop Sun Warrior vanilla protein powder, a spoonful of natural peanut butter, a glob of unsweetened applesauce, a splash of almond milk, 1 T ground flax seed, some raisins, some slivered almonds, and cinnamon, topped with sliced strawberries.  Corny flower design optional :)

After class I did a repeat of Tuesday's workout - 7 minute warm-up on the elliptical, a strength-training plan and an incline interval treadmill workout, followed by stretching.  During my workout, a nice lady came up to me and said that she had seen me "rocking out those push-ups" and asked how many I could do - totally made my day :)  I was struggling with those push-ups, too, but that comment made them all worth it.

Tuesday was my first time trying the assisted pull-up machine, and it was a beast!  I've been intimidated by pull-ups ever since 4th or 5th grade when we had to do those Presidential fitness tests (remember them?) and there was no way I could even do one pull-up.  Although I'm heavily dependent on the machine to get me to the top, it felt good to go through the motion of a pull-up, and boy could I feel it yesterday in my chest, shoulders, upper back, and arms - although I was sore, it's a great feeling to know that I've challenged my muscles in a new way.

I'm off to dominate some more of my to-do list.  Have a great night everyone!

Reader question:  Are you a to-do list fan?  Do you plan out any of your meals and workouts, or just go with the flow?

Song of the day:

"Oh No" by Girl Talk.  One of my fellow interns last summer (hi Morgan!) told me that Girl Talk is the best music to work out to, and she wasn't kidding - it seriously gives me way more energy than I would have otherwise.  I still like to listen to my customized workout playlist, too, but now I always put Girl Talk on when I get on the treadmill.  It gives me the motivation I need to push through and is especially great for sprints.  Case in point - today I really wanted to decrease the speed on the treadmill and then I heard the lyrics "don't stop get it get it" repeating over and over - how perfect is that?  It pushed me to go just a little further than I thought I could, which was awesome.

And here's the best thing - you can download Girl Talk's latest album, All Day, in its entirety, for FREE on Girl Talk's website.  How cool is that?  And if you go to the home page, he has more free music and "pay what you want" music.  Also, Gregg Gillis (the artist's real name) went to Case - where I go to school now - so that's pretty sweet.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When Temptation Comes Knocking...

...I say, take a hike to my freezer.

Last night my neighbor knocked on my door and had a few treats for me (she doesn't know I gave up chocolate for Lent).  So I thanked her and immediately threw all of this into the back of my freezer.  Along with another "hidden" brownie she had previously given me.  Out of sight, out of mind, right?  Let's hope so.

I decided to put something healthy within sight - fresh fruit!

These are my absolute favorite bowls - how pretty are they??  There are 3 larger ones, too.  A lovely former co-worker of mine gave them to me for Christmas one year - so nice!
I ate my last piece of fresh fruit for lunch today, so I stopped at the store on my way home from class and loaded up on pears, kiwis, apples, and TONS of bananas.  The only way I can resist eating bananas when they're fresh in order to freeze them for smoothies and banana "ice cream" is to have loads of bananas on hand.  I currently have 13 sitting on my counter, haha.  I think that'll be enough :)

Although I was running low on fresh fruit, I had lots of fresh broccoli that I needed to use up, so last night I roasted a whole bunch of it.  I used olive oil, per usual, and added something new-to-me:

My family really likes to add meat to pretty much every dish (salad, vegetables, even dessert - mincemeat pie...), and I personally love green beans cooked with bacon.  I thought that using smoked sea salt on green beans might give the beans a flavor similar to ones cooked with bacon, but without having to use meat.  I haven't tried it on green beans yet, but I did try it on my roasted broccoli last night.

Along with the olive oil, it was a great seasoning for the broccoli.  It definitely gave it a richer taste than plain sea salt.  I'm excited to try it out on green beans soon.

Today started out a little rocky for me - I slept 15 minutes later than I planned, woke up in a weird mood (I later realized that I had been having a fight with my mom in a dream right before I woke up), and I must have still been half asleep while I was making my breakfast because I dropped my (open) oatmeal canister on the floor.  Very smooth.  So that was fun to clean up in my hurry to get to the gym (in time to watch Live! with Kelly, of course).  After my workout (elliptical and stairstepper), I went to grab my stuff from the locker and realized that I had forgotten to put my lock on.  Geeze.  And then when I was walking into school, I almost wiped out right in front of a school bus full of kids.  Oh man.

But my day got better with this beauty:

Iced coffee from Starbucks.  The temperature is warming up again (yay!), which always makes me crave iced coffee.  While I love local coffee shops (Phoenix in Cleveland and Angel Falls in Akron, for my local readers), a Starbucks near school has the BEST policy: if you bring a reusable cup, brewed/ iced coffee is just $1, and espresso (aka "fancy") drinks are $2.  Any size.  Um, how awesome is that?   Good for the environment and for my wallet - win win.  You probably can't tell from the picture, but my reusable glass is pretty big - at least 16 oz., maybe 20 oz.  A huge $1 unsweetened iced coffee (with a splash of skim milk) makes me very happy.

Lunch today:

Whole wheat tortilla topped with hummus, some leftover homemade pesto from my pizza this past weekend, mushrooms, broccoli, and shredded carrots.  Eaten with a plum on the side.  Delish.

Standard sunset pictures.

I'm not sure why, but I really love when the sun streams through my windows and I get to see this on my walls:

It just makes my heart happy.

Well I'm off to rustle up something for dinner (I hear a sweet potato calling my name).  And try not to think about those brownies in my freezer.  Have a great night!

Reader question:  Have you ever had mincemeat pie?  Have you ever even heard of mincemeat pie?  I've actually never tried it, but it's a staple at most Blind-family get-togethers.  My grandma gave me the recipe, but that might be one I just preserve for memory's sake :)

Song of the day:

"June Gloom" by The Like.  This is from their first album, Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking?  They have a more recent album (Release Me), but they've gotten some new members, changed their look (more 60s mod than earthy chic) and changed their sound.  I like their new album, but there's something so pretty and feminine about their early songs.  They were one of the opening bands during the first Phantom Planet concert I went to, so they hold a special place in my music collection.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fake 'N Bake

Growing up in Ohio, I'd say that my family ate pretty standard Midwestern food.  Comfort food, if you will.  I was fortunate to have home-cooked meals pretty much every night, and they were always balanced with protein, starch and/or carb, dairy, and vegetable (+ applesauce - a staple at almost every dinner in our house).  A pretty standard dish for my mom to make was meatloaf.

Since I tend to cook only vegetarian meals for myself, I was excited to stumble upon the concept of a lentil loaf - basically, a vegetarian form of meatloaf.  I perused one of my go-to recipe blogs (Oh She Glows) to see if Angela had made one, and sure enough, she had a Vegan Lentil Walnut Loaf recipe.  

I followed her recipe, adding the optional celery, substituting the grated apple with unsweetened applesauce because I realized at the last minute that I didn't have any apples (tragic!), and I used oregano instead of thyme (how do I never have the right spices?  I feel like my cupboard is overflowing with spices).  I also had to bake my loaf longer than 45 minutes, which I think was a combination of the type of dish I used (a coated glass pan instead of a metal pan), and because of its size - it seems like my loaf was thicker than Angela's.

The best part is the delicious sauce on top (made from ketchup, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and apple butter).  And I'm not even a sauce person.  At all.  So that's saying a lot!

It was a little time-consuming to make (for me, anyways - I'm prettyyyyyy slow in the kitchen), but the good thing is that the recipe makes a lot, so this loaf will last me through the week.  It's funny how leftovers seemed so boring growing up, and now I live for them.  Dinner ready and waiting for me when I get home?  Yes please.

I re-heated leftover roasted veggies from the other night and had a great meal.  While it doesn't taste like meat (obviously), the texture is very similar to that of a real meatloaf, and it has that stick-to-your-ribs quality that's a must for comfort foods.  I'm thinking that it would also be good served with a baked (or mashed) sweet potato.  

To reheat, I popped the whole loaf in the oven to warm it up while I was doing some things in the kitchen, and then I cut a slice and heated both sides for a couple of minutes on the stove in a skillet on medium low.  

This afternoon I got in a great workout thanks to two of my favorite fitness bloggers.  I followed a strength-training plan from The Fitnessista and another treadmill incline interval workout from Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers.  In general, I really love group exercise classes and wish I could take them regularly, but you have to pay for them individually at the rec center where I belong.  I used to just stick with cardio machines if I couldn't take a class, rather than try to navigate the gym on my own.  I missed strength-training, though, and I've found that by planning ahead and following a set workout plan, I have the confidence and focus to strength train by myself.

Post workout smoothie:

1 cup almond milk, 1/2 scoop protein powder, 1 T chia seeds, as much spinach as I could fit in there, 7 frozen strawberries, a frozen banana, water to thin it out, and 2 ice cubes added after everything else was blended together.

Brrrr now I'm cold!

What's on your agenda for tonight?  Yesterday I spent a lot of time prioritizing my to-do list; it seems like all of a sudden I have a million things I want to/ need to accomplish.  It must be the end of the semester drawing near (how did that happen?? ah!) that kicked me into overdrive, so I'm off to tackle some to-do list items.  Have a great night!

Reader question:  What's your favorite "comfort food" and/or food from your childhood?

Song of the day:

"Dead Hearts" by Stars.  This was in the film Like Crazy - has anyone seen it?  I got it out from the library recently and am still kind of unsure of what I thought about it.  I really love Anton Yelchin as an actor (watch Charlie Bartlett if you haven't seen it) and I thought the lead female actress, Felicity Jones, was very talented and absolutely stunning.  Like Crazy is more of a realistic love story than a fairytale, though, so it wasn't wrapped up with a neat little bow at the end - I think that's why it left me feeling a little unsatisfied.  Regardless, this is a very pretty song - I'm a sucker for any song with a guy and girl singing together.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

A la Mode-y

Whenever I hear the phrase "a la mode," I think about the scene in Little Miss Sunshine where Abigail Breslin's character orders waffles "a la mode-y."  Have you seen that movie?  If not, watch it ASAP - it's brilliant.

Last night I wanted something sweet, and I had an idea:  pancakes a la mode.  Except healthy.

I promise - actually healthy.  I heated up a leftover pancake from my brunch, topped it with banana "ice cream" (only 1 ingredient - a banana!), and heated up some natural peanut butter to pour on top.  I could have used some chocolate syrup, but the peanut butter still tasted good.  Definitely looking forward to the end of Lent.

This was basically the same thing I had for brunch, except I topped the pancake with a frozen banana rather than a sliced, fresh banana.  But it tasted decadent and was a truly satisfying dessert.  I have 3 more leftover pancakes in the fridge, and I see some repeats of this dessert in my near future.

I also made a batch of seed and raisin balls to have on hand for snacks throughout the week.

Very easy to make, and super tasty - they're pretty much as good as candy, in my opinion!

And I enjoyed a nice sunset after a mostly cloudy day, which was a treat.

Sorry if you're getting tired of the sunset pictures.  After living in 2 different basement apartments in DC for about a year and a half, I'm still relishing living above ground and being able to see the sun!

Btw, I'm loving the rowing machine.  I really can't believe it took me SO long to try it out.  This morning I followed my elliptical workout with 15 minutes on the rowing machine - 5 more minutes than I did last time!  I highly recommend trying it out if you haven't before.  I also watched some videos online about proper form and technique to make sure I knew how to use it correctly, which I would recommend doing for any new-to-you gym equipment (or ask a trainer if that's an option).

Hope everyone is having a good Monday.  A.k.a my favorite TV night - can't wait for 2 Broke Girls!  Still 2 more weeks until Hart of Dixie is new again :(

Reader question:  Do you ever eat breakfast for dessert?  Or for dinner?  Sometimes my mom used to make breakfast for dinner when I was growing up (usually waffles), and it was always a fun treat!

Song of the day:

"High Times" by Landon Pigg and the Turbo Fruits.  This is from the soundtrack for Whip It - another great movie which you should see ASAP if you haven't already.  Or just watch it again if you've already seen it :)  Landon acted in the movie and provided music for it.  Favorite lyric from this song:  "I think it's high time for me to give you kiss, if someone would cover for me we'll make it happen before the end of this riff."  Swoon.  I also love fan videos like this - hilarious yet helpful!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pizza, Pancakes, and Plants

Last week while I was at the grocery store, I saw some mushrooms and got a craving for pizza with sauteed mushrooms.  And bonus, I realized that I already had all of the other ingredients that I needed on hand - score!

I followed this whole wheat pizza dough recipe with just a few slight changes.


- 1 cup warm water (about 110*F)
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- about 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped


Pour the warm water into a mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top; let sit for 5 minutes, then add honey.  Gradually stir in the flours, salt, and olive oil.  Knead until the dough comes together and is smooth and springy - it will be sticky.  Lightly oil the mixing bowl and roll the ball of dough around so that it is lightly coated with oil, like so:

Cover loosely (I used a tea towel, you can also use plastic wrap - but just lay it on top, don't secure it) and let rise for 45 minutes.  Ta da:

While the dough is rising, preheat your oven as hot as it will go (mine went to 525*) and give it sufficient time to heat up before the 45 minutes are up (this will depend on your oven).

After the dough has risen, punch the dough down, then pretend like you're a pizza master and try to spin it around on your fists.  If that fails - like it did for me :) - don't fear - you can just stretch it out and shape it with your hands.  I formed the dough into one big rectangle on a baking sheet, but feel free to make any shapes you want, like animals, states, celeb crushes, etc., or make individual pizzas.

Top the pizza however you like.  I made a pesto sauce and eyeballed the ingredients, using fresh basil (from my basil plant!), almond milk, raw walnuts, nutritional yeast, garlic cloves, a sprinkle of salt, and olive oil.  I also added sauteed mushrooms, halved grape tomatoes, and kalamata olives.

Bake until the edges brown and some bubbles rise up in the dough (mine took 13 minutes).  And there you have it - whole wheat pizza made from scratch!  And the leftovers taste great warmed up in the oven OR eaten straight out of the fridge - I taste-tested both methods for you guys :)

While you're waiting for your pizza to bake, check out the sunset.

In between washing dishes.  (Or loading them in your dishwasher if you're lucky!)

This morning I was excited to be able to make pancakes for brunch.  I followed this recipe from Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers for Honey Whole Wheat pancakes, but tragically, I forgot the honey!!!  I didn't realize until I already started cooking the pancakes :(  They were still delicious, though, and I love that they're made with great ingredients like whole wheat flour, oats, and chia seeds.

I couldn't decide if I wanted to top them with Greek yogurt or peanut butter, so I used both!  Plus a sliced banana and strawberries.

Greek yogurt on one side.

Peanut butter on the other side.

And a pumpkin spice latte with plenty of frothy almond milk.  The froth makes it so much more fun!

After my brunch, I went on a planting spree.

Aerial view (not sure why I felt the need to take this shot, but here it is):

That's my sickly basil plant in the middle (I bought it as a plant, not from seeds - can't take credit for that one!).  I did plant a few basil seeds in hopes that I will be able to have some back-ups if my existing plant bites the dust soon.  I also planted some strawberries (wishful thinking, I know), lavender, forget-me-nots, chives, and rosemary.  And yes, those are yogurt containers - I didn't want to commit to buying any more cute pots until I actually grow something :)

I'm so impatient, I keep wanting to go look and see if anything has started growing yet, haha.

Hope you all had a great weekend and are ready for a new week!

And a special happy birthday goes out to my dad:

My dad's on the left - original gangsta.
Song of the day:

"Never Meant to Know" by Tally Hall.  Love this band - they're all incredibly intelligent and so witty.  Plus they have a song about Mary-Kate and Ashley, so obviously we're meant to be together.  All of us.