Sunday, February 28, 2010

Paella Follow Up and Chili

Paella Follow Up
As I mentioned yesterday, we had a birthday party to attend. The theme was being a paella party, so I volunteered to bring a vegetarian version. However, I've never had paella before and had no idea if I'd even like it. I'm really not much of a rice eater either, so anyone who really knows me would think it an odd choice. But, I'm always up for trying a new recipe, so why not.

Notes, I believe that I added in the peas too soon so they turned brown. So if you aren't using quick-cooking brown rice, then don't pay attention to the cooking times shown in the original recipe. You'll also need more liquid as well.

As for the flavor, I thought it was a little bland. Again, no idea what to expect. It wasn't bad by any means, but maybe my feeling towards rice skews my judgment a bit. Jason said it was really good, as did anyone who tried it. I do think that I could try adding flavors used in chorizo, like paprika, to give it more oomph. If any of you paella lovers out there make this and try it, I'd seriously like to hear your results and thoughts!

Simple Sunday
Today we had to finish the errands that at we so happily put off yesterday. It was another sunny day here, though not quite as warm. After the grocery store, I decided to do cardio, abs, and a floor work workout for glutes and thighs. Cardio was Cathe's Imax 3. I love this DVD. It consists of 10 intervals of a simple step routine followed by a cardio blast. After finishing I went right into the floor work from Butts & Guts and finished with abs from the same DVD. If you are ever in the market for a lower body workout that'll kick your booty into shape, Butts & Guts is definitely the one for you! OUCHIE.

After the workout, Jason and I both tried to do some cleaning: laundry, bills sorting, paper shredding, all the fun stuff that gets put off week after week. We did open up all the curtains to enjoy the sunshine though.

I had a butternut squash that I'd been wanting to use. So dinner tonight was Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili.

Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili
Ingredients:
1 tsp (or less) extra-virgin olive oil 
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 small poblano pepper, diced
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed 
2 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
2 15 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes (no salt), undrained
2 chipotle peppers in adobe, diced (more or less depending on heat preference)
3 oz tomato paste
2 tsp chili powder
sea salt and pepper to taste 
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp cumin

Directions:
Saute onion, bell peppers, and poblano peppers in small amount of olive oil until soft, approximately 5 minutes.

Add butternut squash and garlic. Saute approximate 5-7 minutes.

Add in remaining ingredients and simmer for approximately 1 hour or until butternut squash is soft and flavors have melded.
 I added the poblano pepper mainly because it needed to be used. I'm not sure how much additional flavor it really added, so it's totally optional. I do love this chili because of the textures and flavor combinations, it's a hearty, healthy meal.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Suntastic Saturday

Awesome Workout
This morning I woke to sunshine. Ah, how could it not be a good day??? It was my last day for the Total-Body Training rotation. My how time flies. I've really enjoyed this rotation and will definitely do it again. I started with the warm up from Shock Cardio Athletic Step, did the weights, then finished Athletic Step. It was a super good workout day for me. I just had fun with it today. Weights were supersets of sets of 12 reps increasing weights 1.25-2% over the previous week:

SS #1
Biceps - Zottoman Curls
Triceps - Lying DB Triceps Extensions

SS #2
Chest - Decline DB Press
Back - Double Arm DB Rows (this was supposed to have been underhand rows, oops)

SS #3
Step Ups
Upright Rows

Sunny Saturday
After the workout, Jason and I had grocery errands to run. Well, we made it as far as Whole Foods. The day was soooo gorgeous, sunshine, 60 degrees, that we decided on a late lunch at a restaurant with a patio. So the other groceries will just have to wait. Some things are far more important in my opinion, like enjoying a gorgeous day with my husband. 
After the patio lunch of a large garden salad (and two beers I happily admit to) I had to get started on the Vegetarian Paella that I'm taking over to a party for a good friend's birthday. The party theme is Paella Surprise Party 2010. However, it's not a surprise, friend's hubby liked the "ring" of the title. I offered to bring a veggie friendly version as there is one other vegetarian attending. I've never had paella before. I honestly don't know if I'll even like it or how this stacks up to others. Either way, it's a new recipe. I can't pass up making a new recipe!

Vegetarian Paella
Adapted from Vegetarian Times
Ingredients:
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch-long strips
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch-long strips
14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
15-oz. can vegetable broth
2 cups uncooked quick-cooking brown rice
1 tsp. saffron threads, dissolved in small amount of hot water
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
dried parsley to taste
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Dash of red pepper flakes

Directions:
In large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. 

Set aside half the red pepper strips for garnish. Add all remaining pepper strips to onion mixture and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes (with liquid), broth, rice, saffron mixture, thyme and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in artichoke hearts, chickpeas, peas, parsley, salt and black pepper and add a little water to moisten if needed. Cook, stirring, just until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Transfer paella to large, shallow serving dish and garnish with circle of reserved red pepper strips. 

Just as a note, I didn't use quick-cooking brown rice so this did take longer and more liquid. I also added in the chickpeas for protein. Another good option would have been seitan. 
Here are some teaser pics. I'll post the dished up paella and taste report tomorrow.
Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Favorite Day of the Week

Rest Day Friday
So today was a rest day from exercise. It was definitely needed too. I know that I'll feel so much better for tomorrow's workout. It'll be the final workout for my 8-week Total-Body Training rotation. It's going to be very hard, but I need to take a week off from weights before diving into a new rotation, which I still need to find by the way.

How often do you take a break from weights or cardio even?

Fab Friday
Friday is always one of my favorite days of the week. I guess it's because I know I don't have to get up early tomorrow. I can meet up with friends and hang out if I want to without feeling guilty about staying up to late. It's also typically my rest day from exercise. The atmosphere at work even tends to be a little more relaxed - it is jeans day after all.

Today was a fun day at work for me. We have just made our way into the world of social media, and it's my division that's running this little project.The world of social media and social marketing is one that fascinates me, so this has been a fun project to get up and going. What is it you ask? It's The Blue & You Fitness Challenge. First off, it's fitness (hello) and second, it's now in the realm of social media (loving it).

So, today I got to spend time looking through health and fitness magazined for healthy tips and motivational quips to use as Facebook posts and Twitter tweets. Talk about the perfect Friday workday! So, while it really is a lot of work, and we're all learning as we go with this one, it's so much fun and so exciting.

I was supposed to go to happy hour with a coworker. Unfortunately something came up and we'll have to reschedule. So, Jason and I just met up at a little place right by our offices with a few other friends who work in the same area before heading home. 

Dinner will be homemade pizza, so no new pics. However, tomorrow, we're going to a friend's house to celebrate her birthday. The birthday party is called "Paella Surprise Party 2010" thought she knows now. I told her I'd bring a vegetarian paella as there is one other vegetarian guest attending. So, I'll be posting that recipe tomorrow. I hope it turns out. I've actually never had paella before.

Do you have any fun plans for the weekend?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stir Fry Thursday

Thursday Morning Step
I really wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get up this morning and get my cardio in, or get it in at all today. I was so sore yesterday, that I assumed today would end up a rest day. I think the Epsom salt bath did me some good though (or at least temporarily). I was up in time to do my workout and wasn't hobbling around, so I opted for Step Blast and abs from Step, Jump and Pump. It didn't hit me until about halfway into the 50-minute step workout that my legs were indeed still sore. Heavy is an understatement. But, I made it through and started the day full of energy.

Tomorrow I will take my rest day though. Today marked 6 straight days of workouts so a break is in order. I'll be finishing my 8-week Total-Body Training rotation on Saturday. I can't believe it's already over. I am determined to allow myself a week off from weights next week, then I need to find a new rotation. For quite some time, my weight rotations have been mostly muscle building and strength. I have grown to like those types of workouts - lower reps, heavier weights. However, I am wondering if I should go back to muscle endurance for a few weeks before starting another build/strength rotation.

Got any suggestions??? Do your prefer heavy weights with lower reps or lighter weights with higher reps?

Taking it Easy for Dinner
I really wasn't in the mood for cooking tonight. I opted for a quick, easy stir fry. I made a Spicy Peanut Stir Fry using: Quorn Chik'n Tenders, both frozen and fresh veggies, baby portobellos, a spicy szechuan stir-fry sauce mixed with approximately 1 tbsp natural creamy peanut butter over soba noodles.
I really liked the peanut butter flavor combined with the spicy szechuan. This was a nice, satisfying, and super fast meal. Perfect for nights when you just don't feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Super Sore & Loving Soup

Wowzers Workout
This morning I woke up before the alarm went off. I seriously think I am traumatized from the alarm incident yesterday! I wasn't sure if I'd be able to pull of my morning workout because my legs are incredibly sore from Monday's weights. I decided to at least do the warm up and see how they felt afterward. I figured that if nothing else, I would just do cardio. I did the warm up from Low Impact Circuit (LIC), weights, then the Cardio Premix from LIC. Once I got moving, my quads loosened up, and I was able to crank out the workout. Today was supersets of 3 sets of 8 reps:

SS#1
Quads - Static Lunges
Hamstrings - Stiff Leg Dead Lifts

SS#2
Shoulders - Arnold Press
Biceps - Alternating Bicep Curls

SS#3
Back - DB Pullover
Chest - Incline DB Flyes

I did reward my hard work with an Epsom salt bath after work. I used to do that frequently when I was dancing, especially near performance time. I should bring this back into my routine. I have decided that of all the leg exercises, I really like static lunges the best (other than calves).

What's your favorite leg exercise?

Soup du Jour - Curried Kabocha
The weather has turned cold again here, so soup is sounding pretty good as a dinner option. The other day I roasted up some kabocha that I have been adding to my lunch salads. I really wanted a creamy soup tonight, so I decided to go with what I had ready to go - kabocha. I decided to add the lime juice after reading a recent blog post by Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg for her Tropical Butternut Squash Soup recipe. Gotta love new ideas from fellow bloggers!

Curried Kabocha Soup
Ingredients:
1/2 roasted kabocha squash, cubed
2 carrots, diced
1 small (or 1/2 larger) white onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
1/2 can lite coconut milk
1 lime (juice and zest)
32 oz. low-sodium vegetable broth
To taste: sea salt, black pepper, curry powder, ground coriander, red pepper, turmeric, cinnamon

Directions:
In large pot, saute onions, carrots, and garlic until onions are translucent. Add in beans, kabocha, broth, and spices. Bring to a simmer and let cook until carrots are soft.

In small batches, pure in food processor or blender. Return to pot and stir in coconut milk and additional broth if needed. Bring to a simmer again and re-season if necessary. Let reduce to desired consistency adding in the lime juice and zest at the end.

[Sorry, no pics, it pretty much looked like every other squash soup...LOL]

I would normally have served with a side salad, but was low on lettuce and spinach. Instead I decided to put together a Curried Broccoli Carrot Salad. The measurements are completely approximate as I just sort of tossed this together ad-hoc.

Curried Broccoli Carrot Salad
Ingredients:
Rice wine vinegar (use to thin, so amount will vary depending on your desired consistency)
1 tsp red curry paste
1 tsp tahini
1 tbsp creamy peanut butter (heated in microwave to thin)
sea salt and curry powder to taste
2 carrots shredded
1 1/2 cups broccoli
handful white raisins

Directions:
In medium mixing bowl, blend all ingredients up to carrots. Stir in remaining ingredients.
This was actually really quite tasty, especially for a throw-together starter!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday Trumps Monday

Shocked into Tuesday
Well, I figured out how to get myself up in the morning for a workout! Just scare the pants off of yourself. Yep, that'll do it. I tentatively set the alarm for 5:15 am. When I looked at the clock at 2:45, I figured I'd be changing the alarm time in an hour or so. I apparently feel asleep, and fell hard. At some point, Jason must have turned up the volume on the alarm (which is set to the radio), because when it came on it was blaring! I nearly fell out of the bed I was so startled. Needless to say, my heart was racing and I was WIDE awake. Let me just say that this was not my ideal way to wake up!

So, this morning I did Cathe's Kick, Punch, and Crunch kickboxing workout (it also includes an ab-kicking stability ball workout). My legs were super sore and heavy feeling from  yesterday's workout. The kickboxing was good for getting my legs loosened up. I did wear 1 lb. weighted gloves to up the intensity and really felt it in my back and shoulders. It's been a while since I've done this particular workout. It starts of really slow so you get the false sense that you're not working very hard. By the end, I was drenched. It's a fun workout that flies by. My only complaint is that the warm up is a little drawn out so the calorie burn is a little lower. But, it's probably good to start slow with kickboxing!

Don't know if it was being shocked out of bed or what, but Tuesday was definitely a better day than Monday. I think the workout this morning helped get my mood straight from the get go. Hopefully I can stay on the same path tomorrow with a morning workout and happier mood. It'll be hump day after all. Gotta be happy on hump day ;-)

Tofu Anyone?
I was so inspired by my Creamy Lemon Zucchini Pasta the other day, that I decided to use some Japanese eggplant in lieu of linguine for tonight's dish, which I'll call Eggplant Linguine with Pesto Tofu. I'm beginning to like tofu more and more as I learn to cook with it. You'd think I would have figured out cooking with tofu ages ago as I've been vegetarian for over 16 years now. Apparently I'm a slow learner.

Eggplant Linguine with Pesto Tofu
Ingredients:
2 large Japanese eggplant
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
sea salt and pepper to taste
Jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I use my homemade sauce)
1 package extra firm tofu*
Vegan Spinach Pesto (see following recipe)
Low-sodium vegetable broth
Vegan or regular parmesan or nutritional yeast flakes (optional for topping)

*Freeze tofu for minimum three days then thaw in refrigerator. This will give the tofu a spongy texture that makes it easy to drain and then better absorb marinades.

Directions:
Gently squeeze tofu, cut into 1/4 inch "steaks," and place between paper towels to absorb any extra moisture. Meanwhile, Thin pesto with vegetable broth to desired consistency. Layer tofu "steaks" and pesto marinade in baking dish. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place tofu "steaks" on baking sheet (spray with non-stick spray or use a silpat). Bake for approximately 1 hour flipping halfway through.

With a mandolin, cut eggplant into strips, then use a sharp knife and cut down center so they resemble linguine noodles.

In large, non-stick skillet, saute eggplant in small amount of extra-virgin olive oil or white wine with garlic, salt, and pepper until they just begin to soften. Stir in spaghetti sauce and cook until heated through.

To serve, place the eggplant spaghetti mixture on plate or in bowl and top with the Pesto Tofu. 

Vegan Spinach Pesto
Adapted from Tal Ronnen's The Conscious Cook
Ingredients:
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups baby spinach
1/4 cups fresh basil
2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
sea salt and ground pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:
In food processor, combine all ingredients except oil. Slowly drizzle in oil to desired consistency.

This was really tasty. Of course, I love eggplant and love my homemade sauce so why wouldn't it be good! I will say that the next time I make this, I will likely marinade the tofu in some balsamic vinegar first, then add the pesto, just to get additional flavor soaked in. But this was really tasty.

Speaking of tasty, if you are in the market for trying out something "Gnu" see Tina's giveaway for Gnu Bars (kosher & vegan friendly).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Well, It Was a Monday

The Monday Blues
I'm having some serious Monday Blues today. I think part of it is the lack of sleep from last weekend and then the lack of sunshine. I keep beating myself up for not being as productive as I envision myself to be. However, I still managed to get a lot of pre-made dinners completed. I guess it's just a matter of defining productive. Productive as in chores (dusting, mopping, laundry), productive as in completing kick-butt workouts, or productive as in getting 2 types of veggie burgers made, ciabatta bread, and then dinner.

How do you define being productive?

Making (HI)it Happen
While I was awake this morning in plenty of time to get my workout done, I didn't. I had everything set up, but it just wasn't going to happen. I slept fitfully in the early morning hours. Just not able to get comfortable. I think I need to go pillow shopping. Also, I was dreading the weights today to be honest. You'll see why when you read the sets/reps pattern. I was feeling so drained and thought that doing the workout at lunch might give me a much-needed boost. It really did help my mood I must admit. I did the warm up from Shock Cardio HIIT Pyramid, then weights, then finished HIIT Pyramid totally frying my legs! Weights were supersets of 3 sets of 18 (holy cow) reps with the goal of increasing the weights 1.25-2% from last week:

SS#1
Chest - Dumbbell bench press
Back - Double arm rows

SS#2
Quads - Squats
Shoulders - Lateral raises

SS#3
Biceps - Dumbbell curls
Triceps - Double arm kickbacks

This workout made me realize that I need to focus on some muscle endurance. OUCH.

Monday Meal - Follow-Up on Recipe
Dinner tonight ended up being the Black Bean Beet Burgers that I made yesterday with baked sweet potato "fries." I topped the burgers with spinach, roasted red bell peppers, and vegan mozzarella.
These were very interesting. I liked the texture of these as opposed to some of the pureed veggie patties. The earthiness of the beats goes well with the black beans. The next time I make these, I will use less brown rice, more black beans, and mash the beans a little more so that they will hold on or bind the beets better. They did seem to want to crumble, but that could have also been from baking rather than pan frying perhaps.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Super Product Sunday

Sleeping in on Sunday
Today I allowed myself to sleep in until 9:15! I usually feel really guilty when I sleep in past 8 am, but this past week was a long, sleepless one for me. I really needed the extra zzzz's. I opted for Cathe's Cardio Fusion today then a stability ball abs workout. 

Sunday in the Kitchen
Today we had to run a few errands, the ones we put off yesterday. I knew we should have finished them yesterday as it rained today. I guess we got what we deserved! After the errands, I spent much of the afternoon in the kitchen making a huge culinary mess. I baked Ciabatta bread, made some Eggplant Patties (with a few tweaks), and tried a new recipe for Black Bean Beet Burgers. This recipe is apparently based on some apparently amazing veggie burgers found at Northstar Cafe in Columbus, Ohio. I had originally read about them from The Healthy Hostess who also tried out the recipe recently. I actually made quite a few adjustments to the recipe. For the original, please visit The Healthy Hostess or The Kitchen "Best-Ever Veggie Burgers."

Black Bean Beet Burgers
Ingredients:
1/2 cup brown rice (I will likely use less the next time)
1 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 white onion, diced small
3 large red beets (about 1 pound), diced small
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp thyme
3 tbsp spelt flour
salt and pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In medium sauce pan, combine rice and water, bring to boil. Turn heat down, cover with lid, and simmer approximately 35-45 minutes until rice is cooked and water is absorbed.

In medium sauce pan, saute onions in olive oil until translucent and softened. Stir in the beets and cook until tender. Add the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Place beans in large bowl and lightly mash with fork or potato masher. Stir in the cooked rice, the beet and onion mixture, the lemon juice, the olive oil, and all the spices. Stir to combine and then taste for seasonings. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the flour and stir until you see no more dry flour.

Prepare a baking sheet with non-stick spray or silpat sheet. Form patties and place on sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 60 minutes flipping once.
I'll have to post about the flavors of these later. I was simply making them for a future, fast dinner option. I'm sure I'll be using them this week. 
I really wanted to try a new recipe tonight that I have been thinking ever since my blogger buddy Alicia at Vegan Epicurean set up a new Healthy Food Challenge. This one is for Fast Foods. The recipe is based on my Whole-Wheat Rotini with Creamy Lemon Sauce recipe. I decided to use zucchini as a pasta replacement. It worked really well actually. I was honestly impressed with how flavorful it was. You won't miss the pasta at all.

Creamy Lemon Zucchini Pasta
Ingredients:
3 large zucchini
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil (divided)
1/2 white onion, minced
1 tbsp minced garlic (more or less to taste)
1/2 can artichoke hearts, diced (optional)
1/2 package soft silken tofu
2 tsps balsamic vinegar
zest of whole lemon (divide into 2 piles)
juice of one whole lemon
Lemon pepper spice blend (to taste)
Red chili flakes, to taste (optional)
Sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
Dried parsley, to taste
3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
3 tbsp rice or soy milk (if needed to thin sauce)
Fresh spinach

Directions:
With a mandolin or spirolizer, thinly cut zucchini into strips that resemble noodles.

In a food processor, blend tofu, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, 1/2 of the lemon zest, lemon pepper spice, nutritional yeast flakes, salt, and pepper until smooth.

In large non-stick skillet, saute onions and garlic in small amount of olive oil until soft and translucent. Add in artichoke hearts and saute until warmed. Add in the zucchini "pasta" and cook approximately 5 minutes. Stir in sauce and spinach and cook until spinach begins to wilt. Add in remaining zest, red chili flake, re-seasoning with salt, pepper, and/or lemon pepper blend if needed. If sauce is too thick, stir in small amount of rice or soy milk.

This dish is rich and creamy. It is so much better than the original version that used sour cream. Even better, it's a super fast dish to prepare. Ideal for a busy week night.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Friday Follow Up & Laid Back Saturday

Friday Follow Up
Last night was a ton of fun. I always enjoy getting to hang out with my sister. We started the evening off with a happy hour at Big Whiskey's then back to the house for homemade pizza and wine. I had pre-made my usual Wheat Pizza Dough Thursday evening, but we did end up having a friend of Jason's stop by. So, I dug out an old recipe I had on hand for a super quick Whole-Wheat and Honey Dough. This one does not really rise, it's a much flatter, crispier type of crust. But it really works in a pinch.

Tim was super nice and brought over some wine to share. It went perfect with the pizza, which no one complained about! One was made up Greek style with sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, spinach, artichokes, banana pepper rings, roasted red bell peppers, and feta. For the other pizza, half was made with vegetarian pepperoni, sauteed green bell peppers, onions, and garlic. The other half had sauteed squash, green and red bell peppers, and onions. There was not a single piece left so I did something right!

Workout Cake Iced with HIIT
This morning I started my workout with one segment from Give Me 10 by Amy Dixon. It was just a quick 10-minute workout I used as a warm up. I found it on On Demand and wanted to give it at try. It was a no-frills cardio segment. I would be interested in trying the other segments at some point. Weights were 3 sets of 12 reps, and I iced the workout cake (aka fried the legs) with Shock Cardio HIIT Pyramid. Muscles were quivering!

Biceps - Zottoman Curls
Triceps - Lying DB Extensions
Chest - Decline DB Press
Back - Underhand Rows
Quads - Step Ups (12" step)
Shoulders - Upright Rows

Laid Back Saturday
We really had several errands to run today. However, right as we were heading out the door, we got a call from some good friends who were having a late lunch at one of our favorite pizza joints, Vino's. They recently had a new baby, so Jason and I really wanted to meet up with them to catch up and see the new addition to the family. Needless to say, we did not get around to all of our errands. We did, however, make it by the Asian Food Market, which was top on my list. Loaded up on Japanese eggplants, kabocha, dried shiitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes (a and an assortment of other goodies I can't wait to use.

After reading a recipe post from The Ordinary Vegetarian for Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes, I have been dying to try them. So dinner tonight was mostly planned around Sarah's recipe, which I adapted for a less sweet version. If you like your sweet potatoes on the sweeter side, please check out her amazing sounding recipe. I had purchased a package of Gardein Chick'n Filets on sale. I decided to make a chipotle mustard sauce to top them with along with Smashed Chipotle Sweet Potatoes and roasted asparagus.

I made the chipotle mustard sauce using Stonewall Kitchen Maple Chipotle Mustard and thinning it out with low-sodium vegetable broth.

Smashed Chipotle Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from The Ordinary Vegetarian

Ingredients:
3 sweet potatoes*, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced plus 1-2 tsp sauce
1 tsp agave nectar
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

* In this recipe I used 2 sweet potatoes purchased at the Asian market that were white inside and 1 regular (orange colored) sweet potato.

Directions:
Bring water to boil in a medium sauce pan. Add in potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and return potatoes to pan. Add coconut milk and lime juice and mash to desired consistency. Turn heat on low and bring to temperature, stirring constantly. Stir in peppers, sauce, agave, salt, and cinnamon.
I cooked the Gardein Chick'n Filets on a stove-top grill brushing with the chipotle mustard sauce. I tossed the asparagus with a lemon infused sea salt, black pepper, drizzle of olive oil and roasted until tender.
I must say that the potatoes were fantastic. Not too sweat, not too hot. I'll most definitely be making these again.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fun Friday

Rewarding Myself
For some reason, I feel like Fridays are a huge reward. I've worked hard all week and feel like I deserve just one day of indulgence. As in no stressing over workouts, enjoying drinks with friends, not carrying about eating pizza, and not "having" to be in bed by 9:30. 

So, today was a rest day for me. Tomorrow will be weights and cardio, but today I'm resting up. 

My sister came up for the evening just to hang out.She wanted to go to happy hour then homemade pizza with my Wheat Pizza Dough. I certainly wasn't going to argue with her on that! I made the dough last night and tried adding 1/2 whole-wheat pastry flour and 1/2 all-purpose flour this time. It seemed really flat unfortunately. I think next time I'll go back to using the 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, 1 cup all-purpose and 1/2 cup spelt. I got a little cocky trying to make pizza dough healthier. 

Anyway, tonight's a short post, but I wanted to try to add something fun. So, how about a Fun Fact (or 2)? Oh, and then you must answer!

Fun Facts and Questions for Friday: 

Fact:  I'm a bit obsessed with matching my workout attire, even when I'm just working out at home and no one sees but the pups
Question:  Do you feel the need to coordinate your workout attire even if working out at home?

Fact:  I love Friday Happy Hours. I think they are a great way to end the work week, sit back and relax, and catch up with friends.
Question:  What's your favorite way to end the week?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Being Realistic - No Morning Workout

No Morning Workout
Well, I didn't really think I'd be getting up early to workout this morning. I made a half-hearted attempt by setting my alarm for 5:05 am though. At 4:20 I changed the time to 6:15 instead. I had to be totally realistic with myself. It would not have been a good (or safe) workout. I needed the sleep much more than the trip and fall over the step.

I am really rather sore from my weights yesterday. Sort of surprised. Not sure if it was because I really did push myself or because I lifted while mostly asleep! Today was cardio only. I almost opted out entirely, but decided that I really would prefer Friday to be my rest day. I doubt I'll get up early (and don't want that pressure). My sister is coming up after work so I would have to get the workout done in the morning. So, today was Step Blast with abs from Step, Jump and Pump and then a stretch. Nothing over the top. Just a good, old fashioned step routine.

So do you think it's OK to push yourself into a workout when you're running on fumes? Is the brief energy boost worth it or do you think it does more harm than good? Maybe it's more about honestly listening to your own body (like I did this morning).

Another Easy Dinner
Dinner tonight was another go-to meal. No creative juices flowing and no desire for any major kitchen clean up. Something easy was the order of the evening. Tonight is just another example of when preparing food ahead of time is so worth it. I pulled out In a Jiffy Spelt Veggie Burgers from the freezer and baked sweet potato "fries" for the side. My stash of veggie burgers is dwindling, however. I will need to spend some time in the kitchen this weekend making more patties to restock the freezer.

What recipes do you pre-make and keep on hand?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sleep? Who Needs Sleep

Working Out on No Sleep
After several restless nights, I had really hoped to just crash last night. I went up to read around 8:30 and had the lights off by 9:20. I dozed for an hour, then I was wide awake when Jason and the dogs came up. I fitfully dozed another hour as Jason fidgeted and kept getting up. I thought that he was just having a restless night too. However, he kept going downstairs, then back up, had the bathroom light on. Usually he would attempt some sort of discretion about waking me up. He finally came over to me and realized that I was indeed wide awake, he was about to wake me to tell me that he thought he was experiencing anaphylactic shock symptoms from this allergy shot that morning (well, the previous morning by this point). He did admit that he had been reading about it online and that he may just be working himself up over it. He does have an EpiPen at least. I kept asking what he wanted to do (911, ER). Long story short, we did not get any sleep. I did manage to doze again from somewhere around 3:30 to 4:20 then finally got out of bed at 5. Most importantly, Jason is feeling much better.

Needless to say, this morning was a major struggle for me, but I did manage to get in my workout. I mean, I wasn't sleeping anyway. It was painful though with a bit of stumbling around. I started with Low Impact Circuit warm up, the weights, then finished the cardio premix (up to last blast where I totally pooped out). Today was Day 2 of Week 7 of the Total-Body Training Rotation and consisted of 3 sets of 8 reps.

Legs - Static lunges
Hamstrings - Stiff Leg Dead Lifts
Shoulders - Arnold Press
Biceps - Alternating Bicep Curls (started in hammer position and rotated wrist in at top of move)
Back - DB Pullover
Chest - Incline DB Flyes

Thank Goodness for Planning
As I mentioned yesterday, I started the makings for dinner tonight: Fiery Dijon Peanut Tofu and my version of Curried Wheat Berry-Spelt Salad from Urban Vegan which I'll call Curried Vegetable Wheat Berry Salad. So, after another sleepless night, I was so very thankful that I had taken the time to do some advanced planning and prepping. All I had to do was bake the tofu and assemble. 

Fiery Dijon Peanut Tofu
Adapted from The Ordinary Vegetarian's Fiery Tofu Marinade

Ingredients:
1 lb extra firm tofu*
3 tbsp dijon mustard
3 tbsp low-sugar ketchup
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp Tom Yum (make sure it's vegan)
3 tbsp crunchy natural peanut butter
1 tsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 - 1/2 cup water (to desired consistency)

*Freeze tofu for minimum three days. Let defrost in refrigerator. This will give the tofu a spongy-like texture that allows it to better soak in marinades.

Directions:
Remove tofu from package, carefully squeeze out liquid. Cut tofu into "steaks" and place between paper towels to remove any excess moisture.

In medium mixing bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients, adding water to the desired consistency. Layer tofu and sauce in dish to marinate 2 hours or over night.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place tofu on baking sheet and bake approximately 1 hour flipping halfway through.

Note: if you have extra marinade, thin out with vegetable stock for a sauce.

Curried Vegetable Wheat Berry Salad
Adapted from The Urban Vegan

Ingredients:
Wheat berries
1 cup red winter wheat berries (soaked overnight, drained and rinsed)
3 cups water

Curry Sauce 
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 tbsp agave nectar
1 1/2 - 2 tbsp red curry paste (depending on desired heat)
sea salt and red pepper to taste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric

Vegetables
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
3/4 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup frozen of fresh peas

Directions:
Bring 3 cups of water to bowl, add in the wheat berries and cook 1 1/2 hours or until all water is absorbed.

Meanwhile, whisk together ingredients for curry sauce then stir in the vegetables. Once wheat berries are cooked, add them to the curried vegetables. Serve warm, room temp, or cold. 

I love the flavors of this salad and the added texture of the wheat berries. It's one that is fairly versatile in that you can add in the vegetables that you prefer, like the peas and red bell pepper. My version reduces the amount of olive oil and agave nectar as well as the addition of vegetables and omission of spelt. 

To make it a complete, one-dish meal, add in chickpeas for protein or serve as a side to another lean protein like baked tofu or tempeh.
Jason and I both agreed that this was one of the best tofu dishes I've made. The sauce became crunchy, almost as if fried in a batter. The slight sweetness of the salad pared nicely with the spiciness of the tofu marinade and sauce.This was a definite winner!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Oh Tired Tuesday

Tired on Tuesday
Well, today I had every intention of getting up and working out first thing. I had my step out, DVD chosen, even clothes set out. However, I slept terribly. I tossed and turned from about 2 am on. I just couldn't get my mind to slow down. So by the time 4:30 am rolled around, I knew that there was no way I was going to get up at 5 and exercise. I reset the alarm for 6:15 and dozed on and off. Needless to say, today felt very long and tiring.

I really began to contemplate the option of taking today as a rest day. I just felt completely run down with zero motivation. However, I decided that the cardio may do me some good. It usually does, even if only temporarily. So I chose to do Cathe's Low Max today. It's been so long since I've done that workout. I like it, but it's not a super high calorie burner for me. You also have to be ready for a solid hour workout. It's still fun and time does go quickly. It alternates between a short step combination and a more intense "blast." I also tried to stretch a bit longer. I've been feeling really tight ever since my weekend runs. The weather here is supposed to be in the lower 50's this week, so I'm hoping I might have a chance for an outdoor run with Jason.

Tried and True Dinner
Tonight I decided to make an old favorite go-to meal - Veggie "Chicken" Fajitas. We used to make these once a week because they're fast, easy, and healthy. I have been so caught up in trying out new recipes, that I've let old favorites fall to the side.

Veggie "Chicken" Fajitas
Ingredients:
1 package Morningstar Farms Chik'n Strips (optional, or your choice of substitution this is just what I had)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 - whole squash (depending on size) sliced into strips
1/2 - whole zucchini (depending on size) sliced into strips
2 baby portobellos, thinly sliced
Splash of lemon or lime juice
To taste: sea salt, black pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, cilantro
Whole-wheat tortilla wraps (check ingredients for vegetarian/vegan)
Shredded cheese (vegan or non-vegan, I used a 2% Mexican Blend)
Chipotle "sour cream" (optional)

Directions:
In large non-stick skillet, saute onions and peppers until begin to soften. Add in the Chikn' Strips and cook until thawed. Add in mushrooms and cook until begin to soften. Add in squash, zucchini, spices, and lemon or lime juice. Cook until squash and zucchini are done.

To serve, spoon fajitas into center of wrap with optional toppings such as pico de gallo, shredded lettuce, and/or chipotle tofu sour cream.

While I was making the fajitas, I also started on dinner for tomorrow. I have been craving the Curried Wheat Berry-Spelt Salad from Urban Vegan. Last night I soaked the wheat berries (doubled up wheat berries, omitting spelt), and tonight I cooked them off. So the salad is ready to go for tomorrow night. I will again pair it with a baked tofu. This time I think I will try a version of The Ordinary Vegetarian's Fiery Tofu Marinade.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Catch Up Day

I feel like I am so far behind with my blog. My Valentine's present to Jason was to make dinner and stay off the computer. And today I've been super busy trying to run errands that I'm just now even getting to sit down and start my blog about last night's dinner and catch up on reading everyone's posts.

This morning I did the warm up from Shock Cardio Athletic Step then hit the weights, and finished with Athletic Step. Today was the first workout for week 7 of the Total-Body Training rotation. I can't believe it's been 7 weeks! This one was a toughie, 3 sets of 18 reps. Yikes.

Chest - Dumbbell bench press
Back - Double arm rows
Quads - Squats
Shoulders - Lateral raises
Biceps - Dumbbell Curls
Triceps - Double arm kickbacks

This was very tiring with the high number of reps. Ouch. Once I started going with Athletic Step, I quickly realized that I should have opted for a slightly easier cardio. My quads were screaming at me. I also did one of my favorite ab workouts from Abs Circuits - Weights and Plates. It was a really long workout, but much needed after my weekend of less than stellar eats. Though, they could have been a lot worse!

After my workout, I had lots of errands to run. Saturday would have been grocery day, so I had to take care of that today. I didn't think I'd ever get it all put away. Just when I thought I was done, I realized I still had another sack to unpack. It was like a sick joke.

Tonight I decided to make a Butternut and Kabocha Squash Soup with Crispy Kale Chips.

Butternut and Kabocha Squash Soup
Ingredients:
1/2 white onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 can butternut squash puree (or roasted squash cubed, I just had a can of puree)
1/2 kabocha squash, cubed
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
32 oz box low-sodium vegetable stock
1/4 - 1/2 cup rice or soy milk (optional, amount depending on how thick you want soup)
To taste: sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, red pepper, nutmeg, curry powder, cinnamon

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place squash on baking sheet and roast approximately 30 minutes until just soft. 

In large soup pot, saute onion and garlic in small amount of olive oil until soft. Add in the cubed squash, beans, and approximately half of the vegetable stock. Let simmer until squash is cooked through. In small batches, puree in blender or food processor using more stock if too thick. Transfer puree back into sauce pan adding in the can of butternut squash puree (if using a puree), remaining vegetable stock, rice or soy milk, and spices. Cook until soup thickens and flavors meld.

Crispy Kale Chips
Ingredients:
Bunch kale, cleaned, dried, rough chopped
Drizzle olive oil
Sea salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place kale on lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 12 minutes stirring every 5 minutes.
I love squash soups. They are filling, creamy, and comforting. The crispy kale was so light and airy. Such a good accompaniment for the soup.

Beets for Valentine's Day

Jason and I don't really celebrate Valentine's Day. No gifts, cards, or chocolates. Instead, we prefer to enjoy a really nice meal. Sometimes we splurge and eat out. But, since we had the Branson trip, we opted to eat in. I also vowed to stay off line, hence the delayed post. 

I had been wanting to try beets. Until this weekend at Ruby Tuesdays, I had never tried them. I thought they'd be perfect for a Valentine's dinner. I looked through lots of recipes and came up with my own version of Balsamic Beet Ravioli with Cannellini Puree. I served the "ravioli" over pureed cannellinni beans with balsamic reduction with smashed sweet potatoes and green beans sauteed with red onion, red bell pepper, portobellos, and garlic.

Balsamic Beet Ravioli with Cannellini Puree
Ingredients:
Beets sliced thinly 
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/8 - 1/4 cup rice milk
Sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, and grated nutmeg to taste
Balsamic vinegar (approximately 1/2 cup)

Directions:
Puree beans with milk and spices until creamy. Transfer to a sauce pan and heat through, adding more rice milk if necessary. 

In sauce pot, slowly simmer balsamic vinegar over low heat until sauce reduces. Be careful not to reduce too far as it will become too thick to drizzle.

To assemble, spread layer of bean puree on plate. Place beet slice down, top with nut cheeze and top with another beet. 
So, how was it you ask? It wasn't bad. But it definitely could have been improved had I practiced working with the beets. For starters, I don't have a mandolin so they weren't as thin as they needed to be. I think the next time that I make this dish (and I will), I will let the beets macerate in acidulated water to make them more pliable. I kept thinking that ravioli are served with a sauce or over a sauce of some sort. I struggled trying to come up with a suitable sauce for these ravioli. And I also got hung up trying to add in more protein. Though the ravioli filling is made with nuts... Anyway, the balsamic reduction worked great with the beets so I need to focus on that. I may try serving the ravioli over wilted spinach with the balsamic reduction the next time.

The bean puree, while very good, ended up having a consistency similar to mashed potatoes. In fact, I think that I may mix pureed white beans with my smashed sweet potatoes the next time I make them. All in all, it was really a great dish that I'll definitely revisit. I guess that's what cooking is really about, trying, testing, and tweaking.