Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hill Repeats, Let's Chat, and Stir Fry

Holy Hill Repeats
Ah, another sunny, warm day here. I think I could get used to this! It certainly makes for better moods. This morning I woke up to Jason's alarm repeatedly going off for swim (which he skipped). I was too much awake to try to fall back asleep for an hour, so I got up and did an easier step from Cathe's Low Impact Circuit DVD. There is a cardio only premix that includes 4 step combos. I just did the first 3 then abs from the same disc and stretched. I wanted to keep the intensity on the lower side as Jason and I were planning on hill repeats at lunch. Also, It was nice to do something to get myself moving this morning rather than roll out of bed and rush straight to work. I seriously roll out of bed and am able to be at work within 30 minutes. I eat my breakfast when I get to my desk.

Do you allow yourself time to wake up in the morning before getting ready and rushing of to work? Like enjoy reading the paper over breakfast?

While the weather was sunny and it was warm, it was fairly windy today. Hill repeats sounded better than running into a wall of wind for 3 miles. Plus, I need to amp up my endurance and work on speed as well. It was sort of at HIIT workout in a way. Short but intense. I love to power up hills. I know, I'm not right in the head most days.

Here's what we did: ran for 10 minutes as a warm up, then ran all out, up hill for 20 seconds then jogged or walked back down for 1 min 10 seconds. We did that 8 times then jogged another 5+ minutes as a cool down.

All I can say is - Leg Workout.

Let's Chat
Well, I don't know how you all feel, but I noticed something yesterday after I submitted my post. It (to me) felt rushed. It was all about the workout, the weather, and quick dinner. Not much fun to read I'm sure. For that, I do apologized. The post was not a representation of the day either, rushed. Perhaps I'm over thinking, that's most certainly not out of character for me. I hope that you, as my readers and friends, know how much I appreciate the time you take to read my blog and to post comments (for those who feel the urge). I see the comments as a conversation and I make a very conscious effort to reply to everyone. I don't have so many readers that I can't.

Do you ever stop back and read the comments and my replies? Do you appreciate it when a blogger replies back to your comment or do you see it only necessary if you're posting a question?

Just curious. Again, I love reading your comments and appreciate every one of them. It makes it feel less one-sided. Me: writing; You: reading.

Hot Debate Ends in Stir Fry
Dinner was a much-debated event this evening. Quite frankly, I did not want to cook this evening. We tossed around many ideas. Jason tends to throw out things like potato salad with grilled veggie dogs while I try to go along a healthier alternative. In the end, we settled on Spicy Veggie Stir Fry. We had a spicy stir fry sauce that we used. In a wok we cooked carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, purple cabbage, peas, edamame, zucchini, and Quorn Chik'n Tenders and served over soba noodles. The one thing I love about our wok is that it's completely non-stick so you use virtually no oil to cook the veggies.  

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tofu Tuesday

Tuesday Run
Last night I woke up several times. While I fell back to sleep easily, I sure didn't feel like I had a good night's rest, so I opted to stay in bed rather than get up to do cardio. That and I really had no desire at all to do another step workout. I had thought about taking today as a rest day. I have some major DOMS going on from my weight workouts. However, the sunshine was calling my name. Jason and I managed another lunchtime run. It's definitely what the doctor ordered. We did go just a tad slower than yesterday, but not much. It was a good, comfortable pace.

Tofu on Tuesday
Jason was riding his bike with a group after work, so I had the house to myself (well, besides the pups). I wanted an easy dinner. No frills or fuss. I opted for Chipotle Raspberry BBQ Tofu with sweet potato topped with steamed broccoli.

Basically, I mixed together a BBQ sauce with a raspberry chipotle sauce and marinated extra-firm tofu with the sauce for about 1 hour. I baked at 375 for approximately 50 minutes, flipping once. For the sweet potato, I microwaved approximately 6 minutes and spiced up with cumin, red pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, salt & pepper and topped with the steamed broccoli.
The edges of the tofu did get a tad bit crispy, but the rest of the darkness is from the sauce. Sorry, the pics don't look terribly appetizing. Let's say it tasted better than it looked. If you don't have a raspberry chipotle sauce, it would be so easy to make by mixing up a sugar-free raspberry jam with chipotle in adobo and mix that in with your favorite (or homemade) BBQ sauce.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Magnificent Mexican Monday

Magnificent Monday (seriously)
This morning I opted to sleep an extra hour rather than get up to do biceps and triceps. I don't know if it was the extra hour or I just woke up on the right side of the bed, but I was in a really good mood this morning. Jason and I had a lunchtime run planned that I was really looking forward to. The weather is supposed to be fantastic all week too. Oh, and it's a short week for me at work because we're off for Good Friday. Jason and I are tentatively planning to hike Pinnacle Mountain Friday taking along a picnic lunch to eat at the summit. I have a Girls' Night planned for Thursday night as well. So I have a lot to look forward to this week.

So, this week is starting off on the right track for me apparently. Maybe it's all the happy blog vibes and inspiring posts I've been reading lately. It has definitely been a "live in the moment" kind of day. Hopefully I can keep up this positive attitude all week!

Monday Workouts
Anyway, I was expecting our typical easy run at lunch. Jason apparently had other plans and decided to push it. It's not my race pace, but it's not horrible. We did 3 miles in 24:55. I have some speed work to do before my next race, but I don't think that's too shabby considering the fact that I have been less than consistent with my running lately, oh and after a leg day too!

I'll admit to much debating about foregoing my biceps and triceps work today. In the end, I chose to go ahead and get it done. It's the same set up as last week, doing 3 sets of exercises for each muscle group, starting with 12 sets and dropping off 2 reps down to 6 with the goal of increasing the weights.

Biceps
Dumbbell curls
Hammer curls
Incline curls

Triceps
Lying dumbbell extensions
Kickbacks
Dumbbell overhead extensions

Mexican Monday
Sticking to the Mexican Monday theme from last week, I decided to make Southwest Style Taco Salad for dinner.

Southwest Style Taco Salad
Ingredients:
1 can black beans, rinsed, drained
corn, thawed (or canned, rinsed, drained) (used frozen, maybe half a can worth)
tomatoes, diced
red onion, finely diced (as much or little as you like)
green onions, diced (as much or little as you like)
red, yellow, and green bell peppers, diced
pickled jalapenos (or fresh), diced
To taste: salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, red pepper, lime juice (I was out of cilantro or would have added that)
Lettuce
1/4 red cabbage thinly sliced
Whole-grain flour tortilla wraps

Directions:
Combine all ingredients except, lettuce, cabbage, and wraps. Allow to sit and marinade approximately 30 minutes or longer.

Meanwhile, toast up your tortillas. You can cut into strips, triangles, or leave whole. An option is to flavor them by spraying with non-stick spray and sprinkle with spices of your choice.

I served the salad on top of a bed of lettuce and the cabbage with White Cheeseless Queso on top.
Hope everyone is having a great start to their week!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Simple Sunday with Caprese Quinoa Salad

Sunday Repeat
So today started much similar to last Sunday. It was a bit chilly so I wanted a warm breakfast. So I opted for PB&J&B Oatmeal. Just like last Sunday, I have some serious DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) happening from yesterday's workout. Today was leg day. I really dread leg workouts to be honest. Once I get going, it's not so bad, it's just getting started. I did 4 sets of each exercise (except calves) starting with 12 reps and dropping 2 reps each set.

Alternating front lunges
Squats
Alternating rear lunges
Alternating plie squats
Deadlifts
Step ups
Calf raises - 3 sets of 25 turned out, parallel, turned out

After my workout, I did just half of Shock Cardio HIIT Pyramid and stretched.

Slow Sunday
I spent most of the day trying to get laundry done. I'm always amazed at how much laundry just two people can produce. Of course, half of it is workout clothes. Jason bathed the dogs, long overdue chore there. Basically, we just got stuff done that needed getting done. It was sort of gloomy out, and a bit chilly, super windy. So it was a good day to take it slow and wade through chores here and there.

We had a very late lunch so wanted a lighter dinner. I made what I'll call a Caprese Quinoa Salad.

Caprese Quinoa Salad
Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Cherry tomatoes, halved (I bought in a mesh sack, so I don't know how many)
Spinach
1/2 can quartered artichoke hearts (patted dried)
Fresh buffalo mozzarella (optional)
To taste: basil, salt, tomato & basil herb spice mix, lemon juice

Directions:
Cook quinoa according to package directions.

In large bowl, combine all ingredients. Serve at room temperature or cold.

This is an easy salad to put together and works well as a main dish or side. Another option would be to add capers if you like a salty kick.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Super Workout, Super Saturday

Friday Recap
Surprise surprise, Friday ended up being Pizza night at the Iacobacci-Miller household. No complaints from this gal though. It was yummy. We played a few rounds of pool while the pizza cooked, then ate and watched Julie and Julia, well, most of it. We sort of pooped out and have 30 minutes left to finish.

Superwoman Workout
Today I did chest, back, shoulders this morning using a drop set method. I did each exercise using the same weight, but dropping the number of reps with each set: 12, 10, 8, 6. This is the same set up as last week, but I did increase my weights for all exercises.

Chest
Flat bench flyes
Flat bench DB presss
Incline flyes
Incline DB press

Back
Double-arm row (flat back)
Pullovers
Underhand DB rows

Shoulders
Standing DB press
Side lateral raises 
Rear delt press

After weights, I did Shock Cardio HIIT 40/20 then the weights only portion of Weights & Plates abs from Abs Circuit. I felt really good today, most likely because I behaved and took a rest day yesterday.

Saturday = Errand Day
After working out, we had lots of errands to run. It was grocery day, plus Jason wanted to pick up some heavier dumbbells (who am I to argue with that request), a relaxing lunch at a restaurant with a patio, and then Home Depot for some plants. It was warm and sunny today so the urge to get some yard work accomplished was definitely present. They didn't have all of the veggies or plants/flowers, but I definitely have a good start now. I usually grow Roma tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, red and yellow bell peppers, jalapenos, habaneros, and herbs. We used to grow fantastic squash and zucchini until our soil was invaded by squash borers that we have been unable to get rid of. I also got plants for many of my planters around the patio and on the fence. Definitely makes the yard feel more like spring with the additional color.

I love being able to step outside and grab makings for dinner. Do you like to garden? What veggies do you grow?

Simple, Easy Dinner
Speaking of dinner, we sort of let the time slip past us while working in the yard. So we opted for a quick, easy dinner tonight: Roasted Poblano Black Bean Burgers with baked sweet potato "fries." I didn't have any pineapple salsa tonight so I just opted to top them with my favorite veggie burger toppings: spinach, roasted red bell peppers, and mozzarella.
I hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday - My Weekly Reward

Mandatory Rest Day
Today was my rest day. I'll admit, however, that if the temps had been just a wee bit warmer, I would have snuck in a run at lunch just for the fresh air and sunshine factor. I know, I'm ill-behaved at times.

Curb the Craving
So, I have mentioned that I crave carby snacks after dinner, like graham crackers. I keep whole-grain caramel rice cakes (Mother's is the brand) on hand because they offer just a hint of sweetness, crunch, and are low in calories (these are actually low in sugar and carbs as well so I'm trying to trick myself). However, I could eat the whole bag. I started trying to re-assess my diet, thinking that perhaps I just wasn't eating enough carbs earlier in the day. However, I read an article last week (I am digging around trying to find where on earth I read this, online, blog, or magazine) that mentioned that carb cravings can stem from a diet too low in healthy fats. It all boils down to insulin levels being stabilized (and remember, I am saying all of this and do not have the article to quote or share, I really apologize).

Hmmm...interesting. I started to think about my diet and realized quite quickly, that it is indeed fairly low in fats period. It was never anything intentional, it's just my diet. I use very little olive oil in cooking, having cut out almost all dairy, I lose the fat there, I don't eat fried foods, almost all of my protein would be considered lean (beans, legumes, tofu, tempeh). So I started a little test to see if that might indeed be the problem. I started putting just a smear of almond or peanut butter on my rice cake. Healthy fat plus protein. It has seriously made a tremendous difference in my evening snacking habit. I no longer feel compelled to eat multiple rice cakes or graham crackers just as long as I put that smear of almond or peanut butter on it.

I mention this simply because we all fall into cravings and indulgences. Rather than beat ourselves up, maybe there's a reason why we're prone to that particular compulsion.  Are there any cravings that you're particularly prone to? Like sweets or perhaps salty foods? There just may be a very valid reason.

Freed up Friday

Per my typical Friday post, dinner has yet to be determined. I try to make myself be more free on Fridays and roll with the punches. My husband is likely laughing. I try, seriously. So, I have no menu planned. I have no recipes rolling around in my head. I have nothing marinating, cut up, prepped, etc. We may try to grill out veggie burgers (I have several options lurking in the freezer) with grilled sweet potato "fries." I may opt for Pizza Friday or go way out on a limb and have Thai Friday. But, I'm not stressing about dinner, what it'll be or when it'll be. My plan is to just enjoy the evening and the fact that I can sleep in just a tad bit later tomorrow. Friday is my weekly reward.

Do you reward yourself during the week? Do you have a day or something special you always allow for yourself?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thankful Thursday & Inspired Roasted Marinara

Thankful for Friends
First off, I really want to thank everyone for being so kind yesterday when I posted about my blue day. I debated about the post because I certainly don't want anyone to think that I am fishing for sympathy. I did, however, think that it was important to be honest with what sort of day I was having and to share some great, inspirational posts by fellow bloggers. I hope those words can help you out at some point.

That brings me to another point. Friendships. I have blogged about this before, but yesterday it was even more so apparent that friends come from so many, often unexpected places. I received an email from a fellow blogger asking me how I was doing and letting me know that they were there for me. For me?? It was truly heartwarming to get that sort of support from someone I have never met and from someone who is going through so much more in their life right now. And they were seriously concerned about me. Wow. Not one of my long-time friends or even family commented, but this person did. So don't ever discount your words my friends. You never know when what you write or say will affect someone else's life or how it will affect them period.

Also, rethink the typical idea of friendship as being someone you know in person. Friends can be people you've never met. There are several bloggers that I do consider to be friends. We've never met, we've never even spoken to one another except through our blogs, possibly other forums, Tweets, or possibly Facebook posts. Does that mean they can't be considered my friend? Nope, I totally think of them as friends. How do you all feel about that? Do you feel like some of the bloggers you follow are your actual friend?

Sleep Trumped Workout 
Sorry for being so deep today. I'll move along now. This morning I woke up around 4:15 just long enough to reset my alarm clock from 5:15 to 6:15. Sleep outweighed the workout, which would likely would have suffered. I thought it was supposed to rain the majority of the day, but the sun actually came out. I had seriously contemplated talking Jason into a run a lunch, but the winds were 20 mph! The gusts were 26. So, I may be fairly crazy, but I'm not totally stupid. That would have been one tough run. So, we just went home and ate lunch instead. I was due for a rest day anyway to be quite honest.

But...I ended up having lots of energy after work. I would have run if the wind hadn't been so extreme. I decided to do Shock Cardio Athletic Step then the floor work from Butts & Guts (for booty work). I had a great workout actually. It was fun, time flew by. I'm really glad I went ahead and went for it. 

Inspired Dinner 
After not wanting to be in the kitchen yesterday, I felt more like cooking tonight. I had some cherry tomatoes that needed to be used so I decided to finally try a version of Averie's Raw Marinara Sauce. I liked the simplicity of her recipe. I was, however, missing the red bell pepper. I did, however, have a jar of roasted red bell peppers. So, I decided to run with the "roasted" idea. Taking it from Raw to Roasted Marinara Sauce. I also did not have enough zucchini to use in lieu of pasta, so I used a whole-wheat penne. Sorry for the lack of amounts. I just sort of winged it and of course made it a lot more complicated than Averie's version.

Roasted Marinara
Ingredients:
Cherry tomatoes, halved
2 gloves garlic
1 tsp olive oil
dash sea salt
Carrots, diced
Roasted red bell pepper
Artichokes
To taste: basil, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375. Place tomato halves and garlic on baking sheet and toss with olive oil and salt. Bake until tomatoes are just starting to get soft.

In food processor, combine all ingredients and puree to desired consistency.

Serve over whole-wheat pasta of your choice or zucchini or eggplant "noodles." I cooked up some lentils and spiced them with salt, pepper, garlic, and parsley for my protein. You could use whatever protein you liked, even just tossing with chickpeas would be great. 
I will say that this sauce was fantastic. It would be super used as a topping for a veggie burger even for bruschetta. Capers would be another good addition to this sauce. It's a winner!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Kicking, Running, Grilling

Kicking and Running
This morning I got up when Jason did at 5 am. He left for swim and I opted for a kickboxing workout rather than step. I chose Cathe's Kick Punch and Crunch DVD because it also include a good stability ball abs workout. I didn't want to do a very long cardio session because Jason and I were planning to run at lunch. The great thing about this DVD is that it has tons of premix options. I also used 1 lb weighted gloves.

Do you ever use weighted gloves for kickboxing?

I was really in sort of a funk today. It was definitely a "Blue Day" for me. That's what my great-grandmother used to call down days. The sun was out early on, but then it started to cloud up around lunchtime. It's supposed to rain tonight and into tomorrow, hence part of the reason for running at lunch, get it in while it's nice. It did end up being mostly sunny by the afternoon. I was also hoping that I could run off some of the funk I was feeling. It was really nice to get out of the office and be outside with Jason. It helped my mood a little, but I guess it was just one of those kinds of days if you know what I mean.

I kept trying to remind myself of the many things I have to be thankful for and all the positives throughout the day. I even revisited some wise posts that I recently read with fantastic "thoughts to remember" by Jessica @ EatDrinkBreatheSweat and Candice @ ChiaSeedMe. Even though I read those words and they completely struck a chord with me, I needed more than words today. Nevertheless, they are great daily reminders to carry along (and share). I have a few ideas of why I'm feeling down, and I tried to work through those in my head and sharing with Jason. (Sorry for being a Debbie Downer.)

What do you do to try to get yourself out of a funk?

Wednesday Grilling 
It's safe to say I wasn't really much in the mood for cooking or thinking anything fun and new to make. Jason offered to take over the dinner duties. With the weather being so nice, he was itching to grill as I've been the one wo-manning the grill lately. So, he grilled Quorn Naked Chik'n Cutlets with BBQ sauce. He also grilled broccoli and red onion to go over our nuked sweet potatoes (I was way too hungry to wait to grill them). It was sort of a meat and potatoes, manly-ish meal.

 I really enjoy grilled broccoli. It adds just a slightly different flavor. I also love piling on veggies on top of my sweet potatoes, which I actually spice with a mix I pre-make that includes salt, pepper, cumin, red pepper, chili powder, and garlic.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Family Day and Tropical Grilled Tofu

Tough Start
Last night I wasn't sure I was ever going to fall asleep. The last I looked at the clock it was 11:15. The next time it read 4:15 am. So I did at least get 5 straight hours. I had set my alarm for 5:15 to get in my workout so there I was tossing ideas around. Try to pretend to sleep for 1 more hour or reset alarm and forgo workout for possibly an hour and a half. It took about 40 mins before I gave up and got out of bed. I'm not really sure how I managed it, but I did Cathe's Cardio Fusion. That's a toughie, especially when low on sleep. It did energize me though by the end. I'll admit to a very rough start. In the end, I was glad to have gotten it done.

The weather has totally turned around from the rain and 40 degree temps on Sunday. It was sunny and low 70's. So nice. Really made me wish that I had been able to run at lunch and enjoy outdoor exercise. However, I knew I wouldn't be able to run with Jason at lunch. The workday was a short one for me, a special treat. My mom, sister, niece, and nephew came up around 12:30 to meet me for lunch. Then we took the kids to a playground right down the street from my house. So, no run, but at least I was able to spend time outside with the family.

Tropical Tofu Tuesday
Since the weather was so nice, it was hard to pass up a grill opportunity. Dinner was inspired by a recipe Heather @ With a Side of Sneakers posted yesterday for grilled pineapple and chicken. I substituted the chicken with tofu and rice with quinoa for a Tropical Grilled Tofu and Quinoa.

Tropical Grilled Tofu and Quinoa
Ingredients:
1 package extra firm tofu (frozen, thawed, squeezed)
Mango ginger habanero sauce*
1/2 red bell pepper, large dice
1/2 green bell pepper, large dice
1/2 red onion, large dice
pineapple, mine was cut into large strip (yields approximately 1 cup cubed)
1/2 cup dried quinoa
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth or water
3 green onions, chopped
sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Cut tofu into 4 "steaks" and layer with sauce. Allow to marinate at least one hour.

Heat grill and grill onions and peppers together until just soft. Grill pineapple on grill just a minute or so on each side then cube. You could also use an indoor grill or roast the veggies.

Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to directions adding in the green onions and spices when done.

To serve, top quinoa with veggies and pineapple and tofu steaks. If you have extra sauce, you can stir some into the quinoa for additional flavor.

*Note on sauce: Jason and I are both suckers for buying sauces. With that being said, this sauce would be so easy to make. I'm thinking mango puree, agave nectar, possibly some OJ then minced ginger and habanero peppers. Note to self, stop wasting money and make my own sauces.

I love being inspired by my fellow bloggers. I enjoy both trying out their recipes and taking the ideas and turning them into my own. Do you ever actually make any of the recipes you find?

Monday, March 22, 2010

More Drop Sets and Tempeh Fajitas

Step and Biceps/Triceps 
This morning I opted for the extra hour of sleep rather than the morning workout. I did go home and get the workouts done at lunch though. It was the perfect energy boost that I needed. I had started the day feeling rather down for no particular reason. The workout seemed to get me back on track. I did one of the premixes from Cathe's Step Blast then did biceps and triceps using the drop set method: 12, 10, 8, 6.

Dumbbell curls
Hammer curls
Incline curls
Lying dumbbell extensions
Kickbacks
Overhead extension

I was a little frustrated with the weights I ended up using today. They seemed lighter than I would have liked. However, I must keep in mind that I did quite a few reps with this method. It's not like they don't feel sufficiently fried either. Do you ever beat yourself up over a particular weight? I'm trying really hard not to, there's no reason for it.

Fajita Monday
Tonight just seemed like a fajita kind of night to me. It would have been the perfect evening to sit out with a Corona Light, chips and salsa, and fajitas. I at least went with Tempeh Fajitas.

Tempeh Fajitas
Ingredients:
1 package tempeh
Low-sodium soy sauce
Lime juice
To taste: garlic powder, red pepper, cumin, cilantro
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 zucchini, sliced into strips
1 yellow small yellow squash, sliced into strips
To taste: lemon or lime juice, salt, pepper, red pepper, cumin, garlic powder

Directions:
Make marinade using soy sauce, lime juice, and spices. Cut tempeh into thin strips and toss with marinade.

In large non-stick skillet, brown the tempeh, remove and set aside. Next saute the remaining veggies on high with spices and lemon/lime juice. When onions and peppers are soft, add in the tempeh and cook until reheated.

Serve on whole-wheat flour tortillas with your favorite toppings like salsa, sour cream, and/or grated cheese.

For a Good Cause
Here's a post I really hope you all will check out. Kelly at Healthy Living With Kelly has a special request regarding a Child Nutrition Act. She has a passion for ending childhood obesity, which we all know is a growing problem. If this is something that speaks to you as well, please check out her post. She gives you a link that allows you to submit a letter to your congress person. It's super easy, totally painless, and for a very worthwhile cause.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Soggy Sunday = Leg Workout and Quinoa Veggie Cakes

Leg Day Sunday
So today started with another bowl of PB&J&B Oatmeal. I have some serious DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) happening from yesterday's workout. Wow. Good thing today was legs. I used the drop set method again for everything except calves: 12, 10, 8, 6.

Alternating front lunges
Squats
Alternating rear lunges
Plie squats
Deadlifts
Step ups
Calf raises - 3 sets of 25 turned out, parallel, turned outs

After my workout, I did just half of Shock Cardio HIIT Pyramid and Yoga-style abs from Abs Circuit then stretched.

Veggie Cakes on Sunday
It's rainy, cold, and dreary here today. I had wanted to bake some bread and do some other cooking today. However, the oven is broken so that didn't happen. I did manage to get lots of laundry done, Jason vacuumed the area rugs, and I swiffered up the doggy dust bunnies. I also tried straightening up and organizing the room that I am now using as my weight room. This house had once been a duplex and that particular room was a kitchen. There are tons of holes in the walls from where the cabinets had been hung. So, I got those filled in finally (we've been here 9 years by the way). Next is to repair the cracks in the plaster from having the house leveled. Then I get to paint it. I want something bright and happy for the weight room. We have lots of yellow/gold tones on the walls so Jason is afraid of another yellow, but I think yellow would be cheery. You need cheery doing weights! What would you pick for your exercise room?

Even though I didn't have an oven, I still opted to make up some veggie cakes based on the ones I had at Cafe 1217 when we went to the races a while back. I have a fairly good toaster oven that I used. It just took a lot longer to make all the "cakes" as I could only cook off 3 at a time. The veggie cakes that I had at the restaurant tasted to have been made with sweet potatoes and zucchini. So I used that as a starting point for my Quinoa Veggie Cakes. I served with a Red Bell Pepper Coulis and Barley Veggie Salad.

Quinoa Veggie Cakes
Ingredients:
1 sweet potato, diced
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 zucchini, shredded
1/2 cup minced red bell pepper
1/8 cup minced shallot
Flax egg replacer (1 tbsp ground flax, 3 tbsp water, nuke 20 seconds and let sit until egg-like consistency)
1/2 cup (approximate) spelt flour
To taste: salt, pepper, basil, parsley, garlic powder, red pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degree.

Steam potatoes until soft.

In large bowl, smash potatoes, then stir in all ingredients minus the flour. Slowly add in the flour until desired firmness.

Form into patties and bake on a prepared baking sheet approximately 1 hour flipping once.

Red Pepper Coulis
Ingredients:
1/4 cup raw cashews (soaked at least 30 mins)
1 whole roasted red bell pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2-3/4 cups water (to desired consistency)
To taste: salt, pepper, garlic powder

Directions:
In food processor, puree cashews and 1/2 cup water to. Add in remaining ingredients and continue to puree until smooth, adding more water if needed.

On the side we did a Barley Veggie Salad that consisted of some leftover pearled barley, red kidney beans, yellow bell peppers, peas, minced red onion, diced tomatoes, champagne vinegar, salt, pepper, parsley, basil, garlic powder, and a basil tomato spice blend.
I'll say that these were absolutely better than the ones we had at the restaurant, and I'm not just bragging. The Red Pepper Coulis was a great sauce that helped to offset some of the sweetness of the "cakes". We will most definitely be making these again. The next time I think I'll try adding in some chickpeas for additional protein. Another side option would be a slaw.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday Follow-Up, Drop Sets, and Taco Salad

Friday Follow-Up
First off, I want to thank everyone for their great comments! Sounds like everyone is on the same page. I love the open-minded attitudes and notions of living life to the fullest. You guys are awesome!

Dinner did end up being pizza...on the grill. Grilled pizza wasn't the intention mind you, it was dark out and not part of the plan. I had turned on the oven to pre-heat and to heat up the pizza stone. When I was done with the toppings and had the dough rolled out, I asked Jason to pull out the stone. It was, well, stone cold. No heat folks. The burners were working just fine, so we have no idea what's up with the oven. Thankfully we have a gas grill that we were able to use. The crust was definitely crispier, but not in a bad way.

My half of the pizza was my very predictable Greek style of spinach, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, banana pepper rings, roasted red bell peppers, and feta. Jason had been wanting to try a muffuletta style pizza. One of our favorite pizza joints makes one (obviously lot vegetarian) so he thought it'd be fun to make a vegetarian version. His half included a chopped olive mixture, jardiniere veggies, vegetarian salami, ham, and pepperoni, topped with provolone.

Saturday Drop Sets
I woke up starving this morning and decided to make a bowl of oatmeal. Usually on the weekends I'll have something other than my typical oatmeal breakfast. But I was craving bananas and peanut butter so I decided the only thing I could do was to make PB&J&B Oatmeal. Just follow the directions for making steel cut oats (or rolled if you prefer). I topped with 1 tbsp natural creamy peanut butter, 1 tbsp sugar-free strawberry preserves, and 1/2 a banana. Oh, I cooked my oats with small amount of stevia and healthy dash of cinnamon. I know I don't normally post breakfast or lunch eats, but this was just too yummy.

Today I decided to do chest, back, shoulders this morning using a drop set method. I did each exercise using the same weight, but dropping the number of reps with each set: 12, 10, 8, 6.

Chest
Flat bench flyes
Flat bench DB presss
Incline flyes
Incline DB press
Back
Double-arm row (flat back)
Pullovers - 25
Underhand DB rows's
Shoulders
Standing DB press
Side lateral raises 
Rear delt press

After weights, Jason and I decided to go for a run while the weather was still holding up. The dogs pretty much invited themselves along, so the first 1.5 miles was a bit stop and go. We ended up doing a little over 4 miles total today though my left hip flexor was feeling super tight. I really hope I don't regret it tomorrow, which is scheduled to be a leg day.

Saturday Salad
We had some grocery errands to run. I picked up some almond butter today. I am almost afraid to open it for fear I'll eat the whole jar, or at least more than I should eat in a single sitting! Since it was still mostly sunny and warm, we decided to have a late lunch at a restaurant we enjoy for the patio dining option. It was so nice to sit outside and eat. The temps were hovering at 70 today. It's so hard to believe that it's only supposed to be 45 tomorrow. Spring is such a tease isn't it?

Since our lunch was so late, neither of us wanted a super heavy dinner. I've been wanting a taco salad lately, thanks to seeing some delicious looking salads posted by some of the bloggers I follow. So, I decided to do a Lentil Taco Salad. Basically, I cooked up some lentils and spiced them up with cumin, salt, pepper, red pepper, chili powder, and garlic. I topped a bed of lettuce and spinach with the lentils, fresh tomatoes, diced red and yellow bell peppers, jalapenos, and some salsa. Rather than using tortilla chips, I crisped up whole-grain tortillas that I spiced up with salt, garlic powder, and chili powder.
 I did end up adding some shredded 2% Mexican-blend cheese. I think that a Cheeseless Queso would have actually have been better. Other topping options could be sliced olives, corn, or sour cream.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Honest Abe Kind of Day

Let There Be Rest
Today was officially a rest day for me. It was hard not to go run at lunch I'll admit. It was even warmer today and the co-worker lunch thing was canceled. It's also supposed to be raining tomorrow then 45 degrees on Sunday. But, I really did need to take the rest day as hard as it was.

Pizza or Taco Salad?
I'm really not sure what dinner will be. I think a taco salad sounds really good, but it is Pizza Friday. Decisions Decisions. I don't mind eating a little later on Fridays because I just try to relax and stop thinking about schedules and when I must get to bed and all of that. So, as has become typical, I'll post my Friday dinner tomorrow.

To Err is to be Heather (Human)
But, you won't get off so easy with a 2-paragraph post! I recently read a post that really spoke to me on many levels. Pure Food Life posted "Let's be Honest Here" and talks about hiding behind words and how easy it is, especially as bloggers, to just tell the readers what we want them to think, or not so much think as in lying, but as in what we truly want for ourselves more than anything. It's like making up our own persona but not divulging the humanity of ourselves, the quirks, errs, slips.

I'm not asking for your personal history, I just want honesty especially for health, fitness, food bloggers. I mean, are they really that healthy ALL the time. They never slip up, ever? Never have a glass too many at happy hour or over indulge in chocolate cake? Never skip a workout? Get my point? I'm not calling anyone a liar by any means so please don't get me wrong there. It just raises the question of how honest are people, including me? I want to believe in people. I want to trust them. I also want to really know who they are. So, I try to be honest with my blog posts. I don't consider myself a food blogger exactly so I don't post all of my eats. If I did, you'd know that I love to snack on carb-laden goodies after dinner. I try to at least make them healthier snacks like caramel whole-grain rice cakes. But I really want a cookie (or 3).

I try very hard to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle and never profess to be perfect. I wish I were. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not. I'll readily admit that I enjoy happy hour, pizza, wine, and beer. Does that disqualify me from being healthy? I mostly eat clean, almost to an annoyance for my husband, family, and friends. I love what eating clean has done for me in regards to weight training and how I feel overall. But I still indulge. One thing I've noticed is a creeping guilt that used to not exist. Since blogging, I'll admit that I have often had twinges of guilt for my many Friday Pizza nights and then having pizza again on Saturday. Sometimes I feel guilty for wanting to order cheese dip because I know that I'll be admitting to it on my next post. I could choose to omit the fact that I ate half a bowl of cheese dip by myself, but I won't. I'll own up. However, I feel guilty because I feel like I'm somehow letting my readers down. Does that make sense? But, I won't lie about it at least or try to hide it. It's who I am love it or leave it (as my dad would say).

I've probably done more rambling than anything. So I apologize if I made no real sense; I haven't even been to happy hour yet! Please read the article for the articulate version LOL. I'll be curious to hear what you think. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Shoes, Great Run, Grilled Veggie Salad

New Shoes Means Lunchtime Run
This morning when the alarm went off at 5:15, I was snoozing hard. I had already told myself that if I was tired enough to fall back asleep after the alarm, I'd allow that luxury. So, off went the alarm and I was out immediately startled again at 6:15. This is the time I would normally wake up if not working out. So, I thought today was going to be my rest day. However, I just couldn't pass up a lunchtime run with Jason. I seriously needed to try out my new running shoes right?! The fact that it was sunny and 60 degrees also helped get me energized. I also knew that I wouldn't be able to get a run in tomorrow because we have a co-workers lunch celebration. So if I skipped working out today, that meant my workout tomorrow would have to be before work and it'd likely be step. Inside vs outside, morning vs noon...the decision was practically made for me.

The run was so much better today than the other day. I had pep in my step, maybe it was the new shoes! We did an easy 9 min mile run for 3 miles. No broken records by any means, but it was a nice pace. I wish we could have gone another lap putting us at 4.5 miles, but we both had to get back to work. That's the only downfall of a lunchtime workout, time constraints. Since I didn't get to my ab work yesterday, I did that after work with a good stretch as well.

I must say that I am sooo happy with my new shoes. I was a little apprehensive about purchasing them online without having tried them on for a little test jog around the store. The first time I got fitted for running shoes, I was told that I had a neutral gait and they recommended a particular Asics model. I loved them. However, they have long since stopped making that model and the new models are more for pronators.

Now, the last time I went to the running store (2 months ago) to try on some new shoes, they changed their mind (it was a different sales person) and started saying I pronate. Huh? There were several people involved in the debate. Anyway, I got really fed up, really long story and lots of chaos going on. I left sans new shoes. I started doing a lot of research on shoes for neutral to ever so slight pronation and found rave reviews for Brooks Ravenna. I am so glad for those reviews. I think I have found my new running shoe. They fit perfect in all the right spots. The cradle my arch (which is high). I also run more on the balls of my feet (probably a leftover habit from dance) and these are nicely padded in just the right spots. Heaven.

Ok, now that you're thoroughly bored with talk about shoes, I'll move along.

Sunshine, Extended Daylight Equals Grilling Weather
The sunshine and extended daylight really put me in the grilling mood. I decided on a big Grilled Veggie Salad. The veggies/toppings included: chickpeas, potato, zucchini, yellow squash, red and green bell pepper, and portobellos. I tossed the potatoes and chickpeas with thyme, rosemary, coarse sea salt, and small drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and used a baking sheet to "grill" them on. I marinated my veggies in balsamic vinegar, a port wine vinegar, black pepper, garlic, thyme, and rosemary. I gave everything a rough chop and served over baby spinach and red leaf lettuce with balsamic vinegar. 
Do you ever make a grilled veggie salad?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hump Day and More Pineapples

Full-Body Workout 
I'll readily admit that getting up this morning was quite painful and almost didn't happen. I forced myself out of bed though not exactly excited about tackling a full-body Pyramid workout. Sort of daunting at 5 am really. I did the warm up from Shock Cardio Cardio Core Circuit (cardio only premix) then hit the weights. It was a pyramid up only so I increased my starting weight. I topped it all off with the first 2 1/2 drills from the cardio workout. I ran short on time and was basically spent.

Squats into Plie Squats
Step Ups (seriously hate these especially at 5:30 am)
Incline Chest Flyes into Chest Press
Pullovers into DB Underhand Rows
Step Ups (freaking again)
Static Lunges
Overhead DB Press into Lateral Raises
Deadlifts
Kickbacks into Overhead Extensions
Hammer Curls into Alternating Curls
Calf Raises

I am so excited to report that my new cross-trainers and running shoes arrived today. Can't wait to test both of them out. I waited way way way too long to get new shoes. I know so much better than that too. I was just not wanting to shell out the dough on them. They say to change out running shoes every 6 months or 300-500 miles. I bought my cross-trainers and running shoes at the same time and plan on changing them out at the same time.

Do you remember to change your kicks? What's your favorite shoe for running and/or aerobics?

More Pineapple Anyone?
Last night I was fairly ambitious in the kitchen. While making Tuesday's dinner, I also made tonight's dinner. It involves pineapple again. Sorry, have to get it used up as it wasn't the best pineapple ever chosen. Hate it when that happens. I also had some poblanos that I wanted to use, but I wanted to do something other than my standard stuffed poblano. So, I came up with Roasted Poblano Black Bean Burgers topped with Pineapple Salsa and Lemony Carrot Salad on the side.

Roasted Poblano Black Bean Burgers
Ingredients:
2 poblano peppers
3 small or 2 medium carrots, rough chop
2 tbsp minced garlic
To taste: salt, pepper, oregano, chili powder, roasted tomato flakes (optional)
Flax seed egg replacer (1 tbsp milled flax seed + 3 tbsp water, microwave 30 seconds, stir and let sit until consistency of an egg)
1 1/2 - 2 cans black beans, rinsed, drained (I had some frozen and 1 can so this is a guess)
1/2 - 3/4 cup spelt flour

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut poblanos in half and de-seed and de-vein. Place on baking sheet and roast in oven until charred, approximately 25-30 mins. Remove and let cool before removing outer skin. Then rough chop.

In food processor, pulse carrots then add in peppers, garlic, seasonings and pulse until minced (but not mushy puree).

In large bowl, smash black beans then add in the carrot and pepper mixture, flax seed and stir to combine before slowly adding in flour to desired firmness.

Place on a prepared baking sheet (I used a silpat) and bake for approximately 1 hour flipping once.

Note: I will likely increase oven temp next time and see if that speeds up the cooking time.

Lemony Carrot Salad
Ingredients:
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp honey or agave nectar
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup plain no-fat Greek yogurt
parsley to taste (I had to use dried)
1/4 cup raisins (I used white)
3 cups grated carrots

Directions:
In large bowl, whisk together all ingredients up to the raisins. When dressing is combined, stir in the raisins and carrots. Allow to sit in fridge for at least an hour before serving for flavors to blend. Carrots will soften slightly as well.
I really enjoyed the flavor of the roasted poblanos in these "burgers." It wasn't overpowering or too spicy. But you knew it was there. It definitely paired well with the pineapple salsa. This is a keeper of a recipe!

Lisa @ I'm an Okie is having a note card giveaway. Her mother creates these awesome cards. You really should check them out!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

2 on Tuesday with a Side of Tofu

2 on Tuesday
This morning was painful, but I managed to get up and get in my workout. I didn't sleep well at all. I'm blaming everything on the time change. Anyway, I chose to do an easier step workout as Jason and I were planning a lunchtime run to take advantage of the nicer weather. I chose Low Impact Circuit - Cardio Only Premix. Again, one of the best things about the majority of Cathe's DVDs are the many premix options offered. This one is pretty low-intensity (though I do use 2 risers) and lasts just over 40 minutes. It was the ideal workout when a 5:30 am workout wasn't something I was overly excited about.

The weather, I thought, was supposed to be 64 and sunny. However, it was more like 56 and cloudy when we went for our lunch run. Let's just say that the weather sets the stage for how my run went. I was really looking forward to it. The last few runs have been great. Today, however, was not one of those fun runs for me. I felt like I was just all out of whack the whole time. I never hit a comfortable stride at all. Of course, this just made me mad at myself so that didn't help the situation. I ended up only doing 25 minutes. Of course, I had done 40 minutes of step in the wee hours of the morning, so I know, rationally, that didn't benefit my run at all.

I will look at the positives: spending time with Jason, getting to be outside of the office, added boost of energy. And speaking of energy, I was starved when I got back to the office. I pretty much inhaled my salad: roasted kabocha squash and black beans over spinach and red leaf lettuce with balsamic vinegar. Yummy and very filling.

Tofu Tuesday
As I admitted to my blogger pal Alicia at Vegan Epicurean, I spent a lot of time tossing and turning last night thinking of recipes and ways to use some items in my fridge. After lots of agreement on yesterday's post about pineapple being awesome, I started trying to think of some other recipes. Alicia suggested the combination of pineapple and miso. Hmmm, interesting. So I started my quest for a recipe using the combo. Here's what I came up with: Pineapple Miso Tofu over Shiitake Quinoa with Spicy Roasted Broccoli.

Pineapple Miso Tofu
Ingredients:
1 package extra firm tofu (frozen, thawed, then drained)
1/2 - 3/4 cup fresh pineapple, diced
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tbsp white miso paste
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt, pepper to taste
1 tbsp minced garlic

Directions:
Combine all ingredients minus tofu in blender and puree.

Cut tofu into slabs and layer with marinade. Let marinate at least 1 hour.

Either grill or bake tofu to desired crispness or firmness (I like my tofu to be really firm). I baked mine at 375 for 1 hour flipping once.

Shiitake Quinoa
Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
1/2 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstitute in hot water
2 green onions or scallions, diced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Cook quinoa per package directions.

Meanwhile, in non-stick skillet, saute scallions, mushrooms, and ginger in small amount of extra-virgin olive oil, then stir mixture into the quinoa. Season as needed with salt and pepper.

Remember my mention of loving to read product reviews? Well, any review on new things really. I have seen soooo many bloggers bragging, boasting, oohing and awing over nut butters. Confession time. I have yet to try any. I'm almost afraid I'll like them so much that I won't be able to stop myself. So, I've held back. With that being said, I'd like to share a giveaway for all the nut butter fanatics. Oh, and of course I'm hoping to win! Check out The Healthy Apple's Maranatha Giveaway for a chance to win!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday = Mid-Day Workout and Salsa Dinner

Mid-Day Monday Workout 
Ok, so the time change thing really sort of sucks. It was pitch black this morning when Jason's alarm went off at 5 am, at which time I promptly rolled over and dozed back off. It was STILL pitch black as I walked the 3 blocks to my office at 7 am. I know that I'll appreciate the additional sunshine tonight (especially since it is indeed sunny today), but the morning are really going to stink.

Since I didn't get up and do my workout this morning, I decided to do it during my lunch break. I went home and did Cathe's Shock Cardio Athletic Step and then an ab workout. It was nice to get the added boost of energy from a mid-day workout at least.

How is everyone else handling the time change?

Salsa Kind of Dinner
We bought a pineapple the other day so I decided to make a dish I haven't made in ages. It sort of reminds me of spring, probably the salsa aspect. Quorn Cutlets with Pineapple Salsa with Colorful Black Beans and Barley with Tomatoes. The recipe for the salsa is very approximate. It all depends on how much you want to make, how spicy you like your salsa, and whether or not you're a fan of onions.

Pineapple Salsa
Ingredients:
Diced pineapple 
Diced red and green bell peppers
Minced jalapeno pepper (1-2 depending on how hot you like it)
Minced red onion 
Fresh orange juice (approximately 2 tbsp)
Lemon juice (to taste)
Salt to taste

Directions:
Combine all ingredients then set aside in fridge to let flavors meld.

Colorful Black Beans
Ingredients:
1/4 - 1/2 diced red bell pepper
1/4 - 1/2 diced green bell pepper
1 tbsp minced garlice
1/2 - 1 minced jalapeno
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 green onion, diced
To taste: salt, pepper, cumin, cilantro, chili powder

Directions:
In sauce pan, saute bell peppers, jalapeno, and garlic in small amount of olive oil just a couple of minutes. Stir in all ingredients but green onion. Let cook until beans are warmed through then stir in the onions and remove from heat.

Tomato Barley
Ingredients:
1 cup barley
2 1/2 cups water or broth
2 green onions, diced
1 tomato seeded and diced
2 tsps minced garlic
To taste: salt, pepper, cumin, cilantro, lemon juice

Directions:
In sauce pan, cook barely per package directions. Then stir in remaining ingredients. (note, I only used half the barley as I was saving the other half for another dish. If you use all of the barley, you will want to double the tomatoes and onions.)

Serve salsa over Quorn Naked Chik'n Cutlets (or other protein) with beans and barley on the side, or top the barley with the beans.
I love this salsa as it's so fresh. It's easy to make it as spicy or sweet as you like. I think it works really well paired with the black beans and barley.