All smiles

September 28, 2012

Have you ever had one of those workouts, where you just get that perfect boost of endorphins and you feel like you could take on the world, if you weren’t already on top of it and you’re almost overwhelmed and may or may not almost cry (from pain or the endorphins, who knows, who cares).  Yeah.  My bodypump class was that good this morning and I am CONVINCED that this morning truly started with last night.  Because last night I set to work on listening to my body, which has had zip for energy and even less self-esteem.

I started with addressing my energy levels, or lack thereof.  While I’m fully aware that my body is probably trying to readjust to a full time workout schedule again, I also had this nagging thought that working out wasn’t the whole problem. So I took a good hard look at what I’ve been eating this week.  I was still eating healthy meals, but I’ve been on a clean the leftovers out of the fridge kick, so my greens and salad consumption have been down a bit – problem number 1.  And even though my meals have been healthy, I wondered if there may be a lack of protein and/or carbs thrown into the mix that was getting me down.  So last night, I whipped up aVegan Bread Pudding with some leftover Jalapeno Lime Cornbread I had made earlier in the week.  Ho.ly.Yum.

The recipe was a breeze to whip up and I used this as my starting point and adjusted with what I had in the fridge.  I ended up with a (jalapeno lime) cornbread pudding filled with some sauted mushrooms, onions and spinach.  I was a little unsure of the “tofu custard” but I liked how it would incorporate more protein in my meal and in the end, it was perfection.  I scarfed down 2 pieces and definitely could’ve had more.  Clearly, my body was craving the carbs AND the protein.

One of the best parts about the bread pudding, was that in automatically incorporated a 35 minute window for workouts (which turned into 20 minutes for a workout once I got dressed and out the door).   Even though I was feeling pretty tired (remember, this was before dinner), I tried my luck at a treadmill workout.  I figured a full 20 minute run wasn’t in the cards for the night, so I incorporated two separate workouts into one, hill and speed intervals.   It looked a little something like this:

update:  all of the “mph” should have been “minute miles” and have been changed to reflect that.  Sorry to disappoint anyone who thought I was running 10 mph – jeepers! Thanks to Mike for the heads up!

0-3 minutes – run  10 minute mile (6.0 mph), incline 0.0

3-5 minutes – walk, 4.3 mph, incline 7.0

5-7 minutes – run 9.5 minute mile, incline 1.5

7-10 minutes – walk, 4.3 mph, incline 7.0

10-12 minutes – run, 9.0-8.5 minute mile, incline 2.0

12-15 minutes – walk, 4.3 mph, incline 7.5

15-21 minutes – run, 8.5 -9 minute mile-8.0 minute mile

I ended up with 2  miles, a great booty busting hill workout and a great way to work my way back into some speed.  The 20 minutes was up in NO time.  Strangely, I found this to not only be a great workout, but I knocked it out with some …um…piano music, simple, relaxing piano music.  Even though I was sweating and loving every minute of it, it was 20 minutes of self-centering and relaxed focus. I felt so amazing afterwards and with the breadpudding masterpiece at home, I was one happy camper last night.  Topped it off with football, tea and some homemade biscotti.

So in case you ever feel down in the dumps, whip up some bread pudding, pop in some relaxing music and get your sweat on.  Guaranteed cure for EVERYTHING.

And as always,

cheers to Friday, friends 🙂

xo

A “How To” Post

September 27, 2012

How to make some love you for always in just a few simple steps (see also, how to  reverse your workout in just as many steps).

 

 

 

 

 

Boom.

recipe and some help

Spicy Eggplant Pasta Sauce

September 26, 2012

In the game of Katie’s life, last night was a solid point for me. I got in a much needed run, did some chores, and spent some time in the kitchen. The night ended with kitty snuggles and a cuppa tea. I’m working on a cold, so I’m hoping last night’s evening of sweat, accomplishment and relaxation will help boot it to the curb before it takes up permanent residence.

Now. Let’s talk pasta…

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to put in a good faith effort in coming up with some of my own recipe ideas.  That being said, a lot of my inspiration comes from recipes I find either here on the web, in a cookbook or when I’m out to eat.  This dish is no exception.

While I was home this past weekend my mom, husband and I were out to eat and I had my eye on the Vegan burger (!!) or the “WHOLE WHEAT SPAGHETTI WITH SPICY EGGPLANT SAUCE”.  When my first choice came back as a bust (who runs out of Vegan burgers??), I didn’t feel too badly about ordering the pasta that boasted a red sauce comprised of tomato, spring onion, pepper, red pepper.

I didn’t take a picture, but what came out was a little disappointing.  The pasta was pretty heavy on the olive oil and I could count the pieces of eggplant that I saw on my hand.  The pieces were pretty small and didn’t add much flavor.  As for that red sauce?  there were less flecks of red than there were pieces of eggplant – and the spice factor was pretty non-existent.  I don’t know if I caught the restaurant on a flop night, because usually their food is pretty good, but I left with an unsatisfied craving for a thick, hearty and heavy on the spice pasta sauce, simple but delicious.

So, I decided to make my own.

Lets see, thick, hearty and heavy on the spice?  Check, check and checkity check check.  Fun noodles?  Werd.

Katie’s Spicy Eggplant Sauce:

1 medium eggplant, cut into about 1 inch chunks – I left the skin on mine, but you could always peel it if you prefer.

1 28 oz can Crushed Tomatoes (I used the can with Italian seasoning added)

2 hot red chili peppers –  seeded to taste and diced (I seeded 1.5 peppers and left some seeds in for the heat)

2 tsp ground pepper

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp liquid smoke

1/2 tsp maple syrup (optional, i’m not sure this added much)

1 tsp garlic powder

4 tsp ketchup

2 Tbsp Tamari (Optional)

To make the sauce, I salted the eggplant for about 30 minutes (note: this is the perfect time to sneak in an after work 3 miler.  It felt SO. GOOD.) and sauted it in a splash of olive oil until they started to get a bit translucent, mushy and are letting off some of their own liquid.  In goes the crushed tomatoes and 1 of the chili peppers.  After letting that simmer for a few minutes, I used my handy dandy immersion blender to blend up some of the eggplant into the sauce.  I wanted a slightly chunky sauce, with lots of visible eggplant pieces so I made sure to stop once I hit the consistency I wanted.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, you could achieve the same effect by putting half of the sauce into a blender and leaving the other half chunky.  After that, I just added the rest of the ingredients and let it simmer together while I got the rest of the meal together.

The pepper and liquid smoke really gave this a deep and, for lack of better term, smoky tone, without losing the heat.  I originally added the maple syrup to try and balance the spice, but in the end I don’t think this did much, but I started to get there with the ketchup.

I could’ve easily thrown in some spice mixes that I have (Chinese Five Powder, Tandoori, Turkish, Cajun, etc) to give me the same idea of heat, but I wanted to see if I could achieve the flavors I wanted flying solo.    Brandon and I both really enjoyed this, especially with a side of garlic toast and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast.    I think too, that some nutritional yeast would taste pretty good mixed into the sauce as well and next time I think I’ll add that and some diced onion to the mix!

This certainly isn’t your everyday jar of Marinara, which my husband was quick to point out (in disappointment, I might add), but then again, it wasn’t meant to be!  I’m pretty excited that I could take a disappointing experience and turn the lingering craving into a reality!

Where do you get your inspiration from?

xo

Redemption

September 25, 2012

After this weekend’s kitchen flop-a-palooza, I was in some serious need of culinary redemption.   I’m pretty hard on myself, so I wanted to get back in right away on Sunday night, but if I’ve learnt anything, its to never. EVER.  cook when you’re angry.  And Sunday definitely fit that bill.

Enter, last night’s dinner.

 

“Cheezy” Quinoa stuffed Portobella Caps.

I wasn’t following a specific recipe and they certainly weren’t perfect, but I’d say they definitely fall under “redemption” category.

Cheezy” Quinoa Stuffed Portobella Caps (Makes 3 bella caps)

1/2 cup dry quinoa, cooked according to instructions (I used a rice cooker)

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

3 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast (I think?)

6 Tbsp Almond Milk

2 Tbsp Flour

Cherry Tomatoes, sliced (optional)

3 Portobella caps

Salt & Pepper

Instructions:  While the quinoa is cooking, saute the onion and garlic until translucent.  Add the cooked quinoa, milk, flour , Nutritional yeast, salt & pepper on low heat and stir until combined.  You can tailor the amount of milk (and nutritional yeast) to your preferred taste and consistency.  Clean your bella caps of all the “gills” to leave room for stuffing, massage in some olive oil (*See notes below) and pile it in!  I topped my stuffing with sliced cherry tomatoes to brighten up the flavors just a bit and baked the caps at 350 until they were done (no more than 25-30 minutes).

Served with a side of sauted zucchini and squash, these were a perfect way to start off the week!

 

They just look good.  🙂  Needless to say I was pretty proud of how these turned out.  The past few times I’ve made stuffed bella caps, they haven’t stayed “stuffed” very well.  I think scraping the inside of the ‘shrooms out prior to stuffing them really helped and minimizing the liquid without sacrificing some creaminess helped to maintain that “cheezy” consistency.   That being said, there are a few things I would change when repeating the recipe.

The bellas were juicy, but I didn’t marinate them in anything before I stuffed them so they didn’t have a lot of flavor.  To change this I’m thinking of one of  the following options:

1.  Balsamic Vinegar

2.  Earth balance

3.  Hot sauce

4.  layer the tomatoes

I don’t think I’d marinate the whole shroom before baking, but I think a dash of vinegar or hot sauce (depending on the flavor you’re going for) or a little slap of Earth Balance in the cup of the mushroom would help add some flavor to each bite.

One of my favorite parts of this dish was the little slices of tomatoes.  They really do brighten up the flavors quite a bit and I found myself wanting a little tomato in each bite.  So next time I may layer the bottom with one large tomato slice to make that happen.

I think something that I’m particularly proud of is that even though these weren’t perfect, i’m ok with that – because I have ideas on how to make it better.  Which is a whole lightyear ahead of where I was even just a few short months ago.

xo

 

What comes after “Z”?

September 24, 2012

 

source

After some headaches, some major kitchen fails and a few outbursts that I am not proud of, the goal for this week is to step away from plan A and be ok with working my way through the alphabet.  1 down, 25 more letters to go.

Happy Monday!

xo

Do you Detox?

September 21, 2012

There’s nothing like a scary eternity moment on one these

 

To make you head for a set of these.

 

Last Friday I had a not so pleasant experience on an elevator.  It probably serves me right, considering I work on the 3rd floor, but was just too lazy, shy, embarrassed to ask, in order to find the steps.  Needless to say I have been cured of that little quirk, right quick.  I’ve taken the steps each day this week and beyond not having to worry about the (however unlikely) doom of an elevator crashing to the ground with me in it, I am surprised at how much this small change has helped me to feel  physically.  I feel just a little slimmer, a little stronger and definitely a little more proud (ok ok, this one is a mental plus, but that counts too).

Then, in yoga on Wednesady, we did an autumn detox class in preparation for the upcoming equinox (tomorrow).  It sounds scary, but it was an extremely satisfying class of compressions and twists to help our body eliminate residual toxins.  I found a few articles while reading up on the idea of detoxing in the fall and what I found was pretty interesting. 

A lot of people consider detox to be a spring thing, to sort of help wake our bodies up from a long winter.  So why do it in the fall? From what I’ve read (here and here), from the Yoga perspective, fall is the perfect time to remind ourselves to slow down and recollect ourselves. We’re adding on to our schedules, we’re still pretty hyped up from summer and we’ve got a long and physically stressful winter coming up – so its time to prepare for that.  Another analogy that really struck with me is thinking of it in terms of a harvest.  By the end of the summer, the major fruits and veggies and flowers have run their course and its time to clean away the remnants and prepare yourself for the next growing season in the spring.     

Although I’m not sure yet how I feel about the traditional detox route for myself, personally – I do like the idea of finding ways to eliminate toxins, whether its mental/emotional, physical or nutritional.  Which comes full circle to my elevator/stairs story – a detox.   Confused yet? 

I’ve decided to take a bit of a different approach to a detox and eliminate a few habits by replacing them with some better ones.  The idea being that small changes can add up to a big difference in how I feel.  So…

Instead of taking the elevator, I will take the steps – I’ve already mentioned feeling the benefits of this change.

Focus on workouts I enjoy, instead of ones I think I should do – I have been telling myself I’ll start up a spin class (6 am!) that’s offered at my gym.  The idea came to me when I was low on cardio.  For two weeks now I’ve packed my gym bag and for two weeks my body has revolted and refused to get out of bed at 5.  But come Mondays and Fridays I am out of bed and off to the gym for my early AM body pump classes – what gives? I gave it some hard and serious thought this week.  I’ve taken spin before, I know what to expect, so it wasn’t a nervousness of the “unknown”.  Then I remembered, I took spin with my friend, but it never really resonated with me.  I was never dying to get back to the next class.  So then why was I so eager to try this class?  Partially because I love the instructor and I think that kind of environment is a great way to start a morning, but if I was 100% honest with myself, the root of this decision was based in a negative habit of exercising simply to burn calories. I had been in a cardio slump and feeling the negative effects.   Once I worked myself out of that slump the right way (tweaking the diet, getting some sleep and settling back into a workout routine) I realized I wasn’t doing any of these things to burn calories, but because I enjoyed them.  Lesson learned, back burner that spin class until its something I’m in the mood to do.  Instead, I’m going to replace it with workouts I’ve been looking forward to, pump, yoga and some hiking and biking outdoors!

A glass of water each morning (and afternoon and night…):  When I wake up I reach straight for my coffee cup and nothing makes me look forward to a morning more than that first sip.  And trust me, I’m not going to get rid of that pleasure anytime soon – but what I will do, is drink a full glass of water before I do anything else.  I’m also making it a goal to replace nothing with water.  I tend to make it through a whole day without a sip of anything except my coffee in the morning. So I will replace that drinking nothing, with drinking more water.

Nutrition:  I’ve always said that I eat a pretty healthy and balanced diet.  That being said, I don’t really feel the need to eliminate any particular food.  But what I will try to do is eliminate even more of the processed foods and try for more whole-food, homemade, etc.  Homemade desserts (I’m lookin at you apples), homemade bread (best way to control the dairy and egg consumption in store bought breads is to make.your.own.), MORE GRAINS.  I don’t eat enough whole grains (perhaps I should start labeling the jars so I know what is what…) and I’m going to try to have some every day.  Mmmm. 

So that’s my plan for a self-moderated detox this fall.  But in the spirit of traditional detox (because they tend to be for a set amount of time and a little more stringent).  I’ve set the following two goals for myself starting tomorrow for a full week:

  1.  Find time to do yoga or meditate for a few minutes each night – this will help detox any negative thoughts or stress I have lingering around.  One of my favorite yoga poses is a seated twist, so I know what I’ll be starting with tomorrow!
  2. Whole grains each day, ideally for breakfast – if I’m honest with myself, this probably won’t happen, at least for breakfast each day.  But I’d like to prepare a dish of whole grains with some greens to start my morning with (maybe with some beets or sweet potatoes?) yumm and at the very least gobble down at lunch or with dinner.

Two may sound wimpy, but I know me – and I know these won’t be easy to accomplish.  Does anyone else have some detox goals to start off the fall with??

Xo

PS:  If you’re looking for a way to get in a real fall detox Savory Simple has a giveaway going on to help make that happen.  Check it out!

Dinner is served

September 20, 2012

Move over Big Macs, this veggie burger has got its own special sauce!

This weekend I made a batch of homemade veggie burgers and threw ’em in the freezer for a quick grab and go meal this week and I have to say they did not disappoint!  One of the biggest issues a lot of people have with a vegan or vegetarian diet is the cost of some of the foods.  Its true that that the pre-packaged and prepared vegan/vegetarian options can be extremely expensive for what you get.  Luckily its easy to throw together a big batch of veggie burgers and save them for a rainy lazy night.  The small effort you put in on a weekend or evening to make the patties is more than worth the money you save!  And the possibilities are endless with what kind you can make. 

But what really put the meal over the top was a homemade sauce that I whipped up in an attempt a) use up an avocado that was on its last legs and b) to make the quick and easy meal a little more than your standard veggie burger fare – (sorry, the sauce was camera shy – but you can see a little peeking out on the top bun)

Special Sauce

1-2 tbsp sundried tomatoes (in oil)

1 ripe avocado

A splash of apple cider vinegar

A drizzle of tahini

A few generous dashes of hot sauce

(I may have thrown in some maple syrup too to offset the acid, but I can’t be sure…)

Whir it up in a food process and season to taste.  The end result was a nice thick sauce that you could put on burgers or even let it thicken up in the fridge and use as a dip for crackers (guilty). 

 I love the rich flavor of sundried tomatoes and for an in a jiffy sauce, this came out really well.  Even Brandon enjoyed it.  I’m not sure why I threw in what I did, and reading it it sounds like “errm….that doesn’t sound appetizing at ALL”.  But definitely a fun way to use up an old avocado without having to throw it out! I’m trying to use up foods and dishes instead of throwing out – bring on the creativity!

I served my burgers with some caramalized onions/mushrooms, spinach and mustard (natch) with a side of sweet potato fries. 

xo