Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Recap

Hello and happy week after Christmas!  I hope all of you who celebrate, had a wonderful holiday.

I’m a little late with my cookie recap, due to our little one coming down with her first cold.  Which is a translation for baby being awake all night.  She is on the mend, and we are slowly cleaning up the Christmas aftermath.

First, let’s get back to the cookies.  My mom seriously makes THE BEST homemade sugar cookie cutouts.  They are not in any way, shape, or form, healthy, but that’s what makes them so d#$%! good!  Here they are after we did a quick and non fancy decorating. 

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I can post the recipe if anyone is interested.  Be forewarned, white sugar, white flour, and lot’s o’white buttah!

After we finished frosting cookies, we went on a little Christmas eve hike.  It was a beautiful day and we wanted to enjoy a little fresh air.  This is a great trail that is practically in our back yard.

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The rest of the evening we spent going to church, and enjoying some wine by the Christmas tree.  We made it to bed fairly early in preparation for Santa to come by. 

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Speaking of Santa, here is a little snack my dad prepared for us Christmas morning to hold us over until breakfast.  To really appreciate this you have to know that my dad has almost never set foot in the kitchen, let alone prepared food.  Pretty impressive eh?

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Santa was good to us all.  I got lot’s of fun stuff including some workout clothes, Lulelemon pants and tank, and this yoga bra.  I also received this new gym bag in my favorite color!

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And for the foodie in me:

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We have debated getting a panini maker for awhile, and always held back claiming that real estate in the kitchen was a bit to high to store this puppy.  But, we’ve just had the most amazing panini creations at our friends’ house, that we broke down.  I also justified the need with the idea that having a big griddle for making pancakes as Ava gets older would be nice.  muah, muhahaha.  Oh, and Ava got a little foodie gift as well.

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Shouldn’t be long before we will all be having some Mickey waffles and muffins.  Thanks Aunt Judy! 

The rest of the week we are laying low, doing a bit of shopping and errands, and getting back to the gym. 

What are your New Year’s Eve plans?  We are staying in for an early night of cooking a nice dinner with friends.  That’s what you do when one couple has a 5 month old, and the other couple is pregnant.  C’mon, entertain me with your plans!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Future Foodie in the Making

Later today I will share the recipes and photos from our baking extravaganza, but first I had to quick post one of the milestones in Ava’s life that we are particularly excited about…starting solids.

Last week I bought some of the Earth’s Best Whole Grain Rice Cereal.

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We decided to hold off until this week to try it, and let NeNe and Pops (Grandma and Grandpa) be a part of this big first.

We started by finding an opportune time between bottles, where I knew she could eat, but wouldn’t be starving and therefore get frustrated in the delayed gratification. It seemed to work, as she not only loved it, but tried to help feed herself with the spoon.

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Of course I’m already planning the days when we snack together on goat cheese stuffed dates, and lunch on arugula salads with roasted beets. OK, I really don’t eat like that, but it is fun to think of my little side kick helping me in the kitchen and enjoying food with us.

While all this excitement was going on in the kitchen, this bobcat was strolling around our back yard. Scott went out and captured a couple photos as he strolled to the front of the neighbor’s house.

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Not only do we regularly see javelina, and coyote in our neighborhood, now we occasionally get an appearance from bobcats, and mountain lion. Ugh, life in the desert foothills.

Next post – back to the food.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Little Christmas Baking

Hello bloggie friends!  How is your Christmas week going?  Is everyone a little giddy with holiday cheer?  I know we are looking forward to relaxing with family and enjoying our first Christmas with a little one.

In honor of the holiday season, and having my parents visit, I actually did some baking!  (If you haven’t followed my blog for very long, I hate to bake.  I am not into the preciseness that baking requires.  It reminds me to much of chemistry labs.)  However, I do love sweet treats.  I also want Ava to grow up with the tradition of some holiday baking and the house smelling of vanilla, chocolate and all good things sweet. 

I began the baking ventures the other day with Maple Date Bars.  It is an old Cooking Light recipe that I modified a bit more by using half whole wheat pastry flour and half all purpose.  I also substituted half of the sugar with NuStevia Baking Blend.  The results were just as amazing as the original recipe.  

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Mmm, mmm..good.  And healthy right, oatmeal and dates? haha

Next up was Magic Bars, or 7 Layer Bars depending on your area.  No picture yet, as they were baked last night and it was dark and I was tired when we took them out of the oven.  Stay tuned, as I will post those and the sugar cookie cutouts later today.  

Between all the baking and overeating of sweets quality control nibbling, I’ve also managed to fit in some tasty healthy eats.  Lunch yesterday featured leftover grilled veggies. 

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Eggplant, carrots, zucchini, brussel sprouts, and half of an acorn squash

Accompanied by some red quinoa with a few orange lentils for a protein boost.  Whoever says they don’t like vegetables hasn’t had them grilled! 

Activity:

Amongst the extra baking and present wrapping, I’ve managed to keep my pretty regular routine of exercise.  It makes me feel balanced and less stressed to keep some routine during busy times.  Yesterday I did another amazing hot yoga class.  Today, Scott and I took advantage of the nursery at our gym, and worked out together.  It’s so much fun to have a workout buddy.  We did our own sort of “bootcamp.”   40 minutes of alternating cardio and strength training.  We utilized weights, jump ropes, resistance bands and medicine balls.  It was fun and made the time fly.  Love that!  Not to mention, Peanut had fun having all the nursery aids to herself. 

Speaking of the peanut, last night our gym had Santa there for the usual Monday night happy hour they put on.  Here she is sitting on Santa’s lap.  We’re still not sure what she told him she wanted for Christmas.  ;-)

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Today’s baking adventures will be sugar cookie cutouts (with the help of my mom) and chocolate bittersweets.  I will post pictures and recipes later.  I also hope to get in a quick swim now that the babysitters, my parents are here. 

Are you already for Christmas

Thursday, December 17, 2009

No Need for Rice Paper

Gosh, this week went fast.  I guess holidays will do that to you.  Speaking of holidays, do you take time off your regular routine with the gym for Christmas shopping, holiday parties, etc?  Or do you like to keep one thing in this crazy busy time, routine?  I’ve been trying to keep up my normal routine, as I find it relaxing and overall I really enjoy exercise.  Never mind the fact, that since I’ve become a stay-at-home mom, it is time out of the house for myself

ACTIVITY

So, this week I’ve kept up my routine with strength training twice, hot yoga twice, and today was my favorite…boot camp!  One thing that keeps me motivated is to mix up what I do everyday.  I never do the same thing 2 days in a row.  I love the variety, as well it being good for injury prevention. 

Eats have been pretty boring routine.  However, I did have something new for lunch the last couple days.  I’ve professed my love of spring rolls many time in the past here and here.    The only thing that prevents me from having them more often is that between cutting veggies, soaking rice paper, rolling, these little buggers are pretty time intensive. 

Enter collard greens!  I had seen these on Gina’s blog and thought is was a neat idea to use those instead of bread for “wraps.”  But, since I like whole wheat tortillas, for sandwiches, I never really tried it.  Until, I bought them on sale last week, with no plan on how to use them.  An intense craving for spring rolls, created invention.

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Holy yum!   3 or 4 of these bad Jonnys make a nice light lunch.  For a dipping sauce I made my homemade peanut sauce yesterday, and today I had this crack, dressing.

Tonight for dinner, we had an old favorite, something we make at least once a week…homemade pizza!

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Homemade dough, Trader Joe’s pizza sauce, spinach, eggplant, tomato, mozzerella, feta, and black olives.  SOOO  GOOOOOD!!!!  Now, I’m about to hit the couch for some CSI action, and a chocolate chip cookie.  G’nite!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Is it really Monday already?

Hello!  How was everyone’s weekend?  Mine was bueno!  It started Saturday morning with the “12K’s of Christmas” race.   Everyone running got a Santa hat to wear.  Fun right? 

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It’s been a long time since I’ve ran 7.5 miles (like a few years?) but it felt great!  Afterwards we went straight to The Good Egg, where I refueled with some huge whole wheat pancakes.   ‘Twas the perfect post run breakfast.

Spent the rest of Saturday low key, wrapping Christmas gifts and picking up the house.  We discovered that the little peanut really likes wrapping paper.  Here she is “helping” me out. 

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I also finished frosting the vegan sugar cookies, that I baked on Friday.   I followed Mama Pea’s recipe, except that I subbed almond extract for the cinnamon.  I grew up on my mom’s cutout sugar cookies, which always tasted of almond and were everyone’s favorite!  I ran out of food coloring, so they are all white.  That’s ok, this was just a “test run” batch for taste.  We’ll be making the “real” cookies (for Santa and guests) this weekend.

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Sunday I did a strength training class.  I’ve recently started going to that Sunday morning class again, and it is so good!  I would never push myself that hard in the weight room, so it’s great to go get a full body workout that leaves you slightly rubbery feeling. :-)  We also braved the stores for a little more Christmas shopping.  I, I mean,  Ava didn’t last long…

We came home to start our “Seafood Sundays” dinner.  On the menu, Orange Roughy.  I know, I know, orange roughy is really on the AVOID list as far as fish is concerned, but it is truly one of my favorite fish.  That, and  I haven’t had it in over a year, so shoot me. 

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Steamed with a light soy sauce, saki, and mirin glaze and served over black forbidden rice with steamed veggies.  On the side more kale salad and a nice big glass of Clay Station Viognier!  The viognier was a perfect match to the meal too!  There’s just something about wine that makes dinner seem like a more “special meal.” 

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finally a chance to use my Poinsettia salad plates!

I made the kale salad with Averie’s Tahini dressing, and some chopped apple.  Delicious!  Loved the sweetness of the dressing with the bitterness of the kale. 

Do you enjoy wine with dinner?  What are your thoughts?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

Mmm…can you smell it?  It’s the weekend – almost here.  I love Thursdays, it’s almost like the anticipation of the weekend coming makes it fun.  My Thursday began with waking up to 37 degrees.  I know that may not sound cold to some of you in the midwest, but it the desert that feels pretty cold.  So, we haven’t done our normal morning walks with the dog, opting to stay inside and have hot tea. 

Activity:

After a cup of hot tea, I decided to do a little bit of strength exercises in front of the TV.  Scott had gone to the gym, so Ava had to go in the “Jumperoo” and watch me.  I figure we’re both getting a little exercise this way.

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I did about 35 minutes which included:

ABS:  3 sets of crunches, 3 sets of side planks and some “mountain climbers”

BICEPS:  3 sets of hammer curls with 8 lb weights, and 1 set of bicep curls with 10 lb weights

TRICEPS:  3 sets of skull crushers with 10 lb weights in each hand,

CHEST:  3 sets of “flys” and 3 sets of chest press, 10 lb hand weights >superset those

Plus a few squat/shoulder presses and a couple minutes of hoola hooping.  Yes, you read correctly, hoola hooping!  It’s an awesome core exercise and really gets your heart pumping too.

Later this afternoon I’m going to a hot yoga class.  I signed up at a studio with a trial – 2 weeks unlimited for $20.  This is an excellent deal, when usually it is $18 for one class!  I went the first time on Tues. and it was hard.  I have never sweat so much in my whole life.  The room is heated to 95+ degrees.  I have to admit, I felt pretty amazing afterwards, and even yesterday seemed to feel stretched and energetic as a result. 

EATS:

Last night we grilled a whole boatload of veggies and had some tilapia.  I didn’t photograph dinner, but it looked identical to the last time we had it, so here’s the old photo:

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(Insert fish above for the salmon here.)  and double the butternut squash portion.

Also, had a couple homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  Nom, nom, nom.   

Loved these grilled veggies so much that this morning I had a plate of leftover veggies with about a half cup of cottage cheese for breakfast.  SO GOOD! 

Since it feels a lot like Christmas, I’m going to bake up some Christmas goodies to warm up the house. 

Off to make some of Mama Pea’s vegan sugar cookies!  Check back to see how they turned out!

What’s your favorite Christmas/Holiday treat?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Seafood Sundays

Hi friends, happy Monday!  How was your weekend?  It’s a cold and rainy Monday here in Scottsdale.  It’s making me feel like curling up under a blanket with a book, or baking a batch of cookies to warm up the kitchen. 

I started this morning with a 35 minute swim.  I kind of like that as a Monday ritual, especially after my long (6 miles) run Saturday and weight lifting class yesterday.  I almost equate swimming with yoga.  I find the rhythmic laps and being in the water so calming.  I also feel like it is a good gentle-to-my-body kind of exercise.   So fun!  I’ll tell you what’s not fun though, getting out of the water and going into a freezing cold locker room.  What’s with having the a/c on in December? 

Now to backtrack to yesterday.  After my weightlifting class and before rushing out to spend the afternoon at the zoo, I made a quick lunch.  Spring rolls made in collard greens for the “wrap” instead of rice paper, and a bowl of butternut squash soup (Trader Joe’s brand.) I loved using a collard green leaf for the wrap.  More vitamins, and none of the fuss of soaking the rice paper.   I forgot to photograph, still not used to photographing as much of the eats.  It did the trick, as did a super large Honeycrisp (swoon) apple eaten about an hour later. 

Since it was “Seafood Sunday,” we indulged in a little halibut last night.  First, start with a glass of this:DSC01274

I love using my special Christmas stems. 

On the side I made roasted acorn squash.  I keep it pretty simple with just a touch of maple syrup and salt and pepper.

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While the squash was roasting, I put together this nice fall salad.  Lettuce and arugula from my garden!!  Along with persimmon, avocado, and jicama.  Topped with my homemade lemon poppy seed dressing

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For the fish, I put a sauce of sake, maple syrup, a bit of miso and fresh grated ginger into the pan.  Topped with a little seaweed and black sesame

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Here is my whole fishy-licious plate. 

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This was such a nice dinner, but we ended up eating in front of the TV.    Had to watch the Vikings vs. the Cardinals on Sunday night football.  I was actually rooting for both teams.  Growing up in MN, I was always a diehard Vikings fan, but I’ve lived in AZ for 13 years now… 

Anyhoo, in honor of Meatless Monday, I had my very favorite salad for lunch.  And now, I’m off to warm up the kitchen by baking some vegan chocolate chip cookies

How do you “warm up” and enjoy a cold, rainy day?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Another day, another 50 cents…

Oh that’s right, I don’t even make that much in my new career.  haha

I did however, get to go to my favorite class all week at the gym…boot camp!  I never got to do this class when I was working, because it is at 9:00 am.  It is by far my favorite workouts, combining drills of high intensity cardio, with bands and weights for get some muscle conditioning.  The hour flies by, and I leave a sweaty mess!  Tomorrow will surely be a rest day after 2 days in a row of higher intensity exercise. 

After class, Ava and I did some shopping, Babies R Us – style.  While it's not my favorite store (customer service has always been subpar) it certainly is convenient to get clothes, diapers, and sippy cups all in one place. 

I came home to make a little lunch for the hubby and I.  We are pretty much do sandwiches or salads most days for lunch.  Today I had my favorite entree salad evah!  This is definately a regular for me.

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Leftover kale salad, sugar snap peas, jicama, dulse, a little sliced onion, kelp noodles, and a crumbled chickpea patty, all over a bed of spinach.  Talk about getting your greens in!  But, the secret ingredient is really this…

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This salad dressing rocks!  The only place I can find it is Whole Foods.  Simple ingredients, and only 14 calories per tablespoon.  I would tell that I could drink it – seriously, it’s that good.  I have been known to stick my finger in the bottle to get every last drop.

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Of course, I had to keep Ava occupied while I built and ate this salad…

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Obviously, at this point, I started gulping down – she had reached her limit of solo play time.

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What is your typical weekday lunch?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NuNaturals Stevia

Hi bloggies – happy humpday! 

I started my humpday with a fantastic, (but cold) 5.25 mile run.  After taking a bit of a hiatus from running in the past year, I’ve been doing a little here and there in the past 1-2 months.  Usually, it’s low mileage (1-2 miles) and pushing the jogging stroller with Ava.  Let me tell you, pushing the stroller while running takes it up a notch.  This morning running alone,  felt easy.  I’m thinking of doing a race next weekend called the “12k’s of Christmas.”  Get it – a 12 K on 12/12.   Ho – hum, I’m easily amused.  I haven’t run more than 5  miles in a few years, but after running with the stroller, and with the momentum of the crowd, I think I can will do it.

Enough about me, let’s talk sweetners.  What do you all use?  Sugar?  Splenda?  Stevia?  Sucanat?  Recently, I received this package from NuNaturals.DSC01098

I have to admit, I haven’t been a big fan of stevia in the past.  I tried the Truvia brand, and it gave me tummy issues.  So, it was with great caution, (and with great isolation) that I gave the NuStevia a try.  Guess what?  No problem what-so-ever.  I tried the simple white Stevia powder in the packets first.  What I really liked, was that it was sweeter than sugar, sucralose, etc.  When adding one packet of sugar or splenda, I typically want to reach for another because, well, I like things sweet!  But after 1 packet of the NuStevia, I was fully satisfied on the sweetness.  I would definately recommend this product to patients, friends, or anyone that wanted to try an alternative sweetner.  As with any sweetner or alternative, moderation is the key! 

Have you tried stevia, if so, what brand and what did you think?

I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite easy appetizers to make this holiday season.  Doesn’t it look so fresh and festive?

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It’s so simple, all you do is take Belgian Endive leaves and spread with a Rondele type cheese spread.  I put cranberries on them or just sprinkle in the center.  Always a hit!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Meatless Mondays –Post Turkey edition

If you’ve read my blog in the past few months, you know at our house we go meatless on Mondays.  (And sometimes other days of the week as well.)  Well, after a weekend of indulging in lots of holiday yummies, it was the perfect day to start off with lots of detoxifying vegginess. 

But before I get to that, let’s talk about a little exercise, my other favorite way to detoxify.  I started the morning with 35 minutes of swimming laps.   As much as I love to swim, it is definately harder to motivate myself to get to the gym now that Scott and I have to trade off going, and watching Ava.    That said, it was good workout, and felt perfect after taking a weight lifting class yesterday, I was SORE.  In addition, Ava and I walked to the library for Tiny Tots Time, which is a little over a mile round trip. 

I have featured this recipe before, but to anyone new, I wanted to re-post because it is truly in the top 5 favorites for us.  Along with the salad of arugula, pom arils, goat cheese, and persimmon, it was the perfect fall dinner. 

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Chicken Breasts  Tofu with Spinach, Pears and Blue Cheese (Adapted from Whole Foods)


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 1 block extra firm tofu)
salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 large bunch spinach, washed, dried and tough stems removed (about 4 to 6 cups of the leaves – I used Swiss Chard)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 ripe Anjou pears, cored and sliced into 1/2" slices
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 ounces crumbled blue cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Season each chicken breast generously with salt and pepper. Add chicken to the skillet and cook until lightly golden on each side, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer skillet to the oven and bake until the chicken is done, about 8 to 15 minutes, depending on size and thickness of the chicken breasts.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium. Add onion and cook until just softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach and toss until wilted - if there is excess liquid, drain most of it away. Season to taste with salt and pepper - evenly divide the spinach mixture between 4 plates. Quickly wipe out pan and add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and vinegar. When heated, stir in pears and reduce heat to low - cook just long enough to warm the pears through. Stir in parsley. Slice chicken breasts and arrange them on top of the plates of wilted spinach. Evenly top each plate with the warmed pear slices and sprinkle each serving with about 2 tablespoons of cheese.
Makes 4 servings.

Note, because you are not using chicken, no need for separate pans and baking in the oven.  I did the tofu, chard and pears all in the same pan.

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I would add that this meal got in 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.    To add a little more cardio-protective benefit, I also had a glass of this wine.

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A yummy zinfandel that I found at Total Wine for about $8.  It was great, and at that price point, perfect for weeknight sipping. 

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Ava having a little play time on Thanksgiving morning. 

How do you get back on track after the holidays?