Archive | November, 2012

Out of the Ordinary

30 Nov

Happy Friday!!!! I don’t know about you all, dear readers, but I thought the end of this week would never arrive. The Thanksgiving holiday was just enough to get me into the routine of not working and this week has been an unwelcome transition. If only I had won the lottery…

So yesterday, I did something pretty out of the ordinary – for me, anyway.

IMG_1537[1]Yep, I got on the treadmill and ran. My friend Ellen is convincing me to sign up for the Jingle All the Way 8k in Washington next weekend and I figured that I should probably try to run five miles before the race. I haven’t been on a treadmill (or been running, in general) since Labor Day, so you can imagine that I was feeling a bit rusty. My heart rate and breathing were fine, but I ran more slowly than usual and ended up calling it quits before the five mile mark because my left knee was acting up again. I am definitely going to get it looked at by my PCP when I’m in Seattle.

On my way home from the gym, I walked by my festive neighbor’s house and they have their Christmas decorations up!

IMG_1538[1]I am refusing to do anything Christmas-related until December (tomorrow, yay!), which includes listening to my Christmas music on Pandora, but this little preview made me super ready for the holidays. It also means that Stef and I go back home to visit in three weeks!

December always marks winter for me, even though winter doesn’t technically start until the end of December. For me, winter means soup and so I fiddled around with a soup recipe last night that I want to share with you. It’s a take on pasta and bean soup, which some of you may know as pasta e fagioli in Italian. It’s a hearty yet light soup that’s filled with all kinds of yummy ingredients like cannelloni beans. Now, this is not the most traditional pasta e fagioli (it uses whole wheat pasta, for starters), but I promise that it still tastes good! Especially when you pair it with a crusty loaf of olive and herb bread for dipping.

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Pasta e Fagioli (vegan!)

What you need:

  • (1) 16 oz. can of kidney beans (drained)
  • (1) 16 oz. can of cannelloni or navy beans (drained)
  • (1) 16 oz. can of diced tomatoes (with liquid)
  • 4 oz. dry pasta (traditionally it’s elbow pasta or tubettini, but I use whatever is on hand)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. of each dried thyme/sage/rosemary
  • 32 oz. vegetable broth
  • Grated parmiggiano-reggiano to top (optional)

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What you do:

  1. Saute onions and garlic with olive oil in the pot you’ll be using, until onions are tender
  2. Add broth, tomatoes, beans, and herbs. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and let simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Add dried pasta to pot and bring back up to a boil and cook until pasta is al dente, about 10-12 minutes.
  4. Top with grated parmiggiano-reggiano (optional) and serve with a nice loaf of crusty bread to dip in the soup!

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The great part about this soup is that it can be modified in so many ways. You can include whichever kind of beans you like, whatever kind of pasta you prefer, and it turns out wonderfully, regardless! I love putting a few shavings of parmiggiano-reggiano on the top so it can melt into the soup and add a little saltiness, but if you want to keep it vegan, all you have to do is leave the cheese off.

I can guarantee that this meal is going to be in heavy rotation in the upcoming months on this blog, so keep an eye out for the different variations that pop up on the blog!

What do you have planned for the weekend, dear readers? Stefano and I are planning to go ice-skating at the National Gallery of Art tonight. I haven’t skated in a million years and I have only skated in an outdoor rink once, so I’m looking forward to it. There is a Christmas tree lighting in my neighborhood tomorrow evening and then I’m headed out with some friends to go see the White Ford Bronco show. They’re a 90’s cover band and they play some awesome classics, like Will Smith’s “Miami“, Eve 6’s “Inside Out“, and even some N’Synce. It’s fabulous.

Before I sign off for the weekend, I want to make a HUGE shout-out to one of my oldest and bestest friends, Rosa, because today is her birthday. She and I met in after-school day care when we were about seven years old and have been friends ever since. Since we had similar features growing up, she and I always dressed up for Twin Day (remember those themed days in school?) together. We have a mutual love of the Beatles, pound cake, and good books. Rosa is living in the Big Apple now and is in graduate school for social work and just generally doing great things with her life. I am so excited to go up there and visit soon! She came to visit me when I was living in Rome and I had such a good time showing her around the city. We even took a day-trip to Naples with a couple of my friends so she could try authentic pizza from the source! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, love you, girl!

537846_10151466073670085_735900414_nAnd with that, it is time to sign off. Have a wonderful last day of November, catch ya next month!

 

 

 

 

 

Bottom of the Barrel

29 Nov

Soooo, there was frost on the windows of the cars outside my house this morning….is it that time of year??? The leggings under my work pants have become a regular thing now and I am seriously considering going back to Urban Outfitters to buy those panda ear warmers I found.

It is slim pickings in my refrigerator and I am scraping the bottom of the barrel for meal ideas until I do my regularly scheduled Trader Joe’s date with Stef tomorrow evening. Lunch yesterday was basically a deconstructed, veggie-only version of the salad I had for lunch the day before.

The cucumbers are in there, they’re just hiding at the bottom of the container!

I also slathered some hummus on a sandwich thin to get some whole grains in, too!

My usual Wednesday Body Pump workout was more exciting than usual, because I had my new friend Allison join the class! This was her first class and she really enjoyed it, so I’m hoping that she’ll be making an appearance at those with me. It’s so much fun to have a gym buddy!

As I was telling Allison after class, I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner. Lo and behold, when I arrived home, I stood in front of the refrigerator for a solid five minutes, trying to figure out what I could put together. This is what I ended up with:

What you see is steamed cauliflower, which has been mashed with plain Greek yogurt and topped with salsa, salt, and pepper. On the side was a slice of my roommate’s homemade bread. It actually tasted great, but turned this weird shade of salmon after I mixed it all together. Not the most aesthetically pleasing meal I’ve ever had, that’s for sure.

Post-dinner, I snuggled up on the couch with a blanket and watched a few episodes of The Kennedys on Netflix. I’m a total history nerd and the Kennedy family is so fascinating! For ultimate coziness, I added a big mug of vanilla and cinnamon tea and some toast with peanut butter and honey.

Amazingly, I was in bed before ten though, thanks to the New York Times and Pinterest apps on my phone, I didn’t actually turn out the light until around eleven. I love browsing the fitness pages on Pinterest for new workouts on the rare occasion that I decide to actually do my own, instead of going to a group class.

I pulled out the frozen berries for breakfast, which turned another one of my meals salmon pink, but it was in a yogurt bowl, so it looked a little more appealing.

That was the last of my honey Greek yogurt, so I will have to do without until tomorrow evening. If you are a Trader Joe’s shopper and need a yogurt flavor, the honey Greek yogurt is just wonderful. I like to mix it with some plain yogurt so I’m not consuming too much sugar in the morning, but the subtle sweetness is perfect.

Today was day two of walking to work! It was a little colder than yesterday morning, but the sun was shining and the stroll was pleasant. Ear warmers would have definitely come in handy, though. Christmas present, anyone? 😉

Speaking of Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa – Eid has already passed!) presents, is there anything in particular people are asking for this year? I usually have a Google doc set up for family so they can get an idea of things I’ve been looking at and I can add to the list when something occurs to me, which saves me the stress of coming up with ideas right before the holidays. I find that “stuff” becomes less appealing when you have a full-time job, because I usually end up just buying something for myself if I’m really needing it or have been lusting after it for awhile. Plus, the whole idea of material goods has become less important to me as I’ve become more nomadic. Having moved houses every year since I was 18, I am desperately trying not to amass large quantities of anything because it makes moving, a task I dread to begin with, significantly more difficult.

Food For Thought: If you’re celebrating a holiday where gift exchange is traditional, what is on your wish list?

Have a wonderful Thursday, everybody!

In Real Life

28 Nov

I decided to switch things up this morning and walk to work! Normally I take the bus (and in rare cases, the Metro), but today was so beautiful and Google Maps said it would take 45 minutes, so I decided to give it a go. I made sure to bundle up before I left the house because last night was unbelievably cold – chattering teeth and purple nail beds definitely made an appearance. Armed with a hat, scarf, and gloves, plus leggings underneath my pants, I headed out. Luckily for me, the 2.5 mile walk to work is completely downhill and I made it there in 40 minutes – about the same time it takes me when I’m on public transportation. New goal: walk to work when the weather is nice and only take the bus/Metro in inclement weather. The walk definitely energized me and I came into the office feeling much cheerier than I usually do at 8:30 in the morning.

Speaking of morning, I have been waking up about 10 minutes before my alarm every day this week. This has given me a few extra minutes in the morning to read the New York Times on my phone while sipping a gigantic mug of tea. This morning, it was accompanied by some maple walnut oatmeal.

Maple Walnut Oatmeal

  • 3/4 cup old fashioned raw oats
  • 1.5 cups water
  • couple of tablespoons of maple syrup
  • handful of crush walnuts
  • sprinkle of chia seeds

Simple. Tasty. Works for me!

Want to know what else is simple and tasty? The lunch I made yesterday, which was leftover from dinner the night before.

Guyysssss, you have to try it! The combination of flavors just really clicks for me – it’s classically Mediterranean. I’m going to call it a Mediterranean Tuna Salad and here’s how it goes:

Mediterranean Tuna Salad

  • 1 can garbanzo beans (drained)
  • 1 can tuna (drained)
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced lengthwise and then chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions? Mix it all up. This made two servings for me and I eat a lot, so it might even work as three servings, if you supplement it with something else. It took me all of five minutes to make and works really well on its own or inside a pita or wrap. Seriously good eats.

I was still deciding on which group class I wanted to attend while walking to the gym after work. I had made up my mind to go to Spin, but I remembered that you needed to sign up for a bike beforehand and I didn’t want to be that jerk who took somebody else’s bike. Instead, I popped into the class next door which was Zumba. You might remember that I had previously talked about some of the Zumba classes no longer getting my heart rate up, so I wasn’t expecting anything particularly strenuous. Workout-wise, it would have been a better decision to go to boot camp, but a good thing did come of the class: I finally met Allison of Wicked Healthy Washingtonian in real life! I started following her blog after discovering we went to the same gym and she introduced herself to me after class. This was the first time I had met somebody I met through the blog in person and I felt like I already knew her after reading her blog over the past few weeks. Needless to say, she is as wonderful in person as she is online and it was great fun to finally meet. She’s taking her very first Body Pump class tonight and I am really excited for her because I think she’s going to love it. At least, I hope she does! I’m always trying to get more people to jump on the Pump bandwagon 🙂

The walk home from the bus last night was brutal in the cold and I needed something hot for dinner. I may have turned on the stove and warmed my hands while I was prepping for dinner. I was feeling the protein, so I did a simple scramble with three eggs, lots of frozen veggies, and a Trader Joe’s sun dried tomato and basil chicken sausage.

A little salsa on top and wrapped in a whole-wheat lavash, it was the perfect dinner to warm my insides. Especially when immediately followed by a really hot shower. Does anybody else feel tempted to shower just to warm themselves up in the winter? I am particularly bad at regulating my body temperature, so hot showers are something I eagerly anticipate in the colder months.

I hope everybody is off to a great start to their day – it is pretty incredible how much more energy I have this morning. Cheers to getting your walk on!

Food for Thought: How do you usually get to work/school? Does morning exercise make a difference in your energy level during the day?

Back on the Wagon

27 Nov

Good morning, sunshines! It’s not sunny at all over here, actually. There was a light mist when I left the house this morning, but I didn’t have to wait for the bus in the rain, thank goodness!

After all of the Thanksgiving festivities over the weekend, it felt good to get back on the healthy eating wagon. Lunch was all about plant power and I loaded my plate with an assortment of veggies, an apple, and fatayer (a Middle Eastern flatbread).

The plate looked so pretty with all the bright colors of the vegetables and filled me right up, thanks to all of the fiber. As I explained to my mom on the phone last night, my stomach was not super copacetic with all of the rich, heavy Thanksgiving dishes. After several months of clean eating, I could definitely feel the effects of the butter and starch-heavy foods I had been consuming. Don’t get me wrong, I love stuffing and mashed potatoes and all the other Thanksgiving yummies, but meal after meal of said yummies definitely took a toll on my body and I was more than ready to welcome the veggies by the end of the weekend.

I headed over to the gym right after work to get my Pump on. Now that the sun is setting so early, it is dark outside by the time I leave the office and it feels much later than it actually is. Luckily, I walk straight to the gym and don’t have any time to talk myself out of a workout. If I had some down time at home before my classes, my gym attendance would drop faster than the Hope Diamond into the ocean (I’ll never let go, Jack!).

I was pretty eager to get to class so I could get my sweat on and also to test out my new kicks!

The shoe is the Nike Dart 9 women’s shoe and there is a similar men’s counterpart, as well. It’s meant to be a cross-training shoe and designed for low mileage (20 miles a week, or so). Since I’m not a runner, I don’t have to be especially picky about my shoes and I picked these because they were lightweight, breatheable, and came in a cute color. Priorities, right?

We had a substitute Body Pump instructor in class who had only been teaching for six months or so. He was a good teacher and definitely gave a good workout, but you could tell that he hasn’t really come into his teaching “style” yet, as he felt very technical. I felt the burn on the arm sets and the triceps and biceps got quite the workout!

By the time I walked in the door to my house, I was majorly craving some protein and threw together a quick tuna and garbanzo bean wrap. Grape tomatoes and Persian cucumbers were on sale at the grocery store, so now I have way more of each than I could possibly wanted. Maybe some cucumber tzatziki sauce is in order this week?

1 can of each garbanzo beans and tuna, a Persian cucumber, a handful of sliced grape tomatoes, a slightly-larger-than-necessary piece of feta cheese, and a drizzle of EVOO later and I had a ridiculously easy salad to wrap up in a whole wheat lavash. PLUS leftovers for lunch! Love that.

This morning it was back to the yogurt bowl, BUT I mixed it up by tossing some thawed frozen berries in the mix for a pop of flavor and color.

Frozen berries are really the way to go – they’re significantly cheaper than fresh berries and they’re accessible all year round. Plus they’re so versatile! Heat them in a saucepan with some sugar and you’ve got a great berry sauce for pancakes or French toast, toss them in frozen with some yogurt and soy milk for a quick smoothie, or thaw them out and put them in your cereal.

I haven’t decided which workout I’m going to do today – I have the option of yoga, boot camp, Zumba, or Spin. I love that the gym offers so many classes for us to try, it’s impossible to get bored!

Food For Thought: What is your favorite shoe for running or cross-training? Do you use different shoes for each?

Have a wonderful day!!

 

Thanksgiving Weekend Recap

26 Nov

Hello!!!! How I have missed all of you! Like many, I took Thanksgiving and the subsequent weekend off of blogging and blog reading so I could spend time with my loved ones. As you know, Stef and I didn’t go home for the holiday, but managed to create a wonderful Thanksgiving of our own with a friend who was also staying in town.

To recap, I’ve created a fun little collage of some of the weekend highlights.

Do you see that gorgeous turkey in the middle? It was made by yours truly! I am so, so happy it turned out well! It was an 11.5-pounder and all remains of it had disappeared by Saturday at lunch. We went hard on the leftovers, as evidence by my pictures. It is safe to stay that I am Thanksgiving food-ed out for awhile – until next year, at least! We had a wonderful meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes,  and cranberry sauce. We kept it very traditional, but didn’t want to make too much food, since there were only going to be three of us. We managed to fit in an apple and a pumpkin pie, though.

After eating ourselves silly on Thursday, Stef, my roommate, and I spent most of Friday up in the forests of Rock Creek Park, where we fit in a good 4-hour hike. It was a brisk day, but the sun was out and I thoroughly enjoyed getting my body moving after being sedentary for most of the week. I had a great time hiking through the woods and leaping from rock to rock across creeks – it brought out my inner Pocahontas!

It was so nice to spend a long, long weekend with Stefano, after only getting two days out of every week together. It never ceases to amaze me that we still have so much fun together after this many years. We spent a lot of time watching Scrubs, taking walks around the neighborhood, and we each bought a pair of new running shoes! Neither of us are huge shoppers and we definitely didn’t get in on the Black Friday madness, but we did manage to take advantage of some sales that were going on through the weekend.

It has been six (YES, six) years since I have had new running shoes and I would say that I was looooonnng overdue. I’m not a huge runner, so I didn’t ever put that many miles on the shoes, but they have been around a long, long time. After accidentally stepping into Rock Creek during my rock leaping (okay, so my Pocahontas could use a little work), I decided that it was finally time to retire them. It is the end of an era.

Speaking of running shoes, I am so looking forward to getting back into my regular gym routine this week. Last week, I hit Body Pump on Monday and yoga on Tuesday. Aside from our long hike on Friday, I stayed away from exercise because a) I was worried about some knee pain I was experiencing and b) I was busy prepping for Thanksgiving. I haven’t spent this much time away from the gym since I moved to the city at the beginning of July. It certainly felt strange, though I constantly amaze myself at how easily I can fall into a routine of sitting around the house, doing nothing. 

Today it is back to the Pump and I am excited! I’m hoping my knee pain doesn’t flare up again. If it does, I think a doctor’s appointment is definitely going to be on the books.

Wishing you all a VERY happy start to the week!

Food For Thought: What is longest amount of time you have gone without exercise recently? On an unrelated note, did you participate in Black Friday? Any good finds?

 

 

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