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Archive for April, 2012

Hello again!

I just polished off a fantastic weekend visiting two of my dearest girlfriends in Richmond, VA!

My travel accommodations there and back left something to be desired, however, to say the very, very least.

Excited for a steal, I spent $50 to take the Apex bus roundtrip from Chinatown to VA. I’ve taken the Bolt Bus several times before to Washington, D.C., and I just assumed that Apex would be a similar experience…

It made an a*s out of…only me.

CATCH THESE AS I THROW ‘EM ATCHA: Potential roach infestation, duct-taped bathroom door, trash-covered, soda-sticky floor, blasted air conditioning…on an already cold bus, and the thick unmistakable scent of  stale, deeply fried food.

Needless to say, I cannot exactly recommend the Apex bus, except for the mere fact that it is an absurdly cheap way to travel, and it offered me the opportunity to meet some lovely folks! Amazing what you can learn about someone on an 8-hour bus ride.

Today I have a SUPER easy, why-didn’t-I-do-this-before recipe to share with you all! So easy that I whipped up a batch last night, after dragging myself and my rolly-suitcase through the subway post-bus adventure.

First things first though, some snapshots from my Richmond visit! I really was living in the moment this weekend and did not take a ton of photos, but hopefully the below will give you an idea of the fun we had!

Or the fun I had entertaining myself at the gas station rest stop. Go big or go back North.

Triple Threat to my eyes at 1 am on Friday–Berkley’s Beautiful Bed!

Kath’s boyfriend’s dog Maggie, who kept a rather loud night vigil slept in the room with me.

Bright and early Saturday–my first BARRE BURN class

There’s been serious buzz about Barre Burn recently, so I jumped at the opportunity to try it out with Kath and Berkley!

What is Barre Burn? “It’s a total body workout that slims your hips, tightens your thighs, lifts your seats and mobilizes your metabolism. Utilizing ballet movements, intelligent isometrics, challenges in rhythm, range of motion and progressive core training, your body heals, tightens, strengthens, so you look, feel and move better!”

VERDICT: I absolutely adored this class. Leaves your muscles screaming for mercy in the best way, without the intensity of most strength workouts. Equinox offers a few classes, and I am DEFINITELY adding it to my fitness routine!

You’d better believe it. Post-burn, Kath and I hit up the annual Richmond WOOFSTOCK Festival! This is an adorable event for a fantastic cause, and I’m so glad we stopped by to support it!

Gentle Giant–One of the many sweet pups up for adoption.

A kinship discovered.

Snack attack at Sweet Frog! Me: Vanilla,White Chocolate Macadamia nut and Cake Batter fro-yo, with Reese’s Cups, Snickers, coconut and peanut butter sauce. HIT THE SPOT.

Kath: Irish Mint and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, pound cake, raspberries, unrecognizable chocolatey goodness

Richmond dreamhouse-spotting

Afternoon delight with our friend Lacy  from UVA!  Manchego, goat cheese, crackers, champagne, a hand, antlers.

I didn’t snap any shots at Berkley’s engagement party out of respect for the betrothed couple, but it was a total blast! Replete with signature Mojitos,  famous local cupcakes, and an ADDICTIVE nut/cheese spread–Berks lemme know if you figure this one out!

Droolworthy leftovers from Sunday brunch at Kath’s boyfriend’s parents’ home (you with me?!). Everything was scratch-made and out of this world! Buttery cinnamon coffee cake pictured.

Chicken-salad comfort for the bus-riding soul.

The STAR of the brunch didn’t make it to my camera before my mouth, but I feel fairly certain that these homemade HAM BISCUITS were laced with the same ingredient as the nut/cheese spread.

Somethin’ like that.

Powered by an incredible meal and a potent combination of fear and revulsion, I said goodbye to Kathleen yesterday at 1 pm and boarded the Apex bus back to NYC.

8+ hours and multiple hand-washings later, I was back at my apartment NEEDING to make something fast and delicious to mask the odorous memories of my journey. I’ve been getting down to the wire on my  Justin’s Maple Almond Butter packets, previously praised here and here, and as I scoured my pantry I realized I had all of the ingredients to make my own!

 So I thanked the stanky-bus for inspiration and I didn’t look back!

MAPLE VANILLA ALMOND BUTTER

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups roasted almonds*
  • 1.5 tbs  maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (my stellar addition, not in Justin’s)

*NOTE: If you start with raw almonds, toss your almonds in maple syrup, and roast in a 325 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, tossing once. Allow to cool completely after removing, and proceed with the rest of the instructions.

Process your almonds for about 5-7 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed until completely smooth.

Don’t be alarmed! For the first few minutes, it will clump up and rattle around like a hamster

Battle of wills.

Eventually, however, your FP should do its job and turn your nuts into a lovely, creamy consistency!

Hoosyerdaddy.

At this point, add the maple syrup, salt and vanilla extract and process again for another minute or so until ingredients are fully incorporated.

Makin’ magic.

Now sample your gorgeous nut butter straight-up, feel all become right with the world, and empty every last bit into a Tupperware container.

Owe you one.

I savored 2 tbs of mine this morning on a whole wheat English muffin, paired with cottage cheese that I mixed with strawberry jam and strawberries!

The warm scent of maple syrup made me feel like I was eating pancakes at work! Perfect way to lick my bus wounds start a Monday.

Much as I love Justin’s, it will run you a pretty penny, so I’m psyched to have created an equally-scrumptious homemade version.

I haven’t been able to get my baked Parmesan chicken tenders out of my head, and I have a TON of the cheese/breadcrumb mixture left, so I’m headed out to the grocery to pick up ingredients for a new batch!

Have a wonderful Monday night :).

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Guess what?!

I’m spending SIX hours on a bus tonight! WHEEE!!!

Have I lost it? Did I make it to Friday in body only?

Nope! I’m pumped for this bus ride, because it’s taking my booty down to Richmond, Virginia to spend the weekend with two of my best friends in the world! You met Berkley last weekend, and this trip to VA was prompted by her engagement party, which will take place tomorrow night at her family’s beautiful farm.

I’ve also mentioned Kathleen before briefly, but a refresher can’t hurt!

Playing Eloise in a luggage rack. Completely normal 24-year-old activity.

Kathleen is one of the wittiest people I know, shares my habit of perpetual nail-biting, and we have been known to turn down social invitations because we are so thoroughly enjoying sitting in silence together, chewing away.

Hurts so Good

Dunno how I got so lucky, but Berkley and Kathleen live together, and I cannot wait to get there and give them both enormous hugs!

In case ANYONE remembered my Protein Friday promise from last week–I haven’t forgotten!

But first, I just have to share my awesome eats from yesterday, which inspired this week’s protein focus. Everything was lipsmackin’ good from start to finish (snacks not included).

Better than melted butter on warm bread? I defy you. Whole wheat English muffin (lightly toasted so innards stay doughy :)) schmeared with butter and honey, plain Greek yogurt with Splenda, cinnamon and sliced ‘naner!

Cannot get enough of this house-cooked, uber-rare melt-in-your mouth roast beef. On whole wheat with provolone, lettuce, pepper and mayo. Veggies on the side.

Leftover Parmesan Baked Chicken Tenders on a whole wheat tortilla with sliced Gruyere, hummus and a drizzle of the tender recipe balsamic vinaigrette. THIS WAS CLOSE YOUR EYES WORLD IN SLOW MO GOOD.

Spinach salad with a low-fat Chipotle dressing that I got for free at work and red pepper flakes

Freebie dressing – I was NOT a fan of this. Sickly sweet and didn’t have nearly enough Chipotle flavor

1-2-3 Cake with Protein Frosting 2.0, minus the cool whip and with a tsp cacao powder added! Several spoonfuls of each made a detour to my mouth before I could assemble this.

My delectable breakfast and dessert and my not-so-delectable ranch dressing imposter inspired me to make GREEK YOGURT the topic of this Protein Friday!

Trifecta of my favorite brand.


I have touted the magic of Greek yogurt briefly before on this blog, but it is SUCH a nutritional powerhouse, especially in the protein department, that I decided it deserves more thorough attention.

Greek yogurt is yogurt which has been strained in a cloth or paper bag or filter to remove the whey, giving a consistency between that of yogurt and cheese while preserving yoghurt’s distinctive sour taste. Removing the whey results in a higher protein and lower sugar content (Wiki).

One serving of plain or unflavored, fat-free Greek yogurt provides 80 to 100 calories and 15 to 18 g of protein!!! (LIVESTRONG.com (a site I use frequently and have found to be reliable/informative):

The daily recommended amount of protein for women is 46 grams–2 servings of (some brands) of Greek yogurt, and you’re basically there!

And a looker t’boot!

I realize that not everyone enjoys the somewhat sour taste of Greek yogurt, BUT its protein punch is only matched by its versatility, and plain Greek Yogurt is a marvelous base for an endless variety of recipes.

I have found that with the right additional ingredients, you can completely mask the sourness and simply enjoy its creamy texture and nutritional offerings.

To jumpstart your creative juices, here are some of the ways that I like use/doctor Greek yogurt to keep things tasty and exciting!

  • Frosting/cake batter pudding: probably my favorite way to eat GY :). For the simplest version, just add two teaspoons of sugar-free instant Vanilla Jello pudding to a cup of yogurt and mix thoroughly. This is amazing globbed on top of baked goods, or just eaten straight-up with a spoon. If you wanna get fancy, you can check out my official recipe for Protein Frosting 2.0. If you like protein powder, you can check out the original Protein Frosting recipe as well.
  • Sour Cream: if you do not have an aversion to its unadulterated flavor, GY makes an excellent substitute for sour cream. I recently used it on my Furritos, but it will do the trick in any instance where you’d normally use sour cream.
  • Mayonnaise: GY also does an excellent job moonlighting as mayo! Feel free to get creative and add whatever spices/condiments you like. Add dijon mustard and sweet paprika for egg salad, or honey mustard and a pinch of ginger with chicken salad. Mix with sweet chili sauce, BBQ sauce or pesto to provide a protein-rich and creamy base for your favorite deli sandwich. Sky’s the limit!
  • Veggie Dip: You can create an infinitely better ranch dressing the the one I sampled above–just add 1-2 tsp of ranch seasoning from a packet to a cup of plain GY and stir. So delicious as a dip for veggies, pretzels, you name it. This also works with taco seasoning if you have a hankerin’ for Southwestern flavors. Or just add a bit of salt, pepper, squeeze of lemon juice and dried dill to taste–equally delicious and great on crackers with smoked salmon.
  • Breakfast’s best friend: I often use GY as the main protein source in my breakfasts. Throw it into a Green Monster or other smoothie–this also adds a lovely thickness. Add a bit of sweetener (agave, honey, Splenda, jam, pumkin butter), and top with dried or fresh fruit, whole-grain cereal, nuts or granola. I almost always include a generous dash of cinnamon, which is a natural sweetness-enhancer, and I love grapes and bananas as toppings because of their naturally high sugar content.  Strange as it might sound, try mixing 1/3 c GY (doctored to taste) with 1/2 c cooked oatmeal or quinoa. Super yummy and satisfying! Lastly, you can also swirl in a scoop of peanut or almond butter–this is fabulous on apple slices.
  • Oil or butter in baked goods: Greek yogurt can be a healthy alternative to oil and butter in many recipes for cookies, cakes, quick breads etc. It provides the same  (if not more) moisture, while drastically reducing the saturated fat and skyrocketing the protein content. It is not always advised to replace at a 1:1 ratio (e.g. 1 c butter should be replaced with 1/2 c butter and 1/4 c yogurt), so do some research before making any changes to the recipe!
  • Frozen yogurt, the real stuff! I haven’t tried it yet, but I recently stumbled upon a recipe for raspberry frozen Greek yogurt that sounds phenomenal. Just throw one cup of plain GY, one cup of frozen raspberries and 2 tbs of powdered sugar in your food processor and blend! I’m sure this would work with other frozen fruit as well. I also stumbled upon this awesome recipe for chocolate frozen GY, which I’m definitely trying soon!Let me know if you try either of these and I’ll certainly do the same!

I hope some of these ideas were helpful, and have inspired you to add more protein to your diet through delicious variations on Greek yogurt!

I’m heading off into the highway sunset, so have a fabulous weekend, and I will report back on Monday with my Richmond adventures!

What is your favorite way to eat Greek yogurt?

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THIS JUST IN:

I made THE most delicious BAKED chicken tenders last night, with a surprisingly killer dipping sauce:

It’s ALWAYS the right time for me

Whoops, couldn’t help it my b!

Lemme try that again.

Proud batch delegate.

Oh yeah, that looks about right.

Last night was Nellie’s and my turn to host the “Current Events Club” dinner! Every month or so, a group of my UVA girlfriends  get together at one of our apartments, and the hostess cooks dinner. We drink wine, catch up on each other’s Current Events, and enjoy a delicious homemade meal!

Unfortunately with our busy lives, I might otherwise go months without seeing these girls, so the CEC has turned out to be a really wonderful ritual.

Keep up the good work!

This week had been jam-packed, so I knew that I wanted to make something simple and with a comfort-food vibe. I’d seen a zillion recipes for baked chicken tenders and had always wanted to give ’em a whirl. The iron was hot!

I settled on a recipe by my girl Giada de Laurentiis

Smiling’s my favorite!

I LOVE Giada. I really do. Despite the fact that this was the only non-cleavage baring picture I could find:

  1. Her recipes taste fantastic, are (somewhat) innovative, and are easy to re-create.
  2. She has an infectious enthusiasm and positive attitude that make me excited about life!

I was intrigued by Giada’s recipe for Parmesan baked chicken tenders, which receives rave reviews and includes a balsamic vinaigrette dipping sauce rather than the usual BBQ or honey mustard?!

Mad genius.

       3. Girlfriend’s a little crazy…and I dig it!

I modified the recipe a bit, but stuck with the vinaigrette idea and IT.IS.SLAMMIN.

PARMESAN BAKED CHICKEN TENDERS

Chick:

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 lb chicken tenders
  • 1 cup toasted panko breadcrumbs with homemade seasoning (see below or you can use Italian pre-seasoned.)
  • 1 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

Self-Seasoned Panko:

  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp chili powder (or cayenne)
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Combine spices in a small bowl and add to breadcrumbs. Toss to distribute spices evenly!

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs honey-my addition but I think it’s key 

Mash the minced garlic with the salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the vinegar and then the remaining 1/2 cup of oil. Whisk in the honey. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with pepper. Transfer the vinaigrette to a small serving bowl.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Brush 1 tablespoon of oil over each of 2 heavy large lined baking sheets. Place the buttermilk in a large bowl. Add the chicken tenders and stir to coat. Let stand AT LEAST 30 mines, preferably overnight.

Buttermilk bath–available for humans?

Optional: before adding seasoning, toast your panko by heating it in a large medium-low skillet for 5-8 minutes. Stir constantly until it turns a golden brown. Toasting the panko will make your tenders crunchier, but they’ll taste great either way!

Stir the seasoned panko and Parmesan in a shallow baking dish (pie, cake etc.).

This combination of spices and cheese smelled amazing

Remove the chicken tenders from the buttermilk and dredge them in the bread crumb mixture to coat completely, pressing to adhere. Arrange the coated chicken tenders on the prepared baking sheets, spacing evenly. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over the chicken tenders and bake until they are cooked through and golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.

Turn your chicken tenders halfway through the baking time. I did not do this and some of their poor fannies got scorched! Thankfully, the crunchy brown bits were still super yummy :).

Tender lil thangs!

I was THRILLED with how these bad boys turned out–moist from soaking in buttermilk, crispy and incredibly flavorful from the seasoned Panko/parmesan mixture!

Dipped in the outrageously tasty vinaigrette? FUGGEDABOUTIT.

Nellie and I served these with a delicious spinach salad:

Tossed with dried cherries, orange wedges, toasted sliced almonds, feta and Brianna’s Blush Wine Salad dressing

And Annie’s Organic White Cheddar Mac n’ Cheese !

Shells come to life.

Great job on the sides, Nellie!

We ended the night with Edy’s Chocolate and Vanilla fro-yo and a toppings bar! (Oreos, Samoas, M&M Minis, sweetened coconut flakes and gummy bears)

The night was a huge success–everything tasted incredible, everyone went back for seconds, and we had a blast gettin’ Current on each other’s lives.

What is your go-to recipe for entertaining a group?

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This month,  I decided to participate in the Peanut Butter Fingers Book Club, created and organized by one of my favorite bloggers, Julie!

April’s choice was The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, and I loved having the incentive to read more carefully than usual, knowing that I would write a review and hopefully discuss with some readers?! [ALWAYS feel free to comment on my posts :)].

While we’re on the topic of Julie’s AWESOME blog, I recently completed a great new workout, which I modified slightly from one I found on Julie’s site.

Sweat AND Get Strong Combo Workout!

I did this 2x, using a mix of 8lb and 5lb weights, and then completed the strength portion a third time sans burpees. If you’re not sure WHAT THE HECK a burpee is, you can find a comprehensive description and video  here. I really loved the combination of strength and cardio in this routine, and it definitely got me huffin’ and puffin’!

Onto the review! First, a quick synopsis:

The Book Thief  is the story of Liesel, a German girl left with foster parents just before the outbreak of World War II. Along the way to her new home with her younger brother, he dies; after the funeral, Liesel steals The Gravedigger’s Handbook, though she cannot yet read. It’s only the first of what will become a series of book thefts. As she settles in with her harsh but caring foster mother, Rosa, and kind foster father, Hans, Liesel gets to know her poor neighborhood and learns to read. Her obsession with books grows as the war closes in, rationing is put in place, air raids begin, and Hans hides a Jewish man in the basement. Through it all, Death travels the Earth, taking in more and more souls every day.” (Common Sense Media)

Right off the bat, I knew that the narrator of this novel was a professional. His voice takes command of each page;  it oozes confidence. A professional what took me a little longer to figure out, but with a Chapter 1 entitled “Death and Chocolate”, there was no way this was his first rodeo.

Colorful and haunting, his words are often displayed bold and centered on the page:

“A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors.

Waxy yellows, cloud-spat blues. Murky darknesses.

In my line of work, I make it a point to notice them.”

Gripping, yes?!

When I realized that the narrator IS Death (I did not read a summary of the book before starting), Zusak’s choices for his narrator’s voice made perfect sense.  Death IS a professional of the highest degree. Who has practiced his trade longer? Repeated his work more times and in a greater variety of scenarios?

This is the kind of thought process that this book provoked in me.

This is not just a story about a story, this is book about words and the power of language. Under the most atrocious of circumstances, the protagonist Leisel Meminger is captivated, punished, healed and ultimately saved by the stolen words that she reads and by the words that she writes.

“She was battered and beaten up…Her eyes had blackened. Cuts had opened and a series of wounds were rising to the surface of her skin. All from the words. From Leisel’s words.”

As a GREEN blogger, constantly amazed by my own and others’ reactions to my words, this novel hit home. I felt Leisel’s need to learn to how to read and to nourish her longing for words, even through stealing.

My favorite aspect of this book is the development/portrayal of Death’s character. Death is revealed as exactly that, a character or person that is relateable. Death is NOT the enemy here. Despite his wisdom and the usual certainty in his voice, he is not omniscient. He expresses disgust towards Hitler and confusion towards God. He is deeply invested in Liesel’s life.

God.

Twice, I speak it.

I say His name in a futile attempt to understand. “But it’s not your job to understand.” That’s me who answers. God never says anything.”

I think I will choose to view Death in this way. Aside from folklore and fairy tales, there is no reason for humans to think that Death is terrible, evil. Grief and loss are what we really perceive as fear of Death. I am thankful to Zusak for introducing me to this perspective.

It is probably evident that I enjoyed this book! Along with the above, Zusak does a phenomenal job painting the characters in Liesel’s world–you know them and care about them. There are no boundaries between author, narrator, and character.

A drawing by one of the characters

My one caveat to potential readers of this book is its darkness. As you may imagine from the synopsis above, this book is founded on incredibly dark subject matter, and there is not always a light at the end of the tunnel. If you are someone who has a difficult time “leaving it at work” so to speak, you might want to approach this book with caution.

I can honestly say that I have never read a book like this before. I would recommend it anyone who is in the mood to have their beliefs and perspectives set at a tilt!

Have you read The Book Thief? If so, what did you think?

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Thank you Presence

A little over two months ago, I thought I had a solid sketch of where my life was headed. I was with someone, and I imagined that “with” continuing for the foreseeable years to come and–I dared to say it–the rest of my life.

Specifics are unnecessary, but suffice it to say that all of the above changed quickly and unexpectedly, and I found myself blinking, mouth agape, a 26-year-old-deer-in-headlights facing an uncomfortably wide open future.

Brighter is BAD, right?!

I realized something in a  sharp, poignant way--we ONLY have TODAY.  Despite how much control we think we have over the future, there is truly nothing that we have dominion over except this very moment. REAL TIME.

Thus, the birth of my blog! It was something I’d been wanting to do for a long time, but thoughts of potential consequence, of future reactions to making myself  so vulnerable deterred me.

When I was able to move my furry hiny out of oncoming traffic, I not only knew that I couldn’t worry about negative opinions, I knew that I really wasn’t worried about them. As it goes–those that mind don’t matter.

So, I went for it!!

Me to you: Reward > Risk

There are a lot of things that I hoped to get out of my blog, and they have all materialized into wonderful truths so far. But one thing I was not expecting was  how effortlessly the blog would keep me living in the present.

Because I want to share my life with you all AS it happens (to the best of my ability) I am joyfully aware of the now in a way that I have not been since childhood!

What an incredible gift, huh? So, I think it is only appropriate that I say…

To my blog AND my READERS, I cannot thank you enough for the pleasure that you have brought to my life. Since experiencing the world with greater presence of mind, it has become a sunnier, softer and more beautiful place.

Tough stuff exists, there’s no doubt about it as I hitchhike to the nearest gas station. But the vast majority either already happened or hasn’t happened yet. Most of the NOW is really fabulous!

With that sentiment in mind, here are a few edibles that I enjoyed every-single-solitary-moment/BITE of the last two days!

Breakfast = hands down favorite meal! Yesterday: Whole wheat English muffin with butter and a drizzle of honey; Plain Greek yogurt with cinnamon, Splenda and sliced grapes. GRAPES + YOGURT = OUTSTANDING

Today: Multigrain toast with pb and cinnamon, cottage cheese with strawberry jam mixed in, organic red delicious apple

Melt-in-your mouth house-cooked roast beef on whole wheat with lettuce, Swiss, and leftover sundried-tomato mayo from last week. I actually complained to my co-worker when I finished this sandwich (veggies and hummus peekin' in the corner!)

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Bar: Caramel with black sea salt, 70% cacao

No Bake PB and J Bars! I'm obsessed.

Tonight, a friend and I are picking up  sandwiches from Lamazou, a highly-acclaimed specialty meat/cheese shop in Murray Hill, and taking them with us to the movies (standard NYC practice) to see 21 Jump Street! Should be a great night.

See you soon!

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Good morning! I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend.

You know how there are times when you meet someone, and it’s as if you’ve always known each other? It’s a special chemistry that applies to romantic relationships and friendships alike, and in my experience, it is both extraordinarily rare and extraordinarily wonderful!

This weekend, one of those “Insta-friends” came to visit!

Test of time

Berkley and I met during the sorority rush process my freshman year of college, and although we were supposed to try to chat with as many people as possible, we only had eyes for each other!

Berkley is the kind of friend I couldn’t lie to if I tried–she can read me in an instant, knows the ugly and loves me anyway, and although life has placed us in different parts of the country,we always pick up right where we left off.

This was evident the moment she came through my apartment door on Friday to the intoxicating scent of a 1-2-3 Cake! Berkley had specially requested one of these beauties outrageously delicious cakes, and I HAPPILY obliged.

Sans sprinkles with chocolate protein frosting: 1 c plain Greek yogurt, 1.5 tsp sugar-free instant vanilla pudding, 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tsp agave. 

Berkley was primarily in town for a friend’s engagement festivities, but we had a BLAST in the time we spent together! Thankfully, I had brunch plans with Rachael’s parents at PEELS to look forward to when Berks and I parted ways Sunday morning :(.

This weekend was a JAM-packed (note: Foreshadowing) whirlwind, but here are a few snippets!

Saturday Brunch at Delicatessen with Berks and her old/my new friend Elena. Standard but delicious brunch fare

Me and Elena: Spinach and mushroom omelet which we added GOAT CHEESE to, home fries and multigrain toast/jam for the table (unpictured).

Berkley: poached eggs and bacon, homegirl’sfries and toast

Pat-myself-on-the-back bargain find:

Validation for impulse checkout purchases

I absentmindedly sniffed the above perfume while waiting in the Zara checkout line with Berkley, and I’m tellin’ you, this is a DEAD-RINGER for Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue, one of my absolute favorite scents that’s too expensive to buy on the reg. This tube was $5 and will last for a loooongg time.

Slurped down a coupla these!

Tried my first and last-ever Balance Bar (peanut butter flavor). Picked this up for a protein boost, but hould have checked out the nutrition first. Chemical-saturated ingredient list and high sugar content (17g). Ew.  At least my nails look really good.

On Saturday afternoon, I had my second volunteer orientation session at Animal Haven! I’m officially a purple-tee wearing volunteer and cannot wait for my first shift.

Sunday brunch at Peels: LOVED spending time with Rachael’s family, but not Peels’s strongest showing. Mediocre service and you needed a magnifying glass to see the Daily Market Quiche, which came without sides.

SLAMMIN’ biscuits and jam though

After Sunday brunch, with the NOR’EASTER that is blowing through the East Coast right now (we got complacent, didn’t we?), the only thing that sounded good to me was BAKING!

I was SO disappointed by that Peanut Butter Balance bar, and knew I could make something with a solid protein punch that not only tastes better, but has a list of ingredients I can pronounce and count on (less than!) ten fingers!

Thus, the birth of these High-Protein, No-Oven-Required, SCRUMDIDLYUMPTIOUS Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars!

A Tasty Mouthful

I used this incredible recipe by Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows as my inspiration. Definitely check out Angela’s site–her’s was one of the first blogs I read, and she is also the mastermind begin the Green Monster Smoothie revolution!

HEALTHY NO-BAKE PB & J BARS:

CRUST:

  • 3/4 c roasted unsalted almonds
  • 3/4 c roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 1.5 c regular oats (I used quick cooking steel-cut oats this time, but have made this crust with regular and I think I prefer the regular)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 large Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 c coconut oil (you can sub canola)

FILLING:

  • 3/4 c Peanut Butter (I used crunchy unsalted Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/3 c JELL-AYYYY (it just has sass, you know? Used TJ’s Strawberry!)

This recipe is WAY easy. The one crucial element is a food processor or a really good blender.

Line a rectangular pan (I used 8×5) with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Add the almonds, peanuts, oats and salt to your chopper of choice and process until a fine crumble forms. Next add the dates and and pulse until incorporated. Add oil (melt first if using coconut) and process until the mixture is sticky and can hold shape when pressed. If necessary, add a bit more oil until you achieve the desired texture.

Jammy Jewels!

Smooth Operator.

Remove mixture from the processor, set aside 1 cup for the top layer, and press the rest FIRMLY into the pan. I used my palms to cover more surface area.

Next, just pour your peanut butter and jam on top and schmear around with a knife until evenly coated! My PB&J sandwiches are always peanut butter heavy and lighter on the jam, but if you like an even pb to jam ratio, use 1/2 c pb and 1/2 c jam.

As far as the eye can see

Lastly, cover the filling with the remaining cup of crust, cover with saran wrap/aluminum foil and pop in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

Do as I say, not as I do.

Cut into bars and serve! Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer.

THESE BARS ARE UN-FLIPPIN BELIEVEABLE! I could NOT STOP coming back for forkfuls throughout the afternoon.

The front-page news?! Packed with good fats, protein and natural sugars, these are actually healthy enough for a snack BUT sweet and decadent enough to satisfy a dessert craving!

People-friendly. Just let me sniff your hand first.

I brought one to work with me today (stored in fridge), and I’m literally counting down the hours until I can devour it as my pre-workout fuel!

Have a great Monday guys!

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HAP-PY FRI-DAY!!! (birthday tune)

Patented

This week FLEW by for me! And I know we’ve all said it countless times, but how quickly the weeks and years go by! I cannot believe that I am going on FOUR years post-graduation.

I must say though, with rare passing exceptions, I have never wished to turn back the clock and repeat any of my younger life stages. Sure, there were wonderful and unique elements to each, but being young is also HARD! The vulnerability and confusion–the not knowing of it all–this only seems to get better with time, and with each passing year I feel more confident and comfortable in my own skin. As for the changing landscape of our faces and bodies–bottom line people, NO ONE gets an E-Z Pass, and that’s good enough for me :).

Just Join ‘Em!

Not that it hurts to do whatcha can to keep the clock at bay (the old fashioned way) :).

These last few weeks, I’ve had to squeeze my workouts into a more narrow time frame than I would ideally like, but I’ve managed to get a few good ones in! In particular, I’ve found myself gravitating towards the following:

  • The arms-related portion of my Monster Workout, combined with light cardio. I’ve found that I can almost always fit in the arm exercises from this routine when I’m running low on time but feelin’ the need for a little burn!
  • This Interval Treadmill Blast, which guarantees me a nice sweat and endorphin rush
  • The Women’s Health Supersets that I posted about this past weekend. I absolutely LOVE this workout. I haven’t run across many other routines that can be done from home without equipment and are actually challenging!

Please let me know if you give any of these a try and/or having any questions about them!

Today, some delectable meals got me through AND got me thinking…

Breakfast: 2 tbs pb and a schmear of Bonne Maman jam on a toasted whole wheat English muffin, cup of vanilla soy milk and a banana!

Lunch: Juicy roasted turkey, avocado, romaine and sundried tomato mayo on toasted 12-grain bread. Side of carrots sticks dipped in more mayo-mixture!

Just.sounded.good.

This morning, when I went to the office kitchen to rummage for breakfast, I was planning to have a cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with my pb&j for an extra protein boost. I am totally spoiled by our kitchen, which is STOCKED with fabulous healthy eats Monday-Thursday. However, occasionally Fridays are slim pickins,  and I was completely thrown off when neither of my anticipated protein sources were available!

I ended up supplementing a cup of vanilla soy milk, but I was still hungrier more quickly than usual, and the incident served to reinforce the importance of protein! 

NOTE: I am NOT a registered dietician or other health professional, but from my own research and experience, two elements CRUCIAL to a woman’s health are:

  1. Weights/strength training IN ADDITION to cardio
  2. Protein to repair existing muscle tissue and allow new muscles to grow AFTER weights/strength training

Neon warriors!

Unfortunately, I know a lot of women who don’t LOVE filling their diets with meat and struggle to find tasty, easy protein alternatives. So, I’ve decided to start PROTEIN FRIDAYS!

Every Friday, I will pick a non-meat protein source and share a handful of simple recipes that I enjoy, which highlight the star of the show! I hope that this will spur your creativity to experiment with new ingredients OR ingredients that you’ve discarded as boring and/or difficult to prepare.

I thought I’d start the tradition with one of the latter…another dietary hall-of-famer that makes up in nutrition what it lacks in the glamour department.

I present to you, the incredible, edible egg! 

Just one lil’ medium-sized egg, according to the Egg Nutrition Center (least somebody’s lookin out) has SIX grams of protein! If you’re watching calories, there are only sixty cals to go along with that protein punch. A force to be reckoned with! Check out the website for more info: http://www.enc-online.org/.

I adore eggs, but with the eggception (went there) of trendy brunch dishes, I think eggs are underutilized in all three meals. Well, I vote for a comeback, and here are some of the ways that I enjoy this eggcellent (to forgive is divine) ingredient!

  • Egg Breakfast Sandwich: 2 fried eggs, slice of Muenster (or favorite cheese), smear of JAM on toasted English muffin–trust me on this one.
  • Egg-Avocado Toast: 1/4 c smashed avocado on toasted multigrain bread with slices of hardboiled egg and a sprinkling of sea salt and cayenne. This is also good with hummus in the place of avocado.
  • Breakfast Pizza: Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and rub a bit of olive oil on the foil. Cover one whole grain tortilla with a thin layer of tomato paste, shredded cheese (I like mozzarella and Gruyere) and herbs/spices (I like oregano and red pepper flakes). Bake at 400 degrees until tortilla is crisp and cheese bubbles. Take ‘pizza’ out, crack an egg in the center, and bake for another 2-3 minutes until egg is preferred done-ness.
  • Microwaved Egg Cup: Break 1 egg into a microwave-safe cup, bowl or ramekin. Poke the yolk with a knife. Add 2 tbs milk and beat until mixed. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the bowl with saran wrap or a plate and microwave in 45-second intervals until cooked (to your liking). Add toppings: Shredded cheddar and salsa, goat cheese and rosemary; greek yogurt, crumbled bacon and chives (anything!). If using cheese, nuke for another 20-25 seconds.
  • Good Ole Egg salad: You can use my recipe here, but my favorite combo starts is: 2 eggs (1 serving of salad), 1 tbs mayo, 2-3 chopped sweet pickles  (or 1 tbs sweet relish), 1/2 tsp paprika or Old Bay Seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.

I hope you enjoyed this first edition of Protein Fridays and have a fabulous, fueled Friday night!

What is your favorite way to prepare eggs?!

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