Monthly Archives: April 2012

A Week of Food Highlights

This week may have gotten away from me, but I haven’t forgotten to snap photos of FOOD! 🙂 Here are some highlights from the past few days.

Butternut Squash Burger

Burgers with Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onions from Paleo Table. Served with Sweets & Beets and sliced strawberries. Loved a bun-less burger topped with butternut squash! However I could do without the sausage. Next time I’ll stick with 100% grass-fed ground beef and leave the ground sausage out. She has a method for doing caramelized onions, but I was short on time and just sauteed a Vidalia until soft and sweet. This was a great combo worth trying.

Vitamix Broccoli Soup

Broccoli Soup from Elana’s Pantry. So simple, just olive oil, onion, broccoli, water and salt. That’s right, no broth! I was worried it would not be flavorful, but it was. A good little soup to mix up in the Vitamix, however it was very watery and was more of a sipping soup than a soup you’d eat with a spoon.

Clean Eating Tarragon Chicken

Chicken Fricassee with Tarragon from Clean Eating Magazine. Great, classic flavor. The leeks loose their bright, light green color in the cooking process but the taste is wonderful. Mild yet flavorful.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Squares

Peanut Butter Chocolate Protein Bars from Little B’s Healthy Habits. I made these with Truvia instead of Stevia in the Raw (which is too bitter for me). The peanut butter flavor is mild and it is not too sweet. A dense chocolate cake that is perfect for a post-gym treat. Very moist and healthy and a good starter protein cake recipe that you can tweak to your liking. Store these in the fridge since they are all natural!

Berry Tart

An early birthday cake from my sweet Mom – a fresh berry tart from Whole Foods! SO GOOD! Hands down, the best birthday “cake” I’ve had. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries & kiwi atop a vanilla custard nestled in a shortbread-style crust. This was unbelievable people, gone in less than a day. I went to the fridge looking for more tonight, hoping another would magically appear. It sure is a good thing that Whole Foods is an hour drive from us or else I’d be there now in my pajamas with fork in hand.

Homemade Tomato Sauces

My MIL stopped by today and brought all these containers of homemade pasta sauces. An entire shelf in the freezer is loaded! Any suggestions on what to make with these sauces? I am trying to stay away from too many grains today, so a gluten-free or paleo-friendly option would be ideal.

Finally Running

In other news, I ran my first 5k distance since mid-December! It has been over 4 1/2 months and it has been tough. I went from running 15 miles to zero due to my IT Band injury. I have lost some speed, but I almost hit a sub-30 and I wasn’t even trying for that, I was just having fun running in the cold rain on a cloudy day. I have a race coming up this weekend (I signed up in early January when I was still optimistic and didn’t think I’d be injured so long!) and can’t wait to pin on a bib number and hear the shotgun start. I am not going to try for a PR of course, just want to finish and have fun! A few months ago I was depressed and honestly felt like I’d NEVER run again. I’d run 500 feet and be in so much pain, even after taking weeks off from running. Looking down at my Garmin and seeing that beautiful 3.10 number really made my day. Hopefully I’ll be back to running half marathons again by this fall, but for now I’m taking it one day at a time.

What have you been cooking this week? Have you ever had to take an extended period of time off from running for an injury?

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Categories: Food, Running | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Starting LiveFit Phase 3

After a morning of watching Yard Crashers and drinking the best coffee ever, we decided to hit the gym before the morning got away from us. I started  Phase 3 of Jamie Eason’s LiveFit 12 Week Trainer today. I am about 2 weeks behind in the program because I repeated a week during Phase 2 and then took a week off for a mental break to clear my head before continuing on. The first day of Phase 3 (Day 57) kicked things off with quads & calves. I love leg days and this was no exception. I did calf presses on the leg press machine for the first time ever. I really liked that compared to seated calf raises or using the smith machine with block. Have you ever done calf raises on the leg press?

I also JUST learned (over two months into the program) that there is a female version of each exercise video! On the LiveFit Trainer daily workout page, each exercise name is a link that opens a pop-up box with the exercise performed by a male.

LiveFit Video 1

From that pop-up box, if you click the name of the exercise again (or click the blue “View Full Details” button), it will open in a new browser tab (or window). Then, if you look closely, there is a small tab that says “Female”. Click on that and most of the videos are performed by Jamie herself.

LiveFit Video Female

I wish that this was the default view when clicking on the links from the LiveFit workout pages because it is a bit annoying to have to click 3 times to get to this.

While watching the male version of the video if sufficient, it is more helpful to watch the female version even though both genders are doing the exact same exercise. I feel that the body of a woman looks different when performing certain exercises, and it helps me know how my form is suppose to be.

I had to modify today’s workout because the plan calls for combining weights with plyometric exercises (like rope jumping) for supersets.

Here is what she says about this:

“You’ll quickly notice that these workouts combine traditional weight moves with plyometric exercises – for example, you follow-up leg presses with jump squats. Combining strength moves with explosive movements allows you to train for hypertrophy (the fancy word for muscle growth) and strength gains at the same time that you increase power – another important quality for fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike.

By hitting both fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers, these moves also will stoke your fat-burning furnace. Picture the marbling in a steak. Our bodies have intra-muscular fat like that. Plyometric exercises help “squeeze” the fat from those areas.”

My gym doesn’t have a jump rope, nor does it even have the space to really do any of these long jumps and lateral bounds. It is a small gym, that is overcrowded with people and equipment, and is lacking many things that I need. In addition, nobody does supersets or any sort of these moves and I’d definitely draw attention to myself if I got off the leg press and started to jump around. 😦 We are thinking of switching gyms, not just because of this, but for many other reasons. I feel now is the time we have outgrown it and am looking for a place that is more suited to our current fitness needs.

I may give the whole plyometric + strength superset a try next time if it isn’t crowded because I bet it is a fantastic workout.

After the gym, I made Chocolate Protein Shakes to tide us over until lunch. We didn’t have much in the house for lunch because I haven’t made it to the store. Thank goodness I picked up some Costco frozen turkey burgers last week! These burgers can be grilled from frozen, which means no need to preplan and thaw. While I like to make my own turkey burgers, these come in handy for days like today when you have nothing planned and need something quick and easy. They also have a very clean ingredient list: white turkey, kosher salt, rosemary extract and black pepper and run 200 calories per patty.

We had some blackberries and blueberries, as well as Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips. A little salsa and avocado, and we had a fast and healthy lunch.

Costco Frozen Turkey Burgers

That is my turkey burger, sans-bun.

Costco Turkey Burger

Mr. Nine enjoyed his on a bakery bun. He also put his berries in a fancy dish. :-p

After lunch, I pulled some weeds in the garden and did miscellaneous yard work before deciding to try to squeeze in a run. Since I skipped the plyometrics part of my leg workout, I felt the need to do something extra to make up for it. I know my legs will be too sore tomorrow to run so now was the time to get one in before the DOMS set in.

For a change of pace, I headed out to the track.

Running On The Track

Besides some people playing tennis nearby, I had the entire place to myself. It is much to early to even think about incorporating speed work (I just want to be able to run pain-free regardless of pace), so I repeated  1 lap walks, 2 laps running for a total of just over 4 miles. Twice during my run/walk combo I hit the bleachers for some stair work. The bleachers are pretty short, only 29 steps, so I tried to do sets of 10. The result was a total of 580 steps (290 up, 290 down) per set.

Running On Bleachers

It was an overcast day but the sun peeked out for a few fleeting moments here and there.

My track and bleacher work, combined with a solid lifting session at the gym, made today a solid fitness day. Balanced with some therapeutic gardening and a nice dinner and evening with Mr. Nine, it was the perfect laid-back Saturday.

Do you ever go to the track (or other public place) to do bleachers/stairs? Do you watch videos online to learn how or brush up on certain exercises?

Categories: Fitness, Food, Running | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What I Missed About Running

One foot in front of the other.

Merrell Pace Gloves

Yesterday I headed out for a late evening run. While moving along inhaling the heady fragrance of lilacs, I realized what I missed most about not being able to run the past few months. It wasn’t so much the physical activity. There are other forms of exercise that you can do to keep your heart and body healthy. It wasn’t the thrill of racing, or the camaraderie of group runs (although that is indeed missed). What I missed most was delighting in the simple details that you experience during a run.

Lilac Bush

The smell of lilac.

Gravel Pitted Road

The uneven, pitted streets that collect tiny pools of rain water.

Brick Wall

The texture on the facades of buildings that have been around longer than me.

Lily Of The Valley

Sidewalks lined with lily of the valley.

These are just a few of the things I missed. Don’t even get me started on trail running.

This experience cannot be replicated indoors on a treadmill or elliptical. Sure I could take a walk outdoors and enjoy the sounds, sights and smells but it is different when you are running. Your senses are heightened. Your breathing is deeper and you inhale the smells around you more intensely. You are covering more ground in the same amount of time than you would if you were walking thus experiencing more. And since you are moving at a faster rate, each experience with a sound, smell, sight or feeling is so fleeting. You take it in and hold onto it as long as you can, before exhaling and releasing. Anticipating the next sensory delight which awaits around the corner. You could replicate this to a degree with bicycling, although I feel that some of the sensory elements are removed since you are moving faster. (Although I adore cycling for other reasons which I’ll share someday.) For whatever reason, maybe it is the rhythm that it creates, running is the right speed and method for me to pull enjoyment and inspiration from my surroundings. It is a way to get to know a neighborhood in a more intimate way, or a therapeutic dose of nature. Either way, it is so much more than running.

Inhale. Exhale.

And because no post is complete without a little talk about food, I bring to you “Two Nights of Elana’s Pantry“. Carrot Muffins, Apricot Power Bars… I find myself going back to Elana’s Pantry for more. As good as the muffins and bars are, I needed some savory ideas for dinner and Elana delivers in that department, too. Last night I made her Green Chili Turkey Burgers.

Elana's Pantry Turkey Burger

It’s a simple combination of ground turkey, green chiles, onion, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. While Mr. Nine was grilling these, I went out to the garden and picked some asparagus and prepared it with wilted asparagus drizzled with oil and vinegar. Nothing like super fresh veggies and a good protein! The burgers were moist and full of flavor. We enjoyed these sans-bun to make it gluten-free and didn’t need any toppings! That says a lot for a humble turkey burger. Leftovers were enjoyed for lunch today and reheated fabulously. My only tip would be to layer the formed patties between small sheets of parchment paper on a plate and freeze for about a half hour or until slightly firm. I would have done this if I had the time. The patties were super soft with a high moisture content, and Mr. Nine executed his superb grilling skills to ensure that they stayed in one piece. While he was out there grilling, I had him throw on a few chicken breasts for tonight’s dinner – Mexican Chicken and Rice.

Elana's Pantry Chicken and Rice

Doesn’t that look yum? What is fantastic about this recipe is that the “rice” is really cauliflower! Mr. Nine took a whole head of cauliflower and fed it through the food processor fitted with a grating disc. He only did this because I had a minor kitchen accident with the blade that required bandaging my thumb. 🙂 Elana says to use the “S” blade, but I thought the grating disc did an excellent job and kept all the pieces uniform. The whole dish contains grilled chicken, onion, cauliflower, green chilies, salt, cumin, oregano, chili powder, cilantro and salsa. This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free and paleo-friendly, but you could take some of her other suggestions and add cheese, or even black beans. This recipe is really versatile. Personally, I left out the celery and cut the oil and salt in half (the original amounts seemed unneccessary). I could envision other veggies like red or orange bell peppers – use your imagination!

Now the question is, did the cauliflower taste like rice? I am not sure you could fool anybody into thinking it was rice, but it wasn’t bad at all. It essentially had the same texture, color and shape of cauliflower and the flavor was somewhat neutral and absorbed the spices and other flavors. I think this could definitely grow on me. I like the idea of having a cruciferous vegetable instead of rice because it is way lower in calories and higher in nutrients. I made a little comparison chart to illustrate this.

Cauliflower Vs Rice Comparison Chart

With the cauliflower, you are getting way more potassium, fiber and vitamin c, and lower carbs and calories. The rice has the advantage on the minerals, but all in all I think the cauliflower is the better option. What do you think?

Tonight’s questions: What would you miss about running if you had to stop? Have you ever made cauli-rice?

Categories: Food, Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gluten Free Bars, Shrooms and The Walk to Run Kickoff

Happy Tuesday! We are moving one step closer to the weekend, life is good!

Because my recent bars baked with Stevia in the Raw (SITR) didn’t work out I decided to look for a recipe that didn’t use ANY added sugars or sugar substitutes. I don’t mind regular Stevia in my morning coffee, in MRM Whey Protein Powder or in the occasional baked goods however I want alternative options that don’t rely on it. I really liked the Gluten-Free Carrot Muffins from Elana’s Pantry because they were only sweetened with dates, so I went back to her site looking for more ideas. I found one with only 5 ingredients, 3 of which are kitchen staples!

Apricot Bars

These bars are made entirely from dried apricots, pecans, eggs, vanilla extract and sea salt. Okay, 6 ingredients if you count the chocolate chips that I added. 🙂 A food processor made prep quick and easy, and using a 8″ x 8″ pan made for effortless 1-dish baking. These bars are moist, flavorful and not too sweet. Mr. Nine liked the flavor, but he thought the texture was weird. I’ll have to disagree and say the texture was fine, a cross between a traditional cookie bar recipe and a Larabar. They hold their shape nicely (if you allow them to cool properly before cutting). The nuts give these bars a little texture and the chocolate chips add tiny bits of sweetness. Use dark chocolate (70% or higher) if you can or leave the chocolate out entirely if you have a strict diet. I love dark chocolate and the small amount (1/2 cup for the whole batch) is very reasonable. These are also gluten-free, dairy-free (if you use chocolate chips from Enjoy Life), and paleo-friendly (if you are okay with dark chocolate). Another bonus? They only take about 5 minutes of hands-on time to make. Throw the food processor container, blade, measuring cup, spoon and spatula in the dishwasher and sit back while they bake in the oven. I will definitely make these again, perhaps experimenting with additions of cinnamon, chia seeds or shredded coconut!

Batch of Apricot Pecan Bars

Excited to have this whole batch to snack on throughout the week. I keep mine in the fridge to prolong their freshness, but I doubt they’ll last more than a few days. I already had one with breakfast and two as a post-workout snack.

Here’s the recipe for Apricot Power Bars if you want to try them yourself!

In other food news, I made these yummy Sausage and Sweet Potato Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms from Pam at Paleo Table. Unlike traditional stuffed mushrooms which are filled with cheese and breadcrumbs, these contain no grain or dairy! Ground Italian sausage adds bulk, while mashed sweet potato adds body.

Sweet Potato and Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms

I used baby portobello mushroom caps that were 3″-4″ in diameter and increased the cooking time until I saw that the mushrooms were beginning to release some water content (about 35 minutes). Instead of mixing the sausage and potato in the food processor, I simply mashed the potatoes in a bowl and then stirred in the almond meal and sausage-onion mixture. Drizzled with balsamic vinegar, these stuffed mushrooms both savory with a hint of sweetness. These also reheat well in the microwave, making them perfect for a grab-and-go work lunch. I’m saving this gluten-free, dairy-free and paleo recipe because it is a definite win.

I’ve been writing a lot about food lately and not very much about running. I’ll explain why in another post but I have been slowly running again. Not very fast, and not very far, but I’m moving in a forward direction.

Speaking of forward directions, our running group hosted a Couch to 5k style running program and the kick-off meeting was last night.

Running Program

Photos by Brian Drendel

We had a huge turnout! It was so refreshing to see so many people from the community come out to take the first steps in training to run a 5k. For many this will be their first 5k. The program lasts 9 weeks with 3 weekly group runs using the walk-run approach. You can spot me above calling out the t-shirt raffle winners. I’m excited to volunteer this year, meet new people and hopefully inspire them to stick with the program and make running a lifelong activity.

Have you ever tried a Couch To 5k or Run to Walk program? Were you successful? Any advice or tips that I can give to these new runners next week?

Categories: Food, Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

MRM Dutch Chocolate Whey Protein Review

Over the years, I’ve tried various protein powders and have not been happy with any. The only one that I have made repeat purchases of, Nutiva Hemp Protein, is good in certain smoothies where added texture is desired but is not palatable on its own (in my opinion).

I took a gamble and ordered yet another protein powder, this time by a company called Metabolic Response Modifiers (MRM) in California. The one I purchased was MRM 100% All Natural Dutch Chocolate Whey Protein Powder. I haven’t seen this in stores (although I have seen their egg white protein variety). Many websites carry this, but Bodybuilding.com has a very competitive price.

MRM Whey Protein

After taking this supplement for almost 2 months now, I feel that I have had it enough to give an honest opinion.

Pros

  • Tastes Good (Dutch Chocolate Flavor)
  • Dissolves/Blends Easily
  • No Artificial Sweeteners or Artificial Flavors
  • Hormone Free and BSE Free
  • No Aspartame or Acesulfame K
  • No MSG
  • Gluten-Free
  • Added L-Glutamine
  • Not Overly Sweet

Cons

  • None!

For me there are no cons. Since this is whey protein powder, it of course contains dairy so it wouldn’t be good for those with a lactose intolerance. This product also contains soy.

Here is what MRM says about the product:

“All Natural Whey™ is an all natural source of protein that was designed to meet the protein needs of all age groups and is number one in digestion, absorption, utilization and retention. This is achieved by using a highly specialized cross-flow filtration and ion exchange process. All Natural Whey™ is also highly concentrated in essential amino acids (about 50%), half of which are “branched chain” (muscle preserving) amino acids (BCAAs). In fact, it is the richest natural source of BCAAs.

All Natural Whey™ can benefit those with a wide variety of health concerns ranging from the exceptionally healthy athlete to those trying to support lean muscle mass (e.g. children, teenagers, less active individuals as well as elderly). All Natural Whey™ is also fortified with L-Glutamine, which has been shown clinically to naturally stimulate the release of growth hormones and act as a building block for one of the body’s most important water-soluble antioxidants, glutathione. Whey protein is nutritionally perfect, meaning it contains all of the essential and non-essential amino acids required by the human body.

The addition of NitroZyme™ helps break down long and short chain peptides into smaller, more readily absorbable amino acids for maximum digestion and absorption without the worry of wasting ingested protein. NitroZyme™ helps the body release more amino acids from ingested protein than the action of digestive enzymes alone. When an athlete takes All Natural Whey™ (enhanced with NitroZyme™), the body can absorb more free amino acids directly into the muscle tissue, which helps to increase muscle size, strength and lean body mass.”

I feel that this protein powder has aided in my recovery (especially on heavy days like legs), cutting down on my DOMS and recovery time. I like that it has L-glutamine, as your body can lose up to 50% of glutamine levels during training, so this helps your body recover faster. It also keeps me feeling full until my next meal, which is great when I get out of the gym and am ravenous. Some days I am so hungry after my workout (usually after a heavy lifting day) but there might not be anything in the house to eat, and I sure don’t want to screw up my workout by going through the drivethru so this has been a lifesaver. I can mix it together within 5 minutes (time is crucial if you want to refuel in the 30 minute window!) and it tastes good, like a chocolate milkshake so I feel like I’m having a treat.

What amazes me about this protein powder is that it tastes decent when mixed with JUST water in my blender bottle! I have yet to find a powder that I can take with water alone.

While mixing it with water is sufficient, my favorite way to drink it is in a basic protein smoothie blended in the Vitamix. It feels more substantial when mixed into a smoothie, which is important for when I’m hungry and my next meal may be few hours away.

MRM Chocolate Protein Shake

RECIPE

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Basic Chocolate Protein Shake

A super basic protein shake combination, perfect for post-workout recovery or a quick breakfast on-the-go.

Ingredients

  • 1 scoop MRM Dutch Chocolate Protein Powder
  • 1 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 3 ice cubes

Directions

  1. Add ingredients to Vitamix in order listed. Select variable speed #1, turn on, quickly increase to #10 and then switch to high. Blend until smooth.

Serves 1.

Tip: Make sure to add protein powder first, or else it will “fly up” inside the Vitamix and it won’t all get incorporated into your smoothie. If you do not have a Vitamix, you can use a high-power blender, but make sure that your frozen banana chunks are small or else it may not be able to process it as well.

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I did not come up with this “recipe”, I am pretty sure it is the combination that everyone uses for their protein shakes, but I thought I’d post it here anyway in case someone is new to using protein powders and needs a basic idea to get started. After making it once, you can decide if you want to use only half a banana, substitute other milks (cow, soy, coconut, rice, hemp) or add other ingredients. For me, the above combo is just about perfect for a basic chocolate shake flavor.
The MRM protein powder contains 85 calories per scoop, the unsweetened vanilla almond milk has 40 per cup, and a medium size banana will run you about 105 calories. Total: 230 calories, 20g protein, 5g fat, og sat fat, 30g carbs
What is your favorite protein powder brand? What is your go-to protein shake combination?
Categories: Nutrition | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

Stevia and Cybex

After a long night of thunderstorms, it felt good to sleep in and then have an extra-long breakfast while watching Moneyball.

I wanted to bake something for work lunches for the upcoming week, and came across my bookmarked recipe for Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Cinnamon Swirl Protein Bread.

LiveFit Cinnamon Swirl Protein Bread

It was easy to throw together, and they turned out quite well despite today’s discovery. I hate Stevia in the Raw (SITR).

To be fair, Jamie lists Ideal Xylitol in her ingredient list but that is not something I’ve been able to find in the stores. After doing some research, I found that many people use SITR in place of sugar in recipes. SITR is easily found at my grocery store and seemed like a good substitution.

This is only my second time baking with it (the first time was making Clean Eating’s Meyer Lemon Bars) and both recipes came out way too bitter for my taste. I wanted to do a little experiment this time, and used Truvia in the actual batter of the cake (bread) and used the Stevia in the Raw only for the cinnamon/”sugar” mixture. The cake part of the bars was actually quite tasty! It was the cinnamon SITR swirl part that tasted bitter and ruined the recipe. I dissected the bars to try to remove as much as the cinnamon swirl as possible to salvage some of bread.

I need to do some more research on these sugar substitutes, but my intuition tells me that no artificial sweetener is truly good. Last week I made muffins that were sweetened entirely with dates, and I really like the idea of using natural, whole foods to sweeten food instead of all these alternate sugar products on the market.

Frustrated with today’s baking experiment, I focused on lunch instead.

Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

Grilled bacon-wrapped pork tenderloins with a chimichuri sauce, asparagus and an orange-pineapple-banana-honey-sweet potato mash. This came from a magazine-style cookbook that my Mom gave us for Easter. The mash was interesting. It is filled with citrus flavor. Definitely a different way to have sweet potatoes.

While at the bookstore last night, I saw an article about how the Cybex Arc Trainer is one of the best forms of cardio in the gym. It has been a long time since I’ve used it (it has been known to bother my knee) but was inspired to give it another try.

Cybex Arc Trainer

I just did the pre-programmed interval training option which alternated between 25-45 resistance for a total of 30 minutes, which is very similar to the workout outlined in the magazine. 30 minutes was enough to work up a sweat after my short chest lifting session. No knee pain! I think I’ll give this piece of gym equipment a try more often on cardio days to switch things up. Although I prefer to do cardio outdoors (running, cycling, skiing, rollerblading, hiking) there are certain days where it is easier to do it at the gym while I’m already there for weights.

Came home for a quick shower and then we went to visit some friends and go out for dinner. My stomach was not feeling the greatest, so I stayed away from the margaritas and opted for a simple dinner of chicken tortilla soup and a steak taco. I really wanted an ooey-gooey chimichanga or quesadilla, but knew that the deep-fried, cheese-filled nature of it would have me sick for the rest of the night. Thankfully, the soup is INCREDIBLE at this restaurant so I didn’t feel deprived. It was topped with plenty of fresh diced avocado, which in addition to the guacamole we had pre-dinner, was the perfect amount for my daily avocado fix. 🙂

Our friends have the cutest, most mature and well-behaved 4-year old I’ve met. During dinner she was quietly drawing, and before we left she handed me this masterpiece.

Drawing

She said that the picture was of me, and the chores that I have to do. Unfortunately she is right. There are many chores that I sadly never got around to this weekend that will still be waiting for me come Monday morning.

Have you ever baked with Stevia in the Raw? What are your thoughts? What is your favorite form of “in-the-gym” cardio?

Categories: Fitness, Food | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Pressed Sweet Potato and Avocado Sandwich

Looking for new ways to enjoy two of my favorite foods – sweet potatoes and avocados – I came up with this simple sandwich combination for lunch.

Here is what you’ll need:

Sweet Potato Avocado Sandwich Ingredients

Whole wheat bread, red onion, avocado, sweet potato, baby spinach, Laughing Cow cheese wedges, olive oil, salt and pepper.

First, slice the potato and onion into roughly 1/4″ slices and roast in the oven (with olive oil, salt and pepper) until tender.

Sweet Potato Avocado Sandwich Sliced Potato and Onion

Here are the roasted taters and onions:

Sweet Potato Avocado Sandwich Roasted Potato and Onion

Yummy. Now you’ll assemble your sandwich with the rest of the ingredients as beautifully illustrated here.

Sweet Potato Avocado Sandwich Assembly

Cook sandwiches in a large skillet with cooking spray as you would a grilled cheese sandwich, until the bread is lightly toasted and the inside is warm. I like to smoosh the sandwich as flat as I can with the back of my spatula, to ensure that everything holds together and is warm throughout.

Sweet Potato Avocado Sandwich

Now you are ready to eat! We enjoyed our sandwiches with a side of sliced apples.

Sweet Potato Avocado Sandwich Closeup

I loved how beautiful the orange and green colors were, just like the orange and green in my Avocado-Carrot Salad from earlier this week.

This hit the spot and was the perfect fuel for a 4-mile afternoon trail run/walk.

RECIPE

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Pressed Sweet Potato & Avocado Sandwich

A colorful easy-to-make vegetarian sandwich for all the sweet potato and avocado lovers out there.

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet potato, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 2 light Laughing Cow cheese wedges, any flavor
  • 4 slices whole wheat bread
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Toss sweet potato and onion with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Spread potatoes and onion in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes, turning half-way through until the sweet potato is tender when pierced with a fork. Set aside to cool.
  4. Spread 2 slices of bread, each with a cheese wedge. Top with spinach, onion, potato and avocado. Place the remaining bread slices on top.
  5. Place a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.
  6. Carefully add both sandwiches to the skillet and press with the back of the spatula to compress the sandwich together. (Alternatively, if you own a panini press, you can use that to “grill” your sandwich.) Once the bottom is lightly toasted, flip and press again.

Serves 2.

Tip: I used Laughing Cow’s Light Queso Fresco & Chipotle flavor, but you can use any of their savory light cheese spreads.

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Laughing Cow light cheese wedges are only 35 calories and they are so creamy that they spread nicely on sandwiches like the one above. After making this sandwich, my imagination ran wild with alternate sweet potato combinations, so expect to see more sandwich creations like this in the future.

Have you ever had a potato sandwich? What is your favorite combination?

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pinterest Scam Aimed at Foodies

Pinterest scams have been on the rise as the site gains popularity, and today I noticed a new one that seems to be using photography from food blogs to trick people. Specifically they are using people who pin recipes by tricking them into distributing (repinning) their bogus seed links.

After I posted the Avocado-Carrot Salad on Monday, I noticed that my recipe quickly made its way onto Pinterest. I counted 3 separate pins along with 59 repins (and counting) as of tonight. Hooray! I was very happy that people were pinning it to their food inspiration boards.

Those pins were legit and linking back to this site, as they should. Here is an example of one of the legit pins. You can see that it links back to my site since I am the original author. Thanks guys! 🙂

Then I noticed something else. There were other pins of the exact same photo (lots of them), only these were not linking to my site. Check out all of these pins for my salad to see what I mean (as of 7:26pm the numbers were growing). A search for “avocado carrot” shows an explosion of my salad photo. Update April 12, 2012: Most of the bad pins have been removed, and only a few remain. If you click on these pins, you’ll notice that most DO NOT link to my site runningoncloudnine.com, but instead link to is.gd, as shown in the screenshot below.

Pinterest Scam Bait

My first thought was that it was a scummy content farm that scrapped my post and was using it as their own, and someone saw and pinned it from there. Unfortunately this is common and can create duplicate content issues along with not giving credit to the original author. Curious, I clicked on the link. Much to my surprise, instead of being a copycat blog with scraped content, these pins were being linked to a spoof Pinterest page set up as a phishing scheme.

Pinterest Scam Site

Notice the URL, the original is.gd (or similar) quickly redirects to pintRERETS.com. At a glance, it looks like pinterest.com. The URL seems vaguely familiar, the interface is nearly spot on (minus the top menu bar). Except there is a message asking you to click on a link to “prove you are human”. In my case, the mention of an iPad 2 and Best Buy gift card were a dead giveaway that this was a spoof site. 😦 However, they are using all kinds of different messages to try to lure unsuspecting foodies into clicking.

One example is using the following text:

“Browse recipes using the Recipe Tool. To continue, install the tool to look at thousands of recipes. Download Now”

It contains the Pinterest logo and seems like it could be legit, users may think that Pinterest has a new recipe tool that they might be eager to try out.

Scam, scam, scam.

I obviously did not click to find out what the scam is. It could be a scam survey used to gain personal information, or it could be a virus. It could be anything, but you can bet that it is malicious.

As for the people who are pinning these bad links, I don’t think all are even aware that they are doing so. I think that most people just see a photo of a food dish (or purse, or dress, or fill-in-the-blank) and just say “Oh that looks good! Pin!”, without ever visiting the site to see where the link actually leads. People are busy and they don’t have time to research every link they are pinning or repinning. They should check out the links, but reality is that most don’t until they have a little time later and want to actually make the recipe. Meanwhile, they are unknowingly spreading the bad seed of these new Pinterest scams, and the damage grows and grows.

I’m sure this is happening with other categories, but right now I am noticing this happening with photos of recipes from food blogs in particular.

If you have a food blog, check Pinterest for your photos, and if any are linking to a site like the one above report them to the folks at Pinterest. This might be hard to keep up on, but keep your eyes open for it.

And if you are a Pinterest user, take a moment to look at the URL of the photo you are pinning! Make sure that it is a legit site before adding it to your boards and sharing it with everyone. After all, you wouldn’t want your friends and followers to click on your pins and become a victim of a scam. In the end, you are responsible for the links you share.

Categories: Food | Tags: , | 17 Comments

Avocado-Carrot Salad

The other day while cleaning out the fridge, I came up with a tasty and colorful side dish to go with the Clean Eating Sirloin Beef Wraps that I was making. I love simple salads with only a few ingredients and minimal prep time, and this fits the bill. It’s also raw, vegan, gluten-free and modern paleo friendly!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Carrot and Avocado Salad Ingredients

Combine these 5 simple ingredients and the result is this amazing green and orange goodness:

Avocado-Carrot Salad

The more you stir it, the more the creaminess of the avocado rubs off and coats the carrots.

RECIPE

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Avocado-Carrot Salad

A fresh, colorful salad that makes a great side dish for your favorite sandwich. Serve cold or room temp.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado, chopped
  • 2 cups carrot, shredded
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

  1. Combine carrots, avocado and cilantro in a medium bowl.
  2. Add apple cider vinegar and salt.
  3. Toss and serve!

Tip: I used pre-shredded carrots in the photo because that is what I had on hand, however I would strongly encourage shredding your own carrots because they taste fresher that way and improve the overall texture of this salad.

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Feel free to add a splash more of the vinegar, if you desire. I brought out my cutting board to chop the cilantro, but alternately you could just snip the cilantro over the bowl with kitchen shears.

You don’t even need the cutting board for the avocado, if you follow my easy “cut in shell” method!

How To Dice an Avocado The Easy Way

Simply cut around the avocado lengthwise to separate it into two halves. I usually do this in the palm of my hand (carefully!) or on top of a paper towel on the counter. Then, holding the avocado firmly in your hand, take a knife and cut a checker pattern into the avocado flesh.

Cutting Avocado in Shell

Give it a slight squeeze to help release the newly cut segments from the shell.

Finally, use a spoon to scoop out the avocado flesh.

Avocado Scoop From Shell

It will scoop right out into perfect little diced chunks, to which you can add directly to your recipe.

With this method you won’t get your cutting board (or fingers!) dirty with avocado since you never actually touch the avocado flesh, only the outer shell.

Avocados are truly a wonder food in my book. In addition to the potassium, fiber, vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid, avocados act as a nutrient booster when paired with certain foods like carrots! The avocado helps to better absorb the fat-soluble vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) found in carrots. That’s right, a fat-soluble vitamin means that it dissolves in fat, so eating a healthy fat (think avocado, nuts or olive oil) in your meal with foods like carrots, leads to better vitamin absorption.

Try this dynamic orange and green duo in my Avocado-Carrot Salad! Paired with a lean protein, you’ll have a nutritious and healthy lunch that will energize you through the afternoon.

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Easter Sunday

To those who celebrate, Happy Easter!

Every year we get together for Easter, but the menu always changes. Ham is usually the main dish (but not always), and the sides and dessert always varies.

My Mom usually hosts Easter at her house. She loves to be in charge and make the entire menu, but she sometimes lets me bring one dish if I insist enough. Since we have an abundance of garden fresh asparagus right in our backyard, I talked her into letting me bring a dish that includes this garden goodness.

After an Ezekiel english muffin and a cup of coffee, I headed outside to the garden to pick today’s asparagus.

Freshly Picked Asparagus

Some of the stalks had grown quite tall, and I had to snap off the woody bottoms, but most were perfect for the picking. If you’ve never picked fresh asparagus, it can be a juicy job. When you snap the asparagus off, a little juice comes out and can squirt you if you are not careful. 🙂

Since I was making the dish at home and transporting it over an hour, I decided to go with a chilled asparagus salad dish and took a gamble on a recipe that I’ve never tried. It was a success!

Asparagus Salad

The close-up money shot…

Asparagus Salad Detail

The asparagus is cooked in boiling water for 10 minutes (I only did 5 minutes) and chilled with a dressing of balsamic vinegar, sugar and garlic. I used less sugar (although the recipe only calls for 1 tablespoon). It is served over a lettuce green of your choice (I went with chopped spinach) topped with diced roasted red pepper, hard-boiled egg & green onion. This is a great dish to transport and assemble once you get to your destination. I prepped everything in zip-loc baggies and put it all into a soft cooler with ice packs and assembled it on the plate once I got there. Since this dish is served cold (or room temp), there is no need to fight the hostess for an oven or microwave.

In case you want to try making this, the recipe is simply named Asparagus Salad by Debbwl on Food.com.

I didn’t measure the ingredients, and used 3 hard-boiled eggs. I also left out the parsley as I didn’t have fresh, and it was plenty colorful and flavorful without.

My Mom did a wonderful job with everything else (as always) and impressed with sugar snap peas with leeks and pancetta.

Leek and Pancetta Sugar Snap Peas

It was a toss up between lamb chops and ham, and this year she went with a honey-baked spiral ham. We’ve never had one of these before (even though they have been around for years).

Honey Ham

We also had twice-baked potatoes, deviled eggs, rolls and brown sugar apples (not shown).

Easter Dinner

Dessert was pineapple carrot cake, and a grand cake it was!

Carrot Cake

Double-layer, with loads of cream cheese frosting.

Carrot Cake Detail

I have been trying to stay away from stuff loaded with sugar like this, but she went through all the trouble to make it, and it looked wonderful so I had a big slice. She insisted it was “healthy” because it had carrots (vegetables) and pineapple (fruit) in it. Yeah Mom, right. Super healthy. For a day, I’ll pretend it is healthy. 🙂

Even though I am decades beyond the whole Easter Bunny thing, my Mom still likes to make us adult Easter baskets. 🙂

Easter Basket

This year it was a garden & food theme. Gardening gloves, weed picker, organic lettuce seeds, sunflower seeds, colander, utensils, dish towels, a cooking magazine and some candy thrown in for fun.

She even made an Easter basket for the dog.

Dog Easter Basket

He loved getting new treats and a toy.

I tell her we are too old for Easter baskets, but she likes to put together gifts like this once in awhile. I am glad that there were only a few candy items, and most were practical, awesome things that we can and will use for gardening and cooking! So thoughtful.

I always love hearing what other people have for their holiday meals, what did you have today? Do you have annual Easter traditions, or you stray from the norm and try new things each year?

 

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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