WIAW #7 (March 7, 2012)

Hi there, Happy What I Ate Wednesday!

The theme for this month is all about going green! I am all about adding as much green to my meals as possible so, I must say, I am a fan of the theme.

Breakfast: 6:00 am

For breakfast yesterday morning I was more in a savoy vs. sweet mood, so I decided to have an egg and cheese wrap. My initial intentions failed since I ended up toasting my whole wheat wrap for a bit too long in the toaster oven, making it crispy and completely unfoldable… oops. I had to improvise and ended up having an egg breakfast “pizza” rather than a wrap. My “pizza” contained:

  • about 2 tsp of strawberry jelly (spread on first)
  • 2 scrambled eggs
  • 1 slice of pepper jack cheese
  • 1 handful of sautéed kale

I added the kale last-minute since it seemed like my meal needed some color to liven it up (plus I always like to include a fruit or vegetable in all my meals whenever possible). This ended up being quite delicious… and I think better than my original idea. I loved the sweet and salty combo of the jelly and cheese/eggs and I kind of liked the accidental crispy texture of the wrap.

Snack: 9:00 am

Mid-morning, I snacked on a mixture of raisins, pecans, walnuts and roasted soy nut. I am loving adding roasted soy nuts to trail mixes these days (and adding them as a crunchy addition to stir-fries and salads…).

Lunch: 12:00 pm

My lunch was SO good yesterday, I am pretty excited to share it. Sami (my sister) actually made this for me so I can’t take the credit. She made black bean sweet potato collard wraps (she found the recipe at For the Love of Kale… a new blog find I have been loving, by the way). We bought collard greens at the store this past weekend and we both had the idea of using the greens in some type of wrap form. It must have been fate because Heather posted the recipe this week as well….

I HIGHLY recommend these… they were so delicious and so fun to eat. Sami followed the recipe exactly, only microwaving the sweet potato vs. roasting it. These were especially good with a little squeeze of lime and dipped in salsa (plus they are a great way to add some green into your life in a fun/interesting way!).

I also had some carrot sticks, zucchini slices and some grapes with my lunch as well.

Snack: 3:00 pm

For my afternoon snack I had a Cherry Pie Larabar and a Fugi apple while I was still at work.

Dinner: 5:15 pm

I ate dinner before heading to the gym, so I tried to keep it rather light. I apologize that this looks extremely unappetizing (lentils are definitely not the most photogenic of foods), but it was delicious, I swear. I had a piece of whole wheat toast topped with:

  • hummus
  • lentils (1/2 cup)
  • a squeeze of lemon

Hummus + lemon + lentils is a delicious combination… If you were curious.

I also had some steamed broccoli and carrots on the side to add in some green.

Snack: 8:30 pm

After the gym and while I studied for a Bio test (my second exam is today.. I hope I’m ready!), I had a plain Chobani yogurt sweetened with a little stevia and topped with some chopped dried apricots and golden raisins.

Annd that concludes my meals from the day (meaning yesterday…).Thanks Jenn for hosting another installment of WIAW! I love participating!

I hope you have a great day!

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I love finding fun food combinations

I was watching the Worst Cooks in America on the Food Network the other day, and on this particular episode, they were talking about interesting and unexpected flavor combinations. I loved this topic, as I am always intrigued with how fancy restaurants and chefs think of interesting or odd food pairings, and I always want to be able to think of some on my own. The issue is, how do you know that caramel and bacon will work well together or that mango and chili peppers are a good match? While I know that I love the combo of sweet and salty, my mind usually drifts to the more basic pairing of chocolate and pretzels or to my latest obsession of goat cheese and strawberries rather than thinking about the more “out there” combinations.

While I am always willing to try out new things and consider myself rather open to different flavors, how do you come up with them? Especially when you are not a trained chef and aren’t’ exactly the most creative or “out of the box” thinker?

This dilemma reminded me that my friend, Shana, bought for me a cookbook of sorts as a birthday gift a few years ago: The Flavor Bible. This is a really cool book that goes through every type of food imaginable and lists what flavors/other foods go well with it. It is described as “The essential guide to culinary creativity,” and, “is your guide to hundreds of ingredients along with herbs, spices and other seasonings that will allow you to coax the greatest possible flavor and pleasure from them.”

This book is kind of like a cheat sheet for us average cooks of the world that don’t know what unexpected flavors go well together, and It is kind of like an idiot proof way to feel creative and inspired in the kitchen. I’m glad I remembered I had it! Since I was inspired by the show, I decided to page through my book and see if it had any suggestions for any fun food combinations (using my favorite foods!) that I should try that I would never think of on my own (I highlighted ones I’m especially interested in)….

Apples

Good flavor pairings include:

  • almonds and caramel
  • cinnamon, dark chocolate and yams
  • ginger and lemon
  • apricots, rosemary and pine nuts
  • walnuts and celery (must be why waldorf salads are so delicious)

Ideas:

  • possibly chop up my daily apple and sprinkle some ginger and a squeeze of lemon juice on top?
  • quinoa salad with chopped dried apricots, diced apples, pine nuts and dried rosemary?

Asparagus (I just bought some at the store this week):

  • goat cheese and thyme
  • cayenne and lime

Ideas: roasted asparagus with either or these flavor pairings sounds good to me…

Oatmeal

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  • vanilla
  • pears, vanilla and yogurt
  • currants and maple syrup

Ideas:

  • overnight oats made with vanilla yogurt (or plain + vanilla extract) and pears (vs. my normal pb and banana combo)

Kale

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Recommended seasonings include:

  • thyme
  • nutmeg
  • ginger

Ideas:

  • ginger kale chips?
  • sautéed kale with thyme….

Sweet Potatoes

  • orange
  • allspice, cinnamon and ginger
  • chile peppers and lemon jest
  • cilantro and lime

Ideas:

  • roasted sweet potatoes with the allspice combo?
  • salad with sweet potato cubes and orange segments?

Some other intriguing ideas.pairings that caught my eye….

  • lemon, blackberries, honey and ricotta cheese
  • orange, basil and sugar
  • orange, pistachios and chocolate… snack idea?
  • pasta, chickpeas, garlic, sage (they have so many interesting pasta ideas!)

I could go on and on… (I am loving this book!), but I’ll stop there….

Any food pairings you are curious about? (this book has an endless supply of good ideas….)

What is your favorite “out of the box” or odd food combination? I love eating carrots and pb (is that odd?) and am a big fan of grilled cheese and mustard….

From beer to collard greens

Hi there, happy Monday! I hope you had a great weekend! And if you are like most of my friends… I hope you are having a lovely spring break so far (I am jealous…).

Soo lets chat about the weekend, shall we? Mine was pretty good, since my stepbrother, Timmy, came out to visit! We had a fun and delicious food/alcohol filled weekend, and I may or may not have pretended that I was my undergrad self again…. even though I cannot drink like I used to (which is probably a good thing…..) and have the worst hangovers these days. How did I used to go out so often? I don’t know how it was physically possible…. I feel like such a grandma these days when I am feel good at 2 drinks….

Some scenes from the weekend….


While I love weekends like these that include late nights, pizza (pizza at 2 am is ALWAYS delicious…), fun cocktails and pancakes (I had some banana oatmeal pancakes from the Dorstop yesterday morning…. SO GOOD), I usually end up feeling a little lethargic and let’s just say…. not my best by the end of it all. While I usually like to practice self-control and moderation on a daily basis, sometimes it’s just fun to throw caution to the wind and have sangria and pizza and beer and pancakes all in a short 24 hour period…..

While this is a delicious and fun thing to do, it doesn’t always leave me feeling energetic and ready to tackle the upcoming week. I love having these indulgent weekends and enjoying every moment of it all, but I also love using the upcoming work week to practice some healthier habits and get some clean food back in my life. I like to go to the grocery store and load up on delicious foods to get excited about. Besides buying a  huge bag of kale the size of my head (I am obsessed these days) at the store yesterday, a few other things I am excited to eat/use/experiment with include:

1. Collard greens (I am imagining using these as some sort of wrap possibly?)… I’ve never tried collard greens before so I am excited to experiment

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2. Grapes… they were on sale!

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3. A new salad dressing….

4. Some new Chobani flavors (raspberry and strawberry banana) I LOVE the strawberry banana flavor (its so creamy!), but have never tried raspberry! I’ve been on a flavored greek yogurt kick for the last few weeks if you can’t tell….

I hope you are having a great Monday so far.

How was your weekend?

What are you excited to eat this week?

Any new healthy purchases you’re excited about?

Best thing I packed this week (March 2, 2012)

Good morning and Happy Friday!

I am SO excited for this weekend. My stepbrother is coming to Pittsburgh today, and I can’t wait to see him/hang out with him(I haven’t seen him since December!).  As always, I must first be productive and go to work and go to school, so lets hope that these things go quickly so the weekend can start!  I better not have a long chem lab tonight….

Are you doing anything exciting this weekend?

Best thing I packed this week

Now lets move on to food…. and the next installment of  “the best thing I packed this week.” This week was full of delicious packed meals, so it was hard to pick a favorite. I did a lot of good prep work last weekend:

  • I made a grain salad
  • prepped lentils
  • made barley

that resulted in easy/delicious meals and made meal packing a breeze.

BBQ Lentil Wrap

I believe I have found a new favorite vegetarian protein source: lentils. I made a big batch this past weekend by:

  • Rinsing  1 cup dry red lentils
  • Placing them in a saucepan with 2 cups water
  • Letting them simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally (until all liquid was absorbed)

I did this while I was making dinner on Sunday, so this was so easy and resulted in a big Tupperware full of lentils (about 2 cups) to incorporate into lunches throughout the week. I need to remember to do this more often because lentils are

  1. so good for you, and
  2. so cheap!

I have been searching for new ways to use them and have been enjoying them in my lunches this week in wrap/sandwich form.  On Wednesday night before class, I enjoyed a delicious wrap that contained:

  1. BBQ lentils (1/2 cup lentils mixed with about 1/8 cup Trader Joe’s BBQ sauce)
  2. spinach
  3. more BBQ sauce + nutritional yeast

This was a simple, yet delicious and filling meal that I most likely will be making again. I also had a variation of this on Monday night (an Indian-spiced lentil wrap) by combining the lentils with some Trader Joe’s Curry Simmer Sauce. I may be on a new lentil kick….

Anyone else a fan/have good ways of preparing them? I’m looking for ideas!

Other notable meals of the week:

I also really enjoyed my Lemon Dijon Kale and Barley Salad on Monday for lunch

and  had some leftover Red Kidney Bean Curry soup/stew on top of some kale that was rather delicious (I need to post the recipe for this soup… it’s so good).

tastes better than it looks...

 
What was the best thing you packed/ate this week?

My favorite ways to eat kale

Good morning! Happy National Peanut Lover’s day (I love having random “holidays” to celebrate and this blog gives me many new food-related things to look forward to….). I made some pb&j oats to celebrate (since it’s  also National Fruit Compote day)…. if you were curious.

Anyway, today I want to discuss something that I could go on and on about for hours: vegetables.  I love vegetables. Before you start thinking I’m crazy, hear me out…..

So, like I said, I love vegetables. I love them raw, steamed, roasted, sautéed and baked.  I love kale chips, baked sweet potatoes, big salads full of raw and crunchy veggies, and stir frys. When someone tells me they don’t like vegetables, I have an intense desire to force feed them roasted brussel sprouts with maple syrup, sautéed green beans with garlic or roasted sweet potatoes to change their minds.Vegetables are delicious! They are good for you! They are fun! What’s not to love?

Now before I start coming across as a crazy vegetable fan, I’ll admit that I wasn’t always such a lover of all things that are green and come from the ground. Most of my veggie consumption when I was younger came from a can or from the freezer.  I knew of corn on the cob in the summer and of mixed green salads before dinner, but I usually stuck to the carrots and celery in the produce aisle when it came to any sort of veggie consumption. The rows and rows of greens were intimidating and looked more like rabbit food than of something I should be consuming. I didn’t even know kale existed until a couple of years ago (the horror!).  It was not until I started to delve headfirst into the world of health that I realized the deliciousness that exists in the world of vegetables.

So, where do you stand? Are you a fan of vegetables (maybe certain ones?) or do you avoid them like the plague? What’s your favorite way to prepare them? Any you don’t like?

I honestly believe we can all like to eat our vegetables, it just takes a little experimentation and fearlessness to make it happen. I understand that a bunch of kale can be intimating when you’ve never prepared it or that a rutabaga or acorn squash may not even look edible at first glance, but I am here to help you! I want us all to discover the deliciousness that comes from consuming these good-for-us foods.

Top reasons I love veggies:

  1. They are delicious
  2. There is sooo much variety (you can never get bored…there is always something new to try!)
  3. They are filling (full of fiber)
  4. You never have to worry about portion control (the more you eat, the better)
  5. They are colorful and make meals look more appealing
  6. They make you feel good (they contain essential vitamins and minerals)
  7. Cost effective (if you buy what’s in season, veggies can be very cheap!) – I just bought a HUGE bag of kale for $2(!)…..this isn’t the case if you’re trying to buy summer squash and red peppers in the dead of winter…..

So, I hope I am getting my point across that vegetables are worth eating. If I haven’t convinced you yet, maybe I can spotlight some of my favorites and my favorite (easy) ways of preparing them? Maybe I can convince you to buy/try something new next time you are at the grocery store?

If you already are on the veggie bandwagon, maybe we can use this space to share our favorite veggie-focused recipes?

To start things off I thought I would talk about one of my favorite vegetables: Kale.

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Kale is so good for you (here is some info if you’re curious), and it is also so delicious if you prepare it correctly. Some of my favorite ways to eat kale:

1. Kale chips

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These are so easy to make…. if you haven’t done this yet, DO IT! All you need is a baking sheet, cooking spray(or olive oil), kale, and whatever seasonings you’d like (salt and pepper are perfect if that’s all you have on hand)…. I swear they are delicious (I am talking to you, Lindsay)!

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Wash and dry kale (make sure it’s completely dry so it will get crispy!)
  • Break the kale into little bite-sized pieces (tearing away from the stalk)
  • Spray cookie sheet with nonstick spray, layer kale into one even layer and spray the top of the kale with nonstick spray
  • Add seasonings (i love s+p, nutritional yeast, or adding spicy seasonings, like red pepper flakes)
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes, flip, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes (checking to make sure they don’t burn!)

When done, they will be crispy and crunchy and very addicting. They are the perfect snack or side to dinner and taste amazing dipped in ketchup (this may just be a personal preference though….)

2. Massaged kale

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Kale can be kind of rough/tough on its own, so massaging it is a great way to wilt it down a little and make it extra delicious.

  • Break kale into bite sized pieces (as stated above)
  • Put kale in bowl and add in any dressing/marinade of your choice (any garlicy/cheesy dressing is a good choice if you’ve never done this, but I also like to use vinegar-based dressings as well)
  • Use you hands (make sure they’re washed!) or a fork/spoon/mixing utensil to distribute the dressing into the kale – hands work best!
  • Add in some veggies, a grain, some sort of protein (beans, tofu, chicken, etc.) and fat (nuts, seeds) to make it a meal

3. Sautéed kale

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I love sautéing kale and like to use it as an easy green addition to my dinners.  All I do is rip the kale into bite sized pieces, coat a pan with a little bit of olive oil, and saute the kale until it begins to wilt and turn a deep green color (usually takes about 3-5 minutes). I then just season with a little salt and pepper and call it a day! It’s so easy. (You can also add other seasonings as well depending on taste/what else you are preparing).

So, those are the top 3 ways I prepare kale, and, as you can probably tell, I am all about easy meal preparation. I never do anything that takes much time and most of my meals come together in 20 minutes or less (so there is no excuse not to eat your veggies!).

If you do want a more “pulled together” or complete meal idea using kale check out these recipes (I have them bookmarked to make soon… they look so good!):

and some more kale recipes/ideas:

Let me know if you eat some kale (or if you have any questions)!

What is your favorite vegetable? What are you favorite ways to eat kale?

What I Ate Wednesday #6 (February 29, 2012)

Hi there, can you believe it’s already Wednesday? Or that tomorrow is March 1 (where is time going)? Or that the high for today is 60 degrees (in Pittsburgh, at least)? It’s so odd…. annnd I guess I’ll stop asking questions now.

So today is the last day of February and also the last day to celebrate/take part in “Love Your Veggies Month” over at Peas and Crayons for WIAW. To end the month with a bang, I made sure to eat some delicious veggie-inspired meals yesterday. I am also pretty excited for next month’s theme….

Breakfast – 5:30 am

For breakfast yesterday, I had some Bob’s Red Mill 8 Grain Hot Cereal that I made by combining the following in a saucepan and cooking for about 5 minutes:

  • 1/4 c cereal (1 serving)
  • 1/2 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 small banana (mixed in)
  • 1 tbsp ground flax (mixed in at end)

Toppings:

  • 1/2 small banana, chopped
  • small handful golden raisins
  • 1 chopped dried apricot
  • 2 tbsp chopped walnuts (toasted by microwaving for 2 minutes)

I really like switching up my breakfast grains from time to time, and I love the texture of this cereal (it is more chewy and more “oat bran-esque” than oatmeal). It was a nice change from my normal bowl of oatmeal that I tend to eat in the morning. I also especially liked the addition of the toasted walnuts  (I need to remember to top oatmeal/hot cereal with toasted walnuts more often…).

Snack – 9:00 am

As my mid-morning snack, I had a random trail mix concoction I made that contained:

  • walnuts
  • almonds
  • chopped dried apricots
  • golden raisins
  • dried mango
  • Kashi Heart to Heart cereal

Lunch – 12:30 pm

 My breakfast and snack did a great job of keeping me full for quite a while, and I was able to hold off on lunch until 12:30 (I usually am very ready to eat by 12).For lunch I had a big veggie-packed salad (a great way to squeeze in a lot of vegetable servings!) that contained:

  •  spinach
  • carrots
  • cucumber
  • peas
  • beets (from a can – I never really buy beets but I saw them at the store this week and impulsively bought a can. I used to eat these all the time when I was younger, so they always oddly remind me of my childhood…)
  • chickpeas (approx 1/2 cup)
  • quinoa (approx 1/2 cup)

Dressing: Drew’s Goddess Dressing (I forgot how much I love Goddess dressing…)

I also enjoyed a new to me orange with my lunch: a minnelo. It was so sweet and and so delicious. I may need to start replacing my daily lunch apple with an orange….

Snack: 4:00 pm


I was still busy at work around 4 pm, so I snacked on a Fugi apple and a small handful of Kashi crackers as I worked and finished things up.

Dinner: 5:30 pm

I did my best to make this look appetizing...I think I failed

I had plans to go to the gym at 6:30 yesterday (for a BodyAttack class!), so I had a lighter dinner before I left to fuel me through the class. I had a Boca veggie burger on a piece of toast with some steamed stir fry veggies (a frozen mixture I recently bought) on the side.

One of my favorite ways to prepare frozen veggies is to microwave (aka steam) a small serving for 1-2 minutes (to get them warm), and then stir fry them in a medium-high skillet for 2-3 minutes. This browns the veggies a little and makes them more crunchy and “fresh” tasting rather than mushy and bland as they can sometimes get – which is never fun or tasty. I also like to add fun seasonings to them to spruce them up.

I decided to go with an “Asian theme” for my dinner last night, so I added some ground ginger and gomasio (a seasoned sesame seed) to my veggies. To make my Boca burger fit the “theme,” I used some Trader Joe’s Oriental Sesame dressing as the condiment for my toast and added some romaine, cucumber and gomasio as my burger toppings.

This was such a simple dinner to make and came together in less than 10 minutes. I wasn’t expecting much out of it, but it ended up being a pretty good meal. I especially liked the kick that the ground ginger gave to the veggies and how the TJ’s dressing absorbed into the Boca burger and toast, making everything rather delicious. I love when simple meals happen to taste amazing…

Dessert/Snack – 9:30 pm

To end my day on a sweeter note, I had a container of applesauce with a small handful of raisins and Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal sprinkled on top. I never eat applesauce, but for some reason it sounded appealing last night. I am glad that I had a few containers in my fridge that I haven’t touched in months, because this ended up being quite a delicious and refreshing snack…

I ate this as I read up on some Bio notes and attempted to watch the Biggest Loser (I have issues watching it these days due to the blatant/obvious advertising that seems to happen every 3 minutes on the show… does this bother anyone else?).

Annd that concludes my meals/snacks from yesterday. Now I’m off to check out the delicious things that everybody else has been eating this week! Have a great day everyone.

Easy Lunch Idea: Lemon Dijon Kale and Barley Salad

I always make myself grain and veggie-based salads for lunch. They are filling, delicious, and so versatile. They also guarantee a complete meal with the components of :

  • whole grains (barley, brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta…)
  • protein (beans, tofu/tempeh, tuna/salmon, chicken, etc.)
  • fat (olive oil-based dressings, nuts/seeds)
  • veggies (spinach, carrots, mushrooms, whatever you have on hand….)

With the switching up of different grains, protein options, vegetables and dressings, the options are really endless when it comes to this easy meal concept.

To make these, I usually just tend to throw whatever ingredients I have on hand(veggies, protein source, grain, etc.) in a Tupperware container, pack some dressing on the side, and call it a day. While this is easy, effortless, and always results in a filling, healthy meal, I thought I could streamline the process even more by making and pre-portioning a big batch of a grain salad over the weekend to grab and go as  an easy meal option during the week.

I did just that this weekend by making a big batch of a barley and kale salad. This particular combination ended up tasting so delicious that I thought I’d share (in case anyone is looking to switch up their lunch routine or try out a grain-based salad for lunch). I especially liked how the  massaged kale and broccoli soaked up the lemon dijon dressing, and how the addition of the sunflower seed kernels  gave the salad additional crunch and texture. Overall, this was a very  enjoyable combination.

If you are looking for a simple, healthy, filling lunch idea, try this out!

Lemon Dijon Kale and Barley Salad

makes 2 lunch-sized servings

Ingredients:

  • barley (1 cup dry)
  • kale (approx 1/2 of a large bunch or 2 cups when torn into pieces)
  • carrots (1/2 cup, chopped)
  • broccoli (1/2 cup, chopped)
  • celery (2 stalks, chopped into bite-sized pieces)
  • chickpeas (1 cup, rinsed and drained)
  • sunflower seed kernels (2-3 tbsp – optional)

Dressing:

  • olive oil (2 tbsp)
  • lemon juice (4 tbsp or about the juice of 1 lemon)
  • dijon mustard (4 tsp)
  • pepper to taste

Directions:

  •  bring 1 cup barley and 3 cups water to a boil, turn heat to medium and let barley simmer for 25-35 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally (will make about 2 cups once cooked)
  • while barley cooks, prep your veggies!
  • rinse and tear kale into bite sized pieces and place in large bowl
  • chop broccoli, carrots and celery  into bite sized pieces and place on top of kale
  • add chickpeas on top of veggie mixture

To make the dressing: in a small bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and dijon mustard, add pepper to taste (you might want to add more olive oil or lemon juice or dijon depending on taste preference)

  • massage about 1/2 of the dressing into the kale, veggie and bean mixture, using your hands (or a stirring utensil) to evenly distribute the mixture. (Massage/mix until kale begins to wilt down a little and turn a bright green color)
  • once barley is cooked and somewhat cool, add 1 cup (you will have about 1 cup leftover) of the cooked barley into the veggie mixture and add the remaining dressing . Mix until well-distributed
  • separate salad into Tupperware containers, add about a tbsp of sunflower seed kernels on top of each salad and refrigerate until you are ready to eat!

Options:

  1. replace barley with another grain of your choice (brown rice, quinoa…)
  2. substitute the veggies with whatever you have on hand (cauliflower, cucumber, tomato, etc. would all work well) – you could also use spinach or another type of green in place of the kale
  3. substitute the sunflower seed kernels with some chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans…) or other type of seed

The options and possibilities are really endless with this. Let me know if you try it out!

Getting out of my food rut

So I have a confession to make. For the last couple of weeks or so I have been in a bit of a food rut. I have been packing and eating a lot of the same foods over and over again, and while they have been tasting good and have been good for me, I haven’t been enjoying them as much  as usual.  As a result, I also have not been feeling very satisfied with any of my meals, and I have been resorting to some not so healthy habits. Some habits I tend to develop which cue me in to the fact that I am most likely in a food rut include:

  • eating my meals and finishing them without feeling like I ate at all (probably due to the fact that I am not really paying attention when eating)
  • becoming really snacky and never feeling fully satisfied… (probably due related to the bullet above)
  • craving  a lot of “junk”-type foods that I usually don’t normally crave
  • feeling out of control and in regard to eating in general

I don’t always experience all of these things at once, and while they can occur because of a “food rut,” they can also be caused by multiple other factors as well (stress, eating our of boredom/habit, getting stuck in a routine in regard to food, etc). I don’t want to say that I am only snacky and/or crave copius amounts of chocolate during these times(because I KNOW that this isn’t the case), but I find when I continuoulsy feel this way and am engaging in the above habits often, a boredeom with my food choices is usually a major culprit.

I have also begun to identify when these moods tend to strike:

  • when the end of a season is near (I tend to eat the same things during certain seasons….)
  • when I am really busy and don’t have a lot of time to devote to food/meal prep.

 As both of these situations appear to  be releveant here, I have decided that there must be something I can do to end the cycle. The crazy thing I have come to learn about food ruts is that they are so easy to fix. Once I recognize that it is the problem, all it takes is a few tweaks in my diet to make my food seem “fresh” and “new” and “exciting” again.  Now, if I could only remind myself of this sooner instead of waiting three weeks to come to this conclusion….

Does anyone get in these type of ruts?

To end this cycle and to get excited about eating again, I decided to spruce things up this week and do what I could to make my meals exciting again.

Some tips/tactics I use to get out of a food rut:

1.I buy something new at the grocery store to spruce up my meals

This week I got a little excited and purchased….

A few new salad toppers and/or snack mix ingredients:

2 new-to-me oranges to enjoy as my post-lunch fruit:

minnelos(?) and some FL orange I never heard of....

A few new granola bars to eat as snacks (Courtney inspired the SoyJoy purchase…):

I also bought some barley to make as a new grain for lunches:Other healthy purchases I buy to spruce up meals and snacks:

  • A new type of vegetable and/or fruit to throw into salads/sandwiches/stir fries or veggie bags
  • A new type of cereal to enjoy for breakfast or in a baggie for a snack (add some nuts for more staying power!)
  • fun toppers or add-ins to throw into snack mixes, on top of salads or meals (any type of seed or nut, dried fruit…)
  • A new flavor of yogurt (for breakfast or as a snack)
  • A new type of cheese to use as a salad topper, in sandwiches, sprinkled on top of meals…. (goat, feta, parmesan, cheddar, gouda…..)
  • Granola bars or snack bars (Kashi makes a lot of fun flavors of granola bars… and they don’t contain a lot of additives or unnecessary ingredients) – I also love Clif Z bars, Larabars and KIND bars
  • A new grain to enjoy with lunch or dinner (there are so many like barley, quinoa, different types of whole grain pasta, brown rice, bulgar wheat…. you can find most of these in the bulk bins at Whole Foods)
  • A new condiment to use as a dressing, marinade or sandwich spread…. (I love condiments!)
  • A new seasoning/spice to add to meals (I love Spike!)

2. I make a new recipe or search through cooking magazines or cookbooks for cooking and/or meal packing inspiration

I made a new soup yesterday (another one from Natural Health Magazine) to eat for dinner and/or pack for lunches… Red Kidney Bean Curry Soup (yum).

I actually ate this for dinner last night on top of some kale (mine was more like stew because I let it simmer too long), and it was delicious (and so simple to make too!). I am looking forward to eating it again….

I also brainstormed some new/”fun” lunch ideas for the week (which I’ll share if they turn out as delicious as they seem in my head) by looking through some of my cookbooks.

Not my current collection, but I thought a visual would be nice to include. I would love a copy of Clean Food though….

source

So lets hope my food rut ends this week. I am already excited to dig into my new trail mix concoction later and to eat my minnelo!

How do you deal with food ruts and/or keeping meals exciting? Do you have any other tips to share (I am always open to advice on this!)?

Best thing I packed this week (February 24, 2012)

Hi! whose excited for the weekend?

I have had a rather long week  (has anyone else had a busy week?) and am pretty excited to relax a little. I am also craving a good beer so I am hoping to make that happen tonight…. Any suggestions?

Before that time comes though, I must be a productive person and go to work and school (I have a Chem test tonight and Chem lab). The key for me to getting through these long days is having fun little things to look forward to (which usually takes the form of meals and snacks). I bought a few things today to keep my spirits up that I am excited about:

I just ate the  Chobani yogurt (SO GOOD) and plan to have the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Clif Mojo bar as a snack and to sip on the seltzer throughout the day. I’m a little excited for both (it’s all about the little things, right?). I love fun snacks.

Best Thing I Packed this Week

Anyway, other than talking about my busy day and fun snacks, I though I’d end the week by sharing the best things I packed this week!

The winning day of packed meals was on Wednesday of this week, as I packed a delicious lunch and dinner.

Best Lunch: Tuna Salad with Dijon Honey dressing

I made myself a salad for lunch on Wednesday that contained:

  • spinach/romaine (as the base)
  • carrots
  • cucumber
  • celery
  • 1 slice  colby jack cheese (cut into squares)
  • 1/2 can tuna

Dressing:  Dijon Honey dressing I made with:

  • 3 tbsp (approx) apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 tsp (approx) dijon mustard
  • 1 squirt (maybe 1/4-1/2 tsp?) honey

I also ate a whole wheat wrap on the side that I dipped in the extra dressing and scooped up some of the salad with (I love doing this).

I don’t normally eat a lot of tuna (I think I just forget about it), but it is such an easy/delicious protein option to incorporate into lunches. (Side story… in third grade my friend and I decided we would eat tuna for lunch every.single.day… don’t ask me why. It lasted for a few months, and I literally could not look at tuna for years after that. I’m surprised my mom let me do it and that I didn’t get mercury poisoning… don’t judge me). Anyway, I am glad that my aversion has passed because tuna can be quite delicious every once in a while.

This salad was really simple and contained ingredients that I always have in my fridge, but, for some reason, it tasted extra delicious. Sometimes it’s the simplest foods that are the best.

Best Dinner: Strawberry and Goat Cheese Pita Sandwich

I’ve already posted about my half and half pita sandwich idea (in this post), but since I actually have a picture to show this time around, and since I can’t get over the delicious combo of goat cheese and strawberries, I had to share this again.

My first pita half contained hummus, kale, nutritional yeast and black beans (very similar to my wrap from Monday), but I want to focus the attention on my sweeter half that included:

  • spinach
  • goat cheese
  • chopped strawberries
  • strawberry jelly

I can’t explain to you how much I love this combo. There is something about  the creaminess/saltiness of the goat cheese paired with the sweetness of the strawberries that just works. If you can’t tell, I am a big fan. I can’t   get enough.

Have a great weekend!

What was the best thing you packed this week?

Cherry Garden (aka Cherry Pineapple Coconut) cupcakes

So I have a fun dessert creation for you today!  Since it was my boyfriend’s birthday yesterday, I decided to bake him some cupcakes to celebrate the occasion. Jon is a big fan of all things pineapple- flavored and since his favorite ice cream flavor is Cherry Garden (which is impossible to find….but contains pineapple, cherry and coconut), I used the flavors of pineapple,  coconut and cherry as my “inspiration.”

For Jon’s last two birthdays I actually “made” his favorite ice cream for him, meaning I:

  1. bought vanilla ice cream
  2. took it out of the carton
  3. added pineapple chunks, shredded coconut, and marachino cherries
  4. put the new creation back into the original carton
  5. Created a label (complete with badly drawn cherries, of course) that read “Cherry Garden”

I’m pretty sure I could give Sandra Lee a run for her money….

But this year, I thought I’d switch things up and go the cake (vs. ice cream) route. I decided to make a Cherry Garden-inspired cupcake creation. While browsing on Pinterest the other week I came across a recipe for Pineapple Fluff cupcakes, so I stuck to the cake portion of that recipe (sticking maraschino cherries into the batter as well), and made a semi-homemade version of coconut  whipped cream frosting.

These cupcakes contain no added butter or oil (except for the frosting…) and the actual cake only contains 2 ingredients: cake mix and crushed pineapple (I am always amazed that this is possible – I am a fan of using canned pumpkin in cakes as well). Overall, the cupcakes only require only 5 ingredients!

These  made my apartment smell amazing, and I must say that despite my general preference to cooking vs. baking, I really enjoyed making these.  They were super easy and seemed so festive. They would be perfect for a tropical themed party.

I think I may need more occasions to come up that give me an excuse to make fun dessert creations. The wheels are turning….

Cherry Garden Cupcakes

(adapted/inspired from Pineapple Fluff Cupcakes)

ignore the eggs... I didn't end up needing them

Ingredients:

  • Yellow cake mix
  • 1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple
  • 1 container whipped cream frosting (any other vanilla-type frosting would work as well)
  • shredded coconut
  • maraschino cherries
  • yellow sprinkles (optional – and not pictured)

Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine cake mix and crushed pineapple
  3.  Distribute  mixture into lined cupcake tins (should make about 24 cupcakes)
  4. Add a maraschino cherry into the batter of each cupcake (optional)
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (mine were a little underbaked at 15 minutes, so make sure you check on them to make sure they are done)

Frosting

  1. Empty container of frosting into a medium-sized bowl
  2. Mix in 1/2 – 1 cup of shredded coconut into frosting
  3. Once cool, frost cupcakes
  4. Garnish with more shredded coconut, a maraschino cherry (I garnished each with 1/2 of a cherry), and yellow sprinkles