food

WIAW: yep, ANOTHER birthday

If it seems like I’ve said the word “birthday” a lot lately, you’re not crazy. I have a four person family, and our birthdays are all within 40 days of each other (and Christmas). It’s like a birthday bonanza. Let’s just say the wrapping paper comes out once a year and then *sayonara* until next December.WIAW

Yesterday was my beautiful mom’s birthday, so my WIAW is birthday/I’m-home-so-I’m-going-to-raid-my-parents’-fridge-themed. Glorious.

I started the day at Sweat on State for Tabata Tuesday. We did eight 20-second rounds of each exercise which included sprints, kettlebell deadlifts, mountain climbers on a medicine ball, push-ups, weighted lunges, and sit-ups. We had a staff meeting at the store just down the street so a few of us got our sweat on bright and early at 7am, thanks to some great coaching by Erin.

After the staff meeting I was a ravenous monster on my way to the train, so I stopped at my favorite bagel shop for breakfast. I wish I wasn’t so repetitive but yeah, I got another egg sandwich. This one is truly my favorite in the city, though. The Big Z — because nothing is yummier than an everything bagel stuffed with eggs, veggies, and melty cheddar. Get at me!

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I got home around noon and spent the afternoon working on Community Development for the store. I’ve basically pressed “Snooze” on my responsibilities and initiative on that front after the crazy holiday season, but it’s time to get back to business. I’m excited to see the cool fitness leaders we’ll be getting in the store for demonstrations this upcoming year. While I worked I snacked on “lunch”, or two homemade bran muffins and a sliced banana. Raisins always belong in muffins. Always.

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See that blank calendar? I have to fill it with community events in our store. As you can see it’s going swimmingly.

The real highlight of the day was dinner. We went to a little Italian restaurant in my hometown that my parents are in love with, and now I see why. Like most dining gems, this place was unassuming at best, hidden between a liquor store and a tattoo parlor in a strip mall. Yeah. But THE FOOD. Never have I ever had vodka sauce so decadent and flavorful.

Chianti + Bruschetta

Chianti + Bruschetta

Rigatoni a la Vodka. I added grilled chicken and spinach. And yes, I ate the whole thing.

Rigatoni a la Vodka. I added grilled chicken and spinach. And yes, I ate the whole thing.

The fam :)

The fam + a UFO in the background

We got home and did cake and cards, a ritual that was made even more fun thanks to some Chianti-inspired laughs.¬†unnamed (23)Happy Birthday Maja! Thank you for being the quarterback of our family ūüôā At the end of the day I know I can always count on you for anything. Thank you for being so supportive and kind to me this past year when I was going through tough times. You rallied me through it all! You made our childhood feel like a Disney movie, always playing songs and letting us dance around the house all day, using our imaginations and just being goofy kids. We’re all so lucky to have you.

unnamed (29)Questions:

  • Are your family members’ birthdays close together or far apart?
  • What do you order at Italian restaurants? I used to be an eggplant parmesan fanatic!

WIAW: Photo Dump Cuz I Said So

Today is going to be a post of few words, and more pictures. You know what they say, “Open your mouth only if what you’re about to say is more beautiful than silence.” I’m not sure if “they” say it, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t come up with words more beautiful than photos of food, amiright?

WIAW

So today I’m settling¬†for a photo dump of all my eats recently. I’m trying so, so, so hard to turn down dinner invitations and happy hours (but you’ll also notice I’m making no qualms about going out to lunch. Shut up about it). That’s not to say I’m not going out at¬†all¬†but my wallet wasn’t too happy with the amount I was going out to eat and drink during the week as of late. But hey, my workout game has been on point so I’m not crying about it.

Easily digestable lunch before a rough sculpt class

Easily digestable lunch before a rough sculpt class. Product 19 with honey and sliced bananas (went back for another half a bowl so the¬†leftover milk wouldn’t go to waste — I am a steward of the earth)

Greek yogurt and fruit gets me so full!

Protein-packed snacks getting me through to my next meal

I took myself on a lunch date and ate this croque monsieur alone at my favorite french cafe. It was a fun date full of pleasant conversation. Just kidding.

I took myself on a lunch date and ate this croque monsieur at my favorite french cafe. It was a fun date full of pleasant conversation. Just kidding.

Turkey chili and a fresh mini baguette from Plum Market

Turkey chili and a fresh mini baguette from Plum Market

Another gross-looking but amazing dinner: Morningstar black bean patty mixed with an avocado and salsa

Another gross-looking but amazing dinner: Morningstar black bean patty mixed with an avocado and salsa

When it's too cold to go get ice cream, you make some adjustments

When it’s too cold to go get ice cream, you make some adjustments

Potbelly tuna with alllll the veggies, extra mustard. Because toasted sandwiches immediately after a chilly Chicago run are always welcome.

Potbelly tuna with alllll the veggies, extra mustard. Because toasted sandwiches immediately after a chilly Chicago run are always welcome.

Late night ugly oatmeal -- but so, so good. Oats with almond milk, stevia, chocolate chips and peanut butter.

Late night ugly oatmeal — but so, so good. Oats with almond milk, banana, stevia, chocolate chips and peanut butter.

BBQ salmon, roasted butternut squash with stevia and cinnamon, roasted potatoes

BBQ salmon, roasted butternut squash with stevia and cinnamon, roasted potatoes

Taking midnight snacks to a whole other level

Taking midnight snacks to a whole other level

The heater was out at work so the company treated us to complimentary coffee. I had a tall soy salted caramel hot chocolate

The heater was out at work so the company treated us to complimentary coffee. I had a tall soy salted caramel hot chocolate and it was perfect. Gone in 3 minutes.

Best thing I ate all week: Trader Joe's bbq chicken pizza, extra bbq sauce on the side

Best thing I ate all week: Trader Joe’s bbq chicken pizza, extra bbq sauce on the side

Recently tried out Susie's sweet potato nachos and it is seriously in the Top 5 best things I've ever made in my kitchen -- make these!

Recently tried out Suz’s¬†sweet potato nachos and it is seriously in the Top 5 best things I’ve ever made in my kitchen — make these!

Jeni's Buckeye Ice Cream...because, again, life is too short

Jeni’s Buckeye Ice Cream (pb with chocolate flakes)…because life is too short

Questions:

  • Do you ever go out to eat by yourself?
  • What’s your favorite Trader Joe’s meal?
  • Favorite ice cream flavor?

What I Ate Wednesday: back in business

The past two days have been “stock up on food and quit spending money at restaurants” central.

Haha good joke — I’ll keep spending money at restaurants but a girl can dream of a world where her kitchen is better than a restaurant, right?

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Highlights included:

  • Vegetables: peppers, onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, avocado
  • Fruit: kiwi, apples, bananas, grapes
  • Frozen: spinach, Morningstar veggie sausage, shrimp, whole wheat bread and English muffins (I keep them in the freezer¬†because I don’t go through them very fast)
  • Fridge: eggs, coffee creamer, minced garlic, salsa, Chobani 4% plain yogurt, Chobani key lime and coconut yogurt, raspberry jam, turkey deli meat
  • Pantry: peanut butter, black beans, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, Parma Rosa sauce mix, whole grain tortilla chips
  • Spices: cinnamon, bay leaves, paprika, tabasco sauce

Is my grocery haul usually this big? Nope. But by some grace of God I ran out of staples like peanut butter, jelly, creamer, eggs, etc. all at the same time. So it was quite the loot! But my eats recently have benefited from all the effort I gave at the grocery store.

And with that, my first WIAW in…..what, four months? Not cool! So let’s walk through my Tuesday eats.

WIAW

I woke up and had half a cup of coffee with half and half and stevia. My body and brain just can’t handle a full cup of coffee anymore!

Breakfast

After seeing what Kathie Lee and Hoda were up to and answering some emails/working on blog stuff, I started on breakfast.

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Egg sandwich: 1 egg, a few egg whites, onion powder, red pepper flakes, spinach and Parmesan cheese, plus a piece of veggie sausage and raspberry jam. SO GOOD.

I headed to work early to do a little shopping and add to my rapidly expanding lululemon collection. Hey, when you work there, it not only becomes justifiable, but necessary. I put together my lunch and snacks before I left because I knew I wouldn’t be home until around 10pm — food prep is so helpful to not only stay on track, but also to keep myself from eating out.

My break came at around 4pm, so a little later than usual. I snacked on some unpictured almonds while I worked and then finally it was “lunch” time (when I work the closing shift my day is pushed back a lot, so my breakfast usually is around 10 or 11, snack around 2 and then lunch around 4).

Lunch was what I like to call a “snack pack”:

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4% plain Chobani with grapes and stevia, a mini Luna bar, some carrots and sugar snap peas and a kiwi. I also packed some Skoop protein + almond milk but completely forgot about it.

As soon as work was over I scrambled to take a Hot Power Fusion yoga class at Corepower Yoga with my roommate, Colleen. I didn’t get a picture of the before, during or after (which, to be honest, is probably best, seeing as we were both sloppy messes by the time the class was over), but I’ll share a few photos from my Monday workout instead. I woke up bright and early to attend Sweat on State, where we got our sprints, ball slams, and triceps push-ups on. KILL ME NOW. My triceps still hate me from that workout.unnamed (52)

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The instructor was able to catch me mid-triceps push-up. I wish you could see my face here because it was pure agony.

I finished in just under 25 minutes. Normally I would never think 25 minutes is enough. But I literally lay on the floor after that workout in so much pain and I couldn’t wait to get back home and crawl into bed. Sometimes, 25 minutes of pushing yourself to the max is enough. I love Sweat on State more and more each time I go — I’m starting to build a great fitness family there and really appreciate not only the intensity and variety of the workouts, but the sense of community that exists there.

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Flashforward to yesterday’s workout — Colleen and I ended up getting home around 10pm, and just as I imagined, I was famished. I made the quickest, most appealing dinner I could think of:

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Whole wheat toast with tonnnnns of peanut butter, sliced banana and cinnamon

Now it’s late and this Cinderella needs to get to sleep before the clock strikes 12. I’m about to grab a few handfuls of chocolate chips, some carrots and a cheese stick (because I’m always hungry), and head to bed. It was quite the full day and I’m ready for some zzzzs.

Questions:

  • What was the best thing you ate yesterday?
  • What was the laziest meal you’ve made lately?

South of the Border Frittata

I think it’s safe to say that every diet-friendly cookbook idea known to man has been written. Just looking at Amazon I saw “Thug Cookbook”, “The Disney Princess Cookbook”, “Giada’s Feel Good Food” and “Simply Skinny.” There are so many cookbooks out there claiming to have a variety of recipes that will make you feel your best and will be super easy to cook and cheap to buy. But in my humble opinion there are only two words you need to know to eat well, eat fast and eat cheap.

Mexican food.

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I mean really. So many veggies. So many whole food options. So many spices. And they respect the power of guac and cheese, which I can always get on board with.

I plan on moving out of my parents’ house sometime in the next month (fingers crossed!) and I know between rent, the cost of living in downtown Chicago, and my admitted love of Trader Joe’s and fitness studios it’s going to be a tight squeeze on my wallet. And since I’ve never been a huge pasta person I need a cheap go-to option.

Mexican food can be the healthiest food or the most unhealthy choice. Why yes, I do love me some nachos and a margarita the size of a small child. But I also love burrito bowls, shrimp fajitas and would swim in a pool of black beans. All wonderfully healthy options. Not to mention that when I’m making Mexican food I’m almost always downing it in red pepper flakes, an addition that has been proven to shake up your metabolism. Which is a healthy living tip I’ve always taken extremely seriously because my metabolism might be kicking now but if my love of food doesn’t die down sometime in the next decade there might be troubled waters ahead.

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So now that the move-out date is approaching, I’ve started my experiments. And since I’ve been in the midst of a¬†desperate attempt to veggiefy my life, I threw the contents of my fridge into a cast iron skillet and hoped for the best. My prayers were answered and I was left with a kick ass fritatta.

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South of the Border Frittata

Ingredients

  • 10 eggs
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/2 block sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 bag store-bought spinach, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick Cajun seasoning (or just paprika)
  • Sprinkle of red pepper flakes
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Directions

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a cast iron skillet on medium heat
  • When oil is hot, add onion and pepper to the pan. Let cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and chopped spinach.
  • Add spices and salt/pepper to taste (personal preference is key here!)
  • Turn heat to low until the spinach wilts. Stir in salsa.
  • In a separate bowl whisk together the ten eggs and almond milk. Salt and pepper.
  • Turn heat back to medium and pour the egg mixture over the cooked veggies in the skillet.
  • Stir constantly until the veggies are all evenly distributed and the egg begins to set. Add the cheddar cheese to the mix just before it hits the oven.
  • Place skillet in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes (mine took 14 but ovens vary)
  • Serve with salsa, black beans or avocado toast. Or all of it. No judgment.

Questions:

  • What’s your favorite cultural food?
  • If you had to pick one dish that is your go-to cheap, healthy and fast choice, what would it be?

the wonderful world of unexplored squash: what to do with a delicata

Squash is one of those words you only ever hear from the months September-November. Can you imagine any scenario when you would bring up the vivacious veggie in conversation in, say, June?

Nonetheless, squash becomes a bit of an obsession this time of year.

From butternut to pumpkin, acorn to spaghetti and everything in between, it’s like there’s this tiny window of opportunity to cook such a unique species of vegetable that it makes foodies everywhere dash to their ovens and hike it up to 425 yelling “Let the roasting commence!”

Yesterday I shared with you that I recently cooked a delicata squash. I realized when I woke up this morning how unfair it was to just share that photo with you and not really get into some more detail about the wonderful world of unexplored squash (doesn’t part of you just wish that the plural of squash was “squashes”?)

Delicata squash!!

I stumbled upon this darling delicata last week at Trader Joe’s. I was swapping stories with one of the employees while sampling their pumpkin spice coffee and delicious¬†spiced apple cider when I asked what her favorite pumpkin products were this year. If anyone else took a glance at the latest Fearless Flyer you know that there are probably a dozen pumpkin-themed products lining the shelves of TJ’s and I really needed an insider’s take on just which ones were worth it. Instead of leading me to the pumpkin pancakes or butternut squash soup she pointed directly at the delicata squash. “You¬†have to try that.” So into my cart it went, what looked like the cross between an over-sized cucumber and a giant peanut. All I was armed with were¬†the instructions to “cut, drizzle with olive oil, season, and roast.”

Ah the risky life of the ever-curious foodie.

Long story short I did exactly what she told me and was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved it! I sliced off the ends of the squash, cut it lengthwise, cleaned out the insides (post-picture), drizzled it with EVOO and salt+pepper, and stuck it in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until the insides were soft when I stabbed it with a fork.

So what does delicata squash taste like? It tasted slightly sweet, like a sweet potato, but the texture was just a bit more firm, kind of like a spaghetti squash. It was smooth but not as creamy¬†as sweet potatoes are. Like most squash, it really took on the flavor of the olive oil, salt and pepper but still tasted fresh and earthy, making it the perfect side to any lean protein. I ate half the squash while waiting for my fish¬†to cook because I just couldn’t stave off my curiosity any longer.

Some quick facts about delicata squash:

  • It goes by many nicknames:¬†the sweet potato squash, the peanut squash, the Bohemian squash
  • A 3/4-cup contains 30 just calories
  • It is fat-free, sodium-free, cholesterol-free, and a great source of Vitamins C and A
  • Throw the peeler aside – you can eat the skin!

Here are a few amazing recipes I came across will be using for inspiration over the next few weeks:

Roasted Squash Blossom

Delicata-Squash5W

Delicata Squash Soup

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Roasted Cinnamon-Ginger Delicata Squash delicata-7

Delicata Squash & Chard Penne Pasta

Produce On Parade - Delicata Squash & Chard Penne Pasta - A perfect early autumn penne pasta with roasted delicata squash, sautéed chard and bell pepper, dressed in a fresh, herbed tomato sauce-

So join me in pumpkin rehab and pick up a delicata squash after work today. Because honestly, why the heck not? It’s like $2 and it keeps you from having to turn to those frozen mixed vegetables (again) that I know we’re all guilty of hoarding.

Questions:

  • What’s your favorite fall recipe/food that doesn’t include pumpkin or apple?
  • Do foreign veggies like this one intimidate you, or do you pick one up and experiment just for the heck of it?

WIAW: back on that Portillos grind

If I had a dollar for all the¬†times I turned to nachos for meals in the past five weeks I’d have a down payment on a Prius.

But it’s a new week and with my new goals in mind, I’ve started making meals (and, thankfully, worshiping vegetables again).

So without further ado, a day of my (recent) eats:

Breakfast

I’ve downsized my usual breakfast sandwich into an English muffin – it fills me up just the same as a bagel (thanks, protein!) but makes me feel less guilty about the half and half I need (yes, need) in my coffee.

1 egg, 2 tablespoons egg whites, bell peppers, onions, Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes and onion powder on an English muffin. It ain’t pretty but it sits in my stomach like a cheesy, delicious rock, so I go with it.

IMG_8159Lunch

I had a day off yesterday before I started my new job, so lunch was spent at home. My mom and I split a pizza from Trader Joe’s: spinach, feta and mozzarella with greens on the side. Dressing is easy as pie: TJ’s balsamic glaze + olive oil.

IMG_8161In the afternoon I went to my first hot yoga class. Spoiler alert: hot yoga is hard.

IMG_8173Between the heat and my general distaste for water/addiction to coffee, this was no picnic. I had to take a few breaks just to wipe my mat down and guzzle¬†water. Now, let’s call a spade a spade: this was no typical ashtanga session. It was a Sahara¬†bootcamp. 100 degrees of slippery mats and sumo squats. Needless to say I was lightheaded and gasping for air like a fish out of water, but about twenty minutes after I left the building my body was overcome by the inevitable high that can only come from exercise and I basically floated home. Beautiful session, beautiful afternoon.

Snacks

An unpictured Larabar. Exciting stuff, I know.

Dinner

Once I was back in the burbs I was about ready to eat my hand. I knew I wanted veggies, as many as I could possibly shovel into my mouth, so I drove straight for the motherland: Portillos.

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Good things come to those who wait (and yes, the line is always this long). This is, by far, the biggest thing non-Chicagoans are missing out on. Italian beef, Chicago hot dogs, cheese fries (ooooh the cheese fries), chocolate cake shakes, and the chopped salad. If you locked me in a Portillos for 30 years I wouldn’t even be mad.

IMG_8184Oh my goodness – the closeup is what really does this salad justice. And just so you don’t think I’m too healthy, they serve their salads with a huge chunk of bread which I quickly slathered with butter and demolished. It was all gone in less than 20 minutes and I spent the next thirty lying on the couch in a glorious food coma. Hot yoga makes you hungry, apparently. Or any activity besides Netflix, I guess.

Dessert

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Be still my heart.

Question:

  • If you’ve ever visited, did you try Portillos? Have you ever heard of it?
  • What have you been craving this week? Let’s talk food! It’s been too long ūüôā

is there anything better than a summer barbeque?

I’m feeling a little under the weather today, so let’s look back to happier times, shall we? This past weekend I was home in the suburbs for a friend’s birthday and some family time, and thanks to some perfect Sunday weather my family put together a fun bbq. Take notes, because this was my perfect meal.

IMG_7929IMG_7931IMG_7933IMG_7937IMG_7940IMG_7941Veggie burger, oven fries, and grilled asparagus. Why can’t it be summer all year? Everything’s better on the grill.

I also used the weekend home in the burbs to get in two runs and a long walk, because I happen to think I live in the cutest, quaintest town in America (I’m not biased at all).

IMG_7944Perfect perfect perfect.

And now it’s cloudy, rainy and cold in Chicago so I’m just sitting here on June 11th confused out of my mind. What is HAPPENING, weather?!

Sorry for the lack of writing this week but between moving, some news (I’ll share tomorrow!), work and Zain’s mom visiting, I’ve been in a total time-warp this week. Don’t think that means I haven’t been checking your blogs out though – it’s what keeps me sane ūüôā

Have a great Wednesday!

Question:

  • What’s your favorite bbq food?