Monday Night Football Feast – Week 7

Hey everyone! I am finally bringing you a post (potentially a series of posts) that I’ve been wanting to share for a long time now!

As many of you who follow my Instagram feed know, every week my friend Dave (HI DAVE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!) hosts Monday Night Football at his house and cooks a meal typical of whatever city is hosting that night’s game. This tradition of his isn’t new – he’s been doing it for a few years now — I’m just new to the friend group. Actually, the moment I showed up Week 1 with Beer Mac n’ Cheese in hand was probably the moment they decided I was allowed to come back haha.

Anyway, instead of kicking in a few bucks for the food, I’ve used the MNF tradition as an excuse/inspiration to challenge myself to make creative dishes to share. Here’s a few of the themes we’ve had so far and what I’ve brought:

Week 1: at Washington. Good ol’ American hamburgers & freshly cut/deep fried French fries (Dave’s contribution) and Beer Mac n’ Cheese from yours truly (one of my Cooking Bucket List items!!)

Week 2: At Cincinnati. David made breakfast pizzas with a base of Goetta, (a sausage native to Cincinnati) topped with scrambled eggs & spinach

Week 4: At New Orleans. Dave made traditional gumbo (left) and gumbo z’herbes (right), and I made and fried BEIGNETS! Those beignets might actually get their own separate post one of these Mondays.

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Week 5: at Atlanta. I actually couldn’t make it that week, but I had already made loaded mashed potatoes to go with Dave’s fried chicken and collard greens, and Landai’s peach cobbler. These guys were loaded with bacon, chives, and cheddar cheese. YUM.

Now, for week 7

We spent all day in the kitchen yesterday (seriously my happy place) preparing an Italian feast for tonight’s game, which is hosted by the New York Giants. My game plan was to make tomato sauce from scratch and two different kinds of gnocchi, and Dave prepped stuff for Caesar salad, garlic bread, and meatballs. Tonight he’ll also be cooking up minestrone soup, and grilled lamb. Needless to say…….we’re gonna have a lot of food.

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First up was the sauce! For 2 kinds of gnocchi, I decided to make 2 kinds of sauces. The first was a tomato sauce (from scratch! See my recipe here) with onions, peppers, and mild Italian sausage.

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This was probably the most time consuming item of the day. I forgot how long it takes to peel and de-seed tomatoes! It’s totally therapeutic, though.

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This is the best picture I got of my meat sauce. Saaarrrrrrry.

Next up was the gnocchi – I got regular Russet potatoes (to pair with the tomato sauce) as well as a few sweet potatoes (with which I’m hoping to pair with a mushroom cream sauce) and went to town.

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Dave actually had a ricer, which was a total luxury. The last time I made gnocchi, I used a hand grater! Here’s the riced Russet potatoes with the cooked sweet potato.

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Next it was time for the sweet potato. I think I over-cooked them, because it was a lot harder to gather the sweet potato into a dough. We decided to forgo the typical gnocchi ridges for those ones since they were too delicate, but I thought the ridges looked awesome on the regular potato gnocchi!

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And voila! Into the freezer they went, and out they came a day later!

Here’s how they looked after cooking….they were a little mushy because they thawed a bit too much before I could get them into the boiling water. But they were still delicious!

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Here’s some of the other food:

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Ravioli with Nicole’s family recipe meat sauce

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Nicole’s meat sauce with Dave’s minestrone soup stew in the back.

What’s your favorite Football Food?

Do you have any fun cooking traditions you do with friends? MNF meals, “family” dinners, etc?

New Obsession: MixMyOwn Muesli

Did you eat breakfast daily as a kid?

My brother and I sat at the table and eat cereal every morning throughout my childhood. Usually it was something “healthy”, (are Frosted Flakes considered healthy? 😛 ), but every so often we’d get treated to Lucky Charms or Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Unfortunately, Cookie Crisp never found its way into our pantry. Thanks a LOT, Mom!

When I hit high school and started taking a 7am zero period sophomore year (which I then continued, in addition to a full course schedule, through senior year…seriously, who was I?!), breakfast took the back burner. As anyone in my family can tell you, it takes a lot to get me out of bed in the morning, and I usually prefer to set the alarm as late as humanly possible, then rush out the door. I need my maximum possible amount of sleep!

As you can imagine, the no-breakfast habit continued into college for the most part. My meal plan included 14 meals per week, which allowed for lunch and dinner every day. Sometimes I’d treat myself to breakfast at the dining commons and grab lunch at a cafe on campus, but I by no means ate breakfast regularly.

In France, my breakfasts were usually a coffee and chocolate covered gaufre (waffle) from the vending machine at the university that I snacked on during class. (Oh my god, I miss those!) When I lived in an apartment senior year, my breakfast usually consisted of some kind of chocolatey Pop Tart, or a Luna bar.

Long story short: I had a very unhealthy relationship with breakfast for a long time 😉 Suddenly, I no longer wonder how I weighed nearly 20 pounds more than I do now just 3 years ago when I graduated!

When I moved home after college, to deal with being unemployed and bored, I got myself into a little routine: I started each day with a small breakfast and a workout, followed by a bigger breakfast/lunch. I forced myself to like bananas, because they were the easiest pre-work out breakfast option.

Nearly 3 years later, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t eat breakfast. During the colder months, I eat a lot of oatmeal. During the summertime, I usually have Greek yogurt and some kind of granola bar. This summer’s obsession was toast + Laughing Cow wedges. But when I went to Blend Retreat back in May, I tried overnight oats for the first time made with muesli…and I was hooked. It was basically like cold oatmeal, but tasted soooo much better than that sounds 🙂

In the middle of my recent toast and Laughing Cow breakfast kick, I was contacted by Klara from MixMyOwn Healthy Breakfast, who offered me a free sample of their product. Fresh out of muesli (thus the reason for the toast and Laughing Cow kick!), I jumped at the opportunity. MixMyOwn has a few muesli mixes they create themselves, but the coolest thing about the site is that you can create your own cereal/granola/muesli! And what really appealed to me was that they use all natural ingredients:

By offering nearly 100 responsibly chosen ingredients, including a variety of 100%
natural, unprocessed, organic, non-GMO, preservative free and sugar-free options,
MixMyOwn provides an alternative to processed cereals and snacks.

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So I went to work and Mixed My Own personal muesli…and it was amazing!

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I had no idea where to start…just check out all these options:

“A customer can choose from 31 types of dried fruits including 13 types of freeze-dried fruits, 20 types of nuts and seeds, and other healthy ingredients to add to the bases.

MixMyOwn offers 8 premixed breakfasts, as well, including: Kids Mix, Fitness Mix, Gluten-free Mix, Antioxidant Mix, Tutty Nutty, Very Berry, Strawberry Almond Mix, and Classic Mix, and even these can be adjusted to suit the customer’s unique needs”

I knew I wanted to make my own, rather than going for a premix. So I decided to go for a tropical theme! In addition to oats and various grains, I added: flaked coconut, dried mango, dried papaya, chia seeds, macadamia nuts, and because I still had a little bit of extra $ left, I splurged on a vanilla bean.

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Oh my gawwwd. SO good. I love the variety of textures, and you could tell that all the ingredients were high quality. I’m glad I went with the coconut (even though I’m not a huge fan)… I have always disliked shredded coconut, but I’m now sold on flaked coconut!

I also love that they include the nutrition stats for your mix:

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Look how low in sugar it is! Just 2.5g! I mix about one serving/half a cup of muesli with a cup of almond milk and a few more chia seeds, store it in the fridge overnight, and VOILA! Amazing breakfast.

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I definitely recommend trying out MixMyOwn! Especially if you’re picky about your oats 🙂

PLUS from now until the end of September you can get 20% off your order with the code HEALTHYBREAKFAST. Perfect timing, since I’m about to run out of my mix!

As I mentioned, I received my MixMyOwn mix free of charge…However, all opinions are my own!

What’s your go-to breakfast?

If you eat oatmeal/overnight oats, what’s your favorite combo of ingredients?

Meatless Monday: Zucchini-Corn Fritters

Labor Day is the worst.

For me, it has always marked the end of summer. No more pool days, no more white pants, goodbye 9pm sunsets, goodbye barbeques!

I have had an epic weekend, however, which I will share pictures of tomorrow. Wine, grape stomping, college friends, Sunday Funday, Nutella…If I have to say bye to summer, I might as well send it off right…right?

These past few years, I’ve also begun to love summer produce. Tomatoes have always been one of my most hated foods…but between the months of June and September, I find myself popping fresh cherry tomatoes like candy. Every meal is accompanied by corn on the cob, and I can’t remember the last stir fry I made that didn’t involve zucchini.

Luckily for us in California we get summer produce year round! For a price 😉

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This summer, I’ve been trying to perfect the zucchini fritter. It’s such an easy Monday night meal – there’s minimal prep needed; just scoop together a bunch of veggies and fry ’em up! My ratio was always off, though…too wet, too crumbly, etc. Last week, I finally hit my sweet spot and they turned out delicious! But really, who doesn’t like fried food?

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So make these tonight, make them next week or next month, and enjoy the lingering produce of summer!

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Unfortunately I learned that taking pictures of food isn’t super easy to do with a cast on your thumb…haha.

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#epiclyblurryfoodphotos

Zucchini-Corn Fritters
loosely based on Zucchini Fritters by smitten kitchen

makes 4 fritters

1 medium zucchini
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil (fresh) or 1 tsp basil (dry)
1/2 cup corn, removed from cob
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder (optional)
oil, for frying

Shred zucchini with a box grater or, if you’re smart and lazy, a grater attachment on your food processor. Place in a strainer and sprinkle salt over the shredded zucchini. Let stand for 10-15 minutes, then using a clean towel or thick paper towels, wring out all the excess water. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

To the lump of zucchini, add salt, pepper, basil, corn, and egg and mix. Add flour and baking powder and combine until well incorporated.

Heat about a tablespoon (or more if desired) of oil over medium-medium high heat. One at a time, scoop blobs of zucchini batter into the pan. Let cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until brown, then carefully flip to the other side. Once it’s on the other side, you can flatten it out a bit so it has a fritter shape. Let cook on the other side for another 3 minutes and remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Serve immediately!

What I Ate Wednesday – New York edition!

Look at that, another WIAW post!

Hosted by Jenn over at Peas & Crayons, What I Ate Wednesday is an opportunity for wannabe-foodies-slash-voyeurs like me to see what other bloggers eat on a regular day. Such an awesome way to think of ideas to get you out of a food rut. However, there’s nothing regular about today’s edition – I’m just sharing all the food I ate on vacation 😉

My parents, brother and I got back late last night from New York after an amazing week with family and friends! Though we were there for a whole 7 days, I was actually only in New York City for the weekend + Monday. The rest of the time was spent all over Long Island (Smithtown, Ronkonkoma, Sayville, Amity Harbor, Lynbrook, Farmingdale…you name it, we went there!) visiting family and enjoying wedding festivities.

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First thing’s first – after arriving Wednesday morning on a red-eye, we went to my grandpa’s house in the evening and asked him where he wanted to go for dinner. He of course took us to his favorite New York pizza spot, Joe’s Pizza in Copiague/Amity Harbor. Those weird worm lookin’ things were actually sausage, and were also amazing and delicious.

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This was probably the one and only healthy breakfast I had the entire trip, haha. Most mornings I slept in till 10 or 11am (I tried to stay on West Coast time while we were there), so we’d just go straight to lunch. This was actually also the morning of the wedding, so it was definitely a good idea to get a good workout and a healthy breakfast in before drinking and eating the night away!

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After a super adorable ceremony at the church, we all went back to the hotel to get ready and piled into the party bus that took us to the reception. First was a Cocktail Hour, complete with 4 food stations just like this one and an open bar. Heaven!

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In the ballroom, a lovely little salad awaited us

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Followed by crab risotto topped with a couple’a shrimp!

{Please note that at least 15 minutes of dancing ensued in between each of these courses. So much dancing….}

My main course was chicken and a side of lasagna, but apparently I dug in too quickly to snap a photo. But I got the cake!

[photo courtesy of my cousin Sami]

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YUM. I’m not a huge fan of fondant, but I definitely liked that there was chocolate and vanilla!

The next day (Saturday) was spent relaxing at my aunt and uncle’s house (the mother and father of the bride) and avoiding hangovers…

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Nothing better than a little hair of the dog, right?

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Someone busted out this amazing PASTA PIZZA. That’s right. PASTA. On PIZZA. I was a little hesitant, but it was seriously amazing. Perfect use for leftover baked ziti! Carbs on carbs on carbs.

After that, it was off to the city for me:

I stayed with my close friends Joanna and Alex, and this is the view from their rooftop lounge in the financial district….. I KNOW.

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On Sunday, Alex humored me by letting me drag him to Rockefeller Center to take my picture at 30 Rock. As soon as I realized Bouchon Bakery was right next door, I HAD to go buy some overpriced macarons. I got the cheaper mini variety so I could sample a bunch: funfetti, caramel, pistachio, and vanilla. Loved the caramel flavor the best, but the macaron texture of the vanilla was so so so perfect!

Oh and then on our way from Rockefeller Center to the High Line, this happened:

Me: “Oh look, Alex! First Date! That’s the Broadway show Zachary Levi is in! He is like the epitome of what I find attractive. Seriously, when I think in my head of what a hot guy looks like…it’s him.”
Alex: “Uh, okay…”
*2 seconds later* *spots Zachary Levi standing 10 feet away*
Me: “OMYGOD OMYGOD OMYGOD OMYGOD OMYGOD OMYGOD ”

— Sadly not an exaggeration.

After walking the High Line and making a lil trip to Whole Foods, Alex and I made some awesome “deep dish” pizza:

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Manhattan living…ain’t nobody got time for real baking sheets!

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The next morning I woke up to texts from Joanna asking what kind of bagel I wanted.. YUSSSSS. I went with a whole wheat everything bagel toasted with cream cheese, and it was amazing. New York bagels are seriously in their own league, SO good.

Then it was back to Long Island…

And more pizza from Joe’s! I didn’t get a picture of our second time there, but we got a Sicilian pizza like this one and I liked it even more.

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Fast forward to our last day –> we were headed to my mom’s college roommate Linda’s house and decided to bring Italian Cookies. AKA probably one of my favorite things about Long Island- they’re at all the Italian bakeries there and they are amazing. My favorite are the kinds dipped in chocolate, but my momma likes the ones that have jelly sandwiched between them.

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Little did we know Linda’s daughter had also made us all a yogurt/custard/fruit parfait! We feasted on bagels for breakfast, then sandwich wraps for lunch, and definitely had full bellies when we got back on the plane.

As you can see, we ate real well. Thanks to a couple of workouts, a ton of walking in the city, and a general tendency to not overeat, I think I came out of this vacation with only 1 pound gained! This is a first for me 😛 And now I’m trying to brainstorm ways to get back ASAP.

Have you ever been to New York? What did you eat?

What food is your region known for?

Meatless Monday: Caprese Stacks

Hello from New York City! After lots of family time on Long Island, I escaped on the train and have been enjoying a little bit of time with friends in the Big Apple. Highlight so far (besides their amazing rooftop lounge…amazing views!) is definitely meeting Zachary Levi. Ummm he is most definitely in my top 3 celebrity crushes. I walked around the rest of the day saying “oh my god…oh my god…” and “Hey Alex, remember that time when Zachary Levi touched my shoulder?” Haha. I never want to leave!

Aaaaanyway…a few weeks ago, I was planning on heading over to a friend’s house to hang out with da guys, and our host was planning on BBQing a lot of meat. I decided, since I had just picked up lots of produce at the Farmers Market, that I would bring something fresh and healthy. With beautiful heirloom tomatoes and a basil plant at my disposal, Caprese Salad was the obvious choice!

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I know Caprese Salad isn’t exactly the most novel side dish (vegan Caprese? That’s another story! 😉 ), but it is seriously the ultimate summer salad.

Unfortunately, those plans fell through and I didn’t end up going to hang out with the guys. But I had already made the Caprese stacks…

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Guess what Katie ate for dinner that night? 😉

In my opinion, making them in stack form instead of the typical salad makes them a finger food – just shovel ’em into your mouth like a tomato-mozzarella-basil finger sandwich! Totally socially acceptable.

Caprese Stacks

2 heirloom tomatoes (or similar meaty tomato…you don’t want lots of seeds and water!)
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
~15 basil leaves
1 cup balsamic vinegar
drizzle olive oil (optional)

Put balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Let it simmer at a low boil for about 15 minutes, until reduced down to about 1/4 cup. Set aside to cool.

While balsamic is simmering, slice tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Discard the rounded ends. Slice mozzarella into similarly-sized rounds. (Pro tip: if you are having trouble cutting the mozzarella, stick it in the freezer for a bit to make it less soft!)

ASSEMBLE! Layer one tomato slice, a basil leaf, mozzarella, and another basil leaf (if desired). Repeat with all the tomaters. To top it all off, drizzle the cooled balsamic vinegar (which will now be more like a glaze/syrup) over the stacks, as well as a couple of drops of olive oil.

What I Ate Wednesday

Though I have been blogging for well over a year now, there’s one typical “healthy living blogger” blog post I’ve never done…until today!

What I Ate Wednesday.

I try to avoid posting pictures of every.single.thing I eat, unless what I’m eating is particularly good looking, great tasting, or if it’s a meal I’m really proud of making. Well, none of the things in this post are good looking or mind blowing recipes.. but I generally don’t eat anything that isn’t delicious 🙂 Thankfully, even if I don’t share it on the blog, I have friends who don’t mind me snapping pix of everything I eat to them on Snapchat (Hi Linda Li!)

I’ve also been known to post what I can actually eat/make with a cast, and this time around is no exception! Actually, I’ve found that eating might be even harder with this broken thumb than it was with my broken hand. Though I eat with my left hand, I require my right thumb to chop veggies and hold a spatula. Also, washing dishes is interesting:

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(wearing a rubber glove, Grocery Outlet bag, and a plastic produce bag)

Without further ado, here’s what I ate yesterday.

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My standard breakfast for, like, the last month is 2 slices of Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted toast + Laughing Cow Smooth Sensations cream cheese spread. I won 5 wheels of the stuff in a Twitter contest back when I was at Blend, and I am still working through them! Pictured is cinnamon (left, SO yummy) and strawberry.

I am also really loving Alvarado St. bread at the moment. You can find it at Trader Joe’s (I got their Essential Flax bread there), but my trusted Grocery Outlet discount store recently started stocking it for way cheap! I usually get the California-style complete protein bread, or sprouted whole wheat. They’re the perfect size, pack some protein, and are only 80-90 calories a slice!

And since we’re on the subject of breakfast…

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I was so stoked to be able to make my overnight oats in almost-empty nut butter jars TWICE in the past couple of weeks! Although that also means I’m out of peanut butter and almond butter 😦

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This morning, I had an epically fruity yogurt bowl. Banana cream pie yogurt, fresh pineapple, blueberries, and a dollop of my grandma’s apricot jam. The apricot jam and banana yogurt were actually a really yummy combo!

Since Friday, I have also been having either a calcium pill or multivitamin with breakfast 🙂

Snacks during the workday for the last 2 weeks have not changed:

SO ADDICTIVE!

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I only grab 3-4 at a time, but I always end up eating 2 servings (20 pretzels) worth in a day, haha. I have stopped trying to fight it, but I at least limit myself to one serving before lunch and one after 😛

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As is somewhat normal for me, I did a short workout at lunch. I lifted one small (5 lb) weight and, after realizing it was kind of painful, decided I probably shouldn’t risk injury. So, I’ve relegated myself to the sorority girl workout: elliptical and abs! I’ve made it my goal to have a 6 pack by the time my cast comes off in 4 weeks, haha. Yesterday, I did 20 mins on the elliptical, followed by a 1 min plank, 30 sec side planks, 2 sets of V-ups and Stability Ball sit-ups, and a little bit of work on my obliques.

Also, related note: be glad you’re not friends with me on Snapchat 😛

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Lunch was part 2 of the summer stew I prepped on Sunday: onion, garlic, zucchini, fire roasted tomatoes, corn, lentils, and bell peppers. Aaand a La Tortilla Factory 100-calorie tortilla. LOVE those. 100 calories, 8g of fiber, and they’re huge! I was kind of ravenous after my workout, so I also found an Oats n Honey granola bar to tide me over till dinner.

Last night was laundry night so I was at my parents’ house for dinner:

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BLT’s are probably my family’s most common summer meal, since my dad grows so many tomatoes! Mine was 2 slices of 12-grain bread, 3-4 slices of juicy garden tomatoes, 3 slices of bacon (the real kind, not turkey…my brother’s request) and lots of arugula. On the side was honey dijon Kettle chips, pineapple, and a Lagunitas IPA! Seriously, perfect summer meal.

After dinner, I folded laundry and watched Breaking Bad (I’ve been catching up for almost a year, and am finally on season 4!)

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…while snacking on peanuts and tasting some sangria my mom bought. Yum!

Do you take pictures of everything you eat?

What’s your go-to breakfast?

Any ab/core workouts to recommend?

Meatless Monday: Vegan “Caprese” Pizza

If you follow me on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook you probably saw this picture on Friday:

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I went to the store after work intending to buy white wine and avocados (standard Katie-Essentials) and somehow 2 bottles of kombucha and a tray of tofu found their way into my basket (um, not so standard Katie-Essentials). Most normal people, when strolling through the grocery store, will pick up “impulse purchases” like chocolate….cookies…chips…

Me? I’ve apparently gotten to a level of healthy blogger status that my impulse purchases are tofu and kombucha. Really…who am I?!

As far as the kombucha goes, I’m trying to incorporate more non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated beverages into my diet. I realized when filling out that Healthy Living Survey on Friday that the only drinks I consume on a regular basis are water, tea, wine & beer. Whenever I sit down to read blogs or watch my TV shows in the evening, I often pour myself a glass of wine out of boredom more than anything else. Apparently, I can’t just sit and watch tv – I need to be sipping on something! I figure kombucha is a healthy alternative, since I don’t drink soda or juice.

The tofu though…I can’t really explain. I guess I was just buying it as an experiment and a challenge, since I’ve never cooked with it before. I also might have been inspired by Becky’s BBQ Tofu Pizza. 🙂

I am actually often not a fan of tofu. I used to actually pick out the slimy pieces of tofu in my miso soup as a kid, the slippery texture really freaked me out. However, I’ve challenged myself to figure out a way to cook it in a way that I like, and I’ve discovered it’s actually really easy!

My first trial involved the stove and I tried sauteing it in a stir fry – not so great.

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My second try was a success, and made its home on this pizza. I decided to let tofu stand in for the more traditional mozzarella cheese and call this baby a caprese pizza! It does have all the other traditional ingredients – giant tomatoes from my boss’s garden, and a kick of basil in the [cheeseless] pesto. I drizzled a little balsamic on top and voila! Vegan pizza.

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Baking the tofu in the oven gives it a nice crispy exterior and an all-around firm texture. Plus, it’s a perfect meal for one that will be ready in less than 30 minutes. Winner winner chicken tofu dinner?

Vegan “Caprese” Pizza
serves 1
inspired by Becky’s BBQ Tofu Pizza

1 whole wheat tortilla or pita
2-4 tablespoons vegan pesto (I whipped one up that did not include cheese)
2-3 slices tomato (about 1/4-1/2 inch thick)
5 oz extra firm tofu, cubed (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Begin by preparing your tofu – preheat oven to 375F and grease a baking sheet. Place tofu on baking sheet (if you’d like to roast the tomatoes, you can add them too) and bake for 20 minutes, flipping all the pieces once halfway through.

Meanwhile, prepare your pesto (if making yourself) and the balsamic drizzle. Heat balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and boil for about 5-10 minutes, until it becomes syrupy and reduces in size by almost half. Remove from heat and set aside until needed.

Place tortilla in oven for last few minutes of baking the tofu. Remove the tortilla and tofu (slash tomato) and start assembling: spread pesto on the tortilla, and top with tomatoes and tofu. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Cut into slices and eat like a pizza, or just dig in!

Have you ever cooked with tofu?

Gorgonzola Turkey Burgers

So it’s gotten to that point in the year when I buy 75% of my groceries at the Farmer’s Market.

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Basically, I’m eating a ton of veggies.

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This is what most of my weekday meals look like. And literally every ingredient besides the beans and tortilla were purchased at the Farmer’s Market! I could buy tortillas at the farmer’s market too, I know they have a tortilla stand at the Thursday market by my office 😉 Though I’m not sure I’d wanna pass up the almost-expired $1.99 tortillas from Grocery Outlet!

The problem with my tendency to eat plant-based meals like the ones you see above is that they don’t pack enough protein for the days when I’m working out. Since it’s been so hot lately, I have shifted my exercise focus from running outside (otherwise I’d die of heat stroke) and I’m doing more indoor strength training workouts. I subscribed to the Women’s Health iPad app a few months ago and really enjoy it, especially the animated workout demonstrations:

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You can scroll through and actually see how the exercises are properly done! Sometimes they have actual women (and not creepy cartoon women) demonstrating the workouts as well.

I did this 15 minute upper & lower body workout on Monday and my arms are still sore today!

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Those of you who also attended Blend Retreat are familiar with GPP Fitness, since they hosted both boot camps at the retreat. Every day, they post the gym’s workout of the day on their website and invite everyone to try them out and comment with their times/reps/etc. I wanted to do an ab workout yesterday and boy oh boy did I get an ab workout. I’ve never done Tabata* before, and it was pretty intense! There’s nothing like an automated timer to keep you from slacking.

Today is one of those days where I’m realizing how much I use my abs doing regular day-to-day activities (biking, laughing, sneezing, etc) because I am HURTING every time it happens!

{*Each rep of a Tabata workout consists of 20 seconds work and 10 seconds rest and is repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes per exercise}

So what I’m getting at here…is that I need some protein to rebuild my muscles after these workouts, and a serving of beans (<10g protein) isn’t gonna cut it!

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Enter: turkey burger.

At 21g of protein per serving and 8g of fat, lean ground turkey is probably one of the healthiest sources of (animal) protein you can get. If you’re really concerned about the fat content, you can get Extra Lean turkey, but that’s when it starts getting dry and not very tasty! To both healthify and jazz these guys up a bit, I spiked them with shredded zucchini and gorgonzola cheese. Because if you add zucchini, it cancels out the cheese, right?

I am all about sneaking shredded zucchini into pretty much everything during the summer months…for the health benefits, for added moisture, and, well, mostly because my dad usually ends up with 3 dozen in his garden and can’t get rid of them fast enough.

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Confession: I didn’t actually eat these on a bed of lettuce…it’s all a sham!

I love carbs too much to enjoy a burger without a bun. Or in this case, 2 small pieces of bread 😛

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I had the first two within a day of making this batch, and froze the remaining 3. On Monday after aforementioned workout, I grilled up a semi-defrosted burger along with a TON of veggies. Farmer’s market goodness + barbecued meat…Who says you can’t have it all?  (sidenote: I’m sorry to all my friends that have to see all my food-related snapchats! :-P)

Gorgonzola Turkey Burgers
makes 5 burgers

1- 20 oz package lean ground turkey
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 zucchini, shredded (should be about 1 cup shredded)
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, about 1.5 oz
~5 basil leaves, thinly sliced

Combine all ingredients in a bowl with clean hands until just mixed. Don’t overwork the meat. Separate mixture into 5 equal sized portions and then carefully mold the burgers. To avoid the burgers being fat in the middle, use your thumb to make a small divot in the middle of the burger like THIS. Prepare saute pan or grill, or wrap burgers in saran wrap and foil to be frozen, if desired.

If preparing immediately, heat up grill or saute pan over medium high heat. Add burger and cook on each side until done, 7-9 minutes per side. If freezing the burgers, you will ideally defrost them a little bit, but regardless will need to cook them much longer.

It’s important to cook turkey all the way through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F – if you have a meat thermometer, use it!

Eat over a bed of lettuce, or like a normal person: between two buns!

Notes: feel free to sub Blue cheese for the Gorgonzola, or your favorite fresh herb of choice for basil. If you must use extra lean ground turkey, I would recommend adding an egg to the mix to make things a little more moist.

Politics and Avocado-Cilantro Hummus

What a crazy 24 hours for politics, you guys.

I’m sorry, I know it’s tacky to talk about religion and politics or whatever, but indulge me in this and I’ll indulge you all with POSSIBLY my best side dish recipe ever.

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{actually, considering the fact that I work in politics and live blocks away from the State Capitol, it’s a wonder that I don’t talk about it more!}

So first of all, Halle Berry was at the State Capitol yesterday. Yes, the one I live blocks away from.

She was testifying in support of a bill that would impose tighter restrictions against the paparazzi when it comes to photographing children [of celebrities]. Bill authors and bill sponsors get semi-famous people to testify from time to time, but I think Halle Berry takes the cake for most famous/fabulous in recent memory.

Next up: Wendy Davis is a BAMF.

source: NPR

She filibustered for 11 hours yesterday…while wearing fabulous pink sneakers of course. I actually listened to a good 2 hours of her filibuster at work, and then my roomie and I streamed the last 2-3 hours of it after we got home from work. The crazy/amazing thing about this is that during what seemed like every second of that time, old white dude after old white dude would try and bring up bogus points of order or interrupt her to get her all tripped up. She was advocating for a woman’s right to choose. And the men kept trying to silence her. What’s wrong with this picture?

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OK now LAST political thing before we get to this deliciousness:

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I have a picture to share.

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This is me and my family at my aunt Martha’s wedding in.. judging by my bangs…1994. It was me and my brother’s first wedding. Normal family picture, right? Happy family, happy to see our aunt joined in love with her partner.

Yup. Partner. The first wedding I ever attended was a gay one, y’all.

My mom retells the story about how a confused 8 year old me asked her, “Who is Aunt Martha marrying?” and was shocked when she replied, “Her ‘friend’ Michelle”. This early understanding that love can be found between two of the same gender has affected my outlook ever since.

That union eventually ended, and my aunt found her true soulmate a few years later. They were one of the first couples in line at City Hall in San Francisco to make it official when gay marriage was legalized. They have since moved to Connecticut, where they renewed their vows and made it official again when CT legalized gay marriage, this time with their young daughter by their side.

So you can see I am elated today that the Supreme Court essentially upheld the decision that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. It is an issue near and dear to my dad’s family: A regular American family who goes to church every week. No degenerates, no hoodlums, no drag queens. Just normal folk!

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It’s a very happy day, and you can bet you’ll find me celebrating at the Capitol this evening!

I got this bracelet from our friend Amanda, who is the Chair of the California Young Democrats LGBT Caucus (and who I met last year…at a gay wedding). I feel like it was my most appropriate jewelry to wear today!

OK, you have all been patient…and now you are awarded:

DSC_0609I bought Avocado-Cilantro Hummus from the Farmer’s Market two weeks ago and I have been dreaming about it ever since. But it cost $5 for a teeny tiny tub, so I decided to take matters into my own hands: I bought $2 of avocados and cilantro instead of the hummus, and got to work. It ended up just as great as the original, and the avocado made the texture of this homemade hummus thick and smooth. Probably my best hummus yet, and really, who doesn’t love avocado?

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[proof that my nails are rarely perfect. haha]

Avocado-Cilantro Hummus
makes about 1.5 cups

1- 16 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (reserve the liquid!)
1 small bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 tbsp tahini
zest and juice of 1 lime (2 if needed)
1 garlic clove
1 avocado
pinch of cumin
pinch of salt & pepper

If desired and if you have time, peel the skins off the garbanzo beans. Discard the skins.

Place garbanzo beans, cilantro, tahini, lime juice/zest, and garlic in bowl of a food processor. Blitz until everything is a coarse meal, stopping to scrape down the sides occasionally. To get things moving, add up to 3 tablespoons of reserved garbanzo bean liquid. Keep processing for a minute or two until mostly smooth, and all the cilantro is incorporated.

Add avocado and spices to food processor. Keep processing until completely incorporated and mixture is smooth…if needed, add more lime juice rather than more reserved liquid.

Will keep in fridge for up to 3 days. Like guacamole, it will start to brown after about 3 days.

Lunch Lately & A Super Easy Taco Bowl Recipe

Before I get to pictures of my lunches lately, a few PSA’s:

I announced a winner of my Food Should Taste Good giveaway! Was it you?

Remember my Muesli Protein Bars? They were selected to be a finalist in the Muesli Fusion Recipe Contest! Please click here to go to the Facebook Poll and vote for me! All you have to do is click “Muesli Protein Bars — Blonde Ambition Blog”. First place AND runner up get a prize! Thank you so much to everyone who has already voted!

Ahem. Back to our regularly scheduled programming 😉

Last month when I went to Park City to attend Blend Retreat, I often found myself the recipient of the question, “So what is your blog about?” In fact, I get this question a lot in everyday life. I think most people expect me to say that I think I’m some gourmet foodie, or that I make really elaborate dishes. The truth is, this blog is about making healthy living seem more accessible to busy twenty-somethings (or even just busy people in general!).

Now, I get that when I say “healthy living”, the image that comes to mind is someone who must be 100% preservative-free, organic-only, homegrown, or following the ever so trendy gluten-free diet. (“I’m pretty sure gluten is just anything that is bad for you” hahaha Seth Rogen in This Is the End) But I know that’s unrealistic for most people, myself included.

For me, one of the most important aspects of healthy living is limiting my meals out each week — especially lunch. There aren’t a lot of healthy options close to my work, and salads get old fast. So I aim to prep food on Sundays, or even throughout the week when I have time in the evening, so that I have quick grab-and-go meals to bring for lunch. On days that I’m not working out at lunch, I sometimes have time to bike home and cook a quick meal. I suppose that’s a luxury of living only 7 blocks away from my office 😉

But there are plenty of days when I have to grab an “emergency” burrito out of the freezer, or grab a salad or sandwich from La Bou. And that’s okay! I try to abide by the 80-20 ratio…80% good healthy eats, 20% indulgence. So if I go out to eat or mack on a frozen burrito one day out of the week, that’s not so bad.

Here’s what I’ve been making lately!

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My Lemony Rice & Spring Veggies – perfect for a non workout day, but could work for a workout day too…just add chicken!

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There was one week where I spent about 20 minutes on Monday night cooking up a few sausages and peppers, and had lunch for 3 days. One day I ate them on a tortilla with broccoli, another day with bread like a sandwich. Very versatile!

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Salad is super quick to put together either the night before or in the morning. This one had romaine lettuce, beets, broccoli, and bell peppers…I think some pinto beans were hiding in there too. Make or store your dressing in a mason jar and add when you’re ready to eat!

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You wouldn’t think so, but pasta is actually a great quick meal to make in the morning to bring to work…Especially if you use spaghetti (which cooks quicker than most pasta). Just cook the spaghetti, toss in some veggies like broccoli and kale, plus a squeeze of lemon and some parm…And you have a perfectly portable meal! Plus, the hot spaghetti will wilt the veggies.

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On days when I have time to go home and make lunch, my meals typically look like this. A bunch of sauteed veggies with a side of avocado toast. Can you tell there were beets in this stir fry? Haha.

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evol Burritos are probably my favorite frozen burrito. It doesn’t hurt that Grocery Outlet has been selling them $1 off for a good 2 months now 😉 They are a little heavy on the tortilla, but I read that evol recently took that feedback and changed their recipe to include smaller tortillas. This must be why Grocery Outlet has so many – getting rid of the old product! My favorite is the Bean, Rice & Cheese.

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Now that I’ve totally inspired you to make your own lunch everyday… 😉 Here’s a recipe for an easy lunch (and what I’ve been eating for lunch this week! These Chicken Taco “Bowls” are easy and quick to put together (you basically just layer the ingredients in a bowl/tupperware) and are a really hearty meal. They’re easily customizable, too, so if you don’t like the ingredients I included, sub in whatever you want! I made these Monday night in about 30 minutes, providing me with two grab and go lunches this week!

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Chicken Taco Bowls
makes 2 bowls (but is easily doubled!)

1 large chicken breast
juice of one lime
salt & pepper
chile powder
cumin
garlic powder
oil, for sauteing

1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup black beans, drained
1 small summer squash
1 handful baby kale (if you use regular kale, you will probably want to cook it a bit with the squash. Baby kale is much more tender)

Combine chicken breast with lime juice and spices in a plastic bag. Squish around all the spices to make sure chicken is coated. Let sit while you prepare remaining ingredients. Cook rice according to package directions if not already cooked. Drain and rinse black beans, and cut squash into half moons.

Heat saute pan over medium-high heat. Add desired amount of oil, turning the pan to coat. Add marinated chicken to pan. Cook about 6 minutes, then turn. Once you have turned the chicken, add the squash. Cook an additional 6 minutes or until chicken is done, stirring the squash occasionally. Remove from heat and let chicken rest on a cutting board while you assemble the bowls.

In two tupperware containers, layer ingredients: 1/2 cup beans, 1/4 cup rice, small handful of kale, and half of the squash. When chicken is cooled, cut into cubes and evenly split between the two tupperwares. You’ll notice the heat from the squash and chicken will wilt the kale, eliminating the need to cook it separately. Store in fridge until needed, and microwave for about 1:30 on high before eating. Eat alone, or with a tortilla!

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20130619-092507.jpgWhat is your go-to lunch at work?

How often do you eat out during the week?