Mango-Macadamia Granola Bars

So it’s no secret that since I’ve started eating “healthy” – or whatever – I’ve become a breakfast eater.

My breakfast game was at its all time peak during my couple of months of unemployment late last year when I got to make breakfast at home every morning. Toast, eggs, cheese and salsa, yessssss #allthethings

HOWEVER, that’s unfortunately not the norm. I usually eat Greek yogurt and a little somethin’ somethin’ on the side. What that somethin’ somethin’ entails changes from week to week… I have made skinny muffins. I’ve made protein muffins. I love muesli…and I even made muesli bars.

For this week’s What I Ate Wednesday, I’m sharing what I’ve been eating for breakfast lately:

The past few weeks, I’ve been eating homemade granola bars!

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You’ll notice that, unlike my other breakfast muffins and bars, there is no “skinny” or “protein” in the title of this recipe.

That’s not to say they aren’t healthy! Made primarily of oats, uncooked quinoa, and flaxseed, they’re leaps and bounds better than any processed bar you’ll find in the supermarket. Plus they have a LOT less added sugar (only 3 tbsp of honey for the entire batch!).

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But they’ve also got a fair amount of nut butter…and chocolate.

The point of these granola bars isn’t that they’re low cal, or fat free. It’s that they are full of nutrient dense foods that are good for you, and some healthy fats that make them DELICIOUS.

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Plus, mango + macadamia nuts + coconut = tropical summer vacation. Am I right?

Mango-Macadamia Granola Bars
adapted from Cooking Light’s Cranberry-Pistachio Energy Bars
makes 9 bars

1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup quinoa, uncooked
1/4 cup dried mango, chopped
1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded or flaked
1/4 cup flaxseed meal (or just grind up flaxseed!)
1 oz chocolate (chips or chunks)
1/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter
3 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp coconut oil

Note: This is an extremely flexible recipe. I’ve also made it with pepitas and dried cranberries. Use whatever kind of dried fruit, nuts, nut butter, or oil you want!

Preheat oven to 350* F. Arrange oats and uncooked quinoa on a baking sheet and bake until slightly toasted and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, combine mango, macadamia nuts, coconut, chocolate and flaxseed meal. Once cooled, add oats and quinoa.

In a stovepot, mix nut butter, honey, and coconut oil. Heat to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 1 minute and add to oat/nut/coconut mixture. Add to a greased 8×8 inch pan and bake at 350*F for 12 minutes, or until starting to brown.

Let cool before cutting into 9 squares. Eat at room temperature or cooled…the squares will keep for 1 week in the fridge!

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What is your breakfast go-to?

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Weekend in Photos

Another beautiful California spring weekend is in the books! I’d say it was worth it to brave those 1-2 weeks of rainy weather last month, because we’re definitely making up for it now with more than a week of 80+ degree temps, and more on the horizon!

I got to enjoy the weather a bit, but mostly kept to myself and finally knocked a few things off that To-Do list I didn’t tackle last week 😉 So get ready for a weekend recap full of awesomeness…. (this is one of those times where I need a sarcasm font!)

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See what I mean? On Friday night, I stayed in to do some spring organizing – I cleared out my closet and dresser in an attempt to create some more space.

Then, I started re-watching last season of Mad Men to brush up before the season premiere while bookmarking recipes in my last couple of issues of Cooking Light!

At age 25, I already have the Friday night routine of a middle-aged spinster -_- Oh boy…

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As is the norm, I went for a long run on Saturday morning. I learned from last week’s mistake and made sure I was out there by 9am to avoid overheating! I powered through and went for 9 miles, thanks to the Spark I ordered from Becky (which was delish!) and also thanks to the fact that I knew I’d be eating my body weight in baseball food later in the day 😉 If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is!

I finally tested out my new top from Fabletics… the material was perfect for running on a hot day- super breathable and comfortable!

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Afterward, I did a small amount of grocery shopping — I’ve been overspending a bit on food so far this month, so I only bought the [super healthy!] essentials: greek yogurt, spinach, fruit, and beans………. and then I saw wine and mang-o-ritas on sale. Well, I tried… 😛

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After seeing how many clothes I got rid of on Friday night (and pinning like crazy to my Fashion board), I was inspired to go shopping for some spring clothes. I had a few Macy’s coupons, and ended up scoring everything above (5 tanks, a sports bra, green jeans & pink shorts) for just under $100!

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Later, a group of us rode over to West Sacramento, where we had some pre-baseball game grub at Broderick. It was 80 degrees and sunny at 4:30 when we rode over… However, when we finished our food and hopped on our bikes to ride to Raley Field for the Rivercats game, the sun had started to set and the wind was blowing. I was FREEZING in my tank top and shorts that had seemed like such a good idea earlier.

I made it until about the 3rd or 4th inning before I had to suck it up and buy the cheapest XXXL shirt I could find at the Rivercats store. I looked extremely cool. Guess that’s what I get for not planning ahead!

P.S. You may recognize this locale as the location of the starting and finish line of my half marathon! It was fun being back 🙂

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We intended to practice frisbee on Sunday morning, but plans fell through so I decided to be productive instead!

I recently took on more responsibility at work and I’m anticipating less time to go home and eat lunch, so for the first time in months, I did some food preppin’!

I made PB/oat/quinoa energy bars (and put them in a muffin tin), boiled a pot of quinoa, chopped up veggies for salads, and tried my hand at cold brewing some coffee. Operation: don’t eat out for lunch is definitely underway this week!

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The evening’s activities consisted of dodgeball, followed by a trip to my parents house to watch the Mad Men premiere and do laundry. Apparently, productivity was the name of the game this weekend!

Have a great week!

Do you have a baseball team in your area? (Ours is the Triple A team for the Oakland A’s and they’re super fun to watch!)

Which chores do you save for the weekend?

What I Ate Wednesday – Breakfast Edition

Happy Wednesday! We’re almost over the hump! Although these days the days and weeks are all starting to blend together for me, especially with last week’s holiday. Read on to find out why, and to find out how it inspired today’s What I Ate Wednesday post 🙂

Continue reading

Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Breast

CHICKEN. It’s what’s for dinner! 99% of the time.

Amiright?

Chicken was always a staple of our household growing up. Pretty much most weeknight meals at our home consisted of either chicken or pasta. When I started taking an interest in cooking, I soon realized that while chicken is one of the most readily available and easy to cook ingredients out there, it’s easy to fall into a chicken rut.

Don’t take it out on the chicken, Rachael. It’s not its fault it’s boring to eat!

There’s only so many things you can add to a chicken breast before you get sick of it. So you have to start getting creative…

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A little while back, I blogged about La Terra Fina dips and how much my roomie and I LOVED THEM.

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The Chunky Artichoke & Jalapeno was definitely my favorite of the two. It has mild chilies in it that go PERFECTLY with the cream cheese-based spread. Add in artichokes and I’m in heaven.

While I decided that the Chunky Artichoke & Jalapeno was my favorite to go at with chips or veggies, the Spinach Artichoke & Parmesan screamed RECIPE to me.  It’s a bit more smooth than the Artichoke & Jalapeno, and is delicious heated up. And thus this recipe was born.

Delicious dips + boring chicken –> miracle recipe!

Though La Terra Fina’s dips are all made of natural ingredients, are gluten free, and include no trans fat, they don’t claim to be “low-fat” or “light” or any of that nonsense.

So to keep this entree on the healthier side, I used a trick I often do when cooking chicken breasts, which is: to butterfly them and split them in half. One serving of chicken breast is 4 oz (about 140 calories)…Most chicken breasts that you buy in the store come in at nearly twice that size. Unless you’re a body builder, you probably don’t need that much protein in one sitting! Butterflying your chicken breasts makes them a healthier portion size…plus, your chicken will cook faster! With the space you save on your plate, you can load up the rest of your plate with more veggies, salad, whole grains…whatever is your jam.

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PLUS, butterflying your chicken breast makes it much easier to wrap around some delicious spinach & artichoke dip 😉 How bad can that be?

INAAAAAAA. How’d you get in there?!

Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Chicken Breast
makes 2 small servings

1 large chicken breast, butterflied & split into 2 separate pieces
2 tbsp La Terra Fina Spinach Artichoke & Parmesan Dip (or your preferred dip)
~1/4 cup breadcrumbs
salt & pepper
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. After cutting your chicken width-wise down the length of the side of the breast and splitting into two thinly sliced pieces, season with salt and pepper. Place about 1 tablespoon of dip on the chicken breast, closer to the base of the breast. Carefully roll the chicken over the filling, using a toothpick or skewer to keep the ends closed.

Sprinkle/cover/roll chicken breast in breadcrumbs (If you want, you can coat the chicken in egg wash first, but I found it wasn’t necessary) and place on a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until done. Watch out for dip oozing out of the sides 🙂

Disclaimer: La Terra Fina provided me with dips to review/taste/develop recipes. All opinions, however, are my own!

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?

Women & Bone Health: Why I Take Calcium

Last summer, this happened:

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I broke my left 4th metacarpal playing this “children’s” sport:

For those of you who weren’t loyal blog readers yet this time last year, a ball came hurtling towards my face from point blank range during a fateful dodgeball match…I threw up my hands to protect da moneymaker, and the ball shattered my left hand. I instantly knew something was wrong, it wasn’t so much painful as much as it was…discomforting. Something definitely felt out of place. And I was right!

In February (about 4-5 months after getting my cast off), I made my triumphant return to dodgeball.

Though a lot of people thought I was crazy (Hi Mom), dodgeball played a key part in making my post-college life bearable. When I started playing dodgeball, I had few friends left here at home, was living at my parents house, and working an unpaid internship 16 hours a week…that was all I had going for me. Dodgeball gave me a social life, new friends, my first serious relationship, and best of all…I’m pretty good at it! 🙂

So back I went, and back I’ve stayed. However, there was a lot of risk involved in returning to this sport that had screwed me so badly just months before.

Because my hand took 10 weeks to heal instead of the normal 6-8 (and honestly, I saw my last xray– it wasn’t even completely healed when I got the OK to get my cast off), my doctor ordered a bone density test and it was determined that I have clinically low bone density, a condition that is referred to as osteopenia. I was on the very cusp of what is considered “osteopenic”, so I wasn’t prescribed any routine medication other than a daily calcium regimen.

The way a bone density test works is a machine measures the density of your hip and spine, then compares it to that of a “young, healthy adult”. This test is obviously normally ordered for women of menopause age or older…The technician at my test was shocked to see a 23 year old getting her bone density checked. The test results in a T-score…if your T-score is between -1 and -2.5 standard deviation below the norm, you have osteopenia. Any lower than 2.5 and you have osteoporosis. I was at exactly -1.1. So basically, when compared to other healthy adults of my same age, my bones are weaker.

When I discovered this, I wrote a blog post about what I thought was the culprit and some ways I planned to keep my bones healthy. My “diagnosis” was kind of a wake up call for me to forget about achieving or maintaining a “goal weight” and start thinking about getting the right nutrients. I also noted that I needed to do more weight-bearing exercise and obviously start taking calcium pills.

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I only know that I have low bone density because I got a bad injury. But with more than half of Americans ages 65 and up meeting the clinical definition of having osteoporosis, it’s better to be safe than sorry when you’re in your 20’s and 30’s and your body is developing (not in the pre-pubescent way…but you know what I mean).

Check out these tips for keeping healthy bones from the US Office of Women’s Health:

1) Get enough calcium each day

The OWH recommends 1,000mg per day. My doctor (and the bone density test technician) said any calcium pill that has both calcium and vitamin D is A-OK. One of my big fat calcium pills is about 60% of my daily recommended intake. I have actually switched to a multivitamin that has 500mg, but it has all the iron and other vitamins I need as well.

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toast
Incorporating calcium into my diet has also been key in maintaining my bone health. I switched to yogurt for breakfast and started buying almond milk (which often has more calcium than dairy milk!). The last few weeks, my breakfasts have consisted of 2 slices of toast, each with a wedge of Laughing Cow cream cheese and sometimes with a dollop of grandma’s apricot jam. (Each wedge of Laughing Cow has 10% of your daily calcium!)

2) Get enough Vitamin D each day
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ahh! the pale! it burns =P

Vitamin D is my favorite. This is because the best source of Vitamin D (outside of actual Vitamin D pills) is sunshine! Just 10-15 minutes in the sun can give you what you need. OWH recommends 600mg per day. I may be pale, but give me some SPF 70 and I cherish my time in the sun! I am a sun baby for sure.

3) Eat a healthy diet

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Kale, black beans, and chicken = recipe for healthy bones?

Protein, vitamins K and C, and several other nutrients are also key in bone health. Leafy greens actually have some calcium, and the WOH suggests lean proteins like poultry and fish.

4) Get moving
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Check out those baby muscles!

Weight-bearing activity (anything where your body works against gravity) is best for keeping healthy bones. Walking, running, and lifting weights (a new-ish practice for me – see above) are all activities I do several times per week to keep me strong.

5) Don’t smoke

Never have, never will!

6) Drink alcohol moderately

Well…depends on your definition of “moderate”. I do have more than one drink (usually no more than 3-4) a couple times per week. This is definitely an area that can be improved upon 🙂

7) Make your home safe

WOH recommends things like bath mats and less clutter to avoid falling in your home… The main thing I really have to worry about is flying objects:

This may seem like a random topic for a post, but I had a scary encounter last night at dodgeball that has me pretty nervous:

I jammed my thumb pretty badly 😦 It’s currently swollen to about 1.5 times its normal size, is hard as a rock, and is lookin’ all kinds of blue and purple. Heading to the doc in about an hour to get it checked out… lots of happy thoughts please!

When all is said and done, I’m hoping all the precautions I’ve been taking for the past year that I’ve outlined here have served me well and that it’s just a really bad sprain.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Have you ever broken a bone or had a bad sports injury?

Does osteoporosis run in your family? Start taking calcium!!

Peel’d Juice Cleanse Day 3 + Recap

Hello from foggy San Francisco!

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I finally escaped the wicked heat of Sacramento and escaped to the permanently chilly City by the Bay for a quick day and a half. I hope you all had a safe 4th of July- mine involved BBQing in the park with my friend Meghan and her law school friends, then reminiscing over drinks with my old college roomies, Tyler and So-Ky, later in the evening. This may be the first year ever that my 4th did not include some kind of fireworks! We couldn’t see any from downtown when we were having drinks, and its illegal to light off your own in SF. Regardless, it was a good time and a much needed escape. Spending time with college friends and re-telling the same old stories over and over from the glory years is always a great pick me up 🙂

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Now I’m back in Sac and here to finish off my chronicle of the Peel’d Juice Cleanse!

Day 3

Since I had trouble falling asleep on Tuesday night, I wasn’t as well rested, but I woke up with a flat stomach again on Wednesday. Since I was at my parent’s place where they have a reliable scale, I also realized I had dropped a couple of pounds from my normal weight (last time I weighed myself on my gym’s *inaccurate* scale, I was 2 pounds above my normal weight midday, but I’m not sure what I was on Day 1 of this cleanse). This is a little worrisome since I have been trying to maintain weight and not lose any, but at the time I figured the weight loss probably wouldn’t be permanent.

Breakfast (9:30 am)

Smoothie (celery, oranges, pineapple, ginger, almond milk, protein powder)
Also ate: A banana and handful of nuts

The verdict: Kind of a weird smoothie, I was definitely chewing my way through it with the celery. Still tasted OK though!

How I felt: I have a bit of a headache that morning, probably because of lack of sleep. In general I’m not feeling extremely different than usual.

Lunch (1:30 pm)

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Bittersweet Cranberry (Cranberry, celery, green apple, oranges)
Also ate: Half a bell pepper, remainder of my summer squash, cherry tomatoes & cilantro sauteed in coconut oil with salt & pepper. And of course…more nuts 🙂

The verdict: I could have sworn this juice was grapefruit! I loved it.

How I felt: I started getting really hungry around 4:30pm, so I had my dinner juice early. I was feeling really weak, and like I wanted to just give up and have a normal dinner. I think realizing that I had possibly lost 4 pounds made me feel like I was depriving myself a little bit too much.

Dinner (6:30pm)

Green Goblin juice
Also ate: Went out to dinner and had a salad with roasted red peppers, olives, marinated onions….and chicken & feta. Oops 🙂

The verdict: same green juice from the first 2 days.

How I felt: I decided to just go for it and not omit the cheese and meat from my salad. I was feeling pretty weak and started second guessing my choice to do a cleanse. And guess what? I didn’t feel awful afterwards. It was still a pretty clean meal.

Post-Cleanse Thoughts

So I think the Peel’d cleanse is great. I like that you can eat any fruits or veggies you want, because I think everyone should eat more veggies 🙂 I think its an excellent quick fix if you’ve been having tummy problems or want to realign your diet and adopt some good habits. I would have probably benefited more from the 5-day cleanse than I did from the 3-day cleanse because frankly this was pretty close to my normal diet, just gluten free (I don’t eat meat or dairy more than a couple of times per week)…so I didn’t see a huge difference after 3 days. I base a lot of my meals around veggies as it is. But the added nutrients from the juices did help me feel healthy! Who needs a multivitamin when you’re getting so much good stuff in the form of juice?!

But to be completely honest, I don’t think I was in the right place to be doing a cleanse this week. For me, the cleanse ended up being my regular diet minus 1/3 the calories, maybe even half. Long story short, I’m currently going through a breakup and I started to realize that the cleanse was kind of becoming a justification for eating less, and though I don’t think I can say I was starving myself, I was definitely not in a healthy place emotionally. Being depressed messes with my appetite as it is. Let’s say I’m already a dramatic emotional mess and likely to not eat as much, then you give me a diet plan where all I eat are low calorie fruits and veggies….you’re pretty much asking for trouble. This is part of the reason I broke the dietary restrictions on Wednesday: I recognized that what I was doing might not have been my healthiest choice.

So that’s that. For anyone in the Sacramento area looking to learn more about Peel’d, check out their website. I actually think if you’re going to do any juice cleanse, doing one like theirs is probably your best bet! Any juice cleanse where the #1 rule is to not starve yourself is a good thing in my book. They also sell their juices every Saturday at the Midtown Farmer’s Market! I actually really liked all of the juices I had on the cleanse. Perhaps the purchase of a juicer is in my future 😉

Hope you all had a great 4th of July! Enjoy the rest of your weekend.