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 🙂

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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!

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

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As I’ve probably mentioned lately, I’ve been focusing a lot more on upper body strength since I got my cast off at the end of August. And as my strength has increased, those who are my friends on Snapchat or who follow me on Instagram have had the pleasure of seeing multiple pictures of me flexing at the gym…whether they like it or not 🙂

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See? Obnoxious. I am the worst.

While I am probably in the best running shape of my life right now, I’m not interested in pushing myself too much further in that department distance-wise. I’m definitely looking forward to running more 10k’s and 5k’s…but I recently realized I wanted to work on improving my all-around fitness, which for me means increasing my muscle mass in areas other than my legs! (They are like freakin tree trunks, you guys. Running and biking everywhere will do that…)

I’m not gonna lie, it has been really great to see and feel improvements in my upper body strength — it’s always been a {literal!} weakness of mine. But I can now currently do 15 consecutive CORRECT push ups, and I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say that before! I’m not ashamed to say that I’m proud of myself 🙂 Hence the excessive Snaps and Insta pics of my guns. Haha.

Something I’ve been re-learning over and over throughout this process is the importance of protein post-workout. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up the morning after a tough strength training workout (or after a plank-off at the dodgeball bar…) and have been extremely sore. The culprit for me, more often than not, is a lack of protein, which delays my muscle repair. I’m by no means a vegetarian, but I only eat meat a couple times per week and rarely do I buy it at home. So what’s a girl to do? One can only eat so much beans and quinoa…

Luckily for me, a way to ensure I get lots of protein was awarded to me last month when I was entered into a contest by the lovely Becky when she was at the Healthy Living Summit. We ended up winning the Ninja Ultima Blender, which is probably now the nicest piece of kitchen equipment I own! And the best part about it is that it has a single serving size (think Magic Bullet status) that makes it PERFECT for making protein smoothies!

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Now every Saturday after my long runs, I have the perfect tool for making sure I get my protein. Plus, I’ve perfected a recipe that not only refuels me, but it also basically tastes like a milkshake.

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This blender is soooo smooth! Also, for this particular smoothie I used Vega Sport Performance Protein, which I love for post-workout smoothies because it is specifically formulated to help build and repair muscles. I also use Onnit Hemp Force, which is great because Hemp protein provides a lot of fiber and is one of the most easily digestible sources of plant protein.

{Full disclosure: I received both for free at this year’s Blend Retreat}

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So grab your Magic Bullet, your blender, your food processor…whatever you have on hand! And make this smoothie after your work out. Your muscles will thank you for it. 🙂

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

1 small/medium banana, frozen (about 3/4-1 cup chopped)
1/2 cup frozen strawberries (optional)
1 tablespoon peanut butter
3/4-1 cup milk (I use unsweetened plain almond milk)
1 serving/3 scoops chocolate protein powder of choice

Add frozen fruit, peanut butter, protein powder, and 1/2 cup of the milk to blender. Blend until combined, adding 1/4 cup milk at a time if needed to achieve desired consistency. Once you’re sure of the consistency, keep the blender going for a good 30 seconds to make sure any chunks of fruit get blended in. Remove from blender and enjoy!

Notes: I added strawberries for a little extra sweetness, and because I didn’t have enough banana on hand. I’ve also substituted Greek yogurt for some of the milk for added protein, but you may have to add extra milk to get things movin’.

What is your favorite kind of protein?

How do you incorporate strength training into your workouts?

Fitness Friday – New Years Resolution Check In!

Hey all! First of all, thank you so much for all your lovely comments on my Treat Yourself birthday post. It’s reassuring to hear that so many of you are going through the same quarter life crisis ~struggle~…we’re all in this together, right?

Today I’m here to check in on some of my Fitness Goals for the year. They were pretty much my version of New Years Resolutions this year…I haven’t checked in on my progress since March, but I am actually pretty happy with how much I’ve accomplished exactly 6 months later!

Fitness Goals
  • Run a 5K race
  • Start weight training again (and eat more protein!)
  • Be able to do a 2 minute plank and 2 minute leg lifts
  • Run 25 miles in a month (several times if possible)

Let’s see how I’m doing….

  • Run a 5K race

I’ll see your 5K race…and raise you a 10K!

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Earlier this month, I ran the Run to Remember 10K in 1:02:27. I’ve been consistently keeping up with my long distance runs on the weekends, running 4-5 miles every week since! I also ran a 5K in March in 28:54. Fun fact: I ran 5K for speed on Wednesday and accomplished a new PR- I improved my time to 27:11! That’s faster than 9 minutes per mile! I’m looking forward to running more 5Ks and 10Ks to improve my speed.

  • Start weight training again (and eat more protein!)

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My gym FINALLY reopened on Monday! They moved all the equipment into a much larger and more spacious suite in the building.

I was actually pretty consistently doing upper body and ab/core workouts from Women’s Health and GPP Fitness before I broke my thumb in July. I obviously then had to take a break from lifting…but I have gotten back into it since I got my cast off a month ago! I’m still pretty frustrated at how little I can lift (5 pound dumbbells are too light, but 10 pounds too heavy), but I am trying!

baby musclesMy muscles really aren’t that big…. I feel like there’s some shadows helping me out here haha.

As for protein…this is always an area I could improve in, since I don’t buy chicken and turkey too often. I have started incorporating a lot more cheese into my diet for calcium’s sake, so I’m hoping that’s helping with the protein too!

  • Be able to do a 2 minute plank and 2 minute leg lifts

I don’t do leg lifts anymore, haha…But I have gotten pretty close to a 2 minute plank. I think my longest is about 1:45! I’ll get there!

My new favorite ab exercise is definitely V-ups. I can tell my form is improving every time I do them, and I love that they get your lower abs too! I try to incorporate planks and V-ups into every workout, including runs.

  • Run 25 miles in a month (several times if possible)

FINALLY accomplished!!! I ran 24.75 miles in August.. SO close! But I wanted to accomplish this goal for real!

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Hard to see, but I’ve run 32.19 miles so far this month.

With at least 1 more run on the horizon, I seriously knocked this goal out of the park this month. I’ve ran more in September than any other month since 2011. The crazy thing is, I accomplished it even though I usually only run twice per week! There have been a couple of months where I exceeded 25 miles, but I was also running 3x per week.

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Next month, I’ll also be able to track how many miles I’ve traveled- I got a Fitbit Zip for my birthday! (Thanks Mom and Dad!) Side note…me from 3 years ago would totally look at this picture in disgust that my booty has disappeared. #thanksalotRUNNING

So all in all, I am very happy with my progress this year! Can’t wait to see what the next 3 months hold…Time to start thinking about new goals I’ll make for myself next year!

Do you make New Years Resolutions, or do you have any fitness goals at the moment?

How do you get your protein?

Do you have a pedometer? How many steps per day do you average? My highest so far is 10,010 steps! Hard to get very many when you work an office job…

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.

Muesli Protein Bars

***Muesli Fusion chose these Protein Bars as a finalist in their recipe contest!! If you like what you see, PLEASE head over to Facebook and click on my recipe – Muesli Protein Bars (Blonde Ambition Blog)…all you have to do is click! Voting closes this FRIDAY, June 21st! THANK YOU!!!***

I think I’ve mentioned a few times that I have been really into overnight oats lately. This is in large part due to the fact that I acquired a bag of Muesli Fusion at Blend, and I l-o-v-e it.

When I heard Muesli Fusion would be sponsoring one of our breakfasts, I was actually pretty skeptical about the whole idea of muesli. I thought, “It has no added sugar, so it’s not crunchy like granola…it’s basically just oats and fruit??” whyyy would you eat raw oats and fruit?

Fortunately, Muesli Fusion totally proved me wrong. One beef I’ve always had with overnight oats is that it’s too mushy. I am a texture freak, I need to have SOME kind of crunch or chew in my oatmeal/overnight oats. And Muesli Fusion’s An-Ox totally provides that. It has walnuts, dried goji berries & blueberries, and cacao nibs. Perfect solution!

I’ve all but decided to eliminate plain oats from my grocery-staple list and replace them with muesli. Seriously, I love the stuff.

Last week, as I was approaching the end of my bag of An-Ox, I remembered that Muesli Fusion is hosting a recipe contest. The challenge: to create a recipe featuring Muesli Fusion cereal.

Challenge accepted!

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I really wanted to make homemade granola muesli bars, but every recipe I found used at least 1/2 cup and usually closer to 1 cup of sugar/maple syrup/honey/etc. One of the most advertised characteristics about Muesli Fusion cereals is that they have no added sugar, except that which comes from the added fruit, and I really wanted to keep a somewhat low level of sugar in my recipe.

What I ended up with not only has less sugar than a store-bought granola bar, but also, thanks to a few scoops of protein powder and crunchy quinoa, packs a good 8 grams of protein per serving!

Instead of tons of sugar, this recipe uses only 3 tablespoons of honey, as well as the natural sweetness of banana.

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Though An-Ox already has a bunch of good add ins, my inner texture freak came out and I added a few crunchy ingredients: chia seeds, quinoa, and almonds.

I maaaaay have also used chocolate protein powder and added chocolate chips…but doesn’t everyone love feeling like they’re eating dessert for breakfast?

These aren’t your typical crunchy granola bars, but I love them all the same. The version with chocolate chips that I made clocks in at around 200 calories, only 5g of fat, a whopping 7 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. This version has about 11.5g of sugar, which would be a fair amount lower if you omit chocolate chips.

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So will you join me in eating dessert for breakfast?

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PS. If these sound like something you’d like to try making yourself, please re-pin this post on Pinterest! I could get a prize if I get the most pinned recipe! Click this link to re-pin 🙂

PPS. If you aren’t feeling up to the challenge of creating a new recipe…try entering Muesli Fusion’s summer giveaway! No purchase necessary, no blog post needed. Just like their Facebook page!

(Chocolate) Muesli Protein Bars
makes 8 bars
pin this!

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (you can also use skim milk or any unsweetened non-dairy milk)
3 tbsp honey
1/2 ripe banana, mashed
1 tsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups Muesli Fusion An-Ox
2 scoops chocolate protein powder (I used Onnit Hemp Force, but you can use any kind! Doesn’t have to be chocolate!)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, or full almonds roughly chopped (measure after chopping)
1/4 cup uncooked quinoa (or cooked. depends on what consistency you’re going for! i kinda par-cooked mine, haha)
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional, will increase amount of sugar in bars)
1 tbsp flour (optional, if needed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium-large bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside. Mix remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl. When evenly mixed throughout, slowly add dry ingredients to bowl of wet ingredients, making sure everything gets evenly incorporated. Mixture should be pretty wet, but if you think it looks too wet, feel free to add about a tablespoon of flour.

Ideally you will use an 8×8 or 9×9 pan for these bars. Spray your pan with oil and press the batter tightly into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, checking at the 20 minute mark to see how done they are. You will want them to be firm in the middle, and to look dry. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit before removing from pan. Let cool completely to room temperature before cutting into bars…it should make about 8!

Keep in an airtight container, or individually wrap the bars in saran wrap, and keep in fridge. Should keep for about a week.

Blend Retreat Swag + Chocolate Protein Muffins

Sooo, if you haven’t heard, we got a lot of free stuff at Blend.

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A yoga mat from NatureMade? Seriously?! 😀

photo cred: Becky @ Olives n’ Wine

We found all of this waiting for us in the swag bag we got upon checking in on Friday afternoon. And just… WOW.

Additionally, there was an expo room set up with tables featuring even more sponsors, with MORE products set up for us to take as we pleased. What? Like…REALLY? We were in disbelief all weekend at all the great companies who want to promote their products to healthy living bloggers.

The funniest moment had to be when we opened our bags and saw:

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coconut oil and vanilla beans!

Becky, Carly and I started freaking out. I’m pretty sure I was jumping up and down in excitement…we were in food blogger heaven.

We thought that was it for the swag, but to our surprise, we walked back to our rooms on Saturday post-breakfast and pre-hike to find:

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MORE swag?!

So you get the point…there was a lot of swag.

The weekend concluded with a closing ceremony on Sunday, which included a raffle. Only, it wasn’t just a couple of items being raffled off…I think almost everyone won something!

{both photos courtesy of Lindsay @ Lindsays List}

2 of those 3 Onnit goodie boxes ended up going to Becky and I!

photo cred: Becky at Olives n’ Wine

Onnit has a lot of very interesting products…namely, their supplements. Their supplement Alpha Brain was one of the first nootropic supplements on the market. It is supposed to help with focus, creativity, and apparently it enables lucid dreams as well. I think Stron Bone & Joint might be a little more my speed, but I am definitely excited to try some of these out!

When I got home, I was determined to make the most out of all the free stuff I got, and save some money on groceries this week in the process. So I went to Safeway and got the essentials: bread, Alexia frozen fries because I’m obsessed, and mixed greens for salad. With some coupons from my swag bag, I also bought:

Yogurt and almond milk from Chobani and Silk, two Blend sponsors!

So basically, the swag legacy continues.

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I decided to use my Hemp Force protein from Onnit, Chobani yogurt, and Musselman’s apple sauce (yep, we even had apple sauce in our swag bag!) to make some chocolate protein muffins. At only about 110 calories and less than a gram of fat, they’re just as skinny as my Lemon Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins, but thanks to the hemp protein they pack a bit more fiber and protein!

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Skinny Chocolate Protein Muffins
verrry loosely based on these Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins
makes ~11 muffins

2/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 banana, mashed
3/4 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla (optional, but recommended)
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or mixture of all purpose and whole wheat)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 scoops chocolate-flavored protein powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 425F.

Start by mixing all the wet ingredients together in a bowl: applesauce through vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift all the dry ingredients and whisk together. If you are using hemp protein powder, the only ingredient you need to sift is the cocoa (if you sift the hemp, some bits might not make it through). Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix just until combined. The mixture will be thick.

Spray a muffin tin with oil, and divide batter among tins. (Because of the low fat content, I don’t recommend using paper liners) It should almost reach the top. Place muffins in oven for 5 minutes. Then, keeping muffins in the oven, reduce the temperature to 375F and continue to cook for about 15 minutes. Check the muffins with a toothpick: if it comes out cleanly, they are done. If not, give them another 2-3 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let the muffins sit for 3-5 minutes before removing to cool on a rack. I used a butter knife to loosely release the muffins.

NOTES: Hemp definitely has a strong taste, so next time I use hemp protein powder in this recipe, I will definitely add vanilla (I didn’t in this batch), chocolate chips, and maybe even cinnamon to off-set the flavor. Even so, these have great texture and are rather large for 110 calories!

Paired with even more Greek yogurt, this made quite the protein-packed breakfast!

Also, it was pretty much dessert for breakfast. I can always get down with that.

Have a great 3-day weekend!

Do you ever use protein powder in your smoothies or baking? What is your favorite kind?

I can’t wait to try the other protein/energy powders we got in our bag: Vega, Plant Fusion, and Fitmixer!