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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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!!

Girls Weekend in Photos

Sorry for the silence, dear readers! I had a productive week at work last week and apparently blogging took the back burner. I’ve got a lot of fun stuff to share this week though!

As anyone who follows me on FB, Twitter or Instagram knows, I was in the Bay Area this weekend. Becky flew in from Minneapolis on Wednesday and stayed with Carly in nearby Davis. They headed to Napa the next day…I had work and was a captain in a super serious (ha) playground-style dodgeball draft on Thursday night, so on Friday morning I woke up bright and early and took the train to Fairfield, where Carly picked me up and our weekend began!

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It was a leisurely 40 minute ride, and gave me plenty of time to enjoy some tea and do some reading (I’m currently reading The Paris Wife).

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Our day consisted of a wine tour hosted by Platypus Tours. We visited 4 wineries in the Napa Valley, ranging from St. Helena back through Rutherford and we ended in Yountville.

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It was an amazing day! More details on this to come later. Shockingly, the favorite wine of the day for this red wine lover was actually a white- a Sauvignon Blanc from the very first winery we visited. In fact, it was the first taste we tried! And of course I decided not to buy it because I thought “I’ll find something else I like more”… Womp womp.

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We were in pretty good shape after the tasting (the tour included snacks, lots of water, and lunch!) so we decided to check out downtown Napa after a quick rest. I am somewhat familiar with Napa, being that my ex boyfriend grew up there. But all the places we went this weekend were new-to-me! We had some amazing pasta at Ristorante Allegria (with more wine for Becky and I…oops) and beautiful cocktails at Fagiani’s.

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After a painful car ride (Becky and I were not at our best after splitting that bottle of wine at dinner 😉 ), we arrived in San Francisco. The lovely Sarah met up with us and we walked through Downtown SF to the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market to check out the, uh, classy artisan offerings. We also had brunch (at like 2pm) at The Plant Cafe Organic – it was amazing!

Unfortunately the fun ended there for Becky and I, and we went back to the hotel to veg out. We ended up ordering pizza and having a relaxing night in so we would be fully recovered for a Sunday full of sight seeing!

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And recovered we were! We took a nice long walk to North Beach and had brunch at a dive bar (The Boardroom) that ended up having some AMAZING food – including bacon wrapped tater tots. I had a yummy BLT and we all marveled at Carly’s graham cracker French toast with Biscoff spread – OMG. Speaking of Biscoff, apparently you can buy 3.5 lb tubs of it at a shop in Pier 39. Proof: see above!

Before leaving, we had to make sure that Becky saw the Golden Gate Bridge. We went to a lookout near Crissy Field and had a photo op while freezing our butts off. Then it was sadly time to say goodbye!

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And to offset all that girl time, I went bowling with the guys when I got home! I was horrified to see that my friends are actually all totally serious bowlers (some with their own balls and everything!) because I am definitely a bumper girl 😉 I embarrassingly scored an average of 60 points in my first 2 games before pulling off a 126 in our last game! So proud.

That’s it for my long weekend. One last thing –

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Happy birthday to my brother Andrew! He turns 23 today, and I am insanely jealous that it appears he will be sharing a birthday with the Royal Baby! Just push the kid out before 4pm PST, Kate!! As I already said on Facebook… He may be 10 inches taller than me, but I will always be 22 months older. Have a great day!

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.

Meatless Monday: Lemon-Basil Breakfast Hash

Told you guys I had a Meatless Monday post waiting for ya!

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And it involves mini peppers and mini potatoes…because mini is always cuter, right?

Despite the fact that I just called this dish cute, it’s actually a pretty hearty meal. Potatoes are pretty filling, but since they’re so starchy and carby, they’re not the kind of filling that will sustain you for many hours. That’s where the other components come in to save the day!

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I got really into beets this spring since my dad was growing them and they always looked so pretty at the Farmer’s Market. They stain everything, but I love their earthy taste and they are so pretty! Sweet mini bell peppers and onions add crunch, and pinto beans give this hash some bulk.

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Finish it all off with some fresh basil and a squeeze of lemon and you have yourself a perfectly light and refreshing, yet filling, summer breakfast! Or if you’re like me, you don’t really wake up until 10 or 11 on the weekend and there becomes a thin line between breakfast and lunch 🙂

I am proud to report that the basil plant I bought at the grocery store about a month ago is still alive and kickin’! However, we are currently on Day 3 of an 8 day streak of triple digit heat. 104, 107, and 106 degrees on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday…and it’s only getting hotter. So who knows if the plant will last much longer.

This quick 1-skillet dish would be great for a hot day like today (108 degrees!), but I’ve chosen instead to do the 3 Day Peel’d Juice Cleanse. I learned about it from my friend Sarah who did their traditional 5-day cleanse last month (Hi Sarah!). Consuming only juice for 3 days isn’t exactly my cup o’ tea…However, in addition to the allotted 2 juices and 1 smoothie per day, Peel’d allows you to eat as many fruits and veggies as you want: “This process isn’t about depriving yourself, but feeding yourself large amounts of foods that will nourish, support and heal you.” Olives, avocados, and nuts are also listed as ideal “snacks”…win!

I will definitely be writing a recap later in the week, but until then, I’ll just leave this here…and dream about potatoes:

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Lemon-Basil Breakfast Hash
serves 1

2 mini potatoes
1/2 small onion (about 1/2 cup)
2 mini red or orange bell peppers
1/2 medium-sized beet, cooked (I roast mine in a foil packet in the oven at 400F for about 45 minutes)
1/4-1/2 cup pinto beans, drained and rinsed
3-4 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
juice of one lemon
salt & pepper
oil, as needed for cooking

Cut everything into similarly-sized pieces. Heat your choice of oil over medium heat in a saute pan. Add onions, stirring to coat. Let them sweat for about a minute before adding the potatoes. Again, stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper, and let cook for about 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix in bell peppers and beets and cook for another 5 minutes. Add desired amount of pinto beans and lemon juice, and cook until heated through. Remove from heat, mix in basil leaves, garnish with lemon wedge (add more lemon if you’d like) and enjoy!

Mental Health Day

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Let’s say it’s Friday morning at the end of an emotionally and physically draining week and you’re feeling so crummy you’re contemplating just turning around and heading back home. You call your mom, and she just happens to be driving through your neighborhood and offers to pick you up.

It’s a sign, right?

Sometimes, everything falls into place and you realize you just really need to take a personal day. No work, no blogging, just relaxation. And I guess you could probably be convinced to take a side trip to the church to help Mom with a crafty project, since they’re having a potluck anyway. 🙂

Have a good weekend, everyone, and stay cool if you’re here in triple digit Sacramento.

Sweltering Hot Weekend in Photos

Is it just me, or does Monday always feel like one giant hangover? Like, not an alcohol hangover…but a weekend hangover. I had too much weekend this weekend, and now I’m going through weekend withdrawals.

That’s totally a thing, right?

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On Friday evening, it got up to a sweltering 105 degrees. I went out to dinner with my parents, my great aunt Emmy visiting from New Jersey, and Emmy’s friend Karen to celebrate my mom’s birthday (which was the day before) and Emmy’s birthday (which was that day!)…we went to Ten22 in Old Sacramento. I had been there before about a year ago and was a little shocked because the menu had changed quite a bit and had a lot of super strange sounding stuff: lamb, elk, duck, you name it! Not one to order the “safe” item on the menu, I chose the Osso Bucco (lamb) with chorizo, dates & roasted tomatoes. My mom, however, scored the winning dish, which was housemade gnocchi with spring vegetables. And of course no birthday dinner is complete without cake! Chocolate mousse, ohhh my god.

Everyone found something that they liked and our dinner definitely solidified my love for this place!

Ten 22 on Urbanspoon

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It had cooled down to a modest 98 degrees by the time we finished, so walked around Old Sac and had a little family photo op by the river.

Karen’s daughter, who lives in SF, had visited Dive Bar on a trip to Sacramento and told Karen and Emmy they had to see the mermaids. Dive Bar has an aquarium above the bar and every hour or so, a mermaid plops into the tank and entertains the crowd. This was my first time ever frequenting a bar with my parents, and I had a great time watching them people watch and react to the scenery!

On Saturday morning, I found myself awake at 9am because my apartment was already so. damn. hot! I figured since I was already awake I might as well finally check out the Saturday morning Midtown Farmers Market. I picked up some mushrooms, beets, summer squash, amaaazing avocado-cilantro hummus, and this green juice from Peel’d. I actually have a friend who just did their 5-day juice cleanse, sounds interesting! Juice cleanses…so in right now…

After my little outing, I promptly sat in my apartment in the A/C the rest of the day, checking various things off my To-Do list (and watching sappy TV shows and crying my face off). The high on Saturday was 108 degrees. I eventually had to leave because:

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I had a surprise dinner to attend! My friend Alex is in town from New York and his birthday is tomorrow, so we strung together an elaborate chain of lies to get him to show up at his favorite restaurant, Chicago Fire, where we were all waiting for him with a cake. Good pizza and old friends…lovely!

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On Sunday, part of that same group of friends caravanned to Berkeley for another high school friend Ian’s birthday BBQ. We taught his 10 year old brother how to play flip cup with Pepsi…he was totally a pro. I arrived back to my apartment in the evening to find that my roomie had already planned an impromptu Wine & Snacks night with a couple of girlfriends! There was chips, dip, and girl-talk galore.

We get one day of respite before it jumps back into the 90s: the high temp is only 75 today. That’s a 30 degree difference, people!

Enjoy your week! I have something very cool to share with you all later this week, which I am very excited about!

PS. Don’t forget to RE-PIN my Muesli Protein Bars! I totally had one for breakfast this morning…mmm, chocolatey.

Hows the weather in your part of the world?

Have you ever been surprised or planned a surprise party? I think I prefer being the one who’s surprised…planning is not nearly as fun 😛

Weekend in Photos

Oh Monday, you tricky tricky devil.

I’m actually in a pretty good mood this Monday morning, considering it’s Monday and all. I got a surprisingly good amount of sleep this weekend (though nowhere close to the 9-10 hours per night I desire. I really love my sleep, people!) and for every barbecued piece of meat I ate this weekend, I also got in some good exercise, despite high temperatures of 97 and 96 degrees on Saturday and Sunday. Not too shabby!

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Kicked things off on Friday with Concerts in the Park! Every Friday night during June-July, Cesar Chavez Plaza turns into a free mini music festival of sorts, complete with local bands, beer and food trucks. In the above picture is Lindsay Pavao, who was on The Voice a couple seasons back. She’s from Sacramento and apparently works for Radio 94.7 now! Fun fact. Another fun fact: I did not get sunburned this weekend! Major victory. Thanks to my team of sunscreens that come with me everywhere.

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The headliner on Friday was !!! (Chk Chk Chk). We saw them last fall at Launch Festival and they’re really fun to see live. Here’s an example of their music, super up beat and fun! There was a huuuuuge crowd there, since !!! is probably one of the most high profile bands they got to play this year.

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I woke up around 10:30 on Saturday morning and decided to go for a run…it was already 80 degrees outside. It was in the mid-80’s by the time I got out there. I was only going to run about 2.75 miles, but then I saw that they were setting up for the Womens Fitness Festival 5K at the Capitol. I immediately felt guilty for not signing up [the race ran right by my house on Sunday morning!], and for some reason decided I would be running my own 5K…….in the 88 degree heat. Thankfully, I survived.

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A few hours later, we went to our first BBQ of the weekend at Mikhail’s house. It was Mikhail’s birthday weekend (hi Mikhail!!) and T-Man found himself manning the grill, as per usual. Delicious!

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The rest of the evening was spent at the Xoso 5th Anniversary Pub Crawl. The dress code was to wear a Xoso shirt…I clearly have plenty to choose from. I ended up hacking one up into a crop top so I wouldn’t die of heat exhaustion.

Fun times as always! Not pictured are all the selfies I took of me wearing my friend’s stolen Raiders hat after I got home. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

There is this gem though:

Clearly we could use some practice on taking effective photo booth pictures.

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Sunday was barbecue day at Kickball! I opted for a hot dog this time. Also, upon lugging a 17 pound bag of charcoal while biking home from the store I think I finally realized, “Maybe I should get a basket for my bike”.

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After 6 grueling innings of kickball (we were shorthanded so everyone got plenty of at-bats), I called my parents and practically begged one of them to come pick me up so I could hop in their pool. Of course, no visit to my parents’ house is complete without some of my mom’s pasta and homemade sauce! I also spent some time admiring her yearbook (my mom is the yearbook advisor at my high school). When I got home, I prepped breakfast (overnight oats) and lunch (a veggie-loaded salad) for today.

What did you do this weekend?

Hot dog or hamburger? (or for vegetarians, tofu sausage or veggie burger? :-P)

Summer Recipe Ideas

The season of barbecues and grilling is upon us, friends!

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We are officially moving into the high 90’s, and there’s no end in sight. Such is life in Sacramento during the summer months! We get an average of 22 days of 100+ degree temps every year, according to the National Weather Service. That first day might be tomorrow!

And fortunately, I’ll actually be able to enjoy the weather this weekend: included in this weekend’s agenda are at least two barbeques, Concerts in the Park tonight, and a pub crawl tomorrow. All of a sudden, my social life has seemed to perk up! Funny how a little bit of sunshine will do that 🙂

If you’re curious whether I followed my “Getting Back on Track” meal/exercise plan for the week, I actually did pretty awesomely! All of my meals were more or less planned out [except last night I ended up having fries before dodgeball T-shirt pickup, and a salad after…I was supposed to have chicken, fries, and veggies. Not too bad, right?], and I stuck with the workouts. I surprisingly managed to run 2.7 miles on Wednesday at a 9:15 pace (my longest/fastest run since my 5K in March), and did a pretty killer arms & core workout yesterday. I’m definitely feeling like I’m back on track, though we’ll see if I can carry it over into the weekend full of food, booze, and fun!

In celebrating all of our social lives becoming active again, I decided to put together a little collection of summer recipes. Some are recipes I developed, and others are recipes I’ve pinned over the last year or so. Some are entrees that would be perfect for dinner tonight, others are sides that will make you the hero of any barbeque. I’ve got desserts and drinks too! Enjoy!

Main Dishes

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Fried Green Tomato BLTs with Spicy Ranch Spread – I made these on my birthday weekend this past year and they would be perfect for a summer meal on the balcony!

Chipotle-Mango BBQ Sauce Chicken Salad – That sauce sounds out of this world!

Salmon with Lemon, Capers & Rosemary – This Giada recipe is the first fish dish I ever made, and it’s been my go-to ever since! Cooking salmon in foil packets on the grill is foolproof and so delicious.

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Spicy Smoky Black Bean Burgers – My most popular recipe, and one of my favorites. Once you get the hang of it, making veggie burgers at home is really easy.

Grilled Veggie Tacos – The perfect summer meal. I made this so many times last summer!

Asian Turkey Burgers with Spicy Lime Mayo – This recipe has been pinned on one of my boards for over a year now. I think it might be time!

Side Dishes/Appetizers

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Southwestern Quinoa Salad – definitely a recipe that should be in everyone’s repertoire!

Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Corn & Avocado – Finally I can make zucchini ribbons, now that I have a microplane!

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Roasted Garlic Hummus – Now that I’ve perfected my hummus recipe, I am totally going to make it all summer long!

Grilled Corn & Cheddar Quinoa – I couldn’t believe how delicious this was. Possibly my favorite quinoa dish ever.

Roasted Red Pepper, Artichoke and Olive Pasta Salad – Ashley has managed to develop my most perfect ideal pasta salad EVER!

Desserts

photo courtesy of Heather Christo Cooks

Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake – I’ve never made an icebox cake, but they sound so easy and perfect for warm weather…no oven required!

Orange Creamsicle Cookies – Quickly becoming my signature cookies! I am looking forward to revisiting this recipe this summer and updating my pictures.

Zucchini Almond Chocolate Bites – My favorite thing to do in the summer is sneak zucchini into everything. These bites are a perfect vehicle!

Coconut Shell Fruit Popsicles – What a cool idea. I might have to do this now that I got a huge amount of coconut oil in my Blend swag bag!

Drinks

photo courtesy of A Beautiful Mess

Whiskey Lemonade with Honey – Whiskey and lemons is a favorite combo of mine. It’s like a warm weather hot toddy!

Watermelon G&T – It sounds a little labor intensive to make the watermelon syrup…but I have a feeling it’d be worth it.

Iced Green Tea Mojito – What a cool idea. The healthiness of the green tea totally cancels out the alcohol right? AND there’s green stuff in it. It’s healthy!

Raspberry Beer Cocktail – This sounds like a hangover waiting to happen…and a delicious one, at that.

Citrus-Strawberry Green Tea – So you all can’t say I only included alcoholic drinks 🙂 Though this does sound like it’d be great with a splash of vodka!

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What is your favorite thing to make in the summer?

What are your plans this weekend?

Meatless Monday: Pesto Chickpea Burgers

It’s October.

So here’s the deal.

I know everyone’s ready for pumpkin, apple cider, hot cocoa, and the like.

But I’m not.

And neither is Mother Nature, apparently:

Yeah. HIGH NEAR 100F today. Greetings, October! may we interest you in a sauna?

I wore boots to work on Friday in protest of the heat. Contrary to my super realistic expectations, it didn’t make fall arrive…it just made my feet hurt. So I’m not protesting anymore. I’m embracing the heat. I’m makin’ some burgers.

I’ve made veggie burgers before, and I’ve made chickpea patties before…But this time, I put the 2 together and something magical happened.

I was inspired when I bought these Oven Fries with Olive Oil, Rosemary & Garlic from Alexia Foods…I knew I wanted to eat them with a sandwich or burger, and I wanted it to be something that would complement the herbs in the fries. I decided something with pesto would be best, and I used garbanzo beans because they were what I had on hand. (I’m sure this recipe would be just as delicious with black or white beans!)

The pesto works as a great binder for the burger (no egg or tahini needed for this one!) PLUS, it adds a powerful flavor punch and a pretty (or is it creepy?) green hue.

I used the same pesto recipe from the pasta I made a couple weeks back, but you can make or use whatever pesto you want!

Let summer live on. Make these burgers.

Pesto Chickpea Burgers
makes 4 small patties, or 5 sliders

1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas) rinsed, drained & skins removed
1/4 cup chopped eggplant (see note below, use whatever you have on hand to add some texture!)
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup pesto
water, if needed

Gather about half of the beans in a bowl and coarsely mash. Don’t make it too smooth, but you definitely don’t want to have any fully intact beans. Next, stir in remaining beans, eggplant and rolled oats, being careful not to overmash. Next, add pesto and again stir to combine. If it seems like the mixture is not moist enough, add a tablespoon of water to help everything come together.

Form into 4 equal sized patties.

To cook on stove, heat a small amount of oil on pan at medium-high heat then add burgers. Cook about 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve on toasted buns! (I used whole wheat sandwich thins)

I wanted to cook these on the grill to avoid adding more oil than they already had in them (due to the pesto), but I’m not so confident that they wouldn’t fall apart. You could probably bake them successfully too!

Notes: I used eggplant because it was what I had on hand, but this would be great with diced onion, mushrooms, or shredded zucchini. Also, this makes some pretty small burgers…a potato side dish is key to making it a complete meal!

Fried Green Tomato BLTs with Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Spread

There are a lot of foods that I disliked as a kid that I’ve since changed my mind about: bananas, juice (yeah I was a strange kid), sweet potatoes, some pies…

There are also foods I insist I will never like: raisins, black licorice flavored anything, tomato juice, plain raw tomatoes, basically any tomato that isn’t fresh from my parents’ garden or chopped up into salsa…

Come to think of it, tomatoes are somewhere in the middle for me. While I love tomato sauce (Italian, duh) and salsa, the thought of plain tomato soup or tomato juice makes me queasy.

But maybe it’s not so crazy that I don’t like tomatoes. Apparently, the DNA in grocery store tomatoes has actually been mutated so much that they are huge, but they are also completely watery and nothing like real tomatoes anymore. Those tomatoes are not the business.

When my parents started growing their own tomatoes, I saw what they could be: meaty, sweet, no sign of mealyness…Actually edible.

T-Man shares my disdain for tomatoes, except he is not as accepting of even the fresh ones. (Though his dislike of tomatoes doesn’t come close to his dislike of the dreaded BEANS, which is the worst.)

So he was in for it when I spotted these at the Farmer’s Market last week:

Green heirloom tomatoes.

He was really in for it.

My work was cut out for me.

I wasn’t even sure if I’D like them.

Holy hell, did we like them.

It took some work but since he had most of the day off, T-Man was helped me assemble everything!

This was when I started getting excited. They looked so pretty!

It was my birthday weekend, so I felt no guilt about the fried food. Calories don’t exist on birthdays.

The outside was so crunchy, and the tomato inside had so much (non-tomato) flavor!

The spicy buttermilk ranch was seeeriously the icing on the cake.

And my reward from T-Man for a job well done:


2 shots of birthday whiskey, of course.

Fried Green Tomato BLTs
makes 2 sandwiches, with a few leftover tomato slices (for dunking!)

FOR THE TOMATOES
2 medium firm green tomatoes, cut into thick slices
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp green hot sauce (use your favorite kind)
1/2 cup cornmeal (I used polenta)
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
salt & pepper
cayenne pepper or chile powder
garlic powder
canola oil, for frying

FOR THE SANDWICHES
2 extra large slices sourdough bread, cut in half
1 cup arugula or spinach
4 slices bacon

Spicy Buttermilk Ranch Sauce
1/2 packet ranch dressing mix (~3 tsp)
4 oz (half a container) of sour cream
1/2 tsp green hot sauce (use your favorite kind)
1 tbsp buttermilk

First, prepare the sauce. Combine first 3 ingredients, then add buttermilk until it is your desired consistency. Thicker if you’re using it as a spread on the sandwich, thinner if you’re just using it as a dipping sauce. Set aside in fridge.

Next, create your tomato assembly line. Put flour and seasonings on a plate, then buttermilk, egg & taco sauce in a bowl, followed by cornmeal, breadcrumbs & more seasonings on the last plate. It’s important to include seasoning! Dredge tomatoes in flour, tap off the excess, then into the wet batter, then press into the cornmeal, making sure all sides are coated. The best way to do this is to use one hand to handle wet ingredients and one hand for dry ingredients. Feel free to add more dry ingredients if needed. Repeat until finished. Set aside tomatoes on a large plate or baking sheet while you assemble the sandwiches.

Fry bacon to desired crispiness, then set aside on a paper towel lined plate. If you want to be really decadent, discard all but 1 tbsp of bacon grease and use what’s left to toast your bread. If not, just toast it!

Finally, fry your tomatoes! Cover the bottom of your pan with a layer of canola oil. Heat until a tiny crumb of cornmeal/breadcrumb sizzles when dropped in the pan. I had 8 tomato slices and did it in 2 batches. I fried them for about 2 minutes on each side, but your stove might be different. Check frequently to ensure they don’t burn! Set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Spread the ranch sauce on one side of the toasted bread. On the other, layer your arugula/spinach, followed by 2 tomato slices (or however many fit), and bacon. Then, dig in!

Tomatoes & Ranch Sauce loosely based on Fried Green Tomatoes with Jalapeno Tabasco Ranch from My Life as a Mrs.
Idea for Fried Green Tomato BLTs from A Cozy Kitchen

Then, after he helps you make a food that you forced him to eat because he previously thought he could never like tomatoes but hey maybe he’ll like it fried up in cornmeal, annoy your boyfriend while he tries to work:

Here’s to trying new things!