Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Are you into arugula?

Even though it was a whopping 67 degrees outside today, it is still January!  And that means our gardens are quite bare.  One dish I am definitely missing is basil pesto!  I have tried to convince myself the past two summers to save some in the freezer but I can never keep it in there long enough!

So I was very excited when I found this recipe for arugula pesto!  I know it sounds funky, but it is delicious! And easy to make!

You will need:
2 cups packed arugula leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
fresh cracked pepper
a pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Place garlic and almonds in the food processor.  Process until the almonds are coarsely chopped.  Add the parmesan and arugula.  Turn on the processor and steadily pour in the oil. Add the seasoning and give another pulse.

Thank you Pinterest (www.crunchyrock.com) for the awesome idea!

Mr. PT and I dipped fresh garlic/sun dried tomato bread and pecorino cheese into this delicious dip while we sipped some craft beers.  Yum!

The next morning I served the little we had leftover with scrambled eggs and toast.  This pesto did not last long!  I cannot wait to make it again!

Combine with an outdoor walk/run.  Take advantage of the weather, if you have it!  If not, bundle up and get the cobwebs out of your lungs!

What foods from the summer do you miss? Leave a comment! 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nature's Cure

What a mild winter we have had.  Yesterday was no exception!  The sun was shining and the outdoors were begging us to get some fresh air.  So Mr. PT and I donned our hiking gear, finished our typical Saturday routine of coffee and shopping at the city market, then made our way to a local trailhead.  We had other plans for the day, so we chose a 3 mile round trip hike.  It was truly wonderful to be outside in the sun, breathing in some mountain air.

The whole trip took about 1:40, and I will admit, Mr. PT and I are both a little sore today! Alright!

I believe outdoor exercise to not only be good for your calves and glutes, but also beneficial to your mind and soul.  I was actually feeling a little mentally under the weather yesterday.  Stress and restless sleep for five days straight left me feeling anxious and unable to catch up Friday night.  I woke up Saturday feeling more tired and lousy.  I contemplated going back to bed or spending the day watching movies in my pajamas, attempting to clear my mind.  However, the weather was too promising and I chose instead to get outside and move.

I cannot tell you how happy I am to have chosen the latter.  Immersing yourself into nature balances your perspective on life.  Watching the animals scavenge for food and observing the trees' brave front against the winter months can give you the hope you need to overcome the challenges in your own life.

Not to say extra sleep and PJ days are bad...those are essential sometimes, too!  But next time you feel the gloom and doom from the world on your shoulders, try to muster up the energy to walk to a nearby park, forest, or river.  You might be surprised how your outlook on life can become a little brighter.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Veggies with a side of...Veggies!

It was Wednesday, and I needed a healthy, hearty meal to boost me and Mr. PT through the rest of the week.  I must be going through a spinach phase because I keep on buying it at the store and finding new ways to eat it.  Last week I ate it for lunch with goat cheese, walnuts, and a balsamic dressing (yum!).   On Thursday I used it as a post-run snack by wrapping it around pepperoni slices (different, but still yum!).

Wednesday night I threw it in my wok with some of my favorite vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, green/red pepper, sun dried tomatoes), spices and olive oil.

I finished the dish by cooking up some whole grain couscous and mixing it all together.  It was delicious!  Although looking back, I wish I had drizzled in some balsamic vinegar while I was tossing all the ingredients together at the end.  Oh well, next time!  And with spinach in the fridge, there will be a next time!

Combine with some serious abs.  Put your timer on for 30 minutes.  Spend 5 minutes warming up with some stretching, then get right into it. 20 minutes of nothing but abs, no stopping!  Find some ideas HERE.  Then finish up with 5 minutes of stretching.  You can do it!

What ingredient are you loving right now? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Weekend Breakfast

Thank goodness for weekends!  By Friday, I am always tired of rushing around in the morning to get to work.  For this reason, I savor my Saturday and Sunday mornings in the kitchen.  I wake up to a big glass of cool water to re-hydrate.  Then I turn the kettle on for coffee.  Next I consult with Mr. PT on what we should have...Eggs? Oatmeal? Yogurt Parfait? Pancakes?

I let my coffee slowly steep in my French press as I combine my ingredients for a 5-star breakfast.  I take my meal and my steaming hot coffee (in my favorite mug, not a travel cup!) and melt into the couch so I can look out the window and watch the world wake up.

Whatever you decide to make for your weekend breakfast, make it healthy, delicious...

...and pretty!

Combine with a high intensity workout!  Pick two unrelated exercises (abs and bicep curls) perform 10 reps of each exercise back-to-back with no breaks.  Try to go for 20 minutes!

What's your favorite thing about "weekend eating?" Leave a comment!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Your PT Dinner Guest

What would you make if your personal trainer was joining you for dinner?  You would want it to be delicious, of course, but also healthy.  And you better make it filling because that guy or girl is burning a lot of calories and they will be hungry.

Your personal trainer is bound to be impressed if you dress the table with these dishes!  You know my feelings on kale...it's delicious and you can mix it with anything you like!  See the original recipe HERE.  I sauteed mine last night with red onions, mushrooms, garlic, and red/black pepper then tossed it with Parmesan cheese and toasted corn tortilla crumbs.  I paired this dish with roasted potatoes, onions and broccoli.

I tossed the potatoes with olive oil, pepper, and rosemary and baked them for 30 minutes at 400.  Then I threw some broccoli and red onions (tossed with the same ingredients as the potatoes) on the same baking sheet and roasted them all together for another 15-20 minutes.

These could both be side dishes, but why not eat them both as an entree?  Here is a challenge for you: try to eat meat-free at least 3 days a week.  You might be surprised how easy it is and how motivated you will be to eat heartier, more filling veggie dishes.  It couldn't hurt!

Combine with the following routine on your favorite cardio machine at the gym:
-5 minute warm up
-5 minutes hard
-5 minute cool down
-10 minutes hard
-5 minute cool down

What would you make if your personal trainer was coming for dinner?? Leave a comment! 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Beans on Pizza? It Works!

Can you still make homemade pizza in the wintertime?  Sure!  Do you want to use the tomatoes you see at the supermarket?  Probably not.  Check out this book to find out why.

So what would your personal trainer recommend?  Hummus!  We used black bean hummus as our "sauce" the other night and loaded the pie with our favorite veggies and cheese.  I had a roma tomato in the fridge that needed to be eaten, so I threw a few slices on at the end.  But the hummus was a nice change and gave the pizza a spicy flavor!

Pizza with black bean hummus, green/red pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese

Combine with a night off.  Yes, even your personal trainer does not work out every day.

What is your special ingredient on pizza? Leave a comment!

Monday, January 16, 2012

From Cart to Pot to Belly

To a novice cook, cooking can be quite the task.  People sometimes get overwhelmed with the myriad of fancy tools, the assortment of spices...not to mention the thousands of food themed books that presently exist.  What should be a relaxing, enjoyable way to spend an hour turns into a stressful, frenzy-filled day for some.  Well, I hope if you have been reading my blog you realize that cooking and baking does not have to be complicated.  In fact, today I am going to show you how a few simple, easy to find ingredients can create a delightful soup that will last you days, if not weeks!

I must credit my mother for this...yet another delicious recipe from her kitchen, to mine, to yours!

First, a trip to the grocery store is probably necessary, unless you are a bean hoarder!

Notice that I did not buy a HUGE amount of food today, just a few key ingredients that will go quite far.  I cannot stress how important it is to read food labels...not just for the fat, sugar, and salt content, but also for the ingredients.  It is important to know what you are putting into your body.

For most soups, you can follow a pretty basic formula:

Soup base (vegetable, meat, or both) + liquid (water, broth, veggie juice or combo) (+ pasta, rice, other grain) + spices + time to simmer = delicious soup.

For my soup today, I combined a vegetable base with chicken broth, vegetable juice, pasta, and an assortment of spices.  You will need:

-1 yellow onion,
-1-2 carrots
-1/2 green, red, or both peppers
-1/2 cup baby spinach (or more if you like)
-1/2 sweet potato
-1/2 bunch green onions, use 1/3 of the greens
-1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (mine were soaked in olive oil)
-3 mushrooms (optional)

-2 cans 15 oz black beans
-1 can pinto beans
-1 can refried beans (mine were canned with lime juice and chilis!)
-1/2 or whole can of golden hominy or corn
-1/2 can sliced water chestnuts (found with the Asian food!)
-1/2 cup Acini de Pepe pasta (a tapioca-shaped pasta)
-3/4 cups vegetable juice
-a box or 2-3 cans of chicken broth (low sodium, fat free)

Chop all vegetables and saute in a large pot with olive oil and seasonings (black/red pepper, basil, garlic...you name it) until soft.  While you are waiting, put pinto beans and 1 can of black beans in a food processor with a touch of lime juice (optional, if you want a smoother soup).  When vegetables are ready...

...add beans and other ingredients.  Bring to a boil, stirring often because the beans sink to the bottom.  Cook on medium low and simmer for 45 minutes.  Taste for spices.  I threw in some extra garlic and red pepper at the end.

You can add pork if you like!  Brown it off and add it to your veggies. 

See? A quick trip to the store and a few simple steps will give you a soup that is fresh tasting and delicious.  And this recipe makes A LOT of soup.  I now have some in the freezer, some in the fridge, and some ready to go for Mr. PT's lunch tomorrow.

If you are a novice cook, start simple with soup.  You will be pleasantly surprised how simple and sumptuous the outcome will be.

Combine with walking rather than driving.  If the store is a short distance and you only need a few ingredients, step to it!  If your favorite coffee shop is less than a mile away, walk there and reward yourself with a green tea and magazine!  Save the planet and strengthen your body by using your body for what it was intended for.

What is your favorite formula for soup? Leave a comment!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Different Dinner Perspective

How about a big, green salad with a side of pasta?

Combine with stairs, stairs, and more stairs! Stairs are NOT the enemy.  They are a way to get from point A to point B while strengthening your legs and core.  When in doubt, take the stairs!

What is your favorite functional, day to day exercise? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Everything Soup

Not sure what to make for dinner tonight?  Make Everything Soup!  It has a little bit of everything and is a great way to get some vegetables and protein in your diet.

Start out with...vegetables!  I used carrots, zucchini, onions, potatoes and celery.  I boiled them until they were soft in low fat/low sodium chicken broth.  I then threw in some potatoes, corn, chickpeas, dried barley, diced tomatoes and seasoning and let it simmer until the barley was cooked.  If your soup gets too thick, add some water.  If the water flattens the flavor, add some chicken bouillon.

This is delicious served with homemade bread!  Get creative and add your favorite veggies and seasoning. 

Combine with an exercise partner.  Call up a friend, family member or get that spouse of yours to exercise with you.  Exercise brings you closer together and you may find yourself working harder to impress the other guy!  Bribe them with homemade soup!

Let me know what you think! Leave a comment!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Buckwheat Bounty

The following post may alter the way you eat pancakes for the rest of your life!

I have a challenge for you today.  Go to your local farmer's market, food festival, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Fresh Market...even the organic/natural food sections of Kroger or Giant Eagle, and buy something you have never, ever cooked with.  It could be a Mediterranean pasta you've never heard of, or a vegetable you only see in magazines.  Take it home, do some research (learn something new!), find a recipe that sounds delicious and MAKE IT.  Expand your horizons!  Eating is like exercise...you have to mix it up in order to see positive results!

I know I have posted recipes for buckwheat pancakes in the past, but this recipe is a little different.  Mr. PT and I did some exploring at a local farm festival in the fall and came across a buckwheat grinder.  The millers were literally grinding the buckwheat in front of us and selling the flour in bags for $3.  I thought to myself, wow, I've used buckwheat pancake mix in the past, but this could be an interesting experiment!  Homemade, from scratch, no boxes...I was up to the challenge.

Sure enough, I found a simple recipe online, followed the instructions, and voila!  A Sunday breakfast like no other!  So if you need a simple but different ingredient to get you out of your cereal box, try this out.

You will need:
1 cup buckwheat flour 
1/2 tsp. salt 
2 tsp. baking powder 
2 eggs, beaten 
1 cup whole wheat flour 
1 tbsp. brown sugar 
1 tbsp. oil or melted butter 
2 cups milk, or 1 cup water and 1 cup milk

Heat up your griddle!

Sift the flour (buckwheat flour tends to lump) and stir together all dry ingredients using a whisk or large fork.

 Stir in milk, beaten eggs and oil, mix.

Pour a circle of the pancake batter onto the hot griddle. Buckwheat pancakes take a little longer to bake than other pancakes. Wait until small bubbles appear on the surface before turning them using a wide spatula.

You can adjust the thickness of the batter by adding more milk or water.
A teaspoon of vanilla can be added for extra flavor, if you want!

You will want to eat these hearty cakes with real maple syrup.  Yes, it is pricey, but yes, it is worth it.

Eat with a side of yogurt and fresh fruit to touch on a few more food groups.

Delicious!  By the way, did you know that buckwheat is actually a fruit?  It is gluten free, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol, and contains GOBS of fiber and protein.

Combine with the most basic exercise equipment you could ask for...concrete, grass, and a bench!  Use these three tools for the following exercises:
-shuffles, hops, grapevines
-lunges, backwards and forwards
-high knees
-leg raises/toe touches
-tricep dips
-ab series (crunches, cross-overs, planks)

Let me know what you think! Leave a comment!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Spend Time With Your Lunch!

I work in a school.  On a daily basis, I observe the wide spectrum of food choices people select for their mid-day meal.  A lot of kids and adults choose the school-bought lunch option.  I will give my school some credit, for they always offer milk instead of juice and a fruit/vegetable option.  Unfortunately, the fruit is often drowned in sugary syrup and the veggies look salty and wilted at best.

One of the best known secrets of good nutrition is to spend time with your food.  When it comes to lunch, this means taking 10 minutes the night before or in the morning before you leave for work to pack your lunch!  Yes, this requires time to not only put the lunch together, but also time spent at the grocery store picking up fresh products to pack.  Here is a good example of a lunch Mr. PT would eat:

Vanilla yogurt sprinkled with berries, grains and dried cherries, a banana, granola bar, and cheese with low-fat pepperoni.

I would go without the cheese/pepperoni, but this is a Mr. PT favorite.

I would recommend packing your lunch.  It requires a little extra effort, but you will end up making much better food choices than if you bought from a restaurant or cafeteria!

Combine with a "You Tube" workout.  Do a search for some Pilates, Yoga, Kickboxing, etc and see what comes up!  Make some room in your bedroom and sweat in the comfort of your own home for 30 minutes!

Let me know what you think! Leave a comment!