August Foodie Penpals Reveal!

This box.

Was AWESOME.

The perfect mix between healthy snacks, and a few very tasty indulgences.

Favorite thing from the box was, no contest, the Danielle coconut chips. Holy cow. I ate them sprinkled on a yogurt and fruit bowls for desert until the bag was all gone. Delicious.

The box came at a great time too, because it was the day before I headed to Watkins Glen. So I brought the tropical trail mix to munch on while hiking the gorge.

I used to buy the 100-calorie packs of the cocoa roasted almonds to keep at my desk, but I’ve never bought the big container because I felt like I would do too much snacking.

So as soon as I saw the container I broke out my snack bags and divided the canister into portion sizes. Problem solved. These things are great for a filling and healthy chocolate fix and will definitely remain a staple in my life.

I still haven’t gotten to try some of the things in the box, like the banana chutney (OMG), the red velvet whoopie pie mix, but the recipe card for a 1-minute peanut butter chocolate banana bread is up on my refrigerator.

Plus, I got to discover a great new recipe blog. Heather, who sent the box, writes the blog Heather’s Creative Concoctions which has a plethora of healthy and yummy looking meals.

Really. Check out the brownie batter bowl. Must try immediately.

Thank you so much, Heather!

New to Foodie Penpals? Read all about it here:

And now it’s time for some details about Foodie Penpals.  In case you’re a new reader, here’s a reminder of what the program is all about:

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 

If you’re interested in participating for September, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

You must submit your information by September 4th as pairings will be emailed on September 5th!

*If you’re from somewhere besides the US, Canada or Europe and want to participate, send me an email and I’ll see if we get enough interest this month!

Happiness everywhere

Do you guys read Gretchen Rubin?

She wrote the book (one among others) called The Happiness Project.

But before there was a book, there was a blog on Slate.

And if it isn’t already well documented, I’m a Slate-o-holic. Addicted. Big Time.

I used to read her blog religiously. I think she stopped writing the blog about the time the book was released.

I learned a lot of good lessons from her.

  • Having a clean & orderly home space, and especially making your bed, contributes a lot to your overall happiness.
  • The things you think might make you happy, like lying around and watching TV, probably detract from your happiness.
  • Most decisions don’t require extensive research.

I could go on and on (Check out her Secrets of Adulthood – I swear by the truths on this list)

Anyway, as part of my return to intentional living, I was re-reading some of her wisdom and came across this:

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”

 She’s quoting Voltaire when she says this, but it’s one of her tips for happiness. And when I read it again this week, it made a whole lot of sense.

Especially when we’re talking about healthy eating.

Especially when we’re talking about exercising.

I used to be in the mindset of most dieters, where if I had one “bad” meal – my whole day/week/month/year would be ruined. It’s not ever going to be possible to eat like I believe is perfect all the time, but I don’t let it ruin what is now a consistent pattern of healthy eating for me. I have to constantly remind myself that I’m not striving for perfection, I’m striving for sustainable and balanced.

Balanced like these delicious scones I made and eat for breakfast

The same goes with exercise. I almost skipped my run yesterday. I was supposed to get up and start Week 5 of Couch to 5K Tuesday morning, but I had a late night Monday and really needed the extra sleep in the morning

Work is extra awesome when I get to take my lunch breaks outside!

After work I was exhausted from the lack of sleep and the work day and really, really didn’t feel like lacing up my sneakers. I was resigned to not running when I got a second wind around 8:30 p.m. I had two choices. I could do a slower run in the dark (I’m terrified of tripping/falling and my gym membership just ended!) or I could continue laying in bed and vow to get up early Wednesday and do the run.

I picked the first option. A slow and steady night run that turned out great. It wasn’t as long as it should have been. I wasn’t as fast as I should have been. But I did it, and I felt fantastic after. If I had let the fact that it wouldn’t be “perfect” get in my way of going out, I would have done nothing at all.

There are a million ways to work being healthy into your life, even if you’re not 100% perfect with it, 100% of the time.

Just a little nugget if wisdom for this wonderful Wednesday 🙂

Now…The Numbers

Starting weight: 243

Last week: 166

This week: 164.5

Change: -1.5

Total loss:78.5

 

Intention

I finally devoted time this weekend to slow down.

Think about the direction of my life.

Reflect on my actions and thoughts of the last couple weeks.

Admittedly, I kind of turned my brain off for the last few weeks.

Going through the motions of of my life. Doing the things that had to get done.

I was able to reconnect with myself this weekend. Check in. Pay attention.

Living intentionally, as part of living healthy, is something that requires constant devotion.

My intention is to live everyday with love. By being grateful. By being conscious of where my energy is going.

The conclusion?

I needed to clean up my thoughts as much as I needed to clean up my diet.

I’ve let my daily practice of being thankful and grateful slip by, and it’s something I desperately want to bring back.

I want to focus on speaking more kind words, in hopes that the more love I speak the less judgmental and critical I feel of myself and others.

Being negative – gossiping about others, judging myself and others harshly – may sometimes feel good in the moment, but it’s draining. Speaking, feeling and living openly and with trust and kindness is tough, but ultimately more rewarding.

With less free time during my day, it’s even more important that I stay vigilant about how that time is spent.

This week I challenge myself to stay in a positive mindset. For me, that means speaking positive words when others might not be. It means smiling every time I look in the mirror. It means listening to my gut and valuing my inner voice.

I’m working against my life intentions when I give in to things that may feel good in the moment.

Whether that’s indulging in critical or negative thoughts of myself or someone else or indulging in too much alcohol or ice cream, it’s against my intention to live a disciplined life of health and happiness.

My devotion to creating a morning running ritual is a good example of this. Getting up at 5:45 a.m. is rarely easy or enjoyable. The only thing pushing me out the door in the morning is thinking about how good I will feel after. Thinking about the crisp morning air and the rising sun. Thinking about my goals and realizing that going beyond momentary discomfort is as much an act of building strength in my mind as the running that follows builds strength in my body.

“Don’t think you can attain total awareness and whole enlightenment without proper discipline and practice. This is egomania. Appropriate rituals channel your emotions and life energy toward the light. Without the discipline to practice them, you will tumble constantly backward into darkness.” – Lao Tzu

 

Don’t think twice, it’s all right

I’m posting from the train this morning!

Completed c25k week 4 today. Still loving my early morning runs. 6 a.m. And I are becoming good friends.

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However, another crazy week provided for another crazy weigh-in.

Let’s just recap:

  • 11-Jul – 164.5
  • 18-Jul – 162.5
  • 25-Jul – 164.5
  • 1-Aug – 162.5
  • 8-Aug – 165
  • 15-Aug – 163

This week the scale read 166.Not fun, but it is what it is.

This has never happened to me before, but I’m sticking to what I know works for me and not looking to change anything up right now.

Honestly, it would have been strange if I didn’t gain weight this week, with all the alcohol and ice cream I consumed over the weekend.

Maybe it’s because I’m tired right now, but for the first time in a while, the numbers aren’t bothering me.

I’ve put my body through a lot the last couple of weeks. A new schedule, sugary drinks and food, a serious lack of sleep, and now running again.

For the first time since I started losing weight, my health is not first on my list of priorities, and I can’t say that I regret it.

I had been saying for a while that I needed a break from the constant attention to what I was eating and how I was exercising, and I definitely have been taking that break.

It’s been a good few weeks, but I’m ready now to put the wine glasses away and clean up my diet of excess sugar.

For now though it’s back to my coffee.

Have a great day everyone!

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Wordless weekend in Watkins Glen

My best friend, Amanda, and I packed into my car and drove 4-1/2 hours to Watkins Glen on Friday night, kicking off one of the most relaxing weekends in recent history. We hiked, toured wineries (and tasted the selections!), went sailing and ate a lot of ice cream.

Enjoy some of the views 🙂

The Gorge Trail at Watkins Glen State Park

View after gorgeous view

Photo shoot at the Glenora winery

One of each, please!

I bet you can guess which one of us ordered the oatmeal

Fancy, fancy cheese plate

It’s a sailor’s life for me

Hey, ho and a bottle of rum!

Sad to be leaving this cute little town of Watkins Glen!

It’s a fiesta over here

Let’s just talk about some of the awesome that’s been happening lately.

While at fist I was a little….hesitant about my new schedule – taking the train every day, a longer commute, etc. – I think losing some of the control I had over my daily routine has really forced me to loosen up and not stress so much.

Everything happens for a reason, right?

I’ve really enjoyed going into the city every day for work. I’m enjoying the train more and more and love my walks to and from the Path.

Instagramming the city

ALSO….I woke up at 5:45 a.m. Monday and today to run!!!! I have been missing running like crazy. I really want to get my mileage back up to a 5K distance in time for the fall so I can sign up for some races.

Brooks…meet pavement.

I’m taking it really, really slow and easing back in using Couch to 5K, which is how I started running last year. I miss the feeling of just being able to step outside and run for a half hour straight. Starting from what feels like the beginning again is frustrating!

Getting up early to workout really made me feel like myself again in all the chaos of starting a new job. I love morning work outs and I love being up early. I don’t love going to bed at 10 p.m. – but it’s a small trade off for my health.

I don’t have much new to show you in the food department, after putting up the recipe for the veggie egg bake with gruyere cheese on Monday.

But, I will say, I’m pretty impressed with my lunch this week. Both for how cheap it is to make and also how full it keeps me!

So…here we go. WIAW just lunch edition :)!

After seeing a coworker eat beans and rice last week for lunch I was craving Mexican! I put together a 1/2 cup of quinoa, a 1/2 cup of black beans, a 1/4 cup of salsa and a 1/4 cup of crumbled feta for a fiesta in a tupperware! A red delicious apple and a serving of baby carrots rounds out the meal.

It may not look like much, but it tastes delicious. I eat it cold…but it would probably be great heated up as well.

Now…The Numbers

Starting weight: 243

Last week: 165

This week: 163

Change: -2

Total loss:80

 

Veggie Egg Bake with Gruyere Cheese

Once again I had a successful Sunday cookfest!

Inspiration for dishes come to me many different ways. Sometimes it’s a craving I want to satisfy. Sometimes it’s something I see on another blog or pinterest. And sometimes, like this week, inspiration strikes when three bags of spinach are sitting in the fridge about to turn.

After my fourth green monster in two days, I decided it was time to search for another way to use up the greens.

Spinach, banana, chocolate protein powder, and ice

Enter the spinach, egg and cheese bake. A classic combo that I really wanted to turn up a notch. I added in a few more veggies and decided on Gruyere cheese instead of cheddar or mozzarella. The cheese really makes this dish taste fancy. I’m usually not one to follow recipes exactly, but please, if you are going to make this dish, go with the Gruyere. It adds a richness that you wouldn’t be able to get with another cheese.

Veggie Egg Bake with Gruyere Cheese

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 10 eggs
  • 2 bags of fresh spinach (18 oz total)
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 1 container of whole baby portobello mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp of grapeseed oil
  • 4 oz of Gruyere cheese, grated

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Chop the onion and mushroom and sautee with 1/2 a tablespoon of the oil. When the onion and mushrooms start to soften, remove from the heat and layer the bottom of a baking dish with the vegetables. Then sautee the spinach with the other 1/2 tablespoon of oil and layer it on top of the mushrooms and onions after it wilts.
  • Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the vegetables.
  • Whisk all the eggs until the yolks and whites are combined and pour on top of the vegetables and cheese.
  • Bake for about 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the top begins to puff up and brown.

I was really happy with how this came out. As you may remember from my Paleo experiment, I’m not a fan of eggs for breakfast, so this dish will be divided into six servings and consumed for dinner. Really though, it can be eaten as breakfast, lunch or dinner, or a very impressive brunch course.

Happy eating!

Presents

Yesterday I turned 25.

24 has been a great year. But I have a feeling 25 will be even better. It started with having Red Mango for dinner, after all.

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You forgot to get me a present? Well I have a few ideas.

You could like the blog on Facebook.

Follow me on twitter.

Check out my pins on Pinterest.

Or just enjoy your body today. Love it. Nurture it and be kind to it. It has many birthdays to live.

Zucchini two ways

Hello blog world!

Has it really only been two days since we last talked? It feels like forever. Two days at a new job. Two days of taking the train.

Hello, New York Stock Exchange…which is absolutely NOT where I work.

I can’t even tell you how much of an lifesaver it was to have cooked all day Sunday. I haven’t made it to the gym yet this week, and am still really figuring out my new work/NYC commute schedule, but at least I’m eating well.

I’m going to take a minute to get pretty emotional right now, but every day as I’m commuting into the city I just think about how impossible this would have been for me two years ago at a very out-of-shape 243 pounds.

Walking to the train, running up and down the stairs, navigating the city streets. I could have done it, but I’m not exaggerating when I say it would have been hell.

It’s not often that I really get to see the “fruits of my labor”, so to speak, this clearly. Even things like not having to worry about how much room I’m taking up in my seat on the train is a relief from how I used to feel in every day life. There was a confidence that I had, and still do, going into this whole situation that I don’t think I would have had if I hadn’t gotten healthy.

Ok…time for some food because it’s What I ate Wednesday!

 This week my meals were planned so that I was able to use up all the zucchini about to go bad in my fridge. I ended up with about 4+ cups of grated zucchini and still have some left over!

For breakfast I’ve been eating a slice of the paleo zucchini bread I made on Sunday with 4 oz of plain fat free Greek yogurt and a tablespoon on sun butter. Plus coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

For the bread, I followed this recipe from Running to the Kitchen.

I like that the bread isn’t too sweet and it finally gave me a chance to buy and use almond flour. The consistency is more spongy than traditional zucchini bread, but the flavors are there. I sliced the loaf up into 12 servings, which comes out to be pretty small squares, but the portion is perfect with the yogurt and sun butter.

My lunch combo this week is 3/4 cup of quinoa, a whole plum tomato and a bunch of raw broccoli mixed with a 2 tablespoons of Tribe 40 spices hummus and two hard-boiled eggs. I also bring an apple that I eat either with lunch or around 11 a.m. and then a serving of baby carrots and .5 oz of almonds for a snack before I get on the train to hold me over for dinner. So far this structure has worked pretty well

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Also, I have a ridiculously cute lunch bag now! I used to bring my lunch to work in a plastic ShopRite bag but I figured a new job called for a legit lunch tote.

Thanks to Sunday’s planning, my dinner comes together in exactly three minutes.

Ready? I put a couple of handfuls of fresh baby spinach in a bowl and then top it with four of the turkey/zucchini meatballs and a 1/2 cup of Whole Foods’ fat free pasta sauce. The bowl goes in the microwave for three minutes (I promised no frozen microwaved meals..haha) and when it comes out I sprinkle on 2 tablespoons of grated parmesean.

It’s healthy and it gets the food on a plate and in my stomach quickly. Perfection.

I honestly just made up the recipe for the turkey meatballs on the fly, but if you would like to recreate them, here it is:

Turkey Zucchini Meatballs

Serves 6 (2o golf-ball size meatballs)

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds 93/7 ground turkey
  • 1-1/4 cups grated zucchini, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
  • Your favorite spices. I included garlic powder, red pepper flakes, dried parsley and dried basil

Directions:

  • Dump all of the ingredients in a bowl and then get your hands in there and start mixing! Form golf-ball sized meatballs and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake the meatballs for 20-30 minutes at about 375 degrees.

Could not be easier.

For dessert I’ve been fueling my obsession with cantaloupe. For years I refused to eat it and then all of the sudden this summer I decided to try and I love it! I buy two every week and cut them up into bite size pieces to store in the fridge so it’s ready to go when I get a craving.

Now…The Numbers

Starting weight: 243

Last week: 162.5

This week: 165

Change: +2.5

Total loss:78

A quick note – If you’ve been following along with my weight…yes…I have gained and lost the same 2 pounds now going on 4 weeks in a row. At first I was frustrated, upset, etc., but now I think it makes a lot of sense that as I go through somewhat of a chaotic transition between jobs, my weight is also going through somewhat of a chaotic up and down period. I’m not stressing about it this time. I’ve been doing this long enough that I know once I’m on a stable routine again, my weight will also stabilize. As much as we like to think weight is a science – calories in, calories out, whatever – I know that mine is GREATLY affected by stress, change, lack of sleep – all of which happened in the last week. 

What’s cookin’?

This weekend was about extremes.

Extreme saying goodbye to my job and coworkers.

Goodbye desk!

Extreme shopping for new business appropriate clothes.

And Sunday brought extreme cooking.

One of my biggest fears with this new job and new schedule is that all my healthy habits will be threatened by two excuses.

Too busy. Too tired.

As in, “I’m too busy to cook breakfast/lunch/dinner.”

As in, “I’m too tired to go to the gym after commuting into the city.”

Which is why yesterday’s cooking madness happened.

Instead of worry, I whisked.

Instead of stress, I stirred.

Instead of getting worked up, I grated.

Two and a half zucchinis later…

Instead of breaking down, I baked.

Cooking has to be consistent for me to be successful with weight loss, this I know.

That’s why I took extra care today, extra time, to make sure that my fridge was stocked with food to throw together for quick meals.

Zucchini bread for breakfast.

On the right, almond flour/paleo zucchini bread. On the left, whole wheat/oil free zucchini bread.

Five lunches prepped for packing.

Sorry for the fridge full of Tupperware, roomie!

A week’s worth of turkey meatballs for easy dinners.

Hello, lovelies.

I’m determined not to let too much change as I adjust to a new schedule.  You won’t see any frozen meals rotating in the microwave in this apartment.

That being said, it’s time for me to head to the train!

Details of all this delicious food on Wednesday. See you then!