Chocolate Protein Quinoa Cups

As you read this I’ll be on my way to Florida!

I’m spending the week relaxing on the beach with my sisters and the kiddos before my new job begins. I’m also escaping just as New Jersey gets hit with even more snow ūüôā

This weekend involved a lot of laying around and cleaning. I’m totally the type of person that needs to make sure everything is organized and tidy before I leave on vacation or start something new. I scrubbed down the kitchen, swept the floors, went through everything in my closet – best feeling ever!

On Saturday I was also able to make it to the park for a quick bout of fresh air. I didn’t stay long though – I was underdressed and it was freezing!

park

It felt good just to be outside and remember that spring is coming, albeit very slowly.

These dudes didn’t seem to mind the weather.

geese

There was also some successful kitchen experiments.

A few weeks ago I wrote that I started eating quinoa for breakfast. Previously,  I only enjoyed the grain in savory preparations,  but eating it for breakfast completely opened my mind to new possibilities. The following recipe is pretty hard to mess up, so feel free to experiment with whatever you have in the kitchen.

Chocolate Protein Quinoa Cups

Makes 14 regular sized ‘muffins’

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked (!!!)
  • 3 scoops chocolate protein powder
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee
  • 2/3 cup lite coconut milk
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp stevia

Directions

  1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare the quinoa using the directions on the package and start brewing some coffee, or use the leftovers from breakfast.
  3. ¬†In an effort to make as little mess as possible, throw all the ingredients into one giant bowl and stir it up! If the batter doesn’t start coming together, add more coffee.¬†
  4. Pour the gooey chocolate mixture into muffin tins (I recommend silicone baking cups!) and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until the tops of the muffins harden and the inside is no longer gooey.

chocolate protein quinoa cups

I usually loosely follow some kind of recipe when I cook, but this was my first time truly just winging it and the results were great! These not only taste chocolatey and delicious, but are packed with protein and whole grains. They make the perfect breakfasts, post workout snacks or even desert.

Happy Monday!

 

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Banana Bran Muffins (sugar free!)

I have a whole bag of wheat bran to use following last weekend’s bread baking adventure and am putting it to good use.

The thing about baking is, it typically involves bunch of ingredients I don’t often have on hand and don’t particularly want to eat like butter, sugar and milk.

Health-ifying recipes for your needs is easy enough when you’re fearless in the kitchen and know the right substitutions.

bananaAlmond milk for regular milk.

Flax seed for eggs.

Oil and mashed banana/apple sauce for butter.

Stevia for sugar.

The outcome is low calorie, satisfying and delicious.

banana bran muffins

Banana Bran Muffins (sugar free!)

makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups wheat bran
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp flax seed meal
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tbs liquid egg whites
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp white stevia powder (Nunaturals brand – I have no idea about the taste of other brands)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix the flour, wheat bran, flax seed, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a large bowl until combined.
  • In a smaller bowl, mash the bananas.
  • Combine the milk, egg whites, vanilla, oil and bananas with the dry ingredients and stir until the batter comes together. It should be clumpy and thick.
  • Spoon the batter into your muffin tins all the way to the top – these won’t rise much.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Whole30 recap

My Whole30 challenge came to an end pretty much the same way it started – too much wine ūüôā

It certainly wasn’t an entire 30 days. There was the pizza run, a few times where I was desperate for coffee at work and added in splashes of milk, and one time where I¬†accidentally¬†ate edamame because I had forgotten it was on the “no” list and had already paid for it in an overpriced salad.

I also cut it short on Sept. 27 for drinks with my former coworkers. The next day I visited the Chobani Soho yogurt bar, followed by froyo for dinner at Love & Yogurt in Hoboken while waiting for my train to Fair Lawn.

The very next morning, it was back to oatmeal for breakfast.

With all that being said, in 26-ish days, I still feel like I learned a lot from my experience.

For one, I didn’t count calories for the majority of September. Seeing as I’ve been counting calories daily for almost two years, this was a huge change!

It was…interesting. At first it was great, but there were some days I wish I had tracked.

If you don’t already know it, here’s the quick explanation on my feelings about calorie counting: I love it, I don’t get¬†obsessive¬†about it, if I’m hungry I eat even if it’s over my calorie allowance for the day. For me, recovering from a past where I had a terrible relationship with food and binged and emotionally ate all the time, calorie counting is an excellent tool that I can use to feel in control.¬†

After three weeks, I began calorie counting again. I still have weight loss goals to reach (100 pounds!) and I’ve been in the same 5-pound range for MONTHS. Seriously, it’s¬†plateau¬†hell up in here.

Ok, back to Whole30.

The biggest change was in my taste buds!

I can’t believe how much I enjoy unsweetened chocolate. Also, I used to need a whole banana plus chocolate protein powder and usually some other fruit to drink a green monster, but I’ve really grown to like the taste of a less sweet green monster with lots of spinach.

Also, I always had to add sweetener to pumpkin, but when I started eating again a few days ago I thought it tasted delicious!

I find that I can pick up in the subtle sweetness of vegetables much easier. It’s pretty cool.

I did get sick of eating eggs for breakfast every day – although scrambling them in coconut oil is now my new favorite way to enjoy them.

I also felt weighed down by the amount of meat I was eating. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you probably notice that I’m not typically a big meat eater. It’s more expensive than other types of protein and I just don’t really enjoy it as much as someone who is going paleo should.

Give me beans, yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu, nuts, and eggs and I’m a happy girl.¬†I don’t see pork or red meat ever being staples in my life.

But, each time I’ve done a paleo challenge, it reminds me how important it is to eat enough fat.

It keeps me full. It tastes really good, and too many times I go without it because of my former failed experiences (ahem, Weight Watchers) with losing weight.

The benefits of cutting sugar, grains, legumes and dairy out of your diet are eye opening. I was never tired during the challenge. My energy stayed consistent throughout the day. I was never (seriously EVER) so hungry that I felt light headed, even when I went really long stretches between meals.

Overall, I ate more whole, nourishing foods than I normally would have during September – and that’s a success!

The strictness of the challenge helped me stay away from free cookies and bagels at the office, desert and wine during a family dinner, and it saved me money because it got me out of the habit of buying coffee everyday and I think I ate out twice the whole month.

In the end, I came to the same conclusion I came to before: Paleo is not for me.

I got really cranky toward the end of the month and all I could think about was eating sugar. I started to feel deprived, angry, blah blah blah. Also, there is just something about starting my day by cooking oats on the stove that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. I don’t know if it’s the routine of making it or the actual food, but there’s no denying it, oatmeal just makes me happy.

I’m lucky. I have no allergies to wheat, gluten, dairy, etc., so there is no reason why those foods can’t be a part of my balanced diet.

I probably wouldn’t do it again – but I would recommend that others give it a try! A lot of people really benefit from the paleo way of eating. Also, there is something to be said for sticking to a challenge.

The whole experience reinvigorated my resolve when it came to the way I want to live my life. It got me to question why I was reaching for certain types of foods. I don’t have to eat the free cookie, or indulge in desert, even if everyone else is. I don’t have to feel pressured to drink if it’s not something I want to do.

At the end of the day, I deal with the consequences of my choices. It’s really easy to just go with the flow when it comes to eating out or drinking, but I don’t have to. I can enjoy life just as much whether there is glass of wine is in my hand or not.

Putting myself first, taking the time to prep meals for the week, turning down other plans to work out or eat home instead of at a restaurant, I like living like that. For too long I had this sort of apathy about myself, but my health is not something I’m willing to be passive about anymore.

Some days it is just about another day of getting up, eating right, making time for exercise, but when I stop to think about it, about how I used to live, I realize it’s always about so much more.

Happy Friday, friends.

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!

 

All in a day’s eats – WIAW

Hi there!

Let’s talk food ūüôā

I have a confession to make, I get stuck on certain foods and just want to eat them over and over and over again.

Oatmeal? Every day.

Zucchini? Three a week.

Bananas? Can’t imagine a world without them.

My penchant for wanting the same foods over and over has solved a few common challenges that people run into when starting to eat healthier Рmainly price and time.

There’s a myth that choosing healthy foods costs more money and that cooking (especially for one) takes a lot of time, but this could not be further from the truth.

I change up what I eat from week to week, but within the week I eat the same meal for lunch every day and the same meal for dinner every day. I’m on strict budget with grocery shopping and have a crazy work schedule, but this method of meal planning has been a¬†savior¬†for time, money and my weight. Here’s why:

1. Meal planning saves money. Every Sunday I browse Pinterest and some other recipe sites for meal ideas. I make my shopping list on my iPhone and then go into the supermarket knowing exactly what I need. I always want to try new foods, and if let loose I would buy up the entire fruit and produce section, so having a plan helps me stick to my budget. Before I started cooking I used to waste so much food because it would go bad before I could eat it, but that never happens anymore.

2. Meal planning saves time. With my plan set, I can prep all my lunches and dinners on the weekend so they are grab-and-go ready for during the week. This has helped me break any dependency on frozen meals, convenience foods and it ensures that I’m never tempted to eat out. Sometimes I’ll make one big dish (like soup or chili or a casserole) and portion it out to easily reheat during the week but other times I’ll have a set protein (like a turkey burger, chicken sausages or shrimp) and a few different veggies that I know I can quickly throw together for quick and simple dinners.

Why am I talking about all of this? Because I’ve decided to participate in the blogging phenomenon What I ate Wednesday. Below is every single thing I ate on Tuesday. I get questions all the time about what a typical day of food looks like for me – so here it is!

Breakfast: Stove-top oatmeal (1/2 cup oats; 2 tbsp flax meal; 1 banana; 1-1/2 cups water; tons of cinnamon). A giant cup of coffee with a generous pour of unsweetened almond milk. I also had another coffee with soy milk mid-morning.

Lunch: 2 hard-boiled eggs; a container filled with broccoli, carrots and cucumbers; 1/4 cup hummus (homemade Рso much cheaper!); 1 cheese stick; 1/2 oz raw almonds

Snack: 100 g of grapes; 30 g of avocado (Yes, I really do weigh everything. I would cry if my food scale broke)

Dinner: 2 chicken sausages; 1/2 zucchini; 10 asparagus

Dessert: 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt; 1oo g blueberries

It’s also…weigh-in Wednesday…so here we go:

…The Numbers:

Starting weight: 243

Last week: 166.5

This week: 167

Change: +.5

Total loss: 76

Whole thinking

There are a lot of ways to eat. I change my mind frequently about what works best for me, more meat and less carbs or mostly vegetarian with lots of beans, lentils and whole grains, etc.

But this weekend, as I was still recovering from being sick and laying in bed, I realized a few things while watching the documentary “Forks Over Knives.”

No matter what kind of food philosophy I’m following, the focus should always be on whole, unprocessed foods.¬†There are a few pieces of advice I’ve really taken to heart when it comes to my food shopping and eating habits and one of them is “shop the¬†perimeter¬†of the store.” This is where the freshest food is, and the food that I want to be eating. Before, I use to peruse up and down every isle. Now I will venture into the middle of the grocery store only if it’s for something specific, like coffee or canned tomatoes (which apparently I shouldn’t be eating either) so I don’t get sucked in by advertising and processed food.

The other thing I realized during this documentary is that I don’t miss not thinking about my food, which I did for a while. My healthy living journey has taken me from someone who never cared about what they ate to someone who carefully plans every single food choice. There have definitely been days where I wished I could go back to being a person who didn’t analyze everything on my plate, but this weekend I realized I no longer felt that way. Somewhere along my path, my sometimes-desire to return to a state of unknowing about nutrition disappeared. This doesn’t mean that I always eat perfectly, but it definitely increases the likelihood of making good choices.

I also really like like Michael Pollan’s line from this NYT article he wrote: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.” In the article he makes the argument for a diet rich in real food (i.e. food your great grandmother would recognize), stopping eating before you are full and choosing foods that are plant based.

The power of food continues to amaze me. I was stunned when I watched “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” about how juicing has transformed people’s lives.

And for a documentary that will make you think about how much food is wasted, I definitely recommend “Dive.” It follows a family (and a culture of people) whose meals are mainly salvaged from dumpsters. Unlike “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” the documentary didn’t make me want to go out and dumpster dive, but it did make me think about possibly volunteering or donating to one of the food shelters around here.

With so much diet¬†propaganda¬†circulating in our culture, figuring out the right way to eat can be seriously overwhelming. But like most tough problems, the right answer is usually the simplest. Eat real, whole foods. It’s hard to go wrong with this philosophy.

I would love to know your thoughts! I know there are a lot of other documentaries out there that talk about food and I’m slowly making my way through all of them. On my short list are “King Corn” and “Food, Inc.”

What has changed or influenced the way you think about food?

 

 

Broccoli Cheddar Quinoa Casserole with Cauliflower Crumb Topping

This dish is kind of like the perfect storm.

It’s the culmination of food cravings, veggies about to go bad, and a return to a more vegetarian fare.

Loaded up with cheese and baked to perfection.

Let’s discuss details.

Remember when I went paleo? Lasted about a month, but, give or take a carb, I’m mostly back to my old ways of eating. I did learn a few things, though.

1. Thou shall not be afraid of fat. Avocados and nuts are now staples in my diet.

2. Thou shall make protein an important part of a meal. It’s the¬†key¬†to staying full!

3. Thou can use cauliflower to make anything. Really.

I had NO idea. Pizza crust, hummus, mashed potatoes, fritters, risotto, and the list goes on and on and on.

Every week I would buy a head of cauliflower, vowing to make something different with it, and every week I would just stick it on a tray and roast it. It was so good that way, I couldn’t bare to mask the vegetable as something else.

Anyway, over the last few weeks I’ve been cutting back on my meat consumption. I came to the conclusion that I’m not really that into meat, and with no food allergies, it seemed silly to be cutting anything out of my diet, like grains.

My poor box of quinoa had been sitting in my kitchen untouched for weeks due to the paleo influences, and I had been craving its subtle, nutty flavor.

Then another craving hit: cheese.

Thank the universe for google, because so many, many wonderful things popped up when I typed in “quinoa mac and cheese.”

I was pulling all of the ingredients out of the fridge to start cooking when I noticed some cauliflower on the verge of going bad.

And just like that, the dish came together.

I’m calling this a casserole rather than faux mac and cheese, because while it does satisfy my cheese craving, it really is more casserole-like than a creamy bowl of macaroni and cheese.

Wow – that was a long explanation!

Here we go:

Broccoli Cheddar Quinoa Casserole with Cauliflower Crumb Topping

(loosely based on this recipe from Kitchen with Kate)

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cups uncooked¬†quinoa
  • 3 broccoli crowns
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk (any kind will do, I used Silk almond milk)
  • 2 cups chicken broth (optional – you can just use water if you want)
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower
  • 4 tsp grated parmesean cheese
  • Garlic powder – as much as you want!

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Break up the broccoli crowns and throw the florets into a big pot with about a cup of water on high heat. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the broccoli turns bright green and has softened. Then mix in the quinoa with 3 additional cups of liquid. I did 2 cups of chicken broth and one cup of water, but you can change this up as long as the ratio of quinoa to water stays the same. Let the liquid come to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes.
  • While the quinoa is cooking, grate your cauliflower in a small bowl and toss with the parmesan cheese and garlic powder. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the eggs and milk. When the quinoa broccoli mixture is done, pour it into the bowl with the eggs and milk and add in all the cheese. Stir everything together so the cheese begins to melt a bit.
  • Transfer the whole thing into a casserole dish that has been greased with cooking spray. Sprinkle the grated cauliflower mixture on top and pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower begins to brown on top.

I was really surprised at how thick this casserole came out! The eggs really help set the whole dish.

I can’t wait to try out more variations of this dish – it can definitely made with whatever you have lying around. Get creative! Try a different kind of cheese, throw in some different veggies, the possibilities are endless.

Bon Appetit!

Whispers of the weekend

It’s raining, dreary and cold now.

But this weekend, oh this weekend.

The sun was shining.

The drinks were flowing.

I was busy running and sweating ūüėČ

And eating!

Now I’m off to the gym to begin Week 2 of 10K training with strength and stretching! I’m still having shin splint issues…but haven’t had any Charley Horses, which I think might be because I started eating a banana every day again. Major points for potassium.

I know running is putting a lot of pressure on my body, so I’m just being patient with all the random aches and pains, wearing my compression sleeves, elevating my legs and icing as much as possible and hoping my body gets with the program soon. Nothing hurts bad enough too make me think I should stop or cut back.

Here’s hoping it doesn’t rain half as much as is predicted! Happy Monday ūüôā

Big Rock Candy Mountain

Why yes, the title of this post is both a metaphor for my weekend and an allusion to one of my favorite childhood movies.

It’s been a sugary weekend, which has, unfortunately, not left me feeling very sweet.

To give you an idea of my indulgence, froyo replaced two of my meals, and was eaten once as a dessert. In two days. There was also cake at some point.

I feel a little queasy thinking about it now.

And as much as I hate saying this, I’m not looking forward to publishing the numbers from The Scale on Wednesday.

It was a tough weekend. The urge to binge eat stayed with me up until last night.

But today, there is hope. In the form of a fridge stocked full with healthy food.

Last night I was up until 11:30 p.m. cooking a week’s worth of healthy breakfasts and lunches. After, I felt better. I felt in control again.

If anything, this weekend served as a reminder that having sugar just increases, instead of satisfies, the craving for sugar.

This weekend also reinforced that the food choices I make affect much more than my weight. I eat the way I do because it makes me feel good. Inside and out.

This thing that I’m doing, the way that I’m living my life, it’s full of trial and error. There will be hiccups and slip ups and bad weekends. I don’t think I’ll ever claim to have beaten binge eating. I’ve come a long way and made a lot of progress, but I’m by no means free of it.

The difference now is that I’m willing to put in the work. I can sit with my emotions and be uncomfortable instead of numbing what I’m feeling with food.

The reward is that I get to live my life consciously and purposely. Worth the fight every time.

 

 

 

Fantastic four and weigh-in

You guys…!

I finally broke through the 5K distance rut and ran FOUR MILES on Sunday!

I went into the run feeling good, motivated by a new music playlist, cool weather, fresh legs and my Zensah compression sleeves. I hadn’t planned on achieving a new PDR that day, but I was so happy that there was no pain in my shins that I decided to push it!

.

It was tough! I relied on intervals of 10 minutes running/1 minute walking to get me through. Overall the 4 miles took about 53 minutes (13 min/mi), which I know is slow for most people – but I’m proud!

But while my shins are okay….my calves are not! I’ve had a few really painful charley horses this week

I’m great at hydrating Monday-Friday…but then the weekend comes and I forget to drink water and subsist largely on coffee…and sometimes wine…

I was woken Sunday morning by muscle spasms in both my calves..and then  the spasms struck again when I took off my compression sleeves after the four mile run. Does anyone know why this is happening?

I was under the impression that muscle cramps come from being dehydrated…which I definitely was…but if you have another reason/idea that might help, tell me! I know that lack of potassium can also be a possible cause, but I used to get them all the time when I was eating a banana a day, so I’ve ruled that out.

I’ve been doing some extra stretches to relieve the pain, but my right calf is still tight.

In other news…I made mini frittatas this week and can’t get over how cute (and yummy!) they are. I (kind of) followed this recipe from Nom Nom Paleo. I left out the meat and just went with onions, broccoli and mushrooms for filling. I also paired down her recipe to make just 12.

Now….The numbers:

Starting weight: 243

Last week: 172.5

This week: 172.5

Change: 0

Total loss: 70.5