Thursday, May 31, 2012

Breakfast time!

For me, there are 2 requirements for my breakfast: its filling and I can eat it on the go.  I wake up early and therefore eat breakfast early.  I need something that will fill me up until lunchtime (usually a good 4 hours).  Also, since I'm already waking up early, I'm not spending tons of time preparing breakfast in the morning.  I need something fast  that I can take with me on the bus that isn't messy and is easy to eat.

In my opinion, the ideal breakfast includes some form of fruit, protein, and carb.  Here are a few of my favorite breakfasts on the go divided into 3 categories: make that morning and make ahead.

1. Waffle-which
-2 multi grain waffles
-peanut butter
-banana on the side

2. The Quick Breakfast Wrap (no cook)
-tortilla (or flat out)
-peanut butter
-sliced strawberries or apples

I only really have one "go to" make ahead breakfast and it's Baked Oatmeal.  It's become a regular in my breakfast routine and I have it most mornings.  I am giving you the basic recipe, but it can be changed to your favorite flavors. Try experimenting with the basic recipe to make it your own!

Baked Oatmeal (1 serving)
3/4 cup oats
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 large egg white
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Above are the key/basic ingredients.  Here are 2 of my favorite flavor options:
3 tbl canned pumpkin puree
2 packets sweetener
1/2 mashed banana (my new favorite flavor)

Other add ins include:
raisins, craisins, shredded coconut, chocolate chips

This is a banana flavor with raisins.

-Preheat oven to 375
-Spray mini loaf pan
-Mix key ingredients
-Stir in flavor options and add ins.
-Bake for 10-12 minutes.

This recipe is easy to multiply.  If you make 4 servings bake it in a 9 x 9 pan or use a muffin pan (about 3 muffins equals 1 serving. Bake for about 8 minutes).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Start the Day off Right

Everyone says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Once I wake up in the morning, I'm hungry for breakfast.  Eating breakfast is no problem for me.  It's my favorite meal of the day!  However, not everyone is the same way.  So, why is it important to eat breakfast?  There are 3 main benefits of eating breakfast:

Learn to love breakfast

1. Boosts your energy.
When you are hungry, your energy starts to decrease.  Eating first thing in the morning, kick starts you day and energy level.  Eating breakfast will give you more energy to carry you through your morning than a cup of coffee.

2. Increases your attention span.
I have a hard time paying attention or focusing on anything when I am hungry.  Eating breakfast helps you to concentrate and be productive when you get to work in the morning.  You you skip breakfast, you are depriving yourself of being focused in the morning.

3. Starts your day with positive nutrition.
Eating a healthy, well balanced breakfast is a great one to kick start a day of positive nutrition.  When you start you day on a positive note, you will be more likely to continue it throughout the day and feel better about yourself too.

What does a well balanced, optimal breakfast consist of?  Check back tomorrow for some yummy, well-balanced breakfast ideas!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer Treat

I'm back and blogging after a break from the long weekend.  I had an incredible weekend celebrating my friend from college's wedding in DC.  It was a gorgeous wedding and she was a beautiful bride.  It was an amazing weekend celebrating my friends wedding and reuniting with some college friends that I hadn't seen in way too long!

Some of my college friends and I at the wedding.

The gorgeous bride and me

Like I've said before, I love finishing off a meal with something sweet.  With lots of upcoming weddings and bathing suit season, my sweet tooth can sometimes get in the way.  One great low calorie dessert that I love it Jello.  However, plain Jello can get boring.  Growing up, my mom used to mix Jello with Cool Whip.  The Jello and Cool Whip form layers: bottom layer is all Jello, middle layer is Jello and Cool Whip mixed, and top layer is mostly Cool whip.  It's a tasty treat that is great on a warm day when you are craving something sweet.

Jello with Cool Whip
your favorite Jello flavor
1 container Lite Cool Whip

-Make Jello according to directions.
-Whisk Cool Whip into Jello.
-Divide into 4 cups (or bowls).
-Put in fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Time to De-stress

We all know that life can be stressful.  People have so much going on with work, friends, and family that often their personal health and well being get through aside.  After a long day at work, that last thing you want to do is put on your sneakers and head to the gym.  It's easy to say that you are tired and need some couch and tv time.  However, you might want to rethink that decision and go to the gym instead.  Working out is an ideal way to relieve stress and change your mood around.

How working out helps with stress:

1. Provides you "me time".  Working out gives you time out of the day where only you matter.  The goal of exercise is to concentrate on you (no one else), so that you can be and do your best.  Everyone needs and deserves a part of the day where only they matter.

2. Stomps out your anger.  When I get angry or have a frustrating day at work, I use the gym to release those feelings.  One day, I even asked a trainer to borrow some gloves and took out my frustration on the punching bag. Whether you like to imagine that you are stepping on the people you are angry at when you run or that you are building muscles to beat them up as you lift weights, exercise is a great way to get rid of those negative feelings.

3. Helps you relax.  When I go to the gym, one of my main goals is to zone out.  Often, when I first get to the gym my mind is racing with everything that has happened that day or everything I need to get done. When I get to the gym, I put on my music and try to forget about everything.  No, exercise isn't a magic pill.  I obviously still have thoughts from the day running through my mind.  However, once I leave I feel as though my stress and anxiety from the day (or my to do list ahead) has lessened.

4. Gives you better confidence.  Whether you are trying to lose weight, look better in your jeans, or run a fast mile, when you go to the gym you are working towards a goal.  As you reach your goals your confidence increases.  It has been shown that higher self confidence contributes to stress relief.

So, just because you aren't training for a 5k, marathon, or whatever else doesn't mean you aren't training for something.  You are training to become a better, healthier you!  So be selfish and schedule in some "me time" at the gym.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quick and Delicious Dinner

For some reason, the summer weather makes me crave seafood.  I rarely cook seafood for one main reason: I live in a small studio apartment and don't want it smelling like fish all night. However, one good "no smell" fish is shrimp. Here is a great summer shrimp recipe:

Cilantro Lime Shrimp (1 serving size)
1/2 pound shrimp
olive oil or oil spray
2 small garlic cloves crushed
handful of cilantro
salt and pepper (to taste)

-Heat a pan with olive oil on medium heat.
-When hot, add shrimp and season with salt and pepper.
-When one side of shrimp has cooked, turn over and add garlic. Saute until cooked.
-Remove from heat. Squeeze lime juice and toss with cilantro.

It's a great light recipe that is perfect for a summer dinner.  I ate it with steamed vegetables, but it would also be great over pasta.

If you want to change up the recipe, substitute basil and lemon for the cilantro and lime.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Picking Up More Than Weights

The area at my gym where I stretch has a wall of mirrors.  One day, I saw a woman staring at herself in the mirror.  And by staring at herself, I mean she was checking herself out as she smiled at and admired herself.  Sure, she looked cute.  She had on matching pants and tank, her hair was down and straight, and her make-up was completely done (clearly not breaking a sweat).  I then looked at myself in the mirror.  While my tank and shorts didn't clash, they could not be considered a matching outfit.  My hair was disgustingly sweaty and pulled back into my typical ponytail and headband.  My make-up was non-existent (Thank goodness because let's be honest...if I had been wearing any before my sweat would have made it drip down my face by now.  No make-up is definitely the better option).  I can only assume that this woman came to the gym trying to impress some guys.



Recently, my boyfriend asked how I would feel about getting hit on me or asked me out at the gym. I hadn't really thought about it before, but clearly this woman had.  I can confidently say that I look my worst at the gym.  I am definitely not going (nor have I ever gone) to the gym with the intention of being picked up.  I'll admit the idea of being hit on at the gym initally didn't seem like such a great situation.  First of all, I'm usually pretty "zoned out" when I'm at the gym.  So, even if someone tried to, I don't think I would realize it or notice them. Secondly, like I've said before, I don't look my cutest at the gym.  Why someone would see me, think I looked cute, and want to talk to me is beyond me.

After I gave it more thought, I realized maybe it wasn't such a bad thing.  I mean if a guy likes you when without any make-up, sweaty, and in yucky clothes I can only imagine what he would think once I dressed up to go out!  So girls...I'm not saying to fix yourself up for the gym (definitely not saying that).  But be open to the idea if a cute guy comes up to you to ask a question!  And maybe smile at that cute guy on the treadmill next to you.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Special Treat for a Special Day

Tomorrow is National Devil's Food Cake Day and more importantly my good friend from grad school's bachelorette party. In grad school, I always brought fun treats for my friends' birthdays and during finals for study snacks.  It was only natural that I make a special treat to bring to my friend's bachelorette party.  I decided to go along with the food of the day theme and use devil's food cake as part of my dessert and made Devil's Food Cake Whoopie Pies.

1 box Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil

-Preheat oven to 375.
-Mix ingredients together. Roll into balls.
-Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes.
(I made 3 dozen cookies. I made smaller cookies since I will be making them into sandwiches.)

I recently heard about this new product from Duncan Hines called Frosting Creations.

It is a plain, unflavored icing to which you add one of 12 flavor packets to.  You just mix the flavor packet into the icing and it's ready to go! Some of the flavors include chocolate almond, cinnamon roll, and bubble gum.  I used the chocolate marshmallow flavor.

-Ice bottom side of one cookie.
-Place another cookie on top
(easy enough?)

This recipe is as tasty as it is easy!  Ricky's verdict..."Awesome sweet sandwiches"

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Looking Good While Breaking a Sweat

It has finally stopped raining and feels like summer in Chicago, which means back to running outside!  Despite having lived in the cold weather for 8 years now, I still hate running in the cold.  Since I run inside the gym for over half of the year, I look forward to summer time outside running.  Aside from the sunny sky and lakefront calling my name, nothing gets me more excited to run than showing off some new summer running clothes.  My three summer running clothes essentials are tank, shorts, and headband (all easy and basic items).  Here are a couple of my favorites in difference price ranges.


I'm not usually a fan of the built in bra running shirts, but this one I love!  It's supportive and the loose tank keeps you cool.  If you are going to splurge on a top, I definitely recommend this one.

I love the Gap and was so happy when Gap Body started including running clothes.  Gap's tanks come in so many fun, bright colors...what's not to love!

My huge pet peeve is constantly having to pull down my top when I run because it keeps slowly climbing up my stomach.  I love that Target's tank is long so this is never a problem!


The shorts from lululemon are always my big splurge item.  These are great shorts for running outside because they have a zipper in the back to keep your key.  Plus they are extremely light weight!

I have had these Nike shorts since high school. They are definitely a no fail, go to pair of shorts.

My obvious go to headband is the scunci no slip grip headband from Walgreens (no picture needed).  They are the most basic, cheapest headbands. And like the name says...they don't slide around or fall off.

However, if you feel like splurging on your headbands or want one that is more fun than just plain black check out this one.  Other great headbands are called Bic Bands.  I read about these in other blogs, saw them at an expo, and decided to give them a try.  They come in fun patterns and different sizes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bustin My Butt to the Beat

My dad runs an entire marathon without any music.  How he does it, I have no idea.  Running gives me time to clear my mind and think.  But after a few miles, my thoughts start to become "I'm bored" and "I'm getting really tired".  Music helps me to forget how I'm feeling and helps me to keep going.  I run to the beat, sing in my head (I am completely tone deaf.  Trust me when I say your don't want to hear me aloud), and just zone out.

One amazing website that I found is called Run Hundred.  This website has a huge collection of workout songs.  You can search for songs based on source, tempo, genre, or decade.  I love having the ability to search for songs by tempo. This allows you to choose songs that have a beat that is similar to your running pace.  When you sign up with the website, you get emails with weekly top songs that people are downloading. It costs nothing to join, but to download a song the cost is similar to itunes.

Since I know about how long it takes me to run a mile, I know how many songs it takes to run a mile.  I noticed that what I start getting tired or bored of running, I start to count songs to figure out how much longer I have until I'm finished.  This is why I love The Hood Internet.  Each download, which is also free, is a mix of music that lasts for about an hour.  The mix combines new and one songs into an upbeat and energizing playlist.  Each song flows into the next so you don't know when one song ends and the next one begins.  Before you realize it, your run (and the mix) is almost over. No more song counting!

Here is a list of one of my most current running playlists.  And has an extremely random mix of music:
Domino- Jessie J
Hello- Martin Solveig and Dragonette
The Fixer- Pearl Jam
Runaway Baby- Bruno Mars
Heavy Cross- Gossip
It's Tricky- Run DMC
Fine By Me- And Grammer
Call Me Maybe- Carly Rae Jepsen
Hey Girl- OAR
Never Miss a Beat- Kaiser Chiefs
Good Feeling- Flo Rida
Ms. New Booty- Bubba Sparxxx
One Way Road- John Butler Trio
Got No Shorty- Sean Kingston

Does anyone else know of good places to find new music? Or maybe some new fun or different song suggestions?

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Special Weekend

The past weekend in Houston was definitely filled with lots of celebration, family, and good times. 

For my nephew’s 1st birthday, my sister made a delicious yellow cake with chocolate icing for Nathan’s smash cake.  It’s called a smash cake, because that’s basically what happens (if you can’t tell from the picture).  The cake was everywhere! All over his face and body, in his hair, covering the floor, and anywhere else nearby.  He had fun getting messy and enjoyed the little bit of cake that actually made it into his mouth.

The next day was Nathan’s birthday party.  Since it was a train theme, my sister and brother in law rented a train to come to a nearby park.  The party was a huge success and everyone had a great time riding the train!

Danielle, Noah, and Nathan riding the train.

And no party would be complete without cupcakes!

On Sunday, there was yet another huge celebration…Mother’s Day!  I was so happy to be able to spend Mother’s Day with my mom.  My dad and I celebrated my mom by making her a wonderful brunch.  We kicked off brunch with a bloody Mary bar complete with Vodka, bloody Mary mix, celery, olives, pickled okra, and Tabasco sauce.  My dad uses Zing Zang to make his bloody Marys.  I love this mix and it is just the right amount of spicy!

My favorite parts of the bloody Mary bar

To eat, we had breakfast tacos filled, muffins (recipe later on), and fruit.  My dad did a great job making the breakfast tacos.  They were filled with eggs, potatoes, sautéed onions, cheese, and topped off with salsa.  He even warmed the tortillas before serving them!

Cooking the eggs, potatoes, and onions

I made peanut butter banana muffins.  I originally found the recipe on Skinny Taste.  I made these muffins once before for my friends at book club (with chocolate chips added) and they were a huge hit!  Banana and peanut butter is obviously a no fail combination.  One of the best parts of these muffins in that they have an extra layer on peanut butter in the middle…pure peanut butter gooiness!

The recipe calls for a special type of peanut butter called Better n’ Peanut Butter.  It has half the calories and half the fat of regular peanut butter.  Before I tried it, I wasn’t too sure about how it would taste.  I ended up loving it and now buy it regularly along with my other staple, crunchy almond butter. It’s less creamy but stickier and sweeter than regular peanut butter.  You can use regular peanut butter in this recipe, but if you want to try Better n’ Peanut Butter you can find it at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.

Banana Peanut Butter Muffins (makes 12 muffins)
3 ripe bananas
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 ¼ cup flour
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 tbl butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 large egg whites
½ tsp vanilla extract
10 tbl Better n’ Peanut Butter (divided 8 and 2)

-Preheat oven to 325. Line muffin tin with liners.
-Mash bananas and set aside.
-In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk and set aside.
-In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar.  Add egg whites, bananas, applesauce, vanilla, and 8 tbl of Better n’ Peanut Butter. Mix at medium speed.
-Add flour mixture and mix.
-Pour batter into muffin tin halfway. Top each with ½ tsp Better n’ Peanut Butter. Top each with remaining batter.
-Cook 25 minutes. Cool and enjoy!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Up In the Air

Time to fly to Houston for a fun filled weekend to celebrate my nephew's first birthday and Mother's Day! Let's face it...while I love going to Houston to see my family and friends, I hate dealing with travel.  Rushing out of work to make it to the airport on time, waiting for the never ending line at airport security, sitting around bored the airport because they make you get to the airport absurdly early, and praying that either no one or a super skinny person sits next to you so that you might have a little bit of room for the next 3 hours are not always the most fun or enjoyable parts of travel.

However, not all parts of going to the airport and flying are bad.  Here are some ways to entertain yourself in those long lines and other "perks" to a day of travel.

1. Optimum people watching:
Airports are a prime location for people watching.  The people that I see and conversations that I overhear at the airport always amaze me.  The things people say when they think no one is listening is fascinating!  Unfortunately, there was not the best people watching (or listening) yesterday.  I think that the Houston airport is far superior to the Chicago airport in this respect.

Cowboy hat...Check. Button down...Check. Wranglers...Check. Houston Gate...Check!

2. Comfy clothes:
Who doesn’t love an excuse to wear comfy clothes?  Any excuse to put on my leggings and a sweater or my most comfortable maxi dress is good for me! I have never understood the women who walk around the airport in skinny jeans, tight tops, and heels.  Who are you trying to impress?  You’re not going to see anyone! And if you have someone special picking you up, just go into the bathroom post-flight and put on some make-up and fix your hair.  There is no need to get dressed like you are meeting a date or going for a girls night out.
Another travel clothes “victim” is the girl who’s pants are clearly going to make it an uncomfortable next couple hours.  It’s like the woman’s version of the plumber butt.

3. In flight drink of choice (no...not alcohol):
I have a bad habit of not drinking enough throughout the day.  Unless I’m at the gym or eating dinner, I don’t really drink.  However, as soon as I get to the airport, I crave apple juice.  I’ve tried buying apple juice and drinking it other times, but it’s just not the same.  Once I’m on the plane, I have to have my apple juice.

4. Time to read all those magazines:
I like to think of airports as the haven for magazines.  I can’t walk past the airport Newsstand without buying at least one magazine, usually three (a fashion one, a gossip one, and a fitness one).  Airports allow for the perfect time to catch up on all the trash you have been missing out on. How else would you know who in Hollywood was dating who.

This guy clearly knows how to kick back at the airport.

5. Catch up on your book:
I love reading!  Like I have said before, I try to read every night before I go to bed.  For those who have a good book and enjoy reading, traveling is prime reading time.  You are basically given a couple hours where you can do just about nothing but read.  Right now, I am reading The Sisters by Nancy Jensen (click the title to read a complete summary). 

It is an engaging book that starts off with the story of two sisters whose relationship was broken after a chain of events and misunderstandings.  The book then spans over three generations of women in the family, each chapter being told from another woman or girl’s perspective.  I am only one-third into the book and already captivated by the characters lives.
(Sadly, while I thought I charged my Kindle, I in fact did not and it died 30 minutes into the flight.)

Also…I want to give a shout out to my friends Katie and Hailey who are running their first half marathon tomorrow! Good luck! Y’all are going to do awesome!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Eat-a Pita

Living away from my parents, one thing that I miss is my mom's amazing cooking.  She always made delicious dinners and this is part of what has inspired me to cook.  One recipe my mom sometimes made was falafel.  I asked for for the recipe and attempted to make them myself, with a little spin on it...

Yup...that's the falafel in the waffle maker!  I read about cooking falafel this way and decided to give it a try.  It was a part failure part success.

Failure: The consistency of the falafel was not the best for the waffle maker. The first few attempts crumbled and fell apart.

Success: By the third attempt, the falafel came out perfectly! Key to not flatten the falafel mixture into the waffle maker. Pile it on!  Another success was the flavor.  The falafel (if I do say so myself) turned out delicious! Just like mom used to make. 

1 can chick peas
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs (I used panko)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1 large egg
a little bit of lemon juice

This is what the mixture looked like after the blender.

Instructions for waffle maker:
-Turn on waffle maker
-Place all ingredients into food processor and blend until smooth.
-Put generous portions of mixture into waffle maker (I divided the micture into 4 portions) and heat until golden.

Instructions for pan frying:
-Place all ingredients into food processor and blend until smooth.
-Divide mixture into 16 balls.
-Heat 1 tbl of olive oil in skillet (or use Pam). Cook until browned (about 5 minutes each side).

To go with the falafel, I had an Israeli salad (chopped tomaotes, cucumber, feta, and balsamic dressing), pita, and humus.  You can either make a falafel sandwich or eat the falafel on a salad.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Little Balls of Energy

Whenever I get home from work, I am starving.  Since I go to the gym shortly after getting home, I try to find a satisfying snack that will give me energy for the gym without making me feel sick while working out.  For a while, my go-to snack was a spoon full of peanut butter and a handful of cereal.  While, I still occasionally eat this, my new snacks of choice are homemade Larabars.

My favorites are the ginger snap, key lime pie, and peanut butter jelly

For those who have not heard of Larabars, they are delicious! Larabars come in flavors like banana bread, blueberry muffin, carrot cake, peanut butter cookie, and much more. They are made of all natural ingredients (including mostly nuts and dried fruit) and are vegan and gluten free.  The ingredients are also what also makes them expensive to buy!  Making my own at home both saves money and allows me to make several different flavors at once.

Ingredients for my three types of homemade Larabars

I originally saw a recipe for homemade Larabars at Chocolate Covered Katie.  From this website, I got the recipes for both the Chocolate Chip Cookie and Oatmeal Raisin Cookie flavors.  Since I have always loved the Key Lime Pie Larabar, I looked at the bar of the bar and checked out the ingredients for my copy cat bar.  I then used the same nut to dried fruit ratios from the other bars and created the new recipe. Each batch makes about 6 balls at around 100 calories each (this is NOT exact).  Eat one or two for the perfect snack or pre-workout fuel.

Clockwise: cashews, pecans, walnuts

(In each recipe I increased the amount of ingredients used so that I could have more of each flavor. The recipes below are what I used to make mine.)

Chocolate Cip Cookie
3/4 cup cashews
3/4 cup dates
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Chocolate chips (I used chocolate covered cocoa nibs because I like that they are not as sweet as regular chocolate for pre gym fuel)

-Blend all ingredient in blender (minus chocolate).
-Hand mix in chocolate and form into balls.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts
6 tbl quick oats
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

-Blend oats.
-Add raisins, walnuts, and vanilla to oats. Blend.
-Hand mix and form into balls.

Key Lime Pie
1/3 cup pecans
1/3 cup cashews
3/4 cup dates
1 tbl unsweetened coconut
1/4 tsp key lime juice (my grocery store had no key limes so I used a little bit of lime and orange juice)

-Blend all ingredient in blender.
-Hand mix in chocolate and form into balls.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Key Lime (yes I know...they all look the same!)

Try out different Larabars to find your favorite and then experiment with making your own.