354. Random Thoughts Thursday

I could probably write  a separate post for everything here, and I probably should for content, but I don’t feel like it.  So instead I present you with a bunch of randomness currently on my mind.

Last weekend was quite the weekend for me.  It was full of all kinds of firsts.  I ran 16 miles for the first time (along with 14 and 15 miles along the way!) I shot a gun (multiple guns actually) for the first time ever, and I made homemade bagels for the first time. (FINALLY! I’ve only been talking about making homemade bagels for about 3 years now!) It was quite an impressive weekend really.

The boy owns guns and likes to go shoot them with his buddies. I have no interest in guns and even less interest in shooting them. Plus, I’m a disaster on my own; I don’t need to be a disaster with a deadly weapon in hand. But I know the boy likes guns, and I knew he would REALLY like it if I went shooting with him one day. So for Christmas I applied for my FOID card (Firearm Owners ID – It’s an Illinois thing. Illinois loves it some gun laws.) and gave the boy a copy of the application along with a note promising to take him shooting once I received my FOID. We finally picked a weekend and went. Honestly, I was surprised by how nervous, uncomfortable, and just plain scared I was to begin with. When we walked into the range, I would flinch or jump every time someone would fire a shot. I was on the verge of tears for at least the first 20 minutes simply because that’s how I most often react to the stress of nervousness/ being uncomfortable. Ultimately I had a good time. I would definitely go again but probably not anytime soon. Nik puts up with a lot of my ridiculousness (and my various kitchen experiments) so it was nice to do something that was really all for him.

I don’t know if I was feeling extra ballsy after my adventures with guns or if it was just fresh in my mind because I found a recipe when I was pulling recipes from old issues of Cooking Light and Vegetarian Times to add to my recipe binder, but I decided I was also going to make homemade bagels on Saturday.
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I used this recipe from the November 2011 issue of Cooking Light. I’m not sure why I waited so long to make my own bagels, but I’m glad I finally did this because these bagels were AWESOME! I stuck to the recipe pretty closely to make sure they came out right, but I did make a few minor changes:

  1. I left out the barley malt syrup because a) I didn’t have any and b) I didn’t feel like trying to track it down. The recipe says you can leave it out so I wasn’t worried.
  2. I brushed the bagels with egg yolk thinned with water. I also topped half of them with salt, minced onion, poppy seed and sesame seeds to make everything bagels.
  3. I only made 11. I had 6 that were about 3.5 oz and 5 that were about 4.5 oz. I could have cut down all the 4.5 oz bagels to make a 12th bagel, but I was too lazy.
  4. I baked for almost twice the suggested time. I cooked them until golden brown on top and hallow sounding.

I totally rocked my February Challenge, and I feel like a rock star for it.  If you’ve been reading my blog for some time now, you know how good I am at failing at my fitness challenges.  Last month, I killed.  I blew my goal of 175 activity points (which I increased about a week into the challenge from the original 150 points) out of the water clocking in at 212 activity points for the month.  I tracked 26 out of 29 complete days.  I did fall short on my fitness class goal only attending 4 out of 5 classes.  However, that was a scheduling failure rather than me blowing things off.  There are a pretty limited number of classes I can actually attend to begin with since I don’t get home until about 6 in the evening. When you account for my Weight Watchers meetings on Tuesdays, my darts league on Wednesdays, and my training runs on Mondays and Thursdays, I’m left with Friday, Saturday and Sunday for classes.  There aren’t any evening classes on Friday and I run on either Saturday or Sunday.  That leaves me one day a week to do classes and since there were only 4 weeks in February, well…getting to 5 classes wasn’t really realistic with marathon training taking top priority.  What’s important is that I didn’t fall short of the goal simply because I was being lazy.  So because I feel like my challenge was a huge success despite that, I’ve decided to go ahead and reward my successes.   I’ve deviated from my original reward plan though and ordered How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (the reward for my bonus weight loss goal) instead of the fitbook.  There is a method to my madness though kids.

The reason I went ahead and ordered the cookbook instead of the fitbook is because I’m following Michelle’s lead and going for a Meatless March.  Back in September 2010, I made the decision to stop eating animals.  I never proclaimed myself a vegetarian because I expected to eat meat again, and I have.  Lately though, I’ve been wanting to get back to a primarily meatless diet.  This seemed like a great way to do it!

I signed up for my fifth half marathon yesterday.  The Rock n Roll race series was offering a Leap Day discount of $29 off any race.  I’m usually able to pass up a deal, but that’s a really great discount.  I decided to snap it up and registered for the Chicago Rock n Roll half marathon on July 22nd.  I was hesitant to sign up since I hate running in the heat.  (Really, I just hate the heat.)  But it was hard to pass up such a deal, especially when it would be an encore performance, and a chance to kick ass, of my very first half marathon.

Last week I decided to impulse buy a cast iron skillet, a cast iron grill pan and The New Rules of Lifting for Women off Amazon.  I haven’t used the skillet yet, but I’m a fan of the other two items thus far.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Have a happy Thursday!

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351. Veggietastic Breakfast Bowls

Yesterday I mentioned one of the things that is really working for me is eating a massive amount of vegetables.  One of the ways I do this is to load up my breakfast with 3 – 4 servings of veggies through these “Veggie Breakfast Bowls.”  This isn’t really a recipe so much as a method because you can use pretty much anything you want to create these bowls.  I like to switch it up week to week based on what veggies I have on hand and so I don’t bored.

Aside from being loaded with veggies, one of the nice things about these veggie bowls is that you really can make everything in advance, throw the bowl together and pop it in the microwave for a couple minutes if you don’t have a lot of time to make breakfast in the morning.

So here’s how I roll in the mornings:

  • First, grab a large-ish bowl and add about ½ c of your grain of your choice.  This week I went with quinoa that I made ahead on Sunday, but in the past I’ve used grits, couscous, and even oatmeal.  Since the grain was the only pre-made element of this morning’s breakfast, I just heated it in the microwave for 90 seconds.  If the rest of your ingredients are pre-cooked microwave it all at the end.

  • Next up, top the grains with 2 – 3 cups of veggies.  This week I’ve been using about 1 c of slice baby bellas and 2 cups of spinach which I sauté together in a splash of olive oil.  I’ve also used Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and leftover roasted veggies.

  • Now top your veggies with an egg.  I like to use over-easy or poached eggs so I get a nice runny yolk to mix in, but if runny egg yolks aren’t your thing you could definitely use scrambled or even hard boiled.

  • Top it all with some cheese (or don’t).  I bought a giant bag of Cabot 50% Reduced fat Sharp Cheddar Snackers at Costco a couple weeks ago so I crumble one of those on top.  Feel free to add some salt, pepper, garlic powder, or other seasonings as well.  Sometimes I do; sometimes I don’t.

  • Finally, mix it all together and enjoy!

Depending on the grain I’m using, the whole bowl clocks in at 6 – 7 points plus and usually keeps me full for several hours.  (I eat breakfast about 6:30am and generally don’t start getting hungry again until at least 10:30!)

309. What I Ate Wednesday: Breakfast Edition

Confession: I am terrible at taking pictures of my food.  I manage to write it all down every day and track points, but remembering to snap a photo seems damn near impossible for me.  So today we’re taking a slightly different approach to WIAW.  I go through rotations of eating pretty much the same thing for breakfast every day for months at a time.  Over the summer it was omelets.  Now I’ve started shifting more toward cereals.

First up…

BetterOats Abundance Apples & Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal.

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I’m not even sure what possessed me to grab this off the grocery store shelf because I usually I hate the consistency and flavor of instant oatmeal.  Thankfully, this oatmeal is much more similar to stove-top oats than it is to “regular” instant oatmeal.  I mix in 1 T of peanut butter and call it a day.   Plus, you can fill the packet with water if you don’t have a measuring cup handy!  Oh and the oatmeal clocks in with a mere 4 points+ so with my 1 T of pb, I’ve got a very solid, filling 7 points+ breakfast.

The second breakfast winner this week…

Nature’s Path Organic Optimum Blueberry Cinnamon cereal.

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I’ve been on the hunt for this cereal since Laura mentioned it to me.  Well, actually she told me about the Optimum Slim which is her favorite, but I’ve yet to find that one.  I saw this one at Trader Joe’s this past week and snatched up the second to last box.  It’s definitely a unique cereal on the flavor and texture front, but I’m a fan.  1 cup of cereal weighs in at 5 points+ and since I prefer my cereal pretty dry, the 2T of 2% milk I pour on doesn’t add any additional points!

So those are my current go-to breakfast options.  Maybe next week I’ll manage to take pictures of a whole day’s worth of food!

250. Brinner: Breakfast Fried Rice

I meant to this post this, like, last Wednesday, but like I said, last week totally got away from me. 

Remember a few weeks ago when I made that super awesome breakfast risotto?  Remember when I change my meal planning strategy to included Brinner Thursdays?  Well, the combination of those two things is where this recipe started.  I needed a Brinner Thursday recipe, and after the breakfast risotto turned out so freaking awesome I started thinking about other non-breakfast foods I could adapt into a breakfast food.  I’ve already made breakfast pizza, breakfast casserole, and breakfast risotto for dinner.  Then it hit me, breakfast friend rice!  How could I go wrong?

(Okay, I thought of a lot of different ways I could go wrong.  I even informed the boy that while having a girlfriend who likes to cook keeps him being very well fed, it also means he is subjected to my “experimental” dishes that could go horrible awry.  He has accepted his fate.)

Let’s cut right to the chase shall we?

Breakfast Fried Rice

Ingredients
5 small Yukon Gold Potatoes, chopped bite-size
10 slices Bacon
6 oz Carrots, chopped
6 oz Broccoli, chopped
5 eggs
2 c cooked brown rice
1/4 c Kikoman Low Sodium Soy Sauce

Do It
1. Fry bacon in wok.

2. Once the bacon is done remove from the wok and set aside to cool.  Pour out the majority of the grease leaving a little bit for stir-frying the veggies and rice.  Once the bacon has cooled you will want to coarsely chop it.

3.  Add the potatoes to the wok and stir fry about 5 minutes.  Add the carrots and broccoli stir-frying another 5 minutes or so.  Remove the veggies and set aside  (I like my veggies still a little crisp.  If you like them softer stir-fry a little longer.)

4. Crack eggs into the wok and scramble.

5. Add chopped bacon, veggies, and rice to the eggs and mix thoroughly.

6. Pour soy sauce onto mixture and stir until it evenly coats the rice, veggies, eggs and bacon.

So I realize that, for the most part, this recipe isn’t really that different from regular fried rice, but bacon eggs and potatoes make it breakfast in my mind and that’s all that really matters now isn’t it? But if you want to get on board with the breakfast fried rice I say, “Do it!”  I would definitely recommend using low sodium soy sauce.  The bacon adds quite a bit of saltiness so even with the low sodium this dish was a little on the salty side.  I could only imagine what it would taste like with the full sodium soy sauce.

The great thing about fried rice is it’s so quick, easy and versatile.  It’s a great way to get in a variety of veggies.  Even though I only used carrots and broccoli here you could add any variety of veggies you like.  Think about it like you would think about adding veggies to an omelet.   I loved this.  I don’t know that I loved it any more or less than “regular” fried rice, but it will be made again.

237. Apple-Pear Breakfast Risotto

So, today I was going to post about the new approach I’ve been taking to meal planning recently, but then I made this breakfast risotto last night and all bets were off.  I knew I had to share this recipe immediately so you can all make this tomorrow morning for weekend breakfast or maybe for a Super Bowl Brunch…

Originally I intended to make this in the slow cooker, but I totally dropped the ball on preparing it Wednesday night so it would be ready to cook on Thursday.  I loved the idea so I went ahead and prepared it like “normal” risotto.

Apple-Pear Breakfast Risotto
Inspired by CrockPot 365

Ingredients
7 c no sugar added/ unsweetened apple juice.
¼ c butter
1 ½ c Arborio Rice
1/8 t nutmeg
1/8 t ground cloves
1/8 t ground ginger
½ T cinnamon
1/3 c brown sugar
2 medium apples
1 pear

Do It!

  1. Pour apple juice into saucepan and heat over medium-low heat.
  2. Melt butter in stock pot.
  3. While butter is melting, chop up one apply. Add rice and chopped apple to stock pot.  Stir to coat rice and apples with butter.
  4. Add ½ c of apple juice.  Stir and add nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
  5. Continue to add juice in ½ c increments.  After each addition, stir until the liquid is absorbed into the rice before adding more juice.  You do not need to stir continuously but do stir frequently.
  6. Between additions of juice, chopped the second apple and the pear.
  7. After the last portion of juice is added stir in the second apple, pear and brown sugar.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, to soften apples and pears and blend in brown sugar.

This dish was ah-may-zing.  I loved it!  I served it as a side dish with French toast and sausage links.  The risotto itself is a bit sweet so I thought it would be a bit much as a main dish.  However, that wasn’t going to stop me from bringing leftovers as my lunch.

In an effort to add a little bit of fat and protein to my leftovers, I brought along a slice of smoked gouda cheese.  I had no idea if this would be any good, but I’m generally a fan of the apple-cheese combination so I figure it was worth a try.  Holy ohmigod deliciousness Batman!  I didn’t think this risotto could get any better, but I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  The smokiness of the cheese provided the perfect savory balance to the fruity sweetness.  I hadn’t really been looking for a way to make this a main dish, but I found it.  I don’t know how much cheese you should add to the whole thing since I just added a slice to one serving, but I would say add a little bit at a time until you get a good balance.

I also think chopping up some sausage links and mixing those in would be a great way to turn this into a sweet and savory main dish.  I don’t care how you serve it, but you should definitely get on this ASAP!

PS.  I finally updated my Training Page!  My plan for the WI Half Marathon on May 7th is now posted!  I’ll be updating my weekely progress there.

235. Chocolate Banana Pancakes

Saturday morning I ran 2.25 miles.  This is the furthest I’ve run since The Hot Chocolate 5K back in November.  I figured I’d get a jump start on my official dedication to fitness in the month of February.  I decided to reward myself with some pancakes.  I make pancakes pretty frequently though; so in order for them to truly be a reward, these pancakes needed to be something special.  I figured I’d start with my basic whole wheat pancake recipe and play around with it.  I opened my baking cabinet and was reminded of the surplus of cocoa powder I purchased prior to my holiday baking spree.  

Well, hello Chocolate Banana Pancakes…

(Side note: My pancakes are always burned looking and unattractive.  If I ever manage to make a nearly perfect pancake I will photograph it and use that same photo over and over again anytime I talk about pancakes.  Until then, I have no photo.  Sorry, I’m not sorry.)

Ingredients

1 ¼ c. Whole Wheat Flour
1 t Baking Soda
2 T Sugar (or sweetener of choice)
1 ½ T Cocoa Powder
1 c Milk
2 Large Eggs
1 T Vanilla Extract
2 medium bananas, smashed

Do It!

  1. In medium mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  2. In a separate bowl combine milk, eggs, and vanilla.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Add smashed banana and mix until combined.
  4. Pour ¼ c of batter onto skillet and cook over medium heat.  Flip when bubble start to form on the top.

Makes about 12.

I was going to make a peanut butter glaze for my pancakes, but I was starving and exhausted so I just spread peanut butter directly onto the pancakes.  They were ah-may-zing!  The chocolate flavor was subtle and delicious, and the peanut butter made them even better! 

You should definitely make these for breakfast tomorrow or even better, brinner tonight!

228. Brinner: Breakfast Pizza

Last night the plan was to make this loaded potato soup from Cooking Light, but after having black bean soup for lunch yesterday and the day before, and the dinner before that…I just wasn’t in the mood more soup.  Plus, I’ve been on a serious brinner kick lately.

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 Breakfast for Dinner Pizza

Ingredients
1 tube of crescent roll dough (or any crust of your choosing)
1 small onion, chopped
16 oz breakfast sausage
3 small Yukon gold potatoes
1 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 eggs
¼ c milk

Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 400
  2. Roll your crescent roll dough out in a  jelly roll pan sprayed with cooking spray.
  3. Brown the breakfast sausage – like you would brown ground beef.
  4. Dice the potatoes into bite sized pieces.  Sautee them with a little bit of olive oil to soften.  (Once the sausage was cooked, I added the potatoes to that pan for a little extra flavor.)
  5. Top dough with onions, sausage, potatoes and cheese.
  6. Beat eggs with milk and pour on top of toppings.
  7. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes.

You could certainly top this with all sorts of other veggies, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts…anything your little heart desires.