Month: October 2010

Heat n Eat Steel Cut Oats

Last night I went swimming for the first time since March (thank you blog!). There is a pool in DC that is free for residents ($4 for Virginia Lovers like me) that is amazing. It’s right off the Tenleytown metro and it’s an Olympic sized pool with about 10 lanes designated slow, medium or fast. I met my friend Amber and we picked a Medium speed lane and were the only ones in it for the first few minutes. But then, one by one people started joining our lane and before I knew it we were up to 7 people all in a row, so I switched lanes. I ended up doing 1 mile in 45 minutes, and it was HARD. That is 16.5 laps (33 lengths) and for the first few laps I didn’t think there was any way I’d finish. But, once I got up around lap 9/10, the end was in sight and I was able to power through.

After the pool, we hit up the Whole Foods right at the metro for some grub!

WholeFoodsBar

I did a base of spinach and kale, with a bunch of random things on top including a corn and edamame salad, smokey pasta mozzarella salad, ravioli, roasted corn, seitan, and curry tempeh. I’m sure there were a few other things hiding but I was SO hungry by that point that I gobbled the whole thing down in no time. Yum.

So I have to give my sister Heather credit for this because she’s the one who told me (THANK YOU HEATHER!), but I just discovered the BEST way to make steel cut oats so you can just heat them in the morning and they are ready.

For two servings: (Printable recipe here)

  • The night before, add 1/2 cup steel cut oats to 2 cups water

AddOatsandWater

  • Bring to a boil over medium heat, and let boil for 2 minute.
  • Remove from the heat, cover the pot, and let sit out on the stove overnight.

CoverandLeaveovernight

  • In the morning, the oats will have soaked up all the water and are ready!!

IntheMorning

  • This is the point where you can stir in pumpkin or add anything else you want to the mix.
  • Put them back on the stove and heat them through, and enjoy!

I went with Almond Joy Oats, topping them with sliced almonds, coconut flakes, and dark chocolate.

AlmondJoyOats

How I missed steel cut oats!! They have such a nutty and slightly chewy texture that you just can’t get from other types of oats. They have slightly more fiber than rolled oats so they are a little more filling in my opinion, and I just love them. I’m so glad I figured this out because I have a whole container of them in my pantry and seemingly never enough time to make them in the morning – not anymore!

Have you ever tried steel cut oats? Do you like the texture?

Choking Down Water

Last night, I made a pretty delicious dinner with enough leftovers for lunch today. In my CSA from this past week (the very last one!) I got several sweet potatoes, and it was kind of funny because they were all in odd shapes. When I pick them out myself from the grocery store or the farmer’s market, I usually choose potatoes of about the same size so they are easy to bake or cut up into similar sizes. Not so with the ones from last night – I tried to cut some up into fry shapes for oven fries, and ended up with some enormous potato wedges.

First, preheat the oven to 400º. I started by scrubbing the potatoes hard because they were caked with dirt, and then cutting them into fry shapes as best as possible. I tossed them in 1 tbsp olive oil (always oil first!)

InOil

And then with 1 tsp each cinnamon and chili powder.

InSpices

Lay them out on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray.

ReadtoBake

Don’t mind the extremely dirty baking sheet…

Pop them in the heated oven for 20 minutes, flip, then put them back in for 20 more minutes.

DoneFries

While those were baking, I found two teenie eggplants in my fridge that were on their very last leg.

Eggplant

I chopped them up and threw them in a pan for a few minutes before adding the last of the swiss chard from my farm share. I realized my meal had no protein, so I threw in 1 cup of chickpeas (from a can).

Scramble

(What a huge difference from canned chickpeas to making your own from dried! The make-your-own ones have such a better texture.)

Then I realized I should make a fried egg to put on top of the scrambled beans and veggies…

WithEgg

But I overcooked the egg slightly so the yolk was not runny enough for me. I was hoping the yolk would break and make a creamy sauce over the scramble, but instead, it mostly stayed put. The oven baked sweet potato fries, however, were out of this world.

PileOFries

Totally random meal, but oh so good. For lunch today I used some goat cheese with the scramble instead of an egg and had the leftover fries. yuuuuuum.

And onto a completely different topic, water.

Normally, I get into the flow of drinking water (pun intended) with no problem. One of my goals is to step up my water drinkage this week because I have been majorly slacking in this department. However, for the first time in my life, I feel like I have to choke down the water. I can usually just chug it down no problem and go on being happy, but lately (as in yesterday and today) I have had a really hard time drinking it. I don’t know what it is but its just been tasting kind of gross and bland.

What are your best tips for getting your water down?

All About Oats

I love me some oats.  I can tell the seasons have changed when I find my body craving hot oatmeal (specifically pumpkin oats!) because it is one of my go-to breakfasts in the cooler seasons. This morning as I was glancing through my pantry, I saw so many different types of oats to choose from. I have at least 4 kinds in my pantry (I say at least because my pantry desperately needs to be cleaned out but that’s another story for another day) – old fashioned, scottish, Steel Cut, and Oat Bran.

So I know oats are good for me, but why?

  • Lower Cholesterol Levels
  • Antioxidants in oats reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Whole Grains for breakfast prevent heart failure
  • Enhance Immune Response to Infection
  • Stabilize Blood Sugar
  • Substantially Lower Type 2 Diabetes Risk
  • Fiber in whole grains protects against Breast Cancer
  • Highly Protective against Childhood Asthma
  • A Well-tolerated Wheat Alternative for people intolerant of wheat (celiacs)

So what are the different types of oats? 

  • Oat Groats – The whole oat grain, with only the hard unpalatable outer hull removed, but with the kernel’s outer bran layer left in tact. They are long and thin with a smooth shiny surface and look like brown rice. They can be eaten at this stage, but are typically processed into one of the forms below.
  • Scottish Oats – These are made by grinding the oat groats into a meal, which makes porridge type oats with a very creamy texture.
  • Steel Cut Oats – These are made by passing groats through steel cutters which chop each one into three or four pieces. Since they still contain the whole grain including the oat bran, steel cut oats are very nutritious.
  • Rolled Oats – These are made by steaming groats and flattening them with a roller. Old fashioned oats are made by first steaming the whole groat for a few minutes, thus partially cooking it, then passing it between rollers to flatten it out. Quick-cooking rolled oats are made by putting steel-cut oats through the same process.
  • Instant Oats – These made in a similar fashion to rolled quick-cooking oats, except they are steamed longer and rolled more thinly. It produces the kind of oats used for making some types of ‘instant’ porridge. Generally the more you process a food the less nutritious it becomes, instant oats are best avoided if you want to get the full benefit of this grain.
  • Oat Bran – The outer layer of the grain that resides under the hull. While oat bran is found in rolled oats and steel-cut oats, it may also be purchased as a separate product that can be added to recipes or cooked to make a hot cereal.

So what kind of oats should you eat?

It really depends on your taste preferences and how much time you have to prepare them in the morning. Lately, I have been loving Scottish Oats because they cook in just 5 minutes and make a really creamy bowl of oats with just using water. I also love steel cut oats, but those generally take around 30 minutes to cook which is time I generally don’t have in the morning. While instant oats are better than no oats, you should generally try to have less processed oats (basically any other kind on the above list) for the healthiest option, but instant oats can be good in a pinch.

So what did I have for breakfast today?

Pumpkin Oats!
PumpkinOats

In the mix:

  • 1/4 cup Scottish Oats
  • 1 cup water
  • ~1/2 canned pumpkin
  • 1 packet Truvia
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • homemade granola

UpClose

SO good.

Are you a fan of oatmeal for breakfast? What are your favorite kinds of oats? What about your favorite way to top them?

Pat on the Back

One thing I want to add to my list of weekly goals from this morning is to celebrate small successes. I think that it is SO important to pat yourself on the back not just for big achievements, but for little things. This was one thing I did a lot during my weight loss journey that really helped me to feel less overwhelmed with the huge task at hand (to lose 80+ pounds). Weight related goals and milestones are great, but non-weight related things are very important too because sometimes, no matter what you do, the scale won’t budge.

Today, we had a going away party for a coworker this afternoon in the conference room. There was beer, wine, and lots of delicious looking Italian pastries, but I sat myself away from the food and just brought in my bottle of water to drink. Now I know having one pastry or a glass of wine is not a big deal. But I really want to get back on track, and I know if I have a glass of wine in the afternoon, the chances of me working out after work decline dramatically. Plus, one of my weekly goals is to not drink other than at dinner Friday, and I want to work planned treats into my day – not just eating food because its there. So bottom line – go me for not drinking wine or eating pastries! 🙂

Lunch today was raaaaandom. I didn’t get back to DC until almost 10 pm last night, so the pickings were slim/my attention span low when I went to put together lunch for today. I started with a sandwich between the last two pieces of bread from my Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Sesame loaf. That bread is SO good, but all that was left were the heels!
sammie

I spread some Garlic Hummus on the bread, added a slice of light swiss, and then a handful of baby spinach and some hot peppers.

On the side, I had some celery sticks.

celery

1/2 a mango.

mango

Then last minute decided to add a blob of part-skim ricotta for some extra protein (slash because i love cheese).

ricotta

I ended up dipping the celery in the ricotta and devouring every last bit of this plate.

alltogether

But you know, it left me really satisfied even though it was so random/didn’t necessarily go together.

Are you good about acknowledging small victories in your healthy journey? Do you tend to plan out your lunches well or just throw together random things like this?

Fresh Start

Good morning! Thanks for understanding my much needed hiatus from blogging as I spent time this weekend with family celebrating Tristan’s life. We had a beautiful memorial service at my sister’s church in Philly where close to 200 people showed up. It was amazing to see so much support from family, friends from Philly, coworkers of both Wendy and Justin, and the nurses from the NICU. There were also several of Wendy’s friends from high school in Connecticut who came to the service, so I was really blown away and happy for all the support for her and my family.

Wendy asked me to do a reading at the service, so I read Psalm 139, which was read by the pastor at the hospital right before Tristan passed. I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to hold it together to do the reading, but it ended up going really well and I was so happy to be able to be a part of the service. Justin’s brother Chris also did a reading, and his other brother Will played guitar and sang a song called “Fly.” The burial was a private ceremony with immediate family only, and it was so sad but so special. My sister Heather wrote and read a poem at the burial called “26 Days” that was beautiful. Overall the service was obviously profoundly sad, but it really was a celebration of Tristan and all of the lives he touched in his short 26 days on earth. It left me with a lot of closure.

So, I have alluded to this a bit on the blog, but I’ve been feeling pretty off track lately with eating and exercising, largely because I lost my nephew a little over a week ago. Last week, I worked out twice. I went on two 11 mile bike rides, one on Tuesday and one on Saturday. I haven’t run at all since my last training run before I was supposed to run a sub 1hour 10k on 10-10-10. I also haven’t been back to Bikram, gone to the gym, or done any strength training. On the eating front, I haven’t been paying much attention to being healthy or portion sizes, and overall have just felt pretty sluggish from the combination of the eating and lack of exercise.

So with the weekend behind me, I have decided to make today a fresh start.

I am recommitting to a healthy lifestyle with these goals for this week:

  1. Workout at least 4 times (including at least 1 run)
  2. Drink more water (at least two 32 oz bottles at work per day)
  3. Start each day with a healthy breakfast
  4. Plan one treat at least per day (to keep me on track – hello vitatops!)
  5. Cook healthy meals at home
  6. Friday night will be my splurge night for dinner for a friend’s birthday, but other than that no drinking this week.

I always feel better with a plan in place and will check back in on these goals next Tuesday. To start things off right, I had a fall favorite for breakfast:

PunkinYogo

Pumpkin Yogurt Bowl! I love making yogurt bowls because they’re filling, healthy, and delicious. Plus, you can use whatever you have around the house to customize it.

PumpkinYogurt

This bowl had:

  • Nonfat Fage Greek Yogurt
  • 1 small sliced banana
  • Canned Pumpkin (Libby’s!)
  • Homemade Granola

My sister sent me home with this AMAZING homemade granola. I will be experimenting with the recipe and will share it soon, but its the best granola I’ve ever tasted in my life – and that is saying a lot. This bowl was packed with protein, fiber, whole grains, fruits and veggies! The textures also went together so well with the creamy, thick yogurt, the cool pumpkin, crunchy granola, and soft, sweet banana. YUM.

What is ONE goal for this week that you’d like to set for yourself today and will check back in on next Tuesday?

Last CSA Day!

Thank you so much for all the supportive comments and emails on yesterday’s post. Sometimes its tough to discuss touchy issues like bingeing and put myself out there, but after the reaction from you all it made me happy I did.

Onto more positive subjects… my CSA! Somehow, yesterday was the very last pick up of the 20 week season. We have officially decided not to do the CSA again next year because it just did not feel worth it for us. We paid about $26 a week for a half share, so around $500 for the 20 weeks. There were a few weeks that it felt “worth it” but many more weeks where I felt like I could have done WAY better at the Farmer’s Market with $26 in hand. The farm we were with was Great Country Farms, and based on this year’s CSA, I wouldn’t recommend signing up with that farm.

That said, I do think a CSA is a great thing if you find a good farm and don’t have as much access to farmers markets and local produce as I do. Every Thursday there is a Farmer’s Market right outside my office, and every Tuesday there’s one right outside my apartment. On top of that, there are several all around the city on the weekends, so access to local produce is not hard for me. To find out information about CSAs and farmers markets in your area, check out http://www.localharvest.org. This site is an awesome resource for finding things in your area and has reviews listed on the site. I’ll be sure to put up a review on this CSA. 🙂

And onto this week’s produce. It was pretty decent, but I still think I could have gotten a lot more for $26 at the farmer’s market…but I am looking forward to diving into cooking up a lot of produce this weekend.

Sweet Potatoes caked with dirt fresh from the ground!

SweetPotatoes

10 Apples – not sure of the variety.

Apples

Beets with their tops

BeetGreens

And a small butternut squash plus lettuce of some sort

ButternutSquashLettuce

It’s kind of weird that this is the last box ever of my CSA!!

Sometimes simple is best when it comes to breakfast.

MorningOats

Oat bran with 1 tbsp pepitas and a drizzle of organic honey. I found the oat bran in the depths of my pantry and while I think its fine, I do prefer old fashioned oats or scottish oats over the oat bran. I’m pretty sure I bought it because it’s only 1 point on Weight Watchers instead of 2…

Do you have good access to local produce where you live? Do you or would you participate in a CSA?

One Month

I’ve been trying to write this post for hours, but putting up pictures of breakfast and lunch just wasn’t what my heart was telling me to write.

One month ago today, my sister went into early labor and delivered my two nephews, Tristan and Harper, at just 23 weeks.

One month ago today, I had two teeny nephews, and today I only have one.

Two years ago if something even remotely close to this had happened, I would have buried my sorrows deep in food and would have eaten everything I could until I was so physically full that it was all I could think about. The food would numb me momentarily, and then, I would slowly come out of the food coma and realize that all my problems were still there and the binge had solved nothing.

It’s kind of ironic in a way because what I am dealing with now is by far the most serious and real life nightmareish thing I could ever even fathom experiencing. The things that would drive me to binge into oblivion in my former life didn’t even come close to the emotional roller coaster I am on now. Many of the reasons behind the binges had nothing to do with tragic events – I would eat myself numb if I was happy, sad, lazy, nervous, scared, or just bored.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t struggled at all with eating over the last month, but it has been a completely different world because I think I’ve made drastic improvements in my relationship with food over the last few years and have learned that it is not the be-all end-all. While healthy living has definitely taken a little bit of a back burner in light of my recent life events, I have come to realize a few things that are helping keep me on track.

  1. It is normal to feel sad and helpless.
  2. Not working out and eating junk all the time is not going to change the situation at hand, even if it distracts me temporarily.
  3. Exercising helps me release anxiety and makes me better able to be the support to my sister that I need to be right now.
  4. Some things are out of our control, like life events.
  5. Some things we have complete control over, like treating yourself well.

A lot of times over the last month when I’ve found myself standing in front of my open pantry figuring out what I should eat to help ease the pain, I’ve thought hard about these things. Most of the times, I’ve been realizing that nothing is going to ease the pain and I have just walked away and cried or gone out for a bike ride or run or called a friend to talk. Some of the times, the food has won and I’ve given in and eaten the food that was calling my name and focused just on food for once for a few minutes and what to eat next. But I’ve forgiven myself.

I’ve had such a rocky relationship with food for such a large part of my life, that the last 1.5 – 2 years that I’ve really taken the reigns are really nothing compared to the first 24+ years of life where food was what I turned to for everything. I’m getting better, but I’m obviously not there yet.

How is your relationship with food? Do you find yourself giving into bad habits in the face of stress? How do you overcome it?

Me vs. The Spaghetti Squash

One of my favorite parts about fall by far is squash. There’s seriously not a squash that I tried that I don’t love. Last night, I took on a Spaghetti Squash and decided to show you a step by step, similar to the one I did for a Butternut Squash.

This squash was kind of on its last leg because my sister fridge was exploding with squash from her CSA, so I gladly took it out of her hands.

BJTT 306

First, preheat your oven to 400º.

Next, cut the squash in half lengthwise.

BJTT 309

Next, scoop out the seeds/flesh from the middle. It’s a little different with a spaghetti squash than other types of squash because the whole inside of the squash is stringy, so you just need to make sure you remove all the seeds.

BJTT 311

There will still be stringiness on the inside of it, but that’s ok!

Next, spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray, and place the squash cut side down on the baking sheet.

BJTT 319

Put it in the oven for 1 hour (or slightly longer if you let it bake while you bike ride… not safe, kids. not safe.)

BJTT 320

Flip the halves over and wait for it to cool slightly so its cool enough for you to handle.

BJTT 322

Use a fork to scrape out the insides of each half of the squash so it looks like spaghetti.

BJTT 323

Treat the insides just like you would with spaghetti and top with whatever you like! You can do it traditional style with tomato sauce and cheese, or go with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. It can be served as a main course if you top it well with protein, or as a side dish to accompany meat.

Last night, I used my spaghetti squash in one of my favorite ways to use spaghetti, but it often gets too calorie dense for me (slash not enough volume!) if I use it with regular pasta. First, I heated 1 tsp of olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic in a pot, and then added in the flesh from one half of that huge squash. Next, I cracked an egg directly into the pan.

BJTT 327

I mixed it all around until the egg was cooked through, and then added ~ 1/4 of a cup of part-skim ricotta, and salt and pepper. When you cook any pasta (spaghetti squash or regular) and crack an egg directly into it, the egg coats the pasta and makes the whole thing feel more substantial to me. I LOVE it like this!

BJTT 330

This whole bowl was 5 points (and would have been 8 and much less volume if I used regular whole wheat pasta and just one serving). 2 points for the egg, 1 for the olive oil, 1 for the squash (~ 2 cups, but 1 cup is zero), and 1 for the ricotta. SO good.

What is your absolute favorite way to have spaghetti squash? If you’re not a spaghetti squash fan (i feel like people either love it or hate it!) what is your favorite way to top regular spaghetti?

Loaded Toast

Happy Hump Day!

So this probably goes without saying, but I didn’t run the race on Sunday since I was still up in Philly. I guess my 10th race was not meant to be the 10k on 10-10-10. Obviously I’m not giving myself too hard of a time for slacking on exercise given the circumstances, but I think during tough times its even more important to take care of yourself because you have more to give when you do. During my weekend in Philly, I was in charge of Sadie, their sweet pitbull.

Sadie

She makes me really want a dog! I loved getting up in the mornings with her begging for a walk so that I woke up in the fresh air first thing in the morning. Plus, every time I walked in the door she would get so excited and come kiss me and just make me feel happy despite everything that was going on. On Friday, I took her for a long walk for over an hour in the afternoon because it was a gorgeous day. It was about 3.3 miles but that was the only long walk we went on. Besides that, I took her out 2-3 times a day for short 15 minute walks, but that’s really the only movement I did during the weekend.

Last night I was craving a workout, and I saw someone biking when I was walking to the metro and knew that was what I wanted to do. I did the same loop I’ve done a few times now but it definitely took me a bit longer last night because I feel a little out of practice. During the first 1-2 miles I was thinking about cutting the ride short, which I never do with a bike ride. Run? Sure. Bike ride? Never. I pushed through though and was so happy when all was said and done because exercise is such a release for me. Here are the stats:

  • Distance: 11.03 miles
  • Duration: 51:07 minutes
  • Avg. Pace: 4:38 min/mile
  • Avg. Speed: 12.9mph
  • Calories: 623

It felt so good.

This morning I was trying to figure out what to have for breakfast and there was a banana that was begging to be used. I love banana on top of lots of things, but I had oats yesterday and wanted something different. I saw on Kath’s blog that she had mashed banana on toast over the weekend, and I’ve done that before with chocolate chips and peanut butter, but wanted something a little less desserty.

Here’s what I came up with:

Loaded Toast
Loaded Toast!

  • 1 piece Ezekiel 4:9 Sesame Sprouted Bread
  • 1 small mashed banana
  • Cashew Butter
  • 1 tsp chia seeds

Layers

The contrast in flavor, texture, and temperature from the warm, toasty bread, the cool, sweet, mashed banana, and the creamy cashew butter was perfect. I loved the raw chia seeds on top too because they added a little crunch, though I still feel some in my teeth… Served with an orange.

WithanOrange Perfect.

What did you have for breakfast today? Do you tend to have the same things most mornings or do you like to try to change it up often?

(Never-Ending) Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

Thank you again for all the support that keeps coming as my family goes through this terribly rough time. I really appreciate it so much – it’s hard to even articulate.

I came up with a new recipe for Sweet Potato Black Bean chili on a whim. I wanted to make black bean chili – not sure what came over me but on Sunday evening I was craving it, so I soaked a bag of black beans overnight, and then yesterday morning, did all the prep and put it into a slow cooker. I spotted the sweet potatoes in my kitchen (which I always have on hand for a quick go-to meal) and decided to throw those into the mix and make a few changes to my original plan, and it turned out great!

Here’s what you need:

Chili Ingredients

  • 1 pound of dried black beans, soaked over night (or you can use canned – probably 2-3 cans depending on how much chili you want)
  • 2 cans of stewed tomatoes (I used Mexican style, but any kind will do)
  • 2 Sweet Potatoes
  • Green Peppers
  • Onions (I ended up using 2 instead of 3)
  • 1 tbsp Chili Powder (more or less depending on how spicy you want it)
  • Garlic (I ended up using jarred crushed garlic instead of the fresh stuff)

Directions:

  • Soak Beans overnight if using dried, or all day
  • Peel and dice up the sweet potatoes

SlicedSweetPotato

  • Cut your finger on a blade while taking out your slow cooker. OH WAIT. Don’t do that. I did and it made the rest of the process quite difficult
  • Chop up 2 onions and 2 bell peppers (or 3 babies) while one hand is bleeding
  • Add beans, sweet potatoes, onions, and peppers to a crock pot

Veggies and Beans

  • Add canned stewed tomatoes, garlic (use up to a whole head depending on how much you love garlic), chili powder, and 2 cans of water (or stock if you have it on hand)

EverythinginSlowCooker

  • Turn the slow cooker on low and cover, and go to work!

My house smelled amazing when I walked in the door, but for some reason, the beans were not fully cooked even though it went for 10.5 hours!! I think the secret is to either pre-cook the beans, or cook it on high rather than low. I still ate the chili, and the flavor was incredible.

EveningChili

Topped with a little shredded mozz because cheese makes everything better.

I also made some corn muffins from a box of Trader Joe’s cornbread mix.

CornBreadMix

The mix called for 1 egg, 3/4 cup of milk (I used skim), and 1/4 cup of oil (I substituted apple sauce). I also added 1 cup of corn that I browned in a dry pan…

BrowningCorn

And made muffins instead of using an 8×8 inch pan like the box suggests.

MuffinsinTin

These muffins turned out AMAZING. The box called for 35-40 minutes, but they only took 22 minutes to cook (at 350º) in muffin form.

BasketofMuffins

I ended up putting the chili back on low overnight (so it cooked for almost 24 hours when all was said and done) and it looked even better this morning…

MorningChili

And tasted even better for lunch (with 2 corn muffins!).

So from my original recipe, here are the changes I would make:

  • Use canned beans instead of dried, or cook on high instead of low for 8 hours
  • Don’t cut yourself. It makes chopping difficult.

I am so excited with all the leftovers I have of this because it is soooo comforting and filling. Chili is definitely one of my favorite comfort foods (especially with cornbread with kernels of corn in it!) even though it ended up being almost 90º yesterday in DC.

What is your favorite comfort food?

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