Month: March 2011

Fun Fact Friday

Happy Friday! While I’m glad the days in the office are over today for the week, I actually have a conference this weekend so will be working both tomorrow and Sunday. The conference is local so I don’t have to travel for it, but that still means no break until the day of my half marathon which is kind of scary!

Last night I went to Bikram for the first time in a few weeks and had a particularly hard class. I think it was because it was so warm outside yesterday so the room was hotter than usual. I was getting a little light headed even though I drank a ton of water throughout the day and had plenty of gatorade and water during the class itself. Whatever the case, I had to sit through a few of the postures and take it a little easier than I like to. I still felt amazing when I left though, and was happy to stretch and strengthen my body even though it wasn’t my best class.

Fun Fact Friday

So it’s kind of sad how hard of a time I had coming up with something NOT true to add to the list of ridiculous things about my past that are true. All I could think of that wasn’t obvious was things like “I’ve never been on a hike” (true) and “I don’t like to dance” (also true).  I guess I was pretty outrageous way back when.

I thought it would be fun to give you a little more info about each of the things so you can know how I used to be much cooler than I am now. 😉

#1 – A police officer once asked me, “What’s your deal, Ms. Klein?” True.

I was driving back to DC from my parents house and for some reason I was using my mom’s car. She had taken the registration and insurance info out of the glove compartment, which I didn’t realize until after I was well on my way. I was being extremely responsible and breaking every rule related to driving – speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, didn’t have my license on me, and no insurance/registration info. Then, my phone rang and I went to pick it up and swerved. Very safe, I know.

Needless to say, I got pulled over and when the cop asked for my license and registration, and I had neither, he went over every rule I was breaking and said, “What’s your deal, Ms. Klein?” I think he was just so taken aback by how many things I was doing wrong that he didn’t know what to do, and somehow I got away without a ticket and with a great story..

#2 – When I was little, my sisters convinced me to eat cat food because they told me it was people food, too. True.

Not too much to say about this one. I am the youngest of three and just wanted them to like me! Still working on that… 🙂

#3 – I pierced my own belly button when I was 16. True.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it turned out that it was not in fact a good idea. It hurt A LOT, got infected, and I still have scarring from that great decision.

#4 – I am the only member of my immediate family who has not been arrested. LIE.

I know I look really innocent, but I was in fact arrested when I was 18. I grew up in a really small town in Connecticut where everyone knew everyone. Knowing that, I still decided it was a good idea to buy alcohol for a prom party at a liquor store in my town, using my older sister’s ID. The fact that I purchased a case of Smirnoff Ice should have given it away right then and there, but when I walked out of the store with said alcohol and was recognized by another owner of the liquor store, it quickly went downhill.

I left the scene and actually didn’t hear anything for a few months, thinking I was in the clear. Then, literally as I was packing my car up to leave for DC to come to college, the call came. They had a warrant for my arrest and I had to go turn myself in. So, with the car fully loaded with clothes, toiletries, and my new comforter for college, I stopped at the police station and smiled for my mug shot before heading the rest of the way to GWU.

I got off pretty easy, just having to do 50 hours of community service and it was expunged from my record, but it was pretty traumatic at the time. For the other consequence, see #5.

#5 – In high school, a cop told my parents that I was the “procurer of alcohol” for my town’s youth. True.

I was a really good at making decisions, no?

Please share something random about yourself or your past in the comments. I love to get to know my readers and other bloggers better!

Thursday Thoughts and A Lie

Hi guys! I’m so glad you enjoyed yesterday’s guest post about making risotto in the microwave. Emily is quite a character. She does a killer velociraptor impression that I can’t even begin to articulate if you needed any more evidence of her cool factor.

But today, you’re stuck with me and my crazy ramblings so let’s get started, shall we?

1. Yesterday morning I completed the hardest day of training run of my whole half marathon – 5 miles of intervals. I started with .25 miles at 5.8mph (10:20 pace) and then did .25 miles at 7.0mph (8:34 pace). Times ten. TEN! I remember seeing that at the beginning of the training and thinking there was no way on earth I could possibly do it, but slowly and surely I built up to it over the last 11 weeks and felt like a million bucks when it was over.

5 mile intervals

2. I have to say I’m feeling a lot better about the half now than I was after the terrible long run last weekend and am actually getting pretty excited for it to be here – a week from Saturday! I decided I’m definitely NOT running 12 miles this weekend, and will instead do between 6 and 8 on Saturday as my last long run prior to the race. I’m also going to try to incorporate Bikram as much as possible between now and then, hopefully 2-3 times.

2011 National Half Marathon Logo

3. I had my second day of training for Weight Watchers Tuesday night and I still feel as great about it I did after day one. It’s kind of crazy how much I love it and look forward to it each week. I can’t wait to figure out which meeting I’ll be working at permanently once I’m fully trained!

weight-watchers

4. I made my lentil loaf again on Monday and I can’t get over how awesome and moist it is. This time, I added 2 servings of Annie’s Organic BBQ sauce to the top before baking and it made the whole loaf 30 pts+, or 5 pts+ for each serving since I made 6 large slices. I’ve been excited to have leftovers for lunch almost all week and have been looking forward to it each day because it’s so tasty. I have been loving make a big batch of something on Monday so I have access to quick meals during the week!

lentil loaf

4. I am super excited because I got an email about the Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference, a new healthy living conference this year, saying they were giving out scholarships. I applied for one and got it, so they comped my registration! I still have to get out to Boulder, CO (never been and can’t wait!) as well as get a hotel, but I’m so excited to have something else to look forward to on my schedule! Is anyone else attending this conference??

Fitness Health-LOGO-date

5. Last thing. I saw this going around the blog world a while back and wanted to do it myself – better late than never, right? Below are five things about me – four are true, and one is not.

  1. A police officer once asked me, “What’s your deal, Ms. Klein?”
  2. When I was little, my sisters convinced me to eat cat food because they told me it was people food, too.
  3. I pierced my own belly button when I was 16.
  4. I am the only member of my immediate family who has not been arrested.
  5. In high school, a cop told my parents that I was the “procurer of alcohol” for my town’s youth.

Can you guess which is the lie? Do you have any surprising truths?

Guest Post: Perfect Risotto in the Microwave

I know. You’re probably experiencing a similar reaction to what I experienced the first time Emily told me that risotto (made in a microwave) is a staple in her dinner rotation – a little excited, and a little skeptical. Risotto scares me, but throwing a microwave into the mix takes away the intimidation factor and adds some intrigue. But here’s the thing.  I trust Emily’s taste because she’s an incredible cook and gives me lots of inspiration both in and outside the kitchen. And then, when I saw the finished product, I realized she just might be onto something and that it would be selfish of me to keep the secret to myself. So here she is!

emilybeth

Let me just say one thing first. This “guest post” has been a long time coming. I’ve been promising to make an appearance on Beth’s Journey for what could be 100 years (full disclosure – it is more like 6 months). The jury is still out on whether or not I am a qualified guest (full disclosure – I got called for jury duty last week and sat on a trial).

A quick introduction: My name is Emily. I grew up in rural Ohio (Yes, I know Amish people. No I am not Amish. Yes I owned goats.) I played Division-I soccer in college. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine. I’ve lived in DC for 2 years. I have a great husband. I met Beth at work almost 2 years ago, and we’ve been pals ever since.

So, now that you know me, lets get down to brass tacks, as they say.  I have a little treat for you. Here is a hint. It involves risotto. And a microwave. Yes, you read that right. Risotto in a microwave. If we are being 100% honest here, I grew up in a house without a microwave and I’m not going to lie – microwaves used to scare me a bit. I also grew up in a house with a mother who was/is an incredible cook. The New Basics cookbook was a staple in our house. I think my mom’s copy is currently in 3 pieces. I now own my own well-loved copy, which is where I came across this gem. The important thing to note here is the technique. The ingredients can be interchanged. Risotto is a frightening beast, and I have conquered it. With the help of a modern appliance and some tasty ingredients.

Without further adieu:

Pesto & Walnut Risotto

  • 2 cups basil, washed and thoroughly dried
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt + Pepper to taste

*Yes, a lot of pesto includes parmesan cheese and nuts of some sort. But, because both of these ingredients will be added to the risotto later, they are omitted in this mix.

Place the basil and minced garlic in a food processor. As you pulse, slowly pour the olive oil into the mix.  Process to desired consistency. (I prefer it chunkier). Done.

Now, to the main event:

The ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2/3 cup onion, diced (not pictured – oops)
  • 1 cup Aborio rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons pesto (I used a little more)
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt + Pepper to taste

The equipment:

  • A microwave (I know, you still can’t get over it)
  • A microwave safe casserole dish (I use the bowl below. Ignore my face.)

The work: (All cook times are with full power)

  • Heat the oil in the casserole dish on for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the onion and cook for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the rice (make sure it is all coated!) and cook for 1 minute
  • Add 2 cups of the stock, the water, and the wine to the mixture. Stir once.
  • Cook the mixture for 12 minutes. Sit down! Have some wine! Read bethsjourney.com!
  • Add the remaining 1 cup of stock and the pesto. Stir once.
  • Cook for 8 minutes. Do whatever.
  • Check the mixture – depending on the microwave and your personal preference, it might be done. The “proper” way to serve risotto is al dente, but I like it cooked a touch more. Do what you feel.
  • Stir in the walnuts and the parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Done!

The final product:

I leave you with one final tip. To get the risotto to keep this shape I used a small tupperware container – scoop the mixture into the container, scraping any excess off the top. Invert a plate over the container and flip. Boo ya. That is some sexy presentation. In the past, I’ve also used a measuring cup. It also works with mashed potatoes and will make your family believe you have Emeril-esque skills in the kitchen. Everybody wins.

xoxo,

emily

Beth’s Note: This recipe, if divided into 4 servings, has 10 pts+ a serving.

What are your thoughts on cooking in the microwave? Yay or nay? What types of things do you typically use it for?

Whole Foods Weight Watcher: Dessert Ideas

If I’m being completely honest, I feel a little hypocritical writing this post because desserts are the thing I struggle with the most. When I started transitioning over to a mostly whole foods diet, I did it in stages rather than a total overhaul because I didn’t want to scare myself away.

Now let me make one thing clear – I am not saying at all that you should stop eating processed foods if you like them and are able to make them part of your healthy diet. I just find that for me, I feel a lot healthier, have better skin, and have more energy when I cut out these foods. I also have had a long road getting here, and I recommend you not give up the things you love, especially not all at once, if you want any changes to stick. Now that that’s out of the way…

When I rejoined Weight Watchers in December 2010, there were still two main areas I struggled with in terms of eating processed foods – bread and dessert. Those 100 calorie sandwich thins, bagels thins, and flatout wraps were just so good and I felt like I was getting a lot more bang for my buck than with regular bread. It wasn’t until WW launched the new plan and these things tripled in points value that I started to look for alternatives.

After hearing a lot about it, I tried Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Sesame Bread for myself and it changed things for me. Yes, it’s 2 pts+ a slice instead of 1, but it is sooooo much more satisfying than the airy light bread. And I also learned to embrace open faced sandwiches, which helped a lot too in terms of staying on points during the day. Since then, I’ve also introduced whole wheat pitas and  English muffins into the mix, and those three things make up most of my regular bread intake. So bread down, onto the next.

Desserts.

Here’s the thing. Weight Watchers brand Ice Cream Candy Bars taste so good. They taste like the ice cream snickers bars from my youth and just melt in my mouth for 4 delicious PointsPlus. Same story with sugar-free italian ices that are just 2 pts+ when the sugar-laden counterparts are double the points (granted neither version is very good for you). I may or may not have recently finished a box of both of those things. Mostly may.

The problem comes when you make yourself look at the ingredient list, which I am really good at not doing when it comes to desserts. In my beloved oh-so-delicious weight watchers ice cream bars, here’s the list of what is in each and every bar.

Low Fat Ice Cream: Milk Fat and Nonfat Milk, Sugar, Polydextrose, Flavor Base (Peanuts, Peanut Oil, Salt, Mono & Diglycerides), Maltodextrin, Cellulose Gel, Mono & Diglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Polysorbate 80, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Caramel Color, Vitamin A Palmitate. Caramel Sauce: Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Buttermilk, Skim Milk, Butter, Pectin, Mono and Diglycerides, Salt, Sodium Bicarbonate, Potassium Sorbate (as a Preservative), Sodium Citrate, Xanthan Gum. Peanut Splits: Peanuts, Peanut Oil, Salt Chocolate Flavored Coating Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Milk, Chocolate Liquor, Butter Fat, Soybean Oil, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Artificial Flavor. “

Scary.

So all of this is a very long-winded way in saying that I’m really trying to make the switch to eating more whole foods desserts and I’m definitely not the most qualified person to help in this area since I struggle myself. I came up with a list of ideas and have started implementing some of them, but would love if it you guys could chime in with more ideas on some good treats to eat, made from things I know how to say!

Here goes:

  • Banana Softserve – Take frozen bananas and place in a food processor until combined. Turns into creamy deliciousness and you won’t even believe there’s only banana in there! Top with chocolate chips and crushed walnuts.
  • banana pops – take 1 banana and slice in half lengthwise. Place popsticle stick in each half, drizzle each with 2 tsp chocolate chips and 1 tsp almond butter, melted. Optional: roll in coconut or nut of choice.
  • dates stuff with almond butter – take 3 dates, remove the seeds, and put 1 tsp of almond butter in each one. Close back up, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze. 1 pt+ each!
  • banana split with 1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese, 1 tbsp fruit preserves, and 2 tsp mini chocolate chips
  • 1 slice Angel food cake (2 oz) w/frozen berries (melted in microwave into a syrup)
  • Frozen Smoothie – 1 cup milk of choice with banana, frozen fruit of choice (no sugar added), and dash vanilla extract. Placed in freezer for 1+ hour.

  • No bake chocolate chip cookies (recipe here)

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  • Cinnamon Dunkers – Ezekiel 4:9 bread toasted, sliced into strips and sprinkled with cinnamon. Dip in unsweetened apple sauce.
  • Maple Yogurt Dip – 1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt mixed with 1 tbsp maple syrup, with apple slices for dipping.
  • Bananaleche (c/o my sister Wendy) – Mix 1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt with 1 tbsp brown sugar, and then stir in a sliced or mashed banana.

Do you have a sweet tooth? What are your go-to desserts? Also, are there any areas in your diet you struggle with more than others? I use the term diet to mean what you eat, not a strict plan you’re following!

Still Going Strong

Hi Guys! Another weekend gone – sad story. Mine was low key and relaxing for the most part, with the exception of the awful 11 miler I did on Saturday. I talked with my friend Vera and think I realized exactly why I ran out of steam towards the end of the run – I did not fuel well enough while I was running. She asked me how many calories I consumed while running, and I had eaten 1.5 bags of those Sports Beans, which is 150 calories total. Since I ran for almost 2 hours and burned around 1300 calories, 150 calories to replenish is just not enough! It’s “funny” how obvious that sounds when you just lo0k at the facts. I’m planning on fueling during the race with GUs and Beans, and hope to take in at least 300-400 calories so that same thing doesn’t happen on race day.

On that same subject, I’m rethinking my training a bit for the next two weeks leading up to the race. I’m leaning towards skipping the 12 miler I have planned for this coming weekend, and instead doing a shorter 6-8 mile run. I want to keep my legs fresh, and since I’ve been sort of dreading the long runs, I want to keep my head fresh too. I know physically I am capable of running a half marathon and that I’ve already put in the training to run a good race, but I want to make sure that I’m mentally there, too.

Onwards.

We’re halfway into March and I’m still going relatively strong with the Grocery Budget Challenge of keeping spending to $75 max and doing a better job with meal planning.You can see weeks one and two here and here.

Yesterday I went to two different grocery stores – Harris Teeter and Trader Joe’s – and I went over by 35 cents (75.35 between the two stores). If I’m being completely honest, that 35 cents is driving me a little wild because I could have just gotten one less thing and have been under budget, but you’ll see why I impulsively bought extra stuff at TJ’s below. I would have done all my shopping at Harris Teeter, but then I realized I was going to eat dinner extremely close to a TJ’s and I couldn’t resist.

For starters, here’s my plan for the week with food:

Breakfast Lunch Snack Dinner Workout
Monday Wheat berries w yogurt, frozen berries, and a banana Leftover shrimp + brown rice + arugula Cottage cheese w apple and orange Lentil Loaf in Muffin Tin w mashed cauliflower The Shred
Tuesday Oatmeal w pb flour, banana Leftover Lentil Loaf w cauliflower Vanilla Oikos w Fruit Quinoa burger w pita (defrost) 5 miles
Wednesday Wheat berries w yogurt and frozen berries, banana Tempeh Chili (in freezer) Cottage cheese w fruit Potluck – Mexican Casserole 5 miles intervals
Thursday Oatmeal w pb flour, banana Lentil Loaf w cauliflower Vanilla Oikos w fruit Tofu stir-fry w soba noodles and veggies The Shred
Friday Pumpkin Oatmeal, banana Leftover stirfry Cottage Cheese w fruit tbd Rest

Tomorrow night I have Weight Watchers training, so I wanted something quick since I won’t get home until 8:30. I pulled out a frozen quinoa burger since all I’ll have to do is cook it in a pan, which should take around 5 minutes total. I also pulled out tempeh chili from the freezer for lunch on Wednesday so I’m not having leftover Lentil Loaf every single day – I’d get too bored.

First stop, Harris Teeter. Total damage $22.30.

  • 3 Barlett Pears (On sale for 1.59/lb)
  • 3 Lemons (On sale for 3/.99)
  • Sliced Mushrooms
  • So-Yah Red Vindaloo (on sale for 2.59 – impulse buy)
  • 2% Four Cheese Mexican Blend
  • 6 Bananas
  • Corn Tortillas
  • Chunky Mild Salsa
  • 2 Family Sized Cans of Black Beans (Buy one, get one free – so $2.25 for both)
  • 2 Oikos Honey (Had store coupon for $1 off two, so $1.50 each)

A close up of what you’re all probably wondering about…

It caught my eye because I’d never seen these meals before AND it was on sale – double whammy. I don’t love Shirataki noodles, but you can’t beat the nutrition info and I really love vindaloo so I figured it can’t hurt to give it a try.

Since there’s not much protein in there, I’ll probably add some tofu to bulk it up when I eat it, and will let you all know what I think.

Next stop – Trader Joe’s! I can’t even articulate my love of this store. I ended up spending 53.05 there in total and here are the goods:

  • 2 organic pink lady apples
  • 2 organic fuji apples
  • organic onions
  • red bell pepper
  • 2 containers 0% Greek yogurt
  • Crumbled Blue Cheese
  • Spring Mix
  • Mini Brie Bites

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These are mini brie wheels!! 2 pts+ each and portable. Such an exciting find.

  • Ezekial 4:9 Sprouted Sesame Bread
  • 3 packets Taco Seasoning (the best one I’ve found by far)
  • French Roast Coffee
  • Whole Wheat English Muffins
  • 2 PACKAGES OF PEANUT FLOUR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I could not resist picking up two packages of this because I’ve heard it’s being discontinued so I almost jumped for joy when I saw it on the shelves.

  • Gone Bananas (frozen banana covered chocolate chunks! 3 pts for 6 pieces)
  • Coffee Latte & Cream Bars (3 pts+ each)
  • Frozen Mango Chunks
  • 2 Packages Frozen Strawberries

Overall, I’m really happy with how much I got and my entire kitchen feels very well stocked, even if I did go .35 over budget this week. I’m also happy to have found four new items to have in my rotation – the shirataki vindaloo, the mini brie bites, and those two desserts in the last photo – coffee latte & cream bars and gone bananas.

Have you found anything new at the grocery store recently? Please share!

The Worst One

Ugh. This picture sums it up.

I just had the worst run yet of my training. I think the truth it I’m getting burnt out and am just ready for the race itself to be here. Two week from today… come onnnnnn March 26.

Let’s rewind a bit. I started the day with some oats, my new pre-run fuel of choice. I made it in the classiest way I know how – in the microwave.

1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 cup water, salt, and a banana in the mix. I’ve been trying to make sure to eat some salt before my runs because I’m a super salty sweater. But more on that later.

Off I went all geared up and the day was actually perfect running weather. The first few miles went by pretty good and I ate some lemon-lime sports beans around mile 5. After that, it went downhill. Physically I felt totally fine, but mentally I was having a really rough time wanting to finish the run. I let myself walk a little bit, which I hate to do because for me, it sours the rest of the run. If I take a walking break, I just want to walk for the rest of the time rather than start running again. Case in point, after that small walking break, it was terrible. I forced myself to get to 9 miles, and then I walk/ran the last two, mostly walked. I was trying to go fast but all I wanted was for the run to be over, and then finally, it was.

  • Mile 1: 9:07
  • Mile 2: 9:40
  • Mile 3: 9:41
  • Mile 4: 9:45
  • Mile 5: 10:23 (including .1 mile walking break)
  • Mile 6: 9:58
  • Mile 7: 9:45
  • Mile 8: 10:09 (struggling)
  • Mile 9: 10:09 (struggling)
  • Mile 10: 11:13 (walk/run)
  • Mile 11: 11:02 (walk/run)

So the good part about all this is I finished the 11 miles even though I really didn’t want to. Also, I did it in 1 hour 50  minutes 51 seconds, which is an average of a 10:05 pace. My first half marathon was a 10:21 pace, so even if I mentally struggle as bad on race day (which I hope I don’t!) I can still PR in the half.

Another good thing was I had a smoothie waiting for me when I got in from my run, which made me force a smile.


Can you tell how much I don’t mean that? Smile

Have you ever tried freezing a smoothie before? You mix all the ingredients together in a blender, pour it in a bowl, and then ltierally place it in the freezer for a few hours. The texture of the smoothie turns slushy/sorbet-esque and is SO delicious to eat with a spoon.

In the mix:

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 medium banana
  • handful of frozen strawberries
  • handful of frozen pineapple
  • vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup peanut flour turned into PB by adding 2 tbsp water and some salt(16 grams protein!)

So delicious.

You know how I mentioned above how salty of a sweater I am? A lot of times on my long runs, I literally have salt crusted on my face afterwards. Don’t look at this picture if you’re eating…

See that around my nose?? SALT! Gross. I’ve been trying to eat salt before and after my runs to replenish because of this little issue.

On with the weekend!

Have you ever had a bad run in training? How do you recover?

And, what’s your favorite post run or post workout snack or meal?

Where I Was Meant to Be

Some people don’t take me seriously when I say that I’ve been doing Weight Watchers for as long as I can remember. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m relatively young and seem pretty fit now. I can’t really blame them because sometimes even I forget just how long it’s been since I first started to think about food in terms of “Points” and to develop the weekly weigh in rituals that still haunt me to this day.

But then, something will happen to make me realize that I’m not exaggerating at all when I say that I’ve been on and off the program since I was a kid. Like this past weekend, when my mom brought me something she found at the house while going through some old papers.

Those of you who have ever done Weight Watchers know exactly what that is, but for those of you who have been fortunate enough not to need the program, this is a weight tracker, where your weight is recorded each week to keep track of your progress.

In the hours leading up to your weekly meeting, you eat and drink as little as possible, and use the bathroom as much as possible to ready yourself for the moment of truth. When the meeting time has finally come, you anxiously approach the scale immediately upon arrival and hand this little gem over to the receptionist. Then it’s time to strip yourself of every article of clothing and jewelry you can possibly manage to take off while staying decent, before you step up on the scale to see how your week really went.

Can you see that date on there? February 2001. This means at the ripe old age of 16, I weighed in at 206.2, about 40 pounds more than I weigh today as a 26 year old. The “funny” part is that this tracker isn’t even from the first time I did Weight Watchers, because I know tried the program at least a few times before I was in high school.

So this whole story gives you a little background on why this week marked such a major turning point for me. For the first time in my life, I was on the receiving end of the weight tracker because I started training to be a receptionist for Weight Watchers – one of my long term, and (what felt like) completely unattainable goals.

I honestly had no idea what it would be like or whether I was going to feel nervous or actually be able to do it, and I will say it’s harder than I was expecting. I’ve been going to a computerized center for the last several years, where you step on a scale and your weight goes directly into the computer and everything is automatically calculated. For training though, they have you at a meeting where it’s all paper based and done by hand, so that you’re able to work at any meeting once you are trained.

But besides the fact that I still have a ways to go on learning the right way to fill out all the paperwork, the experience itself was incredible. Being able to excitedly tell people just how much weight they had lost that week and seeing the happy glow on their face was amazing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there was a girl who broke down because she was doing everything right and the scale just wouldn’t budge. It was so awesome and rewarding to be able to jump up from behind the table to hug her and tell her I knew exactly what they she was going through and had been there many times myself. And I really meant it.

Once the excitement died down a bit and everyone was weighed in, I sat there looking out over the meeting and smiled to myself because I realized something. I finally feel like I’m where I was meant to be.

Have you ever had a far out goal that you never thought you would achieve?

Transforming into a Mostly-Morning Person

I’ve been hesitant to publish this post because I don’t want to jinx it, but here goes nothing.

I think I’ve officially transformed myself into a mostly-morning exerciser. (!!!)

This is a huge deal for me because I have never been a morning person. When I was little, my mom used to have to coax me to life in the mornings with a warm washcloth over my face before I would even imagine facing the day. It’s funny because “facing the day” back then meant getting up, eating the breakfast my mom made for me, and then going to school, usually with a ride from her because I was always running late. I had it good.

Fast forward to present day, “facing the day” means taking on quite a bit more. Going to work, paying bills and rent, cleaning the house, working out, cooking, grocery shopping, running errands, getting my oil changed… I could go on. The idea of adding anything else to my plate before work started used to make me cringe, but lately I’ve realized that I just don’t like getting up, whatever time it is. Sleeping for an extra hour does not make me feel any better about having to get out of bed, so why not just suck it up and get up earlier?

Before recently, I would only ever sporadically wake up to get my workout done in the morning, mostly when I had obligations at night. But for the past several weeks, I’ve been consistently getting up before work to get my workouts done. This change started off with a super busy week where I had stuff going on every single night after work, so I had to get my workouts done in the mornings if I wanted to get them done at all. Because I’m on a pretty strict training schedule, not getting in my runs was not really an option, so I sucked it up and made my cranky self get out of bed for one week straight.

After that week where evening workouts were not really an option, I woke up to my pre-set alarm on the following Monday to do The Shred without even thinking. I went on with my day and soon realized I had no plans and nothing to do that night except relax, make dinner, or whatever else I felt like. It was wonderful. I made a little bet with myself to see if I could get up the next day to get a run in before work. I won.

Ever since then, I’ve been fairly consistent with waking up for morning workouts for the last several weeks. I love working out in the morning because:

  • I feel like I’ve already gotten something big accomplished almost as soon as I get out of bed
  • I normally am a little groggy at the beginning, and then by the time I realize what’s going on, the workout is already almost over!
  • It’s so great to have my evenings free to do whatever I want or need to do. It used to be a big production if I had to go grocery shopping during the week because I’d have to go home, workout, shower, eat, go grocery shopping, and then wouldn’t get home until around 9pm or later and I hadn’t even had a moment to relax yet.
  • It keeps me on track by starting my day off on the right foot.
  • I head to work feeling ready to face the day, rather than groggy. I’m also in less of a rush to leave work right at 5, so it makes me more productive.
  • It puts me in a good mood.

I know I look awesome after running 5 miles first thing in the morning. 😉

Back in November, I wrote a post with some tips for working out in the morning, but I wanted to refresh it and add a few things to the list of what has worked for me.

  1. Set TWO alarms just a few minutes apart in case you sleep through the first one. I started setting one at 6:37 and 6:41 (don’t ask) and it has worked like a charm.
  2. Place your alarm away from your bed or across the room. It’s too easy to ignore it if you can turn it off from under the covers.
  3. Make it as easy as possible for yourself. Set all your clothes out (including socks, sneakers, sports bra, Polar gear, water bottle, ipod, etc). I usually put everything in the counter in the bathroom so I can just go in there and get geared up easily.
  4. Don’t give yourself the option. I think the big change in making morning workouts a habit rather than a luxury was telling myself I HAD to do it. Instead of “Let’s see if I can wake up,” I told myself “I am waking up in the morning to work out”.
  5. Have a specific plan and mentally get yourself ready for it! If I just want to “work out” and don’t have an actual plan like doing The Shred, running X miles, or doing yoga, I find it a lot harder to get motivated to get out of bed than when I have a specific plan in place. This is especially easy now since I’m training for a half marathon and my workouts are pretty mapped out.
  6. Go to bed early enough that waking up is reasonable. This is pretty self explanatory, but don’t set yourself up to fail by staying up way too late the night before.
  7. Make sure you don’t work out later the evening before. Two workouts in 12 hours can be rough on the body and you might not be refreshed enough to get a good workout in.
  8. Reward yourself! I always try to have a delicious breakfast or coffee already brewed as soon as I get back from my workout, so that it gives me motivation to not only get up, but keeps me thinking about it the whole time I’m working out and helps the time fly.

Are you a morning, midday or evening exerciser? If you could do it at any time you wanted (not worrying about work, other people, picking kids up from school, etc) what time would you work out? In my ideal world, I would work out around 9 or 10am so I could have the best of both worlds – sleep in a bit, have some coffee, then get my sweat on.

Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna Bundles

I had been dreaming of this recipe ever since the latest issue of Clean Eating Magazine arrived in my mailbox. A photo of these interesting looking manicotti bundles graced the cover, but when I looked further into the recipe, I was a bit taken aback. The trouble was, their version of this dish had tilapia, cream cheese, and carrots mixed together for the filling, and even typing that out here makes me want to throw up a little bit. I’m sure it’s tasty….. just not for me. Winking smile

I wanted to use this concept of these little bundles, but make them with a delicious and creamy artichoke, spinach, and ricotta filling. I love the idea of these because there is instant portion control with the bundles, which can be SO hard with lasagna. My version of the recipe did not disappoint at all. In fact, these little bundles of deliciousness were oozing with gooey cheese and packed with flavor. They are also really simple and fun to make because you get to use your hands – one of my favorite parts of cooking. If you try these, please feel free to experiment by subbing in different veggies and other mix-ins, or using tilapia, cream cheese, and carrot filling if your little heart desires.

The one mistake I made with this dish was that I realized after the fact that I had no sauce! I just ended up heating up some sauce and pouring it over, but in the printable version of the recipe, I recommend putting the sauce on before baking the bundles. Either way works, but I think it would be best to have the sauce baked into the bundles.

Without further ado…

Spinach and Artichoke Lasagna Bundles

Serves 3. Yields 2 bundles plus 1/4 cup sauce per serving. 7 pts+ per serving.

Printable version here.

Ingredients:

  • 6 lasagna noodles
  • 1-2 green onions
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
  • 1/2 cup thawed chopped spinach
  • 2 artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup light shredded mozzarella

First, preheat your oven to 350º and put on a large pot of water to boil.

Next, count out 6 lasagna noodles.

Boil noodles for 9 minutes, or the lowest number of minutes recommended on the package.

While waiting for the water to boil, take 1-2 green onions.

And slice out 6 thin strips.

Toss them in the pasta water for about 1 minute.

And they straighten out and become much easier to work with.

Meanwhile, while the noodles are cooking, combine the ricotta, spinach, artichoke, and garlic powder in a bowl.

Mix until well combined and your filling is complete.

Once the noodles are done, drain them and let cool until you are able to handle them.

Lay 3 of the noodles out on a flat surface.

Divide the filling in half and separate each half into three equal sized portions of about 3 tbsp each. Place a portion on each of the three lasagna noodles about 2 inches from the bottom.

Fold the bottom of the noodle up over the filling.

Roll the noodle around the filling the rest of the way, placing seam side down.

Tie a green onion strand around each of the bundles.

Repeat with remaining noodles and filling, and then place them all in a greased baking sheet. Divide sauce and cheese evenly between the bundles (I would put the sauce under the cheese if I had a do-over).

Bake for 25 minutes until cheese is melty and beginning to brown.

Serve two bundles per person with a side of choice.

i went with an arugula salad with carrots, cucumber, and green onion, drizzled with some evoo, balsamic, and fresh cracked pepper. Here’s where I topped it with the heated sauce in case you forget, too…

These were SO delicious. I did not want dinner to be over even a little bit.

I loved how fun these were to assemble and eat, and of course how tasty they were. I will definitely be making these babies again (and won’t forget to put the sauce on first, though they were really delicious just like this as well). You can easily multiply this recipe because it would be a real crowd pleaser and a fun twist on traditional lasagna. Yum!

What’s your favorite Italian dish to order in restaurants? How about to make at home? Linguini with White Clam Sauce in restaurants, and I love making pizza at home!

Whole Foods Loot with a Plan

For once, I followed my own advice and consulted my top tips for Bargain Shopping at Whole Foods for last night’s trip to the store. I went in with a plan, a list, and some printed coupons, and came out with a whole lot of food for a good price! Just the way I like it.

I started out by doing my meal plan for the week, which looks like this (for now):

Breakfast Lunch Snack Dinner Workout
Sunday Tempeh Chili Rest
Monday steel cuts w/ pb flour + banana Leftover tempeh chili w/salad – greek yogurt w/pineapple
– apple
Salmon Burger w/veggies The Shred
Tuesday wheat berries w/yogurt + fruit salmon burger salad – tempeh chili
– grapes 

 

Lasagna Roll-Ups w salad 5 miles
Wednesday steel cuts w/ pb flour + banana Lasagna Roll-Ups w Salad – cottage cheese w/mango
– grapes
Leftover tempeh chili 45 minute tempo run
Thursday wheat berries w/yogurt + fruit Frozen sobas w/tofu and peanut sauce – cottage cheese w/mango
– apple
quinoa burgers (make video) The Shred
Friday steel cuts w/ pb flour + banana leftover quinoa burgers w yogurt sauce greek yogurt w/berries
– apple
TBD Rest

Since I start training for Weight Watchers tomorrow night (yay!), I wanted to make sure to have something quick for dinner when I get home (leftovers) and also something for lunch Thursday (frozen leftovers from last week).  Besides that, this menu is pretty standard since I like to try 1-2 new dinners a week and work in mostly leftovers for lunch. I also decided to jot down my workouts for the week too just to make myself that much more accountable.

Now onto the Whole Foods loot! OrganicDeals.com and the printable coupons from Whole Foods were my two sources for coupons. Checking out the weekly specials from the WF website and thinking about what I needed for the dinners on my meal plan helped me make my list, and off I went. I knew some things on this list were essential, and others were optional if I could find a good deal.

aaa 148

I was seriously a little too excited about my impending trip to Whole Foods. I couldn’t wait to leave my desk.

Perhaps because of the clutter. But that’s another post for another day.

One of my goals for March is to keep grocery spending under $75 a week (and post my groceries on here to show you guys). Last week, I spent $68.97 at Trader Joe’s, and this week I did even better at Whole Foods! Check out what I got and then I’ll tell you how much I spent.

First up, the produce:

  • Organic Red Grapes (just under 2 lbs – $1.99/lb)
  • Organic Bananas
  • Baby Arugula
  • 2 White Grapefruits
  • 4 Organic Braeburn Apples
  • Organic Cucumber
  • Organic Scallions

  • Frozen Pineapple
  • Frozen Strawberries


  • Organic Lasagna Noodles
  • Organic Pinto Beans
  • Organic Garbanzo Beans
  • Oikos Vanilla 4-pack (On sale for $4 – $1 WF Coupon – $1 Brand Coupon = $2 total)
  • Bulk Quinoa (just under 1 lb)
  • Bulk Wheat Berries (1.5 lbs)
  • Smart Dogs – $1 off Whole Foods Coupon
  • Organic Cottage Cheese ($1 WF Coupon + $.75 Brand Coupon)
  • SO Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk (On sale for $3 – $1 Brand Coupon = $2)

A good amount of stuff, right? I used $5.75 in coupons total (and even had someone in line ask me where I got my coupons and was all excited when I told her!) plus shopped the sales, and ended up getting all of that stuff for:

$38.84!! Not bad, eh?

I was so proud of myself I walked out BEAMING (even happier than that photo above of me ready to leave work). Bargain shopping makes me more giddy than it should, especially at places that don’t traditionally lend themselves to saving money.

Do you have any dinners on your plan for this week that you’re excited about? I am most looking forward to last night’s dinner – Lasagna Roll Ups. I got the saw the concept in Clean Eating magazine and have been dying to make my own version ever since. Recipe coming soon!

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