Eats

Distraction Free Meals

One of my favorite parts of Weight Watchers 360 is the routines that we focus on each month. The one for May is particularly relevant for me – “Eat all your meals distraction free.”

This is something I majorly struggle with. I tend to eat my breakfast and lunch at my desk at work, and I’m almost always doing a million things in addition to eating, mostly checking or reading email. It’s been known to happen where I’ll make something for breakfast and while I’m focusing on anything but actually eating, I’ll go to reach for another bite and look down and my breakfast is GONE. I have to do a self check to remember that I did actually eat it, but just wasn’t paying any attention so can barely recall.

This is problematic for a number of reasons, but I think the biggest thing for me is that it takes so much away from the satisfaction I should be getting. Besides just filling my stomach and keeping away low blood sugar (and the inevitable crankiness that follows…) I also really do enjoy eating and try to fill my menu with things I actually like. So, if I am so distracted while I’m eating that I can barely remember that I actually ate, obviously I’m not enjoying what I’m eating or getting the satisfaction that comes from that.

I am a lot better about eating dinner distraction free (most of the time) because I’m eating at home and usually put a little more time or thought into preparing the food, so I tend to force myself to enjoy it a little more. So for me, I really want to focus on meals that I’m eating at my desk at work.

Eating any meal distraction free can be a real challenge if you work a busy job (or have kids at home, or fill in the blank…) so I think it’s really important to set realistic expectations. There is no way I can sit down at the table to eat those meals with no TV, computer, or phone, but what I can do is make a diligent effort to pay more attention when I am eating. I think the solution for me is to implement little ways that I can slow down my eating since I am a speed eater by nature, so even if I am slightly distracted while I’m eating, I’m doing it slow enough that hopefully at some point I’ll actually be in tune with what I’m doing.

Some ideas that I’ve come up with are:

  • Cut food up into smaller bites
  • Use smaller utensils (like condiment spoons or cocktail forks)
  • Make a habit of sipping water between each bite
  • Pick something to do while I’m eating that is less distracting than looking at my computer (any ideas?)
  • Bring in a placemat from home to use during meals, so the visual cue brings me back

In addition to the new routines with WW 360, there’s also an activity each week to pick one small thing you can focus on to change. It doesn’t necessarily have to be related to the routine, but I love breaking big changes down into little ones because it feels so much more doable. So my little change for this week is that I am going to work on cutting my food up into smaller bites for breakfast. I’ve been having an english muffin with peanut butter and a banana most mornings lately (because it’s easy and quick!), so instead of just having the halves of the english muffin, I’m going to cut them each up into quarters and see how that helps me be more in tune with the meal. We’ll see how it goes!

How are you with eating your meals distraction free? Which ones do you struggle with the most? Do you have any tips for minimizing distractions or slowing down while eating?

Highlights from Easter Weekend in DC

I had such a great visit with my parents this weekend, which ended up being a culinary experience all over the city, wrapping up in my apartment with the first holiday I’ve ever hosted (though my mom helped a ton, obv).

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Major victory getting my mom to smile in a photo. Score!

Highlights of the weekend included:

1.) Union Market

On Saturday late morning, we ventured to the newly (ish) opened Union Market in DC. I thought it would be a fun activity to do since my parents are as into food as I am, and we also wanted to pick up ingredients for Easter brunch the next day.

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It was really cool to walk around and there were tons of different local vendors selling everything from tea to meat to wine to vegetables. We ended up getting the lamb there and I also got some chicken to make for this week, but the veggies were really expensive and nothing else really caught our eye from the vendors. There were several places selling food to eat, but I had my eye on something specific…

2.) Lambs and Clams from Rappanannock Oyster Bar

This dish made the list of 40 dishes every Washingtonian must try in 2013 according to the Washington Post, and it did not disappoint. The place itself was really cute, with communal seating in the middle of the market as well as up along the bar, and the kitchen right there for everyone to see.

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I couldn’t picture what it would be like from the description, and was pleasantly surprised when it came out.

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Totally genuine pre-food coma bliss.

The dish was basically a stew that had ground lamb and whole clams in the shell, and it came with two huge pieces of crusty bread that were doused in butter, which makes everything better. It was super flavorful, delicious, and complex. Highly recommend.

I also had a pineapple soda from Buffalo Bergen, which also made the top 40 list, but I was less impressed with that. It was good, but not worth the $5.50 it cost in my opinion.

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I clearly didn’t hate it though.

3.) Medium Rare

Saturday night, we headed to Medium Rare for dinner, which is a place I’d heard a lot about but didn’t have a chance to try until now. The concept is simple – it’s a price fixed menu with bread, salad, and steak frites with “secret sauce” (sketch) that is $19.50 a person. All you have to do is tell them how you want your steak cooked, and they bring it out in two portions so that it’s perfectly cooked the entire time you’re eating it. I like that the menu is pre decided because I always gush over big menus and have so much trouble figuring out what to get, and almost always end up with meal envy. Obviously you want to be in the mood for steak to go here, but if you are, I’d highly recommend it. The secret sauce was also really good, though no one, not even the waiters, know exactly what is in it, which makes me cringe a little.

4.) Easter Brunch

This was definitely one of the top parts of the weekend! My mom and I cooked everything and it all came together pretty quickly and without too much stress, which is a big win for my family. We even had a little time for a goofy photo shoot.

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I think we all got different messages about what face to make for that one.

First up, we set the table and made it a bit festive.

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It was fun getting it set up, which is something I have literally not done since living in my apartment for a year a half.

First course was a delicious salad.

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Mixed butter lettuce with toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, and goat cheese, tossed with a homemade honey balsamic vinaigrette (by yours truly).

The main event was rack of lamb, roasted purple potatoes, steamed asparagus, and creamed baby spinach.

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I tackled the potatoes, the asparagus, and the plating, while my mom handled the lamb and the creamed spinach. Everything turned out perfect and was delicious, but also not super heavy, which was nice since we had to save room.

Dessert was definitely in competition for my favorite part of the weekend.

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French macarons from Macaron Bee! These were incredible, melt-in-your-mouth, sweet-but-not-too-sweet macarons. The meringue was so light and slightly crunchy and the ratio of creamy filling made for a perfect balance. We ended up getting four flavors – salted caramel (OMG), green tea (eh), Pistachio (good), and Toasted Almond (amazing). In case you couldn’t gather from my commentary, the salted caramel was my favorite with the toasted almond a close second. I could have eaten the whole box but stopped at 4, so I’m going to consider that a win as well. What a fun weekend!

Do you ever host holidays, or mostly go to other family members/friends for them?

PS: My first DietBet game ended yesterday, but I’m hosting a second DietBet game that starts this Wednesday, April 3, and runs through the whole month! Last game ended up having 405 participants for a total of a $10,125 pot and 2065 POUNDS LOST (as of this morning)!!! Holy crap!! You can read about the way it works in this post.

March Menu Plan #1

Why not get started plugging away at March goals straight away, right? I know when I put a weekly meal plan in place, it helps me tremendously to stay on track and to spend less money eating out. I actually went grocery shopping on Saturday this past weekend since my fridge was so bare after my Philly trip, and then spent a little time on Sunday preparing some things for the week. Breaking these tasks up definitely made it feel less daunting and only took a little time out of each day of the weekend.

Prep on Sunday involved making Pulled Salsa Chicken in the crockpot:

Salsa Chicken

1 medium chopped onion, 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, and 1 cup of salsa on high for 3 hours. After 3 hours is up, take the chicken out, shred it with two forks, and then throw it back into the crockpot with the lid off for 30 minutes or so until the liquid dissolves. This made 5 servings that were just under a cup each for 4 PP per serving. I ate one serving on Sunday and then 4 left to use throughout the week. I made this at least every month, sometimes more.

I also sautéed up some fajita veggies:

fajita veggies

1 red onion, 1 yellow pepper, and 1 orange pepper.

And then I made a batch of plain steel cut oatmeal for the week. I use the heat and eat method, where you put the oats with a 1:4 ratio oats:water, bring them to a boil for 2 minutes, and then remove the pot from the heat, cover it, and leave it on the stove overnight. In the morning just mix it up and all the water will be dissolved and the oats are ready to heat and eat. I do that almost every single Sunday and it’s a lifesaver. And now I’ve managed to make myself unable to cook steel cut oats any other way because I always burn them to the bottom of the pan otherwise!

That little bit of prep went a long way for this week’s menu plan since the only active thing was the fajita veggies, and those took about 20 minutes.

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks
Monday savory oatmeal w/spinach + cheese Fajita Salad w/Salsa Chicken, fajita veggies, corn, w/salsa + greek yogurt dressing Soft boiled eggs w/english muffin + smashed avocado red peppers + cottage cheese
Tuesday oatmeal w/banana + peanut butter Chicken soft tacos w/fajita veggies Big salad w/black beans, corn, avocado, cilantro, tortilla strips vanilla greek yogurt w/frozen cherries
Wednesday savory oatmeal w/spinach + cheese Fajita Salad w/Salsa Chicken, fajita veggies, corn, w/salsa + greek yogurt dressing Dinner out at Thai Xing (!!) string cheese + grapes
Thursday Egg sandwich w/cheese + avocado Chicken burrito w/fajita veggies, black beans, corn, and guac Roasted Chickpeas and sweet potato fries green smoothie
Friday Egg white omelet w/veggies + cheese Leftover Roasted Chickpeas and sweet potatoes over greens Takeout with my sister! cottage cheese w/frozen mango

Can we just talk about last night’s dinner for a second? I tend to hate cooking extravagant meals during weeknights (read: anything that takes over 20 minutes to prepare), so eggs are one of my go-to weeknight dinners when it’s just me. This one was so simple, but SO delicious and satisfying.

Eggs   Avocado

2 soft boiled eggs (using this method), a toasted english muffin, and 30 grams of avocado mashed with a little sea salt for 8 PP total. The eggs were peeeeerfectly runny.

Runny Egg

Yum. And the second best part was I threw together my breakfast and lunch for today while the eggs were cooking and the english muffin toasting, which took no time at all since everything was prepped! Two birds.

Are you a fan of eggs? Do you like the yolks runny or cooked through?

Also, random throwback, here’s what I was doing one year ago today!

Taking the Guess Work Out

I never was a planner. Before I really committed myself to Weight Watchers, I always just kind of flew by the seat of my pants when it came to eating. I’d wait until I was extremely hungry and go out and buy something for breakfast, lunch, and dinner almost every single day. That hunger led to less than stellar decision making when it came to eating, and just perpetuated the cycle of extreme hunger, followed by extreme fullness.

People always ask me what the biggest change for me has been since really changing my life around, and I would hands down say that it’s putting more thought into planning my meals. I never had snacks on hand, and certainly never planned ahead enough to bring breakfast and lunch to work every day like I do now. When I have a plan in place, I go to the grocery store to pick up what I need, and it takes the question out of what to eat. Besides that, I feel a little guilty when I don’t eat the food that I’ve purchased, so that helps me stick with my plan even more.

The same thing goes for exercise. Not that I approached exercise without a plan before because in reality I just didn’t approach exercise at all, but I’ve found that when I have a plan in place and actually schedule it in, it makes it so much easier to stick with. This is a large part of why I continually sign up for races – having them on my calendar sort of forces me to stick with my plan so that I am not in bad shape come race day.

So for me, I think the bottom line is that planning really helps take the guess work out of being healthy and helps me keep it together during the week.

Without further ado, here is what’s in store for my week food wise:

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks
Monday english muffin w/cottage cheese fajita chicken with peppers and onions whole wheat egg noodles w/goat cheese, pistachios, & craisins (YUM!) Greek yogurt, frozen grapes, chocolate chip cookie
Tuesday oatmeal w/pumpkin + cottage Cheese Out for Peruvian Lunch tofu w/soba noodles + veggies greek yogurt + banana
Wednesday Savory Oats w/spinach + cheese tofu w/soba noodles + veggies + ginger sauce Fajita Chicken Salad cottage cheese w/frozen cherries
Thursday Egg sandwich w/avocado + cheese tofu w/soba noodles + veggies + ginger sauce farro salad w/chickpeas, roasted red peppers, feta apple w/string cheese
Friday Egg white veggie omelet w/toast farro salad w/chickpeas, roasted red peppers, feta soft boiled eggs w/english muffin cottage cheese w/grapefruit

 

To help make this easier, I grilled chicken breasts and cooked the fajita veggies on Sunday, and then Monday went grocery shopping and made a batch of plain oatmeal to carry me through some breakfasts this week. I also pressed the tofu yesterday (with this thing which I LOVE) so that tonight’s dinner (and the next two lunches) are easy peasy. Spreading out the work over the weekend also helps it not feel that overwhelming.

Exercise-wise, here’s what my plan is for the week:

    • Sunday: Rest (not hard)
    • Monday: 4 miles + weights (afternoon)
    • Tuesday: Rest
    • Wednesday: 45 min tempo run (before work)
    • Thursday: 3 mile run + weights (before work)
    • Friday: rest
    • Saturday: 10 miles

Are you good about planning ahead? Do you find it easier to plan meals or exercise?

Trends in my Menu Plan

As you may or may not know, with my current job, I am able to work from home on Thursdays and Fridays. It’s pretty glorious because I love being in the office a couple days and then home for two – it really is a great balance. This also means that Thursdays and Fridays I don’t have to pack breakfast/lunch/snacks, and can actually cook my meals at home. Because of this, I’ve been having eggs in some form almost every Thursday and Friday for breakfast, and then sticking with oats for most of the days that I’m eating at work since those are easier to transport.

This weekend, I made a big batch of tempeh fajitas with green peppers, red onion, corn, and lots of spices. It was enough for one big serving on Sunday with two servings for the week to use for fajita salads. I made dressing for the salads is greek yogurt mixed with salsa – which tastes wayyyy better than it looks in pictures.

Tempeh Fajita Mix

I also made a big batch of oats to carry me through the first couple days of the week, and then this meal plan was born:

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks
Monday Pumpkin Cottage cheese Oats Tempeh Taco Salad 2 TJ’s Smoked Chardonnay Chicken Apple Sausages w/veggies Greek yogurt w/Very Cherry Blend
Tuesday Savory Oats w/spinach Chicken Apple Sausage w/veggies over greens Breakfast Burrito w/eggs, refried beans, avocado Cottage cheese w/pineapple
Wednesday Pumpkin cottage cheese oats Tempeh Taco Salad Chicken Apple Sausage w/Eggs Apple w/string cheese
Thursday Soft boiled eggs w/english muffin + fruit Chicken Apple Sausage w/veggies over greens Zaytinya for Restaurant Week!! Green smoothie
Friday Egg and Cheese Sandwich, fruit Sweet potato with black beans and salsa TBD Greek yogurt w/very cherry blend

 

In looking through my menu for the week, there are a couple trends that I notice:

    • I eat a lot of eggs. Pretty much every day because I even put an egg white in my oats.
    • I tend to have meat once a day at the most.
    • I don’t mind repeating things a few times a week, but not within the same day.
    • My snacks are always protein (cottage cheese, greek yogurt, cheese, milk, etc) paired with fruit. And boring. But that’s OK.
    • I go through phases with food, and a toasted English muffin with smashed avocado and a touch of sea salt has been high on my list lately. Even though you see it on this menu plan only once, that’s because I had about 5 of them over the weekend. Yum. Before this newest phase, it was refried beans and cheese. I could not get enough!
    • I like easy things during the week nights. Aka, cooks in less than 15 minutes. Those chicken apple sausages come in a pack of 4 and sometimes if I’m feeling super lazy, I just microwave them in a paper towel for one minute and they’re still so good.
    • I probably need to eat more veggies. I am really good about eating a ton of fruit, but I should focus on having veggies as part of my snacks.

Do you go through food phases? Anything that you’ve been loving lately?

Wednesday Weekly Check In

I didn’t weigh in at my meeting yesterday but decided to do a video update anyways and give a little more insight into my tough week last week that I talked about a bit in yesterday’s post.

Really hot still shot, I know.

A little ramble-y up in there, so maybe it’s better to just read the summary here.. haha.

Some of the comments and emails I got when I did my 2013 Intentions post were that you want me to be more… me. That often times I come on here and talk about how good I’m doing and how many times I’ve worked out, and not what went wrong. I didn’t even really realize that until someone else said it, but I do think for me, blogging and healthy living go hand in hand. When I am slipping and not doing well with weight loss/healthy living, I tend to steer very clear of the blog and have a really hard time coming up with topics to write about.

When I’m doing well, on the other hand, I normally have no trouble coming up with things to write about, but I am starting to realize that might give you all the wrong impression about me and my life. I am not perfect. I still struggle. Last weekend was really bad in terms of eating and drinking, and it was SO HARD to snap myself out of it on Monday.

It honestly surprises me that I’m four years into my journey, since 2009 was the year I decided to “get healthy”, and it is still so easy for one bad decision to lead to another in my life. I think it just goes to show that the journey really never is over, and for the rest of my life, I have to take it one day at a time, just like I did at the beginning.

Anyways, when I share random thoughts like this they come out so easy, and I realize maybe I’ve been putting a bit of a façade up on the blog by not coming here when I’m doing poorly or can’t think of something to say. I’m going to try to write more frequently about random things going on in my life and show you the real me, even if it isn’t all ponies and rainbows.

Turns out down here is a little ramble-y too, so I’ll stop now. Smile

Do you struggle with one bad choice spiraling into a day or a weekend or a full week? How do you snap out of it?

4 Ingredient Tempeh Taco Filling

Since moving to DC almost 11 (!!) years ago, I have become a TOTAL weakling when it comes to cold weather. When it’s below 40 degrees outside, all I want to do is put on my flannel PJs, curl up under the covers, and have someone bring me something warm and delicious to eat. Let’s pretend that has more to do with being in DC and less to do with the fact that no matter what I do, I keep getting further and further from 22…

Anyway, since I don’t have someone to actually bring me food in bed, the next best thing is throwing together a super simple and delicious meal that requires minimal effort and is ready in 20 minutes (or less). And last night’s dinner did just that. Though I can’t promise I didn’t write this from under the covers in my PJs…

Tempeh Taco Filling

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Entire recipe yields 3 servings.
  • Each serving is a generous cup

Ingredients:

Ingredients

    • 1 onion
    • 1 package Organic 3 Grain Tempeh (8 oz.)
    • 1 package frozen mixed pepper strips
    • 1 packet reduced sodium fajita seasoning mix

Directions:

First, chop up the onion and crumble up the tempeh.

Chop Onion and Crumble Tempeh

I crumbled the tempeh by chopping it into small cubes and then crumbling it with my hands.

Next up, heat a pan over medium heat and cook the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Cook Onion

Once the onion is starting to look clear, add in the crumbled tempeh and mix it together with a spoon.

Add Tempeh

Cook for another 5 minutes until tempeh is starting to brown.

Last, add in your frozen bell peppers and fajita seasoning, and stir it until combined.

Add Peppers and Seasoning

Because I used frozen peppers, I didn’t need to add any water to the dish since they give off enough on their own.  If you use fresh peppers you’ll want to add a little water so it doesn’t get too dry. Cook for a total of 10 more minutes until the peppers are heated through.

Finished

Do ANYTHING you can think of with this filling. My dinner of choice last night was to have it stuffed in a pita with light shredded mozzarella, and it was deliiiiiicious.

Indulgent

It seriously felt so indulgent to be eating that, almost like a cheesesteak! As pictured, that was 9 PointsPlus (6 for the filling, 2 for the pita, 1 for the cheese) and it was sooo satisfying.

For lunch today, I’m eating it as a taco salad over spinach with cheese and salsa. Can’t wait!

What’s your favorite meal to make in 20 minutes or less?

Weight Loss Mode Weekly Plan of Attack

As you (hopefully) know, I am really committed to losing weight and getting back to my goal weight, and have been back on track and focused for about a month now. One of the main “secrets” to my success with weight loss is having a plan of action. We do an exercise at the Weight Watchers PowerStart Session called PowerPlans for new members, and during it we take a look at our week and look at different events/things we have coming up. This way we know where to use our extra points (or calories) and also just have an idea of what our week is shaping up like. I do this for myself every single week, and it makes such a difference!

Eating

In terms of food, I’m sort of disappointed to say that I think the special formula for me personally to lose weight is for me to eat just SOME of the activity points that I earn, and none of the weeklies. Now, I earn a ton of activity points, so I’m getting somewhere between 50 and 60 per week, and when I have about 20 of those leftover, I tend to have the most success on the scale. This is new for me, because I used to be able to eat all my weeklies PLUS my activities and still lose, but that’s just not doing it for my body anymore.

This may have something to do with the free fruit, because I do eat A LOT of fruit – probably about 4 (and sometimes more) servings a day. I usually have 1-2 pieces with breakfast, one with lunch, one with my afternoon snack, and one serving after dinner. But I absolutely love fruit and know that it’s good for me and not something I abuse, so I don’t want to cut back on it for now.

All that said, here’s my menu plan for this week (though some changes are made below the plan):

Breakfast Lunch Snack Dinner
Monday 1 cup nonfat greek yogurt, 1/2 cup high fiber cereal, sliced banana out to Nooshi – planning on sushi + seaweed salad* cottage cheese + sliced green pepper, clementines Grilled tofu, sauteed spinach, baked sweet potato**
Tuesday Toasted english muffin w/cottage cheese + banana Lentil + Feta Salad String Cheese + green grapes Homemade refried bean + cheese burrito
Wednesday 1 cup nonfat greek yogurt, 1/2 cup high fiber cereal, sliced banana Homemade refried bean + cheese burrito cottage cheese w/clementines Making dinner w/ Erika
Thursday Toasted english muffin w/cottage cheese + banana Lentil + Feta Salad string cheese w/clementines Grilled Hamsteak w/veggies + brown rice
Friday 1 cup nonfat greek yogurt, 1/2 cup high fiber cereal, sliced banana leftover grilled ham + veggies cottage cheese w/red bell pepper TBD – movie night!

Just to be totally clear, in general, I do eat more than what is written above. I eat at least my 30 PointsPlus per day, and tend to shoot to have 5-7 for breakfast, 7-8 for lunch, 2-4 for an afternoon snack, and the rest (11 – 16) for dinner/dessert. I normally workout after work, so I’ll have a snack like a smoothie, a corn tortilla with turkey and cheese, or a glass of milk while I get dinner ready, but it just depends on how my evenings play out.

Also, these menu plans DO NOT always turn out as planned. Case in point – yesterday.

* = So that was the plan, but what did I end up getting instead? Grilled shrimp vermicelli, which is actually a pretty healthy option in general. But, it came with a fried spring roll (not written on the menu – weird) and about 2 cups of vermicelli noodles. I was planning to try to only eat about 1 cup of the noodles and for a second thought about not eating the fried spring roll, but it was just so delicious I kept eating and eating. In the end, I ate the entire plate, and calculated the PointsPlus value at 20! Twenty! Crazy, especially since I picked something on the healthy side. That said, I didn’t freak out about it, and really really enjoyed the meal, so in the end it was worth it.

** = Because of the point above, dinner ended up being a lot lighter since I was only working with 5 pts+. I had a smoothie when I first got home from work (4 pts+) and then two grilled 97% fat free Hebrew National Franks (2 pts+), a string cheese (1 pt+) plus some frozen mango after soccer. I only ended up going over my points by 2 for the day and even went to bed satisfied. Win!

Activity

With the PowerPlans session, we also look at our week in terms of where we can fit in activity, but this isn’t as much of problem for me. I’ve been really good about making time for exercise consistently for over 2 months, and am feeling REALLY good in that department. I’ve been working out about 5 times a week at the gym or outside, plus taking a 30ish minute walk over lunch to get a little more movement in during the day on weekdays. Also, I signed up for a recreation soccer league which will have games once a week that started last night (and was SO FUN and such a great workout!), so I am pretty excited to be doing something fun, social, AND active all at once.

Here’s a look at my plan of action for this week, activity wise:

    • Sunday: Color Run 5k (more like 2.5 miles)
    • Monday: Soccer (!!)
    • Tuesday: 3.5 mile run outside + weights
    • Wednesday: Speedwork (3 miles of intervals)
    • Thursday: cross train
    • Friday: rest
    • Saturday: 6 mile run

Which would you say comes easier for you – being active or eating well?

For me at the moment, it’s definitely the activity that has been coming easier, but it hasn’t always been that way!

Coconut Milk Smashed Sweet Potatoes

It’s important to start small with many things in life. When I made my weigh in vlog Wednesday morning, I mentioned one of my goals for this week is to get back in the kitchen. I’ve been super lazy with cooking lately – relying heavily on eggs, sandwiches or going out for quick dinners. I’ve still been keeping pretty healthy, but cooking is something I love and want to get back to.

I had some sweet potatoes on hand and my mind was going to a tofu and sweet potato curry, but that was a little overwhelming for my entry back into the kitchen. I realized I could scrap the stove (and the tofu) all together by doing smashed sweet potatoes – in the microwave – and these turned out amazing.

With just a touch of light coconut milk, fresh ginger, and a little salt, these are absolutely delicious, flavorful, and perhaps best of all, EASY peasy. They come together in less than 10 minutes once you prep the sweet potatoes, and for 8 of those minutes all you are doing is finding something to do with yourself (like a quick post-run shower) while the potatoes cook.

And who cares if you eat them for dinner with eggs on the side? You gotta start somewhere.

Coconut Milk Smashed Sweet Potatoes

    • Prep time: 5 minutes
    • Cook time: 10 minutes
    • Yields 3, generous 1/2 cup servings for 3 PointsPlus/each

Ingredients:

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    • 2 medium sweet potatoes
    • 1/4 cup light coconut milk
    • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)

Directions

To start, peel and chop the sweet potatoes.

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Next, place them in a microwave safe bowl and cover with cold water.

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Microwave on high for 8 minutes, until soft enough to pierce with a fork. Then drain off the water and smash them with a fork.

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If you’re not into lumps in your potatoes, you could also run these through a blender, food processor, or use a stick blender, but I like them with a little texture.

Next, add in the coconut milk, ginger, and salt to taste.

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Stir it up with the fork until well combined.

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Then pop the mixture back into the microwave for one more minute.

Voila.

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This makes 3 generous half cup servings at just 3 PointsPlus each, and is the perfect amount (though I could easily eat all 3 servings). The coconut milk adds just enough creaminess to the already sweet potatoes, and the ginger is the perfect complement to the flavors.

Are you a sweet potato fan? What’s your favorite way to eat them?

Restaurant Week at Sushi Taro

I have always steered very clear of Restaurant Week (RW) in DC in the past for many reasons. In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, RW happens twice a year – once in January and once in August – and many restaurants offer 3 course lunches for $20.12 or 3 course dinners for $35.12 for the entire week. A lot of big cities around the country do restaurant week, and it’s supposed to be a good opportunity to try out restaurants you might not be able to afford otherwise, or just ones you’ve wanted to try and haven’t gotten around to.

When I go out to eat, I don’t normally order 3 courses for myself, so that’s a big part of the reason I avoid it. Also, having worked in the restaurant business myself, RW was always so chaotic that the service offered was never up to par with regular standards, and the food was never as good. On top of all that, I never planned for it in advance, so by the time I even contemplated checking somewhere out, all the good places have been taken.

This time around for some reason, as soon as the email went out announcing restaurant week a month or two ago, I made a reservation at several fancy schmancy places I’ve been wanting to try but haven’t gotten around to. I wasn’t even sure if I’d make it out to any of the places but figured reservations couldn’t hurt in case I did want to go when the time came. After that, I sort of forgot about my inclination to make so many reservations, until I got a reminder from OpenTable of all my reservations coming up.

The one that made the cut was Sushi Taro, an upscale, authentic Japanese restaurant located in the Dupont Circle area.

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I’d heard great things about the restaurant and had been wanting to try it for some time,  but it’s quite expensive so definitely would be more of a special occasion place than a don’t feel like cooking sort of night out. After doing some browsing about DC restaurant week on the web, I read a lot about it being a good value for RW, so at that point I was sold.

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My date for the night was my good friend Elena, and we had gone back and forth pouring over the menu all week leading up to our reservation since we found it on their facebook page.

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The deal for restaurant week there is that you get four courses for the $35.12. The tasting menu that you get normally costs $80, and doesn’t include the dessert, so it was certainly a good deal. We also ended up both getting the pairings, which brought the cost up to $50 per person, but was totally worth it in my opinion.

The first course was a box tasting plate that had three items that you didn’t get to choose.

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It came with a 5 oz. pour of Kirin Ichiban beer, which was a nice accompaniment.

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Starting from the right, there was a soba noodle dish with tempura pieces, nori, and fried scallion in a light soy dressing. This had such a nice blend of textures and flavors and really tasted wonderful. My only complaint is that there wasn’t a little more!

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The middle had four small pieces of sashimi – two salmon and two yellowfin tuna. The fish was as fresh as could be and literally melted in my mouth – absolutely delicious.

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The left side had the weirdest thing of the evening.

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Jelly coated crab in a creamy corn sauce, garnished with a slice of okra.

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Now I normally consider myself a VERY adventurous eater, but I just could not get down with this. I tried it, but the jelly coating was flavorless gelatin and just didn’t do it for me at all. The other two parts of this tasting box were so awesome though that it made up for this part of the dish for sure.

The second course was the only hot course and one where we had a choice. In addition to what we both ordered, there was a 10 hour braised black pork belly with sweetened soy sauce or a tempura fried softshell crab with vegetables. We were both trying to be healthy, but after seeing the softshell crab come out for other tables, I would definitely give that one a try if you need a little tempura in your life.

The dish we both went with was a black cod marinated in a sweet soy sauce, which was also awesome.

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It came with a piece of eggplant and a sweet pepper, and was very buttery and delicious. It was cooked with the skin on so the fish was very flavorful, yet mild, and was just the right size.

This warm course came with two small pours of sake, one filtered and one unfiltered.

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The sake on the left that was filtered was dry and very refreshing. The one on the right that looks a little milky was the unfiltered one, and it was a little on the sweet side but also delicious.

The third course was a sushi sampling with three choices. With my little research on the dinner there, I found out that the 7 piece course was also known as the amateur, so I went with the 5 piece option, though there was also a 4 piece option known as the sushi foodie. The sushi also came with your choice of half a california or spicy tuna roll, but we both opted for the spicy tuna.

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The fish was as fresh as could be and a really nice assortment as far as sushi options go. From the left, there was tuna, snapper, mackerel, octopus, and raw sweet shrimp. The only one that was new-to-me was the raw shrimp, and it was a little weird to be eating raw shrimp, though I’m sure that was 98.5% mental. When I go out to sushi, I normally order SO MUCH more than what is pictured above, but just having that amount really made me savor every bite. I loved it.

This course came with one final glass of sake, another filtered, dry sake that was perfect with the sushi.

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The last course was a very small scoop of ice cream – your choice of mango or green tea. We both got the green tea ice cream – which is hands down my favorite kind of ice cream in the world.

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It was about half a scoop, which was the perfect size to end the meal with.

This meal overall was out of this world. I was really impressed with the attentive and friendly service, descriptions given on each item put down before us, and the quality of the food. Our server did not seem at all rushed and made sure to check in on us frequently throughout the meal. I also was happy because I left the restaurant feeling great – like I had a good, solid meal, but not at all overly stuffed like can happen with 3-4 courses. I would hands down recommend Sushi Taro for restaurant week and plan to make a reservation there each time the week comes around!

Do you have restaurant week where you live? What’s your approach – try new-to-you restaurants, fancy places you don’t frequent, or avoid it all together?

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