Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall Inspired Oatmeal

Usually I use my lunch break later in the day at work to run, then go home and shower. Tonight I have a hot date with Chrissy and Callie, so I woke up early to get in my workout. This morning was interval training, to improve my speed. On the schedule was 8 x 400 meters at a 5k pace. There's a track across the street from my house at an elementary school...well its a big loop that happens to be the same distance as a track, and goes around a baseball field and some playgrounds, so that's what I used. Alternate running 400 meters (once around the track) at a 5k pace with jogging 400 meters - and do that 8 times over. These workouts are tough, but I always feel great when I finish them. Hearing the kids playing before school was also fun!

For breakfast I had the usual, oatmeal, but this morning I added something different - pumpkin butter! I love everything pumpkin, and the stores are finally starting to carry all of the pumpkin ingredients for fall.

I made the oatmeal, added a scoop of pumpkin butter, and a small handful of chopped walnuts. Then I stirred it all together, and topped with a hefty portion of cinnamon:

This tasted more like dessert than a heart-healthy breakfast meal! This is definitely going to become a fall staple. Enjoy with a frosty glass of skim milk and you're in heaven!

Aside from being one of my favorite and most delicious ways to start the day, oatmeal is SO good for you! Its loaded with fiber, has been proven to help lower cholesterol, etc, etc. And this morning I read another cool stat in a Women's Health article about improving your immune system with food:

There's a killer living in all of us. Known as a macrophage and produced deep in your bone marrow, it's a white blood cell that roams the body, picking fights with bacteria, viruses, or any other intruders. But it only works if you help it. These killer cells are activated by beta-glucans, a component of fiber foods. The best source? Oats, says David Grotto, R.D., director of nutrition education at the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care in Evanston, Illinois. So eat your oatmeal. The steel-cut oats, like McCann's Irish Oatmeal, have double the amount found in the rolled, quick-cooking kind. 

I switch between McCann's Irish Oatmeal and the grocery store's organic Irish oats, depending on what is available, but I can say from experience that these taste way better and are more satisfying than the quick-cooking oats or instant oatmeal.  Give this a try and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vegas or Bust

Sorry for rushing out so abruptly on Friday...I was sitting at my computer, blogging about the delicious smoothie I'd made, when Pat said "you're blogging!? we're an hour late to leave for the airport!" I jumped up and ran out of the house without even brushing my hair (not a good look for me).

After sitting in a lot of traffic while my anxiety climbed sky-high, we finally reached the airport and Pat dropped me off. Luckily I made it with enough time to meet my friends Kait and Elizabeth at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant and wolf (haha) down a dirty martini and barbecue chicken pizza (sans cilantro) before we hopped on the plane for Vegas.

We landed in Vegas at about 10:30pm (PST), met up with Shannon and Chrissy at the airport, and hailed a cab to the MGM Grand. And thus our weekend began, full of dancing, gambling, unhealthy food, and SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS (as LMFAO would say). 

A few tourist pictures:

Pool at the MGM

Water Show at The Bellagio
No pictures of my friends and me...after all, WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS STAYS IN VEGAS. Actually, I didn't bring a camera and haven't gotten my hands on my friends' pictures yet!

It was a great weekend, but after 4 days I was ready to be home, sleep in my own bed, eat healthful food, and not have to walk through clouds of smoke in every casino and bar. We took the red eye home and landed in Boston at 8am on Tuesday morning. I went home for a much-needed nap, then went out to lunch with Pat. After lunch we registered to become bone marrow donors. This has been on my To Do List for quite some time, and I was finally able to do it because there was a stand set up at the mall. All you  need to do is fill out some paperwork and have your mouth swabbed (this is needed for HLA Typing to see if you're a match - just 4 Q-tips swabbed inside your mouth and you're done!). Only approximately 1 in 30,000 people are a match, but just think how amazing it would be if you were someones match and could help save their life! If you're interested in registering to become a donor, please visit this website.

Today I'm finally feeling like I'm back in the swing of things. I went for a 4.5 mile run this afternoon, as the half marathon training called for. Though there was lots of walking and dancing in Vegas, there certainly wasn't any running! It felt good to get out there today.

I also tried a new snack. This is a banana-flavored SOYJOY bar, which I received in the mail as part of their promotion (new flavor and enhanced texture). 

I thought it was pretty good...nice flavor and crunch! Quick and convenient to pack when you're on the road, and I like that its made of all natural ingredients, unlike several other popular bars.

For dinner I was in the mood for pasta (as usual) and veggies, so I decided to make vegetable pasta with vegetables!

Spaghetti Squash with Sauteed Vegetables

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 tomato
  • Artichoke hearts (I used frozen)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Black olives
  • Feta Cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Here's my spaghetti squash:

You'll need to cut the squash down the center. This is easier if you bake it for 5-10 minutes or cook it in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. After cutting, scrape out the seeds and the fleshy part that is attached to the seeds.

The end of my squash was a little bit soft, so I cut it off...still plenty left to make dinner!  I drizzled some olive oil on both halves and ground some fresh pepper on top, then put in the oven.

When the squash has been in the oven for about 20 minutes you can prepare the other vegetables. Finely slice 1 garlic clove and cook with 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet on medium heat until translucent.

Add artichoke hearts to the oil and garlic (I bought mine frozen, so I rinsed the hearts with water, then cooked in microwave for 2 minutes before adding to skillet). Turn heat down to medium-low and cook for a couple more minutes.

Chop half of a tomato and add to the skillet and cook until tomatoes are warm (about 2 minutes). Turn off heat.

Check the squash. It is done when a knife or fork inserts into flesh without much resistance.

Let cook for a couple minutes, then make it into spaghetti (use a fork to pull out strands of squash):

Put squash in bowl and top with sauteed vegetables, then add feta cheese and black olives.

Dinner is served! This was delicious!! Even better than I expected it to be, so I helped myself to seconds. I strongly recommend this dish for anyone who likes pasta and/or squash!

I enjoyed my dinner(s) while watching Modern Family, one of my favorite shows! So glad the new season has started!


Friday, September 24, 2010

A Quick 10k and I'm On My Way!

Tonight I leave for Vegas! I can't wait! After talking about it for way too long, my friends and I decided to just get on with it and go! I'm flying out of Logan with two girls from college and meeting up with two other girls from college out there for a weekend of pool lounging, martini sipping, and perhaps a little gambling too :)

My half marathon training schedule calls for a 10k at race pace this weekend. I doubt I'll be doing anything productive while out there, so I wanted to be sure to squeeze it in today before leaving.

When I got home, it was 92 degrees out and super humid, so I cheated a bit and ran on the treadmill instead of outside. It can be tough to maintain motivation when you're running on an endless belt, but luckily E! had some entertaining trash TV to distract me.

I finished super sweaty and starving. To quickly refuel I had a toasted english muffin with almond butter and strawberry jam (almonds are much more nutrient rich than peanuts).

And for a drink that packed a punch, I made a smoothie. Smoothies are great and refreshing on a hot day, and are especially satisfying after a hard workout. You can use anything you like in them, today I used bananas, strawberries, blueberries, vanilla yogurt and pineapple mango juice.

This is all frozen fruit. You can buy it frozen, or freeze your fresh fruit. Whenever my fruit is starting to get a little bit too ripe (especially bananas, which I like yellow without any brown) I cut it up and freeze it to use later for smoothies!

Bananas are great post-workout snacks because the potassium is great for your muscles. The dairy and protein in the yogurt is also important, too.

And enjoy:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce Calzone

That's right...spaghetti and meat sauce in a calzone! Talk about major carb-loading! I wish I had the excuse of a long run or a race tomorrow, but I don't. I was thinking about what food I had in my fridge today, and I remembered the half dough ball that was unused from last night, and the meat sauce and pasta we made for dinner on Sunday. At first I thought that pasta in a calzone was a crazy idea, but the more I thought about it, the more I craved it.

This evening after work I went for a 40 minute tempo run, as my half marathon training program dictated. I usually follow Hal Higdon's training programs for half marathons, and have followed his program for one of the marathons I've run.

Tempo Runs: This is a continuous run with a buildup in the middle to near 10-K race pace. A Tempo Run of 30 to 45 minutes would begin with 10-15 minutes easy running, build to 15-20 minutes near the middle, then 5-10 minutes easy toward the end. The pace buildup should be gradual, not sudden, with peak speed coming about two-thirds into the workout. Hold that peak only for a minute or two. (Taken from Hal Higdon's training guide).

I have a pretty hard time with tempo runs outside...its hard for me to judge my pace gradually increasing and then decreasing, even with my trusty little Garmin watch. These are much easier when you can control the speed on the treadmill, but I prefer to train outside. So today I did my best, and ran my butt off in the middle of the run!

Now onto the Spaghetti and Meat Sauce Calzone...

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make sure your dough sits at room temperature for at least 20 minutes (this makes it easier to stretch and mold).

Start with a bowl of spaghetti and meat sauce:

Heat in pan on stove or microwave until very hot. Mix in sauce and cut pasta:

Stretch out your dough:

Spray pizza pan or sprinkle some flour on pan so dough won't stick, then lay dough on pan:

Add pasta and sauce to dough, spreading evenly:

Close calzone, pressing outside together to seal. Paint lightly with oil, and add any toppings you desire (I used fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, and fresh grated Parmesan cheese). Cut a few slits in top of calzone so steam can escape while cooking.

Bake on 400 degrees for about 16 minutes. Take out when crust has browned nicely.

We sauteed some spinach in a little bit of olive oil and garlic (first saute garlic in the oil, then add spinach and cook for a couple minutes on medium).

And dinner is served! Such a fancy meal deserves special glasses for skim milk and chocolate milk :)

We found that the calzone is best with some extra marinara sauce on top (this is meatless sauce...Trader Joe's makes amazing marinara). Look at that bite!

To make this calzone EVEN better...I would recommend a layer of fresh mozzarella cheese inside the calzone, and perhaps some marinara inside too!

For dessert - cantaloupe with cinnamon sprinkled on top:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Happy Birthday (to me)!

Though I tried to delay as long as possible, my birthday came along anyway. There's something about turning 26 that seems unsettling, like now I'm really in the thick of adulthood. But its here, so I may as well embrace it!

For my "Happy Birthday Eve" celebration I had dinner with my mom, brother, and brother's girlfriend. We got some great Japanese take-out including shrimp and vegetable tempura, seaweed salad (Jim and Kristi had never tried this before and now they love it too) and lots of sushi!

My mom made me carrot cake cupcakes with orange cream cheese frosting (orange zest in the frosting):

These were quite delicious! My favorite desserts are orange: pumpkin pie and carrot cake!

Among my birthday presents were some kitchen items that I'm very excited about:
  • Garlic press (no more mincing for me!!)
  • Grapefruit knife
  • Cupcake/Brioche pans (which came with a recipe for pumpkin muffins!)

Unfortunately my body wasn't feeling very happy on my birthday. I left work early after feeling dizzy and nauseous for a couple hours. I went home and napped for a while, then woke up very hungry, and decided to make myself a pizza.

Squash-Spinach-Ricotta-Onion Pizza!

  • Pizza dough (pre-made or homemade)
  • Winter squash
  • Spinach
  • Onions
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

I used 1 acorn and 1 buttercup squash for this. I think it would also be really good with butternut squash. Cut squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place in an oven pan. I tossed some cinnamon and green chili powder on top, then put in the oven for 35-40 minutes (until meat is tender).

(Cutting the squash in half is sometimes easier said than done!)

While the squash cooks, prepare the rest of the pizza.

Slice onions (I used small white onions that my brother's lovely girlfriend gave me!):

Saute in a little bit of butter in pan on medium heat until onions are translucent.

Once finished, take off heat and set aside.

Prepare the dough. I used half of a pre-made dough ball for this pizza. I covered a large cutting board with a thin layer of flour, and stretched and pulled my dough into a squarish shape. I weighed down the corners with glasses and a salt grinder, and let sit for about 10 minutes so the dough would retain the shape.

Then put the dough on the pizza pan, and brush a little bit of olive oil on the crust, to prevent the pizza toppings from making the crust soggy.

When the squash is done, remove from oven. Put the oiled dough in the oven for 5 minutes to cook a bit.

I took the insides of two halves of the squash (1/2 acorn and 1/2 buttercup) and mashed together. This will be my sauce instead of tomato sauce.

Then cover liberally with spinach (I used organic baby spinach):

Then add Ricotta cheese (I used part-skim):

Add sauteed onions:

At the last minute I decided to slice a piece of honey ham and add to half of the pizza:

Put in the oven (still at 400 degrees) and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the crust begins to crisp and the cheese is melty.

And Voila!! This was delicious, exactly what the doctor ordered! And now, back to bed...

I also happen to share my birthday with several people I HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Preston, Taylor, Heather, Adam and Beth!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Today was a very busy Sunday. I usually like to lay low on Sundays, recover from the hectic work week and whatever weekend festivities that took place, but today there was much to do...although it seemed to be all centered around eating.


I started the day with some fresh brewed coffee with some skim milk, a little bit of sugar, and a lot of cinnamon.

Cinnamon is good for a few reasons:
1. Its delicious, so that is reason enough.
2. It is said to help lower cholesterol.
3. It reduces stroke risk by forty percent, protects against degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, and protects against the general effects of aging. Other spices that offer these benefits are rosemary, turmeric, basil, oregano, thyme, and sage. You should aim for 3-7 teaspoons of any combination of these spices every day. (From Women's Health article 12 Ways Your Brain Power Can Be Boosted).

I then made an egg+cheese+ham breakfast sandwich.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray, and crack egg into pan. Cook for a couple minutes on each side.

Then put ham (I used 97% fat free honey roasted ham) on the pan, put egg on top, then add the cheese - this will heat the ham and melt the cheese.

Put on a toasted english muffin and enjoy! I also had sliced apple on the side.

After breakfast we drove to Warwick, Rhode Island to join my family for the annual ALS Walk. We walk every year to remember my Uncle Steve, who passed away from ALS in 2006.

I spent most of the afternoon with this lovely lady:

On my shoulders is Madeline, my four year old cousin, and to the right is Carter, her twin brother.


After the walk we all went to eat at Bertucci's. I'm always happy to eat there because their pizza is amazing and I love their rolls!

The kids food came out first. I was a little bit jealous.

Madeline got a black olive pizza, her favorite. Perhaps that's why we get along so well - as a kid my favorite was black olive too, and I still love it now.

Sometimes Madeline and Carter need a little coaxing to eat their meals...

We ordered several large pizzas for the rest of us. I had a piece of margherita (mozzarella slices and fresh basil) which is always good from Bertucci's, and also had a piece of spinach ricotta, which I'd never had before but loved! Anything with ricotta cheese makes me happy.

Snack Time

After eating a late lunch, Pat and I raced back up to NH to catch the Patriots game. We weren't terribly hungry after having lunch, but if you're going to watch football, there need to be snacks!

Carrots and Organic Hummus
Chili and Baked Tostitos Scoops
Perfect Bite!

This was chili that was left over from a big pot we'd made and froze. I'm sure we'll be making more soon as fall is upon us, and I'll post the recipe then!


Meat Sauce with Pasta

  • Ground beef
  • Ground sausage
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 - 28 ounce cans of Pastene Kitchen Ready Ground Peeled Tomatoes
  • 1 - 16 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 - 15 ounce can tomato paste
  • Sugar
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Flax-Seed Oil

Get 3 burners on the stove going at once:

1. Large pot - add both cans Pastene Ground Peeled Tomatoes, can diced tomatoes, and half can tomato paste. Heat on medium.

2. Large frying pan - add ground beef (I used about 1.25 pounds of 96/4 lean beef) and ground sausage (I used 1 pound of Italian hot). Heat on medium. You'll need to use a spatula to break up the meat as it cooks, cover, then break it up...continue with this every few minutes until the meat is browned throughout.

Its easiest if you use a spatula with a flat bottom so you can break up the meat.

3. Skillet - heat flax-seed oil on medium and add minced garlic. Cook until garlic is translucent. Flax-seed oil is a good alternative to olive oil because its much higher in Omega 3 fatty acids.

As the garlic cooks, chop the onion.

Add the onion to the garlic and continue to cook on medium, until the onions are also translucent.

Chop the green pepper, and add to the skillet.

Cook for a few minutes, then add the remaining 1/2 can tomato paste and the chopped tomato.

Stir in and cook for several more minutes. Also stir in 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and about 1 tablespoon each basil and oregano.

As you've been adding veggies to the 3rd skillet, you should also have been stirring/breaking up the meat. At this point it should be done (brown throughout). Drain the fat from the pan.

Return to stove and cook a couple more minutes, then add meat to the large pot of tomato sauce.

Then stir in all of the vegetables and herbs from the 3rd skillet:

Turn heat to medium-high until you see the sauce begin to bubble (you should never let it boil) then turn to low. Add about 2 more tablespoons sugar, 2 bay leaves, and red pepper flakes to taste. Cover and cook for at least an hour (or a few hours if you have time), stirring occasionally. The sauce tastes better the longer you can cook it for.

Cook pasta (I chose whole wheat spaghetti) and cover with sauce!

I need to give props to Pat, who was the brains behind the sauce. He makes a mean meat sauce! I thought it was great, but he said in the future he'd use a 2:1 ratio of beef to sausage (instead of the close to 1:1 ratio we used tonight) so the sausage doesn't overpower the beef.

This is great to make on a Sunday and reheat for quick lunches or dinners throughout the week!