Sunday, January 29, 2012

(The Sweet Potato) Adventures.

I had the coolest foodie adventure this weekend. 

All this while, I've been missing out on farmer's markets. Remember when I used to go to the farmer's market every weekend? And I'd try out new and exciting veggies? And food in general? 

Me too. I reminisce about it sometimes. But now I don't have to!

Check this out:

I was overwhelmed, to say the least. The amount of produce was just ridiculous. I didn't even know where to begin. I probably looked lost and confused. But really, I was just very excited.

It wasn't just the sheer amount of stuff that was overwhelming, but also the prices. And I don't mean this in a bad way.

I got an entire bucket of sweet potatoes for two dollars. An ENTIRE bucket. It was about 9 sweet potatoes.

There were also tons of interesting things I'd never seen or tried before, like...

Prickly pear cactus?! I tasted it. It didn't taste anything like I expected it to. It had a really neutral taste with a hint of sour. I still don't really know what my opinion of it is.

I also got some tomatillos, an eggplant, and lots and lots of dried beans.

(I had to put the sweet potatoes in the picture because...there are just too many not to).

Other food-related adventures of this weekend include:

French toast with chocolate chips + sunflower seed butter + maple syrup. Really, this is just deliciousness rather than an adventure. I thought it was worth sharing.

So speaking of sweet potatoes, have you ever needed to use them up and didn't know how? I did. And this was before buying the bucketful. Ironic.

Hence, this very strange concoction was born this weekend:

Mashed sweet potato mixed with some plain yogurt, salt, and cumin powder. Oh but wait! That's not all.

And some cooked beets.

But that's still not all.

The sweet potato/beet concoction was spread on a whole wheat tortilla which was also topped with some sauteed bell peppers and tomatoes. A fajita of sorts! This was the definition of spontaneous cooking. It looks strange, but it was quite good. It would have been even better topped with melted cheese and some spicy salsa. But it still worked! 

Time to go plan this week's meals...I have a feeling an eggplant will be involved!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vibrams: To wear or not to wear?

I hadn't realized that I haven't written a fitness-related post in a really long time, until it was suggested to me to write one today.

A few months ago, I purchased these:

It was one of the 100 things I've done to try and alleviate my knee problem. If you've been reading for awhile,  you've heard me discuss several times that I have a knee pain that occurs when I run even one mile, or do any type of high impact workout. Usually I can get away with doing the high impact workouts by dedicating days for yoga or weights to give my knees a break. But I want to be able to run so badly! So I figured trying the Vibrams couldn't hurt. 

I'd heard a lot of theories behind "barefoot" running. There are all kinds articles out there about "barefoot" running versus running with regular, full-support shoes. The main difference is that with regular running shoes, the foot lands heel first, whereas with shoes such as Vibrams, the foot lands on the ball, or middle of the foot. With a mid-foot land, the arch of the foot is able to absorb the shock. All sorts of issues can arise with the heel taking the impact, such as back pain, knee pain, heel pain, tendonitis, and the list goes on. There are also lots of articles that discuss the biomechanics between full support shoes versus barefoot shoes, but for now, we'll keep it simple!

When I first got my Vibrams, I made the transition from my regular running shoes by walking around in the Vibrams. After getting used to the way my feet felt in them (especially the part about having toes in different compartments!), I started incorporating them into my workouts. I used them for cardio such as kickboxing/Zumba at first, and my first run with them wasn't about 2 or 3 weeks later. I ran 2 miles, and had no knee pain whatsoever! My first observation was that I was able to feel every single rock on the road, which took some getting used to. I also had a lovely blister on each foot that developed, but I figured that was a result of the shoes still needing to be broken in.

Since then, I've run a few times, and I still haven't experienced any knee pain, which is quite a feat! The only issues I've had are the blisters, which still show up every time, and some slight discomfort at the bottom of my toes, just from the lack of cushioning in the shoes. But I think these are both minor details in comparison to the fact that I can now run pain-free. 

During the next few months, I'm going to be running quite a bit, and increasing my mileage as well. I have never run more than 4 miles, so it should be very interesting to see where the Vibrams take me! I think that anyone who experiences any sort of pain from running should invest in these shoes, because it's worth it, as long as you can handle the "different" feel of the shoes. 

Has anyone tried Vibrams or any other type of "barefoot" shoe? What are your opinions? I'd like to hear them!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bring on the appetite.

I hope you came hungry. This is going to be a food-filled post. And fun-filled, of course!

Because this isn't supposed to be a food blog or anything.

I've been spending lots of time in the kitchen lately. Not because I'm trying to nurture my inner chef, but because I have a really bad habit of buying everything in sight when I'm at the grocery store, and I have to somehow use up everything in the fridge before it goes bad.

Quite the problem, if you ask me. 

One such item I bought was three avocados (3 for $1! What a steal). I decided against making guacamole because the thought of mashing the avocados did not sound pleasant. So I got creative.

At least, I like to think I was being creative. Either way, this is now one of my favorite concoctions. Hummus + avocado inside a tortilla. Sounds dry, but it's actually quite creamy and so delicious! I've been taking this to work, but one night for dinner I decided to take it to the next level...

A hummus quesadilla!! With a side of avocado and salsa.

Make this. You won't regret it.

In other news, I'd been wanting to make jalapeno poppers for so long. I finally made it happen, and it's easier than I ever expected it to be.

First, I de-seeded and halved the jalapenos. Then, I mixed together one box of cream cheese, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, and a handful of chopped cilantro, and scooped it into my make-shift piping bag.

(Make-shift piping bag = Ziploc with corner cut off. It did the job). I piped the cream cheese mixture into the jalapeno halves, and then topped each with grated cheddar.

I baked these for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. 

Somehow in the midst of my excitement of making jalapeno poppers, I forgot to take an after picture. Luckily I made these again a few days later with some gigantic peppers!

Easy and impressive dish to make for a potluck. Just saying.

So another thing I picked up spontaneously whilst at the grocery store was this:

Largest butternut squash of my entire life. I don't know why I even bought it. I obviously was not thinking about having to cut it. But somehow, I made it happen with my miniature knife.

I roasted about half of the squash with olive oil and salt, and made a pseudo stew with it.

I don't really like the word stew, but there is no other word to describe this. I combined the following in a large pot:
  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • cubed/peeled/roasted butternut squash
  • mushrooms
  • broccoli
  • asparagus
  • cooked quinoa
  • salt/pepper/nutritional yeast

Super simple.

Even better with some cheese and crushed red pepper. Can you tell I've been really on a cheese kick lately? Cheese and I go through phases together.

TFG recommends: This interesting article -- Dancing makes you smarter?!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Salads for all.

I realized today that it's been quite some time since I've posted any foodie finds.

Oh wait, it's because I have not come across many foodie finds in months. But soon enough, I will be residing so close to a Whole Foods, it will be ridiculous. And it will also be ridiculous how many foodie finds I will be scoring. Patience, friends.

(And by "friends," I really mean myself. Because I am not the patient type).

In other news, is it completely un-trendy that I'm still eating pumpkin? I know it's so two months ago, but it's just so convenient for my breakfasts. Weekday and weekend breakfasts alike! My Saturday morning breakfast was pretty ballin'. If I say so myself.

Whole wheat pumpkin pancakes (one of which was chocolate chip!) with a side of juice. A carrot + celery + cucumber + orange juice. Quite the orange breakfast. 

I used to be so diligent about taking pictures when I went out to eat. And now, I don't. I ate some delicious Nutella and almond-filled crepes, and took zero pictures. Who am I?

But for your visual pleasure, I did take pictures of a salad that I ate at this place called Salad Express. It was basically a non-chain version of Sweet Tomatoes. I hope this makes up for the lack of crepe pictures.

Part of the reason I took the picture was because of the jar of water. For some reason, drinking water out of a jar makes it taste so much more refreshing. Also, I tried pickled okra and I am in love with it. 

Speaking of salads, I decided to eat salad for lunch this week. Very uncharacteristic of me since I can't survive on lettuce alone. So I attempted to make a substantial salad. 

It included: finely chopped romaine and spinach, tomatoes, kidney/pinto/black beans, corn, quinoa, and baked tofu. For dressing, I simply used lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Of course, this is only part of my lunch this week. And of course, I am going to keep you in suspense about the other part.

And for now, I am going to sit and keep my feet up because they are in pain from all the Zumba-ing I've been doing lately. This weekend, I went to an absolutely incredible Zumba master class. My vibram-clad feet could no longer move. Good times.

Also a convenient excuse to wear my Zumba attire! Yes.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


You know what's the worst? When you think you're in great shape, and realize you're actually not after teaching kickboxing for the first time in 4 weeks and proceed to demolish yourself during the class.

I got a little too excited/loud/high impact even for me to handle. As usual.

And I hit a new low when I sat on the couch around 7:30pm and wanted to just go to sleep.

But prior to that, I made a delicious and refreshing treat. A well-deserved treat that just so happens to be quite healthy. Win!

I blended the following:
  • 1/2 cup mango pulp
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used carton coconut milk)
  • 1/4 frozen banana
  • 5 ice cubes

Concoctions like this are helping me transition to my goal of decreasing sugar consumption

Speaking of goals, this week, I've been eating so many veggies, it's ridiculous. And nutritious! This weekend, I  cooked two of my favorite vegetables: brussels sprouts and butternut squash.

Luckily, I had found both of these frozen, which made the preparation even more convenient! To cook the brussels sprouts, I put them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes. Then, I added the butternut squash to a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil, along with the cooked brussels sprouts, and sauteed until slightly browned. I seasoned the combination simply with salt, pepper, and oregano.

For part of my lunch this week, I've been topping spinach and bell pepper salads with the brussels/butternut squash.

If I wasn't so lazy, I'd probably heat up the cooked veggies and then put them in my salad. But in the morning, one container is enough to deal with. I'm sure you understand.

In other news, I've been eating cooked oatmeal lately (gasp) but only because I'm obsessed with the texture of my sunflower seed butter when it hits the oatmeal.

Have I mentioned how much I love sunflower seed butter?

And to conclude, I have a new life goal after reading this article.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year, An Old Resolution.

I'm not really one to make new year's resolutions. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

I moved four months ago. And somehow, with my move, my disciplined healthy eating went out the window (for the most part). Last week, I noticed that my vegetable consumption was disappointingly low, and it has been for quite awhile. So I made a small intention to increase my vegetable intake and decrease my sugar intake. I think that's a pretty doable goal considering I've done it before!

The "hardest" part about healthy eating is meal planning. Which I find kind of fun. I plan lunch, dinner, and a variety of snacks for the week. Usually, figuring out snacks is the hard part because I run out of ideas. However, I found a new favorite snack this weekend!

Toast with fig butter and swiss cheese. Strange combination, but so very delicious.

(Side note: fig butter does not contain butter. It's basically like jelly, but with a lot less sugar and a lot more figs!).

Back to the vegetable consumption. I have a veggie-full lunch planned for this week, but will tell you about it after I take a picture sometime this week. But here's a hint: it involves two of my favorite winter vegetables! Hooray.

As for dinner this week, I wanted Indian food that involved lots of protein. And really, there are two ways to make that happen.

Dal and paneer.

So...I combined the two. Yeah. I made dal. I'm pretty happy about it.

I used green lentils because they cook quickly.

Step 1: Soak 1 1/4 cups green lentils in 4 cups of water for several hours or overnight.
Step 2: Add 2 cups vegetable broth or water and simmer over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.
Step 3: Add four chopped tomatoes and 2 chopped garlic cloves and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.
Step 4: Add spices of choice (salt/ground cumin/ground coriander/turmeric/chili powder/etc).* I used a spice packet which included most of the above plus ground cashews.
Step 5: Add paneer.**
Step 6: Turn heat down to low and stir well. Allow to simmer for another several minutes. The consistency should be thick and slightly soupy.

*If adding spices separately, add about 2 teaspoons each of the cumin, coriander, and turmeric, and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon chili powder depending on desired spiciness.
**This can be purchased in the frozen section at any Indian store.

Serve with rice of choice. Preferably brown rice, of course! I used a brown rice and wild rice mixture. 

Delicious way to start my old resolution, if I say so myself.