Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WIAW: Travel Edition

Hello from Herndon, Virginia! I'm here this week for work (so weird to say given my job!), along with three other teachers from my school. We're here to attend an international internship, hosted by a Charlotte Mason school network so that we can learn more about Charlotte Mason's educational philosophies and practice. I'm excited for this opportunity and to add more to my teacher bag!

Since I'm traveling I decided to make this What I Ate Wednesday segment, hosted by the blogger behind Peas and Crayons, from my day of travel (Tuesday). This isn't my usual day of mini meals, but in spite of being away from home - and my kitchen! - I'm still doing my best to eat healthy and keep up with my fitness routines - hello walking up and down 12 flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator. 

As this is the last WIAW "Love your Veggies Month," I tried to make sure I packed some in.

Breakfast: I started my day bright and early heading to the airport. I didn't get my usual breakfast of late - Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs and/or a whole wheat mini bagel. However, I did keep it light and managed to avoid the amazing smells coming from Auntie Anne's.

Tall nonfat (no whip) white mocha plus a fruit cup from Starbucks
Lunch: After we landed, waited for luggage, found our rental car, checked into the hotel and unpacked (phew!), we were all ready for some lunch! We headed on a little trip into the closest town center, and settled on a restaurant we had never heard of: Stone's Cove Kitbar (which apparently means kitchen and bar - I had no idea). I saw a hearty salad on the menu and jumped on it, knowing it would fill me up and help me stay track. I gobbled most of it, minus half the chicken (it was a little dry) and the dressing (it sounded good, but was too much with all the flavors in the salad).

Filled with goodies!
Romaine, arugula, spinach, avocado, tomato, bacon, seasoned chicken and green onion,
with Gorgonzola honey-lime dressing on the side.
After lunch we headed to Washington, D.C. (about 25 miles from our hotel) so we could enjoy a little of what our nation's capital has to offer. We spent time at the National Gallery of Art, and my favorites were easily the late 18th to 19th century French artists. I just love how dreamy the paintings are, especially the impressionistic ones.

We only had a little time left, and couldn't find parking (boo!), but I did get a chance to visit the World War II Monument, which was only established in 2004. I thought it was beautiful, and I am so glad that I was able to visit it since it was not there the last time I was in D.C. (a loooong time ago!).

During our drive back to the hotel I snacked on a hand full of Peanut M&M's - thank you for "enabling" me, April :) We got back to the hotel to relax for about an hour before dinner. I managed to squeeze in a mini workout - those stairs! -plus some squats, lunges, wall sits and crunches in my hotel room. A quick shower and I was so ready for dinner!

Dinner: The lovely concierge gave us some suggestions about where to go for dinner, and we hopped in the car and headed to an adorable city center, filled with cute shops and fun restaurants. I happened to see one of my favorite restaurants from Chicago, Mon Ami Gabi, which was in the lobby of my apartment in Chicago. We decided to save that one for tomorrow (yes!), and we headed to Uncle Julio's instead (another restaurant I've enjoyed in Chicago).

Pardon fuzzy photos...I didn't want to use the flash and seem rude during our group dinner.

Chips to snack on while waiting for our meal.
While there were many tempting items on the menu, I settled on a "heart healthy" option (their label), mesquite grilled salmon with veggies (zucchini, squash, onions and a couple jalapenos). It was full of flavor, and I was pretty impressed - if only that could be said of our service. I left satisfied and feeling good.

salmon and veggies, served with a yummy mango salsa!
Welp, I'm off to watch the White Collar season finale - love, love that show! I hear there is a big cliffhanger so I can't wait until I'm home Friday to watch it. Hope you all have wonderful Wednesdays! I'll be back to let you know how the first day of my conference goes. Wish me luck. :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chocolate Peanut-Butter No Bake Cookies

I'm going to be honest when I tell you I thought these would be horrible. And, again with the honesty, when I tried them before they were cooled I thought I was right. (Note: Do NOT try these before they are completely cooled!). 

In fact, these are amazing. So amazing that I ate half a batch in a matter of like 2 days. And I decided they were breakfast cookie worthy because oats were in them. No? Eh, either way, these are a fast and easy cookie! And they are super duper yummy. Just let them cool. I mean that.

Enjoy a quick, chewy, deilicous and flavorful cookie! And thank me for finding this recipe later. Happy Tuesday, friends!

Oh, and, umm...since I ate the cookies when they were still warm and wasn't fond of them...I, umm, didn't take any more pictures. Because I ate the remaining and delicious cookies without even thinking of photographing them. Yes, I have a cheese and sweets addiction. Why do you think I never bake?!

Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies
Recipe by Helen Ostrosky
Yields about 25 to 30 small cookies
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*1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 splenda)
*2 tablespoons cocoa
*1/2 stick butter
*1/4 cup milk (I used skim)
*1/2 cup peanut butter
*1/2 tablespoon vanilla
*1 1/2 cups oatmeal
*Waxed paper

*In a heavy saucepan bring to a boil, the sugar, cocoa, butter and milk. Let boil for 1 minute.

*Add peanut butter, vanilla and oatmeal. Mix well.

*On a sheet of waxed paper, drop mixture by the teaspoonfuls. Let sit until cooled and hardened.  

butte, sugar, splenda...makings of a great cookie
time to start scooping!
cool on wax paper
small cookies = I eat at least 3 in a sitting...whoops.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Princess #2

I've had some fun weekends to share with you the past couple Mondays. There was date night and then my trip to Chicago. This weekend didn't involve any fancy outings or trips, but it was glorious. Why? I did pretty much nothing. Seriously. I had a long week at work (busy preparing for a work-trip that I leave for tomorrow!), and I wanted nothing more than to relax with the hubby and Hoosh. I took a nap Saturday and Sunday, and we watched movies and spent some quality time together.

During that time we had an interesting conversation. Hoosh was being her personable self, grumbling at us for a number of reasons...getting up from our nap on the couch - How dare you! I was comfortable, Mom!

...not giving her enough attention once we were moving - Rub my belly! Give me snuggles!
Snuggles are more important than acting like a lady...Besides, I'm the baby.
...not getting her toy when it falls behind the couch (which she can reach) -'re supposed to do that for me.

Fine...I'll get it myself. You must not love me anymore.
Hoosh is like our child and often spurs conversations about future children.  John constantly jokes that she is exactly like me - clearly only my best qualities - and during her grumbling he laughed and said, "I'm going to end up all girls aren't I? If I get princesses three and four one day, you have to deal with them since I've spent years putting up with princesses one and two."

Ha! Clarifying above, Hoosh and I are princesses one and two, and the hubby said that in good humor while being playful. I don't think of myself as one of those "princess" girls, but I will admit that I have my moments. I can be a bit 'tudesy at times (umm who isn't?), but John does have his hands full with two ladies like Hoosh and I!

My name is pronounced "Hooge" as in short for "Hoosier" dad is only slightly obsessed with IU.
Now, I've resigned myself (happily!) to spending my life in basketball gyms with three boys - in John's generation, there is one girl and nine boys, I'm just playing the odds - but it's fun to think about what God will give us and what our lives will be like in the future when we have a bigger family. I know He has a plan for us and will (hopefully) bless us with children one day (we're not ready just yet!).

So here's to Hoosier Lady, who is full of spirit and love and has warmed our hearts.

She's our little "stinker" (yes, she responds to that name)... 
I'm snuggled and perfect. Don't move the princess.

...a little rascal...
I was not going to try to snag an ornament...
and is most certainly Princess #2 :)

I only sleep on people...I'm like the princess and the pea, I can't handle anything less than perfection.

Friday, February 24, 2012

FF: Total Body Workout!

It's Friday, so you know what that means - time for another Fit Friday post! In my first post I did a round up of previous posts related to fitness. Last week I talked about portion sizes, so this week I thought it was time to share another workout - and it's an awesome one!

I've never actually shared a full-body workout. Sometimes I'll share parts - upper and lower body, for example - but this was was way too good not to share the whole thing. I did this last week with the fabulous Molly, and I was definitely feeling it for a few days after. But in a really great way!

I didn't link up all the exercises this time, but if you have questions about any of them let me know, and I will do some research to find video or photos with instructions. If I can't find any I will do my best to explain them. Let me know what you think of this workout. I hope you love it as much as I do!

If you're looking for some more fitness routines head on over to in Sweetness and in Health for FLOW (similar concept to What I Ate Wednesdays, but with fitness-focused instead)!

Total Body Workout!
Lower Body: Complete each exercise with minimal rest.
After each set rest 30-60 seconds. Complete each set three times.
Bosu Lateral Lunge with Bar
20 (10/leg)

Double Wide Cable Squat on Bosu
12.5 lbs.
Bar Lunge Holds
4 (30 seconds)
*Each leg two times
Upper Body: Complete each exercise with minimal rest.
After each set rest 30-60 seconds. Complete each set three times.
Chest Press (Dimes)
High to low weight @ your level
SA Rows
20 (10/side)
60 lbs.
Back Extensions
90 lbs.
Assisted Tricep Dips
Level 17
Core: Complete each exercise with minimal rest.
After each set rest 30-60 seconds. Complete each set two times.
Stability Ball Resistance Band Crunches

Stability Ball Passes

Up Up/Down Down Planks
30 seconds

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

WIAW: Busy, Busy

Welcome to the second edition of Peas and Crayons' What I Ate Wednesday! I had a lot of fun participating last week, so we're back at it again, this time showcasing Tuesday. Now, to be honest, I totally planned to make a fun new recipe that I would be able to showcase - like I did last week with Simple Stuffed Red Peppers - but I had such a long and busy day at work that I had no energy left to be creative.

Breakfast (8:15 a.m.) I woke up with my stomach feeling a bit off, so I forced myself to eat a mini whole wheat bagel with some butter. It was enough to put something in my stomach, but not upset it with a long day ahead of me.

something is always better than nothing, right?
Lunch (11:35 a.m.) I ate most of my lunch while typing up progress reports and walking around the room helping students with corrections. I wish I would have been able to sit down and enjoy it more, but it was still super tasty! I made some Garlic & Basil-Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower last night to bring for lunch and it totally hit the spot. I love roasting veggies and a little forethought into my midday meals. I also had a mini whole wheat bagel sandwich with honey-roasted turkey and Dijon mustard. Dessert was a delicious cara cara orange. Have you tried them yet? Super juicy - and they're pink! Gotta love my girly fruits.

A nice little trio
Snack (3:15 p.m.) I enjoyed a Pomegranate Chobani yogurt. Love all the awesome flavors of Chobani yogurt! Some of my favorites include strawberry banana, apple cinnamon and blood orange. I also snagged a piece of chocolate from the dean's office after getting out of my meeting around 4:45.

Dinner (7:30 p.m.) I was still working when dinner rolled around. As I mentioned I first wanted to create something fun and original. Then I decided I could make this amazing Teriyaki-Salmon with Sriracha Cream Sauce with Teriyaki-Roasted Green Beans. However the hubby didn't want to eat at 8:30 - or later (I can't blame him), and he wanted to help me out (sweet!) so he ordered our favorite pizza with a Greek salad on the side (I'm sneaking in those veggies!). I had two small pieces and loaded up on the salad. Tomorrow I will make this salmon!

What I wanted...
...what I had instead

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Aunt Margaret's Deviled Eggs

After I found a method to make perfect hard-boiled eggs, John asked me to make his Great-Aunt Margaret's deviled eggs. She makes them at the lake all the time, and apparently it's one of his favorite things. In fact, he says he doesn't particularly like any deviled eggs besides hers. I obviously had to make them asap.

When I told John I was going to make them he got so excited that he boiled the eggs with this method I posted about last week, AND he peeled the shells off all of them! It gave me time to finish up some laundry and work before enjoying these delicious little treats with a very appreciative husband. Happy appetizing - and thanks, Aunt Margaret!

Aunt Margaret's Deviled Eggs
Recipe by John's Aunt Margaret
Yields 12 deviled egg halves
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*6 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and peeled of shells
*3 tbsp. mayo (I used light mayo)
*1 tsp. prepared mustard (I used stone ground)
*1/4 tsp. salt
*1/8 tsp. pepper

*Cut the eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolks. (You can slice a small bit off the bottom of the half and they will sit on the plate better).

*Mash the yolks well with a the tines of a fork before adding the other ingredients. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well - it may still be a little lumpy, but that is ok. If it seems a little dry, add more mayo so that it is creamy.

*Spoon into egg whites so that it is mounded. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

*Sprinkle with paprika just before serving.  

mashed yolks and the mixture
all done - and delicious!

Monday, February 20, 2012

MLM: Two Megs and a Jessie

Happy Monday! I say that though it certainly doesn't feel like Monday. As a teacher I had the day off - thank you President's Day! - and I used it to be super productive. Stops at the Apple store, Nordstrom Rack, a car dealership (yay for shopping for a new car!) and Trader Joe's, which was followed by cleaning, dishes, laundry and trying a new recipe! Although, full disclosure, I did start my day with a healthy dose of trashy TV...hello Real Housewives of Orange County, you are not as entertaining as the Beverly Hills Housewives.

Normally I would have posted this first thing this morning, but over the weekend my computer pretty much stopped working. It. Was. So. Slow. The problem? I only had 2 GB of space left on my hard drive. My poor Mac. I made my first stop today to the Apple store to pick up a new external hard drive. After transferring tons of files and music tonight, I finally have a computer willing to work for me!

I drove up to Chicago Saturday night for a girls' night in the city! My sister, Meghan, was in town for her birthday celebration, and I was so excited to see her. Now that she lives in Alabama our visits are less frequent and more difficult to plan. To make things even better? My friend Jessie let us crash at our apartment, and my oldest friend Megan came out with us too! If anyone would have told us in high school that we would volunteer to hang out with my sister I think we would have laughed in your face. How times have changed!

My oldest friend! 10 plus years! :)
We started the night hanging out at Jessie's apartment and snacking on some Ranalli's pizza and desserts. It was great to catch up and just talk without distractions and loud people around us. We decided to head to Blue Agave for some chips and salsa and margaritas! Mango for the Megs and four-berry for me. Jessie met up with us after she got out of work, and we headed to another spot to celebrate Meg's birthday - and Megan buying a house with her wonderful hubby. It was a blast, and I had the best time with some of my favorite girls!

me and my sis!
We headed home a little while later, which ended up being the worst part of the night. We were walking in a crosswalk (with the green!) when a cab suddenly tried to turn the corner (running a red light) and blaring on his horn because we were in the crosswalk. I, being the fast walker that I am, was ahead of everyone and closer to the cab. I tried to start a light jog to get out of the way - instincts gone wrong - and wound up tripping in my 5-inch heels and wiping out on the curb. Awesome.

Besides ripping my pants and the satin off my favorite shoes, I now how scabs on my knees and arms (in addition to the soreness that it brings). I feel like a kid who wiped out on her roller blades going down a very steep hill (I never did that...). While John started by saying this was another example of me needing to slow down, he also reminded me that I could have been hit by the cab, which would have been much worse. Now we both have recent bruises and battle scars. What a pair we are!

knees looking good...
I rounded up my Chicago trip by having brunch with my mom, brother and sister near O'Hare, where my sister was flying out of. Let me tell you, Gibson's seared tuna salad is delicious!

my and my brother (George) and sister (Meghan)! (sorry, mom - the other pic wouldn't download!)
Welp, I'm off to finish my fourth load of laundry...Yikes! I need to develop a better system and not procrastinate so much. Suggestions are welcome. Hope you all had wonderful weekends!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lightened-Up Blue Cheese Dressing

I don't think it's any secret here that I love cheese. I only talk about it in, oh, every other post. Does that sound about right? To be honest, I'm too scared to check for myself because then I may need to be checked into a cheese rehab facility. My name is Lauren. I am addicted to cheese.

Growing up I hated blue cheese - the smell, how it looked...I wouldn't even taste it. I never understood why my parents ordered it for salads. Gross. Then I grew up and suddenly developed a love affair with cheese, especially blue cheese. Somehow I've found it to be perfect for dipping veggies, dressing salads (like this super yummy Chopped Chicken Salad).

I decided I wanted to make my own blue cheese dressing, so I searched for some recipes. And my findings made me suddenly not like blue cheese dressing so much anymore. A whole cup of heavy cream?! Plus a whole cup of regular mayo?! Yikes!

So I did one of my favorite things to do: lightened it up! And guess what? It turned out great! John and I both agreed that you still got the creamy, tangy flavor of regular blue cheese dressing, but without all the guilt. A great way to indulge - and sneak in some protein!

Lightened-Up Blue Cheese Dressing
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa
Yields about 3/4 cup dressing
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*1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
*2 tbsp light mayo
*1/4 cup half and half
*2 tbsp skim milk
*3 ounces Roquefort cheese, crumbled
*1/4 tsp Herbs Provence (optional - I used this because I didn't have tarragon vinegar...or tarragon)

*Combine yogurt, mayo, half and half and skim milk. I suggest using a whisk.

*Add crumbled Roquefort cheese and herbs. I suggest using a fork because the cheese will likely clump and get stuck in the whisk.

*Serve over/on the side of salads, veggies, wings, etc!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Chopped Chicken Salad

I used to hate salads. Well, not so much the salad as what it represented: people who weren't eating real food because they were on a diet. Speaking of which, I really dislike the word diet, too. It just sounds so... constricting. Who likes to feel constricted? More so, I have an issue with salads that aren't enough to satisfy you for your whole meal.

This is not one of those salads.

Let me tell you - this salad was amazing! So full of flavor and filling. I'm not one to go on and on about how great salads are (because I used to loathe those people and think they were lying to themselves, see above), but this is good. Especially when you top it with a homemade Lightened-Up Blue Cheese Dressing.

Chopped Chicken Salad
Recipe by Call Me Mrs. Rapp
Serves 2-4, depending on portions
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*2 cups baby spinach
*8 romaine leaves, chopped
*2 chicken breasts, cooked (I poached mine and it was perfect!) and sliced into bite-size chunks
*3 pieces bacon, cooked and crumbled
*2 roma tomatoes, chopped
*1 avocado, seeded and chopped
*1/2 cup green beans, cooked (I roasted mine, see below)

If poaching your chicken, see this post on how to do it. It's easy and a super healthy way to cook it - no oils or frying required!

If roasting your green beans, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss green beans with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast until crisp. Anywhere from 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven. 

*Toss spinach, romaine, chicken, bacon, tomatoes, avocado and green beans in a large bowl, making sure ingredients are evenly distributed. 

*Serve in individual bowls or plates and top with your favorite dressing. I used my Lightened-Up Blue Cheese Dressing.

Some of the fixings
ready to be served
close up
leftover lunch! with lightened-up blue cheese dressing :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

FF: We're Not Bears

Happy Fit Friday!

I've been thinking about this post ever since John and I took a trip to Chicago for a little mini getaway. We ate a fabulous meal at Adobo Grill before heading to an awesome sketch comedy show at Second City. I had a great Tlayuda (Mexican Pizza) - I recreated in a lightened-up version here - but it was massive. John and I could have easily split it and been completely full.

Problem was, it was sooo darn tasty that I wanted to keep eating it, even though my stomach was screaming, "digestion time, please!" So I shared some with John and then stared longingly at the two remaining pieces.

Look how yummy I am! Polish this plate! (My internal dialogue for the food. You're welcome.)
Once we left the restaurant, I completely forgot about them and was so glad I decided not to eat the rest of my food. Yes I wanted them because they were tasty. But I really was full, and I felt good about my decision to not overdo it.

As I've worked at being healthier by eating better and incorporating exercise into my routine, I've enjoyed seeing the results and feeling them too. Did I see them as quickly as I wanted to? Absolutely not. In fact I was pretty discouraged the first month because I didn't think there was a difference. So I made some changes. I added consistent strength training to my cardio routine, and I started managing my portions better.

Big little plate
Studies show we're programmed to think we need to finish everything on our plates. Be it from childhood and being told to eat everything before you could leave the table, or from a biological survival reaction. But the thing is...We're not bears. We don't hibernate. We don't need to eat as if we're not going to see food for six months.

Listening to your stomach requires more thought - and time. Eating slower and starting with smaller portions can help you judge how hungry you actually are. Give your body the time it needs to determine if it wants or needs the food.

One strategy that has truly helped me to achieve the difficult task of portion control? Using a smaller plate. It sounds so simple, but it really works! Instead of using our large plates and filling it, I use our small side plates (see above picture). That way, I can fill up the plate and feel like I'm not scrimping on food. It was frustrating to look at a half full large plate, or fill it with too much food and eat it all.
Image via Pinterest
Something equally important is recognizing that one serving may not be what is staring back at you. Take chicken breasts for example. They are huge nowadays! One serving of a chicken breast should be the size of a deck of cards. When was the last time your chicken breast was that size? I bet it's close to twice that size. When that's the case for me, I start with half the chicken breast and eat all my veggies before deciding if I really need the rest or if I just want it.

Need more reasons to cut your portions? A 2004 study of 329 overweight people found that 38% of those who practiced portion control for two years lost 5% or more of body weight, compared with 33% of participants who did not (they gained 5% or more of body weight).(Source)

So, my hopes are that with this post you're inspired to see portion sizes as a tool to help you live your best life, not as something to be disappointed in. In honor of that, I've linked up easy recipes that are great for helping with portion sizes. Happy - and healthy! - eating!

Clockwise from left:
Cheesy Chicken Pot Pie Cups, Simple Stuffed Red Peppers,
Egg & Veggie Quiche Cups, Tlayuda (Mexican Pizza)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Garlic & Basil-Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower

Hey friends! I've got another awesome roasted veggies recipe for you! Ever since I made the most amazing roasted green beans I've become obsessed with roasting vegetables. I love how crispy it makes the veggies, while also adding sweetness and loads of flavor to the vegetable. If you haven't tried it yet, now is the time!

I swear I was never someone who told other people how amazing vegetables are. (Jessie and Rachael can back me up!) But as I've worked toward leading a healthier life I've really enjoyed how it feels to eat healthy. I'm full longer, have more energy and my body feels great.

Now, when I wasn't eating this way I called BS (bologna sandwich) when people said all this mumbo jumbo. But give it a few weeks and I swear you'll agree. Do it with me! We can conform together and feel great about ourselves. I'm already starting to. Join me!

Forgive my pictures...I took them when they came out of the oven, but not again after I had actually set them out to eat. They were my lunch all week, and I apparently was too hungry to remember to photograph them. Whoops!

Garlic & Basil-Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower
Recipe by Call Me Mrs. Rapp
Serves 3-6, depending on portions
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*1 head broccoli, cut into florets
*1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
*1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
*1/2 tsp. salt
*1/2 tsp. minced onion
*1/2 tsp. dried basil
*1/2 tsp. garlic powder
*1/4 tsp. pepper 
*1/4 cup finely shredded cheese (I used extra-extra sharp cheddar and parmesan for maximum flavor with minimum amount of cheese) 

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

*Spread broccoli and cauliflower florets onto sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle seasonings on top. Mix on sheet pan.

*Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until tender and slightly crisp.

*Remove from the oven and sprinkle with some cheese, if you'd like. I 

Seasoned and ready to go


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