Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Goal Recap: Celebrating the month!

Well, I started this month extremely ambitiously with a list of goals that I wanted to accomplish in the month of February.  I made a long list, knowing that I likely wouldn't get to all of them, but with the overall goal of keeping busy and staying focused on things that were important to me.  It comes as no surprise to me personally, and likely not to you either (since I disappeared for half the month!) that I was not able to check everything off the list.

However, rather than focus on the items I didn't achieve, I want to talk about some of my accomplishments of the month.  And in the spirit of "The Biggest Loser" and the season of "no excuses" I won't make excuses for the things that I didn't achieve, but I will say that partly it was because-- I went on vacation!!  Which, is something I will never apologize for :)  I spent 10 days in the beautiful, sunny state of California, which I will tell you all about in another post.  As for my accomplishments in February 2012:

- Increased cardio.  I had some really nice runs this month!  I ran outside a number of times and each time I did I ran further than the last time, ranging from 4.5-5.5 miles, which is GREAT for me.  I'm getting super excited for warmer weather and more opportunity to run outdoors.  As well, I will have to start training for the TRIATHLON that I signed up for!!

- Brought lunch to work every day.  I spent a lot of time this month focusing on meal planning, which is important to me, and making sure I had healthy lunches and dinners planned.  Although I did eat out for 10 days of the month while on vacation, I cooked and brought in lunches every day I was in the office!  And planning my meals meticulously was helped by the fact that I organized my recipe binder and also meant that I did not throw out any food this month!

- I gave up coffee.  I have a post planned for later this week that I meant to post earlier this month about why I will be a little more lenient with this resolution in coming months, however, I stayed coffee free the whole month.  I got a number of iced teas from Starbucks and brewed plenty of my own tea, but I am happy to say I stayed coffee-free and felt great the whole month.

- I also achieved a number of my smaller goals such as recycling bottles at the grocery store.  I celebrated my friends with cards for birthdays and Valentine's Day to hopefully let them know a little bit how much they mean to me.  I finished a book I was in the middle of, called "Honeymoon with My Brother."  I began and finished Monica Seles' autobiography "Getting a Grip."  And I am now in the middle of the book "First You Try Everything" by Jane McCafferty

I am proud of what I achieved this month and am working on pulling together my list of goals for March 2012.  It should be an exciting month for me as there are a lot of new things going on in my life.  I will hopefully share more about that in the future, as well as a recap of my vacation!

Happy Leap Day everybody and welcome to March :)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I'm doing a triathlon!!!

So, ladies and gentleman of blog world, I have something that I am pretty excited to share with you.  This summer I am officially going to be doing something that I have ALWAYS wanted to and have ALWAYS dreamed of accomplishing but always felt it was out of my reach.  Today I registered to race in a Sprint Triathlon in August!  That's right, .5 miles of swimming, 14.5 miles of biking, and 3.1 miles of running.  Back to back.  All by me :)  I am so excited for this upcoming challenge and really excited to push myself as the race gets closer and I begin to train. 

I have officially registered!!!!
As I break this race down and think about the different components, I think that they will each represent something different and something special to me.  To start, the swim portion.  I grew up nearby to the ocean and with parents and grandparents who were both into boating.  Family vacations, gatherings and summer days always involved water and swimming.  I joined my first swim team when I was six years old and swam competitively year round on various teams starting from the age of eight.  In high school I swam for my high school team and also began life guarding, where I also spent time teaching swim lessons.  When I went to college I left the world of competitive swimming but continued to keep the pool a part of my life by swimming laps in the Syracuse University pool and working part time teaching swim lessons at the local YMCA. 

The years since I have graduated have been the first time in my life that I haven't been in the pool regularly.  Ironically, after this past year of working out intensely, I think it is fair to say that I am currently in the best physical shape of my life.  I am really looking forward to breaking back out the cholorine-removing shampoo, getting back in the water and seeing just what this body of mine can do.  The picture below is of me and one of my closest friends who I swam with for years and years, this summer at my grandmother's pool.  I don't have any of my old swimming pictures scanned and on my computer!

Biking is also something that has been a part of my life for a long time.  As with most kids, pre-license days were filled with bike rides with my friends.  I often used my bike to get to the pool for swim practices or to just go out for a sandwich with friends.  I also had some earlier experience with more hardcore riding, attending two years of a biking summer camp that took me miles and miles over both Newport and Martha's Vineyard.  Last summer I bought a hybrid bike for the first time in my adult life and have spent the past 2 summers incorporating long rides into my weekly exercise routine.  I feel comfortable and confident with what I can do on a bike with some training.  Again, the picture below I know is not sporty, but it is the only picture of me on a bike that I have on my computer!  It was me during a bike tour of Munich in 2009 :)

Running is what has always been a challenge to me.  Never in my life have I ever considered myself to be a runner.  In elementary school, I was the founder of what I called the "Slow Poke's Club" for the days during Gym class when we were required to run.  You could find me in the back of the pack strolling along with whoever was feeling ill that day or who I could convince that the "Slow Poke's Club" was a really exclusive group that they wanted to be a part of.  My aversion to running continued with me through middle school, high school, and college.  Running a mile was a challenge for me.  Wait, let me revise that, even running a HALF mile was a challenge.  And I tried.  I remember distinctly going for runs with friends in college, trying to push myself, signing up for a 5K with my mom and walk-running my way through, etc.  I just could not seem to keep myself moving. 

I don't know what got into me the day 3 years ago that I decided not to settle for "not being a runner" and downloading a Couch to 5K program and committing to running a 3.5 mile road race.  Although I struggled a bit at first with some knee pain, I attended physical therapy to strengthened my knee, and kept at it. Even though that very first race, I wasn't able to complete it running the whole thing, I didn't give up.  I signed up for another race.  And THAT one I finished.  With friends watching and cheering and celebrating with me at the finish line.  It was an amazing feeling. 

Celebrating with another running friend the evening of my very first 5K!

Here I am years later, with multiple 5Ks and two 10Ks under my belt -- I am running at a pace more than 2 minutes faster than where I started and on the verge of breaking a 30 minute 5K time.

A pic my Dad snapped of me at the Thanksgiving Gobble Wobble 2011

Tackling the giant that running had been to me, I feel like I can accomplish anything.  While that delusion is still in my brain, I plan to exploit it for all it is worth.  So on August 4th I will be bringing all of these different portions of my life and forms of exercise together to participate in my first triathalon, the Fronhofer Tool Triathlon.  A half mile of swimming, 14.5 miles of biking, and 3.1 miles of running... you've got nothing on me.  Here I come!

For those of you in the Upstate NY region, if you'd like to race with me, you can register here!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Healthy Vegetable Fried Rice Recipe

So, this is something that I was having an intense craving for lately and decided I really wanted to cook it myself.  I've seen a number of recipes for "healthy" fried rice around and I knew that if I loaded it up with veggies, I'd be able to have a really healthy meal for a low amount of points.  In fact, I went a little overboard in my mind and when I started cooking this meal, I was originally planning on making only 2 servings.  However, about halfway through I realized just how much vegetables I was cooking.  I last minute decided to double the amount of rice I had planned to use and make 4 servings with a good vegetable-to-rice ratio rather than 2 servings of mostly vegetables with a little bit of rice mixed in.

I chose not to use any meat even though this is a main dish due to preference.  I don't often cook meat for myself and prefer veggies just fine.  I also knew that I would be getting some protein from the egg in the dish (albeit not much... but it is there!)  I swear, this is one of the most delicious dishes I have eaten in a while-- at home or in a restaurant.  It was SO good and really filling, which is why I am immediately here blogging it for you.  Seriously, my empty plate is still sitting next to me!  I couldn't wait to share it!

And yes, I ate it all with chopsticks!

Vegetable Fried Rice
Serves: 4
Weight Watchers PointsPlus value: 7 per serving

- 1 cup (uncooked) brown rice
- 2 eggs
- 2 red bell peppers
- 1 large white onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 small can sliced water chestnuts
- 1 cup chopped or shredded carrots
- 2 broccoli crowns
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- Soy sauce
- Ground white pepper

Step 1: In its own pot, cook the brown rice according to the instructions on the box/bag (depending on whether you bought instant or stovetop, cooking instructions will vary.  However, do not add salt or butter to the rice.  When the rice is cooked, fluff, and then set aside.

Step 2: In a large wok over medium heat,  first spray the wok with some non-stick spray and then add about 1/4 cup of broth and the broccoli florets.  I covered the wok so that the broccoli could steam a little bit and also keep all of the flavor in one pot.  However, you could certainly just steam the broccoli on its own.  Steam the broccoli for about 3-4 minutes until it is bright green and still maintaining a bit of crunch.  You want the stems of the broccoli to still be a bit firm and not fully cooked so that it will hold together in the fried rice.

Step 3: Remove the broccoli from the wok and set aside.  Add about another 1/4 cup of broth at this time. Be sure to keep enough liquid in the wok at all times for the vegetables to cook in.   You are essentially replacing broth as oil for the stir fry.  Add your red pepper and onions.  I wanted to have big vegetable pieces in my rice so I cut the vegetables to about an inch or 1/2 an inch pieces (sorry I didn't take any pictures of just the vegetables!)  You can cut them into whatever sizes you would like.

Step 4: When the pepper and onion have gotten soft and the onion is translucent, add more broth, the chopped garlic, carrots, and water chestnuts.  Stir and recover the wok for about 5 minutes.

Step 5: Okay, here is where it starts to get interesting.  Move your vegetables up along the sides of the wok so that you have a small circle on the bottom of the pan.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then crack 2 eggs into the bottom of the pan.  Picture is below:

Step 5
Step 6: Begin to scramble the eggs right where they are to incorporate the yolk and the whites together and start to cook the egg.  Slowly incorporate the vegetables into the cooking egg and stir all the vegetables and the egg together.  Be sure to fully cook the eggs.

Step 6
Step 7: Next, turn the heat down to low and then stir in the cooked rice that had been set aside.

Step 7
Step 8: Sprinkle a small amount of ground white pepper over the stop and add about 1/8 cup soy sauce drizzled over the top.  Stir in the pepper and soy sauce.  This step very much has to do with taste.  Take a bite of the fried rice and see how the flavor is.  Add more soy sauce if desired.  Soy sauce has a lot of salt so be careful with how much you add yourself. You do not salt the meal. If you are serving more than one person with this dish, I would recommend adding soy sauce sparingly and put the soy sauce on the table for guests to use on their own if desired.

Step 9: Serve and enjoy!


As a side note... I cannot believe I initially thought that this was going to make only 2 servings.  Good thing this was delicious, I know what I will be eating for the next few meals :)  As a side note... I also wanted to point out how you can save yourself some prep time.  For this meal, it may have seemed like a lot of chopping but it really wasn't that bad.  I had chopped the carrots earlier in the week when cutting up carrot sticks for snacks.  I also was able to prep some food to use tomorrow morning in an omelet while preparing this dinner.  You can see my onion, red pepper and broccoli on the side and see that I portion my meals out right away into single serve Tupperware containers to save myself time later.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Small confession.

This morning I was rereading yesterday's post (yes, I'm lame) and started to feel guilty about one part of my blog entry that was not entirely true.  I know that nobody would ever be able to call me on this but I have a guilty conscious and wanted to confess.

Yesterday after work I was not doing errands.  I was getting a pedicure.  Not being productive. *Sigh*

I don't know why I wrote that I was running "errands" but I felt that it was import to come clean.  So, there it is, now you know :)  Happy Friday blog friends!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Why I love "combination" meals & my Super-Quick Couscous and Asparagus Combo!

Today I'm posting another one of my recipes that really isn't a recipe.  I sometimes feel like I'm almost admitting to the world that I have low-brow tastes by posting what I eat on here, but hey, this is me, take it or leave it :)

I've been eating this "combination" for almost 4 years now and I love it.  If I've said it once, I've said it a million times (BTW... what does that cliche even really mean literally?).  I am a volume eater.  I love to be able to have a big bowl of food in front of me and am comforted by that hand-to-mouth repetitive action.  It is why meals like my spaghetti squash and turkey sausage combination are such a favorite of mine.  I also am a fan of these "all in one" combination meals because they pack well.

Since I am cooking for myself, when I make something like the spaghetti squash meal or the meal I made tonight, before I eat, I split it right in half, putting the 2nd half right into a tupperware container to take to work for lunch the next day or save for dinner the next night.  When cooking for myself, I like combining my starch, protein, and veggie all in one because I get a heaping bowl of food and I don't have to worry about packing the leftovers separately.

This meal is a particular favorite of mine because it is FAST!  Today I did a few errands after work and by the time I walked in the door, I was starving.  I originally was planning on roasting some vegetables and a sweet potato for dinner, but I knew if I had to wait for that to cook, I would have ended up snacking on something in the mean time and I didn't want to do that.  So I went after my go to super fast, super quick meal, couscous and asparagus.

I promise, some day my photos will get better!
I'm not even going to write this out as a "recipe" because I feel that is giving myself far too much credit.  But what I do, is cook one bunch of asparagus from the grocery store by throwing it into a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes. While I am doing that, I make a box of Near East Couscous Mix, which cooks in about 5 minutes (so quick!)  Pretty much every box requires 1 1/4 cups water and a tablespoon of olive oil.  They come with their own seasoning packs. 

After removing the asparagus from the water and patting it dry on my cutting board with a paper towel, I cut it into 1 inch pieces, fluff the couscous, and mix them both together.  [Cooking side note: if I am boiling asparagus to eat on its own, I will take it right from the boiling water and put it into a bowl of ice water.  The ice water stops the cooking and helps your asparagus to stay bright green.  I don't do that step with this recipe because I want it to stay warm since I will be immediately adding it to my dish.  I don't know if this is chef-approved, but it is just what I do!]

Technically, a box of Near East Couscous Mix makes 3 servings that are each 6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points (for the whole box, including the oil used in cooking and the seasonings.)  Since I am eating the entire box in 2 meals and the asparagus is 0 Points, I consider this meal to be 9 Weight Watchers PointsPlus and I honestly love the dish and find it to be really easy and some-what addicting.  Like my turkey sausage obsession, you can swap flavors of Couscous and even vegetables if you want (I've done it with broccoli many times.)

I stock up on boxes of Near East Couscous whenever they are on sale and I love them.  My favorite flavors are "Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil" and "Parmesan."  With tonight's meal I tried a new one, "Wild Mushroom & Herb" -- and although it doesn't quite make the favorites list, it was so good!!  I also have a box of the Mediterranean Curry one that I am dying to try in a meal with perhaps some roasted mushrooms and onion.  Yum!!  (Side note: if you are considering trying any of these, I will say that the one I do not care for is "Broccoli & Cheese," I have never been unhappy with any other flavor.) 

Let me know if you try this meal and I hope you don't think less of me :)  What are your go-to meals when you come home from work starved and need something to eat FAST?  I would love to get some more tips!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It's okay.

Day one of February and my new list of goals to work on and strive for.  I really wanted to be able to start the first day of the month by being a super rock star and thought maybe I should go for gold and file my taxes or read a whole book or go grocery shopping just so I could buy things on sale and use my reusable bags.  However, this is life, and this really isn't about me trying to show off to myself and get these goals does as soon as possible.  I need to not be so hard on myself sometimes. The reason that I gave myself a month for these goals and made so many of them is because they are a work in progress.  I am trying to fit small changes into my life to make myself an overall healthier and happier person.

So, on that sentiment, I would like to say: it is all okay and I did great today.  It's okay...

... that I ate a small piece of chocolate with my lunch today.  It is a treat I sometimes afford myself with lunch and I count the points for it.  It wasn't part of my off-limits "Valentine's Day candy" rule, which I did avoid today when I resisted grabbing a handful of candy hearts from the bowl out in the office today.

... that I left the gym after 10 minutes on the treadmill.  I went to boot camp this morning at 5:30 a.m. and then was on my feet the entire day, which is not normal for me and I was a lot more tired than I realized.  Also, I really pushed myself at boot camp this morning, where we did a fitness test we'd done about a month ago.  I beat all of my previous scores in the test!

... that all I've been talking about lately is how happy I am to have a kitchen to cook in again, yet today I was so happy knowing that I had leftovers to come home to so I wouldn't have to cook tonight.  I was wiped, and to be honest, the mushroom truffle risotto I made last night is DELICIOUS (recipe to come!)

... that I scarfed down my dinner really quickly tonight even though I know I should be trying to eat slower.  I still stayed within my Weight Watchers points range for the day, even pushing aside the craving for a second cup of my fat free hot chocolate I had post-dinner.

Looking forward to tomorrow being a new day.  Hope you all had a great February 1st, and remember, it is okay.