Monthly Archives: August 2011

Worth Talking About Wednesday, 8/31

Another week, another edition of “Worth Talking About Wednesday!”

This week’s WTAW is a little of this, a little of that. I apologize for that randomness, but the awesomeness should make up for it.

Coconut Manna

I bought this on a whim a few week back when there was a sale and a coupon to go along with it. I was kind of skeptical about what I would use it with, but I’ve fallen in love.

Specifically, I’m obsessed with chocolate protein powder + banana + coconut manna smoothies. For proof of just how obsessed I really am, the jar’s almost empty after less than one month.

Moderate Weather

Ok, it’s not exactly “moderate” all the time yet.

Case and point: Tomorrow’s supposed to be 100+ degrees.

But, we have had a few moderate days, which has allowed me to take some work outside. I’m so much more productive out there without “Teen Mom” or “Keeping Up With The Kardashian’s” to distract me.

Plus, Tracker makes really good company!

New Hairstyles

I have a pretty standard rotation of hairstyles. Curls some days, straight hair others. Pony tails when I’m lazy, a braid when I’m “mixing it up.”

I need to learn a few more tricks to add some jazz to the routine. Thank goodness for inspiration from another one of my recent obsessions, Pinterest!

Fitted Running Pants

Running the Lincoln Half-Marathon in May.

This is the most random among ’em all, but still worth mentioning.

Similar to skinny jeans, I used to think that I “couldn’t do” fitted running pants. I figured that I would just look awkward and weird.

But, since finding a pair that fits (and then buying two extra), I’ve fallen in love. For some reason, I feel extra aerodynamic and chafing is a thing of the past.

Family Time

Family vacation, circa 2006.

This weekend, I’m going down to Arkansas with my parents and sister.

Unfortunately, Dan has to stay behind and work. I’m sad about that, but I am still looking forward to some quality time with my mom, dad and sis.

The main reason for us going down there is so that my sister can visit the University of Arkansas. But, we’re squeezing a few other fun things in there!

Question: What do you think is worth talking about this week?

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25 Lessons

When I stumbled upon this list of “25 Lessons I Wish I Had Learned Way Sooner,” I knew it was basically written for me.

1. 1-in-4 people who you meet won’t like you. That’s really OK. Gosh, is this true! I used to be so worried about what people thought of me, that I ended up not acting like myself. I think it’s better to just be “me” and accept that not every person will be my fan.

2. Life isn’t fair. Most of the time it’s not fair in your favor, so don’t whine about life not being fair.

3. Save your money. I think I’m pretty good at this and it’s already paying off — No pun intended. Dan and I are both on the same page about being savings-oriented, but we also don’t see the point in stockpiling up so much money that we die rich and boring.

Spring break camping. A lot of fun, not much money!

4. No one knows what you’re thinking unless you tell them. I’d dare say that the majority of conflicts with anyone are because of failures to communicate. The best thing I can do is to voice my thoughts (not in an obnoxious way) before major issues arise.

5. Perfectionism will kill you. Seriously. If I kept up my old ways, I’d die as a very successful 40-year-old.

6. You’re stronger than you think you are. I don’t know about that, but I know how to ask for help when I really need it.

7. You think that sexism and racism were in the olden days. They’re not.

8. Comparing yourself to others is never a good idea. I admit: I still have to tell myself this daily. It’s so easy to fall into the comparison-trap, but it does nothing except provide a kick to my self-esteem.

9. When someone shows you who they are, believe them. People are consistent. I don’t know how many times I thought, “I should give them a chance,” when “they” started are undeniable jerks. Shockingly, I always end up kind of hurt.

10. Develop critical thinking skills and use them.

11. Never hide your intelligence from anyone. But, I think it’s also important to add that you shouldn’t always flaunt it. No one likes that.

12. Trust your instincts. I’ve gone against the grain on some thing, but they are usually the things that make me happiest. (Hello, getting married at 20!)

13. 80% of everything is irrelevant

14. Spend WAY less time worrying about the shape of your body. As far as I’ve come in my journey with health, body-conscious thoughts still creep into my mind more frequently than I would like. Now, though, I retaliate with “feel good” statements such as, “My thighs may be bigger, but without them, I wouldn’t be such a strong runner.”

15. Stay away from credit cards. I developed an extreme stigma against credit cards when I was younger. Now, I see they have some purpose, but I’m still extremely careful.

16. There are lots of men who will be nice to you. Accept nothing less. I could have learned this sooner, but then I may not have met the best guy of them all.

17. Be nicer to yourself, too. Easier said than done, right?

18. For the most part, it doesn’t matter what people think. Follow your own truth.

19. No education is wasted. Drink in as many new experiences as you can. I think this is definitely true for both classroom lessons and worldly lessons.

20. Pay your dues. Work hard. This ties back to the saying, “nothing good comes easy.” On the times I have tried to scrape by, it’s just come back to bite me in the butt.

21. Networking is critical. I’m kind of banking on this come next spring when I have to find a job.

22. Letting go of control is liberating. Try it. I can’t do everything. Sorry, but admitting that is one of the best things in the world. It’s also good to say “no” every now and then.

23. Don’t treat anyone badly. You’ll be surprised when they’ll pop up again in your life. Also, I think it’s important to just be a little extra nice and generous to people every now and then — You don’t know what kind of craziness they’re dealing with. Dan’s really good at this, so I’ve learned a lot from him.

24. Do what you love, not what you think you’re supposed to do. Hallelujah! I’d even turn this around to say, “What you love is what you’re supposed to do.” Everyone has their place.

25. Don’t forget to enjoy your journey!

[source]

Questions: Which “lesson” resonates with you? What do you wish you knew sooner?


His and Her’s Quesadilla Casserole

Dan and I are like two peas in a pod.

We love being active together, whether it’s through races, bike rides or hikes.

We love traveling together, whether it’s a camping trip in the Ozarks or a cruise through the Bahamas.

We even love eating together… Except, that’s where it can get a little complicated.

With meat-eating him and vegetarian me, failing to plan out meals would mean me making two separate options and spending twice as long in the kitchen. That’s no good for our bank accounts or our relationship!

So, instead of going down that path, I make an effort to plan out meals that satisfy both of our cravings. Often, I do this by making a big veggie dish, such as pasta or a casserole, and then serving a roasted chicken breast or fish fillet on the side.

Other times, I split the meal right down the middle and use the same ingredients to create two different entrees. That way, I’m not spending double the amount of money and it only costs me five extra minutes in the kitchen. That’s doable… And delicious for both of us.

Quesadilla Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 8 whole-wheat tortillas
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 C salsa
  • 1 packet low-sodium taco seasoning, divided
  • 1/2 C water, divided
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (<< veggie version)
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (<<meat version)
  • 1 C cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 C Monterey-Jack cheese

Directions:

  • Slice tortillas in half. Brush with olive oil on both sides.

  • Preheat broiler with the oven rack 4″ from the top. Arrange tortillas a baking sheet and broil for ~2 minutes, until lightly browned. Flip and repeat. Keep a close eye on the tortillas. They brown quickly!

  • Place tortillas on a cooling sheet and set aside.
  • Coat two separate pans with olive oil. Heat on the stove top over medium-high.
  • In one pan, cook ground beef thoroughly. Once cooked, add in 1/4 C water and half the packet of taco seasoning.
  • In other pan, warm black beans. Add in 1/4 C water and other half the packet of taco seasoning. Be sure to use a different spatula than the one used with the beef!

  • Allow both beans and beef to simmer with taco seasoning until the water is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Spread a thin layer of salsa on the bottom of one loaf pan. Add one tortilla half. Top with black beans, handful of cherry tomatoes, ~1/4 C cheese and a little more salsa. Add another tortilla half and repeat two more layers. Top with a fourth tortilla half, salsa and cheese.
  • Spread a thin layer of salsa on the bottom of another loaf pan. Add one tortilla half. Top with beef, handful of cherry tomatoes, ~1/4 C cheese and a little more salsa. Add another tortilla half and repeat two more layers. Top with a fourth tortilla half, cheese and salsa.

  • Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted.

It’s as easy as that! Dirtying just two more pans is so worth it to make a marriage thrive.

(This dish is also very easy to make all veggie or all beef. Just double it to two cans of black beans or 2 lbs. beef and bake in a full-sized casserole dish.)

Question: Do you cook any “divisible” dishes?


Homemade Mocha Frappuccino

After making it through the first week of school, Dan and I were ready to get away from all the hustle and bustle of Lawrence. To escape, we headed to the edge of town with the goal of finding a new trail to run.

We scanned a few trail maps and came up with a plan. Then, off we went!

We ran about 20 minutes out and 20 minutes back, which easily put us at more than four miles. Unfortunately, I forgot to start my watch until midway through, so I don’t have any exact information.

That was ok, though. We just enjoyed the scenery and some quality time with Tracker.

Compared with the streets, it felt really cool and breezy to run on the trails… At least at first. By the time we were done, Dan, Tracker and I were h-o-t.

Dan and I got some water, but Tracker had her own way to cool back down.

Trail runs might epitomize “fun” to everyone, but it was a great way to kick off the weekend for us. In fact, it was definitely my second favorite part of the day.

That’s right. There was something even more awesome.

Homemade Mocha Frappuccino

Ingredients:

  • 1 C chocolate soy milk (alternatively, skim chocolate milk or regular milk for a non-mocha frappuccino)
  • 4-5 iced coffee ice cubes
  • 1 C iced coffee

Directions:

  • Prepare 2 cups of iced coffee, which is brewed to double-strength and chilled in the refrigerator.
  • Once chilled, freeze 1 cup worth of iced coffee in an ice-cube tray.
  • In a blender, combine chocolate soy milk with coffee ice cubes. Blend until ice cubes are broken down. Add in iced coffee, blend to mix everything thoroughly.

Similar to the trail run, this felt like a major end-of-the-week treat. But, in reality, it is quite healthy with 30% of the daily recommended value of calcium.

Plus, there is less than one-third of the 65 grams of sugar in a nonfat, grande vanilla Frappuccino from Starbucks.

Now, that’s a treat that I’ll feel free to indulge in on any Friday… Or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday.

Questions: What are your favorite end-of-the-week indulgences? What’s your favorite coffee-house drink?


Friday Fragments: “Maggies Goes on a Diet”

For a period of time, I was convinced that our new address was only forwarded to utility companies. As delightful as you might think it is to open the box to a new bill, I really disagree. I much prefer things of a happier, less “give me your money” nature.

That’s why I was so pleased today to come home from class to find not one, not two, but three awesome parcels of mail.

First up were my brand new, ultra-cool business cards, which I ordered from Vistaprint.

I know if someone else had these, I would be all like, “Dang, girl. Why you so cool?”

Next was an invitation to one of my best childhood friend’s weddings. She came all the way to Kansas for mine, so I’m going to try my hardest to get to Michigan in October!

Finally, there was a big package addressed to us from our wedding photographer. It could only mean one thing…

The wedding album!

Crazy to think that I have my album before most newlyweds even have their pictures back from the photographer. Just goes to show how awesome she was!

I will admit, though, it was pretty tough to go through the hundreds of pictures and choose out my few favorites. We are just so nice to look at.

Now, for some other news…

Friday Fragments: “Maggie Goes on a Diet.”

I look back fondly on the bedtime stories that my mom used to read my sister and me. “Goodnight Moon,” “The Growing Tree” and “Corduroy” were a few of our favorites.

Imagine if “Maggie Goes on a Diet” was also on that list…

That’s right: Author Paul M. Kramer’s newest book, aimed at children between the ages of 6-9, is about a self-conscious little girl who decides to — you guessed it — go on a diet. I can’t make that kind of ridiculousness up.

Understandably, the book, which will be released in October, has already sparked controversy.

Reportedly, the storyline is of a young girl who finds comfort in food. After being harassed at school and called a “fatty,” she decides to lose weight. To deal with it, she learns more about healthy eating and exercise. Eventually, the pounds come off and she goes on to be a soccer star. Hooray, hooray.

To me, what’s most distressing about the book is the imagery. I hope to never, ever see a young girl with such low self-esteem — even if she is a cartoon on the front of a book. Instead, I think we need to send children messages and information that will boost their confidence.

I also disagree with the use of the word “diet.” Maybe Kramer lives under a rock, but “dieting” generally has a negative connotation. I don’t even think it should be part of a child’s vocabulary.

All I think the word does is incite people — especially under-informed young people — to be extreme about weight loss. Although that is an opinion, there seems to be some evidence backing it up: Eating disorders in children under 12 have risen 119 percent in the past decade, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The only redeeming quality of the book appears to be the messages about healthy eating and exercise. I do think those concepts can be taught to children in positive ways. However, saying that this book “misses the mark” is an understatement.

Question: What do you think?

Source: “Do Little Girls Need Diet Books?”


Breakfast Chocolate Rice Pudding

Back in my days as a single lady, I got used to dealing with a lot of leftovers.

One day’s sheet of roasted vegetables made the next day’s wrap fillings.

One night’s mashed sweet potatoes made the next day’s Shepard’s pie topping.

One evening’s batch of cookies made the next night’s… cookie. (<< Don’t mess with a good thing!)

Sadly, since moving in with a man, leftovers have basically become a thing of the past. So, when there was some unseasoned brown rice to spare at the end of our dinner a few days ago, it was cause for celebration.

Or, at least, a good reason to make a fun, new breakfast.

Chocolate Rice Pudding

You didn’t read that wrong, either: This is really an awesome breakfast recipe!

I know what you’re thinking, “Chocolate for breakfast? Hello, sugar high!”

On the contrary, although there is big chocolate taste, there isn’t any table sugar in this recipe. Instead, the faint bit of sweetness comes from one tablespoon of maple syrup. That’s doable, right?

Better yet, by consuming cocoa in its unsweetened form, you’re getting some major nutritional rewards: According to Harvard researchers, among other benefits, cocoa can help decrease blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.

Cheerios, schmerios…

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C unsweetened almond milk (alternatively, any milk)
  • 2/3 C cooked brown rice, cooled (<< leftovers!)
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 1 T cocoa
  • 1 t cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • ~1 T pure maple syrup

Directions:

  • In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer, stirring constantly.
  • Add in rice and vanilla. Return to a simmer and continue stirring for 3-5 minutes, until mixture thickens.
  • In a small bowl, stir together cinnamon, cocoa, cornstarch and pinch of salt. Stir into simmering rice mixture. Continue stirring for an additional 2-4 minutes, until desired thickness is attained.
  • Remove from heat and mix in maple syrup.

Notes: This makes two side servings, which would pair well with fresh fruit, or one large breakfast serving.

I actually had this breakfast on my first day of school and it kept me filled, focused and (mostly) enthusiastic all the way until noon. Then it was time to break into the brown bagged lunch that I half-heartedly prepared.

I say “half-heartedly” because, as much as I thrive on routine, it is still an adjustment to get back into the swing of classes. I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can, since I know I won’t have it to fall back on next year.

Then, I’ll have to figure out life. Just don’t get me started on that topic unless you want to see a face like this…

Questions: What do you like to do with leftovers? Any good leftover reinventions?


Worth Talking About Wednesday

Lately, I’ve been redirecting the blog away from daily images of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Instead, I’m trying to focus more in ideas, recipes and other health related topics. By doing this, I hope to improve the quality of my posts while maintaining the quantity. Ambitious, I know…

I just hope you bear with me!

As part of this transition, I’m also instituting a new weekly segment called “Worth Talking About Wednesday.” Naturally, these posts will run on Wednesday and will look back on some of the things that I couldn’t get off my mind during the past week.

To kick this inaugural post off…

Graeter’s Ice Cream

Graeter’s is a Ohio original that I fell in love with while living near Columbus. Back in the day, I was known to order an “1870 Classic Sundae,” which was composed of a chocolate bundt cake, hot fudge, ice cream, homemade whipped cream, nuts and a cherry…

Sadly, upon moving from Ohio, I thought my Graeter’s days were done. That was until last year when my grocery store began carrying commercial pints. I knew I had to get my hands on some, but the price is pretty steep. Finally, they went on sale this week, so I stocked up!

(Hi, Tracker!)

“Irresistible” is really right! I love the creaminess of the ice cream, but it’s the huge chocolate chunks that really make me swoon. I just have to practice a little moderation to deal with the nutritional splurge.

Peas and Thank You Cookbook

I’ve been a Mama Pea devotee for a couple of years now, so I basically had to buy her new cookbook. Upon getting it in my hands, I was not disappointed — It is a home run!

And, I should know… I’ve already made, like, half of the recipes.

My favorite yet is the chocolate silk pie, which I adapted by using my own pie crust recipe and topped with strawberries.

Homegrown herbs

For what our garden lacks in size, it makes up for in quality. Seriously, I love the convenience of picking fresh herbs from our balcony. I also take a little extra pride in growing part of my meals.

I just can’t wait until Dan and I have more land so that we can try our green thumbs on fruits and veggies!

Tracker

This goes without saying, but does bear repeating: I love my dog.

It’s fun to learn more and more about her personality, although I could do with her being less of a chair hog. The sad thing is that we continue to reward her for goofy ways… Look at her jungle of toys!

Yes, that is a lion, an elephant and a giraffe.

Going Back to School

It is seriously the beginning of the end. I can’t belive that I am a senior in college!

Similar to last semester, I have a cushy little schedule of just Tuesday/Thursday class. That doesn’t mean I’m taking it easy: I technically have four jobs!

Wish me luck!

Question: What do you think is worth talking about this week?