I Love This Thing: Ninja Ultima Blender

Happy super cold Thursday to you all from Minnesota. Right now the temperature reads 5 degrees F and feels like -13 with the windchill. It surely isn’t the weather that makes you want to lace up your shoes and head out for a run, instead I want to be cozied up in my warm house with hot chocolate and a good movie. I can’t complain though because I truly enjoy all of the seasons in Minnesota. As long as you bundle up in the appropriate layers, you will be fine.

Moving on. As you may remember, in September I attended the Healthy Living Summit which was held here in Minneapolis this year. Not only did I have a blast meeting so many wonderful bloggers and hanging out with my best blends, I was also able to meet many of the sponsors and vendors at the event. For the full list of sponsors, you can look here: HLS 2013 Sponsors.

Ninja Kitchen was one of our sponsors. They are the creators of Ninja blenders, food processors, and cooking systems, and the product they were so generous to let me review, the Ninja Ultima Blender.

You may have seen the Ultima in stores or on infomercials; whipping smoothies together and pureeing soups in a matter of seconds. When the kind folks at Ninja Kitchen told me that they would give me a Ninja Ultima to try for myself, I was thrilled!

ninja ultima

 

The Ninja Ultima advertises:

  • 2.5 Peak Horsepower Motor/24,000 RPM***
  • Only blender with Dual Stage Blending
  • Total Crushing & High Speed Cyclonic Blades
  • PRO Variable Speed
  • Gives you a wide range of speeds to 
    create anything from sauces to whole juices!
  • 2 Single Serve Cups with Sip & Seal lids 
    for personalized drinks on the go source

I couldn’t wait to tear into this thing! I have used the large blender for making homemade vegan truffle brownie, which includes walnuts, dates, and cocoa powder. This machine whirls those babies together in no time. I did have to scrape down the sides of the blender in between mixing because the batter was very sticky but that’s to be expected.

 

brownie bites from ninja ultima brownie bites from ninja ultima

 

I’ve also used the large blender for pureeing soups and plan to use it for making homemade tomato sauce in the future. What I love about the Ninja Ultima is that it whips everything together SO quickly and so smoothly.

The large blender has a nice pouring spout so that you aren’t making a mess when you are pouring concoctions out of the blender. Also, every piece of the Ninja Ultima (besides the very base of course) is dishwasher safe! How do you like that?!

This blender offers various speed options, that range from a gentle blend to a total crushing.

What I have gotten the most use out of is the single serving cups. My husband and I both use them almost every day for smoothies. We fill the cups up to the line with fruits, veggies, almond milk, etc, twist on the lid and let it whirl on the blender base. Literally within seconds I have a to-go cup of deliciousness.

 

ninja ultima

 

smoothie in ninja ultima

I use the single serve cup for when I make my two-ingredient pancakes. They whip together so fast and make for perfect pancakes.

two ingredient pancakes made in ninja ultima

I’ve used it to make veggie dip too!

dip made in ninja ultima

The clean-up is a breeze I can’t voice it enough. Seriously, this contraption is pretty amazing. I realize it is a little spendy, but it would be worth every penny for the mess of clean-up and time it saves and especially if you use it as often as we do. It is the most powerful, most efficient blender I have ever owned.

Thank you to Ninja Kitchens for allowing me to review your Ninja Ultima!

Disclaimer:  Ninja Kitchen provided me with a free Ninja Ultima blender to review; however, the opinions on the product are my own.

Weekend Happenings: Soups, Weddings, Family Time

Hello, hello! How was your weekend? Mine was FANTASTIC!

It started on Friday. I made myself a super nummy smoothie in my new Ninja Ultima.

In the smoothie (all frozen fruits and veggies):

  • Kale
  • Blueberries
  • Pineapple
  • Bananas
  • almond milk
  • peanut butter
  • flax-seed
  • cocoa powder

ninja smoothie

 

I gave it a whirl in the Ninja…

ninja

 

So far I have used the Ninja for smoothies and I also used it last night when I made a batch of soup! I love it. It is so efficient! I can’t wait to make nut butters in it. I am hoping the clean up is a lot easier than when I make nut butter in the food processor!

Friday morning I met up with my mom or our annual girl’s day. This year we decided to go to Whole Foods to do some shopping, have lunch at Panera, go for a walk with Abbie around the neighborhood, and just veg out together. It was so nice and so relaxing! I can’t wait for our next one!

Oh, and don’t act surprised when you hear I got the French Onion Soup once again at Panera. It is just my fav! Next time though I might have to try that squash soup, right Katie?

IMG_4199

On Saturday we attended my cousin’s wedding. It was fun getting all dolled up and hanging out with my family for the day.

carolyns wedding collage

On Sunday…more family time! We met up with Dana’s parents in the morning for a while and then went to my parent’s house to hang out with Scott and Nicole before they headed back home. No wonder my weekend was so fabulous, it was full of family time!

In the afternoon I whipped up a batch of veggie soup to eat throughout the week. It’s packed with bone broth, broccoli, green beans, zucchini, onion, carrots, celery and more. I am hoping it turned out well! If so, I will share the recipe!

soup

While the soup cooked, I heated up myself a bowl of four bean quinoa chili from the freezer and added some cheddar cheese to the top. Mmmmm mmmmm! The perfect meal on a cozy Sunday evening.

chili

I have been all about the soups lately. The fall weather has finally nestled in and the forecast is looking like 50’s this week! Bring out the sweaters, slippers, soup, pumpkin scented candles, and let’s get a fire going in the fireplace! Cozy city! LOVE.

What did you do this weekend? Have you been enjoying any soups yet this fall?

Weekend Scenes: St. Anthony Falls, Maca, and Fresh Greens

Happy July! It’s going to take a little while for me to actually believe it’s July but I’ll get there eventually. Once again, the month of June went by in a flash.

Anyway, how was everyone’s weekend? Mine was downright fabulous. It involved a lot  of rest and relaxation. This post jumps around a bit so get ready…

Over the weekend I decided that I will not be following out Option 1 of the Clean Program, but I will be following Option 2 and throwing Option 1 in sometimes. So what the heck does that mean anyway? It means that instead of breakfast and dinner being a smoothie/shake/soup, and lunch being a solid meal, I will now have the option of having solid meals at all three meals just as long as they fit into the foods allowed on the Elimination Diet.

However, for a while I plan on continuing having a smoothie in the morning (that’s easy in the summer), but for the rest of the day, I don’t want to be tied down to the idea of having to have a pureed dinner. This doesn’t mean that I won’t throw one in there time and again to give my digestion an extra little rest, because I will, just not every day.

This fits better with my lifestyle and given that we will be going camping soon, I feel much more comfortable following the elimination diet and Option 2 while we are away versus the two blended meals; that would be extremely difficult. So, I’m still giving my body the detox, just in a more realistic way for me. That’s my plan.

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This weekend I threw together my favorite salmon recipe minus the butter that usually goes with the almonds and capers. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really miss the butter!

grilled salmon

This lunch held me over for a loooong time which was a good thing because Dana and I headed to Minneapolis to go for a little walk around the St. Anthony Main area. If ya’ll come to Minnesota you should really put this area on your must-see list. It is incredibly beautiful, and so full of life and fitness. I imagined what it would be like to live over there and have these great paths at my leisure to run/walk/bike and I got a little jealous of some of my friends who lived over there (ONW) :wink:. It would be so motivating to look out the window and see handfuls of people out being active. It would make me want to go lace up the sneaks and get out there too!

I do truly love where I live too. It’s just different! More suburban-y.

I joked that Moose wasn’t a “city” dog because he was sniffing every other inch of the ground while the other dogs walked along very nicely like they’d been there, sniffed that, a dozen times already.

I enjoyed every second of St. Anthony Falls…

dana melanie

Afterwards we drove over to Lake Nokomis to have a picnic. I made a simple lentil dish with onions, garlic, mushrooms, kale, carrots, cumin, turmeric, oregano, salt and pepper. K, it doesn’t sound that simple after typing all of that out, but really, it was simple to make! I crunched up some cashews on top. Delish!

lentil picnic

 

Moose was really enjoying himself while we picnicked–there were lots of young pup chicks to scope out. He was extremely exhausted at this point too.

moose

 

We learned that he doesn’t enjoy celery…

moose

He really doesn’t like many vegetables we offer (not that we give him people food too often because we really don’t), and that’s probably because of the funny texture. He’s used to his dog food. Mmmm :wink:.

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My newest breakfast smoothie includes a new-to-me ingredient called Maca powder. “Maca is an herbaceous plant native to the high Andean Mountains of Bolivia and Peru.” source

Navitas Naturals Maca Powder

“The maca root was prized throughout the Incan empire for its adaptogenic-like qualities that enable it to nourish and balance the body’s delicate endocrine system, and to help cope with stress. It also energizes naturally, and can aid in helping to balance hormones.” Source

“In the mountainous regions where maca comes from, it is a regular staple in the diet and is often eaten boiled and sliced, similar to potato chips. Other preparations include use as a gruel with milk, and cooked with potatoes, apples, oats, quinoa or fava beans. The roots are also toasted and ground to prepare a maca coffee-like beverage, and fermented cooked and mashed to make a mild homemade beer. Some Peruvians prefer the boiled roots with water, milk, honey and cinnamon. Today, it is possible to find a wide range of products infused with maca, including whiskey, wine, ice cream and cosmetics.

Maca Powder has a pungent and sweet nutty taste with hints of butterscotch flavor. It can be mixed easily into smoothies, shakes and juices for a flavorful and healthy boost, and it can also be added to desserts and baked goods.” Source

I am all about any natural ways I can try to regulate the hormonal system and I’m really enjoying this Maca!

Unfortunately with the Elimination Diet I cannot have bananas because this would be a great addition to a banana smoothie, but since I can’t, I’ve had to come up with other ways to include it in smoothies. Here is my latest concoction:

Superfood Smoothie

  • kale
  • frozen blueberries
  • almond milk
  • maca powder
  • 100% raw cacao powder
  • cinnamon
  •  a touch of stevia to taste

smoothie

I am having so much fun learning about these different superfoods and natural remedies! Come on body, let’s start to normalize!

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On Sunday we headed to a local Farmer’s Market to stock up on fresh herbs that I will be using this week to prepare our camping meals! We are going to be eating like royalty while we camp. I am going to try to include some recipes for you all when I am away. They are all “clean” but anyone can enjoy them!

We bought dill, parsley, cilantro, zucchini, green onion, and asparagus; all Minnesota grown. MMm mmm. So fresh!

farmers market farmers market

I used the asparagus to make an asparagus leek soup for Dana and myself last night (yes, we ate hot soup on an 80 degree day which is why I’m changing my Clean Plan like I told you earlier).

I don’t have the recipe for ya because it isn’t my most favorite soup ever, but the ingredients were: asparagus, leeks, kale, cashews, water, thyme, bay leaves salt, pepper, and coconut milk.

asparagus leek soup

 

The flavor was actually really good but I just made it too thin.

We took Moose to the dog park and did some yard work and then relaxed for the evening. It was a wonderful weekend. The weather was perfect which made me oh so happy!

I have exciting and fun news to share with you all this week (hopefully tomorrow) about a fitness opportunity to all you local gals! Keep your eyes peeled for it. 😉

How was YOUR weekend?!

Go Green Tropical Smoothie

HAAAPPPY GOOD FRIDAY! This week really flew by for me and I’m not complaining about it one bit.

melanie

 

We are going to have one VERY relaxing Easter weekend! We already celebrated Easter with Dana’s family last weekend, so this weekend we will be celebrating with my family on Sunday. Tonight we have zero plans, and tomorrow we are going to do some spring cleaning! Yes, I’m excited about it. I’m hoping it’ll be nice enough that we can open the windows and let the “winter air” out of the house.

I’ve been loving my new NutriBullet. I whipped up another smoothie and have been having fun mixing in different veggies and finding combinations that keep my taste buds intrigued Yesterday’s was a tropical-ish smoothie.

smoothie

Go Green Tropical Smoothie

  • 1 cup pineapple
  • 1 small-medium ripe banana
  • 2 small celery sticks
  • 1 big handful of kale
  • almond milk**—as much or as little as you would like to reach desired consistency
  • aloe vera juice (optional)

**Coconut milk would be a GREAT substitute.

A little lunch action…mixed greens with tomato, guacamole, and an over-easy egg alongside a leftover almond biscuit and a juicy apple. Perfectly satisfying.

egg over a salad

In the afternoon I snacked on some walnuts and raisins to give me a quick energy boost.

Afternoon Workout

I pulled up YouTube on our Apple TV and flipped through some workouts and found the ToneItUp girls arm workout. I completed their arm workout and then went right into Insanity’s cardio abs routine. After that I headed down to the treadmill and cranked out a half hour walk. I felt a little guilty that I didn’t take the pup out for a walk outside, but it is SO muddy and I just didn’t feel like dealing with that yesterday. Sorry Mooser. Maybe next time.

Dinner

I roasted a large handful of Brussels Sprouts in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper. While those roasted, I cooked a couple of mini turkey patties on the stove, along with sauteed onions and mushrooms. Once everything was done cooking, I plated up the sprouts, then the turkey patties, onions, and mushrooms, and I finished the dish off with some shredded cheddar and monterey jack cheese.

I ate a couple spoonfuls of cooked quinoa while I waited for this to come together.

veggies and turkey burger

veggies and turkey burger

Talk about taking a trip to flavor town! The only seasonings I used in this whole dish were salt, pepper, and olive oil, but the foods all took on their natural flavors and it tasted absolutely delicious.

I spent the evening sobbing over  watching Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I read these books a long long time ago, and watched the movies, but it has been so long. Oh how I love a good chick flick! For an evening snack I had a handful of dates with pb; definitely my biggest weakness lately.

Okey dokey, I’m off for the day! I hope you all have a fantastic Good Friday!

Do you celebrate Easter? Do you have any fun plans this weekend?

Carrot Pizza Crust (Grain-Free)

Once again, where did the weekend go?!

I am pretty pumped about a new gadget that has joined the counter in our kitchen. We have a NutriBullet! It can make smoothies, dips, soups, and even has a milling blade attachment so you can grind your own spices, seeds, etc. Besides the fact that this bullet literally whips up a smoothie in seconds, I also love that it is super easy to clean. The blender works great and all, but it can be a little tedious to clean and it takes longer.

Yesterday, I just had to use it, so I made a smoothie for Dana and myself. I don’t have the exact measurements but I included pineapple, strawberries, banana, kale, flax-seed, aloe vera juice, and water.

smoothie nutribullet

It’s maybe not the prettiest smoothie you have ever seen but it was delicious! I am hoping I stay on this smoothie train for a while to get me out of my breakfast rut of peanut butter and banana. The fridge is stocked really well right now so I think I should be able to maintain a creative week of eats as long as I put my mind to it.

Aloe Vera Juice

I realize I have mentioned this aloe vera juice for a couple of weeks now and not really said anything about it. As you may recall, I am tackling a laundry list of natural remedies to try to combat this colitis thing. Along with those, I am always teaching myself to deal better with stress, I am sticking to a gluten-free diet for now, I have eliminated refined sugars (as best as I can), I am beginning to include fermented foods into my diet to help aid in the digestion process, and I am taking my prescribed GI meds.

I continue to do my research and found that aloe vera juice came up in a lot of my findings.   There is still more research that needs to be done, but some have found that aloe vera juice can help heal wounds (think about applying aloe vera to sunburn), and it can also reduce inflammation. It can also help boost the immune system. I am only taking a very small amount of it, and the taste is pretty unpalatable, so I have found that putting some into my smoothie masks the taste completely and is easier for me to stomach. (Note: I consulted with a medical professional before beginning aloe vera juice).

So that’s my little bit about aloe vera juice and btw I am feeling SO well. Moving on to dinner…

I was inspired by this recipe to make Carrot Crust Pizza! I have experimented with cauliflower crust pizza and veggie nut pizza crust, but never carrots. I can’t wait for the day when I can get my fingers on a good ol’ fashioned piece of pizza, but until that time comes, I’ll be making substitutes!

I began by washing six medium-sized carrots. I chopped them into big chunks and added them to a microwave safe bowl. I added about 1/3 cup of water, covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and microwaved for about 8 minutes or until I was able to pierce through the carrots with a fork.

Next, I food processed the carrots until almost smooth. I scraped the carrots onto a thin kitchen towel (you could use cheesecloth as well), folded up all four corners, and wrung out the liquid from the carrots into the sink. This was a major arm workout! There is a LOT of water in carrots.

I put the carrot mash back into the bowl and added one egg, 1/4 cup of cheese, and one grated garlic clove. I gave it a good mix.

On a baking pan lined with parchment paper, I spread out the carrots into a 1/4 inch layer.  I spritzed the top with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Next it went into a 400°F preheated oven for about 28 minutes.

carrot pizza

I removed the pizza from the oven when the outsides were starting to crisp up, and the center of the pizza was firm.

carrot pizza

Then I added the goodies! I added marinara sauce, cheese, red bell pepper, onion, olives, and mushrooms. Back into the oven it went for about five minutes. I finished by putting it under the broiler for three minutes.

carrot pizza carrot pizza carrot pizza

It was delicious! The crust wasn’t as crispy as I thought it would be, so I’m wondering if it should cook even longer? Either way, I really truly enjoyed this dish!

Carrot Pizza Crust (Grain-Free)
3.0 from 1 reviews
Print
Ingredients
  • 6 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ¼ cup and ½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or minced
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ cup marinara sauce (no-sugar added)
  • 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese
  • toppings of choice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place parchment paper on cookie sheet. Set aside.
  2. Place carrots in a medium microwave safe bowl and add ⅓ cup of water. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 7-9 minutes, or until carrots are fork tender. Remove from microwave and let cool slightly.
  3. Once cooled, place carrots in food processor and pulse until pureed.
  4. Scrape carrot puree onto cheesecloth or thin kitchen towel. Gather all corners and wring out excess water from the carrots into the sink.
  5. Add carrots back to the bowl, add ¼ cup cheese, egg, and grated garlic clove. Mix well.
  6. On prepared baking pan, spread carrot mixture to a ¼ inch thickness. Spray with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  7. Bake for 27-29 minutes or until outer crust begins to turn golden, and middle of pizza is firm.
  8. Remove from oven and add sauce, ½ cup cheddar cheese, parmesan, and toppings. Bake for 5 more minutes.
  9. Turn oven to broil and broil for 3-4 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven, slice, and enjoy warm!

Have a great day my friends!

Question of the day: Have you ever had any strange pizza? Have you made any yourself? 

Stress Relievers

We all have stressors in our lives. Some are minor like driving in rush hour, and some are major, maybe an unjust boss or financial struggles. Each and every one of us deals with stress and we all have our own ways of dealing with it. Some of us may not even know we are stressed until our bodies start to tell us otherwise.

I want to dabble into that topic in just a bit, but first I have a few food photos to share with ya’ll. This first one was actually from two nights ago, but it’s a favorite of mine:

The Southwest Salad but with a few minor changes. For one, I used the leftover lentils and black beans from the lentil tacos the other night. The rest of the toppings were virtually the same as always: tomatoes, cheddar cheese, corn, avocado, and a light drizzle of ranch dressing. I will sometimes add onion to this salad but wasn’t feeling the whole onion breath part of that idea so left it out last night. The only thing I forgot to add was cilantro. I even had cilantro in the fridge. Oh well.

Thursday

A morning smoothie in my new Home Goods coffee mug. I do drink coffee from it as well but thought it was perfect for my smoothies too. Yesterday’s smoothie: Almond milk, banana, vanilla egg white protein powder, peanut butter, a tiny bit of cocoa powder (I’m out of my chocolate protein!), and a large handful of kale.

Lunch was eaten while running errands during break and isn’t worth mentioning. But dinner….that’s a different story.

A while back I bought a Hawaiian marinade by Lawrys. I brought the summer back by brushing this marinade on shrimp and pineapple skewers. I broiled them for a short while, broiled up some broccoli with parmesan cheese for a veggie side, and ended up with a seriously delicious dinner that was SO easy.

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and watching Glee and Modern Family!

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Now, onto this stress talk. I found the top ten stress relievers according to the Mayo Clinic and wanted to see how I was doing personally with containing my stress in comparison to their list. Here we go…

Top 10 stress relievers according to Mayo Clinic

1. Get active
“Physical activity pumps up your feel-good endorphins and refocuses your mind on your body’s movements, improving your mood and helping the day’s irritations fade away.”

I am physically active 6-7 days a week including different activities from yoga, to running, strength training, cross-training, etc. I would say 98% of the time, I feel fabulous after I finish a work out.

2. Meditate
“During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. Meditation instills a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health. Guided meditation, guided imagery, visualization and other forms of meditation can be practiced anywhere at any time…”

I’m working on this one. I am reading a book about meditation but I having a hard time getting through it. I like the idea of guided imagery and picturing positive outcomes in stressful situations and would like to work on that more often.

3. Laugh
“When you start to laugh, it lightens your mental load and actually causes positive physical changes in your body. Laughter fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure, producing a good, relaxed feeling.” 

Listen to a comedian, hang out with family and friends, or watch Modern Family. I am guaranteed to giggle.

4. Connect
 “Social contact is a good stress reliever because it can distract you, provide support, help you weather life’s up and downs, and make you feel good by doing good.” 

I am lucky to have great friends at work who I get to socialize with daily if time permits. I love being with family and friends as well. We help eachother get through the good and the bad times.

5. Assert yourself
“Learn to say no to some tasks or to delegate them.”

Over the years I have been working on this one. I’m learning that it is OK to say no sometimes and be selfish if it means taking care of my well-being. Most of the time, I do like to say yes to social gatherings, but once and a while I can tell when my body is saying no, and I try to listen.

6. Do yoga
“Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines to achieve peacefulness of body and mind, helping you relax and manage stress and anxiety.”

Oh yes, the wonderful benefits of yoga. This is also a fairly new hobby of mine but I truly do enjoy it and feel it does a great job of relieving stress.

7. Sleep
“…Sleep is the time when your brain and body recharge. And the quality and amount of sleep you get affects your mood, energy level, concentration and overall functioning.”

I’m definitely one of those people who needs at least 8 hours of sleep to function at my highest capacity. I’m usually in bed at 10 pm every night. I completely agree with this one.

8. Journal
Writing out thoughts and feelings can be a good release for otherwise pent-up emotions. 

Thank you Beautifully Nutty for letting me relieve some stress through my fingertips. 

9. Get musical
“Listening to or playing music is a good stress reliever because it provides a mental distraction, reduces muscle tension and decreases stress hormones.”

I like this one, especially if I can dance too.

10. Seek counsel
If new stressors are challenging your ability to cope or if self-care stress relievers just aren’t relieving your stress, you may need to look for reinforcements in the form of professional therapy or counseling. Therapy may be a good idea if stress leaves you feeling overwhelmed or trapped, if you worry excessively, or if you have trouble carrying out daily routines or meeting responsibilities at work, home or school. Professional counselors or therapists can help you identify sources of your stress and learn new coping tools.

 I would also like to add “baking” to my stress reliever list. If I am not in a hurry and can leisurely roll out some cookies, it is very therapeutic to me.

There you have it. With the holidays now in full swing, it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, but remember to relax and remember the true meaning of the celebration. Try some of these stress relievers and come up with some of your own if you need to. Enjoy the season!

Full disclosure: The information for this topic was found on Mayo Clinic’s website at this direct address: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stressrelievers/MY01373/NSECTIONGROUP=2

Questions of the Day: What helps YOU relieve stress? Would you add anything to this list?

Winter Running Gear

Happy Saturday! I’ve fallen a little behind so the plan is to quickly catch you up to speed annnnnnnddd here we go!

Thursday evening

After work I suited up and hit the road for a quick two-mile run outside before the sun went down. The temperature was in the 40’s so the weather was decent, but the run didn’t feel good to me at all. I really don’t appreciate afternoon runs and neither does my digestive system. I am definitely more of a morning runner person.

For dinner I whipped up a quick banana and egg pancake.

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 banana
  • cinnamon
  • blueberries
  • toppings: apple butter, peanut butter, and banana slices

Then Dana and I headed out for the night to do some volunteering for the Salvation Army. By the way, I am really feeling the holiday spirit lately. I LOVE Christmas!

Friday

Breakfast was a chocolate covered strawberry smoothie.

Ingredients:

I asked for more Jay Robb egg white chocolate protein powder for Christmas. I really really like it. Earlier this week I made another peanut butter chocolate smoothie for breakfast but added kale into the mix and I swear it tasted even better. Thanks again Shannon for the suggestion. NUM.
Fast forward to the evening…there were some major comforts happening around this house. Fire in the fireplace, sweatpants, puppy, hubby, Christmas decorations….

And a meat and cheese platter for dinner which included Nut Thins Pecan crackers (love), amazing havarti cheese which I do believe is my favorite cheese, turkey sausage, and crispy green beans with marinara dipping sauce.

For the beans: I dipped the beans into egg whites, then rolled in almond flour, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. I placed them onto a lightly sprayed pan, sprayed the tops with olive oil, and broiled on low for about 7 minutes until the beans were golden on top. I really enjoyed them! I had to sneak some veggies in somehow so it was the perfect little side.

The rest of the evening was spent addressing holiday cards and watching Glee from last week. It feels so good to get the holiday cards all done and ready to mail. The way we had our assembly line set up reminded me a lot of writing out thank you cards after the wedding. This went a whole lot faster though!

Saturday

Now here we are on Saturday. This morning I woke up at my leisure, ate my usual pre-run breakfast, banana and peanut butter, and layered up for our Saturday run. This Saturday was our 4.5 mile run. We are still sticking to our 10K training plan!

It was about 25°F outside; here is what I wore:

  • Leggings
  • Sweatpants
  • Long-sleeve wicking top with t-shirt over it
  • Fleece zip-up
  • Normal socks and running shoes
  • Fleece mittens
  • Cotton hat

The verdict: I was actually too warm. I ended up running without gloves for the last third or so of the run. I would much rather be too warm than cold though so I was okay with it.

Each run has been a trial in trying to figure out the best apparel and layers to wear for the given temperatures and the way my body reacts. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I hope to before January 1st!

My feet and bottom of my pants were soaked at the end of the run, but that’s to be expected after running in the snow.

Overall, it was a good snowy run. That was the furthest I have ever run in the snow before. It was like running on wet sand and was definitely more challenging than running on pavement.

Alrighty, I’m off to run a bunch of errands and get some stuff down around the house. I hope you are all having a great day so far! XOXO

Question of the day: Is there any must-have winter running gear that you’ve found to be helpful?

Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna

Another awesome Saturday to go down in the books. It started off with a mango, banana, and almond milk smoothie.

DSCN5076

And a piece of almond bread slathered with PB2.

DSCN5077

Dana and I sipped our coffee on the deck while tossing the ball to Moose. It was a very relaxing morning.

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During the middle of the day we headed to celebrate our friend’s son, Leo’s 1 year birthday.

We mingled outside, hopped in the blow up hopper, watched as 5 kids opened up Leo’s gifts for him, and ate some awesome food. I didn’t snap a photo but I had a plate full of pulled turkey, Ramen salad, some sort of pesto pasta salad (maybe?), fruit, a peanut butter cup chocolate chip cookie and a piece of birthday cake. OMG everything was fabulous and so much fun. Leo is such a cutie and handled all of the extra attention so well.

After the party we stopped at Gertens Greenhouse and Garden Center to look for some plants for our front yard.

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We had a $50 gift card from our wedding and we did a great job of spending as close as we could to that amount. With a water thrown in our total came out to $49.66. Not bad, huh?

We bought three Barberry plants and one Sedum. I’m excited to see how they look in the front! Thanks Brian and Amanda!

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We stopped home to drop off the plants and pick up the pooch. We took off for a nearby little lake for a walk. Moose was not on his best behavior but it was still a nice walk. He wanted to get into everything and kept cutting us off and pulling more so than usual. He has his good days and bad days just like me.

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Dinner

For dinner I got creative with the zucchini once again, this time in the form of lasagna. The zucchini is popping up in our garden here and there and you better believe it’s going to get eaten. 

To start, I cut my zucchini into thin lasagna-like noodles. I sprinkled them with salt in a colander, and let them sit in the sink for 10-15 minutes. Then, I removed them from the sink and patted them dry with a paper towel.

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Next, I combined 1 cup of cooked black beans, 1/4 cup diced red onion, 3/4 cup corn, 1/4 cup diced tomatoes, 2 teaspoons of chili powder, and a dash of salt.

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Next I began the layering process starting with salsa on the bottom, then a sprinkle of bean mixture, zucchini, salsa, bean mixture, zucchini, salsa, bean mixture, and topped with cheddar cheese.

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Into the oven it went for 45 minutes at 400°. Then I flipped the oven to broil and broiled for 2 minutes to crisp the top.

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I let it sit a few minutes before slicing and plated it up.

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So pretty!

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Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 cup black beans, cooked
  • 3/4 cup corn
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly grease bread loaf pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Cut zucchini into lasagna-like strips. In a strainer in the sink, sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, then drain and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. In medium bowl combine beans, corn, onion, tomatoes, chili powder and salt.
  4. Begin layering: 1/3 cup salsa, 1/3 of bean mixture, zucchini, 1/3 cup salsa, 1/3 bean mixture, zucchini, last of the bean mixture, last of the salsa, finish with the cheese.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes then switch oven to broil. Broil for 2 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Cut carefully and serve. Finish with a few sprigs of cilantro.

Such a great spin on lasagna. I hope you’re not getting tired of all of the zucchini recipes! Pretty soon there will be a bunch of tomato recipes once they start turning red in the garden.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Black Bean Quinoa Burgers

Happy Hump Day! Hope everyone is doing well on this mid-week day .

Breakfast

Breakfast yesterday was a smoothie-on-the-go packed with strawberries, blueberries, banana and unsweetened vanilla almond milk. I love how the vanilla almond milk tastes in the smoothie.

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Lunch

A seriously rockin’ salad. Mixed greens with mango, blueberries, strawberries, avocado, almonds, feta cheese, and Newman’s Own Lite Raspberry Walnut vinaigrette.

Honestly this salad rocked my socks.

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I worked a half day yesterday, so afterwards I headed to mom and dad’s. I ate dessert when I got there (I always raid the cupboards upon arrival), which was peanut butter and chocolate chips while I said hi to Abbie (mom and dad’s sweet little Yorkie-poo who I adore).

Then I changed into my workout gear, laced up the ol’ sneakers, and hit the pavement. I jogged/walked their neighborhood and covered 4.5 miles. It was mid-80’s and sunny while I was out and I have determined I am a weenie when it comes to running in the heat. I melted and ended up running 70% of the time and walking 30% of the time, and that may be a little generous even on the running side.

After the “wun” (walk/run), I headed to the basement to cool off. I still had some mojo left, so I hopped on their elliptical for 10 minutes while watching Giada at Home. Finally, I finished with the bench press.

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I gave Abbie one last kiss and headed out the door back home to my own big puppy and hubby.

Snack

For an afternoon snack I had a bowl of cooked carrots with cinnamon and sugar.

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Dinner

Not long after my snack, both Dana and I were getting super hungry, so I figured I may as well start dinner instead of more snacking.

For dinner I made Black Bean Quinoa Burgers.

To the food processor I added 2 cups of cooked black beans, 1/4 cup diced onion, 1 minced garlic glove, 1/2 cup quinoa, 1 tablespoon of cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 cup salsa, 2 tablespoons egg whites, salt and pepper, and a miniature pinch of red pepper flakes.

I pulsed these ingredients until combined, leaving it slightly chunky and making sure not to let it turn into a hummus paste.

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I chilled the mixture for about 5 minutes. We got too impatient to wait any longer, plus the mixture was still cold from using cold ingredients so it was easy to handle.

I formed the mixture into 7 patties and placed them on a lightly sprayed piece of aluminum foil. Before they hit the grill I sprinkled them with garlic and onion powder.

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We grilled them over medium-low heat for 20 minutes; flipping halfway through.

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I topped my burger with salsa and avocado, and served it alongside a simple green salad with cheddar cheese and Western dressing.

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Talk about a great meatless meal and perfect for the summer because I didn’t have to use the oven at all. Niiiiiiice.

Black Bean Quinoa Burgers

Ingredients

  • 2 cups black beans, cooked
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • a dash of chili pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup salsa, heaping
  • 2 Tbsp. egg white

Directions

  1. Preheat grill to medium-low.
  2. In food processor, lightly pulse all ingredients and keep chunky.
  3. Form into patties and place on lightly sprayed aluminum foil. Place on grill.
  4. Grill for 20 minutes; flipping on foil halfway.

Dessert

While watching the Olympics, we whipped up a wonderfully creamy dessert that I have grown to LOVE. Cocoa banana soft serve baby; cocoa powder, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and frozen bananas.

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So good.

I’ll leave you with that beautiful sight. Have a great day!

Refreshing Watermelon and Avocado Salad

I am feeling pretty tired this morning. I’ve got the coffee in hand and I’m waiting for it to kick in. I slept very well last night but just not quite long enough. I slept for about 7 hours but I function best at 8-10. I slept pretty hard, so I think I just need time to wake up still. I always wish I was one of those people who needed hardly any sleep to get by; I would be or could be,  so much more productive. At least it’s not Monday!

Tuesday

For breakfast I made a smoothie to go and it was killer:

  • Cherries
  • Banana
  • Strawberries
  • Yogurt
  • Splash of Welch’s 100% Grape Juice
  • A touch of sweetener to take away some of the tartness

I threw a straw in the cup, and guzzled this smoothie on the way to work. I worked until 1:00 pm yesterday so I made sure to pack a snack to tide me over until lunch. Not pictured is two slices of Muenster cheese. They were nummy!

When I got home I was excited to dig into this beautiful looking salad.

I made this salad the night before and let it hang together over night.

Refreshing Watermelon Avocado Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of an english cucumber, peeled and diced
  • ~1 1/2 cups watermelon, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped
  • a touch of salt

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together carefully so as not to mash the avocado. Serve cold right away, or let chill in the fridge over night. Either way you will enjoy this refreshing and super easy salad!

I really enjoyed this salad. It was so light and refreshing, yet it has healthy fats from the avocado to give it a little more substance. You could even add in some feta cheese if you were looking to get a little calcium in there too. You could really balance off the meal by eating this salad with a lean protein like grilled chicken or pork tenderloin.

Since I didn’t pair my salad with a protein like that, I finished my meal off with a couple bites of peanut butter for my protein fix. Then I hit the gym for a nice and sweet little jog on the elliptical.

Later in the afternoon, Dana and I got busy rearranging some furniture in our office and guest bedroom. I was in dire need of a better work space for my computer. Before I had it in the kitchen on a little bar that over looks our backyard, but in order for me to type I had to hunch my back and curve my wrists at an angle that just screams problems in the future. Besides that, it was right in the kitchen so the temptations were endless and I found myself sneaking for snacks often, and the other distraction was the television which was right to my right in the living room. When I am trying to concentrate I really need a quiet space. In college, I would often have to turn my fan on in my room and even use ear plugs when I needed to study. I have never been a good test taker and I think it’s because I get so distracted by noises; people clicking their pens, snapping their gum, tapping their foot, etc.

That was a slight tangent. We moved my computer into our back office where Dana has his office space as well. I already have my desk in there but I have been using it solely as a place to get ready in the morning (makeup, hair). I converted it to a desk as well with a space for my computer now. It is working out really well so far, and actually it will probably help me to not be on my computer as much too because it isn’t out right where Dana and I usually hang out at night. A break from technology is always a good thing, and I sometimes forget that.

Moving on to dinner. We made a super simple meal last night of pre-made turkey burgers on the grill, and grilled zucchini. I rolled the zucchini in garlic olive oil, and sprinkled it with garlic powder and salt and pepper. Dana manned the grill, and we were eating in about 15 minutes.

Alright, I have got to head out for the day. I hope you all have a wonderful Wednesday. I will catch up with you soon.

Question of the Day: What’s your most productive study environment? 

I clearly like nice and quiet, but I know Dana prefers background noise. When he was in college he would almost always study and do homework with the TV on.