Friday, May 28, 2010

salad of the week - summahtime grilled chicken berry salad!

ever wish there was a Polyvore for food?

anyway, my phone doesn't have a camera (*gasp* the horror! ... i know, i know) and the camera-camera seems to have a dead battery. so, put on your Imagination Hats, boys and girls—it's time for Lunchtime Make-Believe!

i'm always struggling with what to eat for lunch at work. i try to be frugal and not purchase lunch, especially since having to study nutrition facts and menus for healthy options tends to stress me out anyway. so i pack 4 meals each day that i consume sometime between leaving the house at 8 am and returning about 5. yes, 4. Four. the one that comes after 3. (that crazy lady using a 5-gallon reusable grocery bag as a "lunch box?" yeah that's me. )  anyway. because of its convenience and obvious nutritious perks, lunchtime often turns into salad time, which can honestly get downright boring sometimes. so i've decided to share some of the genius Salad Epiphanies i've had on my little journey, see if i can't help spice up your noontime hour. (sexy exciting times!)

last night, upon my husband's prompting, i included an extra chicken breast in our dinner preparations. that way i knew I could slice up the extra grilled chicken breast when we were finished and include it in my lunch plans for the next day or two. (see, i told you he was a smart one!) and since i was craving something yummy and sweet, full of vitamins, that would be refreshing in all this dang hot weather we've been having lately, this is what i came up with:

[pretend there is a heartbreakingly yummy Food Network-style picture of a carefully arranged salad here.]

The Summahtime Grilled Chicken Berry Salad!

this salad pulls inspiration from a number of my favorites*, but mostly just ended up being what it was based on what resources i had at the time.
here's how you make your own:

baby spinach (or other healthy greens, i just really like spinach)
1/2 grilled chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large, ripe strawberries (a handful of blueberries would also be yummy.)
pre-made balsamic vinaigrette (I use Roundy's. otherwise, plain balsamic vinegar and EVOO will work just fine)
roasted, lightly salted pumpkin seeds

The MashUp:
1. plop a couple handfuls of spinach on the plate. it's spinach, you really can't have too much.
2. slice strawberries and lay them in a pretty pile on top
3. warm chicken slices in microwave for a little while, plop those on top, too.
4. drizzle vinaigrette over top lightly (honestly, i would've preferred plain balsamic & EVOO in this salad, as i tend to really like to crank up the balsamic since it's so yummy with the berries. but i was at work, and this is supposed to be one of those make-at-work, fuss-free recipes, right? a lovely raspberry vinaigrette would've been very good also. i use one Roundy's makes that's pretty tasty.)
5. sprinkle a few pumpkin seeds on top. (okay, full disclosure: i didn't have actually have pumpkin seeds with me at work, so for a little extra nutty crunch i added a sprinkling of flax seeds and spent the whole meal wishing i really had some pumpkin seeds. but yay for Omega 3s!)
6. scarf. loudly, if possible. your coworkers are probably wondering where that vinegar smell is coming from, anyway. might as well nosh away and remove all doubt.

hope you enjoy! what's next week's salad, you ask? we fly by the seat of our pants here, folks. your guess is as good as mine!

*Note: this makes a lovely, light side salad for any entree if you halve the portion and omit the grilled chicken. (the chicken, however, makes a great source of protein and makes this salad more of a lunch entree.) goes great with steak, salmon... oh heck, anything! srsly, i eat it all the time, you don't even know.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

make believe makes the world go 'round

sometimes i play tricks on myself in order to go on living, blissfully unaware that i'm restricting my intake of certain foods i used to indulge in often, and eating almost exclusively Healthy Things. i consider this a measure required for maintaining (relative) sanity in the midst of some major growing (shrinking?) pains. sort of like trying to get to the grocery store without having to drive past either Dairy Queen or Kopp's. (IMPOSSIBLE!)

anyway. one of these sneak tactics i like to call Fake Deviled Eggs. i get sick of eggs pretty fast, considering they make up my breakfast at least 3-4 days a week. you laugh, but deviled eggs make me happy, and pretending you're having a yummy holiday appetizer is way more fun that eating Another Stinky Egg Breakfast at your desk. i felt it was about time i let you all in on this dirty little secret, so here you go. my recipe for You Can Buy Morning Happiness, As It Turns Out:

2 eggs (i like Eggland's Best. ps they're cheaper at Sam's Club.)
few spoonfuls of 1% cottage cheese (KEMPS IS KING.)

Hard boil the eggs (make lots and lots all at once if you want. i do, i'm lazy and like to plan ahead.)
Bring them to work in a little baggy, or container of your choice. Peel the shells off the eggs and split them open length-wise. Dump out 1 and 1/2 of the yolks. Srsly, just get rid of them, you don't even need them. Dump out remaining 1/2 yolk onto a plate. Spoon a couple lumps of yummy Kemp's 1% cottage cheese (can you believe i'm not getting paid for this??) onto the plate. Smash yolk into cottage cheese until the color is consistently yellow and sunshiny throughout. Fill egg white halves with cottage cheese-yolk mixture. Top with pepper or that red stuff (paprika?) if you're feeling fancy. Proceed to make a big sloppy mess at your desk, but hey, no one else gets in for another 20 minutes, so who cares anyway. Pairs well with black coffee (or tea, for you coffee haters) and a few fresh berries.

"If I wanted to bring a large number of deviled eggs, but I didn't want to share them with anyone else, can you guarantee the fridge space?"

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

listening to...

i made some adjustments to my most recent iPod playlist, and i'm pretty happy with the mix so far today.
here's a sneakypeek (click image for more detail): 

Monday, May 24, 2010

good one, Del.

i've been noticing a trend lately in life, and our good friend Del Tackett hit it right on the head in this recent blog post.

you all know by now about my journey to a fitter, healthier life, but we've been working on some other improvements in tandem with The Fat to Fit Project. a while back we decided to get a little crazy about our finances. (more like crazy awesome than crazy uh-oh!) we hopped on Dave Ramsey's baby steps to a Total Money Makeover and are currently debt-free, except for the house. it took months and months of discipline, drive, communication, and not having lives, but the freedom and peace we've gained from it have been so completely worth it. we're now working on saving several months' expenses as an emergency fund. soon we'll be able to save for home improvement projects, invest in our future and live within our means without the stress and fear involved with being in debt.

i say all this to express my excitement at how much of my life has taken on a "run the race" quality. and although i heard that phrase over and over growing up, i think until you work at something, really work and strain and strive, and see the benefits of all that hard work, you can't really know what it all means. and as much as i've been able to blow off all the hokey "and then you get to the mountaintop" metaphors i've endured in my life, i have to say, there may be something to this slow-and-steady idea. almost like someone really, really smart designed things to work best this way...

Friday, May 21, 2010

the oatmeal chronicles

it was brought to my attention by an old friend that i spend the vast majority of my facebook statuses and other public forums reflecting on food. things i eat, things i want to eat, things i really shouldn't have eaten. this is not exactly news to me; i've been very open and frank about the fact that all i think about and do all day is graze and then think about what i can shove in my face next. but before you go getting all judgmental on me, let me tell you a story.

in November of this year, my friend Ryan put me up to a challenge. see, he's a certified personal trainer, kettlebell instructor, and all-around way healthier than at least 95% of the general population of the United States, i'm pretty sure. and, as i'm learning now, when you've found the secret to success in making the food work for you, you get really evangelistic and want to make everyone hop on board with you. so for YEARS Ryan has been on our cases to make healthier choices. my husband and i being two folks who enjoy pizza, nachos and wine more than we really care for, say, carrots, this was a hard sell. but i had had it with my weight gain, my out-of-shapeness, and my general pestering feeling that Something Must Be Done. so i took him up on his challenge, started eating on a diet plan he had been working with, and ramped up my workouts to 3-4 nights a week at his studio. AND THE REST IS HISTORY. (i've always wanted to say that.)

so here's how the story ends, or in the case of this blog, begins: GUESS WHAT, THE SILLY DIET PLAN WORKED. because it wasn't really a diet, so much as it was a kick start to train my body to want healthier things and function more efficiently. and because that night as we watched Ryan shovel platefuls of salad, chicken fingers and enchiladas down his trap (and burn ALL the calories from that! right there in front of us!) and considered his offer for a better life, that night proved to be a life-changer for me.

people at work have started to comment on how i have lost quite a bit of weight. some of my Fat Day clothes stopped fitting, and then some of the more Regular Day clothes, and now i've gotten to the point where my clothes i desperately hung onto from College When I Was Thin, THOSE CLOTHES DON'T REALLY FIT ANYMORE EITHER. i still have a ways to go before i meet my goals, and refuse to buy any new clothes in the meantime, but i'm going to go ahead right now and say that whatever change Ryan has encouraged here is not so shabby.

and the compliments are nice, they're scary and uncomfortable and really exciting all at the same time. but as i've started to make changes in my own life and "get it," i've felt a great responsibility to all the people i love to spread The Gospel of Good Health. so i try to lead by example. i try to maintain my healthy eating habits even with friends and family whose eating habits are anything but good. i try to introduce new foods to them, and help them learn that healthy eating can taste good, make you feel good and overall be just as enjoyable as that giant pile of cinnamon rolls paired with spicy sausage. (mmm... spicy sausage.) and for a long time it has been a struggle. it's been a fight over every meal, usually inside my head, whether or not to stick to the plan or to indulge in a little harmless cheating just to get along with the inlaws (or whoever, for that matter. it seems every office pot luck and family get-together is clouded with ample opportunities to Screw This Up.)

And then the other day, it happened. After a trip to Michigan to visit my husband's parents for Mother's Day, he got his message from his mother via Skype:
Tell Erin she changed our lives! Dad grilled talipia and asparagus and we were too hungry to wait for her fries but we had a nuked sweet potato. wehad abottle of Riesling in your honor. It was wonderful1
from mom
You'll be kind enough to forgive her typos, she's still learning Technology. (they were too cute to leave out.)

But THIS, my friends, THIS makes all the hard work worth it. THIS is why Ryan worked so hard to wean us off our garbage diet and herd us, like stubborn cats, into a better way of living. i hope he's proud of his Little Projects. he really should be.

so in tribute to the people who have made such a difference in my life, and in celebration of My Temple and how i've finally learned to honor it, and to share with others my experience (successes and Total Fails, of course) i now, today, on the Twenty-First Day of May, 2010, dedicate this blog to these things as well.

i realized recently that my intention with this forum was first to advertise my tiny budding handbag "business," and then more broadly, to share in a community of Crafters and Sewers on the Internet. but then i never posted. anything. sometimes i didn't even make things! thus the total lack of posting. really, the blog turned out to be pretty representative of that area of my life, because NOTHING WAS GETTING DONE. and while that's changing and i'm starting to pick up more projects and actually complete them (shocking), i've had to admit recently that all i really ever do with my time is Work, Work Out and Eat. and if i'm going to have a blog based, even loosely, on my life, why not focus on the things that my life consists of? this was, of course, my husband's idea. i love that man. he smells good... but anyway, if this turns out to suck, take it up with him. did i mention he's 6'4"? and crazy. just sayin'.

so here's the plan: i write about what's going on. short (or sometimes very long) little reflections on Food, Fitness, Fashion or Fabric. but no things that start with letters other than F. ... ok, kidding! lots of things. i no longer plan on restricting this forum to Things That Might Make Me Seem Cooler, and instead just throw it all out there. i guarantee, it's not as salacious as it sounds. but if you're lucky, i might even toss in an entry from my food diary for you, to boot.