Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Get sweaty . . . you'll be glad you did!

Real quick: Have a look at the Odwalla Bar giveaway I have going on!

While studies show that morning workouts are more effective in burning calories and speeding up the metabolism, they are some of the hardest to get motivated for.
It's 6:30 a.m., you just had a cup of coffee, and it'd be so easy to just sit at the computer and go through your blog roll. . . but, there's a yoga mat, stability ball, and a set of weights calling you from the back room and you know it's going to feel so much better after you've worked up a sweat and done something with your morning.

This is basically what runs through my mind when I'm set to do a morning workout (instead of an evening one). It's dark outside, I'm so cozy in my pajamas, and another cup of coffee would be great. But, I know it'll be worth it to get off my butt and move. Usually, if I'm not running that day, I'll do a core/weight workout at home in the morning.

It's easy to fall into a routine of the same leg, arm, and core moves, but after a while, the same moves over and over get super boring and do nothing for your body (as it gets used to the movements and it not challenged).

Lately, I've been paroozing FitSugar for some workout inspiration . . .here's what I did this morning:
The video below (X2)

And then this to finish:

By the end, I was a wonderful sweaty mess.

I find that no matter how much I don't feel like working out beforehand, after I actually do, I'm so, so glad I did. I'm more alert, energetic, and I sleep better that night.

Give these a try and see how you feel!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Beating The Mid-afternoon Yuckies: Odwalla Bar Giveaway!

The dreaded mid-day slump: that horrible heavy eyelid feeling you get a couple hours after lunch when you're sitting at your desk, trying to make it through the afternoon. It's something we all try to conquer. Whether it be with coffee, a walk around the block, or a delicious snack, trying to find a way to break out of the mid-afternoon yuckies is a tough task.

While I can't leave my desk at work to wake up with a walk, I usually try to fuel up for the gym and also give myself a little oomph for the rest of the day by having a little snack.

I find the best kinds of snacks to be portable, healthy, and most of all tasty!
One snack that rolls all these things into one is Odwalla bars!
Odwalla bars are one of my favorite ''healthier'' convience snack bars. Their ingredients are NON-GMO, are made from fruit and whole cereal grains, and boast a good percentage of essential vitimans and minerals as well as a good source for protein.
They are soft, chewy, and bursting with flavor.

It's your lucky day! I'm giving away 3 Odwalla bars to one lucky winner:
1. Banana Nut
2. Chocolate Chip Peanut
3. Berries GoMega

To enter, leave a comment and tell me how you conquer your mid-afternoon yuckies!

A winner will be selected Sunday (March 4, 2012).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Sister The Seal Whisperer and Super Easy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

To beat some winter boredom, Jon and I went to visit my sister at her internship in the Niagara Falls Aquarium. Right now she 's just working to help clean and prepare meals for the animals, but they also let her feed the seals and sea lions sometimes, too!

She was able to take us into the food (i.e., fish) storage fridges and also to where they prepare the meals. It was kind of cool seeing all the behind the scenes workings of a place like that. We learned that each animal needs a certain amount/kind of fish for their particular bucket, each animal had a different feeding time, mixed in with some shows here and there . . . there's so much happening at every moment, it's a wonder all the workers are able to keep a smile and friendly disposition. Props to them!

We were also lucky enough to see a sea lion show and penguin feeding!

We had a ton of fun. The best part was at the end, though, when we got to see my sister feed and get a smooch from a seal (below)!
Smooch! How cute is that?!?!

Here are a few more cool pictures I took from the day:

Before we left for the Aquarium, I had a bit of the baking bug and I've been craving cookies . . .so . . I came up with these easy, fast, healthy, gluten free, and vegan snack cookies!

Oatmeal Raisin Snack Cookies
You'll need:
1 1/3 C rolled oats
1 t cinnamon
1 t chia seeds (optional)
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t sea salt
4 T brown sugar
2 T turbino sugar (white sugar would work fine, too)
4 T raisins
2 T melted earth balance
4 T almond milk

To make:
1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a food processor until mixed. Contents should be somewhat ground up, but take care NOT to grind the whole thing up into a powder. You need to keep some of the oats in tact.
2. Pour your dry mix into a mixing bowl and add the raisins.
3. Next add the melted earth balance and almond milk. Mix all the way through until you have a clumpy 'dough' (it should be like a moist, clumpy granola).
4. Wet hands and form dough into 2'' balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten a bit with your palm or the bottom of a glass. Since these cookies are gluten free, they won't rise/spread like normal cookies would.
5. Bake at 375' for about 15 minutes. Makes about 15 cookies. Let cool and eat!

These cookies are dense, sweet, and will be the perfect snack for an afternoon cookie craving!

Tonight we're going to Allen Street Hardware for dinner. We've never been there before, but it came highly recommended and there were even a few delicious sounding vegetarian options (that were not just a salad!). What a great way to end the weekend. I'll let you  know how it is!

By the way, Stay tuned for a little surprise within the next couple days!

Have you done anything new/different this weekend? Make any delicious snacks?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wines That Rock: Pink Floyd (Dark Side Of The Moon) 2007

Wines That Rock: Pink Floyd (Dark Side Of The Moon)


Winery: Mendocino Wine Co.

Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

Year: 2007

Look: Dark ruby

Smell: Sweet with a tart finish. Notes of currant and cherry.

Taste: Currant and cherry upfront moving into vanilla, oak, and hints of chocolate.

Overall: Very mild drinking for a Cabernet Sauvignon. 

- This wine's sent and flavor are definitely enhanced through decanting and aerating. 
- Aged 28 months: 22% in New American Oak, 78 % in Redwood & Stainless Steel tanks.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Subtly Sweet High Protein 'Milk Shake'

Since I've been trying my best to keep up with training for the Buffalo Half Marathon, I've been experimenting with my diet to help increase energy, build and maintain lean muscle, and most importantly, stay full and satisfied with healthy meals throughout the day.

I've found that with an increase in miles run comes an increase in appetite. After I run, later during day, I get ravenous . . . I want to eat everything I can get my hands on. And, having a sweet tooth, I tend to reach more for the 'naughty snacks'. I never really learned how to fuel my body while training at a pace of at least 15 miles per week, but I think I'm beginning to get a hint of what to do.

I'm learning it's best to eat a good portion of carbohydrates for lunch (anywhere from 12 - 1:30 p.m.) if I plan on running after work (around 6:30 p.m.). On a day where I'm doing a core workout or weight training, I've found it great to snack on some plain Greek yogurt with fruits mixed in (I prefer pineapple and peaches). Although, I've yet to figure out what/if to eat before I run in the morning on weekends. I like to workout on an empty stomach because it saves me from cramps and also, on the weekends, I prefer to workout not too much after I wake up and have a cup of coffee. It gives me the rest of the day to do fun weekend stuff!

One thing I do know is, this new little ditty will be a regular part of my weekend routine after I knock out a good long run. This recipe is not vegan, it's vegetarian . . .and that's alright with me. 

High Protein 'Milk Shake'
You'll need:
1 frozen banana (chopped, then frozen)
1/2 golden delicious apple (chopped, then frozen)
6oz. Plain Greek yogurt
1 hand full of fresh baby spinach
3/4 C plain, unsweetened almond milk
1 T Chia seeds

To make:
1. Place frozen banana and apple into blender; then spinach.
2. Next, add the chia seeds
3. Last, add yogurt and almond milk.
4. Blend on "Crush Ice" setting to work through frozen parts on bottom. Once the blender has grabbed everything and the mixture is mixing through, change to "Liquefy" and let blender mix for about 1 minute. You want to be sure this drink is smooth and mixed well.

This produces a lot of "milk shake", so be sure you have a large glass ready to go (I used a lovely 6'' beer mug my sister gave me for Christmas).
This drink is thick and creamy like a milk shake. It is sweet, but not overpoweringly so. It kept me feeling full for about 3.5-4 hours (which is pretty good for a smoothie!)

By using plain Greek yogurt, you're saving yourself a lot of unneeded sugar that's found in the flavored Greek yogurts (plain=7g, flavored=14-16g), and you've got enough natural sugars from the fruits to give it a nice sweet finish.

Do you like yogurts in your smoothies? What do you eat to help you get through your workouts with a high energy level?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dead Stops And Coconut Curry Lentil Stew

A while back, I signed up with Groupon just to see what all the hubbub was about. Groupon is actually a really great concept: you specify the city in which you live and then the site gives you all kinds of discounted deals. There are deals on local dining, traveling, fitness, fashion, etc. as well as deals on national and international travel. 

Since I signed up, Groupon sends me daily emails highlighting their deals . . .I usually skim the email title and then click Delete. I'll let you in on a little secret: I have a hard time spending my money. I've always been a saver and the thing I prefer to spend my money on is travel, however, the other week, one of the Groupon emails made me come to a Dead stop (pun intended). 


I was going through my mail from the day, checking off a bunch of spam to delete when I saw "Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra: "Music of the Grateful Dead." I stopped clicking, my heart all a flutter. Jon and I wanted to go to this show when they first announced it, but the seats were just too expensive. We had settled to let this pass to save some cash, but now Groupon was offering a sweet deal - I was all over it.
WooHoo! So, that's where we'll be tomorrow!

Now for another something I did a few weeks ago . . .

Creamy Coconut Curry Lentil Stew
You'll need:
4 cups vegetable broth + 2T reserve
2/3 can of lite coconut milk
1 small-medium butternut squash, peeled, cubed
1.5 cups uncooked green lentils
1/4 sweet onion, finely chopped
1.5 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1.5 T curry powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper

To make:
1. In a large soup pot, satue the onion and garlic using the 2T of broth.
2. Add squash, broth, curry, salt, and pepper. Cover, increase heat, and bring to a boil. Once mixture reaches a boil, reduce to low heat, keep covered, and cook until squash is tender, stirring occasionally.
3. Once squash is tender, mash (carefully!) in pot. Mash thoroughly so the "creamy" texture is achieved.
4. Add the coconut milk and lentils. Mix.
5. Let the pot cook covered on low heat until lentils become tender.
6. Once lentils are tender, stew is done!

This stew is a little sweet, a little spicy, and a lot savory. And, to tell you the truth, it actually tastes better the next day once the flavors have a chance to settle. I recommend making this the day before you actually plan to eat it as your meal.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

WhooOOOoo loves you?

Owl always love you!
Happy Valentine's Day!
What a hoot that little guy is, right? So sweet.

He's actually a mini brownie cake with spiced butter cream frosting. But, the brownie is a bit unconventional...and not just 'vegan unconventional'...we're talking special ingredient unconventional.

Basically, I was looking to make a healthy Valentine's Day treat in the shape of a heart so I could transform it into an owl. Owls are such beautiful animals; they're graceful, intelligent, and whoooo doesn't like a good owl joke? :)

I was first on a mission to make sugar cut-out cookies, but most all the recipes required some extra refrigeration time, and extra time was one of the things I just did not have.

Then I remembered the mini heart-shaped novelty baking pans my parents had given to me when I first moved out.

They're 4'' wide and 4'' long and 1'' deep - perfect for personal cakes, treats, and such. I set out to make little owl brownie cakes.

While searching for a recipe outline to follow for vegan brownies, I realized most contained 1/2 - 1 cup of vegetable or canola oil. That was a little too much for me; I prefer to make treats that are a little lower in fat. I switched up the wording in my Google search and stumbled upon this little ditty from Two Steps One Step.

Black Bean Brownies (with spiced butter cream frosting)
You'll need:
1 can black beans, rained and rinsed
2 ripe bananas
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2-4 T sugar (depending on how sweet you like your treats)
1/2 t almond extract

To make:
1. Preheat oven to 325degrees
2. Combine all ingredients into a food processor and process until smoth
3. Pour batter into greased cake pan and let bake for 1hr15min (this is what the recipe calls for. I used my 3 heart-shaped novelty pans and it filled them all).
4. When brownie is cooked, let cool completely. Frost with butter cream frosting and decorate into an owl!

These brownies were very mild in their sweetness. The butter cream frosting really gives these babies a punch of sweet...which is nice because the brownie (in my opinion) could have used a little more sugar.

Did you make any special Valentine's Day treats? Do you have any fun/special/chill plans for tonight?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Soft Ginger Cookies With Spiced Butter Cream Frosting (AKA: OMG, the best cookies I've ever made in my life)

I first made these cookies on a whim as just a vessel for the extra butter cream frosting I had made for a different project, but to my surprise, they turned out to be some of the most scrumptious cookies I've ever made in my whole life! What luck!

I cannot take any credit in any invention of these, though. Both the cookies and the frosting were created by Angela from Oh She Glows.

I was playing around in the kitchen with a Valentine's Day recipe, and when I was finished, I realized I had half a bowl of delicious vegan butter cream frosting left. I stared at it. It stared at me. "It'd be so easy to just eat the rest of that frosting with the spatula", I thought. But my conscience got the best of me and I decided to hop on the computer and find a quick cookie recipe that would compliment the butter cream frosting; at least then I could share the cookies.
I stumbled across these soft ginger cookies and thought they'd be a great pairing - that and I also just discovered I have a new love for ginger-flavored things.

Here's how it turned out . . .

Soft Ginger Cookies With Spiced Butter Cream Frosting

For the cookies, you'll need:
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp Earth Balance buttery stick
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Flax egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
2.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

To make the cookies:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Mix flax egg in small bowl and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the Earth Balance and sugar until combined. Add the molasses, maple syrup, flax egg, and vanilla and beat.

4. In a medium sized bowl sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt, clove). Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet while beating with a mixer to combine. Beat until smooth and mixed well.
5.With slightly wet hands, shape the dough into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Carefully flatten ball slightly with hand. Bake for 10 minutes at 350F. 

 For the frosting, you'll need:
(makes about 3/4-1 cup)

1/2 cup Earth Balance Butter Stick, softened
1 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tbsp almond milk (as needed to thin out to desired consistency)

To make the frosting:
1. Whip the Earth Balance with a mixer until smooth.
2. Now add half of the icing sugar and blend well, stopping to scrape the side of bowl as needed.
3. Add in the vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and almond milk (if needed). Mix well.

4. Add in the remaining icing sugar and blend for several minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl.

The result was a soft, spicy and sweet cookie that explodes with so many flavors with the addition of the butter cream. A very tasty treat, indeed!

Have you ever made a recipe on a whim that really impressed you?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Healthy Apple Pie Breakfast Smoothie

When I used the last of the baby spinach and pineapple yesterday morning for my daily green monster, I knew I'd have to get creative for breakfast on Saturday.

There are not too many fresh ingredients left in the house on the weekend as grocery day is usually Sunday, but I had a leftover golden delicious apple in the fruit basket and 2 bananas in the freezer from the other night when we planned to make banana "soft serve", but got too full from dinner and never got to it.

Being a girl with a weakness for sweets and a constant underlying craving for dessert as every meal, I decided to concoct a healthy apple pie breakfast smoothie.

Here's how it went. . .

Healthy Apple Pie Breakfast Smoothie
You'll need:
1 frozen banana (first sliced, then frozen)
1/2 a golden delicious apple (I left skin on for added nutrients), cubed
3 T steel cut oats
1 T vanilla extract
1 T cinnamon
1 T chia seeds
1 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk
To make:
1. Place frozen banana pieces in blender, then apple chunks.
2.  Add the oats, chia seeds, cinnamon
3. Last, add the vanilla and milk
4. Blend using the "liquefy" setting and leave it for a minute to make sure all the ingerdients are fully blended and smooth.

The result is a thick,  cinnamon-y smoothie with slight hints of apple. I think next time i make this, I'll use less cinnamon and double the apple - so maybe 1-2 t cinnamon and one whole apple, cubed.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

13.1 miles?!?!?

Yup, I signed up for the Buffalo half marathon. I'm really excited for this race, too. 
 The only other race I've ran was my city's annual 8K Turkey Trot. The Buffalo half marathon is 13.1 miles...that's a.lot.of.miles. I don't have a training schedule set yet, but since the race is at the end of May and it's only February, I think I'll be able to make a decent track for myself.

This week, I'm working on 6 miles. I managed to get my first run of 6 miles done today in 55 minutes. I bet I could have done it faster, but I need to start learning about pacing for distance. The Turkey Trot was only 5 miles, so could be a good mix of speed and distance. 13.1 miles is definitely going to require a lot of balance between speed and distance.

One thing I'm realizing more an more is the importance of stretching. It helps to loosen up my muscles before I run, and then post run, it helps stretch them and sooth any burning in the muscles caused by lactic acid. I found this little gem and have been doing it post-run almost every time now. 

Even if you're not a runner, these yoga moves/stretches are a great way to loosen up and feel refreshed. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Winery: Leonard Oakes Estate Winery


Grape: Traminette

Year: 2010

Look: Light gold with some tiny bubbles

Smell: Floral into citrus. "Pronounced floral aromatics give way to flinty mineral notes elevated by aromas of eucalyptus oils."

Taste: Slightly fizzy upon first sip. Light floral notes ending on sweet tangerine. "Sweet fruit leads through the front of the palate to a rish body uplifted by a finish of refreshing acidity."

Overall rating: Average

Other notes: Best accompanied with a spicy dish. Serve room temperature.