Posts tagged ‘challenge’

Hidden Greens Frittata and a Give-away

Every once in a while, I get a bunch of unidentified green stuff in my Boston Organics box. I’d like to think I’m better than the average gal at green identification, but there are still occasions when I can’t quite distinguish certain species of kale from chard from random leafy greens. Last week was one of those weeks – I got a bunch of what looked like a mix between kale and Swiss chard in my box. Not sure exactly what the flavor of the greens would be, I decided to make a frittata out of them! I have posted several frittata recipes before and generally follow the same framework. For those of you who are new to this recipe, a frittata is essentially a fancy, fluffy baked omelette that is much simpler to make than its name implies. I use onions and garlic for a flavor base and 8 eggs with a splash of milk, salt and pepper for the fluffy egg center. To change the profile of the frittata, I simply switch up the veggies and cheese that I use. Goat cheese is my favorite because it is soft and melty in a freshly warmed frittata. To further switch things up, I splashed a bit of Balsamic vinegar over the greens as well. The result was a satisfying, fluffy egg dish bursting with green stuff. Who needs to know exactly what greens you are eating when it tastes this good?

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Ever find that most recipes with goat cheese call for an ounce measurement instead of a tablespoon or cup portion? You’d need a scale to do that… so here is your chance to win one!

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Sue from SlimKicker.com contacted me about hosting a give away so that one of you has a chance to win this amazing kitchen scale! SlimKicker.com is a calorie counter and healthy lifestyle app that turns your diet and fitness goals into a game-style challenge, complete with points and rewards. You simply track calories and your healthy food choices, as well as complete healthy challenges, to rack up points. Once you reach a certain point level, you are reminded to reward yourself with something like a “cheat food” or new fitness gear. The tracking system and supportive community are great motivation to stay on track with your fitness goals! I definitely found this type of support essential during my Game On challenge!

This is where you come in – SlimKicker.com is in need of some new ideas for healthy living challenges. To enter this give away, simply leave a 1-2 sentence comment with your idea for a fun and creative healthy living challenge. They can be anything from drinking 8×8 glasses of water a day, to getting 30 minutes of exercise per day, to learning to snack wisely between meals. The best idea will be chosen and featured as part of the SlimKicker challenges, and will receive the kitchen scale! The contest is open for one week, so leave your comment by Tuesday, August 7 at 9am to enter. One comment per reader, please, and prizes can only be shipped within the US. Looking forward to seeing the ideas that you come up with!

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Hidden Greens Frittata

serves 4-6

1 sweet Vidalia onion, chopped

1 bunch greens, roughly chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

dash garlic powder, parsley, salt

2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar

8 eggs

1/2 cup milk

2 oz goat cheese

Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350F. Saute the onion in the olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add chopped greens and saute until slightly wilted. Add Balsamic vinegar and allow liquid to reduce slightly. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, milk and spices. Pour over the greens and stir slightly to distribute. Allow to cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Transfer heat-safe saute pan to the oven and continue to cook for about 15 minutes. Crumble goat cheese over the top and return to oven for 5 more minutes or until edges are browned and center is set. Immediately sprinkle with shaved Parmesan cheese, if desired. Cut into 4-6 wedges and serve warm.

July 31, 2012 at 9:00 am 7 comments

Game On

A new month, a new challenge! My competitive nature has been brought out once again, this time for the Game On Challenge. My friends read the book and were inspired, so they got a group of us together to participate in this healthy living challenge. Although most of us already lead pretty healthy lifestyles, we all have our different motivations for participating. We are a week into the month-long challenge, and the competition is pretty fierce! All in a friendly way, of course. There are two teams of six, and the losing team rewards the winning team with gift certificates for a massage.

So what are the rules to this game? Well, there are a few basic categories: diet, exercise, sleep, hydration, habits, and communication. Every time you follow the rules within the category, you earn points. Every time you don’t follow the rules, you don’t gain points, and for a few circumstances, you lose points. You are allowed to take one day off per item per week with no penalty, or can cluster these days off if you specify ahead of time that you have a vacation or extenuating circumstances. To keep track of this, we have an epic spreadsheet, shared through GoogleDoc. A competitor, much more tech savvy than I, set it up so that the columns auto-fill and tally every time you record your day’s habits.

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A few of the categories have pretty basic rules: you have to sleep at least 7 hours a night (sleep), you have to drink 3 L of water (hydration), and you have to communicate in some way with at least one teammate and one opponent every day. For exercise, you have to log 20 minutes of intentional exercise each day. This can be running, body resistance exercises, yoga, or a brisk walk. It cannot be biking or walking to class, or running to catch the bus you are late for!

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From Pinterest

The most complicated sections are diet and habits. For diet, you must eat 3 solid meals each day. Breakfast must contain 1 fruit or vegetable, and lunch and dinner should have at least 2 vegetables that comprise at least half of your plate. One meal a day has to be vegan. None of your meals, snacks or ingredients can contain added sugar, with the exception of agave to sweeten morning coffee. You also lose points for any unhealthy snacks that break the above rules.

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Following the rules doesn't mean deprivation! This decadent breakfast I made the other day still fit the rules! Click the picture to get to the original post.

The habits section is individualized for each competitor. The goal is to choose one healthy habit to implement, and one unhealthy habit to break. My healthy habit: taking my vitamin every day. My unhealthy habit: getting off my computer a half hour before going to bed. This means stopping work for the day, getting ready for sleep, and giving myself a chance to read a book for fun or reflect on my day before passing out.

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From Pinterest

So at first glance, there are a lot of rules. Why would I subject myself to this if I already live a pretty healthy lifestyle anyway? Well, a massage is a pretty good enticement! All kidding aside, I still think it is important to evaluate your habits and be more mindful of your routines every once in a while. Sure, the rules surrounding diet and exercise fit pretty well into how I already live. However, I am terrible at drinking water and getting sleep! Turning my computer off and forcing myself to relax is helping me to get more sleep at night, but I am still struggling with the water challenge! I find that I am drinking so much that I cannot snack between meals. My meals tend to be smaller with snacks fit in between, so losing this snack has meant that I am not always taking in as many calories as I need. I didn’t recognize this until I was running on Saturday with my roommate and was having weird pains and dizzy spells. My body is starting to get used to having more water in my stomach, so my appetite is slowly starting to return. I am also bulking up my meals slightly since I still have less desire to snack than usual. I am learning to balance this new habit, but do not think I could continue to drink quite as large a volume forever! I am hoping to get used to drinking more each day though, and intend to be continually mindful of drinking at least my 8 glasses a day.

We have three weeks left of the challenge! Do you want to join us? You can choose one transformation areas and commit to those goals for the next three weeks! Whether it be hydration, exercise, sleep or a healthy habit, it is good to be mindful of every aspect of your health and well-being.

Question: What area would be hardest for you to make a change in? Do you want to join us in any aspect of this challenge?

March 8, 2012 at 10:00 am 7 comments

Mom’s Reflections on the Vegan Challenge

You have seen my progress in the Vegan Challenge, and have occasionally heard from my parents and friend, but I thought I would give them a chance to share about their experience in their own words! One of the highlights of the month for me was recipe swapping with my mom. She taught me the basics of cooking and shared her passion of good food with me at a young age. I was excited to be able to share some of the tips I have picked up along the way with her, and am amazed by her creativity with vegan cooking! I hope you are as inspired by my mom as I am!

Somehow my daughter was able to talk my husband into going vegan for the month of January.  I don’t think he really had any idea of what he was agreeing too, but I had wanted to try going vegan for some time.  Some of my friends had done the Daniel Fast, a “spiritual fast” based on the book of Daniel in the Bible in which he ate only vegetables, fruits, and drank only water.  A “side effect” of their fasting was weight loss.  So needing to shed some pounds and really cleanse my body and mind, I thought, “Why not join him in this challenge?!”  So during the Christmas holidays, with help from my already vegetarian daughter, I prepared both my mind and my kitchen for the challenge.  She gave me tips on how to incorporate protein into each of our meals so that we wouldn’t go hungry.  I stocked my kitchen cabinets with beans, quinoa, and rice and my refrigerator with fresh vegetables and fruits.  I had recently started getting a weekly delivery of organic fruits and vegetables which proved to be a huge help during the challenge.  She took me to Whole Foods and taught me how to read labels to find all those hidden sources of off limit ingredients and introduced me to tofu and tempeh.  I replaced cow’s milk with almond milk–which I now absolutely love and will not go back to milk.  We even found some different coconut creamers for my husband’s coffee in the morning.

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Spaghetti Squash with Delicata Squash, mushrooms and tomatoes. One of my first dinners on the Vegan Challenge.

For breakfast, I made oatmeal with a variety of different fruit mixed in.  I took Jen’s advice and made sure to add either almond milk or sometimes peanut butter to give the oatmeal some protein.  On the weekends, when I would normally have loved scrambled eggs, I began making hash brown potatoes, something I learned from my younger daughter.  On a recent Saturday morning, I shredded some sweet potatoes I had gotten in my organics box, added some onions and black beans, and fried them in olive oil for a delicious and filling breakfast!  I discovered a love for hummus at lunchtime, which also helped to keep me full.  My favorite quick lunch is spread some hummus on a wrap, add some mixed salad greens and diced cucumbers or any leftover grilled vegetables.  Fabulous!  I had a lot of fun finding new recipes and enjoying all the things that I could eat.  That was the best advice that Jen gave me at the start of the challenge.  It was never about what I couldn’t have but making the most of what I could have.  I made homemade pizza with caramelized onions, roasted artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers for a topping—I didn’t even miss the cheese.  I made chili with sweet potatoes instead of meat.  I even made a vegan macaroni and cheese using butternut squash and some nutritional yeast to make the “cheese sauce”.

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Thai Fried Rice with sautéed Bok Choy, onions, broccoli and ginger. My last dinner on the Vegan Challenge.

So, after my thirty days as a vegan, I definitely feel better and lost 12 pounds in the process.  I learned a lot about healthy eating and filling my body with good food.  It definitely takes a bit more planning and preparation to be vegan and social settings are definitely hard.  I had friends over for dinner during the challenge and fearing that they would have to be satisfied with a weird vegan dinner, the men all admitted to having eaten meat or chicken BEFORE they came over to eat my vegan food.  So I do agree with Jen, being Vegan with Benefits is much easier.  That’s pretty much what I have been doing (significantly reducing my meat and dairy intake) since the challenge ended as well and plan to continue doing, although I do admit to having some pepperoni pizza while cheering the Giants to victory over the Patriots in the Superbowl this past weekend!  So thanks, Jen, for the encouragement and support in helping me succeed in this challenge!

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Sweet Potato Chili with brown rice and Daiya cheese sprinkles

The question still remains: how did Dad fare? Well, he has been busy with a snowmobiling and business trip, but I will try to wrangle a paragraph or two of thoughts from him as soon as I can! Looking at the pictures of what my mom cooked throughout the month, I can assure you he didn’t starve!

February 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm 2 comments

Woah, We’re Halfway There

Please tell me that Bon Jovi immediately popped into your head when you saw the title of this post. No? Just me? Great, well now that’s out of the way… We are already halfway through our vegan challenge, and there already some exciting results to share! First, I’ll let my friends and family do the talking, and then I’ll add my two cents at the end.

1. Do you miss meat, cheese, or dairy has much as you thought you would?
Mom: “I really don’t miss the chicken and meat as much as I do miss my eggs and cheese.  So many of my favorite vegetarian dishes have cheese.  It is also very hard, if not impossible, to eat out as a vegan.  Breakfast is also hard for me as a vegan.” (Obviously, I have failed to get my mom on the oatmeal bandwagon! ;)
Dan: “I am constantly reminded daily of things I can not eat. My internet stumbling chooses to show me new recipes of mac and cheese or McDonald’s flirtatiously reminds me of the glory that is a Big Mac. But, all in all, the craving for meat is not as bad as I thought. Although opening the fridge and knowing there’s nothing in there to eat is a downer…”
2. What is the food you have been enjoying most as a vegan?
Mom: “I don’t know if I have a new favorite food but I have been having fun trying new recipes, like using butternut squash [and nutritional yeast] to make a vegan mac and cheese.  I made the most delicious vegan pizza over the weekend with no cheese or meat in sight and Daddy and Mr. H loved it!”
Dan: “I agree… [that] quinoa is an awesome new grain I’ve never had before. However, after eating nothing but that for a week I’m now sick and tired of that nutty almost cous cous like taste. So I guess the food I’m enjoying most is vegetables?”
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Dan's reaction to his vegan burrito. All in jest, though.

3. What has been the biggest struggle as a vegan?
Mom: “For me the biggest struggle is the time it takes to be a vegan; you really have to think about what you are putting in your mouth and I have been packing my lunch everyday to avoid the temptation of eating the wrong things.”
Dan: “My family, although supportive, is not doing this challenge. Therefore, they proceed to eat meat and animal products in my face. Especially my brother… he particularly enjoys watching a commercial on TV or eating pork ribs and asking, “Bro, you want some? Oh wait, that’s right… you can’t!” Furthermore there’s a lot of hidden animal products in Korean cuisine. A lot of our soups and stews may seem innocuous at first, but the soup base will call for anchovies to create a seafood broth. Things of that nature.”
4. Have you cheated (intentionally or unintentionally)?
Mom: “No cheating; I read all labels like you taught me.”
Dan: “Yes I’ve cheated. Once on the first day completely unintentionally thereby restarting the challenge the next day to maintain a full 31 days. The other at CG: where an innocent looking bowl of wheat pasta was tossed in *GASP* butter! Believe me when I say I did not taste any butter nor did I receive any satisfaction for having tasted that delicious animal product. Our beloved referee did however give me a reprieve for this transgression.”
5. How are you feeling?
Mom: “I feel great and have already lost 9 lbs!  Just think where I may be in another couple of weeks!  While I don’t think I would ever decide to become totally vegan, I do think cutting way back on animal protein is something that I will definitely stick with for the future because it is really helping me to feel better and shed some pounds.”
Dad: “Same for me and down 8 lbs.”
Dan: “There may be some truth to the medical community’s fervent support of a high fiber meal being healthy for you. I feel good nah nuh nah nuh nah nuh nuh. I knew that I would.”
My Dad did not have to say much for the questions, but did add in this really touching thought at the end. “Never ever would I have agreed to vegan vs. vegetarian.   However, it has forced an unknowing amount of discipline that I thought I was incapable of.  The love of my daughter and support of my wife has made this possible.   It is good to know that I can get my life back.” Gotta love my big teddy bear of a dad! I am proud of all of us for the changes we have made in the past two weeks, but am most proud of my dad. He had the most barriers to overcome in this challenge, and the least positive mindset. However, after seeing the first few pounds come off and realizing that my Mom was still cooking delicious dinners, his tune changed! Even over an unexpected road trip for a family emergency, he stuck to the vegan challenge – without the supervision on provision of my mom! Nothing put a smile on my face like his Saturday morning text, “Day 14.”
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Dad's fruit bowl at work for healthy snacks

Needless to say, it looks like everyone is flourishing with this challenge! It has been fun for me to stay so connected with my parents, through swapping recipes with my mom and talking about changes my dad is making. Even though we won’t be permanently vegan, there have already been some huge lifestyle shifts made! My dad has a bowl of fruit on his desk at work now, so he is no longer tempted by vending machines and office snacks. My mom is bringing her lunch and focusing on eating real food. She is also keeping a food journal, which is why she has been so successful in her early stages of weight loss! All of us have certainly become more mindful of what we are eating, and our vegetable consumption has increased substantially.
How am I doing? I got over my cheese craving in the first few days, and now I am loving it! The hardest part for me is communal eating – potlucks for our weekly Bible study and desserts from classmates are much harder to navigate. Even so, I feel cleansed from all of the holiday cookies, have more energy throughout the day since I am more mindful of what I am eating, and my skin has even cleared up! I agree that I could not remain a strict vegan, but my dairy and egg consumption will certainly decrease following this experience.
Question: Did anyone’s response surprise you? How do you think we will fare over the next two weeks?

January 16, 2012 at 8:07 pm 7 comments

Tips for Meatless Eating

Even though I might be struggling without cheese, I am still the person who has the most knowledge about a vegan diet out of the 4 of us. Not wanting anyone to fail, I sent along some things to remember during our month of veganism. Even as a vegan, you should be getting enough protein and feel full after meals. You should eat tons of veggies, not just vegan junk food. And it is okay to treat yourself every once in a while! Here were my initial tips:

1. Find good dairy replacements. Unsweetened vanilla almond milk is my personal favorite for cereal or oatmeal in the morning. So Delicious also makes a coconut milk creamer that is a much better option for coffee (non-dairy milk tends to coagulate and get kinda funky…) For butter, Earth Balance and Smart Balance Light are both vegan. There are vegan options for other things (yogurt, cheese, mayo) but these tend to be pricey. However, there are the alternatives out there if you are really getting a milk craving!
2. You can still eat dessert! There are plenty of packaged vegan goodies out there, or you can choose healthier options like all-fruit frozen bars, or even whole, dried or baked fruits.
3. Get enough protein. Even as a vegan, you want to be satisfied by your meals. There are plenty of great non-tofu protein options – beans, nuts, seeds, etc. Have a bit of protein at every meal or snack to stay satisfied throughout the day. Stir in a bit of peanut butter to your morning oatmeal, top your lunch salad or pasta with beans or add hummus to your sandwich, pack 10-20 almonds (a normal serving size) with your apple for a snack, and make sure your dinner entree has some form of protein. Quinoa is an excellent dinner grain that doubles as a protein. My favorite high protein dinner is quinoa, black beans, corn, edamame, red onions and lime juice.
4. Check labels. Most packaged goods list allergens, and milk and eggs are commonly listed allergens. A quick scan of the bottom line of the ingredients list is often helpful to determine if something is vegan or not.
5. Have fun and focus on all of the things you can eat! There is a whole world of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, and grains to be explored. Focus on all of the fantastic things you can and have eaten in a day, rather than obsessing over the things you have given up.

Question: Do you have any advice to add to that list?

January 5, 2012 at 7:00 am 1 comment

Thoughts on the Vegan Challenge

I am still in shock that we are two days into the challenge and my dad is still pretty enthusiastic! He proudly recounted all of the fruits and veggies he ate on his first day as a vegan, and even went for a walk with my mom! My mom is a great cook, so I think my dad is realizing that he won’t starve and is beginning to calm down a bit. I asked my parents and friend to answer a few questions for me at the beginning stages of our challenge, and am excited to see how their feelings change as we progress throughout the month!

1. What made you accept this challenge?

Dad: For my heart, and Jen. (Aw, thanks Dad)

Mom: Do you really think Dad could do this on his own?! (So true, Mom)

Dan: I am addicted to the phrase, “challenge accepted.” (It is that competitive spirit that landed us in a triathlon last summer!)

2. What are you most looking forward to this month as a vegan?

Mom and Dad are both looking to lose a bit of weight and have more energy

Dan: February 2nd. (Positive attitude, there, buddy. Nice ;)

3. What are you most concerned about?

Mom: making good food choices on busy days

Dad: Mac Attack

Dan: Jen’s tempestuous malicious jolly making should I fail.

4. Do you think you will be able to last the whole month? 3 resounding yes’s!

5. What one item will you miss the most?

Mom: cheese

Dad: meat

Dan: well, pretty much everything.

It looks like everyone is feeling pretty good at the beginning! I am still chuckling at some of Dad and Dan’s responses – they are being pretty good sports! Even if they aren’t looking forward to it, they are too competitive to back out now!

Question: What would be the hardest thing for you to give up if you started to eat vegan?

January 3, 2012 at 7:00 am 5 comments

New Years Resolution

Happy 2012! This past year has flown by, and has been filled with so many great memories. I started this blog, finished my first year of medical school, traveled to 5 new countries, completed my first triathlon, stood next to my best friends as they got married, and so much more. It is impossible to predict what a new year will bring, no matter how much you think your life is planned out. I am excited for what this year holds!

One of my goals for the year is to keep my kitchen (and apartment) more organized. I am tired of reaching for the salt and knocking over 10 other spice bottles in the process, annoyed with all of the loose dry beans floating in my cabinet, and over the Tupperware tower that attacks me every time I make my lunch. I have spent the entire weekend (minus New Years celebrations, of course!) deep cleaning and re-organizing my apartment, and hope to keep it up as life gets busy and stressful again! One tip I have seen for pantry organization is to move bulk items into jars, tupperware, or other storage containers. Anything that comes in a plastic bag tends to be amorphous and hard to store neatly. I have moved all of my dry goods into glass jars that my roommate and I have been hoarding anytime we finish almond butter, salsa, pasta sauce, etc.

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My mom was a little fancier with her organization and bought a pack of large canning jars for her dry goods. She filled them, labeled them with cute paper, and then stuck a slip with the cooking instructions onto the lid. Her cabinets are beautiful, clean and organized now!

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Our newly organized dry beans will also help with a second challenge: going vegan! A friend and I, who are too competitive for our own good, got into a discussion about food and lifestyle choices. After a little while, he decided to experiment with being a vegan for a month, but only if I could convince my meat-loving father to do so. Oh how little he understands how much sway a daughter has on her father ;) My dad accepted the challenge, and so now my friend and my dad are competing to see if they can last the month as vegans! For solidarity, my mom and I have agreed to also participate in the challenge. We each are challenging ourselves for different reasons, and some are more excited, willing and ready than others. Regardless, it will definitely be an interesting month for all of us! I hope to have a few fun posts with some thoughts from my parents and friend about their success with the challenge, as well as share some recipes that I try out or create along the way!

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Question: Do you have any New Years Resolutions?

January 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm 5 comments


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