Flexitarian Update

Good Morning!

How are you feeling on this last day of the year???

Me…I do not feel like it is the last day of the year.  I’m sure the sun has something to do with it or the fact that my week was thrown off by not working and planning for my vacation in 4 days.  I know Saturdays are usually busy and being the last day of the year, today will be even busier, so just a quick moment to check in with my December Goal for a meat and dairy free lifestyle.

 

My over all opinion, I like it!  I find that I don’t miss the meat.  I have eaten a lot of plant based main dishes and bumped up my grains. I am also eating seafood, so fish, shrimp, and scallops offer me options when I am dining out.  I went the entire month meat free except for a planned meaty dinner at Chicago q two days ago, where the only thing better than the BBQ was the company and conversation.  I went light on the meat, however, not sure how it would affect my body, and was happy to return back to my meat free ways the next meal.

 

The dairy is obviously MUCH harder.  It is in everything!  Although I avoided whole cheese and milk as I’m sure you could tell by Holiday Post Mania, there were plenty of sweats containing milk, chocolate, and butter that I nibbled on…mostly in moderation.  I did find that my tummy troubles disappeared for the month, but that I had more discomfort when I was eating more dairy and processed sugars.

 

Although I failed at the vegan lifestyle, I found that I do make a good Flexitarian (I like this term because it implies being flexible and not following a strict or rigid eating plan).  I enjoyed creating meat free dinners (like this one).  I do miss the convenience of being able to order meat out.  Most places, especially sports bars, don’t have good meat and dairy free options and I know I won’t want to cook two dinners every night for the BOY and I.  But I do think that I am (at least at this point) going to eat meat and dairy as a treat and continue to explore plant-based proteins.  I am not sure how long it will be before they have crept back into my diet or maybe they never will.  Although I am heading on a cruise ship where frozen yogurt (my number 1 favorite dessert) is available 24 hours/day, so TREATS may be allowed more frequently ; ).

 

My plan for January is to continue with a healthy lifestyle on vacation because I WANT to and to push myself to be an all-weather runner and exerciser when I return.  The day is too busy to waste time thinking about anything more specific than that.  And January is often wasted on too easily broken resolutions.  I am off…enjoy your day!

 

Have you made any lifestyle changes this year?  What was the result?

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Vegetarian Alphabet Taco Soup

As the week comes to an end, I can’t believe how quickly it flew by!  It was an odd week because every day felt like Saturday.  Between an intense workout schedule, lunch dates, a little bit of gift card shopping, a trip to the dentist, some quiet time to catch up on reading, and some quality time with the BOY (we spent this afternoon at Whole Foods picking out our new year’s dinner), I didn’t get ALL of the cleaning and household jobs done that I wanted to.  For example, I have not organized the pots and pans cabinet that explodes on me every time I open it.  On the bright side, there are plenty of snowy Saturdays ahead perfect for tasks like this.  I did, however, find some time to make a quick and easy lunch to warm me on this drizzly day followed by a  Cookie Butter dessert.

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When I came back from yoga this morning, the only thing I wanted to do was curl up on the couch with a movie like Center Stage and dig into a bowl of soup.   Unfortunately, I don’t have Center Stage on DVD, but I DO know some quick recipes for soup.  After a quick stop at the Target, I had the ingredients to make Taco Soup, well except for the onion, which I didn’t realize until I was home.

 

I proceeded forward without my onion.  Into the pot goes black beans, diced tomatoes, corn, diced green chilies, veggie broth, and taco seasoning, boil, simmer (40 minutes), and the soup is ready.  I was looking for a heartier lunch.  A search through my pantry revealed alphabet noodles, a childhood favorite of mine.

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I cooked up the colorful noodles and added them to my soup.

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To make Vegetarian Alphabet Taco Soup (wow…quite a mouthful!).  It sounds like an odd combination, but it was a filling and fabulous lunch!  See full TACO SOUP Recipe.

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Obviously, I have more than enough soup (some for the weekend and the rest went into the freezer), but I am happy to have extra noodles for tomorrow’s lunch!

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I had a few extra minutes in the kitchen and I have been wanting to try Averie’s No Bake Cookie Butter Balls since discovering this dangerous jar of Cookie Butter.  I vaguely followed her recipe (except I didn’t really measure things out) using graham cracker crumbs instead of cookies.  The balls are definitely a little dry, so molasses (and I used some maple syrup) are a must.  Plus the squeezing method is the way to go to form the balls.

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For the added chocolate, I melted the rest of my TJ’s Dark Chocolate Bar.  I have been reading about different techniques for dipping cookies in chocolate, but I don’t have the patience for many of them.  I attempted the toothpick method.

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But quickly abandoned it for the half dipped hand held method.

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Topped with an extra chocolate drizzle.

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They just look amazing!  Even after the drizzle, I had some left over chocolate…

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Yes…you guessed it!  Chocolate dipped Oreos!  A Law & Order marathon proved to be a good enough second choice to Center Stage as I braved the dreary day curled up on my couch with a bowl of hot soup.  The BOY was happy to join me for some Tv and was a big fan of the cookie balls.

The Best of 2011

With a full year of blogging behind me, I thought it would be fun to share some of the best posts from 2011.

 

Favorite New Summer Appetizer

Grilled Feta

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Tastiest Pre-Race Dinner

Pasta with Scallops and Grilled Veggies

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Favorite New Tshirt

www.eatmorekale.com

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Best Veggie Meal

The Green Zebra Chicago, IL

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Most Surprising Birthday Post

When Life Throws You Hurricanes…

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Best Flashback

The BOY’s First Day Of School

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Favorite CSA Recipe

CSA Soup

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Biggest Fitness Achievement

Chicago Marathon

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Most Inspiring Book

The Kind Diet

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Favorite Crockpot Recipes ***It’s a tie!

Root Vegetable Tagine

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And Two Ingredient Chicken

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Most Exciting Outdoor Activity Post

Biking and Hiking in Door County

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Best Way to Beat a Chocolate Craving

Christmas Candy

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Best (And Only) Guest Blogger

By Emmy the Cat

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Favorite New Fitness Trend

Hot Yoga

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Best Birthday Dessert

Trifle

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Healthiest Way to Explore Chicago

CHEW Tour

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Post that Makes Me Smile

30 Years of Good Stuff

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Breaking a Sweat without the Gym

In the past few years, I have used my week off between Christmas and New Years to become a hardcore gym rat.  I would go to the good classes that those of us with full-time employment were not lucky enough to attend during the week and then bump up my sweat sessions with the TRAINER.  This year, things have been a little different.  With unseasonably warm temperatures and new winter-weather gear (I just ordered these shoes and am patiently waiting by the door for the postman to deliver them), it has been easy to get outside for a run.  On Wednesday, I got in a 5.5 mile run with no wild animal run-ins (just a friendly little cat) and I am planning on enjoying the 50 degree weather with a longer outdoor run tomorrow. 

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On Tuesday, I fit in a HOT YOGA class and I am planning on doing the same tomorrow.  Tuesdays class was crazy hard and I think I am still sore today.  During a usual yoga class, I try to maximize my mind/body connection by setting an intention before the class (ie Mindfullness) that I hope to practice during class and then keep with me throughout the week.  On Tuesday, however, I found a more superficial meaning in the class and while we pulsed in a squat position alternating between chair and half chair for an entire song (at least 2.5 minutes I swear!), I found myself repeating to myself ‘bikini, bikini’.  And although my intention was slightly (ok…totally) superficial,  I was able to power through challenging vinyasas, difficult core work, and even negotiated my first standing split balancing with my hands on my calf instead of the block or floor that I prefer to use.  Now, I know in my head, I had a beautiful 180 degree split, when in reality I am lucky if I cleared 90 degrees, but either way, I was able to hold the pose for a few breaths feeling confident and in control.  What a success!

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Pictures above are actually a reenactment done in my living room this morning with Emmy as my cheerleader.  It was with feelings of achievement that I awoke yesterday, enjoyed leftover Pumpkin Cream Pie Oat Bran (surprising good as leftovers…just microwave with a touch of almond milk…yum!).

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And then headed back here for Bootcamp Round Two with the TRAINER.

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If I thought Mondays workout was hard, this one was even tougher.  We ran through strength circuits honing in on my glutes, my quads, my core, and then ran out for a round of bleacher stairs.  Two by two up we went with my heart rate maxing at 175 bpm.  Then back into the weight room for more circuits, including that dreaded 40 foot rope that feels like it weighs 100 pounds.  After 60 minutes, I had burned 497 calories!  Wow!  This morning, I was headed back to the yoga studio, which worked out well considering the rainy day ahead.  My intention was Wellness for the new year and a healthy and active upcoming vacation.  And although I was focused on a higher meaning, you know I was whispering ‘bikini, bikini’ to myself as I worked through those last  few bicycle crunchesSmile.

 

My a week of non-gym sweat sessions…

M-Bootcamp

T-Hot Yoga

W-5.5 mile run

Th-Bootcamp Two

F-Hot Yoga

S-Planned Run

 

Definitely have me feeling ready for vacation!  I even went out and got a new bathing suit yesterday!

FYI, this is not be modeling it in the pictures, but there will be pictures of my new suit hanging on a beautiful beach SOON!

DKNY Swimsuit, One Shoulder Striped One Piece

Leftover Goodies

Even with all of my baking this holiday season, I ended up with some leftover goodies.  The BOY, despite claiming to be on a pre-vaca diet, has taken care of the extra M&M’s.  The bigger questions…what to do with loads of nuts and two open containers of Oreos??? 

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Apparently, the BOY opened the regular, didn’t like them, and switched to mint. 

My solutions for the leftovers…

 

Mint Oreo Fudge

Pour 1 package of Nestle Dark Chocolate and Mint chips and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk into a saucepan.  Melt over medium to low heat, stirring often.

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Once smooth, stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and crushed Oreos (I used a mixture of mint and regular ~20 total).

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Spread mixture onto baking pan sprayed with cooking spray and store in the refrigerator until set, about 1 hour.

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Cut into small squares and serve.  Store in airtight container in fridge.

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Homemade KIND Bars

And for the nuts, I tried out Mama Pea’s Homemade KIND bars from her book.  I had a lot of leftover nuts, including sliced almonds.  I added in a few chopped figs as well because they are so good.

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The bars are easy to make loaded with nuts and dried fruit.

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I was a little nervous about how thin they looked, but baked them anyways.

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The sad thing is that I think I tried to cut them too early (Mama Pea warns against this).

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Instead of a solid bar, I got a mishmash of gooey fruits and nuts.

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I tried to push them back together with no luck, but ended up with a container of KIND bar chunks.

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Just as tasty, but harder to control your portions.

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With fewer ingredients crowding my counters, I am hoping to continue moving along on my kitchen clean up this week.

I still have some more almonds, pistachios, peanuts, and pecans left. 

 

Any suggestions on what to do with them???

I wanted to Tell you…

…That it was awful!

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I wanted to tell you that it was definitely not worth your money or the extra trip to Trader Joe’s.

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I wanted to tell you that it was totally overhyped.

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I wanted to tell you that I would give you mine because I couldn’t possibly come up with anything to do with it.

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I wanted to tell you that it was not the kind of thing that you would eat straight from the jar with a spoon.

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And that you would have the self control to not eat 27 servings! 

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Or create a new favorite after dinner snack.

Fig + Cookie Butter = Pure AMAZINGNESS!

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But I can’t!

Because we are friends, and I don’t want to lie to you!

Your best bet to prevent adding Cookie Butter to your oatmeal (so yummy!), spreading it over graham crackers and chocolate bars, smashing it between dried fruit, and eating it straight from the jar all in the same day, is to find a recipe to make and share it with your friends!

A few that I found…

 

No Bake Cookies

Cookie Butter Smoothies

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Cheesecake Dip

Granola

Peanut Butter Cup Cookie Butter Cookies

 

 

It’s the only safe way to invite this unique and delicious treat into your home.

Consider yourself warned!!!