Monday, August 29, 2011

Learning through challenging

I think we learn a lot about ourselves by facing and meeting challenges. They can come in many forms in different aspects of our lives. Some simple, some complex and serious. It's in how we meet them that we grow.

A serious contemplation, I know. In reality, I'm thinking about the challenge I made for myself by signing up for the bootcamp class this month. I came, I conquered, I ran myself down, I got sick, I stopped going. After the first week I was feeling so proud of myself for doing something so different, for all the running and challenging training, all at 5:30am. - so much so that I upped my 'membership' for the month to 5 days/week instead of 3. The 2nd week I made it through Thursday, and by Friday morning I was sleep deprived and sore from a killer lower body workout, plus all my usual yoga. I slept in and missed both bootcamp and yoga. I felt guilty. The next morning I woke with a terrible sinus cold - my body telling me I was pushing myself too hard and not taking the care it needed. Monday came and I stayed home. Tuesday arrived and guilt ate away at me. I wanted to go, I didn't want to give up. I owe my realizations about meeting this challenge to my insightful husband, Thad. He told me how proud he was of me for challenging myself and giving it 100%, but that I didn't need to continue to run myself down while sick in order to feel I'd met the challenge I set for myself, and to let go of any guilt over the $ already spent on it. And so I did. How simple is that? Perhaps that is where the growth really happened for me, it does often happen when you least expect it!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rice & White Bean Veggie Soup

Soups are so forgiving - keep adding veggies, adjust your seasonings and it grows! In fact I added so many veggies as I went along I had to add in another carton of broth, making a big batch. I did write down everything I did so I can recreate this yummy soup again someday. This recipe uses Arborio rice (a white rice most often used with risotto), which has a creamy texture. Next time I might substitute a whole grain instead to make it healthier - bulgur wheat, wheatberries, farro, quinoa - i think they'd all go well in here. Or even a small whole grain pasta.

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 zucchini chopped crosswise (I used a summer squash instead)
  • 2 carrots, chopped crosswise
  • 1 stalk celery chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • handful of green beans, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • handful of basil chopped
  • 1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 can canellini beans
  • 4 TB tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 2 cartons vegetable broth
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions, green pepper, garlic, carrots and celery. Let veggies soften, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add rice and chili flakes to veggies. Stir, add broth, bay leaf, parmesan rind, tomato paste and basil.
  3. Reduce heat to medium or medium low and simmer until rice is almost done, about 20-25 minutes. Add zucchini, beans, swiss chard and green beans and mix well.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Let soup simmer until zucchini is tender.

Cold Lentil Tabbouleh Salad

Wednesday morning I went searching for a salad to make for lunch. It had to have protein, use veggies, and I had to have all the ingredients in the house. I found 2 recipes that sounded great and adapted both of them to create one fantastic lentil tabbouleh!

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 2 TB red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 TB honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped (I used a mix of curly and italian)
  • 1 carrot, chopped small
  • 1/2 small onion chopped (or 1/4 red onion)
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 TB pine nuts (toasted if you have time)
  • handful of spinach, roughly chopped
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

  1. Place lentils in medium pot, fully covered in water. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 30 minutes or until tender but not falling apart. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.
  2. Place bulgur wheat in small pot with 1 cup water. Heat until simmering, then turn off heat, cover and set aside for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and drain any excess water.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, honey, garlic and vinegar. Set aside
  4. In a medium bowl combine cooked lentils, bulgur, parsley, onion, carrot, cucumber, spinach. Drizzle oil mixture over salad and toss well. Season with salt and pepper (and some Spike seasoning if you have it). Garnish with pine nuts.
  5. Chill, covered at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
This recipe could be adapted according to what veggies you have on hand. Add in diced or cherry tomatoes or diced green pepper if you have them.

Veggie Bean Burgers

I’ve made a few different recipes of black bean burgers, but this one is my favorite – it sticks together well and stays firm. And of course, all kinds of good for you ingredients!


  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1/2 cup dry rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)
  • 1-2 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 TB ground flax seed


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Add the oats and seeds to food processor and grind until coarsely chopped. Let it run for roughly 10 seconds.
  3. Grate the carrots and add to mixture in food processor.
  4. Add 3/4 of the beans, all the spices, flax seed and 1 TB olive oil.
  5. Process until mixed thoroughly. You may need to add another TB of olive oil. You will know it is the right consistency when it starts balling up in the food processor as it mixes. Add drops of water until it does.
  6. Transfer to a mixing bowl and gently fold in the remaining beans.
  7. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray (I use my Pampered Chef bar pan).
  8. Wet your hands and using a 1/3 cup measuring cup measure out and form each patty.
  9. Bake at 300 degrees for 40 minutes, turning once in the middle.

This batch made 8 patties for me. They keep and reheat well for days!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Eggplant Linguine

I love when a meal just comes together so easily. I had an eggplant in the fridge so went looking for an easy recipe to throw together after work. I ran across a spaghetti with Eggplant and Basil recipe on a food blog ( and adapted it slightly.
Eggplant Linguine
serves 3
  • 6 oz egg linguine (I use Al Dente egg linguine – cooks in just a few minutes and tastes fresh!)
  • 4 TB olive oil
  • 1 very small onion, minced (I might use shallots instead next time)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 med-large onion, diced
  • 1 med eggplant chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 TB balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 4 TB panko bread crumbs
  • handful of fresh basil (torn or sliced)
  • salt and pepper
  • (optional) romano cheese, shredded
  1. Boil water and cook linguine. Drain, add in a tiny bit of olive oil, mix in the basil, divide pasta onto 3 plates,  and set aside.
  2. In a small skillet heat 1 TB olive oil over low heat. Add the minced very small onion and 1 clove minced garlic and cook until tender and just starting to brown, about 5-7 min), stirring occasionally. Add the breadcrumbs and cook until light golden brown (about 1-2 min) stirring frequently. Stir in a pinch of salt and pepper, turn off heat and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together the balsamic vinegar, honey, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp black pepper, set aside.
  4. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced med-large onion and eggplant and cook until starting to soften and brown slightly (about 5-7 min), stirring occasionally. Add the balsamic mixture and cook 1 minute, then cover the skillet, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook until the veggies are tender (about 7 min), stirring occasionally and adding a splash of water if the pan gets too dry. Add the remaining minced garlic and cook 1-2 min more.
  5. Divide eggplant mixture onto top of each plate of pasta. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture on top.
  6. (optional) add shredded romano cheese on top.

Healthy Blueberry Almond Muffins

Friday I spent the day with Savannah, my neighbor’s daughter. We had plans to go blueberry picking, so in the morning we sat down and looked online for some blueberry recipes to make when we got home. We picked out 4 and made our shopping list. I’m actually impressed we got through 3 of them! She loves cooking and baking with me and learning, so it makes it so fun for me too! We made these delicious muffins, some amazing blueberry gelato (perhaps not so healthy), and blueberry brownies that were surprisingly yummy and fairly healthy too.

This recipe is from the blog, Blogging Over Thyme, which was inspired by a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I doubled her recipe (I knew I wasn’t going to go to all the work just to make 9 muffins!). They do contain butter and sugar, so maybe not exactly a ‘health’ food, but I would say it’s a healthier alternative when it comes to muffins.


Healthy Blueberry Almond Muffins

Makes 18 muffins


  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 TB baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups non fat greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 6 TB unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • sliced almonds


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin pans or put paper muffin liners in pan.
  2. Using mixer, beat together apple sauce, butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Proceed to mix in egg, yogurt, and zest until mixed thoroughly.
  3. In separate bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Fold in half of the flour mixture until it comes together. Add in additional half and gently fold into batter. It will be very thick and dough like.
  5. Add in fresh blueberries and fold gently.
  6. Fill muffin cups about 7/8 full. Sprinkle sliced almonds onto each muffin.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes clean. Cool on rack.


about 170 calories and 5 grams protein/muffin

Roasted Veggie Bulgur Pilaf

I’ve made this dish a few times now – it’s a favorite from the Fresh and Fast Vegetarian cookbook. I made it again earlier this week for dinner (which also means leftovers for lunch!), and made a 2nd batch of it to take to a family friend this morning. Her son has had bacterial meningitis and taking care of him has been both a full time job and very stressful – a friend of hers set her up on – and I signed up to bring them a meal today.


Roasted Veggie Bulgur Pilaf

serves 4-6


  • 3 red bell peppers, diced 1/2 inch
  • 3 zucchini (I mix zucchini and summer squash) – about 6 oz each – diagonally sliced (1/4 inch)
  • 2 large carrots, diagonally sliced (1/4 inch)
  • 1 large red onion, cut into wedges (1/4 inch)
  • 4 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse grain bulgur
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1 TB chopped fresh mint
  • 1 TB chopped fresh dill
  • 1 TB chopped fresh italian parsley
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 2 TB toasted pine nuts


  1. Place a heavy baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450 for 10 minutes. I use a Pampered Chef bar pan
  2. Meanwhile, combine the peppers, zucchini, carrots and red onion in a bowl. Drizzle with 3 TB of the oil and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of the salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.
  3. Carefully remove hot pan from the oven and spread veggies on the pan. Roast for 15 minutes in the 450 degree oven. Stir with a spatula, turning and moving them around so they’ll brown evenly. Roast until browned and tender, about 10 min more.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 TB oil in a large skillet. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring, over medium heat until golden, about 10 min. Stir in the bulgur and raisins. Add 2 cups water and the remaining 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Stir once to blend. Cover and cook over low heat until the water is absorbed about 10 min.
  5. Add the olives, mint, dill, parsley and orange zest to the hot roasted veggies. Add half of the veggies to the bulgur and fluff with a fork. Spoon the bulgur onto plates and mound the remaining vegetables on top. Sprinkle with the nuts and serve.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A butterfly girl from way back when . . .

I’ve been going through boxes in our storage room in the basement in an effort to get ready to have a garage sale in a couple weeks. This includes some of the boxes that came over from my parents’ basement – childhood mementos. I found my old jewelry box and inside were a few pieces of jewelry that were butterfly themed! It could be because it was the 70s, but I’d like to believe it’s because I’ve always been a butterfly girl!


Day 1 Bootcamp–I survived!

This month I am doing a 3 days/week for 4 weeks Women’s Adventure Boot Camp. Something totally out of the norm for me, I’m taking it on as a challenge!

4 am – alarm goes off!

4:30 am – green smoothie in my Vitamix – made a big one to divide up before and after workout and later in the day – 2 bananas (frozen), 2 cups frozen cherries, 2 large handfuls baby spinach, 1 cube of frozen wheatgrass juice, 2 TB chia seeds, 2 TB hemp protein powder, 1/4 cup plain kefir, 1 cup original almond milk, 2 cups cold water

5:10 am – mat? check! weights? check! water? check! towel? check!

5:25 am – realized I forgot my LivingSocial printout, figured he wouldn’t send me home so started walking to warm up

5:30 am – we got right to it! There were probably at least 50 women there this morning, our mats laid out in the parking lot, in the dark – many likely wondering what we’ve gotten ourselves into. I was excited to see what he had planned and what the style of the workout would be. For the next hour we did interval training – 4 different exercises, mostly with our weights, 20 reps each, then 2 minute bursts of cardio – running, jumping jacks, simulated jump rope, butt kicks, punches. LOTS of arm work with weights (I brought my 7lb that I had last used at Jazzercise and I still think it’s the right weight for now for me) – and THEN push ups (after my arms were jelly!). We ended with some ab/core work – forearm plank and tabletop alternate leg/arm balances, then some stretching which was all taken from yoga – child’s pose, half pigeon, bound angle and a final hamstring stretch.

6:30am - Whew! I got a good workout in and feel confident I can do this and not look ridiculous! My heart rate monitor tells me I burned 401 calories, with an avg heart rate of 125 and a max heart rate of 164. Not bad for the first day!