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Friday, May 30, 2014

Strawberry Pancakes with Honey Bourbon Soaked Strawberries


Pancakes!! Today is Asher's birthday. Before we got on the road for our mini-vacation, I made breakfast. It was actually a really quick meal to prepare. I'm taking the weekend off for the #30DaysofFood challenge but will be back Monday with new recipes and maybe a couple of bonuses to make up for the missed days. 

Strawberry Pancakes with Honey Bourbon Soaked Strawberries
Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons raw sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk (I used vanilla almond milk)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted plus more for cooking (I used whipped butter)
8-10 large strawberries

Directions
Dice 3-4 strawberries (small dice) and set aside. Slice the remaining strawberries and put in a small bowl. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar over the sliced strawberries. Add 1 ½ tablespoons of honey bourbon to the bowl. Stir gently, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.* In another bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set the bowl aside. In a third bowl, whisk together milk, vanilla, butter and the egg. Add dry ingredients to the milk mixture and whisk until just moistened. Add diced strawberries and stir fully into the batter.

Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add a teaspoon of butter (you can swap the butter for oil if you prefer) to skillet and allow to melt (watch it closely and don’t allow it to burn). Pour batter into skillet and allow pancake to spread to the size you want. Cook until the surface of the pancakes has bubbles on the top (especially around the edges). Flip the pancakes and cook on the other side for about 1-2 minutes. Continue this process** until you’re out of batter (makes about 12-15 normal sized pancakes).

Top the hot pancakes with powdered sugar and the macerated strawberries. 

*You should macerate your strawberries for about 30 minutes.

**While you are cooking, you can keep your cooked pancakes warm in a 200 degree oven. 

***Basic recipe from Martha Stewart with slight modifications.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tuscan Bruschetta


For whatever reason, bruschetta screams Summer to me. Maybe it’s all the fresh flavors. Maybe it’s that one of my favorite bruschetta recipes is served at a restaurant in OBX, where we vacation every Summer. Whatever the reason, with the unofficial kickoff of Summer behind us, I thought now was the perfect time to serve up a warm weather favorite.


Tuscan Bruschetta*
Ingredients

Bruschetta Topping:
1 cup cherry tomatoes
¼ cup red onion, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
½ cup fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Tuscan Bean Spread:
1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup loosely packed parsley leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove
Salt and pepper to taste

1 loaf of a crusty bread*
2 tablespoons olive oil
Balsamic vinegar glaze**

Directions
To make the bruschetta topping, place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse 3 to 4 times until the tomato mixture is uniform in size. Pour into a small bowl and set aside. To make the Tuscan bean spread, using the same bowl (no need to wash), add all the ingredients for the bean spread and pulse until the mixture is smooth. To assemble the bruschetta, cut the bread into ½ inch thick slices, brush with olive oil and grill on each side until lightly golden brown. Cool to room temperature. Once cool, spread the bean mixture on the grilled bread and top with the bruschetta mixture. Drizzle balsamic vinegar glaze on top of each piece of bruschetta just before serving.


*Recipe from Ninja

**I used a loaf of bread with fresh rosemary baked into it but you can choose almost any sturdy, crusty bread for this recipe.

**You can also reduce balsamic vinegar on your own. You can find a recipe here

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reflections on Dr. Angelou



Dr. Maya Angelou passed away today. I know I’ve used her quotes on the blog but I’m not sure I’ve ever shared how important she was in my life. My connection started with reading her autobiography. A lot of what happened in her life struck a chord because of things that happened in my own. Reading her story and witnessing how she went on to use her life to help others spoke to me and set an example for not letting circumstances define a life. After that, I couldn’t get enough of her writing. I couldn’t get enough of her poetry so I made a project of surrounding myself with it. While my friends’ bedroom walls showcased TLC and LL Cool J, my walls featured Maya’s poems on colorful construction paper backgrounds. There was one for every mood and I felt comfort in that somehow. As I grew older and had more life experience, there were quotes that changed my life. You’ve undoubtedly heard them all:

“You teach people how to treat you.”

“When people show you who they are, believe them.”

“When you know better, do better.”

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."

"Nothing will work unless you do."

“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.”


And there are many, many more. Today, as I process through the loss, it has helped to reflect on her quotes. Tonight, I plan to go back and watch video of a project Ash filmed with her at the end of 2012 (yep, he got to meet her and as always, she had words of wisdom that have stuck with him since…I lived vicariously through him that day). I also plan to choose one of her poems to frame. I will add it the collage of frames in our bedroom. I will also leave you with the message below about the importance of forgiving yourself to get through things. Rest in peace, Maya.


I don't know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes- it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, 'Well, if I'd known better I'd have done better,' that's all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, 'I'm sorry,' and then you say to yourself, 'I'm sorry.' If we all hold on to the mistake, we can't see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can't see what we're capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one's own self. I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that's rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don't have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach. 

Weekly Weigh In

Robyn:

Happy One Day Late Again!

Sorry for all of the late posts.  Every Tuesday seems to come and go and I can't get my act together.  This week I have a good excuse - strep throat.  I spent the day at the doctor and pharmacy yesterday and was not really up to posting.

This week, I am glad to report I am down 1.6 pounds!  Yay!  That came with a lot of hard work.  I went to the gym three times and stuck (somewhat) with my diet.  I will say that I then enjoyed Memorial Day weekend - probably a bit too much.  That said, at my cousin's Memorial Day party, I managed to skip the burgers and hot dogs and stick with the salads (including a tortellini salad that really did fill me up).  

                                  

I have not been the gym in a week.  We hit the Memorial Day weekend and now I am a lump on a log lying in bed with strep throat.  Ugh. My current diet consists of Lipton chicken soup, bagels, toast, tea, juice and eggs.  What can I say?

Hopefully the penicillin kicks in and I can get back to the gym to work off some of the calories I consumed this weekend.

This week's recipe is for Summer Macaroni Salad with Tomatoes and Zucchini and it looks right up my alley and I plan to make it for the next BBQ I attend! It is compliments of Skinnytaste (Gina's Skinny Recipes) of course!

Nicole:

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know the weekend was a busy one filled with good company and good food. I didn’t lose or gain this week. The lack of a loss kinda sucks considering sunny beach days are just around the corner but, I wouldn’t trade the experiences. Now, it’s time to refocus.

Over the weekend, I saw a sound bite about weight loss. The message was that it is really all about the diet. Of course exercise matters and it's a must for a healthy life but if you're having cheeseburgers every day, what you do in the gym won't help you shed pounds. It’s not that I didn’t know this but it was a good reminder that all of my efforts in the gym can be sabotaged by a handful of mini snickers.  While there is nothing wrong with a cheat day at the end of the week, it’s good to know it can cancel out any progress you made during the week. That way, you won’t be shocked when you step on the scale.


Thinking about it really presents a question of worth. Yes, I love chocolate (especially when it comes with caramel, nougat or nuts) but is it worth derailing my goal, even if it’s just slightly? I think the answer will be no most of the time. There are times when I am socializing and want to eat, drink and be merry without worrying about the 100 calories in my wine or the 500 calories in my ½ a flatbread. With summer coming, I need to acknowledge that I can’t have those times all the time. Trust me, it is tempting with all the summer vacations, BBQs and social gatherings. But it’s not quite as tempting as reaching my goal.

So, it’s time for a summer plan. I’m starting with a 6-week challenge on June 1. I will post a workout plan every Sunday that will cover the week. I will also include a meal plan. Obviously, I am not a licensed nutritionist or trainer. I am just sharing what I plan to do/what has worked for me in the past. If you’re following along for the rest of the week, here’s the workout I’m doing:

          

As for food, I have been posting recipes everyday for my 30 Days of Food challenge.  Today’s recipe is a simple breakfast that is filling and while nutritious, feels a little indulgent. Check out my avocado toast here

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Avocado Toast


I am guilty of grabbing a banana for breakfast most days of the week. When I have a little more time, I make oatmeal or a fruit and veggie smoothie with chia seeds and a sprinkle of maca root powder for good measure. Bigger breakfasts are for weekends in my house. I can't seem to give up that second (or third) snooze cycle.

This morning, despite hitting the snooze button I had some extra time. I decided to go for a more filling breakfast using what we had available. The result was avocado toast. I'm sure you've seen several versions of this recipe popping up all over the web. I've seen tons of avocado based breakfast toasts that I want to try. Here's my version.

Avocado Toast
Ingredients
1 slice of bread of your choice
1/2 Haas avocado, pitted and diced
1/2 plum tomato
1 egg, hard boiled
1 clove of garlic
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Rinse and slice your tomato into very thin slices. Once cooled, peel and slice your egg. Score your avocado length and widthwise. Scoop the avocado out into a bowl and add cayenne, salt and pepper. Stir until well incorporated. Toast your bread. Cut the edge of your garlic clove to remove peel and rub the exposed garlic onto the toast. It is meant to give a slight hint of garlic without adding raw garlic to the recipe. You can mince the garlic for another recipe later. Spread avocado onto toast covering the slice of bread completely. Layer the tomatoes on top of the avocado and then layer the egg slices. Enjoy! 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day



As you enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, remember, with gratitude, those who served and those who are still serving. 

Monday Quotable



























I tagged along with family to the Farmer's Market this weekend. Since I wasn't shopping for anything in particular, I just wandered a bit. Amidst all the people rushing to fulfill their shopping list, I tried to take time to really experience the moment. I looked at the beauty of produce from near and far, smelled the scents of freshly ground spices and tasted a variety of just baked breads. It was a great and rare experience. So often, we are rushing around trying to cross things off of our lists and we forget to focus on the present moment. The weekend was a time for me to do that. The Farmer's Market was just a piece of it but it certainly set me up to really focus on enjoying every bit of my holiday weekend. I'm a lot better for it. If you're state side, I hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend and took some time to reflect on the true reason for the day. 

Lemon Glazed Donuts


Lemons taste like Summer to me. Lemonade, lemon based cocktails, lemon sorbet, etc. (figured I'd end it there at the risk of sounding like Bubba reminiscing over shrimp).  I got a Babycakes Donut Maker recently (I posted about making "Brownuts" here). With Summer essentially here, I decided it was time for a lemon glazed treat. You have to be careful when baking rather than frying donuts. You want to make sure they're light and fluffy and still have the feel (and not just the shape) of a regular donut. Here's the recipe and a few tips:

Lemon Glazed Donuts*
Ingredients
1 cup of all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 egg
6 ounces of plain Greek yogurt
2 drops lemon extract
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup milk or almond milk
Zest of one lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
Juice of one lemon

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 F.*** Lightly grease two 6 count donut pans with cooking spray or vegetable oil. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, yogurt, oil, milk and lemon zest. Add to dry ingredients and stir until well combined. Divide batter evenly into the 2 pans, filling each well about half full. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the donuts comes out clean. Remove donuts from the oven and cool for a few minutes in the pans.

To make glaze, whisk together powdered sugar and lemon juice. Glaze should be thin. Remove donuts from the pans and dip tops of donuts into the glaze. Cool on a wire wrack.

*Technically, this is a "fonut" or "faux-nut" recipe because the donut is baked. The recipe is from Barbara Bakes with very slight modifications by me.

**You can also use a donut maker to make your donuts. You will cut your baking time in half. I use the one by Baby Cakes, which you can buy here.

TIP: Use a pastry bag to fill the wells. 

TIP: If you want a cakey donut, head to your grocery store and buy a box of cake mix and frosting. Mix according to package instructions and make your donuts that way. Super quick and easy. The donuts will need to bake for a little longer in the donut maker. In the donut pan, you can follow the cooking times provided on the package. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Indian Spiced Pasta Salad


There is nothing terribly exciting about today’s recipe but that is exactly why I’m posting it. Sometime, you need something easy that travels well. Holiday weekends, picnics in the park and backyard BBQs will fill the summer. If you’re not hosting but want to bring something (in addition to wine), why not bring pasta salad?
I did just that in prep for an outdoor picnic this past weekend. It took about 15 minutes to make and over half of that was to allow the pasta to boil. Feel free to improvise on the basic recipe to include the flavors and veggies you want.

Spiced Pasta Salad
Ingredients
2 ounces of dry pasta of your choice
2 campari tomatoes, diced
½ yellow bell pepper, diced
1 small carrot, diced small
½ cup mayonnaise or veganaise*
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon coriander
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon dried cilantro
½ teaspoon ground pepper
Quality sea salt to taste
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Directions
Boil your pasta in salted (about 2 tablespoons) water according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking mix spices (except salt), mayonnaise and lime juice together in a small bowl. When pasta is finished cooking, drain it and rinse it with cold water. Stir in mayonnaise mixture and stir until pasta is coated. Add carrots and bell pepper and stir until well combined. Add tomatoes last and fold gently into the pasta salad. You don’t want to bruise or mash the tomatoes. Taste and add salt if needed. Transfer pasta to serving bowl or Tupperware. Refrigerate for an hour or more to allow flavors to marry. Serve cool.

*If you’d rather not use mayonnaise or veganaise,  substitute a good quality olive oil. Start with ¼ cup and increase if you feel pasta is too dry. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pizza Bianco Quattro Fromaggi (White Pizza w/ 4 Cheeses)


This weekend we took the "Perfect Pizza at Home" class at Sur la Table. Each pizza was made with Neapolitan pizza dough. We made a Classic Pizza Margherita, Pizza Bianco with Four Cheeses, and Pizza with Italian Sausage, Broccoli Raab, and Fresh Mozzarella. 

First, I have to say the class was so fun! Ash and I both cook a lot but we'd never taken a formal class (unless you count my 6th grade Home Economics (could never figure out why its called that) class, which you shouldn't...trust me. My spaghetti pie was nothing to write home about). Ash and I put cooking class on our list of fun things to do for date night this year but we haven't gotten around to it. Imagine my surprise when I found out my mom booked one for us. I highly recommend it.  

Second, I made a bunch of fresh mini pizzas in two hours and discovered some cool gadgets along the way. Hello, Petit Pizzeria


Of all three pizzas, my favorite was the Pizza Bianco, which is why I decided to share it for the 30 Days challenge. I know as you read through the recipes, it may all seem a bit complicated or labor intensive. Trust me, it's not. It really all came together so easily. I would totally do this at home (and will because I invested in the Petit Pizzeria after class). All recipes are from Sur la Table. If you want the other two recipes, let me know in the comment section and I will post them. Hope you're enjoying the weekend! 


Pizza Bianco with Four Cheeses
Ingredients
1 recipe Neapolitan Pizza Dough (see below)
Corn meal, as needed 
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed for brushing the dough
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt (we used white truffle sea salt)
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary
8 ounces of Fontina cheese
8 ounces of Pecorino Romano cheese
8 ounces of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
8 ounces of Asiago cheese

Directions
Place a pizza stone in the lower third of your oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Allow the pizza stone* to preheat for at least 30 minutes. 

Once the stone is preheated, you can stat rolling out your dough. Dust work surface with flour. Flatten one dough ball to a thickness of 1/2 inch, and roll to a diameter of about 5 inches, keeping the remaining dough covered. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet and cover with another piece of parchment. Continue rolling dough balls and placing on the baking sheet, separating layers of rolled dough with additional sheets of parchment as needed. Cover stack of dough rounds with plastic wrap and set aside. 

Sprinkle a pizza peel with some cornmeal and place a dough round on the peel. Give the peel a little shake to make sure the dough moves freely and is not sticking. Brush the dough with some olive oil. Sprinkle with some salt, garlic and rosemary. Grate some of each of the cheeses onto the dough. If there is one cheese that you like more than the rest, go a little heavier with that cheese. 

Open the oven and slide the pizza off of the peel and onto the pizza stone. Allow your pizza to cook until you have reached your desired crust crispness. Remove the pizza from the oven and place on a cutting board. If you let the pizza rest for 1 to 2 minutes before you cut it, you will get prettier slices. 

Recipe yields 8 individual 5-inch pizzas. 

* If you don't have a pizza stone, you can use a baking sheet but be sure to use a lot of olive oil and cornmeal on the bottom so it doesn't stick or burn. 

Neapolitan Pizza Dough
Ingredients
2 cups (11 ounces) bread flour, plus more as needed, and for work surface
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 envelope (2 1/4) instant yeast
1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl 

Directions
Place flour, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to combine. With the mixer running on low speed, add water and olive oil and mix for 1 minute to combine. Increase speed to medium and process until dough form a slightly sticky ball, about 1 to 2 minutes. If ball does not form, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue mixing until ball forms. Coat a large mixing bowl with a thin film of olive oil. Transfer dough ball to prepared mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 

Once dough has finished resting and rising, press dough gently to remove air bubbles, and turn out on a lightly floured surface. Using a bench scraper, divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a tight ball. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 15 minutes. 

Dust work surface with flour. Flatten one dough ball to a thickness of 1/2 inch and roll to a diameter of about 5 inches, keeping the remaining dough covered. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet and cover with another piece of parchment. Continue rolling dough balls and placing on the baking sheet, separating layers of rolled dough with additional sheets of parchment, as needed. Cover stack of dough rounds with plastic wrap and set aside. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Chickpea Tabbouleh


I got this recipe from Thug Kitchen and followed it to the letter (except I cut it in half to make a smaller portion). I also added a touch more salt because I'm having a love affair with salt lately. It's an issue, but I digress. I also used my food processor to chop everything except the scallions (green onions). It cut out SOOOO much time. Anyway, you can get the recipe here.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Kale and Mushroom Stuffed Peppers


It's day 3 of the 30 day food challenge. I'm having fun trying new recipes and sprucing up some old favorites. Today's recipe is an old one that couldn't be easier. Here's the recipe:

Kale and Mushroom Stuffed Peppers
Instructions
2 bell peppers, tops and seeds removed
Brown rice (or any grain of your choice)*
2 cups of kale
1 cup of sliced mushrooms**
1 tablespoon of quality sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of olive oil


Directions
Salt water and boil rice according to package instructions. Preheat oven to 350. While rice is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet and add mushrooms. Saute mushrooms for about 3 minutes. Add kale and cook until kale is wilted. Once rice is done, add it to skillet with pepper and garlic powder. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Fill peppers with mixture and top with breadcrumbs. Place stuffed peppers in the oven for 15-20 minutes. For the last 5 minutes of cooking, top with fresh grated parmesan cheese. Serve hot.

*I've made this recipe with coucous, farro, wild rice and brown rice.
**I used shitake because that's what I had on hand. You can use whatever type of mushroom you love. If you hate mushrooms, (really?!?!?!) consider adding onions or diced bell pepper. 

Love List


1. RipeTrack is a great way to check on what's in season. I'm using it while picking veggies to cook with for the 30 Days of Food challenge.

2.  I try really hard not to be late when I'm going somewhere but there are certain places I can't seem to ever make on time. It's usually because I can't find something (keys) and laid in bed until the last possible minute. This article from You Beauty gives some helpful tips for ending lateness.

3. Looking for comfy, cute summer sneakers. Love these and love their price (under $15) even more.

4. Christina Yang left Grey's Anatomy. (sniff, sniff). I'm one of my few remaining friends that still watches the show and the loss of my favorite character makes me sad. That said, she left the show with some poignant words that made me love her (and Shonda Rhimes) even more.

5. This custom cutting board DIY from 100 Layer Cake is so cool and looks really easy. It's on the list of things to try this summer.

6. This navy and gold wallpaper from Ju Ju Papers would make a great accent wall.

7. I love the irreverence of Thug Kitchen and get vegan recipes from there all the time. Their cookbook is coming soon and I couldn't be more excited. You can pre-order here.

8. Didn't everyone want an indoor slide as a kid? I used to slide down the stairs all the time. Now people don't have to thump, thump, thump their way down. I really want this thing (Trisha Cleveland's SlideRider)...or at least my inner child does.

9. Gabrielle (Gabby) Bernstein is awesome. I'm reading one of her latest book now and it contains a reading for everyday. In one of the readings, she referenced the breath of fire. I looked it up and found several of her breathing techniques. I use them when the day is too stressful. Check it out here and here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Weekly Weigh In


Robyn:

Hi readers. Sorry for the late editions the past couple of weeks.  In any event, this week I gained weight.  Quite frustrating because I have been on a treadmill kick and going to the gym as much as I can.  I am on week 3 of Couch to 5K and honestly – it is getting tough.  I do not remember it being so tough when I did it last summer.  In any event, I will say that mentally, I do feel better for going to the gym.  I mean – It’s not all about weight loss, right? It’s also about moving, and helping the heart.   I am hoping for a loss by Saturday and, as you know, I do weigh myself everyday – so I foresee a loss from last Saturday……

One more point – shout out to me for hitting the gym Saturday, Sunday and Monday!  3 days in a row!

I also ordered some meals under 350 calories from Fresh Direct. Well, Monday’s meal was not great and I was starving so I managed to add a mini frozen pizza.  I think this is what tempted me to go the gym Monday night.  GUILT!!

Last night, I had another Fresh Direct meal and it was pretty good.  They are frozen while fresh and literally take only 3-5 minutes to heat up.  So, if you are starving on some nights and don’t feel like cooking, this may be a good options.

My recipe for the week is Spaghetti with Mushrooms and of course, it’s from Skinnytaste (Gina’s Skinny Recipes) You can find it here.

Nicole:

Down, down baby/Down the weight roller coaster!* I’ve finally started losing substantial amounts again. I am down 1.9 pounds this week.  I didn’t vary my behavior or eating patterns drastically. I think the body just gets stuck sometimes.  In any event, I’m happy for the loss, reinvigorated and motivated to keep pushing towards my goal.  

I have some travel coming up so my trick to stay on track is the push away. Push away a food item. Push you’re a** away from the table…whatever it takes. I developed this rule for myself because of how I usually behave on vacation. Too many times, I’ve given in to temptation and gobbled up delicious food and chugged (ok, sip—let’s be real. I don’t chug…no frat boy habits over here) down beachy cocktails because I’m on “vacation.” It’s a great way to destroy progress but it doesn’t do much else but remind you that your will power is the weakest link.
That said, just like in my everyday life, I don’t want to be totally deprived…especially when traveling and trying new foods. I mean, I’m already a veggie. A girl needs something. So, if I have a full plate, I will “push away” half and save it for later. I’ll have two cocktails instead of three. I’ll eat the meal and push away the bread. And if I eat so much my pants start to feel like sausage casing, I push my a** away from the table…and possibly go for a walk. The 100 calories I burn will never cancel the effect of a heavy meal but it will make me feel better by getting rid of that rock in the stomach feeling.

For this week’s workout, I’m offering a little dancing. I still do Zumba to pepper some fun into my workout routine. HIIT is effective (and I love it for that) but shaking my hips feels a lot more fun that a grueling circuit of high knees, mountain climbers and jump squats.  Let’s dance it out!

          

This week’s recipe is Sweet Pea & Pearl Onion Pesto Smothered Zucchini Noodles. I got the recipe at My New Roots and adapted it a bit. The original recipe is here. My recipe is here. The meal is part of a 30 day cooking challenge I gave myself. Cooking at home helps me keep track of what’s going into my body, helps control portions sizes, provides leftovers for lunch and saves me money. I’m only two days in but loving the project. If you have recipe suggestions, leave them in the comments.

*This is an old hand game reference. If you don’t know it, check out this video. Down, Down Baby starts at 2:07 and ends at 2:47. As an aside, who knew there were so many hand clapping games??? 

Sweet Pea & Pearl Onion Pesto Smothered Zucchini Noodles


Sweet Pea & Pearl Onion Pesto Smothered Zucchini Noodles*
Ingredients
2  6″ zucchinis, julienned or spiral cut, preferably organic
24 frozen pearl onions
2 cups organic frozen peas
3 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil +1 tablespoon
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp agave
1 ½ teaspoons of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of quality sea salt (I used Himalayan pink salt)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions
Using a spiral noodle slicer or a julienne peeler make your noodles from the zucchinis.  Place in a medium sized bowl and set aside. Thaw the onions in the microwave on low for 5 minutes. Add the peas and defrost for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat, drain off excess water and divide the mixture in equal halves (eyeball the peas, count the onions). Set half aside and put the other half in the food processor with the ¼ cup of olive oil, lemon juice, mint, salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder and agave. Process until creamy unless you want a chunkier texture. Heat the reserved tablespoon of olive oil in a deep skillet. Add your zucchini noodles and toss around the pan. You just want them to be heated through. Add the pesto and stir with tongs to make sure the zucchini noodles are well coated.  Toss in all but 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese and continue to stir until cheese is melted. Add in reserved peas and onions. Toss to mix into the noodles. The noodles will be in the skillet for a total of about 5 minutes. Divide noodles between 2 bowls. Top with reserved parmesan cheese. Makes 2 servings.


*The original recipe, from My New Roots, calls for the meal to be served warm or room temperature, making it a great raw food option. It is delicious that way but I wanted something hot last night. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Eggplant Pizzas






[ring, ring (Radiate ring tone for iPhone)]

Me: Hey babe.

Ash: Hey love. Whatcha doin’?

Me: Making dinner.

Ash: For both of us? Really??? What are you making?

Me: What's up with the surprise? 

Ash: Ummmm. 

Me: Nevermind. Tranches d’aubergine a l’Italienne (in the best French accent I could pull from my 6 years of classes).

Ash: I’m just gonna say ok and be surprised. There’s always the chicken breasts I marinated earlier.

Me: Eggplant pizzas, ya punk. Just go with it. I’m sure you’ll like them.


And he did…and so did I. I originally got today's recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen. You can see her post here.  I remixed the recipe a bit but the original would be just as good (obviously…I mean, it is a Julia Child recipe). I just went with what I had in the house. There are so many variations of this recipe you could do. It’s as endless as, well, pizza. Here’s what I did. 


Eggplant Pizzas
Ingredients
1 globe eggplant (8 ounces)
1 tablespoon of kosher salt 
2-3 tablespoons of quality olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
3 campari tomatoes, chopped 
2/3 cup basil and garlic tomato sauce
1/2 cup baby spinach, rinsed
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used a mix of 3 types of cheddar)

Directions
Slice eggplant into 3/4 inch slices. Lay them out on a cutting board or baking sheet. Salt the tops and let them sit for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 F. After 30 minutes, pat the eggplant slices dry. Brush them with olive oil. In a small bowl, mix dried basil, oregano and garlic powder until well mixed. Sprinkle the mixture on top of the eggplant slices. Roast the eggplant for 20 to 25 minutes. They should be tender but not mushy. While the eggplant is roasting, heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet. Sauté the mushrooms for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and fresh tomatoes and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 10 minutes. While it is simmering, stack your spinach leaves and roll into a chiffonade. Slice the spinach into strips and set aside. Once the eggplant is done, remove from oven. Top each slice with tomato sauce mixture. Next, top each slice with grated cheese. Finally, sprinkle spinach on top of each slice. Put slices back in the oven on the top rack for about 5 minutes just to melt the cheese. You can also use your broiler. I didn't because I didn't want my spinach to be too wilted. Serve hot. 

I"m doing a 30 day cooking challenge so there will be a lot more recipes around here over the next few weeks. If you have any suggestions, let me know! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Quotable


Last night, I was catching up on shows I missed last week and Lifeclass (OWN) was among them. T.D. Jakes was on talking about his new book Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive (I referenced it here a couple of weeks ago). During the course of the discussion, the topic of naysayers (read: haters) came up, which launched Bishop Jakes into a metaphor.

He started out talking about giraffes and how hard their hearts have to pump to get blood up to their brains. They eat at tree level because when they lower their heads to the ground, they faint. Then, he talked about turtles. They are on the ground, slow and can't raise up any higher than the position they're in. The naysayers or "haters" in your life are the turtles. They can only see on their own level and allow themselves to be limited by that. They may not mean you any harm but when you talk about your dreams, they just don't see it as a possibility. Because of that, they discourage you.

The ultimate message is to ignore the turtles. We were meant to be tall and shouldn't lower our perspective because of experience based on "ground level" thinking. Dreams and vision are lofty for a reason. Our souls are in search of purpose. The only way to get there is by keeping our eyes up and focused.

The message struck me because I'm going through this whole "stuck" phase. I talked a lot about it with Ash over the weekend and discovered he's going through the same thing. We've talked about following our dreams a million times but this time, it was a really in depth conversation...all thanks to terrible traffic. In short, our dreams and plans have changed. We both came away from our conversation pumped up and refocused. Then we caught Lifeclass, which helped even more. There are no mistakes under the sun.

As I plan, there are discouraging voices-sometimes my own-that encourage the status quo. There are also real considerations that cheer for the status quo (bills, health insurance). It's tempting to fall in line but I don't want to look back on my life a 5 years from now and still feel stuck. So, for now, it's about the grind. Here's to lofty goals and tall vision.

p/s I am bringing back "What I'm Reading." I know it has been a while but I have 3 books under my belt for the year and starting a fourth. If you care to follow along, I've finished Bossypants, Everything is Perfect When You're A Liar and Cemetery Girl. Next up is  Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive. I had another book lined up but after all the inspiration I got from Lifeclass and Bishop Jakes' sermons over the last month, it really couldn't be any other way.

Happy Monday!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Playlist


I don't know about you but I couldn't be happier that it's Friday! Today's playlist is another eclectic mix of what I've been listening to lately. Enjoy and Happy Friday!!

Weekly Weigh In








Robyn: 

Hello or shall I say greetings from the flip side? Yes – I managed to do 5 visits to the gym since I started on the new path – or should I say since I spent $50 to enter the June 5k.  I am quite proud of that.  I have also been diligent in wearing my FitBit – and although I do not always meet the 10,000 goal, I am definitely more aware of the steps I take.  I tend to walk a few more steps here and there just to get to 10,000.  

As for weight loss, this week I am only down .2.  Which is still a LOSS.  Given the crap (and yes, I mean crap) I ate this week I will take the small loss.  I also really think that I would have gained if I did not hit the gym on Saturday!

Here’s to a new week.  I do not have a recipe this week – mainly because I have not tried anything new.  I will try to come up with something new this weekend.

Nicole:

Hi guys. I'm the reason we're late this week. Sorry!!! This week has been a doozy.

So...if I have a theme every week, this week’s theme is “it’s all about the little things.” Why? Because sometimes, that’s all you can do. The past week was filled with meetings and late work nights. I found myself without time to go to the gym at night and too tired to go in the morning. During weeks like that, it quickly becomes about the small things you can do to pepper in some fitness despite not doing a “full” workout. Because of that, this week's workout is a list of "get it in where you can fit it in" calorie burners.



Have a dog? Head outside for a longer than usual walk and try to work some jogging in while doing it. I mean, you have to do it anyway, right? Might as well make the best of it. If you get home too late and don’t want to walk your dog in the dead of night think about a quick game of fetch. Of course, your dog will need to be small enough to play in the house.


Totally out of groceries and living off of cereal or microwave popcorn? If you have to sacrifice your gym time for the grocery store, pop in headphones and boogie up and down the aisles. Ok…don’t be the crazy person making people uncomfortable but studies show that walking to upbeat music makes you walk faster, which can lead to a higher calorie burn (243 an hour to be exact). Lifting the heavy bags into the car won’t hurt either. Boom, you’re productive, fit and close to a healthy meal…because surely you wouldn’t shop til you drop and then order pizza, right? (Yeah…I’ve done that).

Speaking of meals, cook one. Thirty minutes of dinner prep burns about 74 calories.


You could do some chores but if you’re skipping a workout because of a late meeting or a long day at work, chances are the last thing you want to do is scrub the shower when you get home (or maybe you do…I don’t. I’m the woman that sprays down the shower with a cleaning spray to avoid scrubbing every week). Think about washing the dishes while dancing, sweeping the kitchen floor after dinner or marching in place while folding laundry (just folding burns 72 calories in 30 minutes).

Hit the hay. You can even burn calories in your sleep—360 to be exact.

If you really mean business, there are tons of 10-15 minute HIIT workouts to choose from. You know my favorites are from Neila Rey but just search YouTube. There are hundreds, if not thousands to choose from.

My favorite recipe from the last week was my kale and mushroom couscous lettuce wraps. You can find the recipe here.