Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WIAW: Island Edition

Ah, vacation.  

I spent last week in Aruba--One Happy Island, so I'll share with you some eats from the week... What I Ate (Last) Wednesday (and the other days around Wednesday).  We ate breakfast and lunch in our own kitchen, and dinners sometimes in, often out.  In or out, I made sure I ate my vegetables. :)


Here's how it went...


We started off in typical Meredith fashion, roasting a zillion veggies for the next few days' consumption.

carrots
asparagus
peppers, squash

We ate at our resort's restaurant on the first night there (I had the most delicious sesame-crusted seared tuna over arugula), and then the following night had time to prepare a proper meal at home.  The star?  Salmon!


That, plus the veggies--asparagus, sweet potato, carrots--made for a deliiiicious meal.  So filling!


The next night, we were excited to go to our favorite restaurant in Aruba: Chalet Suisse.  We go every year on my parents' anniversary, and this year was no exception.  The food was just as delicious as always. Everyone else gets steak, veal, lamb, but I picked two tasty-looking appetizers for my meal.

Dressed greens and baked goat cheese

... repeat: Baked goat cheese.

Seafood, mushrooms, creamy goodness.

White chocolate mousse, never fails.

Next night, we followed some poolside friends' recommendations to an Italian establishment called Hostaria da Vittorio.


Shrimp, Herbs, Risotto

Another restaurant (Amadeus) had a beautiful, photo-worthy dessert and table settings, too:

Strawberries


My mornings were far less special, but perfectly nutritious and delicious first thing in the morning.

Oatmeal, blueberries, chia,
Banana on the side



Blueberry Smoothie

What a way to wake up!!!!


Greek yogurt with blueberries,
walnuts, flax, chia, cinnamon

Omelette made to order

Of course, I had *this snack* with me, in its homemade form.



Most days for lunch, I made a salad with arugula, vegetables, and either leftover salmon (from above) or hard-boiled eggs with balsamic vinaigrette.  A light yet satisfying lunch to enjoy by the pool.

Arugula, tomato, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, salmon, eggwhites


On our last night, we went to another tried and true restaurant: the French Steakhouse at the Manchebo.  There, I did another double-appetizer order, which made me so, so happy.  Especially because one appetizer, classified as a "salad" (hah!), was screaming my name, jumping off the menu page, waiting to end up in my belly.  Can you guess what it was?

....

IT WAS A GIANT STACK OF VEGETABLES!

Asparagus, spinach, portobello mushroom, eggplant,
 squash, zucchini, red pepper, onion, tomato,
topped off by a cube of feta.
An all-star cast!!! 

Slightly less pretty once I got my hands on it

As if that weren't satisfying enough, my next course was just as tasty, and presented just as beautifully.

Seared cajun-style tuna steak
over greens and carrots,
with a citrus-something dressing

Because it was the last night, we couldn't pass up dessert. Something to console us as we bid farewell to paradise, and to celebrate the fun we had.

Chocolate cake. 'Nuff said.

Vanilla ice cream and.. stuff. Perty. 

Fantastic eats, all week long, made in our own kitchen and at some of our favorite restaurants.


Did you eat anything noteworthy last week?  What are you eating TODAY?  Do you also wish I were still in Aruba?  :) 


Happy Wednesday.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Combine fruit and nut

One of my favorite snacks is...
prunes + walnuts!


If you haven't tried this winning combination, I hiiiiighly encourage it.  For a while, I'd snack on them independently, but then a lightbulb went off and I started combining them in one sweet, chewy, crunchy bite!


Alone, they're great, but together, they're perfection.

So, you can only imagine my elation when Trader Joe's read my mind and created this--!

 

When food shopping after returning from my relaxing vacation, I practically did a happy dance right there in the aisle next to these brilliant inventions.  They're thin little slices of a log of prunes and walnuts!  The package suggests pairing with cheese, but at 50 calories a pop, I'd refrain from doing so, unless you're really looking for a treat (...in which case, I'd recommend goat cheese here).  They're very tasty, easy to eat, and would be great to toss in your bag if you'll be out and about.


If you like nuts, and you like fruit--fresh or dried--consider mixing the two for your next snack.  Dried apricots & almonds, apples & nut butter, prunes & walnuts.



Try this Meredith- and TJ's-approved snack in your kitchen or pack them on the go!  Make it yourself, or buy the easy-to-eat Trader Joe's packaged version.  However you like, just taste this perfect pair.  


I dare you.


What fruit-nut combos are your favorite?  What other snacks do you like to munch on during the day or to take on-the-go?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Relax.

I dare you to relax.

No, really, just sit back and truly relax.

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To share, I just returned from a week in Aruba with my wonderful family.  Life is good on that One Happy Island.




However, I was taking this vacation when I did NOT have a true 'break' from life.  My graduate courses went on without me, and I had to continue my part-time job (for which I work online remotely) from abroad.  So, along with my bathing suits and flip-flops, I also packed textbooks, my laptop, and an outline to become a full-fledged paper.  Let the fun begin!

But really, it did.  Although it was tough at times, I was able to separate work-time from vacation-time.  When I was upstairs at my computer, I was working, I was writing, I was corresponding for work and school.  When I was outside, I was relaxing, I was reading, I was listening to music, I was going for a dip in the water.  I did occasionally slip in some reading for classes, but alternated with reading for fun.

My sister and I packed a small library of BOOKs.


Some serious, some funny, some can't-put-it-down, some casual beach reads... all accounting for much poolside entertainment and thought.

After a day in the sun, we'd retire upstairs to shower and unwind (after our tough, tough day of lounging) before dinner.  During that time, I'd squeeze in some work, get things done, so that during dinner I could free my mind and engage with my grandparents, parents, and sister.  (And, of course, to enjoy the food. Check back Wednesday for more on the food.)

We also slipped in some time to stay active.  Not as much as we could have, but hey, we were on vacation!  The first two or three days, I spent a bit of time in the dingy little gym (running on the treadmill, lifting some weights), and one day I went to the 30-minutes "Abs and Stretching" class the resort provided.  It was all alright, but the gym itself was tiny and depressing.  I found myself wanting to sleep in a little more, spend less time cramped on the treadmill, and spend more of my vacation doing what I wanted.  So, I stopped going to the gym.

My sister and I found other exercise on the tennis court.  We didn't play long, but we were certainly moving!  Doing our best to keep our rallies going.


We also did a little walking on the beach.  Had a nice walk on the sand, against the strong Arubian wind!


Picked up some neat shells along the way.  I'm always looking...


Even though I was not on an official, sanctioned vacation, it was nice to get away from the cold and rain for a while, to spend time with my family and indulge in island eats, to soak in the sun and enjoy a good book, to play bingo and look at iguanas...



There's always time to relax, and there's also reason to.  There's never so much to do that you can't set aside work and to-do lists for just five, ten, thirty minutes to focus on YOU.  Do whatever you find relaxing and enjoyable: read a book for pleasure, take a nice warm bath, meditate, close your eyes and listen to music, take the time to enjoy an activity that puts you in your happy place (baking? painting? playing a sport? assembling puzzles? reading my blog?).  

There's always time for you, and you'll be way more productive in your work/life/business activities when you've had the chance to be energized and relaxed. 

How do you like to relax?  Unwind after a long day?  Do you take breaks in the middle? 


So, relax!  I dare you.



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Friday, February 24, 2012

Wait For Your Entree

Have you ever gone to a restaurant, ordered too many appetizers, and had THIS happen to your meal?

Doggie Bags!

Sure, it's nice to have something to take home and look forward to tomorrow, but do you really want to get so full from appetizers that you can't even stomach your main course??

Don't get me wrong; I love appetizers.  In fact, the appetizer section is almost always my favorite part of a menu!  I find the most appealing options there, and often do choose to get one or two appetizers instead of a main.  It also works out well because the portion sizes are more realistic than some of the entrees are.  So if that's your choice, like mine, then go for it!  Enjoy those appetizers, those "small plates", but treat them as your meal, rather than course #1 in a gluttonous feast.

When out for a large family celebration last month, my relatives ordered a dozen appetizers for the table, which ended up each being family-style a very large plate, not typical appetizer-size.  Most filled up, a few withheld from tasting to save their appetites, and me?  I tasted a few small bites before deciding that I liked these appetizers a lot more than I would the entree I'd ordered.  We're talking eggplant rollatini, balsamic calamari, and buffalo-mozzarella with roasted peppers, tomato, and basil. MM!  I enjoyed these flavors so much, that I let myself dig in, vowing not to force myself to finish my entree.  It worked: I was happy with my meal, and only had a bite or two of my main--fish and vegetables (below).  Then, of course, I still had some room for dessert.  I walked away feeling quite full, but more satisfied than stuffed.  My appetizers did the trick.

Leftover entree, perfect for next-day's lunch or dinner!

If you're ordering on your own, I am not saying you shouldn't get an appetizer, soup, or salad for yourself; I'd probably encourage the opposite.  But, when you go out with a group, it can be tempting to join in on the shared appetizer selections.  If you want to, that's fine, but keep in mind how much they'll fill you up before your personal order arrives.    If you start feeling overstuffed from the apps, maybe tell the waiter to just wrap your entree to go, so you don't feel compelled to eat that, too.  If you would rather hold out for your main course, then consciously do so; don't give in to peer pressure to join in the pre-entree tasting.  If the appetizers strike your fancy, feel free to make that your main.

My point--my dare--is to recognize the difference.  Assess your personal hunger levels, your personal taste preferences, and your personal desire to have a bite of it all, or hold out and save your appetite for your main course.  Try it this weekend, and you might be the happiest person at the table when you dig in to your entree, and everyone else is already loosening their belts.

Has this happened to you?  How do you deal with food being passed back and forth before the real mean's even begun?  Do you prefer the appetizer or entree section of a menu?  


...What's your favorite popular appetizer? :) 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Make Overnight Oats

These are a few of my favorite things...

Chobani, walnuts, granola, raisins...
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Alright, I'm now finally a huge fan of oatmeal and granola, so it's about time I come around and try these "overnight oats" everyone raves about.  No time to pour my mix-ins into my yogurt before heading out the door?  This seems to be the prescription for when I know I'll have a very rushed morning.

The deal is, as I understand it, that you simply take your plain yogurt, some uncooked rolled oats, and whatever mix-ins you want (chopped nuts, dried fruit, etc.), and leave it in the fridge overnight, and, like magic, it will be breakfast in the morning.  Well, seems pretty obvious, no?


Well, I gave it a try.  This is the result.



Overnight Oats
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 1/2 cup oats/nut mix
- 1/4 cup dried fruit (above, raisins. Also try bits of prunes, or apricots, etc)

Other tips:
- mix in 1/4 cup "milk" or water to thin it out. (I used Almond Breeze almond milk, see below.)
- add a bit (a tsp-Tbsp?) of sweetener (honey, agave) to taste

That's just what I happened to do on this one morning, but REALLY: these ratios are TOTALLY up to you!  Depends how yogurt-y vs crunchy you want your oats! 


Then, in the morning, you can either dig in cold, or zap it in the microwave for a quick, warm breakfast.


Dare you.

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Do you like these ingredients mish-moshed together?  If you already love overnight oats, did I do this right?  (Is there a even way to do it wrong?)  Do you have tips, ideas, anything else we should know?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rest and Recover

This past week has been rough.  I have been quite sickly, somewhere between a really awful cold and migraine-city.  I've been buried in tissues and beneath my blanket.  Not fun.


In the eloquent words of Queen Adele, "I've got a bit of snot." 


source

Now, in general, I don't like to admit defeat to illness.  I also like to abide by the "if you're only sick from your neck up, it's okay to work out" rule.  When I wasn't feeling so hot earlier in the week, I really didn't want to give up my exercise.  The previous week was so busy that I didn't do the classes or runs I wanted.  This week, then, was supposed to be full of nice, long runs to make up for it.  Instead, I ran one mile.  Am I thrilled about that?  No.  But do I think I did the right thing?  Yes.

I do prioritize fitness in my life, and that's something that I'm proud of.  I treat my workouts with the same commitment as any other appointment or meeting in my calendar.  However, just as I might sometimes have to postpone a date with a friend stay in bed and recover from illness, the same goes for workouts.

PLUS, the gym is no place for sick people.  (1) It's infested with germs you do NOT want to be exposed to when your immune system is already compromised, and (2) you shouldn't be bringing your germs in to infect OTHER people!

Anyway, just sharing my disappointment (but acceptance!) of my less-than-stellar fitness these few weeks so that you all know that it's okay, AND it will get better. You'll get back on that road, into that gym, to that studio.

For me?  I felt better this morning, so I went to my first Spinning class in two weeks. Within a minute of pedaling my feet, I started to feel like myself again, so ENERGIZED!  It felt good to move, to sweat, to exhaust myself intentionally.  Although it was frustrating, I'm glad I took a few days off to let my body recover a bit, because it felt that much better to jump back into fitness.

So when you're down and out, just focus on how great it'll feel when you're finally ready to get back IN.  

What rules do you follow for working out while under the weather?  How do you slide back into fitness after days, weeks, or months without?