Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thankful Thursday!

You know how people say that bad things come in threes?

Do you think that's true of good things too?

I shared with you last week that we made an offer on a house that was accepted and that I had some things happening on the job front.  Well, the momentum has not stopped!  Let me start from the beginning.

On Tuesday morning, I got a call that I am definitely being hired at a local YMCA - yes!  I actually have my orientation tonight, so that's quite exciting for me!

Also on Tuesday, I interviewed at another Y, and got the message yesterday that they would like me to go ahead a demo a class for them - obviously I am nervous, but really excited!

Yesterday we had our home inspection.  Wow, as first-time home buyers, you learn a LOT.  You also get excited for things that you could have never imagined being able to find exciting (the furnace is practically brand new? score!).  Thankfully, though there are a few major issues that need to be dealt with, none are deal-breakers and many are things that a certain Papa could probably help us with on his next visit (hey, the man enjoys being handy and we're only happy to oblige, haha).

And speaking of James's Papa, I'm so thankful that I could call him at the drop of a hat when I clogged our garbage disposal.  Thank you Papa!

And finally, I am SUPER thankful for this girl for taking care of James during my job interview and our home inspection.  It really made life much easier.  So grateful!  And it doesn't hurt that James loves her girls.

Oh!  I almost forgot.  I had my second orthopedic follow-up yesterday and have been cut loose from physical therapy.  That's pretty awesome!  I spoke to my physical therapist about it yesterday and we agreed that our time was enjoyable but hopefully we don't have to see each other again in that setting.

I sincerely hope you're having a great week.  Even during the tough times, there is always a light hiding somewhere.  My life has definitely not always been chocolate (I know the phrase is 'peachy', but I like chocolate much better), whether that was because of my own choices or outside forces, but when awesome things happen, you've got to take the time to acknowledge their greatness, and who they come from, big or small.  Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tasty Snack Tuesday - Carrot Cake Powerballs!

These are seriously so good.

Well, if you life carrot cake, that is. *(If you don't, see my note at the end for a substitution.)

I recently ordered produce from my local co-op, and happened to get a nice bunch of carrots.  I had been saving this recipe for the next time I actually remembered to grab carrots at the grocery, so what timing!  Side note - if you have a local co-op, you should consider using them.  In our area, there are pick-up locations EVERYWHERE.  The one closest to me is about 2 miles away, and for $21.50, I got a TON of high-quality produce.  Definitely a fan!

Carrot Cake Powerballs

10 dates, pitted and chopped
6 tablespoons cashew butter (or nut butter of your choice, but I love cashew butter for these)
1 cup dry oats
3 carrots, peeled and chopped small or grated
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2-1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cloves
3/4 cup shredded coconut

Add all ingredients but the coconut to a food processor and process until well-combined.  You should have a thick paste.  If you find the "dough" too sticky to work with, put it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.  Then roll it by the tablespoon into balls and coat with coconut.  You can either store these in the refrigerator, but I like to keep them in the freezer.  They will not freeze completely solid and are a perfect cold treat on a hot day.  I got 27 balls out of this recipe.  Each one will set you back about 60 calories - not bad!

I would love to experiment with adding a little vanilla protein powder to these and making them into a protein treat.  But, just as they are, these are delicious!  Make sure to start out on the low end with the spices though - you know I love cinnamon, but sometimes the other spices can be overpowering, so add them in small amounts at first and adjust to your taste.  Enjoy!

*If you do not like carrot cake, consider adding dried apple rings in place of the carrots - I haven't tried it, but I think it would be delicious, reminiscent of apple pie maybe.  And you can't go wrong with that!

Recipe from Powercakes via MizFitOnline 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Feeling SOOOOOOOO Blessed!

We had a crazy Thursday evening and Friday, full of so much blessing (and busy-ness, since I missed my somewhat usual Friday post) that I simply cannot wait until next Thursday to share it with you.  Allow me to break it down for you:

1. We have been casually looking to buy a house.  We looked at one that I felt could be our house, but it just was not.  But then, seemingly out of the blue, came our house.  To sum up a ton of details, we looked at the house on Thursday evening, it was very clearly our house, made our offer Friday morning at 8am, and got the call that it had been accepted at 9:30am.  So it looks like we are going to be homeowners in about a month!  To say that this is a blessing is an understatement.

2. If you can remember some time ago when I asked you to pray for a miracle or two for someone close to me, that miracle happened.  My mom got a job, and something she really needed and wanted!  That's huge.  HUGE!  Thank you for praying.

3. I posted this yesterday on Twitter, but in case you didn't see it, I'm now a Fitmark Ambassador!  Once a month, I'll have the opportunity to blog for them about one of my loves - fitness!  Super exciting.

These last two were completely the icing on my day:

4. After our usual BodyPump class, a woman I met there some time ago and chat with sometimes gave me one of the greatest compliments I could ever ask for - she told me that it shows that I want to teach fitness and help people because of how I act with others in the class.  That just made me feel awesome.  If you're my friend and have started coming to classes with me, its so exciting for me!  But then I go into a natural instructor mode (even though I'm not there yet, professionally), and I just want to help you be your absolute best, but I worry that it can come off as obnoxious or that it might make you uncomfortable.  So for Carla, who said this to me, to tell me that just made me so happy.  It made me feel like maybe I can be like my two favorite Pump instructors in terms of having the following they have (if you're reading this, you know who you are!  And you know people love you!).

5. And finally, we were planning a quiet night, just getting ready to head to California Pizza Kitchen and celebrate our house news.  Then some awesome friends called, then more friends called, and in short, we got to spend the evening with all of them, and it couldn't have been any more wonderful (even with kids whining, crawling on the floor, making messes... its all good!).  Here's a picture of the mommies:

I love these ladies.  I am so blessed to call them friends.

So yeah... It was a great day!!

I hope you're off to a great weekend!  I have a fantastic recipe to share with you soon, so stay tuned!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for so much that I didn't know how to title today's post.

So much to be thankful for:

It looks like we will be unaffected by the government furlough.  That's HUGE.

I have a job interview next week!

I got a call back from a different job interview that I thought was not going to turn into anything (still waiting for details, but still, thankful!)!

Still making awesome progress in physical therapy.  Very thankful for a great therapist.

Working out with friends happens all the time now.  Nothing better!

We successfully phased out the pacifier and it hasn't been too bad.  Yes!

Old friends.  If you read this and think, is she talking about me?  Yes!  You know who you are.  I miss you and love you.

What are you thankful for today?  A lot has been happening to those around me on the job and home fronts, so I know we all have something.  That's awesome!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tasty Snack Tuesday - Cake Batter Protein Bars

I can't believe I haven't shared this recipe with you yet.  It is my absolute favorite snack right now.  Even Chris cannot get enough of these.

Cake Batter Protein Bars

3 tablespoons cashew butter (or peanut butter, but cashew butter REALLY makes them awesome!)
5 tablespoons honey (side note- Trader Joe's creamed honey is amazing)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup dry oats
1 scoop vanilla whey protein*
1 cup rice crispy cereal

*You are looking for a serving size of around 140 calories.  If you are using the Designer Whey protein with the tiny scoops, use about 3.  Also, you don't have to use protein powder.  You could replace it with more oats.  I have done that and these are still delicious.

If you make the cashew butter yourself like I do, it may be a little stiff, so microwave it with the honey and vanilla for about 30 seconds so that it blends more easily.  Then, one ingredient at a time, stir in the oats, protein powder, and rice crispies.  Stir until everything is well-combined and then press into a pan (I like to use a 9x5 bread pan lined with wax or parchment paper).  Refrigerate at least an hour and then slice into 6 bars.

Chris and I LOVE these bars.  I make 2-3 batches each week, and let me tell you, they are much less expensive than buying bars at the store, and I know everything that goes into them.  They are also versatile - you could add in other things you might like - coconut, raisins, etc.  The possibilities are endless!

Enjoy!  You won't be disappointed if you make these!

Recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fit Friday - Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes

Its awfully late, but it is indeed still Friday, and I have a fabulously healthy and tasty recipe to share with you!

My good friend Kristin actually stumbled upon this recipe from How Sweet Eats.  Like Kristin, I am always on the hunt for new, healthy, and most importantly, delicious recipes to try.  Sometimes I feel like we just eat the same things in our dinner rotation far too often (which I think Chris is fine with, but I really enjoy variety).

I finally got around to making this yesterday and my goodness is this recipe ever delicious!  Sweet potato, quinoa, some onion and spices and you are set!  Best of all, you could easily make a huge batch of these tasty "cakes" (to me, they're more of a veggie burger) and freeze them while barely scratching the surface of your grocery budget.  This will become a staple in my kitchen for sure.  Now, if only I could find a way to get my husband to eat these.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes

1/4 cup dry, uncooked quinoa (basically, you want at least 1/2 cup cooked, and quinoa will double and then some when you cook it, so I just measured 1/4 cup dry and used all of it)
7 ounces peeled, cubed sweet potato (I measured this on my food scale, just use a small-medium sweet potato)
1/2 red onion
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons cilantro
2 tablespoons basil
1 egg OR 1 flax egg

Cook the quinoa according to package directions and set aside.  Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and then add the sweet potato cubes, onion, salt, and pepper.  Cover and cook until the sweet potato is tender, about 10-12 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Remove from heat and mash the mixture with a fork.  If using a flax egg, make it by combining 1 tablespoon of ground flax with 2 tablespoons of water (your package will probably say 3 tablespoons of water, I personally like just 2 for a better "egg" consistency).  Allow the flax-water mixture to sit for a couple of minutes.  Stir the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, spices, quinoa, and flax egg into the sweet potato mixture.  Divide evenly into 5 balls and flatten to "patties".  If you find your mixture is a bit too sticky, put it in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.  In the same skillet you used to cook the sweet potatoes, add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and cook your "patties" on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes per side.

I have been enjoying eating these in whole wheat pita pockets that I got from Trader Joe's, and I like to add about 2 tablespoons of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt.  It's delicious, and so healthy!  If you use a flax egg, and make 5 servings, each one will yield about 135 calories, only 6 grams of fat, and 5 grams of protein.  Not too bad at all!  Keep your leftovers in the refrigerator and then either reheat in the microwave or toaster oven (as is my preferred method).

I also have to tell you that I completely forgot to add the cilantro and basil and these were still delicious!  I didn't make the blackberry salsa that you will also find in the recipe link if you visit it, but I have to imagine that its quite tasty.

Recipe from How Sweet Eats

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thankful Thursday - Friends!

Hello friends!

This has been a great week.  Some friends and I started the week off with great workouts on Monday and Tuesday, and on Wednesday, my two best friends from high school, Sara and Andrea, came to spend a night at our house.

It was the best!!!  To say that I am thankful for the time we spent together does not even scratch the surface.

Sara and Andrea, I have missed you girls so, so much.  We live less than 3 hours from each other and yet we don't see each other often enough.

But, I am so very thankful for the time that we had together.  When we were in high school, during the summer, every Wednesday (or was it Thursday?  I can't remember now), was "girls night."  We'd watch movies, go out to eat, go shopping, have sleepovers .... be ridiculous teenagers (pizza dough ball creations, girls?).  Those days hold some of my most treasured memories, and it was awesome getting to somewhat relive that, only as "grownups."

Anyway.  Very thankful for the day and evening we had..... and the fact that it included a sushi lunch only made things even better.  I had never had a mango roll before and it was divine.  Divine.  The look on Sara's face as she tried it was definitely worth not getting to eat my last piece (Sara = not a sushi fan).

I hope you've been having a great week!  What are you thankful for today?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fit Friday - Let's Talk About Legs

Did you know its National Donut Day?  Yikes!  Let's talk fitness instead, hehe.

Going through physical therapy to rehab my knee showed me that I had major weakness in a very important muscle - my vastus medialis obliquus.  My what?!  I've learned that most people just call it the VMO.  Where is that muscle, you ask?  Its a large muscle of your quadricep, the medial section, hence the name, which means that its the side of your quadricep that is toward the midline of your body.

One way that my physical therapist determined that I had a significant weakness in my VMO was with the leg press (you know, the machine at your gym that requires you to sit with your legs nearly at 90 degrees, feet on a big plate, and, depending on the machine, you are either sliding the plate away, or you are pushing your seat away from the plate).  Ideally, you should at least be able to do your body weight on this machine.  For me, I couldn't even do that.  I could barely press about 15 pounds under my body weight.

But now?  Working carefully but aggressively over the past few weeks, I can now press about 20 pounds over my body weight.  Win!  AND, do you know what one of the best parts is?  My knee is getting better.  Now, I won't be ready to run a half-marathon in October like my awesome friend Kristin, but I am getting there.  And its exciting.

Now of course, this is what has been working for me, in addition to handful of other strengthening activities I have been doing (mostly hip strength).  You absolutely should listen to your doctor and/or trainer and never do anything beyond your comfort level, or anything that causes you pain.  There were days when we thought I was ready for more weight, but I had to back off.  It was a slow process.  But, I would encourage you, even if you have no injuries, to evaluate your lower body strength to make sure you're staying balanced.  I used to hate having to do anything other than running, but now I am doing everything but running so that I can get back there.

I hope you're off to a great Friday, and an even better weekend!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thankful Thursday

It's Thursday!  Which means it's almost Friday, which means its almost the weekend!  Woo-hoo!

Lately I'm feeling incredibly thankful for new friends.  Do you know how horribly lonely it is to move somewhere new and have no girlfriends?  You probably do because chances are you've been there.  Its not a fun feeling.  But that's all changing now, and I am so thankful for the new friends I have and the many more that I know will be coming.

I'm making this statement in complete faith, but I think I can report to you that I am thankful that my knee, with some physical therapy, is making good progress.  I even think a return to running is in my future.  I hate being side-lined, but I have learned some pretty powerful lessons during this season - topping the list?  I have to find my strength in beauty in Christ, and Christ alone.  What else is there to life if not this?  Lesson #2 - there is no such thing as perfection, and its time to stop killing myself in an effort to reach the unreachable.  And can I be honest?  Its much less stressful when I'm not worrying myself over every calorie I may or may not have burned.  Jeez, there are wayyyyyyy more important things in life.

Way more important things, like this guy!  (You know I couldn't resist).

What are you thankful for today? 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Happy National Running Day!

Did you know that today is National Running Day?  There are loads of sweet discounts available to celebrate, so if you've been putting off registering for that goal race, do it today!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tasty Snack Tuesday - Vegan "Cheese" Dip and French Bread

If you've looked at my blog more than a few times, you know that occasionally a vegan recipe catches my eye and I deem it worth trying (vegan brownies, anyone?).  Nothing against a vegan lifestyle, but there are just some things that I will not be giving up in my pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.

Cheese is one of those items.  Brie, feta, gorgonzola, GOUDA, oh the gouda!  Could a vegan version ever be as tasty?  Sorry, but I think not.

This statement comes with a BUT.

Once in a while, a good friend such as Kristin, who is not vegan, but enjoys many of the health benefits of the lifestyle, enlightens me to something I might enjoy.  She and her husband introduced me to The Sexy Vegan Cookbook: Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Dude by Brian Patton. There are actually some really tasty-sounding recipes in there, and some that have been tested out by Kristin and her family.

The recipe I want you to consider checking out is a faux cheese sauce, primarily composed of cashews (who doesn't love cashews?) and... you'll never guess..... silken tofu.  Add in some spices, nutritional yeast, and you've got a really tasty dip, or even pizza or pasta sauce!  Its really good, I promise!  By the time I finish this post, I'll probably have gotten up to have a little taste of the leftovers more than once.

This past Sunday we had our second prelaunch meeting of UrbanChurch, so I made this dip to go with a French bread recipe that I made.  I'll share the bread recipe with you, but I'm just going to give you the link for the "cheese" dip.  The blogger who shared the recipe had special permission, and since I'm a newbie blogger with limited knowledge on the rules that go with such things, I'll just tell you to check out the link I gave you.  I made the dip as directed but skipped the boiling of the cashews, did not add miso powder (didn't have it), and did not add extra water.  I didn't feel it was necessary, but you could if you want a thinner "cheese."

Anyway, the bread.  I love a good French bread.  The recipe I used on Sunday was perfect.  I ended up with 2 PERFECT, huge, lovely baguettes.  I was all kinds of giddy over my beautiful bread.  Here's the recipe:

Quick Baguettes

3 cups warm water, divided
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoon (1 package) active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (my new love in bread products)
1 teaspoon salt

Combine 1 cup of warm water with the sugar and yeast in a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer, which is what I did).  Allow to proof and become foamy.  Next, add all of the flour and 1 cup of warm water.  Knead, either with your dough hook, or your hands, for 5-7 minutes.  Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.  Then sprinkle the teaspoon of salt evenly over the dough and knead for another minute or two.  Place the bowl in a warm place to rise for an hour.  After the dough has doubled in size, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and place a broiler pan in the bottom of the oven.  Divide the dough in half and either stretch or roll it into a loose rectangle.  From the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough tightly, jelly-roll style, and repeat with the other half of dough.  Place the baguettes on a baking pan that has been covered in parchment paper and gently use a knife to create the slits of the French bread.  Allow the dough to rest from this point for about 20 minutes.  It will rise a bit more.  About 5 minutes before you are ready to put the loaves into the oven, carefully pour your remaining cup of water into the broiler pan.  Finally, bake your bread for about 15 minutes, or until nicely golden!  Let the bread cool before slicing.... if you can wait that long!

If you like this bread, you will probably also like this bread that I blogged a few months ago, its from the same source.

Vegan "cheese" from Tabi Happy

Quick Baguettes from The Cooking Actress