Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Climb Every Mountain (Summer Recap Series)

Can I just say, it was a glorious summer?  I really wanted to recap my Summer-of-Outdoor-Adventuring-and-General-Merriment earlier this year but said "Outdoor Adventuring and General Merriment" somehow got in the way.  I'm going to do a lil recap series while it's cold and gray outside.  First stop...South Sister climb!


This was one of the THE HIGHLIGHTS of the year!  


It was so beautiful.


Breathtaking scenery as far as the eye could see...

 
I'd like to also add that it was one of THE hardest things I have ever done.  Ever. Ever. Ever.  I thought I was in pretty good shape.  How quickly the proud can fall (figuratively and yes, literally.  I fell several times down the slippery shale slopes - thankfully not a great distance).


View from the summit.  Aren't those lakes amazing?


 
This is me.  Really, it is.
 

Doesn't this look Tolkienesque?  (Is that a word?  I don't know but I'm sticking with it).  This is a glacier...and I walked across it.  <-- wouldn't that make a great opening line?  I think I'll use it as the beginning of my epic poem about climbing the South Sister.  Please cue a soaring instrumental music score now.


I'll be the first to admit that at the beginning of this year I definitely fell into the Novice Hiker category.  Thankfully, my outdoorsy relatives stepped in and coached me in the following arenas:

1.  Gear.  It is totally true that your gear can make or break your outdoor adventure.  Waterproof jackets?  Yep, they are super handy when it rains while you are hiking.  I know it's difficult to imagine this could actually happen in the Pacific Northwest.  Trekking poles - yep, super awesome when you are scrambling up and down the side of a mountain.  REI and Columbia are great resources for gear - just keep your eyes peeled for sales.  I actually bought my trekking poles from Costco.

2. Safety.  It seems like you are always hearing about hikers who get into trouble.  A lot of it is common sense but it definitely pays off to think through safety and scenarios to avoid becoming the hiker that gets dehydrated or lost.  Here's a great article on The 10 Essentials

3.  Nutrition & Hydration.  When I was packing food for the South Sister hike I thought I was packing WAY too much food.  Thankfully my uncle assessed my provisions and said I had maybe half of what I needed.  Incredulous, I complied and doubled my food and threw in an extra 32 oz of water.  I ate EVERYTHING!  Bagels, protein bars, M&Ms, jerky, nuts, apple, orange, peanut butter, tuna. When you are hiking for 12+ hours you burn through calories like nobody's business.  And don't underestimate how much water you need.  If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. 

I love the feeling of accomplishment when you complete something that is truly a challenge and forces you to dig deep.  I credit climbing the South Sister 2 months before my marathon with really helping my physical and mental endurance (you can't exactly quit when have 5 hours left and a mountain to climb down efore you get back to your car).  The elation I felt when I reached the summit and looked out the the view is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.  Such a high!

And while the weather outside is frightful (aka cold and rainy), I know spring and summer hiking adventures are just around the corner!

Cheerily,
Amy

 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

'Tis the Season...

For Christmas BAKING!  This is going to be a long post.  I'd suggest brewing a cup of tea and putting your feet up.  Or if you are reading this while waiting in line at the mall, that works too.

Last year I was packing up my apartment and readying myself for my migration to the Pacific Northwest (oh, and getting the swine flu for a second time while I was at it).  Suffice it to say, I took a year off from Christmas baking. It is rather difficult to bake when 1) you have packed up all your cookie sheets and 2) you feel like death.

Fast forward to 2014.  I was wanting to dive into Christmas baking in a MAJOR way.  Of course, I needed a partner-in-crime and baker extraordinaire.  This just happens to be be my wonderful, BBC-loving cousin, Elisa.  We decided that we both wanted to bake cookies so we might as well do it together!  It was the perfect solution and a tradition I intend to continue for many, many years.

We decided that we would each make several different kinds of cookies and then bake/decorate them at my house.  Here's what went down:

Elisa made several splendid cookie doughs:  gingerbread (think citrus peel and spices), chocolate mint and cranberry coconut.  So delish.

Per the usual, I went completely overboard.  This could be attributed to any and all of the following reasons:
1) I haven't baked in a long time
2) I bought 4 pounds of butter at Costco which made me a little giddy
3) I just can't help myself

I've been wanting to experiment with biscotti and shortbread for a while so thought this was the perfect time.  I made a spiced biscotti, a rosemary/currant/pine nut biscotti, pecan shortbread, lavender & lemon shortbread, sour cream cookies (I will discuss the frosting of these cookies later, prepare yourself), and sea-salt chocolate pecan bars.

"Isn't butter divinity?" Amy March in Little Women
The makings of biscotti - a work in progress
My biscotti making was an experiment and I still need to tweak the process.  But I love that biscotti is a blank canvas and you can really get creative with flavors.  I wanted something that screamed "Italian!" and "Holiday!" so I opted for the rosemary, pine nut and currant combination.  Flavor-wise it was totally groovy.

And in a total fail moment, I failed to take pictures of my shortbread.  But this shortbread is so delicious I think I will do an entire post about it.  Let's just say I've been obsessed with lavender since I became addicted to the French Lavender Breve at Lavender & Honey in Pasadena.  Oh, all right.  Because you asked.  Here's a picture of me and my adorable new nephew at L&H.

Scrumptious.  And I don't just mean the coffee.  This lil guy is my FAVORITE!
And I have no idea who that woman is in the window behind me.  
Where was I?  Oh yes, lavender shortbread.  I promise I will get a recipe posted here soon for that.  I just want to adjust it ever so slightly.  And I need to go buy more butter.

You all know I like to keep it real here on the blog.  So, this is what my kitchen table looked like. We were basically operating a cookie factory.  Yes, those are cookies in a Ziploc bag on the floor at the top of the photo.  We had plumb run out of counter space.

Real life, folks.

Note the plate and cup in the background.  You can't bake cookies unless you are eating them at the same time.
Aren't gingerbread cookies the cutest?!  Elisa frosted these.  I have zero frosting capability.
A holiday centerpiece can help make order out of your cookie extravaganza. 
Now, for sugar cookies (you know, the ones you frost and decorate).  I grew up making these Sour Cream Cookies that are all kinds of awesome.  It's a recipe we found in a tattered Pillsbury Baking pamphlet and they are amazing.  They have nutmeg which is such a holiday flavor and really takes them up a notch.  They are also pretty darn easy to roll out.  The trouble is that I always double the recipe and so I end up rolling and cutting out thousands dozens and dozens of these babies.  However, this year they turned out to be the perfect blank canvas for my newest maniacal creation - Maple Browned Butter Frosting. Yep, you heard me.  Buckle your seatbelts.

I am not a huge frosting fan (gasp).  I like cream cheese icing for sure but regular frosting is usually too cloyingly sweet for me.  I figured if butter could be the star of the show, maybe, just maybe I'd finally find a frosting recipe I'd like.  Mission accomplished.  I mean, browned butter makes everything better.  How could I have ever doubted its' prowess in the frosting arena??

I ended up making this frosting pretty thin so that we could just dip the cookies in the frosting and forget that whole "frost with a butter knife and have it look like it was done by a kindergartner" business.

So, here's the frosting of all frosting recipes.  And because I love you, the Sour Cream Cookie recipe too.

Maple Browned Butter Frosting 
Makes: About 2 cups of frosting
Prep time: 10 minutes
Kitchen Gear Required:  Saucepan, spoon, measuring cup, mixer

Ingredients:
1 stick salted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp maple flavoring
2-4 Tbsp milk
Food coloring, optional

Ready, set, go!
1.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Watch it like a hawk until it starts to get all foamy, goldeny and brown.  But not burnt.  We don't want burnt butter frosting.
2.  Pour browned butter into a bowl and add 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Mix together with hand mixer (it will look weird and lumpy).
3.  Gradually add in milk to get consistency you are looking for.  This takes some time.  Keep mixing until it's perfect.  This is also the time to add food coloring if you are wanting the icing to have a color other than maple-brown (which is the way I tend to go).
4.  Frost cookies.
5.  Frost cinnamon rolls.
6.  Frost toast.
7.  Frost spoon.  Lick said spoon.

Sour Cream Cookies
Makes: A lot (I feel like this is totally subjective based on the size of cookie cutters, etc.)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 6-8 minutes
Kitchen gear required: Two bowls, hand mixer, measuring cups, measuring spoons, cookie cutters, cookie sheets, parchment paper (if desired), microplane zester (if using whole nutmeg)

Ingredients;
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (that's 1 stick, folks) salted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup regular sour-cream
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt or 1/4 tsp regular salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg or 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Ready, set, go!
1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cream together sugar, butter, vanilla, egg and sour cream
2.  Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg)
3.  Mix together wet and dry ingredients.  Don't over beat the dough or the cookies will be tough.
4.  Roll out dough and cut with cookie cutters.  You can also refrigerate the dough and roll out the cookies once you've cleaned up the kitchen (I never do this but it seems like a nice idea).
5.  Bake cookies on parchment-lined cookie sheets for 6-8 minutes.  Take them out while they are still pale for a softer cookie, leave them in until they are golden for a crispier cookie.
6.  Cool completely.  Frost with Maple Browned Butter Frosting for a delicious holiday treat!
7.  I am eating some for breakfast as I type this.

Sour Cream Cookies with Maple Browned Butter Frosting.

Cheerily,
Amy

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was a girl who moved to Oregon in January. It was cold. It was dreary. White icy particles fell from the sky.

Then, something magical happened.  Spring!  



Then Summer!



And lo, and behold!  I discovered I had this inner-outdoorsy-self who wanted to spend every waking moment outside.  We're talking hiking, whitewater rafting, mountain climbing, marathon running.

Oh, you know, just a waterfall. We have lots of them.  
Suffice it to say, cooking took a back seat this summer as I soaked up the sunshine and lived off the bounty of the land (I joined a CSA and the weekly box of produce totally knocked my socks off). I picked pounds upon pounds of blackberries and my freezer is chock full of berry goodness for the winter months looming before me.

But the thought of cooking (and let's be honest here, developing recipes and taking pictures of said recipes) wasn't lighting my jets.  I mean, when the outdoors beckons...

Disclaimer: To be perfectly honest, we had a rather toasty summer and the thought of turning my stove on in my "it's the Northwest so we don't have air conditioning in apartments" situation may have played into the lack of cooking.

At the top of South Sister.  I kept all my toenails....pretty proud.
This was before I started hallucinating from sheer exhaustion.
But, that's not to say that all sorts of deliciousness didn't happen this summer!  I stumbled across a coffee shop that filled my heart to overflowing.  

Cardamom latte.  The stuff dreams are made of.
Maplewood, you had me at your adorable chalkboard menu.  
Now the leaves are falling, it's blustery and chilly and I'm drinking mugs of coffee and tea (not mixed together, that would be gross).  And you know what? I'm feeling like my blogging sabbatical may be coming to a close.  I miss this little space and all of you!  Plus, it's pumpkin time.  'Nuff said.

Cheerily,
Amy

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summertime...

Hello long lost lovelies!

Mercy, seems like time is just flying by these days.  We are in full-on "summer-is-here-and-we-better-not-miss-a-minute-of-this-sunshiny-goodness-so-let's-be-outside-doing-fun-stuff-ALL-the-time" mode.

While the spring flora and fauna was sublime, the big blue bursts of hydrangeas and the smell of warm fir trees baking in the sun really does my soul good.

Flowers in mason jars are really the best.  
My days have been full but so very rich.  Where to even begin!  P.S. Thankful for my lil cell phone camera...without it I would have zero photos of the last few months.  I'm feeling inspired to bust out the big guns and start taking My Big Camera out and about.  It's been living a sad and lonely existence in my closet.

Top 10 for May and June

#1 Strawberry Picking.  Firstly, time spent with family is so precious.  Secondly, time spent with family whilst picking strawberries is pretty darn spectacular and delicious.  We picked over 40 pounds of these red beauties and I froze 20 pounds and probably ate 10 pounds--totally worth it.

Sweet berries, you'll be a sight for sore eyes come December.
#2  Boston is totally cool and I kinda want to live there when I grow up.  A work trip led me to this wonderful city and I think I will save all the sightseeing details for a separate post.  Just because I have about a zillion photos of me in the Boston Public Garden reenacting scenes from Make Way For Ducklings. Robert McClosky would have been proud.

The SWAN BOATS! 
#3 Ok, I lied and I am going to talk about Boston some more.  Namely LOBSTER ROLLS.  Insane.  I really will stop now and save the rest for another post.

I swear this lobster roll had well over a pound of lobster in it.  And yep, I ate every morsel.
#4  Growing up I would come to Oregon almost every summer and I was always blown away by how verdant, lush and green it was.  It always seemed so temperate compared to sunny SoCal. I do remember one summer spent with my cousins where it was over 100 degrees and we pretty much ate watermelon, went swimming and then fired up the oven to bake scones (we couldn't help ourselves).   This summer has been glorious in the sunshine department but this week it went a little overboard.  It was in the high 90's yesterday and did.not.cool.off.  90 degrees at 9 o'clock.  Not cool.  Thankfully I have some pretty rad cousins who let me sleep in their air-conditioned house.  

This photo was taken at 9 at night.  It stays so light for so long up here.
This is post my "I'm going to Winco because they have air conditioning and I need to buy
Cinnamon Chex because I love it so" moment.
#5:  My first race of the year.  1/2 Marathon PR (1:43:21) and 8th/145 in my age division.  Pretty stoked considering the course was WAY hilly. I've got at least 1-2 more half marathons in the mix for 2014 and my first full marathon in October.  That seemed really far away when I signed up in May but it is quickly approaching!  

I'm always so grateful when a race is over.
I was tempted to sit down right after I crossed the finish line
but figured that might impede other runners. 
#6-10:  My Trip to California.  Ok, this one is a doozy and really takes up the last 5 of my Top 10 List.  I headed to Cali after my Boston trip.  Pros:  Seeing the sibling kidlets knock it out of the park in their performances of The Wizard of Oz.  I mean, they lit up the stage!  They flew on wires!  They spoke in accents!  They danced with such precision and poise!  Spending time with my beloved family, going out for coffee, buying cute throw pillows with my Mama, a day with my sister eating yummo food at Julienne's in Pasadena and visiting a rose garden.  Cons:  Coming down with a ghastly sinus infection the day I arrived and finally agreeing to go to Urgent care only to discover I had a double ear infection.  Yuck and yuck.  I pretty much felt horrendous the entire time but my fam was so sweet to put up with me, Nyquil-induced haze and all.  

Beautiful roses in Pasadena.  I could hardly smell them in my stuffed up state.
At least they were purdy to look at!
This was the best (and that's not saying much) in a series of really epic failures for a picture.
"You have sick eyes," saith my sister.
I may or may not have walked around said rose garden with eucalyptus leaves
stuck in my nose in an attempt to reap aromatherapy benefits.
There might be a picture documenting this but there are privacy laws, etc.
The Steak Cobb @ Juliennes.  Mercy.  So delish.

There are things I'm for sure leaving out...like having my first accordion lesson at a family reunion, some awesome new running spots, hiking in the Wallowas, finally making it to my first farmer's market of the season.  But it's late and I'd best bid you all adieu (to yer and yer and yer).

Cheerily (and still on antibiotics and longing for the day when I can run again),
Ames

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday = Pizza Night!

Happy Friday to one and all.  Fridays are always a lovely thing...they mark the end of the work week and for me they also represent a rest day from running (and life, to be honest).  My favorite Friday night dinner is pizza.  Hands down.  Add in a movie and it's a match made in heaven!

But, sometimes I don't want to really make pizza.  I am a fan of the TJs refrigerated dough, don't get me wrong.  That stuff is legit.  And I just experimented with their frozen crusts and those are pretty good too. But still a lot of bread and time to let the dough rise and then bake it and when I get home from work I am ready for pizza right now!  What's that about patience being a virtue?  I suppose I should work on that!

Enter Trader Joe's whole wheat tortillas.  These crisp up in the oven in no time and are the perfect foil for multiple topping options. I just planted a couple tomato plants and can't wait until I have fresh tomatoes to put on my pizza with some summery basil!  But, because it's not quite tomato season, I opted for a Mediterranean-style pizza with hummus instead of tomato sauce.  I've made a hummus pizza before, but with a different crust.  I guess I really like hummus pizza.


I have been obsessed with olives lately. The brininess is just splendid.  And perfect on a Mediterranean-style pizza!


I topped the hummus and olives with a healthy helping of kale.  Here's a tip--drizzle a little olive oil onto the kale before topping the pizza and massage the oil into the kale. It helps break the kale down a bit and then also helps it get crisp in the oven.  Yum!  I sprinkled on a bit of nutritional yeast which adds a delightful earthiness. I know nutritional yeast sounds gross but it is really perfect on pizza.

10 minutes in the oven and BAM!  You've got pizza!  Just don't burn yourself trying to eat it too quickly.


Easy Hummus Pizza
*Serves 1
*Prep time: 5  minutes
*Cook time: 10 minutes
*Kitchen gear required:  Cutting board, bowl, knife, pizza stone or baking sheet, measuring spoons

Ingredients:
1 whole-wheat tortilla
2 Tbsp hummus (any flavor! be wild!)
2 Tbsp chopped olives (I used kalamata but the world is your oyster--use your favorite variety)
1 cup chopped kale
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Ready, set, go!
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  If using a pizza stone, let it heat up in the oven while you are prepping your pizza.
2.  Slather your tortilla with hummus and sprinkle chopped olives.
3.  In a small bowl, drizzle olive oil over kale and massage the kale for 30 seconds or until it wilts down a wee bit.
4.  Top pizza with kale and transfer to pizza stone or baking sheet
5.  Bake for 10 minutes or until tortilla and kale are crisp.
6.  Try not to burn yourself eating this thing piping hot from the oven.  Trust me, it's tempting!
7.  If you are me, and it's Friday night, put your feet up and turn on Netflix and unwind from the busy week!

Question: What are your favorite pizza toppings? I need inspiration for my Friday night favorite!

Cheerily,
Amy


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Spring. Has. Sprung

Just when I thought I couldn't love Oregon anymore, Spring happened. I didn't think I had been missing out on Spring all these years but alas, while Southern California's weather is gorgeous, it is also fairly consistent (read: season-less). There's something really magical about the way our Pacific Northwest gray skies give way to bits of blue and the daffodils and tulips start to put on a show.  Remind me that I said this as we prepare for a week of rain next week after 80-90 degree days this week.

Show offs.   I mean, really.
One of the funny things that happened with the advent of Spring is that I actually found myself hungry for salads again.  The cold, rainy winter months made me crave warm soups and comfort foods.  Now I just can't wait to dig into salads and crisp veggies. I had the chance to visit my relatives' wonderful produce stand at the Albany Farmer's Market last weekend (hi Brian! hi Ruth!) and came away with most gorgeous bags of salad mix. Tell me you are not jealous that there are yellow flowers in my salad.  Threw in some blueberries, sunflowers seeds and Gorgonzola and dash of olive oil and drizzle of balsamic vinegar it was pretty much the best thing ever!

Salads.  Reunited at long last.
Besides my job (which I love!) the other claim on my time of late is my renewed love affair with running.  I joined a running club when I moved up here and it has been awesome.  I am getting faster and just signed up for my first 1/2 marathon in a long time.  The plus side is that I get 4 solid days of running in Monday through Thursday.  I mean, solid.  I've already run 27 miles this week and I haven't even done my long run yet. Amazing. The downside is that I don't get home until almost 8 p.m. most nights which makes for one tired chickadee who just wants to eat dinner and watch something on Netflix (I'd love to say I come home and read a book or something but I'll be honest I fall asleep within 2 minutes of picking up a book).  I've got to find that balance I suppose, but the good news is that up here in the Pacific Northwest it stays light out for.e.ver so I think there will definitely be some food photography/recipe creation happening in the very near future.

Loving my new Sauconys and nifty water bottle!
And I could live in these Nike Epic running tights.
Pity they aren't up to dress code standards for the office.
In the last few weeks I've travelled to St. Louis for business, visited my dear friends in Albany and took a sojourn to Pumpkin Hollow (darling little Americana craft boutique), celebrated Easter with my new church family and my extended family, got my new furniture delivered, had multiple facetime dates with my fam and discovered that I am sad when I run out of my Suave dry shampoo because, let's face it, I really am lazy when it comes to washing my hair.  Yep, I'd say my life is pretty full right now.  And I'm loving every minute of it!

Pumpkin Hollow.  Doesn't the name alone just make you long to visit? 
I promise to be back soon!  With recipes!  Thanks to you all who still ask about this 'lil blog.  Apparently people still read it which just makes me feel happy.

Cheerily,
Amy


Monday, March 3, 2014

Moving. Salsa. Life.

Sorry for the radio silence the last few weeks. Moving has a way of, well, filling one's time quite nicely. Combine that with work and you know, snowboarding lessons on the weekend, and...shazam!  Another week has flown by.

Today was simply glorious, weather-wise.  First time I've gone to my running club and not needed a parka, hat and gloves.  Other runners were wearing shorts! Sheer madness, I tell you!  Clocked in a nice 7 miler and it's fun to see that I'm getting a bit faster with each run.  The incentive of a free t-shirt when I hit 200 miles is also helpful.

I'm loving my new kitchen and have been itching to get back into blogging and recipe testing.  Tonight I made an avocado tomatillo salsa that was simple and delicious.  Confession: I eat tacos at least once a week. They are so ridiculously easy to make and a sneaky way to eat more veggies without even realizing it.  Tonight I chopped up an entire yellow bell pepper, an Anaheim chili and some onion and piled it on top of black beans.  The crowning glory was this salsa.  The avocado gives it a luxurious richness and it's got the kick of lime to keep things interesting and fresh. Cilantro would have been grand but alas, I didn't have any! Pretty much how I roll these days. Make this salsa!  It sings of springtime!



Avocado Tomatillo Salsa
Serves 4 (or 2 if you are like me and put a very substantial helping on my tacos...your choice)
Prep time: 5 min

Ingredients
1 avocado, pitted and diced
4 tomatillos, peeled and diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Ready, set, go!
1.  Prep your ingredients.
2.  Throw all ingredients in food processor and pulse until combined but still chunky.
3.  Devour.



Cheerily (and eager for Spring!)
Amy

Monday, February 10, 2014

Won't You Save Me a Place on the Medal Stand?

I took a break from blogging the past few days to enjoy the snowy winter wonderland here in Portland. Snowlandia, we like to call it these days. This weather made me feel like a little kid...beyond excited. Seriously.  And while I usually keep this space of blogdom for food, fun and photos, I just have had this post brewing in my head all day so I'm going to just type away.

{I know that I could blog about today's meals but it's not just going to happen. I did have a delicious curried split pea soup and veggie/hazelnut wrap today that was superb but that's all I'm going to say on that score.}

The Olympics are in full swing and it's been fun to watch the agony and the ecstasy of the competition. These athletes have trained so hard, for so much of their life and one little mistake and bam--they are out of medal contention.  I can't imagine the heartbreak.

Actually, I can.  While I haven't fallen on an alpine ski run or crashed to the ice after a doomed triple axle (with Scott Hamilton screaming in the background, no less), I have faced some pretty sizable disappointments and defeat in my life. Some of them so significant that there have been days/months/years when I really haven't felt like getting up and trying again. I know I'm not alone in feeling this way which is why I'm blogging this tonight.

Yet there have been moments, truly palpable, memorable instances when I I had to pick myself up, brush myself off and head down the slopes again.  And, you know what?  I'm proud of myself for being brave. For going against the grain and stepping out in faith into the vast unknown, an unknown that has, at times, seemed to be as big as the white-capped peaks of Sochi.  And while I'm not going to get a medal, I like to think that I'm on the medal stand in my own way.  And thankful for God's grace that has led me to this new life, greener pastures and new beginnings.

Maybe you are going through your own heartbreak today, this week, this year, the past ten years.  Maybe your life isn't turning out the way you had thought it was (or thought you deserved--oh, how I have been there and still struggle with that one).  I'm just writing these words in the hopes that you realize you aren't alone and you have people in your corner...just look and see, they might come from unlikely places.  Family, friends, co-workers maybe.  They are cheering you on from the sidelines and there to offer a shoulder to cry on, a hand to pull you up.

You can do it.  Be brave.  And one day, we'll be on that medal stand.

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
Robert Frost

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Short & Sweet (Day 4 of 28)

It's been an interesting day with the Portland Snowmageddon in full force.  Pity the weather makes such a mess of things...the snow is sure purdy!  Confession:  I wish I could post pictures of myself frolicking in the winter wonderland, you know, to document this momentous weather.  However, my "selfie" ability is lacking in a major way.  I took some pics of me in the snow but the result was weird-looking photos where it appeared I had snow coming out of my nose.  Not flattering.  In the slightest.


Here's a recap of my meals today.  I find that during the week I keep things pretty simple.  Usually I repeat the previous night's dinner as my lunch the following day.  Easy to just make a second helping, throw it in a tupperware and bam!  Lunch is ready.

Breakfast: Oat/bran flakes with almond milk and pomegranate seeds.

Mid-morning Snack:  Banana

Lunch: Hummus/kale/veggie wrap, graham cracker (honey version instead of sugar) with peanut butter for dessert.

Afternoon Snack: Quinoa/black bean chips

Dinner: Black bean soup (TJ's), chopped cooked sweet potato, avocado, tomatoes, squeeze of lime, sliced toasted corn tortilla.  Raspberry sorbet for dessert.


Small victory:  Another caffeine-free day!

Uh-oh:  Need to be drinking more water.  I do pretty well when I'm at work and have my big water cup staring me in the face.  But when I'm not at work, I kinda forget to drink water!

Cheerily,
Amy

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Day 3 (That's a Wrap!)

Day 3 of the 28-day challenge is drawing to a close.  I'm blogging beside a cozy fireplace and while I had every intention of going shopping for running tights tonight...eh, I think staying put wins by a landslide.  Moving from sunny, season-less Southern California to the Pacific Northwest hasn't been bad at all given the fact that it's been unseasonably dry up here (not ideal but definitely helpful for this bird).  But this week the weather is giving me a run for my money!  They are forecasting snow tomorrow so hold on to your hats!

Down to business:  I think that bowls and wraps are one of the easiest things to adapt to being plant based.  And they are so yummy and quick to throw together.  I work full time so usually I don't feel like a big cooking extravaganza on weeknights.  The weekends are another story, however.

Tonight's wrap was a Mediterranean version...it was tasty, filling and chock full of plant-strong goodness.

Mediterranean Wrap
Serves 1
Prep time: 5-10 minutes (depending if you have leftover baked tofu!)

1 whole wheat tortilla
1-2 Tbsp hummus
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1 Tbsp chopped olives
1/2 avocado, sliced and chopped
1/4 cup red cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup baked tofu cubes
1 handful basil leaves
Balsamic glaze, healthy drizzle (I get this from Trader Joe's and it is a staple in my pantry!)

Ready, set, go!
1. Lay tortilla on plate and spread on hummus
2.  Add veggies, tofu and drizzle with balsamic glaze
3.  Roll and devour!

Colorful veggie kaleidoscope = Awesome

Today's recap of meals/snacks:

Breakfast: Slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana.  Amazing!


Mid-morning snack: Little bag of chopped almonds.

Lunch: Rice and beans with tons of veggies, spinach and corn salsa.

Afternoon snack:  I had a huge cup of herbal tea when I got back from my lunch break.  It was so cold outside!  Also a Fuji apple.

Dinner:  Mediterranean wrap and steamed kale. And a couple spoonfuls of pomegranate seeds for dessert!

Small victory:  No caffeine today!  Nothing, zip, zilch.

Uh-oh: Actually I think I had a fairly great day today!  Plus, I'm learning the less I focus on my mistakes, the better.  Life is about forward steps.  We all have days/moments where we take some steps backwards.  But if we've got momentum in the right direction, that's what counts!

Cheerily,
Amy


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Day 2 of 28 (baby, it's cold outside!)

Day 2 down.  26 days to go!  For those of you who might not be familiar with the plant-strong movement or the folks at Engine 2 Diet, check out my Plant-Strong tab!  Also, the Engine 2 Diet website is a great resource if you are interested in learning more about plant-strong eating or are interested in doing your own challenge.  You can start your 28 days whenever you feel ready!

If anyone is doing the 28-day challenge or just has a plant-strong tip, trick, suggestion, frustration, victory...please comment at the bottom of these posts!

Here's what what I ate today:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with raisins, blueberries and a sprinkle of almonds.  I added a teensy drizzle of honey and some unsweetened almond milk.  Interestingly, I found that I was hungrier mid-morning today than I was yesterday when I had my peanut butter toast. The high-fat nature of the peanut butter no doubt contributed to that but I only had less than a tablespoon...will have to do some more reconnaissance on that one.

Oatmeal, I love you.  But you are awfully hard to photograph.  Too many beige tones going on here.
Mid-morning snack:  Nada.  I got really busy and forgot how hungry I was until lunchtime.

Lunch:  Woo-hoo!  I packed my lunch last night!  Leftover tofu/rice/veggie bowl.  Delish.  No photo because I left my phone at home on accident.

Afternoon Snack:  Sweet potatoes with balsamic glaze.  I ate this about 4:45 today and it really filled me up.  Oh, and that soy chai latte this afternoon.  See below for full details.

Dinner:  Whole-wheat tortilla, refried beans (healthy TJs ones), shredded carrot, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, corn salsa, spinach and pomegranate seeds.  The pomegranate seeds were an amazing addition...a lovely juice, crunchy sweetness brightened the whole dish.  I'm pretty much obsessed with them and could eat them by the fistful.  Pity they are so expensive!  Oh, and I totally made another half burrito after this one.  It was that good.

Pomegranate seeds...shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Victory lap: Packed my lunch last night!  Loved just grabbing that on my way out the door this morning.  Now if only I could put my keys in a place I'll remember.

Uh-oh (I hate the word fail so am renaming this category to something more friendly):  Left my phone at home so couldn't take pictures of the beautiful snow flurries on my lunch break!  Also, indulged in a soy chai latte today.  Hey, I'm keeping it real ya'll.  I'm keeping you apprised of the nitty gritty.  I have trouble when doing things socially (work, weekends, etc.) and sticking to the plant-strong diet.  I could have just gotten an herbal tea on my break with a co-worker today but somehow the latte sounded so good and I was breathing in the amazing aroma of Starbucks and my willpower went out the window.  I also chickened out and did the elliptical instead of my outdoor track workout tonight.  I blame my weak-sauce California blood that is still acclimating to this brisk Northwesterly cold and wind.  It is freezing (literally) and soooo windy!  However, it is a win in that I actually DID my elliptical workout.  Of course an episode of Alias really helped the time go by.

On a totally non-food-related note, it's nice watching a TV show that has already come and gone so the hype isn't there.  I mean, please don't talk about what's happening on Downton Abbey right now, at least not in public.  Please don't consider me rude if I plug my ears on the elevator or run the opposite way in the grocery store.  It's not you, it's me.

I'm off to pack my running clothes for my running group tomorrow night.  If someone could send me my Nike Epic running tights via carrier pigeon, that'd be awesome.  Everywhere seems to be out of them and my usual running capris aren't doing the trick.

Have a great night!

Cheerily,
Amy

Monday, February 3, 2014

Day 1 of 28!

We kicked off the national Engine 2 Diet 28-Day Challenge today.  I've been thinking about this challenge and what I want to accomplish.  Since my scale is still in storage (how convenient!), I have decided that this challenge is not going to be about weight for me.  It is a time where I can focus on eating consciously (and conscientiously to boot) and I'm excited to see how I feel at the end of it instead of what I weigh. Everyone is different and I think that's the beauty of doing the challenge.  It's about you and the changes you want to make.  

I had to make a quick stop at my beloved Trader Joe's on the way home.  I love that fruits and veggies are such a beautiful blank canvas!

A TJ's stockpile is a thing of beauty.
Here's a recap of my day's provisions:    

*Breakfast:  Slice of whole grain (and I mean whole grain--it's amazingly delicious too!) toast with natural peanut butter.  I wasn't super hungry so that did the trick.
*Snack:  Red pear (delicious!)
*Lunch:  Salad (sub-par as I threw it together this morning...see note below.  Actually looking back it was downright awful...just a bunch of leftover veggies that needed a bit more TLC than I had time to give them).

Sad little salad.  You did your best.

*Dinner: A-maz-ing rice/veggie/grilled tofu bowl with a drizzle of satay sauce and a sprinkling of cilantro.  Side of mashed sweet potatoes with almonds and balsamic glaze.  The sweet potatoes are in the frozen section at TJ's.  They will change your life.  This was almost reminiscent of pumpkin pie and totally plant-strong.  I love when that happens!
This lasted about 2 seconds before I inhaled it.
Small win:  Really needed some coffee today.  I was struggling and realized that I have been treating myself to a little caffeine most afternoons (interesting how changing things up can show us some bad habits!).  But I powered through and had a lovely cup of tea around 2:30 and that helped immensely.  

Fail:  Not packing enough food for lunch!  This is something I do far too often...I will pack a salad and nothing else and end up ravenous by dinnertime which can lead to bad food choices.  The good news is that I didn't have any healthy options for snacks so I just suffered through.  I don't have a good excuse for not packing my food at night.  I just need to buckle down and do it.  Tomorrow's lunch is already in the fridge. Just need to pack my snacks.  

Somehow getting day 1 out of the way makes the rest of the 27 days seem doable.  I need lots of energy and motivation since it's supposed to get super cold this week.  Tomorrow's track workout should be a doozy in the freezing temperatures!

For all of you 28-day-ers out there...stay strong!  You can do it!  If you are just reading the blog for the first time, make yourself at home.  I hope we can be friends!

Cheerily,
Amy

P.S. Rest assured, the pretty photographs will come back before the challenge is over.  I'm in the midst of moving so the phone photos will have to do for now!