Tone It Up- Round 2

Remember that 7 day slim down I did at the beginning of the year? Let me tell you, that’s still the best meal plan I’ve ever tried. I felt energized throughout the week, and even though I missed some of my old favorites, I enjoyed the results. But since then, I’ve been slacking. A little extra wine, a few more snacks, and less planning in general. I think life should be about balance, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing. But I know how I felt after the slim down, and I want that back! So Brittany (Eating Bird Food), Brittany (Btypes), & I are jumping back into another Tone It Up 7 Day Slim Down!

Since I’ve done this before I have a better idea of what to expect and how to plan. This is what my cart looked like last time, and what I plan on buying again:

Tone It Up Groceries

The basics: Lots of protein and vegetables. Some fruit. Minimal dairy. No processed food. No sugar.

Nothing complicated, but it definitely helps to have people doing this with me, while I kick my sugar craving, and adjust to a little less wine ;)

The plan also recommends a quick morning workout to get your metabolism going. I’ve never been great at morning workouts, but I’m going to give it a shot! This morning, I hit the hotel gym bright and early, and did some free weights and cardio. It definitely feels good to get a workout out of the way early!

While I’m not necessarily planning out all of my meals, I did round up some meals I’ve already made that fit on the plan:

Tone it up recipesClockwise from top left: Cauliflower TabboulehVegan ChiliChickpea Salad, & Vegetable Frittatas

Obviously, I plan on trying lots of new recipes, too! I love that the Tone It Up plan encourages lots of green veggies. I’m planning on making zucchini, asparagus, and lots of kale!

 Does anyone have some protein-packed vegetarian recipes to share with me?

Cooking for My Parents

I’m back home in Columbus, visiting my parents, and I absolutely love coming home. I’m blessed with wonderful parents who I genuinely enjoy spending time with. They’re encouraging, they both have an amazing sense of humor, and I will always be in in awe of their wisdom. (Even when I hate to admit that they’re right.)

Growing up, my mom stayed at home with my brother and I, which meant she did most all of the cooking. And for that, I’m grateful. (Mom, I’m sorry for all the eye rolling. Thank you for making Tuna Noodle Casserole every time I asked for it.)

Anyways, I figured it was about time I make my parents dinner. Right? Right.

First of all, my mom has taken to this whole “healthy” thing quite nicely. She doesn’t eat a lot of meat anymore. She reads nutrition labels. She’s even gotten my dad doing a workout DVD with her. My dad is your classic meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. So I knew he would take a little more convincing on this vegetarian dinner I was dreaming up.

After sorting through some old recipes, I decided I’d make something healthy but easy. I wanted to try something that my parents could recreate on a weeknight, if they decided they liked it. So I used a few things I wouldn’t normally use: prepackaged lentils and quinoa. Normally I buy mine in the bulk bins, but I found a few packages at the grocery store that would speed up the process, and it would make it easier on my parents if they wanted to try this. You can certainly use lentils and quinoa from the bulk bins, just be sure to add some cumin, garlic, and crushed red pepper to this recipe.

This is very similar to the Lentil Stuffed Pepper recipe I made here, but I did make a few changes. The packaged lentils made them a lot spicier, and I think it was the cumin. I also didn’t use cheese. Pretty much everything else was the same.

spicy stuffed peppers

For the recipe, click here.

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I wasn’t sure what to serve with the peppers, so I decided on black beans and quinoa, mixed with some sauteed onions and peppers, topped with avocado. The quinoa I bought had some spices in it, but you could just add garlic, cumin, and cayenne, if you want to spice your own. Toss in black beans, pepper, onion, and avocado, and you’re good to go.

How did they react? I think my mom was more on board with it than my dad. It was their first time having quinoa, and I don’t think they loved it, but overall, I think they liked the lentils in the peppers. I think my dad would have been happy if I had added some ground turkey or something, but at least I got them trying something different ;)

Do you cook for your family?

Nutty Double Chocolate Cookies

These cookies happened because I have no self control around trail mix. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. I don’t know how that bag of trail mix started disappearing so quickly. I swear it was just a handful here and a handful there. Trader Joe’s, you sure know how to make an addictively simple mix of almonds, cashews, and chocolate.

I knew something had to be done.

Trader Joe's Trail Mix

And then a friend called, because she was having a very bad day. And very bad days should be met with chocolate. That’s just a fact of life. And with that, these double chocolate cookies were born.

I had made a similar recipe back in my vegan days, without the trail mix, and using a flax egg. So if you do want to veganize these, you can. Just use a flax egg. I swear, it works. If you don’t know what a flax egg is, let me know, and I’ll do a whole post on it.

But let’s get back to these chocolate cookies.

double chocolate cookies

Nutty Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 cups all purposeflour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus sea salt for sprinkling)
  • 1 cup Trader Joe’s almond/cashew/chocolate
  • OR
  • 1/3 cup almonds, 1/3 cup cashews, 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a seperate large bowl cream together oil, egg and sugar. Add the flax almond milk mixture and mix well. Add the vanilla.

Fold in the dry ingredients in batches. When it starts to get too stiff to mix with a spatula, use your hands until a nice stiff dough forms. Add the chocolate chips and nuts and mix with your hands again. This will feel sort of like a cross between cookie dough and brownie batter. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and sprinkle with sea salt, if you’re feeling fancy. You don’t have to, but it does bring out the sweetness of the chocolate.

Place on a greased cookie sheet about an inch apart. (Spray it with olive oil!! Otherwise they will stick!) Bake for 9 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, then set them on a wire rack to cool completely.

These are pretty simple to make, as long as you grease your pan. I learned that one the hard way on the first batch. Learn from my mistakes, friends.

Then box them up and give them to your friends, so you don’t run the risk of eating the whole tray. That’s what I did.

And with that, I’m packing my bags and heading back to Ohio to see some friends and family. Stay tuned for some travel snacks, because I’ve packed some good ones!

Are you a trail mix addict?

Food Highlights of the Week

Despite battling the plague for most of the week, I did have a few good meals along the way. So instead of showing you one day of eats, I’m going to just show you my favorites from the week. It’s love your veggies month, so it’s basically a month created for me. Sadly, I didn’t squeeze in any vegetables at breakfast (epic fail…) but I worked them into some other meals!

Breakfast

Sunday morning, I was still dying of a cough, but Alex and I made chocolate chip pancakes. Nothing better for a cold, right? ;)

chocolate chip pancakes

We made these whole wheat pancakes, which I can’t pretend were healthy, but they sure were tasty. Recipe courtesy of the Betty Crocker cookbook. I was feeling old school. This was eaten with multiple cups of coffee and cold medicine.

Lunch

This isn’t a huge highlight, but I did have some lentil soup. It’s been chilly and rainy, so this soup really hit the spot, especially since I wasn’t feeling so great. I enjoyed this with a side of carrots and hummus, just to pack in a few more veggies.

garlic lentil soup

Lentil soup is one of my favorite things. It’s so filling and so easy to make. Not to mention cheap. And I love cheap. Click the photo for the recipe.

Dinner

On Valentine’s Day, Alex and I made this Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese type of dish. Oh my goodness, this was delicious. It also wasn’t super difficult to make. I’d highly recommend you check out Jessica’s recipe.

butternut squash macaroni and cheese

The picture doesn’t do it justice, but it was quite good. Trust me.

Oh and I also made these double chocolate chip cookies… but you’ll have to stay tuned for the recipe.

double chocolate chip cookies

Yes that’s sea salt on top. And yes that’s a cashew peeking out. But seriously… come back Friday for the recipe.

What’s the best thing you ate this week?

Vegucated: Thoughts & Ramblings

I’ve still been battling a pretty nasty cold, so much of the weekend was spent at home, on the couch. In an attempt to be somewhat productive, Alex and I watched Vegucated, a documentary about veganism which had been in my Netflix queue for awhile. Knowing that Shannon had recently watched it found it interesting, I figured it was worth a shot.

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Overall, the documentary was mostly what you would expect. Similar to Forks Over Knives and Food Inc., it talked a lot about the health benefits of veganism, as well as animal rights. They took 3 meat-eating New Yorkers and put them on a vegan diet for 6 weeks, while educating them on the health benefits, and showing them footage of slaughterhouses.

The documentary was interesting. I’ve done a lot of research on veganism, since my 6 month vegan experiment, and I totally agree that a mostly plant based diet is generally better for your health, and better for the environment. I think my only problem with it was the focus on “veganism” as if it’s an all or nothing kind of approach.

Do I think everyone should be a vegan? No. Not necessarily. I’ve already said that I don’t think vegetarian is for everyone. I think food is a personal choice. (Read my thoughts on vegetarianism here.) However, I do think that everyone could benefit from more plants and less meat & dairy. Often I think people get intimidated by the ‘vegan’ label, and think “that would never work for me” rather than learning about the benefits of a plant based diet. I love Sarah’s vegan-with-benefits approach. I found that I liked most aspects of a vegan diet, but sometimes it really was too limiting for me. I found I was able to eat healthier if I incorporated some eggs and dairy back into my diet.

I was going to post a new recipe for some gluten free protein donuts today, but in the spirit of veganism, maybe you should just check out these vegan donuts instead. (Don’t worry, if you don’t have a donut maker, you can use a mini muffin pan!)

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Click the photo for a vegan cinnamon sugar doughnut recipe!

Have you seen Vegucated? What do you think about vegan diets?

Flat Belly Foods

It’s about time I gave you an update on the Good Belly challenge! I took the “Good Belly 12 Day Challenge” and saw some interesting results.

good belly shot

1. I do think it helped my digestion/bloating. Being someone that eats a ton of raw vegetables, this can occasionally be an “issue” but I didn’t have any problems while I was taking the Good Belly shots.

2. I spent a lot of time around Alex, who was sick, and I managed to not catch what he had. Ironically, about a week after the 12 day challenge was over, I ended up getting a cold of my own.  (Although I bought more Good Belly when I was buying cold medicine and I do think it helped get me over it.)

Now I’m not saying that these shots will give you flat abs. And I’m not saying they’ll keep you from getting sick. But they could certainly help!

Plus, the juice tastes pretty awesome. I think I liked the Blueberry Acai flavor best, but the Mango flavor was also good. I think the only downside for me was that I generally try to stay away from fruit juices, because they have a lot of sugar in them. However, if you’re used to a glass of orange juice in the morning, I’d consider swapping a glass of Good Belly and see how you feel.

Now what about some other flat belly foods?

flat belly foods

I definitely felt a little “flatter” when I was doing the Tone It Up 7 Day Slim Down, and I think that was because I followed their rules pretty closely… including:

  1. Minimal processed foods (even the protein bars I was eating we’re minimally processed)
  2. No sodas, not even diet ones (and I love my diet coke…)
  3. Less salt. Salt was almost entirely cut out of the plan, which helped.

Now I’m not saying you have to do those things, but they can certainly help with bloating! I also love a glass of water with apple cider vinegar in the morning, and I’m told that can help as well. Just fill up an 8oz glass of water, and add about 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar. It tastes really bitter the first few times you drink it, but after awhile, you get used to it. Now I crave it!

What are some of your flat belly foods?

Sick Day of Eats

Monday night I started feeling that scratchy feeling in my throat, so I had a feeling that a cold was coming. Sure enough, I woke up Tuesday with a sore throat, a headache, and a generally achy feeling. Not so fun. After going to the grocery store at 7:00am for cold medicine and Good Belly, I came back home and napped for a little bit. By the time I woke up, I was feeling a little better.

I drank a shot of Good Belly probiotics (because I’m convinced it helps my immune system) and then I fell back asleep for a bit.

good belly breakfast

I woke up a little later, and I didn’t end up eating breakfast until around 11:00am, but I stuck with my normal smoothie. I wasn’t really sure what to eat for a cold, but despite not having much of an appetite, I knew I’d feel better after eating this.

Lunch

soup and squash

Since breakfast was so late, lunch was equally late. Luckily, I’d just picked up some soup at Trader Joe’s on Monday, so that made for an easy lunch.  I had a little bit of minestrone soup, with a side of roasted butternut squash. This soup was pretty good, for a canned soup, and it was fairly high in protein and fiber, but still low in calories. I’ll be buying this again for sure. And the butternut squash was from my bounty box and was without a doubt one of the best butternut squashes I’ve ever had!

Dinner

Since I still wasn’t feeling up to much, Alex brought over some Chipotle (the man knows the way to my heart) and I ate about half of this veggie bowl.

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Brown rice, black beans, tomato salsa, corn salsa, guacamole and lettuce. So delicious. I couldn’t quite finish it, but I made a pretty decent effort.


Despite feeling under the weather, I still ate pretty normally yesterday, and drank tons of water. I’ll do a full review of the Good Belly products soon, but I have to say, I do think they help!

I didn’t mind taking a rest day from working out, since I jumped back into running over the weekend, and then took another barre class at Local Barre on Monday night.

local barre

I forgot how intense those classes are! You can read about my first barre class here. I can’t wait to go back once I’m feeling better!

What do you eat when you’re sick?

Thrifting Finds & RVA Brunch Club

I’m feeling pretty lucky. If you know me at all, you know I’ve fallen in love with the city of Richmond, and I continue to be blessed by meeting wonderful, interesting people. This weekend was filled with some blog-worthy adventures.

Saturday afternoon, I spent the day in the South side with Sydney, from Chic Stripes who is an expert at thrifting and consignment shopping. She took me to three different thrift stores, and by the end of the day I ended up with 3 cardigans, 3 sweaters, a jacket, a skirt, and a basket… for less than $50 total. I know, amazing, right? This girl has an eye for fashion, especially second hand. If you haven’t checked out her blog before, go take a look. I swear, you’ll be inspired.

I wanted to show you what I got, but I learned that I’m not great at taking self portraits. The self timer on the camera is way more confusing than you think. Trust me. But at least you can see the sweet lace sweatshirt that I picked up for a few bucks, which I ended up wearing to brunch on Sunday.

me in thrifted shirt

I had the pleasure of brunching with the girls from RVA Brunch Club. I felt honored to join their Sunday brunch tradition, and we went to a new-to-me restaurant, EAT in Oregon Hill.

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Sometimes vegetarian options at brunch are a little limited, so I was excited to see that they had a vegan breakfast option that sounded delicious- black bean & quinoa cakes with cauliflower, zucchini, and sweet potato hash.

EAT Brunch

(That’s my amazing breakfast in the bottom right corner. Oh my goodness it was delicious.)

I’m sure the girls from RVA Brunch Club will have the full review up soon, but for now, let me tell you that if you live in Richmond, you should definitely check this place out for brunch. It wasn’t super crowded, but the staff was friendly, the mimosas were tasty, and the food was excellent. I’ll definitely be back to this place.

All of this exploring over the weekend really did make me fall in love with the city all over again.

Did you do anything fun over the weekend?

 

Relay Foods Bounty Box Review

So remember that bounty box I was talking about? Well it’s time I give you some details on it, because I’ve decided it’s pretty freaking sweet. What is a bounty box you ask? It’s a giant box filled with tons of local produce, whatever is in season, delivered to a convenient location for pick up.

relay foods pick up

If you haven’t heard of Relay Foods, they’re a service that basically does your grocery shopping for you. You fill up your cart online, and they pack it up, and then drop it off at a specified pick up location, which for me, is at my workplace.

Reasons why I love it:

  1. Um, hello convenience!
  2. I’ve realized it can save me money, by eliminating impluse purchases
  3. It also helps me with my meal planning (no more forgetting things!)
  4. They have groceries from all different places, so I don’t have to go to Ellwoods, Whole Foods and Kroger

Those are some of the reasons I love it, but I’m sure you’d have your own reasons.

Full disclosure: I received this bounty box for free, in exchange for a review. But all opinions are my own!

So for my first Relay Foods order, I got a “bounty box” of produce. It came filled with potatoes, turnips, a giant butternut squash, some other sort of squash, apples, and quail eggs. This is a “half share” which is about $40, and the pick up service is free.

relay foods produce

All of the vegetables were fresh, and they’re from local farms, which is awesome! It was also fun getting an assortment of produce that I might not have tried otherwise. I mean, how else would I have decided to try making those turnip and potato cakes?

I’ve already placed another regular grocery order, and I’m shocked at how the prices are pretty compareable to the regular store, for most things. I’m really excited to not have to make a separate trip to the store.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go use my giant butternut squash to make these amazing butternut squash fries

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Then I might use up the potatoes in this potato soup recipe and the apples to make these apple chips

Now if you live in Virginia and want to try Relay Foods for yourself, I’ve got a little bonus for you!

If it’s your first time trying Relay Foods, you can use the coupon code: “FTEQFP”  when you check out, to save $15 on your first order over $50!

What are you waiting for? Click here and go have someone else do your shopping for you ;)

Have you ever ordered groceries online?

Turnip & Potato Cakes

Today was filled with a lot of new-to-me foods, including the Planter’s peanut butter I had with my protein shake, the VitaTop I packed as a snack, and the turnips I turned into dinner. I wouldn’t say I loved all of them… but I do like trying new things! So let’s recap.

Breakfast

I had a standard chocolate and peanut butter shake, with a side of this peaunt butter. The verdit? As many of you said on instagram, it’s too banana flavored. And the banana flavor tastes artificial. In my opinion. But I heard good things about the other Planter’s flavors, so I’ll have to give them a try.

chocolate peanut butter shake

Lunch & Snacks

I’m trying to start packing my lunch again, and I love packing lots of snacks to much on throughout the day. So spread out across the morning, lunch, and afternoon, I had an apple, a carrot cake vitatop (full review to come soon!) Chobani, blueberries, carrots, and a TLC Kashi Bar.I really liked the new VitaTop flavor! I also ended up getting a small salad from the salad bar at work.  That probably sounds like a lot of food… but I’m a hungry girl ;)

lunch and snacks

Dinner

I had a lot of veggies I needed to use up, including some arugula, as well as some turnips and potatoes that arrived in my Relay Foods bounty basket. I’ll post a full review of my first bounty basket on Friday, so stay tuned! I’d never cooked turnips before, so I thought I’d ease into them by testing out this recipe I found.

turnip and potato cakes

I made a few substitutions and additions and mashing the potatoes and turnips seemed easier than grating them. So this is what I ended up doing:

Turnip & Potato Cakes

  • 2 cups russet potatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 1 & 1/2 cups turnips (about 1 large)
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried minced onion

Wash, peel, and dice your potatoes and turnips. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add in the potatoes and turnips. Boil for about 15 minutes until soft. Drain and mash, adding in the cheese, salt, red pepper, black pepper, and onion. Heat a skillet and spray with a little olive oil or non stick spray. Scoop your potato/turnip mash with a 1/4 cup scoop and drop on the skillet. Cook until browned on both sides.

We ate ours plain, but I think next time I’d try serving them with something… or maybe with some sour cream or plain greek yogurt? It was pretty good, but I’m not sure it made sense as a main dish. What do you think? Overall, I think it’s a good way to use up turnips, but I don’t think I’d make this again without some substitutions. (How’s that for a ringing endorsement?)

I still have more turnips in my bounty box, so I’m looking for more ideas of what to do with them!

How do you cook turnips?