Friday, October 12, 2018

Curried Chickpeas & Zucchini

This morning I woke up to frost around my windows. Maybe it's just me, but it seems too early for it to be this cold! Or maybe I'm just a tad spoiled by the mild fall we've had so far.

Although I'm not quite ready to let go of warmer temps, there are a few great things about cooler weather. One of them being warm, comforting curry dishes. 

When it's chilly outside, this recipe hits the spot. It's simple to prepare and great for meal prep. Definitely give this one a try. 

Curried Chickpeas & Zucchini
Serves 4

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3-5 Tbsp water
Salt & pepper to taste
3 cups cooked farro

Heat olive oil in a medium large pot. Add onion, zucchini and garlic. Cook until vegetables begin to soften - about 3-5 minutes. Then add the chickpeas, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon and tomato paste. Stir to combine, then add water 1 Tbsp at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Simmer over low heat for an additional 2-3 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste.

Divide cooked farro between four plates. Top with chickpea and zucchini curry. Optional: sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

What's your favorite comfort food?

- ST

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Baked Salmon Salad

A few weeks ago, I read an article about anti-inflammatory foods and how they can help relieve arthritis symptoms. I recently discovered I have advanced arthritis in one of my knees, so I decided I better start including more of these foods in my diet.

I was really happy to see salmon on the list. It's such an easy fish to prepare AND tastes great! So I came up with a super simple recipe for Baked Salmon Salad - it's perfect for lunch or a light dinner!

Baked Salmon Salad
Serves 4

16oz wild-caught salmon
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
6oz plain Greek yogurt (I used non-fat)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Salt & pepper to taste
8 cups arugula
1 cup cucumber
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 14oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
8 tsp feta cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking tray with foil and place salmon on it, skin side down. Sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning. Bake for 20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

While the fish is baking, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, dill and garlic powder. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix until well combined.

Divide the arugula, cucumber, tomatoes, garbanzo beans and feta cheese between four plates. Top each plate with a portion of salmon and top with a dollop of dressing.

What's on your meal plan this week?

- ST

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Summer Zucchini Sauce

There are many reasons people love summer: longer days, warmer temps, fun at the beach, outdoor festivals, and more. I love those things, too. But one of my favorite things about the season is all the amazing garden-fresh veggies and fruit. 

Every year, my parents have the most amazing garden with tons of produce - and lucky for me they like to share! Lately, my kitchen is overflowing with zucchini. Fortunately, I discovered this recipe, which features zucchini as the star. This sauce is so simple to make and is delicious paired with pasta or toasted crostini. The key is slow cooking the sauce so make sure you have a few hours set aside to prepare it!

Summer Zucchini Sauce

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 large zucchini or 4 medium zucchini, large diced
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes
2-3 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 14oz can garbanzo beans
Parmesan Reggiano cheese, freshly grated

Add olive oil to a large pot and warm over medium heat. Add diced zucchini and chopped garlic. Cook uncovered and stir occasionally until zucchini begins to soften and break apart, about 30 minutes. Add grape tomatoes and continue to cook uncovered while stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Turn heat to low and stir in vegetable bouillon cubes, Italian seasoning and garbanzo beans. Continue to cook for another 30-45 minutes, or until the zucchini and tomatoes are completely soft and broken apart. The finished consistency should be like a thick sauce.

Serve the sauce over pasta or as a crostini spread. Top with Parmesan Reggiano cheese.

Tell me: What's your favorite summer vegetable and how do you prepare it?

- ST

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Spring Tilapia Bake

Lately, I've been trying to eat more protein. You would think this would be easy but it's actually been somewhat of a challenge. I find I naturally gravitate toward foods with less protein, like pasta or soup. Give me all the carbs! 

But this simple tilapia dish hits the spot. It's high in protein and packed with flavor. Make it for dinner this week while asparagus is still in season!

Spring Tilapia Bake
Serves 4

1 pound tilapia (I used fresh but you could also use frozen)
1 pound asparagus, cleaned and trimmed
2 cups grape tomatoes
1 lemon, sliced with seeds removed
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp seasoning blend of choice (I used Penzey's Sunny Paris)
Salt & Pepper 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle 1 tsp olive oil in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Add asparagus in a single layer. Top with tilapia and grape tomatoes. Drizzle with remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with seasoning blend, salt and pepper. Top with lemon slices. 

Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 40-45 minutes. Check your fish a few times as it cooks. When it easily flakes with a fork, it's ready. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. 

I served this with farro - a delightful grain with a slightly chewy texture. For dessert, try a blueberry/blackberry mix!

Tell me: What's your favorite way to prepare fish?

- ST

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Rough Start to 2018

Hey Everyone! Sorry for the recent silence - I've been battling the flu and complications these past several weeks - and I can say from experience this year's flu is nothing to mess around with. Since coming down with symptoms on Dec. 31 (what a way to end the year!) I've been to the doctor twice, urgent care and the emergency room. As you can see, it's been an awesome start to 2018!

But I think - knock on wood - I'm finally getting better. The latest round of meds seem to have made a huge difference and I think this time the sickness might really be on its way out. The only symptoms left are mild congestion and cough as well as healing up a rib muscle strain (caused by a coughing fit two weeks ago). 

As you can imagine, I'm itching to get back to my normal workout routine. I've been trying to maintain some type of routine these past few weeks but it's been impossible. I know I've lost a lot of fitness but hopefully I can start slowly rebuilding now that I'm getting better. 

One mistake I've made is foolishly thinking I can do hard doubles while recovering. When I'm healthy, I often do a hard workout during the noon hour and then do another one after work. Attempting to do this while sick is a bad idea. So this week, I'm really cutting back and aiming to do one moderate effort workout per day. If I feel up to it, I'll add in a second "workout" of walking on the track or treadmill. 

Monday: 30 minute walk + Y-Blitz (I'll dial down the effort to keep this moderate)
Tuesday: 30 minute walk + WAC Fitness Test
Wednesday: WAC Arms & Abs (depending on rib muscle) + WAC Small Group Training
Thursday: 30 minute walk + Y-Blitz (lower effort)
Friday: WAC As Many Reps as Possible 
Saturday: Rest Day
Sunday: Rest Day

You may be wondering about the WAC Fitness Test. It's there because another round of Lose It started last week. I missed doing the Fitness Test with the rest of my training group but am planning to do a make up this week. Like everything else on my workout plan, it will probably be at a lower effort so my expectations are not very high. But I guess that means I'll see more improvement when I do the test again at the end of the 12 weeks!

My nutrition has been all over the place these past several weeks. There have been periods when I've wanted to eat nothing but other times when I've been ravenously hungry. I haven't been following Weight Watchers since I think while sick and during recovery the best approach is to feed my body what it wants, when it wants it. But this week I'm going to transition back to being on a more Weight Watchers friendly diet. 

Breakfast: Turkey Bacon & Egg Breakfast Wrap
Lunch: Tuna Sweet Potato & Corn Salad
Dinner: Classic Beef Chili

Snacks will include clementines, light string cheese, veggies, popcorn, QUEST bars - or whatever I feel my body needs, even if it's a cookie or two!

Despite being sick for weeks on end, there have still been a few good things to start the year:

Lots of Brunching - For some reason, while I've been sick/recovering, I've felt best on Sundays. So after getting over the initial flu sickness, there has been lots of brunching. In the past few weeks I've been to a few favorites: Engine Co. 3, Lake Park Bistro, Blue's Egg, Smoke Shack and Cafe Bavaria. 

Delish pastries start the meal at Lake Park Bistro

Caretaker Charlie - My little darling has been an absolute doll as I've been stuck at home. There has been lots of snuggling and he brought a smile to my face even during the lowest points. 

Vacation Planning - In just a few weeks I have my first trip of the year - a ladies weekend in Savannah, GA. It's a place I haven't yet visited so I'm really looking forward to exploring someplace new. My friends and I have already made a few meal reservations and selected a few sites we want to visit. We've also started outfit planning because when in the south, you better make an effort to look good ;)

A Few Good Books - Given all the spare time I've had lately, I've gone through quite a few books: What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Tells Their Stories, The Comfort Food Diaries, China Rich Girlfriend, Unstoppable: My Life So Far, Forward: A Memoir, Falling. Some of these were delightful reads while a few were duds. I don't regret reading any of them though!

That's the update to start the year! Tell me:
  • How has 2018 treated you so far? 
  • Have you visited Savannah? If so, any must-visit places I should add to my list?
  • Have you read any good books lately? If so, what book and what did you like about it?

We're already one month down - and one month closer to spring!

- ST

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lose It Wrap Up + My Results!

After taking the summer off from running and training, I was feeling rather out of shape and pudgy. Lucky for me, the Wisconsin Athletic Club started its Lose It program mid-September. The 12-week program was focused on losing weight and body fat and improving overall fitness through small group training sessions.

And what a difference 12 weeks can make! Going into the challenge, I was hoping to see results but was a little unsure about how much change I could actually make. However, I was focused and made it a priority to succeed. Although I'm not yet sure how I did compared with others in the program, here are my results:

Weight: -12.5 pounds
Body Fat: -9%
Fitness Tests: 
  • 1-mile run (improvement)
  • Timed plank (improvement)
  • Timed push-ups (improvement)
  • Timed stair climb (improvement)
  • Timed walking lunges (improvement) 

I'm thrilled with my results and I can tell that my fitness is so much better. Looking back, there were a few key things that really helped me be successful:

Working out all. the. time. I went to as many Lose It workouts as I could fit in my schedule (there were typically 3-5 in addition to my 1-hour training session). I also did additional workouts at the Downtown YMCA. A typical week for me included two-a-days on Mon-Thurs and a workout on Friday and/or Saturday for a total of 8-10 workouts per week.

Focusing on strength. Before doing Lose It, I believed for a workout to be effective, it had to be fast paced. I quickly learned HIIT was not the only way to shed pounds. One of the trainers forced me to slow down, lift heavier and do every single rep correctly. It was a total mindset change for me as I've always been used to banging out a high number of reps as fast as possible. I totally fretted that these sessions were not going to help me achieve my weight loss/body fat loss goals, but in the end I think they were the most helpful. So while I lost weight/body fat, I gained a lot of confidence in my strength and ability to lift heavier (thanks Travis!).

Joining Weight Watchers. I knew I had to clean up my diet to go along with all the working out. Joining Weight Watchers really helped. While no foods were off limits, I knew exactly how much I could eat. And because the plan is pretty flexible, I could also enjoy small treats here and there, which really helped me stay motivated throughout the 12 weeks.

Eating the same foods. My breakfasts and lunches were the same almost every day. Turkey Bacon and Egg Wrap. Tuna/Chicken, Sweet Potatoes & Corn Arugula Salad. Popcorn. Veggies. Light String Cheese. It's boring to eat the same thing all the time but my body responded well to those foods and it made things easy.  

Now that Lose It is over, I'm focusing on maintaining my weight through the holidays. I'll continue working with one of the WAC trainers these next few weeks until Lose It starts up again at the end of January. During the next round of Lose It, I'd love to shave off another 4-6% body fat as well as lose more weight!

If you're in the MKE area and need a kick in the pants to help you lose weight - or just improve fitness and strength - you have to check out the WAC's Lose It program. I totes recommend it and can't wait to participate in the next round of the program!

Finally, many thanks to the Downtown Wisconsin Athletic Club and the trainers I work with - Ellie, Travis and Mike - you guys are great!

Tell me: What are your best weight loss tips?

- ST

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

ALL the Christmas Cookies + It's the Last Week of Lose It!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! I absolutely love the holiday season with all the celebrating with family & friends, gorgeous decorations, festive music, delicious food and sparkles galore. 

Last week/weekend I really started getting into the holiday spirit and helped decorate two Christmas trees at work, put up stockings and a few decorations around my own home and went to the most amazing Christmas cookie sale with my mom. The cookie sale was so awesome that I somehow ended up with nearly 10 pounds of cookies. Oops. 

Those cookies went straight into the freezer since I can't afford to indulge these next few days. That's because ... it's the final week of Lose It!

With it being the final week, there will be a weigh in and multiple fitness tests on Thursday evening. So this week is all about bringing my A-game to every workout to sweat off every last tenth of a pound.

Workout 1: 2 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Workout 2: Y-Blitz

Workout 1: WAC Burnout Workout
Workout 2: Y-Blitz + Mini Kettle Bell Workout

Workout 1: 2 mile run + Y-Fuse + Y-Core
Workout 2: WAC Sprints & Bodyweight Workout

Workout 1: WAC Supersets Workout
Workout 2: WAC Small Group Training

Friday - Rest Day


Sunday - Rest Day

I'm so tempted by all the cookies stashed away in my freezer. However, I'm determined to be strict and stick exactly to my diet plan. With the weigh in on Thursday evening, I'm avoiding all alcohol and carbonated beverages and limiting my bread/pasta/dairy/salt intake to reduce bloat.

Breakfast: Turkey Bacon & Egg Wrap + Banana 
Snack 1: Raw Veggies + String Cheese
Lunch: Tuna Sweet Potato & Corn Salad  + 2 Clementines

Snack 2: Popcorn
Dinner: Ham & Bean Soup + Spinach Salad + Apple

After this week, I'll be back in my normal workout mode and will likely start incorporating more running into my routine. I can't wait to see what my results are on Thursday and will be sure to report back!

Tell me:
  • Have you ever participated in a weight loss or fitness challenge? How did it go for you?
  • What is your favorite thing about the holiday season? 
  • What's your favorite type of Christmas cookie?


- ST