What I’m eating right now

Happy Thursday! I have been having overall success with my weight loss goals so today I thought I would share the things that have been working for me and one major challenge.

While I am definitely down on the scale, I was in a rut for the past month or so, gaining and losing the same 2-3 pounds over and over again. It was very disheartening. To get over this and start making progress again, I decided to try my best to stay within my calorie limits every day and not overcompensate on weekends, like I had been doing. I also started waking up early on weekday mornings and doing yoga which was a challenge but felt really good. I did it all five days last week. This Monday, I hit a snag in that I wanted to nap instead 🙂 but it’s all about getting back on that horse so I started again on Tuesday morning.

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Tofu, butternut squash and bok choy

So now to what I have been eating! It’s basically a whole lot of vegetables, whole grains and protein. A lot of protein, in fact. I made a goal on the Lose It app to get 25% of my calories from protein and I think it has made a difference. If I am hungry at night, I have noticed the best thing for me to eat is some sort of protein (like a leftover chicken cutlet or some deli roast beef). It always seems to do the trick. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I haven’t had too much trouble avoiding things like cake and candy. If I eat sweets it’s usually chocolate of some kind. That’s not to say I don’t love a good dessert, I just don’t find myself craving it most of the time.

In terms of meal planning, I have had a lot of success choosing nearly identical meals to eat for breakfast and lunch in a given week. I just buy or make a bunch of the same ingredients on Sunday and bring them to work for the week. I often eat similar dinners too, but sometimes I go out, so dinner changes depending on my plans. You can see below what a typical weekday of eating looks like in my life.

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You will note that I have included wine and/or whiskey 🙂 I often stop for a drink at the local bar after work. Which brings me to my major challenge. I love to go out with my friends and have a few (or more) cocktails. It always starts out innocently enough, but can quickly snowball into a calorie bomb of old-fashioneds and rosé. Knowing this, I’m trying to be more aware of how much I am drinking and drink water in between cocktails as well. I am also trying to be realistic and work drinking into my eating plan, hence why it shows up in my “snacks” section.

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Scrambled eggs with jasmine rice and cucumber salad

On the weekends, I am more flexible. I recently recreated one of my favorite restaurant breakfasts which included jasmine rice, scrambled eggs and cucumber salad (with sesame oil, vinegar, chili paste). It was delicious! The restaurant includes steak but I didn’t have any and the dish was fine without it. I try not to eat eggs except on the weekends, because I suspect they may upset my stomach, but they are a favorite of mine. I have also been avoiding dairy during the week for the same reason.

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Chickpea pasta with beans and broccoli

I also recently tried chickpea pasta, which I really liked. I combined it with black beans and broccoli and a little basil oil and it was delish! I like trying new products and different fruits and vegetables. It breaks up the monotony of watching what you eat and makes it feel like a fun experiment. I am obviously obsessed with toast and the combo of beet hummus (store bought) and cucumbers shown in the featured photo for this post is one of my new favorites. I have also made my own zucchini hummus which is great on toast as well. I think vegetable hummus is a sneaky way to incorporate more veggies into your diet and it is delicious. In general, I don’t like to follow recipes except for special occasions. I typically just wing it, which I find much less exhausting and much more fun than staring at a recipe on my phone. Still, taking a little extra time to make things look pretty has made a world of difference in how I think about the food that I eat. I highly recommend it!

How about you? What does your typical week look like food-wise? Have you tried any fun new foods recently?

Happy eating, xoxo

Anna

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Homemade zucchini hummus on sprouted toast

A salad to brighten winter days

February and early March are always a little difficult to get through in New York, with the lingering storms and grey days. You can feel spring right around the corner but it hasn’t materialized yet. But, this salad is so fresh and light that it made me immediately think of warmer, sunnier times to come.

It is also super simple and delicious. You can use any lettuce you like. I chose butter lettuce because it is my absolute favorite. Lately I have been eating a salad almost every day for dinner with the basil oil vinaigrette below, a handful of pumpkin seeds and sometimes an avocado. If you haven’t tried basil oil, I highly recommend it. For today’s salad, I decided to add a blood orange and a little crumbled queso fresco. I really liked the results. It also fits nicely into my current healthy eating plan. I am not usually a fan of fruit in salads, but the blood orange paired nicely with the other components and it certainly is photogenic 🙂 Try it out and let me know what you think.

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Butter lettuce salad with blood orange, avocado and basil dressing

(makes one to two servings)

Ingredients

Butter lettuce

1 blood orange

Queso fresco (crumbled, about a 1/3 cup)

1/2 an avocado (sliced)

Handful of sprouted pumpkin seeds (I use these)

Vinaigrette

1 part white wine vinegar

2 parts olive oil

2 parts basil oil (I use this)

salt and pepper to taste

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Preparation

Wash and dry your lettuce and set aside or use a packaged variety to save time (which is what I did). Peel the blood orange and cut horizontally into 1/2 inch slices. Set aside. Crumble the queso fresco. Slice avocado. Layer salad starting with lettuce base then adding blood oranges, avocado, cheese and pumpkin seeds. Dress with desired amount of vinaigrette. Add a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh ground pepper if you like.

Enjoy!

xoxo Anna

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Fitness update

Hi everyone. It’s been about a month since my first fitness post and I thought it was a good time for an update.

My fitness plan has changed in a few ways since this post in January. I noticed that I was working out and eating healthfully but I wasn’t losing weight so I switched things up a bit.

Eating

To begin with, I stopped getting Hungry Root deliveries. I enjoyed the food for a few weeks but found that it was starting to get repetitive and I didn’t feel like it was helping me lose weight, especially since I felt compelled to finish all the food before the next week. I also didn’t like the amount of waste generated by food delivery packaging especially in terms of the freezer bags, which are difficult to recycle. That is not specific to Hungry Root. I felt the same way with Blue Apron. In the end, I decided that I could do a better job selecting and preparing my own food and I have been happy with that decision. I have been loosely following the weekday/weekend plan outlined here with a few exceptions. The most notable is that I allow myself to drink alcohol during the week. Even though I haven’t been very precise about following the plan, I have noticed is that just having the guidelines in mind has had an impact. I don’t have much of a craving for sugar anymore. I also don’t consume nearly as much dairy, especially cheese, as I used to. I used to reach for cheese all the time as a snack or quick dinner. Now it is a sometimes food and I don’t even feel deprived. The same goes for white bread and rice.

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Lose It app interface

The one thing that has made the most difference is tracking everything I eat on the Lose It app. After I started to do this about two weeks ago, I noticed weight loss immediately. I’m not going to lie; I find it incredibly hard to track everything I eat. It’s not so much that I hate the tracking because the app is fun and easy to use. I just hate doing anything consistently, it makes me twitchy lol. It also requires that you be uncomfortably honest about your choices. Despite this, I am making the commitment to track for the next 3 months, starting today, no matter what I am eating or doing and see what happens. That takes me right up to my birthday, so it feels convenient. I also recently discovered the social aspect of Lose It and started posting on a group message board. I have never done this before and it felt great to get support and helpful tips from other users.

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Cod and Mediterranean salad with a Turkish spice blend

In general, my eating has been pretty simple lately. A lot of fresh and cooked veggies, some sort of egg dish for breakfast (either hardboiled or a vegetable omelette), and lean protein like chicken, fish or occasionally steak. I make it interesting by adding fun spices and sauces. It sounds boring, but I really enjoy it. My only complaint is that I sometimes get very hungry after dinner. I am going to try drinking more water and tea and having an afternoon snack with protein. I relax a little on the weekends. My favorite splurges are take out Chinese food and egg sandwiches. I plan on doing a post soon to share everything I eat in a week, so stay tuned.

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A galaxy of possibilities

Exercise

I have been running consistently 3 to 4 times a week for a few weeks now for about 30-40 minutes a workout. On weekdays, I go to the gym and on weekends, I run in my neighborhood. I would like to increase it to 5 times but I have been feeling fatigued so I am going to keep it to 4 for now and see if I can maintain that. I would also like to start doing yoga in the mornings using the Gaia app. I am obsessed with the idea of working out in the morning… that is until the alarm rings. I have a terrible time getting up even 30 minutes early to make it happen. So that is a work in progress 🙂

How about you? How are you doing with your 2018 fitness goals?

xoxo Anna

Elimination diet here I come

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Gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free dinner

Confession time… my stomach has never been great 😦 But recently things got to a point where it was actually interfering with my life and work. I felt a major shift was in order in the way I approached food and stress, as stomach problems can definitely be caused by the later. So for the next 3 weeks I will be following a basic elimination diet; no dairy, no gluten, no alcohol, no added sugar, no soy. Those are the big ones but there are a few more random things as well. Wish me luck! I have to say, once I made the decision I felt relieved and had fun shopping for new and interesting alternatives to my usual go-to foods.

I’m also cutting out caffeine because, why not! I stopped drinking coffee about a week ago and found that it really helped my stomach as well as my ability to relax. I have  been a die-hard coffee fanatic since college, drinking somewhere between 2 and 4 large cups a day. I was always the one at meetings with a coffee cup in hand. I didn’t hate tea, I just didn’t think of myself as a tea drinker. Truthfully, I think I was a little suspicious (insert side-eye) of anybody who would choose tea over coffee. But now that I am a week in to my new tea-drinking life, I have to say I’m feeling happy and liberated. Tea comes in so many varieties and it is fun to shop for. I have been sticking with herbal teas rather than decaf teas and coffee because I think there is still some caffeine in decaf. I haven’t been missing the caffeine that much and it seems like I might have more energy and focus, which is counterintuitive but I have heard sometimes that happens when you give up caffeine. I also made my own herbal iced tea (pictured at top) with 3 packets of peach tea, one packet of raspberry tea, some lemon juice and agave nectar. My next purchase will be a nice tea pot. Any recommendations?

In terms of stress, I have started meditating in the morning and doing yoga. I have been using the Headspace and Gaia apps. I have meditated/done yoga before but never regularly but I hope to change that. Plus the Headspace app has a great British man leading the meditations who is somehow so soothing to listen to 🙂

How about you? What are your thoughts on elimination diets, tea vs coffee, and stress-reduction strategies?

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New products I will be trying
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Avocado for healthy fats
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Tea for morning, noon and night!

xoxo Anna

Easy sweet and sour pickled veggies

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The older I get the more I like, (am obsessed with?) pickled vegetables. This recipe is simple and inspired by the daikon radish pickles served at Korean restaurants.

Ingredients/Equipment

Organic cane sugar

Vinegar (I used a combination of brown rice vinegar and champagne vinegar because that is what I had 🙂 In the past I have also used rice wine vinegar.)

Vegetables (I used carrots, daikon radishes, and red cabbage)

Turmeric (optional)

Glass jars for pickling

Process

This is a fairly loose recipe. The first thing to do is prepare your vegetables. I grated my carrots, thinly sliced my daikon using that thing on the side of the cheese grater, and finely sliced my cabbage. I used the size of the pickling jars as a guideline for how much of each vegetable to cut. Once vegetables are cut, I packed them somewhat loosely in my jars.

The next step is to determine how much pickling liquid you will need. I do this by adding up the volume of the containers that I will be pickling in. This gives you a rough idea of how much liquid you will need. You will probably have some left over because the vegetables take up some of the room in the jars. For the pickling liquid, you will make up half that amount with vinegar and half with sugar. So if you need 16 oz (2 cups) of liquid use 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup sugar. Place your vinegar and sugar is a stock pot. If you are using turmeric add in a small amount at this point. A teaspoon should be enough unless you are making a really large amount of pickling liquid. Turmeric will give your radishes a bright yellow color, so I use it for them but not the other vegetables. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring to dissolve sugar and turmeric if you are using. Remove the mixture from the heat. Let it cool down a little. Pour slowly over your vegetables in their jars. Close jars and refrigerate overnight.

After they have spent the night absorbing the pickling liquid, your pickles are ready to eat! Here are some ideas for how to use them:

  1. Make a grain bowl with pickled vegetables, tofu, sesame oil, sautéed kale and peanut sauce.
  2. Serve pickles over an arugula salad with tahini dressing, burger patties and feta cheese.
  3. Add them to lettuce wraps with lentils, coconut rice and cilantro dressing.

How about you? Have you made your own quick pickles? If so, how did you use them?

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xoxo Anna

Pretty polenta

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I feel like polenta is often forgotten when meal planning and I don’t know why. It is so good and relatively easy to make. I started developing this recipe years ago for my first food blog venture. Since then, I have made it many times and it has proven to be a crowd favorite. It is light, even with all the bacon and butter, yet tremendously satisfying. I’m also not sure if ragu is the right word for the vegetable mixture in this recipe but it seemed to convey the rich flavor and saucy texture of the vegetables when they are cooked. If there is another word for this type of vegetable mixture, definitely let me know. The whole dish comes together pretty easily, yet looks (and tastes) fancy (hello date night!). I hope you try it and let me know what you think ☺

Polenta with bacon and caramelized onion vegetable ragu (Serves 4-5)

Ingredients

Polenta

3 C water

½ t salt plus more to taste if needed

1 cup polenta (I used this)

3/8 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 T unsalted butter

4-5 slices of bacon cut into small bits

Vegetable ragu

1 large onion

4-5 T unsalted butter

2 medium zucchinis

1 can diced tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

 

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polenta-cooking

Make the polenta

Sauté bacon bits in a pan until crisp. Set aside on a plate lined with a paper towel.

Grease a loaf pan with olive oil. I happen to have a small casserole/loaf pan that just fits the amount of polenta made in this recipe but I think you could use almost any shape container as long as it isn’t too wide or tall. The idea is to create a solid block of polenta that can be cut into separate serving portions.

Bring water and salt to a boil in a medium stock pot. Slowly add the polenta to the boiling water, stirring all the time. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook polenta for approximately 30 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. (Note: this is what the package said. My stove runs very hot at the lowest temp so I ended up only cooking the polenta for about 15 minutes). The mixture will be thick and sticky. Stir in the butter, parmesan and bacon. Add additional salt to taste. Scoop polenta mixture into the greased loaf pan and pat it down/smooth it out to fill the edges so you have an even “loaf” of polenta. Cover with towel or plastic wrap and set aside to cool.

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polenta-butter

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Make the vegetable ragu

Slice the zucchini into thin rounds. I used the little slicer on the side of my cheese grater, but you can use a mandolin or other slicer. Set aside.

Cut onion in half lengthwise then slice into half circles.

I once read that it is important to use unsalted butter when you are caramelizing onions because the salt interferes with the caramelization process, so that’s what I do and it seems to work well. Melt 2 T unsalted butter in a medium stock pot over low heat. Add the onion and toss to coat. Add the remaining butter. Keep cooking the onion over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it turns golden brown (and smells caramelly). This can take a little while, but be sure to keep the heat low. You don’t want to burn the onion before it caramelizes. You can add more unsalted butter if it seems like the onion is sticking to the pan.

Once the onion is caramelized, add the zucchini to the pot and stir to coat with onions. Saute for a minute or two then add the can of tomatoes and mix to combine mixture. Simmer over low heat until the zucchini is just cooked through. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Plating

Turn out the polenta loaf onto a cutting board. Divided into four-five even servings. The shape will be dependent on the shape of your container. I used two slices per serving. Arrange your slices of polenta on a plate and top with the warm vegetable mixture. Garnish with some flakes of parmesan and a sprig of basil if you like. Enjoy!

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I had mine with a glass of rosé and I wasn’t upset ☺ This dish reheats very well, and I’m saying this as a person who doesn’t love leftovers. It is also versatile. If vegetables aren’t your thing, or you don’t have time to make the ragu, you can serve the polenta it with a simple red sauce. I was cooking with vegetable-averse person in mind when I made this, so I just reserved some of the caramelized onions for her (before adding the zucchini and tomato) and she ate them on top of the polenta with some parmesan cheese. One final note: If you want to take this dish a step further you can bake the polenta after you take it out of the loaf pan. Just cut it in to desired portions, place on a lightly greased baking sheet, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake at 350 degrees until slightly crispy and lightly browned.

xoxo Anna

Pear sauce fizz

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I had it in my head to make a cocktail using canned pears. Oddly enough, I couldn’t find a can of pears at either of the stores I went to. However, I did see this jar of organic pear sauce (think applesauce but with pears) and this drink was born. My taste testers labeled it “cracktacular” and I would have to agree. It is refreshing, but at the same time sort of earthy, making it perfect for all seasons. The measurements are approximate and can be adjusted to suit your taste buds. Try it yourself and let me know what you think!

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Ingredients (makes 4-5 cocktails)

1/2 C white sugar

1/2 C + 2/3 C water

handful of fresh rosemary plus more sprigs for garnish

1 C pear sauce (I used this)

1/3 to 1/2 C rum (I used Due North, which has a slight whiskey taste)

 

lime wedges

bottle of chilled Prosecco (I used Terra Serena, which is a great option for the value)

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The first step is to make a rosemary simple syrup. Begin by combining the sugar with 1/2 C of water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and boil briefly until the sugar is all dissolved and a syrup forms. Remove from heat. Crush up the rosemary in your hand to release the natural flavor, then mix with the simple syrup and let rest for 20-30 minutes. Drain the syrup through a strainer and set aside.

In a large glass or metal bartenders cup mix pear sauce, 2/3 C water, rum, and 5-6 T rosemary simple syrup. Squeeze a quarter lime wedge into the mixture. I recommend stirring and tasting as you add each ingredient to see if the drink suits your taste. I started out with 1/3 C of rum then decided to add more. I did the same with the rosemary syrup, adding a T at a time until I could just taste the rosemary.

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To build the cocktail fill your cocktail glass 1/3-1/2 full with the pear concoction. Top with prosecco to fill the glass and garnish with a rosemary sprig. I squeezed a little extra lime on top of each cocktail and didn’t regret it 🙂 Happy sipping!!!

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