Monday, April 30, 2012

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal: April

The Lean Green Bean

Can you believe we're already in May? I was super nervous that the way I started this year was going to be a bad omen, but 2012 has turned out to be alright. And we still have lots of year left to experience!

Tonight's post is all about a little package I received a few weeks back. You may remember from last month that I am part of the Foodie Pen Pal program through Lindsay's blog. Every month, I put together a little goodie bag and send it to another participant; meanwhile, someone else sends a package to me! I'm only in my second go-'round, but it's fun!

This month, I sent my goodies to Elizabeth at CHAARG (how adorable are the ladies on this site?). I hope she liked her package!

Meanwhile, I received a package from Shaunna from Iowa, who is a non-blogger (yes, non-bloggers can participate, too!). Here's what I got:

Love getting packages in the mail!

Terry appreciated the scuba card. 

The goodies!

  • Caramelized ginger with recipes for cookies
  • Dark chocolate bar with cherries and almonds
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Organic maple sugar
  • Milk chocolate Crisps from Trader Joe's

I busted open these guys right away

I feel like there may have been a better way to open the package

Can't wait to use this stuff!

Thanks so much, Shaunna! Such a delicious package - my husband and I love it!

If you're interested in joining Foodie Pen Pals, contact me or visit Lindsay's site. It's a blast!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What Not To Do

As you may know, my knee has bothered me all week; in fact, I ended up taking almost all week off from cardio workouts. I did increase my upper body strength training and also increased my stretching and foam rolling time, so that felt fantastic. But I kept my cardio to walking only (and minimal hills) and then omitted all lower body exercises that irritated my knee. (For some ideas on workouts to do that are easy on your knees, check out this post.)

Cutting back on high-impact cardio, avoiding lower body strength training, stretching and foam rolling more - these are all great ideas when you have a knee ache.

Here's what not to do (aka - what I did this weekend):

Don't feel that attending a cupcake exchange means you need to eat three different types of cupcakes

After drinking three beers in the afternon, don't open  a bottle of wine that night

Three cupcakes were enough. You don't need ice cream and chocolate chips.

When your friends invite you for a barbecue, focus on veggies and fruit; don't eat half the appetizers and too much meat.

Don't stop for taquitos and a tamale before lunch (lunch does not require an appetizer).

Maybe don't choose today to finally go to that new sausage restaurant (Wurstkuche, downtown LA)

Despite a rough weekend as far as my knee, working out, and nutrition, it was truly wonderful. Yesterday was extremely relaxing, and today gave us a chance to do some stuff in LA we've been meaning to do for years.

First stop was a new cathedral in downtown LA called Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. When I researched things to do in Los Angeles, this church kept popping up and made me want to check it out. Today Terry suggested we actually experience the cathedral, so we attended mass and got to check out the gorgeous building.

Approaching from the parking structure

Love this cross on the side - you can see it from pretty far away 

The courtyard overlooks the freeway (that cool spiral building in the background is a performing arts high school!)

Interior of the church

It reminded us a lot of cathedrals we saw in Europe

After mass, which was led by the Archbishop, Terry and I walked over to Olvera Street, a short stretch of tiny shops and Mexican restaurants. I had never been before, and Terry insisted I would love it. Which I did! The plaza right outside of Olvera Street was hosting a small cultural celebration, so we watched a few young ladies perform traditional Mexican dances. We also checked out the oldest house in LA!


Entrance to Olvera

Taking it all in

Awesome Mexican food

Oldest house in LA

Avila Adobe

The sign said, "Please do not touch the cactus." Umm...duh?

We spent the rest of the early afternoon walking around, enjoying lunch at Wurstkuche, and enjoying the gorgeous weather.

I don't remember what building this is

1959 police car!

Union Station

Cool bridge

City skyline


Lots of homemade mustard, ketchups, and other condiments

Tons of choices! Including vegetarian!

New beers for both of us, and we loved them

Stumbled onto a huge block party

Disney Concert Hall
So fun playing tourists!

Jacaranda season!!!

A fantastic day!

Tonight we headed up to Simi Valley to visit our friends for a barbecue. Good times, good food, and another trip in the works! We also got to visit with Katie and Corey's dog, Mayzie, who loves people and also hates being photographed. :-) I did my best.

Hope you had an incredible weekend! Enjoy a great start to the week. :-)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Scenes from a Saturday

What a wonderful, relaxing Saturday! In fact, when I wrote the title for this post, I originally said, "Scenes from a Sunday" - I guess I felt I had already enjoyed a whole weekend! 

Breakfast: whole wheat tortilla with spring greens and two eggs

Wine sale at Ralph's: six bottles at 30% off!
Cupcake gathering at a friend's house (they served a new-to-us restaurant's Italian beef  sandwiches, and we loved it!)

Stopped at Crate & Barrel and took a picture of the worst parking job ever (yep, that car is blocking the entire lane - luckily he moved before we needed to leave)

Greek salad for dinner using leftover veggies from last night

Clos du Bois chardonnay while watching Midnight in Paris

Homemade granola (using Julie's recipe) with ice cream and chocolate chips

It was truly a great day. We slept in, we didn't have to clean house or run errands, we enjoyed each other's company. We couldn't decide what to eat for dinner (I wanted salami, cheese, and bread, but Terry wanted Greek salad - we went with the healthy choice), so we got a good laugh out of my craving for such an un-nutritious meal. I can't remember the last time we just relaxed the way we did today, but it felt amazing. I even took another day off from working out, and I didn't let myself feel guilty about it.

Tomorrow we have plans to try some new LA adventures. We're checking out a few spots that have become important LA landmarks, places I haven't been. Then we're headed up to visit our friends for a BBQ. Hopefully it's all as wonderful as today!

Greek Chicken Pitas

Happy weekend! I'm so excited to have a free weekend, void of real obligations and commitments. I'm desperate for two days of sleeping in and getting some stuff done around the house.

Luckily, the house is already clean because Jenn and Justin came over for dinner tonight!

Can we talk about Justin's face? He's awesome.

Another example of his awesomeness

I love having company over for obvious reasons, but it also helps motivate Terry and I to give the ol' apartment a good scrubbing. But of course the real highlight of the night was hanging out with good friends and enjoying each other's company. Add great food and great wine and my night is a winner!

The menu tonight was actually inspired by my big brother, who has been experimenting with new recipes quite a lot. He's a total grill master, so I'm always excited when he shares a recipe that I can actually make at home (we don't have a BBQ). Last week, Chris bragged about some Greek chicken pitas, and I used his marinade recipe to create delicious pitas for everyone.

Greek Chicken Pitas
Serves 4
Absolutely perfect for spring
For the marinade:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice and zest from 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon each:
    • dry mustard
    • ground cumin
    • ground coriander
    • salt
    • cayenne pepper
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 2 cups (or more!) romaine lettuce
  • 2-4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • Diced cucumber, for topping
  • Sliced red onion, for topping
  • 4 whole-wheat pita pockets (we like Trader Joe's)
  • Vinaigrette 
Vinaigrette (optional):
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
Whisk ingredients for the marinade together. If you feel it's too thick, add more lemon juice and olive oil until the consistency is to your liking. Place the rinsed chicken breasts in a large plastic bag and pour the marinade over the chicken, turning to coat completely. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Heat a grill pan to medium-high heat and spray with olive oil (I use my Misto sprayer, but you can just pour a bit of olive oil on the pan). Once hot, place each chicken breast in the pan; discard the marinade. Cook 6 minutes on each side on medium heat, or until cooked through (my chicken was thick, so I covered the pan to help it cook through; toward the end, I cut the breasts into smaller chunks to help them cook faster). When done, dice the chicken into bite-sized chunks.

Whisk ingredients for the vinaigrette together. Spoon into assembled pitas.

We placed all the ingredients on the table and let everyone assemble their own pita pocket.

Better than a centerpiece!

They were a huge hit! We all commented on how light and healthy they tasted, but they were full of flavor, and the chicken was seriously incredible. Put one in the win column for my big brother! One downside: We had some delicious wine, courtesy of Jenn and Justin, but we couldn't put our pitas down without fear of them completely falling apart. 

Oh, well, more wine for later!

Other positives to this meal: After the marinade (which is only two hours), cook time was 30 minutes MAX. And clean up was a snap! One pan, one cutting board. And you get tons of vegetables, healthy protein, and whole grains. Delicious and super easy!

We spent the rest of the evening hot tubbing and chatting and then all called it a night around 10:45. We're wild and crazy kids I tell ya. Then I tried to write this post before bed but fell asleep tying the ingredients and opted for sleep in my bed instead of on the couch. 

Today we have plans to attend a friend's get together and then keep things pretty mellow. I'm hoping I can convince Terry that we need to go to Crate & Barrel (please!!!), and then we have more TV to catch up on. My knee is still bugging me a bit, but I did a little walking yesterday and it wasn't horrible. Hopefully I can play around with some yoga before dinner. 

Hope you enjoy a wonderful Saturday, and I hope your weather looks as nice as ours!