Saturday, June 30, 2012

How to Make the Perfect Summer Stir Fry

Okay, it's Sunday morning, maybe afternoon. Maybe you're starting to think about what to eat tonight or later this week. I've been there. I usually do our menu planning on Sundays, and I'm always looking for fresh, delicious, seasonal options.

Good news! I have an easy meal you can make tonight with just a quick stop at the store or farmers' market, and you can adjust it to your tastes or what's available near you.

Here's what you'll need:

Vegetables! Lots of 'em. I used one zucchini, two yellow squash, 1/2 yellow onion, a small bunch of asparagus, one bell pepper (would have preferred red, for some variety in color, but only green was available), and white mushrooms.

You also need olive oil, garlic (garlic powder is fine), salt and pepper, cooked brown rice (I like Trader Joe's brown rice), and spices to your taste. You could go Mexican, as I did with my Mexican Stir-Fry, or you could do an Asian flavor. Tonight I went with dry ginger, red pepper flakes, and soy sauce. I would have used pineapple if I had it on hand.

To make the magic happen, it's quite simple: heat up some olive oil and garlic (don't be shy--garlic is a fantastic base flavor for stir fry) and then chop and cook up your veggies. If using mushrooms, those go in the pan first and cook until they're lightly browned. Add the sliced onion and cook until translucent. Then throw the rest of the chopped veggies in there for about 5 minutes (don't let them get mushy!). Add the rest of the spices and sauce and stir in the brown rice.

It's magical. It all comes together beautifully.

Stir fry is a fantastic go-to meal, especially in the summer. All these vegetables are easy to find at our local farmers' market, and they're even tasty at the grocery store right now. It made for an easy and delicious summer dinner--with leftovers!

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal

The Lean Green Bean

Tonight's meal actually incorporated a treat from this month's Foodie Pen Pal package, which came from Jen from Juanita's Cocina! She sent some seriously fun stuff from Texas:

Ready-to-freeze sorbet

Key lime curd (perhaps a new pie recipe in my future?)

Fancy honey

Garlic oil

Super sweet coconut

I'm sure you guessed it, but that garlic oil was terrific in our stir fry tonight! The flavor made the kitchen smell incredible.

Based on her blog and e-mails, Jen is such a sweetheart, and I hope you'll check out her amazing posts over at Juanita's Cocina! Thanks for an awesome package, Jen! *Note: If you're interested in joining Foodie Pen Pals, check out Lindsay's information at The Lean Green Bean. It's so fun!*

That's it for tonight. I plan to post all about our Cabo trip tomorrow (photos - finally!), and I need a few good workouts this week before I head out for one more start-of-summer vacation. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Super Quick Post from Cabo

Okay, folks, it took about 20 minutes to upload these three photos, so it's all you're getting today!

Terry's margarita at Monkey Business

Carne asada at Mi Casa

Carnitas at Mi Casa

It isn't much, but WiFi is pretty terrible here. Luckily, we've been rather busy with all the other relaxing activities!

On Wednesday, Terry headed off to an ATV adventure while I got a wonderful massage at the resort spa. Then we met up and hung out at the pool for a bit before dinner at Peacock's in town. I had the lobster chowder, and it was very rich but good. 

Yesterday, Terry and I woke up early to work out at the gym on site, but the treadmills were completely out of whack. They claimed we were only running at 6 miles per hour, but we were both practically sprinting. Oh, well--30 minutes in I called it a day. Then we busted out some upper body supersets before heading back to the room. (Push ups, triceps extension, lat pull downs, barbell bent over rows, L-raises, and overhead shoulder presses--3 sets of 15 reps each.)

We spent the afternoon in town yesterday, hanging out at Monkey Business and eating some delicious tacos at Los Claros. We each got to practice some of our Spanish, and it turns out I remember quite a lot more than I expected. We spent a bit more time at the pool and ate dinner at the resort.

Today we're really enjoying the pool. We also painted some pottery, which is a fun poolside activity--very relaxing and therapeutic. I painted a turtle; Terry chose a mug. We'll share photos when the connection is better. Tonight we'll likely head back into town for one last dinner, and we head out tomorrow afternoon.

It's been a nice trip and wonderful weather, and I'll see you again from the states! Adios!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Greetings from Cabo

Hello from Cabo!

These weeks of traveling to Vegas, Denver, and now Cabo have finally caught up to me. I’m a bit under the weather, but I would say this isn’t such a bad place to be a little sick.



Terry and I woke up early yesterday morning to squeeze in our 6-mile run. We’re training for our half marathon, and even with our weird schedules lately we need to at least stay on track with our long runs. But I wanted to apply my new knowledge about how professional athletes train; at our conference this weekend we learned that the pros train at a nice, easy pace about 80% of the time. So we kept our pace at 6.3 mph for the first four miles or so and then kicked it up for the last bit. Unfortunately, I felt like I was sprinting at the end, and we were only around 6.8. Still, I loved the first several miles. We didn’t feel like we were dying, and I was actually able to hold a conversation with Terry—miracle.

After our run, we finished packing, said goodbye to the little guy, and headed to the airport. In an effort to travel healthy, we stopped at a new-to-us restaurant, Which ‘Wich, which (ßha!) is, obviously, a sandwich place. You write your order on a brown bag, and they make it up very quickly for you. I ordered turkey and cheddar on whole wheat with lots of veggies, and Terry got himself an Italian sub. Both were quite yummy, and much better than our airport options.

Then we were off! We landed in Los Cabos around 4 pm and took a shuttle to our hotel. The property is really beautiful and peaceful.

For dinner, we headed into town via taxi and ate at The Office, which was super cool—you sit with your feet in the sand, right on the beach! We also had a lovely view of the famous arches, which I hope to learn more about while we’re here. After dinner we grabbed drinks at Monkey Business, an outdoor bar famous among locals and tourists alike.

Today, Terry headed off to scuba dive through Sunshine Divers, which he said was cold but nice. I stayed at the hotel and read all morning, which was a lovely way to get my mind into “vacation mode” (it usually takes a good 24 hours to get there for this lady). Once Terry returned we ate lunch on the property—pizza and sushi at the same place?—before resting up and heading into town again.  

Tonight we ate at Mi Casa and then returned to our hotel for some Cribbage before bed. We're looking forward to another relaxing and fun day tomorrow!

*Note: My apologies for the lack of photos. I'll post 'em all soon!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Last Day in Denver - FHBC

Our last breakfast at the Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference.
Granola from Love Grown Foods

Driscoll's Berries

Better Whey of Life

All assembled deliciously in a scrumptious parfait

With my awesome roommate, Sarah

 Then a few last presentations from the pros...

In the first presentation, Adam and Ted surprised us with a guest: Antishay! Cards on the table, I hadn't heard of her before today, but she is quite a famous vlogger over on YouTube. She creates very inspirational videos about her weight loss journey.

The second presentation was absolutely riveting. Dr. Wyatt taught us about current research on obesity, treatments, weight loss, and weight management. I found it all fascinating and look forward to sharing more with you this week.

After the conference, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Amanda, who lives in Denver. I met her at BLEND, and we decided to take advantage of being in the same state. She drove down to pick me up from my hotel and we ate at BJs for lunch.

Mini Vegetarian Pizza for me

Mango Thai Salad for Amanda

And Cold Stone!

The conference weekend was a blast. I loved the opportunity to really learn the science behind a lot of the health and fitness topics I like to discuss, and I can't wait to share more of it with you. For now, I'm back home with my boys, and Terry and I leave tomorrow for Cabo for a few days!

Other notes:

Day One in Denver - FHBC
Day Two in Denver - FHBC
Day Three in Denver - FHBC

Conference location: University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus
I cannot rave enough about this location and its access to such cutting-edge technology and research in medical sciences. It was perfect for our conference, and the fitness center was out of this world!

Host hotel: SpringHill Suites Denver Aurora Fitzsimons
Excellent hotel! It's brand new and only a short walk to the University of Denver campus. There are a few restaurants nearby, and it's not far from the airport. It's also only about a 15-20 minute drive to downtown.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day Three in Denver - FHBC

Last blog post from Denver! Today, like yesterday and Thursday, kept us moving, learning, and observing the entire day. I started with an early morning spin class - my very first one!

Why yes, that is a lot of sweat on my shirt.

Thanks Bobbi for the photo! Only five of us took the class--Christine, Melissa, Bobbi, Shira and me--which was great for a first timer like me. Our instructor (second from the right), Brittany, was awesome! Everyone loved her. And I really liked spinning! I thought it was fun and the class went by super fast. But MAN it was tough. And I'm definitely going to have some bruises in a few out-of-sight places...

Next we were off to two talks:
  • Locating and Assessing Health and Wellness Information on the Internet with Dana Abbey
  • Communicating Health & Wellness Information via the Internet with Janet Helm

In the first, we learned a lot about how to use the best websites as resources to find scientific data to support our blogs. In the second, we learned from an RD about ways to use our blogs to more effectively communicate accurate information.

And we got a nice fitness break! 

One stretch you can do at your desk!

With Sarah

After lunch (I had the same meal as yesterday), we started the "meat" of the day, and one of my favorite parts of the conference so far: Breakout Sessions! We broke into small groups and rotated through 70-minute sessions with the resident experts of different parts of the Health & Wellness Building.

First up: a cooking demonstration from the Bistro Elaia Executive Chef. They actually have a demo kitchen on site!

Lemon-thyme chicken, lentils, and a watermelon salad

It was incredibly delicious and very fun to watch him cook while discussing his thoughts on healthy food.

Next station: Human Performance Lab! We actually got to watch a performance test, as you can see...

I obviously loved this part of our breakouts. The scientist on the right is Dr. Inigo San Millan, our speaker from yesterday. He explained how his analysis works and how he uses the readings to inform his research. I'm excited to go into more detail about his data in a future post, so stay tuned!

Last stop: The Consumer Research Grocery Store and Restaurant!

The scientific chefs weigh the food and cook it exactly the same way each time.

In the restaurant/kitchen, the RD works to help researchers who are conducting studies. So, for example, if a study is looking at blood pressure, the kitchen will prepare meals for all participants in the study. They also serve as a test kitchen, where they work with restaurants to come up with healthier versions of their most popular dishes.

Another favorite stop for me was the grocery store. It looks like a real grocery store, as you can see, but it's miniature and just provides a sampling so that RDs can help inform consumers. This particular mini grocery store has NuVal scores, which I'd like to discuss further at some point. Have you heard of NuVal scores? Do you use them?

This whole wheat cereal gets a score of 91/100.

These granola bars get a score of 2/100.

In general, the system can be useful, but I don't agree with all of their parameters, so let's discuss that one soon!

Tonight I met up with my friend Katie, who lives in Denver. She and her boyfriend, Scott, took me out to a lovely dinner downtown, followed by some delicious ice cream. We ate at Vesta Dipping Grill, known for its dipping sauces! We started with the pita bread and 5-sauce sampler (all the sauces were incredible), and I ordered the ricotta gnocchi for dinner with three sauces. Everything was scrumptious, and the conversation was even better.

But the night never ends at dinner! Katie suggested Little Man Ice Cream, which someone from the conference had actually mentioned, so I was in. There was a huge line out front, but it moved quickly, and I ordered the Cinnabun gelato in a waffle cone. 

It was wonderful to catch up with Katie and meet Scott, and I hope I can convince Terry to come back out here soon to visit with them more!

Tomorrow's the last day here, and I get to meet up with one more friend for lunch before heading back to LA. I've had an incredible time but can't wait to get back to my boys!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day Two in Denver - FHBC

Day two in Denver at the Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference turned out to be even more fantastic than promised. Hearing from other expert bloggers, meeting sponsors, gaining valuable information from actual researchers, working out at a state of the art fitness center...oh, and meeting lots of new blogger friends!

My roommate Sarah and I started the morning bright and early with a brisk walk from the hotel to campus 
A gorgeous walk...

and enjoyed a nutritious breakfast of Attune Foods cereals (I mixed Rice Twice and Uncle Sam), milk, yogurt from A Better Whey of Life, and berries from Driscoll's Berries. 

Berries galore!
Attune Foods

My breakfast (plus two more cups of berries!)
We snuggled into a conference room to hear a few fantastic speakers (and fellow bloggers) provide great information about nerdy blogging topics--and we ate it all up! Alexandra, Kymberly, Christine, Amanda, and Kasey shared their insights about writing to be read, search engine optimization, media and networking, and personal branding. I felt a little overwhelmed as a semi-new blogger, but I'm hoping to put it all to use in the near future.

Then we got to enjoy the trade show! All the conference sponsors showed up to chat with us, tell us about their incredible brands, and shower us with their generous samples.

Me and roomie Sarah at the Western Dairy Association table!

One of the most stand-out tables, in my opinion, was the Daily Feats table. This website focuses on helping people accomplish small goals that improve overall quality of life, like working out and eating well, but also like voting, recycling, and spending time with family. I absolutely love their idea!

Oh, and of course - Love Grown Foods. Oh, how I love their granola! They were at BLEND, and I couldn't get enough of that crunchy deliciousness.

Spreading the Love!

Another favorite: Refuel with Chocolate Milk. I love chocolate milk, but they also sponsored my registration fees for the conference! We all gulped down the milk samples they had - I think mine lasted about three sips. So refreshing, not too sweet, perfect for post-workout (or just walking around a conference...)

I do and I love it.

 Another favorite without a photo was the Choose Cherries table. The folks were super nice, but their product is even better. Real food. That's all I'm looking for. Sometimes working with brands can be tough because my views don't align with the company's products, so I have to pass. But I can get on board with good ol' cherries!

 We wandered around a bit more...

And spotted the uberhealthy Bistro Elaia. Spoiler alert: We ate lunch here later!

Shout out to BLWB!

We also got a tour of the incredible fitness center. WOW!!!

Huge cardio center

You upload your workouts

Indoor track!

Circuit station

For lunch, Sarah, Annette, Geoff, and I ate at the Bistro in the fitness center.
Terrific Greek salad for lunch

We then headed over to the auditorium for our keynote speaker, Dr. James O. Hill, Ph.D., and featured speaker Dr. Iñigo San Millán, Ph.D.

Their presentations were FANTASTIC, but I will save the details for other posts. I can't wait to share all I learned, but I want to process it all first and provide you with the highlights.

Then we were back to the fitness center for a tabata workout! I had never done tabata before but really enjoyed its fast pace. The tabata workout focuses on 20 seconds intense work, 10 seconds rest; you complete one exercise 8 times before moving to the next, and you complete a total of 4 exercises. It all adds up to about 30 minutes, a quick and efficient way to get your workout done quickly! I loved it and will definitely try a few more. I know Gina has posted several...

 We finished the evening with a Chipotle dinner and a walk back to our hotel.

We're up and out EARLY tomorrow, so I'm off to sleep. 

Have you ever tried a new workout and LOVED or HATED it?